September is a winding down season for many of our customers. Fall is coming, days are getting shorter, and for many of us, there’s more rain disrupting our day to day operations. With the changing of the seasons, September is also a great time to look back on the current season and see how well you did.
What do you know about your season so far? Was it a banner year, or was growth tough this season? Were you efficient and consistently coming out ahead, or was this a year of overestimated profits and underestimated costs?
No matter whether your season was a boon or a bust, there are two bigger questions you need to address:
- How do you know?
- Do you have the data to understand why?
You Need Data
Sure you might have a gut feel for when things are good vs when they aren’t, but it’s very difficult to take a known result (like an increase or decrease in profits) and trace it back through your operations to find a cause.
It all comes down to data. Without real, quantifiable data, it’s very difficult to know ‘how much’ better or worse things are, and you’re going to be guessing about how to make things better.
A Season For Collecting Data
Collecting data can be a challenge in any season. But for many of us, September combines consistent “normal” work with a shrinking seasonal workload. This makes September an ideal time to get serious about collecting and understanding “the numbers” in your company.
And if you’re one of the many companies out there that have been meaning to get serious about metrics but just haven’t been able to get started collecting data? September may offer your last chance this year to collect real data you can evaluate in the off-season. And if you have data going into your off-season, you’ll have more opportunity to evaluate your operations and determine how to be more efficient next year.
With that in mind, we want to recommend, once again, one powerful suggestion for collecting real and useful data points, one you can make good use of in the next 30 days:
At a high-level, “Benchmarking” just means taking real measurements of your productivity now, so you can compare your future performance to what you’re doing now. It allows you to quantify what it means to be “good” in your business and set goals for how to consistently get “good” performance across your organization.
“High-level benchmarking can begin with a study of your top performers. Who is your top salesman, crew leader and foreman? Take any one of these roles and document everything quantifiable that this person does in a day/week/month. This will help you prioritize your benchmarking efforts.”
Say you run a landscape maintenance business and you’ve been servicing a series of properties under maintenance contract all season. You should have a good idea of what it actually cost you to perform that work this year. But do you know if that cost is “good” or not?
Benchmarking is a simple tool that can be very powerful. Go out on a route with a “top” crew and simply observe and document two things.
- What are they doing?
- How long is it taking them?
Every crew’s day is a mix of production time and indirect time (Travel, inefficiency etc…). By going on a ride-along, your presence is likely to have two influences.
- Crews will make efforts to work hard and fast and keep busy while on worksites.
- Crews will refrain from un-necessary stops, long breaks and other wastes of time.
The end result… you get a good idea of what this crew CAN do, so you can set a performance goal that’s both achievable and aggressive. So what do you do next?
“Having your best performers set the tone for maximum capacity and high-end results is great to know. We suggest taking the collective average of everyone/everything you are measuring and add 10%. This is a good overall standard for company accountability.”
So if your average crew can spend 70% of their workday in true on-site production, you set 77% as a goal for all crews to meet.
Why start in September?
“The best time to begin benchmarking key company processes was yesterday. The second best time is today! Grab a piece of paper and write down one process in your company you can benchmark. Try to keep it simple and limited to one page. Taking this one action now will get the ball rolling. The sooner you begin, the sooner you will start reaping the business rewards of benchmarking.”