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The Agronomist: Productivity Tips for More Efficient Mornings

It’s spring! Finally, the birds are singing, the forsythia is blooming, the lawns are greening up and the phone is ringing off the hook. It’s go time in the lawn care business! But why does it seem as though your day is a repeat of one of those dreams where you can’t move? You have lots of work to do but you just can’t seem to get enough done in a day to keep the customers from complaining? What to do? 

Well, part of the problem might just be that you’re wasting huge amounts of time and don’t even realize it. You show up early for work but you’re in a long line at the coffee shop. Oh, and look at that gas gauge! Empty again! And you’re third in line for the pump. It’s nine o’clock and you haven’t even found your first lawn yet! There must be a better way, right? There is, of course. Here are some ideas you can put into place today that won’t cost you a cent but will pay you back in hundred-dollar bills.

Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance 

Your day actually starts the night before in the preparations that you make. On the way back to the shop in the afternoon, stop at the gas station and refuel your truck, your equipment and your gas cans. More often than not, there are fewer cars and definitely fewer commercial vehicles at gas stations in the afternoon. This is also a perfect time to check fluid levels.  

As you arrive back at the shop, your first stop should be the dumpster. Clear out empty bags, jugs, trash from the cab. Do this on a daily basis because debris accumulates quickly, and a clean workspace is a professional workspace. 

Before you start in on your equipment, it’s time to do some paperwork. Compile, review and turn in the current day’s records and receipts. Return any phone calls or emails you may have received during the day. Then turn to the next day’s work. Look over your paperwork, search for special instructions, service calls and anything else out of the ordinary. There are time bombs inside that stack of papers that can destroy your day if you don’t pay attention; best to handle them well ahead of time instead of an hour away from the shop the next day. 

You may have a notification policy with your customers, perhaps an email or text a day or two ahead of the application date. To me, this is good policy for a number of reasons. First, it demonstrates competence and professionalism to your customer – you’re telling them you’re going to do something and when you fulfill that promise, it instills in the customer confidence that you know what you’re doing.

Second, it gives the customer the opportunity to pull out. Nothing is more frustrating than to show up at a customer’s house to find a party or a roofing crew or something else that keeps you from completing the work. If you know about it the day before, you can backfill that spot on your schedule with another customer and not miss a step. 

Now it’s time to do some math. You’ll need to know how many thousands of square feet you’ll be treating the next day. Take that number and multiply it by the rate of product per thousand feet to arrive at the amount of product you’ll need to complete your work. Adjust this recommendation for either granular or liquid systems as necessary, the important part is to load your truck the night before so that you’ll be ready to go as soon as you get in the next morning. 

Next, clean your equipment. Any granular fertilizer left in your spreader must be removed and the hopper cleaned. Having a shop vac works great for removing any remaining dust that has built up. Be sure the ports at the bottom of the hopper are completely clean. The impeller is another place that gets dirty. Be sure all debris is scraped off. All of this can be done without water too, which cuts down on the mess. 

Do you need to refresh quantities of specialty products like herbicides or grub control in the truck? Now is a good time to do this while you’re already loading. Once finished, replace the equipment in the vehicle. Of course, these recommendations might need to be adjusted if you don’t have an enclosed truck or you do not park your trucks in a garage. More important than those considerations is the fact that you are planning and working towards efficiency as best you can. 

It’s the next morning and time to take advantage of all your preparations. I like to start early so I’m ahead of traffic, which I find to be a big help. In any case, I want to spend as little time in the office as possible once I arrive – grab my paperwork and my keys and go would be ideal – trying very hard to be at the shop no more than fifteen minutes. 

Coffee? Bathroom break? Sorry, folks. Those are not things that should be done on company time, but rather accomplished before you arrive for work. If you or your employees have made a habit of stopping at the donut shop for a coffee and a bagel, then you are wasting an incredible amount of time, money, and productivity – time that you do not get back later in the day. The sooner you break this habit and others like it the better your day will go.

This article was published in the March/April issue of the magazine.

Bob Mann

Bob Mann

Bob Mann is the director of state and local government relations for NALP.

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