Do you know your ABCs? Always be closing or always be credit card processing or always be chortling. That's what I'm doing. Of course you know your ABCs, but what about your ABLs? Check out this podcast to hear Andrew Hardison who won the 2023 Landscaper Summit, What's Working Now Contest with his presentation of how to take control of your time to serve customers. Andrew shares how he finally stopped working 80 hours a week, which marketing tactics and parts of his website he swears by to attract hell-yes customers to his design-build landscape company, and lots of actionable business ideas and strategies that help him run a more enjoyable and profitable landscape company.
Hey everyone, Jack Jostes is here and welcome to the Landscapers Guide podcast where we share sales, marketing and leadership inspiration for the snow and landscape industry. And last week we had our fourth annual Landscaper’s Summit. It was our best one yet, and thank you so much again to our sponsors, Aspire Software and Team Engine for helping us make it happen.
We had three of my clients who run landscape companies compete against each other with 15-minute presentations of what's working now. And at the end, the audience voted. While each of them were really great and had excellent takeaways, Andrew Hardison's presentation was the clear winner. Now, if you're a regular listener to this podcast, you may have heard me interview Andrew a few weeks ago, but I invite you to check out this episode because he shares a lot of new information in his very well-prepared presentation, which is also hilarious.
By the way, Andrew is a great speaker. So check out this episode and we have other great virtual events coming up for the snow and landscape industry. So check out our show notes for a link to landscapersguide.com/events so you can sign up. I hope to see you there.
2:16: Welcome Andrew Hardison of Hardison Landscaping
Well, first I'll say I'm super uncomfortable doing this, so bear with me. I actually have a PowerPoint presentation, super prepared, so I'm going to share my screen if that's okay. So my presentation today is also, first of all, thank you, Jack. I appreciate the opportunity to be here. I'm super excited about it and super nervous, but today my presentation is all about work-life balance specifically for owners and operators in the green industry. It sounds like I'm a much smaller company than a lot of the folks on here, so maybe be talking to a different crowd. But I think a common question and even a common belief is do you have to work 80 hours a week to be successful in the green industry?
3:00: Why Working 80 Hours a Week is NOT How To to Run a Successful Landscape Company
So when I first started my business, I started talking with owners and operators and it seemed like the vast majority of them told me to be prepared to work 80 hours a week from sun up to sun down. And if you're not running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you're probably not doing it right and you're not going to make it in the green industry. Your business will probably fail. When I first started out, I definitely did this for a while and I quickly realized even if that was the truth, it wasn't for me. So call me lazy or call me smart, whatever. But don't get me wrong, I think the occasional long week and long hours might happen for owner-operators. It's all part of owning a business, but I definitely believe that shouldn't be your plan coming in. I believe there's a better way to do it and hopefully with my presentation, I can kind of give you some ideas on how to go about that.
I feel like when you work that much, you can get burnout and I think everybody in here has probably experienced burnout in some way or fashion or form. It definitely can take a toll on you. It takes a toll on your family, it takes a toll on your loved ones, whether that be your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your wife, your husband, your kids or your dog. These are the most important things in your life. I truly believe that. They are to me at least. And the great Dolly Parton once said, "Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life." And that means a lot to me. So I think another thing is you're stretching yourself too thin. I think when you wear too many hats in your business or you try and wear too many hats and do too many things, you can never really truly give your best to any one thing.
4:42: The Importance of Trusting Your Team
So I do think it's important to delegate. So I guess I'll move on. Here you go. Trust your team. That's the top one. That's my team in the top right corner there. They're fantastic guys. We make a great wolf pack. Number one with trust your team is don't fear failure. I think it's really important. Something that I've learned running and managing my business is that try not to be too hard on guys when they fail. I think failure, I've noticed, as long as it's a good team member, has been one of the best ways that they've been able to learn.
You can throw YouTube videos in front of them or books or manuals or whatever you want, but when they actually are able to fail and not get criticized for it, I think it's one of the best ways that they can actually learn how to do it right the next time. Something that's been important for me is learning how to delegate. Stepping away from the business is you got to trust your teammates. You got to trust your employees, they guys that you hire, you got to learn how to give them a task and actually let them accomplish it or let them try and accomplish it.
5:59: How Delegation Helps Your Business Grow
So one story I wanted to share with you guys is it's kind of like, I kind of equate this a little bit. So my oldest daughter, I'm sure if you guys are parents, a lot of you can relate, teaching her how to ride a bike. So getting the training wheels off, you start out and she was terrified. She was like, "Dad, dad, don't let me go. Don't let me go." So after a while of continuing to do this, I'm doing the two-finger death grip on the back of her seat, kind of how you see in that picture down there. And I realized that she wasn't afraid anymore, but I was afraid. And I think that you can equate that to your business because we've all built up these businesses and this is our baby and we don't want to see it get hurt. We don't want to see it fail.
So sometimes you have to realize you got to take your fingers, you got to let go of the seat, you got to let your employees run with it and just kind of trust in what they do and allow them to fail and pick them back up when they do. You can always be there to pick them back up.
7:00: How Saying NO Gets You MORE Hell Yes Customers
Next slide. Be more selective with projects. Let me catch up to my notes.
Oh, we've got a slide of you doing some fire ... You're splitting it. You're chopping down a tree here.
Yeah, so don't chop the wood. So I'll get into it. So this story, it's a story from when I first started out. Basically, I mowed as a full-time job. I had a side business and I know I wanted to do landscape installation is what I wanted to stick to. So I got one of my first jobs for a lady and the goal was to basically plant bushes and plant a couple of trees. Well, I got into the job, ... Well, first of all I went to Home Depot to pick up the plants. I didn't even know about wholesale nurseries at that point. I threw them in the back of my 1996 F-150 and off I was. So I got to the job site, started planting. The lady comes outside and she says, "I've got this giant pile of wood. Do you think you could cut this all up and stack it as firewood?"
So I had no interest in doing that, but at the time, I had no idea how to say no to her. So I sat there for I think ... So she asked me for a price right on the spot, which obviously made me nervous. So I said $60, she talked me down to $40. I spent like four hours cutting up this firewood for this lady. So after that, I quickly learned how to say no, which I think isn't super important because if you don't know how to say no to a client, you're never going to be able to do the type of projects that you want to do. You're never going to get to your hell-yes customer. I think I've got the trademark in there. I think Ramblin Jackson has coined that, but I can't think of a better way to describe it other than hell yes clients.
I think when you're more selective with your projects, your team will thank you. I've talked to my project manager and he's said, when we're doing these projects that are higher end, we're definitely ... the guys are taking more pride in their work and they're getting to a point to where the guys are taking photos after they're done. It's been a good thing for us to get to our hell-yes customer to start screening customers and get to that point. So yeah, that's me chopping wood in the right-hand side right there if you can see that.
9:25: Don’t Be Afraid to Charge For Initial Consultations
All right. This one is super controversial. I made a mistake, I did a podcast with Jack and I made a mistake of reading some of the comments on Facebook, which is never a good idea. So charge-
Andrew, I saw you liked my reply to them. These guys are blowing me up on my Facebook.
I did. I appreciate you having my back Jack.
Yeah, absolutely because their comments were nonsense. And if you ever run Facebook ads, be prepared for people to come out of the woodwork with nonsense.
Absolutely. So this is me on the right side, making a living off of consultations is what that's intended to be.
10:02: How to Use Initial Consultations as a Screening Tool
No, just joking. So charging for the consultation is definitely ... it's a screening tool and it's getting the game for the customer. It's not about the money. It's one of the absolute best screening tools that I've been able to identify my hell-yes customers. Identified. We implemented this about a year and a half ago. Before that, as I mentioned, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, visiting five to six potential clients a day, even with screening on the phone to make sure we're a good fit. Once you get on-site, you may see five different painted out drawings on the grass and potential patio layouts. And then you realize the client's probably just price shopping. They're trying to compare apples to oranges. So the type of work we do, it's really tough to do that. So I chose a nominal fee of $150. Other people may choose 50 or 500 or whatever. I don't think that really matters that much.
11:01: The Important Difference Between an Estimate and a Consultation
Oh, estimating consulting. I wanted to explain the difference between that because I think people get confused on that. So we do offer technically free estimates. It kills me every time I see it on the back of a truck where it says free estimates. But there is a difference between the two. Estimating is a ballpark range and I have chosen to do that by my website and a lot of different information that I can give. So if a client calls up, I'll spend an hour if I have to on the phone with them. A consultation is when you go to their house and you give them your knowledge. So again, it goes back to don't give your knowledge away for free. And there's probably guys on here and ladies on here that are 20, 30 years of knowledge. So it just doesn't make sense to give that information away for free.
We're one of the only industries I think that still do this. HVAC, they charge a diagnostic fee. Electricians, plumbers, none of these other industries are coming out your home and assess your problem and provide you with a solution without being compensated for their time. So I truly believe that it's our fault as an industry and that I think that we can change this. The client hasn't determined that we're not allowed to charge for our time. It's us as an industry that's determined that. So I think it's important ... it's an important screening tool. Again, it's important screening tool. You need to charge for your knowledge and your time. You spent years and years figuring all this out and providing value to a client. And I think if we can all make a change, it would be definitely a good thing for our industry.
Another plus of it is definitely, it's something I didn't even really think about when I started implementing this. Is it's made me better. I remember going to all these different estimates, these free estimates and showing up to the last one and I just half-assed it to be honest. I would be there and I would know that there's a chance that I could spend an hour with these potential clients and they could just be price shopping something that you can't really price shop when you're in design and build. Now that I know I'm at least getting compensated for the time that I'm there, if they choose not to go with our company, it's definitely given ... I put my best foot forward with it and I'm attentive and I'm listening and I'm trying to solve issues. So that's been one plus of it.
13:39: How to Increase Close Rates & Lower Stress
The other plus of it is close rate up, stress down. I think Jack said, I can't remember who the author is, "But buyers will be buyers will be buyers." That couldn't be more true that if you kind of get in the door with somebody and they're willing to follow your process and they're willing to pay the one 50 to have you come out, our close rate went up tremendously and the stress of my schedule went down tremendously. So it's been a win-win. It was definitely scary at first. You feel like you're going to lose out and you probably do on some clients, but they're probably not your hell yes client is kind of I've figured out.
14:22: The Single Best Sales Tool for Landscape Companies: Your Website
Moving on. Build a damn website. It's the single best sales tool that we have. And look, you don't have to be this guy on the right. I've heard there's this company called Ramblin Jackson that does a good job of that. So if anybody needs their contact information after this, feel free to reach out. I'm happy to help. So it's a single best sales tool, a Facebook page. I want to add that a Facebook page is not a website. Something important is to save time. I'm going to educate customers before I ever make the call. So it's really important for me, for my website and Ramblin Jackson has helped out with this tremendously. But to educate the customers as much as I can before they ever make the call. I have a process page, I have a pricing guide. Again that goes back to the, we do give free estimates, but an estimate for the type of work.
What we do is included in that pricing guide. You can give them a ballpark range. Facebook ads, Google Ads, nextdoor ads, I've tried all of them, they work well. But all of those are designed to basically lead back to your webpage. So I have chosen to spend my money on my online presence and my website, and I'm sure ... I don't have a statistic for it. I'm sure Jack or somebody here can help you with that. But I'm sure in 2023, a large percentage of potential customers probably check out your company's online presence and website before they ever choose to make a call to you. I know there's statistics on that, I don't have them. So one thing I'll say is when we do get a call from a client because of our website, it's really nice because nine times out of 10, they already know exactly what we offer and what we don't offer.
They've kind of in a way screened themselves out if they're not our hell-yes customer just by the information that's on our website. And another plus of it, I do it all the time. I'll give emails, they'll ask a million questions. I could spend hours of my day responding to them. But what I do is I have a page on my website for that. So if they ask about what our process is, I can send them a quick link to our process page or if they ask about pricing, I can send them a quick link to our pricing page and so on and so on. So the website is the most important thing to me. Never cut costs on your online presence. Find somewhere else to cut costs. In my opinion, it's been an extremely important thing for me and a time saver and why I'm able to not be in the field 80 hours a week.
17:03: ABL: Always Be Learning!
ABL, always be learning. So one thing that's been really important for me is to check my ego. I try to never be the smartest person in the room. My project manager knows how to build things that I can never fathom even trying to put together. And that's fine with me. I encourage it. I celebrate my weaknesses. I have no problem telling my guys like, "You guys are ... I don't know how you guys did that. I'm the designer so I can design it, I can sell it, I can coordinate the logistics of it, but I don't know how to build it." So I think it's important that you don't, again, don't have an ego when you're dealing with your team.
Celebrate your team's strengths and your weaknesses. So we identify with my project manager, I worked together with him and we identify what guys on our team are good at and what they're not good at. And that has helped us all kind of grow together. I'm definitely a student, I have no problem. It's kind of how I got in touch with Rambling Jackson. I just started ... I watch a ton of videos, a ton of business coaches, all that kind of stuff. Website has always been important to me, and that's how I found them. I talked to Robert, he closed the deal, best salesman in the world right there. And then got on with them, and they've been fantastic.
So I think it's important to continue always learning no matter what, no matter how big you get. And that's what I plan to do with my business. And the more you learn, I think the better you get at your processes and limit your time actually working and driving yourself crazy. So to summarize, how do you find work-life balance as an owner operator in the green industry, trust in your team. Be more selective in the projects that you take on. Charge for your time. Invest in your website and online presence, and never stop learning and growing.
18:50: Why Charging For Consultations is Still Controversial & Why You Should Do it Anyway
Now I happen to be running some Facebook ads on a clip of Andrew's podcast and it's where he's sharing that he charges for consultations. This is a contentious topic. There are a lot of contractors and landscape professionals who love this idea. They're doing it, they're implementing it. There are equally as many who don't do it and dislike it and they can't do it. And there are customers, people who aren't even landscape professionals commenting on these ads saying that they would never hire somebody who does it.
But what really matters is there is enough market of people who are very willing to pay Andrew for a landscape consultation and he is not taking advantage of anybody. One person on Facebook was like, "Oh, he's scribbling down estimates on a piece of paper." No, he's not. He's having a conversation with them on the phone. He is then when they're in the budget ballpark with him and when they have a project in mind, he's providing value by going to their home and providing a detailed plan for them. So he charges for that time, it's value, and his customers are happy with it if you check out his Google reviews.
So I'm not necessarily saying everyone has to charge for consultations or that's the only way of doing it, but I do know that I have clients all over the country implementing this strategy, and all of them, like Andrew reached the point of being tired of working 80, 90 hours, having people bring them out to be the fifth to 13th bidder, right? So consider that strategy. Congratulations again to Andrew Hardison for winning the What's Working Now! Contest. And thanks to our other presenters, Nick Clots and Kelly Slater, your presentations were great. They were close runners-up. I know the audience got a ton of value from that.
20:50: How to Purchase a Digital Replay of the 2023 Landscaper’s Summit
This was I believe, our best summit yet. We had great speakers, we had a great turnout, we had a really thriving conversation. If you want to check out the replay, it is available for purchase, and we've edited it into an online course. So you can go through each one on your phone, on your computer, on a tablet, listen to it, and like Andrew says, "Always be learning." I love that. Take away one of our values is grow or die. I'm always listening to podcasts, audiobooks. I'm reading print content. I attend a mastermind, I have a business coach. So this is especially a good time of year to be learning, to be investing in yourself.
So hopefully, you got some value out of this podcast and you found some good resources, and I look forward to seeing you at another event. So check out landscapersguide.com/events, and I'll see you there. My name's Jack Jostes, and I look forward to talking with you next week on The Landscaper's Guide Podcast.
Purchase a digital replay of the 2023 Landscaper’s Summit: http://landscapersummit.com
Join us for an upcoming virtual webinar: https://landscapersguide.com/events
Watch the full episode + see the transcript at: https://landscapersguide.com/podcast/
Tell us where to send your beef jerky: https://landscapersguide.com/toolbox