Why restrict your firm’s growth to just lawn care when clients in Dixie demand much more

As a southern turf care pro, you deal with sod webworms, chinch bugs, grubs, mole crickets and other turf damaging critters that do a number on your clients’ lawns. You also know how to manage zoysiagrass, bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass and bahiagrass.


Instead of restricting your services to just lawn care, how about offering other services your customers’ may need, such as caring for their shrubs and palm trees?
PHOTO BY GRAHAM BRIGGS/SXC.HU.

But, why stop with lawn care? How about offering other services, such as caring for you customers’ shrubs, trees, palms and citrus? Why not services for indoor pests, termites, bees and wasps, mosquitoes or even critter control?

Stop and give it some thought. Equally important, talk to your customers about the full spectrum of property services they need and desire.

Become a one-stop shop

As you know, many of your lawn care customers may have one contractor for mowing, a different one for irrigation and other companies for indoor pests and whatever other property management services they may need. Consider how inconvenient and potentially frustrating this is for them. They’re left with the task of trying to remember who is doing what and when. Then they have to deal with (and pay) each service provider separately.

Here’s a suggestion: consider expanding your company’s services to reduce inconvenience to your clients and also maximize income from each customer stop.

Finding the right employees

There are challenges, of course – very big challenges. The largest is finding and training the employees capable of providing each of these different services competently and consistently. Your employees are the face of your company to your customers, and their satisfaction and retention is directly impacted by their day-to-day activities on behalf of your company. They’re also your company’s greatest expense, as you’re surely aware.

Consider, however, that your competitors face the same hurdles. This, of course, means that if you become better at attracting and training employees that can perform whatever services you add to your company you will have a competitive advantage.

Each of the services mentioned in this article – lawn fertilization/pest control, landscape maintenance, inside pest control – obviously requires employees with different physical abilities, levels of technical knowledge and training and, in most cases, personalities.

Employees that work outside in the elements must be able to provide services at a certain level in spite of heat and humidity, meaning these services are typically delivered by young males. They’re almost always young because the job may require them to service 30 to 40 accounts each day. That’s a physically demanding schedule. In fact, it can be exhausting depending on conditions. Who can blame some techs for dragging midway through the afternoon, causing service quality to fall off and customer complaints to increase?

Be sensible about employee expectations

So, what’s the answer you may ask?

Let’s start by saying that you have to be sensible about what you’re expecting your technicians to do – especially if you want to retain them.

Equally important, are you qualifying technicians that are physically and by temperament capable of performing these repetitive services day after day in the heat?

As for your lawn fertilizer/pest control technicians, are you confident these prospects and new hires can competently learn how to diagnose lawn problems and confidently answer the occasional customer question or deal intelligently with a customer complaint?

In Florida, the training requirement for techs is a minimum of five days, which sorry to say, most new hires don’t get because they’re rushed onto customers’ lawns to do production. This is not a good way to kick off a tech’s career with your company. With so little training, you can hardly expect a new hire to perform high-level service. At best, they’re like robots that treat every property identically, whether that’s the most responsible service or not.

Let’s consider adding indoor pest control services. Now you have to deal with rodents, many different kinds of roaches and ants, bedbugs, millipedes, centipedes, fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and other assorted flying, crawling, gnawing and biting pests.

This service, which demands much more customer contact than outside services, requires a different employee mind-set, skill set and body of knowledge. Technicians must become skilled at identifying pests, recognizing the conditions that attract and allow them to multiply and, ultimately, which products or procedures control them.

Like lawn techs, indoor pest control employees have to be able to read, understand and follow label directions, but they have a greater responsibility in regards to safety in that they are working inside people’s homes and businesses.

While it may not be politically correct to point this out, they must look “more professional” than their colleagues working outdoors. While you wish all of your employees, regardless of the services they perform, would arrive to work each day clean-shaven, wearing clean uniforms, their trucks washed and their equipment and tools shiny, it’s absolutely essential for your indoor pest control technicians.

One final note in regards to your employees, but especially employees that perform services inside homes and business: clients must never ever feel threatened by their appearance or behavior. And, that’s assuming that all of them are honest in all matters regarding their time on the job, admittedly a huge assumption to make.

Resources are abound

It’s beyond the scope of this article to offer strategies for attracting and retaining the best employees for each of the services you offer or plan to offer – that’s the subject of a future article. Realize, however, that there are many sources of information and tools for training your employees, which is the best way to start. Why would you expand your service offerings if you’re not satisfied with the level of services you’re already performing?

For example, the University of Florida (ifasbooks.ufl.edu) offers an incredible amount of information on the full range of property management services. This includes CDs, ID cards, DVDs and posters for all types of insects in all categories at a modest price. The University of Georgia is a similar great resource, as are major universities in practically every southern state.

Also, most states have county extension services. There are 67 in Florida that have classes for CEUs, (continuing education units) and various other topics that would benefit service companies. Finally, every state has active turf and pest control associations, most being allied with national associations that offer great educational opportunities, as well as the very real benefit of being able to network with like-minded owners and operators.

The resources to train your employees to higher levels of performance, regardless of service, are more available now than ever before because of the Internet.

Yes, explore opportunities to add services to your company to enhance the value of your company to your customers, and realize that if you do it the right way, by attracting competent, trainable employees, you will gain a measurable advantage over your competition.

Bill Phagan is president of Green Industry Consulting and provides operational and financial consulting and training for the industry. He can be reached at bphagan@tampabay.rr.com or his website: www.greenindconsulting.com.