We have been working hard and are ready for a big year. I realize that in hindsight one of the biggest problems last year was that things were out of control. This year I feel like things are under much better control in terms of money, employees, and equipment. This is what we have done to improve each:
This year we decided we were tired of chasing people down for money once and for all. We forced 95% of our customers onto weekly credit card payments or weekly credit card pre-pay. We offered a 5% discount if customers prepaid the whole contract by check. The way I figured here is that we save the 3% credit card processing fee, so we ultimately borrowed the money at 2% apr which is cheaper than I get get the money elsewhere. Using our customers for credit instead of banks. Great! Much better cash flow.
Secondly, we raised our prices a lot. We aimed for an across the board 20% price increase. We knew we would lose some customers, but after last year I didn’t care. I don’t need to make a lot of money but I have never lost money before and it wasn’t fun. So we got our charge rates rock solid and made no exceptions for making sure we were earning that on all of our jobs. And how awesome that price increase is. Since we had essentially paid all our costs but not profited, that 20% increase mostly goes to profit and what a difference it is going from no profit to 20% profit. Surprisingly, we lost only a handful of good customers out of the gig; out of the small percentage we lost most were the large unprofitable accounts we didn’t want anyway. Most people once experiencing our service considered our higher prices worth the value.
We prepared much earlier for workers. We set up a job fair at a local university. Put job listings on indeed and craigslist. Contacted our local DLT. Networked. Yard signs. Everything. Some of the best advice I ever got was to market for employees like we do customers. They are equally important.
Lastly, we have new equipment this year. A brand new mower, 2 new trucks, new weed wackers, blowers, wheelbarrow.. On top of the added reliability, we invested in equipment that increased our productivity such as a compost top dresser to replace wheel barrow and shovel, and a garden bed edger which I was told can do in 13 minutes with one man the same thing two men take 1.5 hours. And it looks better.
So there is less stress, everyone is happier, equipment is working, we are making money. Business is good! We are relocating to a shop with a garage to keep our mechanic happy and so we can all operate out of one place. Working from coffee shops only works for so long.