Your running a busy lawn care business and you have 1001 things to do. Planning to maximize your time spent out on the job will bring you more bang for your buck than anything else you may do. When we were running several vehicles on the road, we found we could increase profit by a good amount if we planed the daily routes well.
So what is the best way to plan my daily lawn care route? – Work certain areas on different days. Plan your route as soon as you get up. Use a free tool like routexl Copy and paste your lawns for the day. Mark start and finish point. Press the “find route” button and use your local knowledge to modify the results.
The statement above makes routing sound easy. If only it were. To get the maximum return for the hours, you spend out there mowing lawns you need to do a little work behind the scenes. You will need to actively work to reduce the downtime you get in a workday.
What is downtime?
Downtime is any time that you spend in the day that is not spent actively producing an income. Some of the bigger ones are on this list.
- Traveling between jobs.
- Loading and unloading equipment.
- Debt collecting.
- Fueling up.
- Even quoting is effectively downtime.
First You need to know what you are spending your time on. I would suggest that you use a free tool like toggl for a week and track everything. You may be surprised at the amount of unproductive time you have in a week.
Another thing that you might want to consider is that less effective your route is the more it will cost you in lost time and fuel. Instead of working you are driving and not only does this not directly produce income it costs you money. To run a lawn care business with a reasonable profit margin, you need to make your work time as productive as possible.
Plan the night before
At around 7 pm the night before we call in we send out a mass text to some of our customers who are booked in for the next day. The same text goes to everyone, and the customer knows this, but it serves as a reminder for the following
- To leave a gate open.
- To move a car.
- To pick up the dog poo.
- To do leave payment out (if they pay cash).
- That we will be coming round (if they have just asked for a reminder.).
We do not put all of our customers down for a reminder text. We only offer the service if we feel it can benefit the running of our business. Sometimes we will offer an auto-text if we think it will secure a contract. We will also provide this service if we are not sure that the customer will be reliable.
You may think at first that this is counterproductive. Many of my friends who ran lawn care businesses told me this when I spoke to them about it. They said to me that I must be mad. I was giving all the customers I texted a chance to postpone their lawn. The fact is this hardly ever happens.
My answer to this is would you rather turn up at a lawn and start mowing it only to have the customer send you away because they feel it hasn’t grown enough or get a text back the night before postponing the lawn. One of these took less than five minutes of your time, and the other one cost you half an hour and fuel in your prime working time. At least if you know about the postponement the night before then, you now have the opportunity to schedule someone else in.Screenshot of daily route in RouteXL
Your morning planning routine
We usually do our day planning at around 6.30 am on a weekday. Unless you have a fantastic ability to make a list of lawns, then prioritize them by location and get it right every time (like my wife) then you will probably need some software.
An excellent free online tool for this is RouteXL. All you need to do is copy and paste (or import) your lawns for the day. Mark your first and last job and hit the “find route” button. It will do the rest for you. Now do remember that RouteXL will not know the nuances of your lawns, so you may need to play around with the completed route. The things you will have to take into consideration when planning are things like
- Jobs that you can go to early – commercial or empty houses.
- Lawns that you can’t do early – If you have a shift worker on your books who don’t want their lawn to be mowed until after lunch (we tend to avoid lawns like this or any lawns with conditions that a hard to meet).
- You will need to finish at the dump of the days you need to empty.
- Are you going to need to fuel up today?
Also, think about the traffic and schools. Ideally, you want to be heading out when the traffic is going in and vice versa. You don’t want to be driving past a large school when they are all going home. Sometimes missing the traffic can be as simple as scheduling a lawn nearby in peak times, so you are working instead of sitting in a queue.
Try to visualize your route in your head before you print it. Does it look right? You make the final decision here, use routing software but don’t expect it to know everything.
Train your customers
I’m not talking about teaching your customers to do tricks here. I am talking about having all your customers on the same page when it comes to how your business works. Let them know that you are happy to change cycles in the offseason, but in the peak season, they need to be weekly or bi-weekly. A three-weekly lawn can stuff up your schedule. Explain to them that you are going to let them be in charge of their lawn. If they think it hasn’t grown and can be moved on to next week, then they need to let you know before you turn up. Tell them that you don’t make a decision when you get to a lawn as to whether it needs mowing or not because you are not the customer so you don’t know what they consider to need mowing. When you turn up, you mow the lawn. They can postpone at any time by text with 24 hours notice.
Tell them they are in charge, but you are actually in charge as well.
Compartmentalize your route keep areas as small as possible.
One often method you often used to optimize a route is to look at the big picture. Consider all the lawns as a whole. Put them into suburbs and try to arrange those areas into days. If you can split your total area into four or five smaller areas and do a different one every day, then you will get through the lawns a lot quicker, and it will cost you less to do it.
Try to get lawns nearby; if you mow a few yards in the street, you could always knock on a few doors or leave hangers offering free quotes. You could even try looking a the lawns on Google maps and direct mailing the street with prices and your mow day.
Package and sell (or swap) lawns on the fringes of your route. You may be able to do a deal with another lawn mowing contractor. We quite often sell off small groups of lawns that are bordering on the edges of the areas we serve.
Do worry too much if you find it a bit difficult to schedule at the beginning. As your business grows, it will become easier. The more significant customer base is, the easier it becomes to schedule effectively.This is a printout from RouteXL showing travel times. To get to 14 houses will take me 1 hour and 48 minutes in travel time.
How far is too far to travel for a job? -The distance you are prepared to go depends on your business. Most lawns in your round should be no more than 10-15 minutes apart. However, if you have a large mower and work in the country, then you could, of course, travel further.
I get lots of customers wanting a mow on a Friday what do I do? On Fridays, you should try to focus on lawns in your best and highest paying suburb. A lot of people will ask for a Friday, so it is better not to ask what day people want. Let them know the day you visit their area, and the price is dependent on being able to do the job then. Most customers will understand, and if they don’t then maybe, they are not worth having on your books anyway.
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