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Mike Fitzpatrick On The Importance Of A Summer Plan

Your summer plan is critical.

Summer can be the most expensive time to operate in commercial grounds management, which makes your summer plan critical. There are several aspects you need to take into account when planning.

You’ve got to have the manpower to deliver.

First, you must make sure you have enough people to fulfill the agreements you’ve made with your customers.

Second, if you plan to subcontract out any services such as your agronomic programs or your irrigation maintenance, you need to make sure that you have planned and budgeted for it. This determination is usually made by one of two things:

  1. Whether you have the skillsets in-house to do the work and there’s enough of it to justify full time people;
  2. Your ability to meet licensing requirements;

Your team must be qualified, which may require subcontracting.

Item number two will not only vary by state, but may also vary by county in a state. From U.S. Lawns’ perspective, we always want to make sure we are obeying licensing requirements. And, just as in any business, when you don’t have the in-house capabilities for the job, you’re going to get a better job done more efficiently by hiring (or subcontracting) a specialist.

Make sure you’ve got enough equipment to meet your commitments.

As you’re working on your summer plan, you also need to make sure that you’ve got enough equipment to do everything you’ve committed to do; that you’ve got a plan in place when–not if, but when–some of that equipment doesn’t function properly. This means working with a dealer that has a loaner plan for you or you have a good level of backup equipment in your operation, or both.

Ramp up from the slow growth season.

Another big consideration is that although some regions have a more definitive start and stop to the horticultural season, even places like Florida, Texas and California have slower growth months. This translates to the need of fewer people and less equipment to effectively maintain client properties.

This is all so important in planning your ramp-up because you’ve got to plan your financial side too, and you can’t do that if you haven’t planned everything else. If you don’t know how many people you’re going to need, what subcontractors, if you’re going to use any, will cost, and what impact equipment problems are going to make, you can’t financially prepare.

Your summer operational plan greatly influences your financial plan.

This is why a summer operational plan is so important, you can’t do the financial plan without the operational plan.

But remember, you can have the best operational plan in the world, and if you don’t have the money to drive it, it doesn’t matter.

You need a good budget for accurate cash flow forecasting.

The long and short of it is, if you’ve done a good budget (which means it’s not flatlined, it shows the variability in the season), you should be able to do fairly accurate cash flow forecasting based on your anticipated monthly billing amounts and expenses.

You may need a line of credit–and the discipline to manage it.

If your cash flow forecast predicts you’ll have some slow periods, you’re also going to need a line of credit or something to get you through. And if you do use lines of credit, you’d better be disciplined enough to pay them off first thing, when you collect your money.

Collect your money timely.

A final key to the success of your plan is to make sure you’re collecting your money timely. If you’re in a twelve-month market, but you’re only collecting your money every forty days, that means you’re only collecting your billing nine times a year but still spending twelve months’ worth of money. So, your profit and loss statement and your budget vs. actual can show you as being profitable, but if you’re not collecting your money, you’re going to go out of business.

It’s all about planning, budgeting, and follow-through.

There really are no secrets here–it all comes down to planning, budgets and follow-through.

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