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Leaving a Trail

Paperwork paves the way for great relationships

Every year, we learn new ways to communicate — an email survey, a smartphone app or automated messaging. No matter the delivery, one thing is sure: the more often we receive these the less likely we are to listen.

So many things have taken the effectiveness out of our day. Call me old school, but I carry around my clipboard with a paper calendar and make a to-do list the night before or early morning. I call this my “deep work,” a time of 1.5 to 2 hours a day when I work to keep myself organized. Our company has an internal system with a shared calendar for all team members’ appointments, production schedules, and other things to do. Nonetheless, I still walk daily with paperwork intact.

Technology is great with limits but it takes our attention off the prize — the person right in front of you. Even as I’m writing this on my computer, my patient, loving wife is trying to have a conversation and wants eye contact!

So yes, there are many ways to communicate in this ever-changing world. But nothing beats good paperwork and a personal touch.

Contracts, proposals, letters of intent for service delivery are all best presented on paper and in person. This is when personal selling works the best. People want to buy from people. Otherwise they will order things online — then we become a faceless commodity. If you want to increase your closing ratio, take the time to be present with your client. It builds trust and confidence. We meet our full potential when we communicate face-to-face.

A cautionary tale that ends on a good note … this time

Every year, we review our snow and ice service contracts looking to limit exposure to poor financial or legal outcomes. I live in one of the heaviest snowfall areas in the world, where we receive an annual snowfall of 30-plus feet. In 2014, we decided to grow our White Division. We hired many new people, purchased more salt, invested in new equipment and subcontracted some work. The only things that remained consistent were our overhead, extra demands on paper processing and time control.

We budgeted our costs for an average annual amount of snowfall, but the unthinkable happened. We received record snowfalls that we hadn’t seen since the 1950s. We overconsumed by 35% in all areas of Cost of Goods Sold (Labor, Material, Equipment).

Depending on the size of operation, it can take 5 to 7 years to recover from something like that. Fortunately, we had patient vendors, clients and employees that helped us sustain the storm. The lesson: When in business long enough it is not a question of if you will fail — it’s a matter of when.

Tip: Be sure to set limits on accumulation amounts, number of events, number of applications for ice control, response times to service requests to help mitigate risk.

A risk management tool

Beyond personal organization and the opportunity to get face to face with clients and prospects, the importance of proper documentation cannot be understated as a risk management strategy.

Legal counsel. Employ a lawyer to review your contract wording. Be aware of hold harmless agreements in which they state the owner of the property assumes no risk for the site conditions while under a contractors’ service agreement. Weigh the risk/reward. We would all own more buildings if we had no risk associated with the upkeep and maintenance of a facility.

Paperwork. Keep accurate records by event. Track all communications, call logs, emails, time reports, weather reports, and training and development sessions for employees. Establish 3 to 4 levels of sign off for the work delivered from your operators to your working supervisors to your quality control to management. File a hard copy by the date and a digital copy. Document everything. Add pictures to file content as well as weather-related articles. You may need those reports in the courtroom to prove your due diligence. When it’s together in one place it makes for a very easy find when called upon.

Plan ahead, be ahead and expect a win!

Read the original article from Snow Business Magazine

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Written by Brent Ayles
Brent is our President/CEO. His passion and respect for the environment were instilled working around the woodland and sugar maple industries with his father and grandfather. Brent has served on the National Certification Committee for the Landscape Industry and the local provincial association.