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Staying on track

Roberta is a landscape designer and owner of a small landscaping firm.  She has a nice roster of private clients and also sub-contracts for two local architects who keep her quite busy.

For the past two years, she’s employed two full time and one part time designer and a landscaping crew to do the actual plantings and upkeep.  As well, she uses the services of masons and carpenters, electricians and plumbers to help you with the new installations.  She also keeps her hand in the actual designing, particularly when it comes to a select group of high profile clients she’s been cultivating for years.

Although Roberta does have some staff, they were all creative or technical people.  She had never felt that investing in someone to help her on an administrative level could be justified, she could just do them herself.  As a result, things like paying bills, doing invoicing, returning calls, going over finances or even just keeping up with email and voicemail were overlooked.  A creative person at heart, she avoided doing the more practical things and this has led to trouble.

When Roberta first called last June, she was a bit overwhelmed and hadn’t had a good night sleep in months. Ever since the beginning of the year she had been frantically busy with drawings and plans for 7 luxury residence clients.  She started construction on three of them as soon as the ground thawed.  With spring also came the start of her landscaping maintenance business and jumped into this without a chance to catch her breath.  And, both architects were hounding her to complete old projects and start others.

By the time she turned around, spring was over and Roberta realized that there was no money in the bank and lots of people to pay; since she had neglected to do any billing since February. Unfortunately, one of them was Uncle Sam, and he tends to get a little impatient, so there were some expensive penalties that had been incurred as well. 

To make matters worse, things had not been going smoothly with the installations.  A couple of jobs were backed up because she had failed to schedule a couple of sub-contractors, and a small project was completely overlooked, which lost Roberta a long time client.  When pressed for details, she admitted that they were completing projects ontime only about 1/3 of the time.

We talked about all of the things that needed to be done.  There was quite a long list of tasks that hadn’t been attended to in many months, and it was apparent that there was no one and no time to do them until things got slow again next winter.

We looked at the list and thought about what she wanted and needed to spend her time on and started to develop a list of priorities.  Roberta was neither qualified nor interested in handling the bookkeeping, invoicing, or bill payment and hated spending time scheduling the myriad of tradespeople necessary to complete new installations.  To try to save money, she had been trying to keep up with it, but the time had finally come to officially fire herself from those positions.

The part time designer had a real knack for scheduling and details.  Roberta realized that it made sense to offer her a full time position, in which she would spend about 15 hours a week just managing work flow and scheduling, as well as checking Roberta’s messages and making sure that calls and emails were returned.  Projects are now on schedule about 80% of the time, and improvements are still being made.  The goal for next season is 95% on time completion.  Both architects and several clients have commended her on the positive changes she has made.

She hired a freelance bookkeeper who now comes in twice a month to do the invoicing, pay the bills and keep the filing under control.

One of the hardest things for Roberta was to develop the discipline to take time to look at the big picture and make sure that all the areas of the business are being taken care of.  But as our work heads into it’s 4th month, she is making real headway.

She knows her priorities, has improved her delegation skills, given up trying to do everything herself, increased focus and productivity and feels as though she is indeed staying on track.  Cash flow has improved and her bills are being paid on time, leaving Roberta more time to concentrate on the things she wants and needs to be doing.  For the first time since January, Roberta feels as if the stress she’s been living under is lifting.

Is it time for you to get back on track?

-Susan Martin, Business Coach NYC


Outsourcing Tech Support March 2, 2010 at 8:20 pm

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