Like a Boss: Boost Profitability by Managing Man Hours

Jody O’Donnell, president of LMI Landscapes, headquartered in Carrollton, Texas, now knows that managing your man hours equates to making money. But it’s something that he says he had to learn the hard way. In the past, O’Donnell says he would get sidetracked by other issues that required his attention and fail to pay as close attention to man hours as he should have been. Now he recognizes that the number one management task is tracking man hours since it’s the key to profitability.

“As a business owner, it’s very easy to get bogged down by other things that need your attention,” O’Donnell says. “But the man hours are what truly require your attention.”

Early on in business, O’Donnell says he had let man hour tracking fall to the wayside. But once he began to pay closer attention to actual cost versus the original estimate, he realized the greatest possibility for profit was in those precious man hours. That’s when he made some changes.

Today, he holds weekly meetings and forecasts in order to take a close look at each and every job. An added benefit has been more accurate estimates now that he’s paying so much attention to how long various tasks take.

O’Donnell says that making man hours a top priority has absolutely helped to grow his business. While it’s something that he says he first had to get control of on his own, he now also delegates man hour tracking to his managers to “monitor and handle the task.” With so much attention on labor, it helps ensure that jobs are continuously profitable.

While O’Donnell says there are many ways to keep track of man hours, at the end of the day, the simpler you keep the process, the more likely you will be to keep up with it.

“Don’t make it too complicated or you’re not going to want to put the time in to deal with it,” O’Donnell says. “It can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet that keeps track of what you had budgeted for labor and what you’re actually doing. The key is to stay on top of the jobs.”

Although it can be a big task to get back on track if you’ve fallen away from tracking man hours (or never were tracking them in the first place), O’Donnell says that once you start doing it, it gets easier. As it becomes a habit, and you start to reap the benefits of increasing profitability, you’ll start to wonder why you weren’t keeping up with it all along.

Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them.