Photo courtesy of Mike Sanders

When Mike Sanders’ wife called him almost a decade ago about adopting a severely abused pit bull, he had no idea what was in store – but not in a bad way.

“He’s 10 years old now and healthy and has had a pretty good life,” says Sanders, the owner of Crimson Valley Landscaping in Rockford, Illinois. “It’s definitely made my family’s life better as well.” In fact, it’s a great way to start the morning. Here’s Sanders’ average day.

I get up at least by 5 a.m. My feet are on the ground and I’m moving. The first thing I do is I take my dog and walk him outside for a little bit. What we do is we walk around our yard. Then behind us, I have a field and we have some trails in there. Then we come back in the house, and I have a cup of coffee and do a little reading for about 20 minutes, and I try to return some emails or some text messages.

I try to be out the door by 6:30 a.m. My commute to work used to be about five minutes. Now, I’m about 30 minutes from work every day, which I think is a good thing because it gives me time to really think as I’m driving in to work about the day. I’m making a mental list when I’m driving, and maybe I write down a few things, too, of who I should get in touch with that day.

I’m at the shop at 7 a.m. when the crews are starting up. I don’t help with anything. I don’t necessarily need to be here. They’re all self-sufficient and understand what to do. I’m just trying to walk around and feel the vibe of the company. “Hey, how are the kids? Did you get that new dog you were talking about?” Any of those questions usually lead you down a path of how they’re doing.

Then I’ll talk to our foreman and say, “I was talking to these guys, and they seem tired. Let’s talk to production and maybe we’re not going to work guys at all this Saturday. Let’s make sure they get two days to rest and recover.” Our guys in the field probably don’t hear those conversations and aren’t a part of them, but we can see when they need a break or they’re just really worn out for whatever reason, mentally or physically. It can be both.

Early every morning or two, we’re having meetings to review our over-under on jobs. One of our constant things that we discussed is — do we have a process problem here, or is it a people problem? And if it’s a people problem, then do we need to do some more training here?

Around lunch, sometimes we take some of our customers out to lunch. Otherwise, it’s just random. Sometimes a protein bar works and sometimes it’s a drive-through somewhere.

We have an on-staff accountant and in the afternoon, I’ll sit down and talk to him for a little bit about what’s going on, all our financials, cashflow, everything like that.

Then in the afternoon, I try to touch base with the rest of the office team, like our assistant bookkeeper and contract administrators, estimators, designers, just to make sure they’re okay. Sometimes it’s just giving them a two-minute break to laugh about something, or let them know, even though our customers probably don’t recognize it, what they did really made a difference in how this job turned out.

I wish my days were shorter, but I usually don’t get home until closer to 7 to 8 p.m. on most nights.

I think the half hour drive home is a good thing, too. It allows me a little bit of time to decompress and maybe reevaluate instead of being frustrated. Try to consider yourself a little luckier than how you’re feeling right now. Then when I get home, I’m probably not wound so tight.

Then I try to spend some time with my wife. We’re empty nesters now. She goes to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. If she falls asleep around 10, I might sneak downstairs into a little makeshift office and work for an hour or two and then hit the sack.