Travels with Jim follows Jim Huston around the country as he visits with landscapers and helps them understand their numbers to make smarter decisions.

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I’ve driven more than 1 million miles as I’ve consulted with clients throughout North America these last 32 years. Three deer, numerous birds and a couple of groundhogs joined the ride along the way and helped me total two pickup trucks as well a brand-new Hertz rental Volvo. My objective in all of this driving was to keep the wheels on my vehicle going ‘round and ‘round in the right direction and underneath it. Unfortunately for my animal “hitch-hiker” friends, this wasn’t always the case.

Get the right people on the bus.

Rob and Michelle Munn were looking for a vehicle to help them achieve their financial goals. They purchased a residential landscape maintenance company, English Garden Care, near Sacramento, California, to help them do so. Having no experience in the landscape industry, their “wheels” weren’t always going in the right direction and their ride was a bit chaotic at times. It was challenging, to say the least, and it brings to mind the lyrics of the song, “Take It Easy” by the Eagles: “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.”

First, they realized that the residential maintenance market wasn’t best suited to them and their goals. They began a painful process to transition to the commercial maintenance market. This took a number of years, but they did it successfully. As they did so, they realized that they needed to implement Jim Collin’s sage advice from his book, “Good to Great.”

“… (L)eaders of companies that go from good to great start not with ‘where’ but with ‘who.’ They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline – first the people, then the direction – no matter how dire the circumstances.”

It was also at this point that I began to work with Rob and Michelle.

Few of the people who started with Rob and Michelle lasted and personnel changes had to be made. Making those changes wasn’t fun but it was necessary. The existing account managers had to be replaced with ones who were willing to change and grow with the new management team and its direction. The same occurred with a number of the crew leaders. As uncomfortable as it was, Rob and Michelle knew that they had to get the right team in place.

Next, I helped them implement accurate benchmarking, budgeting and bidding. As I worked with the new owners, we benchmarked the business by means of a detailed budget and properly formatted P&L statement. Once these were in place, we made sure that bids were sufficiently detailed and accurate.

The Munns took to all of this with enthusiasm and over a five- to six-year period saw their entire company transform from one going in the wrong market with the wrong people and the wrong results to one that provided good profits in the right market with the right people. All of the changes and the accompanying chaos were extremely challenging to deal with. Add the fact that not only were Rob and Michelle raising three daughters during, but they also had to deal with a cancer battle.

The Munns knew that running a small business was not for the faint of heart. They were neither intimidated nor deterred by challenging circumstances as they faced some brutal setbacks and made the necessary changes to turn things around.

Get tough.

How’s your financial vehicle doing? Is it taking you to your desired destination or are you letting its wheels “drive you crazy?” If you aren’t getting the results you desire, be like the Munns. Show your grit! First, face the facts, then be creative to find and implement a solution that works.

If you’re not achieving the goals that you desire, be like Rob and Michelle. Face the situation, be creative and get help. If you do, you might be surprised at what lies just around the next bend or two.

Jim Huston runs J.R. Huston Consulting, a green industry consulting firm.