Stop Building Ponds and Create Systems for a Successful Business

Building Pond BusinessOwning a business that builds amazing ponds and water features is a livelihood that many would love to have. Using your own two hands to artistically place rock and gravel to create waterfalls that make your customers weep with joy is not a bad business to be in. Before long, your company will have built a reputation for great work, and a successful business will have sprung up around you. A successful business brings with it demands for sales, marketing, billing, payroll, scheduling, managing employees, splitting time between the field and the office, customer relations and that thing called “having a life.” Things start to overflow! What is a pond builder to do?

Stop Building Ponds!

It sounds crazy for a business owner to stop building ponds just when the business of building ponds is really starting to flow. But here’s why all pond business owners should put down the shovel, step away from the rocks, stop building ponds and start building their businesses.

One of the least profitable and most expensive job positions that the owner of a pond business can fill is the lead foreman or head service technician on a pond construction project. Every shovel the owner fills with dirt, every rock the owner places, every skimmer the owner cleans, and every light bulb the owner changes represent missed opportunities for sales, job creation and business growth. When the business owner performs these tasks, money is left on the table, leaving one less job available for a prospective employee. Everyone involved with the business suffers.

“No one can do it like I do it!” “The customers want ME!” These are common thoughts shared by business owners, but they represent a dilemma that traps many owners in the field, keeping them away from the things that will truly make their businesses successful, their employees well paid and their customers even happier. It is a mindset that owners need to shake off.

Start Building Your Business!

The business owner interested in growing his or her business needs to stop building ponds and start building the business. A major step toward building your business is to create systems for your business. Creating systems is difficult and time consuming, but well worth the effort. Systems will allow your employees to function just like you.

And let’s face it — most business owners have tried to train new employees through “word-of-mouth” training, and it is simply not an effective way to train. Word-of-mouth training is often a “one step forward, two steps back” process, which ultimately puts the business owner right back in the field, with shovel in hand. Word-of-mouth just doesn’t work and is very open to interpretation, usually evolving into something unrecognizable that is far removed from the business owner’s original message. The game of telephone comes to mind. Developed systems could make those issues go away forever by establishing a written set of company standards and procedures.

What’s a System, Anyway?

A system is essentially a written process according to your standards and specifications that can be followed to accomplish specific functions within your business. In other words, systems establish the company standards and specify how to things get done… in writing!

A collection of systems can be considered a company handbook or a guide about how to do things specifically as you want them done for your company. How nice would it be to have a handbook that describes exactly how you want things done? Systems need to be very detailed — the more detail provided, the better the end result will be for the business owner, the employees and the customers. All parties involved benefit from systems when applied to a business model. Without systems, business owners are just winging it… and winging it is not a sustainable business practice.

“There’s a System for That!”

Systems can be applied to any part of your business. No matter what process you are considering, “there’s a system for that.” Systems can be equally effective in field operations and office procedures, not to mention sales, marketing and communications. Just about anything can be systemized, from how a skimmer should be cleaned to how the phone should be answered.

Employees thrive when systems are in place, often exuding more confidence, better organization skills and more accountability for their actions.

Sophisticated, first-world governments utilize protocol. Successful generals utilize strategy and tactics. The most successful businesses utilize systems. We are all familiar with the local burger joint and, of course, the McDonald’s burger empire. Which do you think is more likely to be systemized? We are not talking about trying to create a major corporation here —“ it’s just clear that businesses that utilize systems will be more successful. In the pond and water garden business, there’s always a time to improvise and react, but it’s certainly no way to run a business.

Benefits to Systemizing

There are numerous benefits to written systems. Systems eliminate guesswork and reduce the learning curve, allowing your employees to plug in to your business more easily and train more quickly. Projects will have more predictable outcomes. Systems can make the hiring process clearer, in addition to knowing whom to fire and when. If you’re relying on the old “word-of-mouth” practice of passing along of vital company procedures, how can you tell whom is really to blame for poor job performance?

Employees thrive when systems are in place, often exuding more confidence, better organization skills and more accountability for their actions. Turnover is lower in systemized businesses, and seasonal employee retention is higher. Scheduling becomes more streamlined. Forecasting for your business becomes more accurate. Everything becomes more organized. Free time even starts to show up here and there when systems are in place, making that elusive thing called “having a life” finally possible.

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Customers can benefit, too. You can make life much easier for your customers when your business is systemized. They will probably notice and enjoy your systemized daily updates, a semiannual phone call, a monthly email or quarterly flyer. Heck, customers may even pay a little more for the services of a company that appears to have its act together.

All the benefits listed here will make your business more profitable, keeping more money in your pocket than when you find yourself digging holes and hauling stones. Employees of a systemized business tend to make more money, too. A systemized business is also more attractive to potential buyers. When the day comes when you really want to put some money in your pocket, and it comes time to sell your business (You can’t build ponds forever, can you?), how nice would it be to hand over a handbook of established systems and company standards to a prospective buyer? Or, would you prefer piecing together how things work just by talking? Established systems will add both tangible and intangible value to your business.
Systems do take time to create, but they are powerful and worth every moment you invest in creating them. Systems force the business owner to look at the business in a much more effective way than the day-to-day winging of whatever happens to come your way. Systemizing allows the business owner to plan ahead for the company and make it happen. As a business owner, you can’t see much of the horizon standing at the bottom of a freshly excavated hole in the ground. So, stop building ponds; let your employees build them. You have a business to build!

4 Responses to Stop Building Ponds and Create Systems for a Successful Business

  1. Dan Put March 11, 2016 at 6:41 PM #

    Well Put, Mike… Every business will eventually go through this sometime or another and most owners don’t even realize it.

    • Michael Gannon March 23, 2016 at 9:39 PM #

      Most owners don’t realize until they are up against a wall, unable to make ends meet, unable to make customers happy, and worst when it begins to affect family life. Systems can help alleviate many of those issues! Thanks for commenting Dan! Mike

  2. Jeremy March 11, 2016 at 9:49 PM #

    Excellent Article Mike. Like water plants, business have great opportunity to grow in Water Gardening. Thank You for helping bring Water Gardening mainstream, just as horticulture is.

    • Michael Gannon March 23, 2016 at 9:41 PM #

      Thanks Jeremy! First we need to be mainstream, then we need to be trendy. Let’s see the “Jones” keep up with who has the best water feature! Mike

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