Combating the Busy Season with Your Backlog
Your Backlog is a Tool
The busy season can be overwhelming at times. Often, you’ll have customers asking for more work than you have the time or manpower for. Right now, you probably can’t imagine taking on more work. However, as soon as the busy season is over, jobs can begin to dry up if you haven’t been diligent about planning for your slow season.
What if you were able to stockpile some of those extra jobs you don’t have the time for? Creating a sustainable backlog of work for fall and winter can make the difference between laying people off and keeping them full-time. While labor and seasonality will always be a battle for landscaping and tree care businesses, scheduling ahead and creating a backlog for the slow season now can help solve the issue of having too much work now and not enough later on.
Elements of a Healthy Backlog
Robust Scheduling System
Planning jobs weeks or months in advance is difficult. Trying to plan without a solid scheduling system could lead to double bookings, forgotten work, or last-minute rescheduling. All of which hurt your business and your reputation. Your schedule needs to be easy to use, digital, and available for everyone to access at any time. Team members responsible for scheduling customers need to see work months in advance to plan around existing commitments.
Know How to Prioritize
When creating a backlog for the slow season, consider which jobs you should prioritize right now and which work can be done later in the year. On an episode of Green Industry Perspectives Podcast, Mike DePriest said, “It’s feast or famine. There’s not enough consistent work to hold up the whole business. We’ve had to be resourceful and take on projects that need to be done in the winter.”
One of the primary goals of a backlog is to distribute your workload evenly. Train your estimators and salespeople to discern which jobs have to be done during the summer and which jobs should be backlogged for your slow season. Priorities are different for every business, but you can guide your team on prioritizing jobs based on seasonality and availability.
Communicate With Your Customers
The final piece of maintaining a backlog is communicating clearly with your customers. Make sure your team sets expectations for your clients from the very beginning. If you know you don’t have enough room in your schedule to take on more work, instead of turning down a request, explain to the customer why you need to book them later in the year. When asked about how he communicates backlogging with customers, Mike DePriest said, “We’ve worked hard to educate our customers. If they call in the middle of June and say, ‘Hey, we want to rip out all those junipers and put in rock.’ I’ll say, ‘Could we give you a discount to do that in December when we really need work.’” Educate your clients on any struggles your business might be facing. They’ll appreciate your transparency and be more willing to be flexible.