Follow up and follow through

Ed Laflamme, LIC
Harvest Group co-founder

After consulting with several hundred companies over the past 20 years, I’ve noticed one common denominator among the truly successful businesses. The owners and managers follow up and follow through on virtually everything. Let me explain what I mean: When I say follow up, I mean check in with a person to see how they’re doing. But that’s not always enough. Successful managers also follow through, which means making sure the task was completed. When tasks are completed on time by everyone in a company, tremendous progress is made.

I don’t believe successful owners, including managers, follow up consciously. Instead, it comes naturally. It’s part of who they are. They follow up on a myriad of details every day from proposals sent, new sales made, new people hired, customer complaints, equipment needed, promises made, requests from employees and dozens of directives to the people that report to them. If you’re an owner or manager, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’ve noticed that some of these leaders have incredible memories while others have techniques to help them. In other words, they write everything down. Either way, they do it and the company thrives because their people know they will be held accountable.

Simple actions

Let me give you a few examples: You’re talking to a customer or employee and promise to get back to them before the end of the week on a question they had, and you do as promised. Or, someone does a favor for you and instead of just a “thanks,” you follow up with a handwritten thank-you card.

These actions build trust which results in building strong relationships. People with a reputation of getting things done is a rarity in today’s world and they are truly valued.

Here’s a different follow-up situation. A new employee starts work and neither the person that hired them or their manager ever follows up to find out how they’re doing. They’re just expecting them to, “do their job.” How does that person feel? Think about it, how would you feel? Instead, the person they report to should follow up after the first day and then after every week for the first few months to make sure all is well. Just a brief meeting will do. This way, if there are any problems or questions, they can be resolved. This demonstrates to the employee that the company cares and the probability of the person staying significantly increases.

Another perfect example is in the sales process. When a prospect calls the office, an appointment needs to be made as soon as possible. Before going to the appointment, someone should follow up to confirm. After the appointment, the salesperson should follow up by email or text and confirm next steps.

If the company is awarded their job, a follow-up thanking the customer and then informing them when the work will start should be made. If there is significant time before that happens, further contact should be made assuring the customer their job is on schedule.

Once the job is started, if it’s going to take more than a few days, it’s always good to communicate with the customer as to how things are going. Then, at the end of the job, make sure the customer is totally happy. One sales designer I worked with made a note in his calendar to visit the property after one year. The clients were delighted to see them and their concern for their landscape. This almost always led to more work and tons of referrals.

Don’t overdo it

When I say follow up and follow through, I don’t mean micromanaging. That’s poison in a company! Micromanaging means to have excessive control or attention to details, especially small details. This type of manager guides every single step of the way, not letting anyone decide anything without consulting them. As a result, these companies find it close to impossible to grow because their staff never stays. The micromanaging boss drives everyone crazy.

So, landscape leaders, here’s the bottom line: Follow up and follow through on every aspect of your work. It’s best to write down the myriad of details and not trust your memory.

Are you doing that now? What do you need to follow up or follow through on right now, both professionally and personally? Lastly, teach the people that report to you to do the same. This will lead to a company that holds everyone accountable and as a result, things will get done. This process will lead to a truly great company.

Cream of the Crop features a rotating panel from the Harvest Group, a landscape business consulting company.

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January 2023
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