What to Focus On in the Off-Season - Part 4
Train Your Crew

What? Train your crew? It’s the middle of January, you worked your tail off all last year, and this time of year feels like a much-needed break. And that’s great. Take it. You deserve it.

But… winter is also your opportunity to reflect on last year, and figure out how you will work smarter, not harder in the upcoming year.

This Train Your Crew is the 4th article I’m banging out on the keyboard about the off-season. The first one was on the need to build a budget to protect your profits in the face of rising costs, the second one was on getting your jobs and schedule all prepped out, and the third was on what your foreman’s Job Folder needs to include.

Today I wanna talk about one that’s near and dear to my heart, as this is the one impacting the role I lived in for many years.

Your crew.

Training them. Asking them what would make their lives easier. Showing them the big picture, and teaching them what the company needs from them so you can successfully achieve that big picture focus and vision.

You could train your crew in many aspects – installation practices, new products you are installing, the systems you are using to track time and materials, and more.

What do you train them?

The first thing I would do is ask your crew:

  • What went poorly last year? And, what went well?
  • What are the things you think we could get better at?
  • How could we plan/prep/communicate better to make our jobs easier?

And then from that discussion, build a list of things to train everyone on. And make sure everyone is prepped and trained to consistently do the same things and follow the same procedures all season long.

For example, if your crew’s time sheets are always messed up, train how to clock in and out more effectively. I talk to crew leaders all the time that didn’t realize their app could do X Y Z. Make sure they know all the tricks of the trade. A common one I run into from crews that use SynkedUP is they didn’t realize that they could switch work areas on a timesheet in 3 clicks.

Do you have quality control issues? Things getting missed that then cause callbacks? Maybe train how to go over all the details before leaving a job site. Maybe come up with a job close-out checklist and train on that. Make sure it’s not just another useless doc or procedure. Make sure it actually gets used. Make sure your crew buys into it. No one likes meaningless processes. It kills morale. If it doesn’t get used, either get rid of the process or replace it with a better one.

Do you have a phone tag culture problem? Your phone rings incessantly with questions like “What plants do we need to pick up?” Fix that. It’s so needless and inefficient. 

What’s your source of truth?

If this is happening, what you need is a source of truth. One place where all details for a job live. A place where the crew lead goes for answers and info to mentally prep for, manage, and execute a job. If you do not have this “source of truth” for all job info, then it’s your fault. If you have it and the crew is still calling you, it’s still your fault. Why is it still your fault? Because by not pointing them back to the info you already provided, you are enabling them and teaching them that you are the answer. And you can’t have that. You’ll be a constant bottleneck.

Foster a culture of autonomy. If they are asking you a question that you know you answered in the info you provided in the job folder, ask them if they checked their job folder. “No? Ok, check the job folder, and if you still have questions, then call me, but not until you’ve checked and tried your best.”

I like the 1-3-1 framework. Got 1 problem? Don’t come to me until you have 3 potential ideas or solutions to solve the problem. And give me your 1 recommended solution. 1-3-1.

Ok, the way I wrote this may be a bit blunt, but I’m trying to make a point. People will try to implement a system like say detailed job folders for every job, but then don’t discipline themselves to put the needed info into them, or don’t discipline themselves to check that job folder for answers to their questions. So they revert back to the old game of endless phone tag and blame the system. It didn’t work. My guys won’t do it. etc etc. GIGO. Garbage in garbage out.

When I sit back and think “What do I need to succeed as a crew lead?”, my mind goes to the info I’m given as I kick off a new job. When I was a foreman at Tussey Landscaping, the more info I had, the better decisions I could make, and the less I needed to bother my boss. We got better and better at this over the years. The info you provide to your crew is vital to helping your crew succeed at what they do. So, all that to say, make sure you get your crew a well-filled-out job folder. Or make it even easier and use SynkedUP’s digital job folder right in the mobile app, that’s always up to date with the most recent info and changes.


So to wrap this up, together with your crew, identify where the pain points were. Where the time sucks were. Where issues seemed to come up repeatedly. What caused callbacks, etc?

And then discuss and choose a solution or process for those issues and bottlenecks.

And then finally train the crew on the newly chosen solution and process.

If you do this, it’ll make you a proactive person. Proactive people tend to get ahead.

If you fail to do this, yes you avoid the hard work of problem-solving, but you feel the pain of firefighting issues when the season gets crazy, and everyone is struggling to keep up, let alone come up with time to come up with solutions or train better processes.

Use the slow time now to get better for the upcoming season.

What are you training your guys on this winter? I’d love to hear what you’re up to. Leave me a comment!



Weston Zimmerman
CEO and co-founder

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See SynkedUP in action

Learn how you can use SynkedUP to power your landscaping business, with scheduling and time tracking, materials, costs, billing info for service tickets, and more.

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