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Phil Bahler
Phil Bahler

Look back to plan ahead
By Phil Bahler

Looking back to plan ahead sounds like an odd statement. But, our past gives us a lot of pointers for our future for success. Self-examination is the perfect start for realizing the truth of who we are and what we can achieve. We can all dream big, and please do not squelch those dreams, but we need to be realistic and think through our future. Looking into the past can shed light onto what our capabilities, strengths and weaknesses are.

A highly esteemed business adviser once told me, “Phil, you will never be good at everything. You need to hire people who can compensate for your weaknesses.” Putting the right people in the right positions will help propel your business further. Putting a square peg in a round hole is not going to do you any good.

To motivate employees, look to their strengths and play off those rather than focusing on weaknesses. You will be amazed at your employees’ response and the drive and passion that comes forward. If an employee is good with numbers then he/she might be the one to help you job cost. Or, if your employee has a knack for design, give him/her the opportunity to shine by designing projects. Allowing your employees to shine goes a long ways toward making them happy and keeping them onboard. It will improve your company by leaps and bounds.

Job costing is also critical for your future success. Did you job cost your projects this past year? If not, this must become a top priority. Job costing allows you to determine where you’re profitable and where you’re not. If you don’t know, you are setting yourself up for major failure. Find a job costing program that is a good fit for you. This is, in my opinion, is the most important part of future planning.

You cannot afford to keep doing jobs the same way if you are not profitable. For example, if you love to build decks, but consistently lose money at it, you need to do something different! If you cannot become more efficient and the market doesn’t merit the price increase, then maybe you should consider that service as a hobby instead.

Find those areas where you are consistently profitable and focus on how to get more of those projects. It is important that we love what we do, but we also need to make a living.

Lastly, a large part of future planning should include tools and equipment. Hardscapers are struggling to find and keep employees, and it is going to get worse. Tools do 2 things that make a difference in keeping employees. First, they decrease fatigue. Second, they make work easier which makes for happy employees that stick around longer.

In addition, tools can reduce the number of employees that you actually need. For example, employees operating mini-excavators with clamps, vacuum lifting or paver laying attachments can do far more work in a day. And, they hardly get tired, so they stay productive longer. Tools will save you money by decreasing the labor burden. Tools and equipment show up every day. They do not have emotion. They do not talk back.

Larger equipment is a huge consideration. I recently did a “pen to paper” exercise regarding a $60,000 excavator, and at the end of the day it literally cost $4.93 per hour. Our largest challenge is getting product from pallet to pavement. We must be forward thinking with ease of installation in mind.

In closing, I would like to encourage you to always do what is right, esteem others higher than yourself, and have faith!


Phil Bahler is the owner of Pave Tool Innovators founded in 2006. He is still involved with Bahler Brothers hardscape contractors where he was a co-owner for 33 years. Contact Phil at PB@PaveTool.com or visit PaveTool.com