Tools, Parts and Preparedness


Several years back when I stopped in-house contracting, I decided to keep my pickup with its toolbox in the back. Some people wonder why I need a pickup and tools for design and project managing.

It turned out to be a smart move and here’s why.

Being Prepared is Just Good Business

First off, let me just say that the hands-on work is what got me interested in this business. I really do like it. And having “my version” of the essential tools and parts with me just makes me feel…well, better prepared.

Today, if I’m on a property after the job is complete and something needs a “tweak,” most of the time I have what I need in the toolbox. Little issues get resolved quickly instead of placed on a punch-list.

Roger's toolbox


But here’s another reason why I continue to carry a certain set of tools and other items in my toolbox.

Occasionally I’ll end up working with contractors outside of my normal network of owner/operators. It’s not unusual that one of them not have the right tool for a task or maybe a part for a simple repair, etc. Also, sometimes I find I can help move things along by showing a technique or method using the right tool.

What amazes me is if I happen to work with this company again and they’re still not carrying the right tools or parts. Being prepared is such a key ingredient to production and profit.

The 3 Components of Preparedness

  1. Anticipation and Planning: These two tasks go hand in hand – they’re almost synonymous. For example, before you leave for the jobsite go through the day’s work in your head step-by-step. What materials, tools and equipment will you need for each phase? Also, anticipate what could happen. Perhaps there is existing lighting on this job. Are you prepared to repair it if it’s damaged? Or are you equipped to re-locate a fixture if needed?
  2. Systems: We talked about the importance of systems in the previous article. Your systems have specific tools and equipment associated with them, which helps with being prepared.
  3. Standard Set of Tools & Parts: Planning for and having the specific tools for the day’s tasks is essential. But it’s extremely helpful and efficient to have a standard set of tools and parts with you everyday no matter what you’re doing.

Tools and Other Essentials

There are a few ways to carry the essential tools and items so they are there when you need them.

When I was contracting, my trucks were outfitted with toolboxes. Some were manufactured and others were custom made to accommodate specific tools and parts. Most of these toolboxes were located beneath the truck beds. They sat in welded frames attached to the chassis. I did have a small dump truck with a backpac toolbox that worked well too.

Some companies have dedicated box trucks that carry most everything they need.

Other companies use enclosed trailers for their gear and will sometimes park it on the jobsite for the duration of a project.

Here’s a list of some of the items I keep in my toolbox today. Beyond the obvious landscape hand tools you would carry, these might be some of the “not so obvious”. The Toolbox Contents List is in PDF format.  You can go ahead and Download the list and print it out.

Your Setup and How You Operate

Appreciating the fact that every business has its own mode of operation, there are a couple of points to make that apply no matter how you operate.

  • Anticipate what you need before heading out for the job. A few minutes of planning can save tons of wasted time and prevent frustration.
  • Try to have at least one truck, trailer or whatever outfitted like the Toolbox Contents List on each job you’re doing. I tried to have every truck as thoroughly equipped as possible.
  • Educate your crew-members about the toolboxes. Every item has its spot in the toolbox and should be returned to that exact spot every time. Dull or damaged tools should be reported. Dwindling amounts of usable parts and items should be replaced before they’re all gone.

If you instill practices like these with your operation and crew-members you’ll be just another step ahead of the vast majority of contractors out there.




I realize everybody can be at different levels with their business, or with their plans to start a business. And I want to make sure these articles are helping. Your feedback lets me know. So feel free to zip me an email with any thoughts or questions.

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