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View Full Version : Mowing crew pay: Commission or hourly?


CHC
02-08-2001, 09:47 PM
Has anyone had any success with using a commission scale or piece work to pay mowing crews; as opposed to hourly wages. If so, what sort of percentages or rate schedule do you suggest. Thanks for any help.

zimm4
02-10-2001, 10:34 AM
Im new to this business. But I would think there would be A possability of poor work. If the guys get min A hurry to make A buck. The quality may suffer. Just my opinion.

thelawnguy
02-10-2001, 02:18 PM
What happens on a callback? Can you legally have them redo the lawn for free? Or charge back to them?

I would think a bonus for exemplary work would be a better option.

kutnkru
02-10-2001, 02:57 PM
The only time that I paid someone on a per cut basis was my younger brother worked with me one summer when I first started out on my own. I paid him $4 per lawn for 50 lawns. we cut about 12-13 a day.

I would have to agree with Bill that the bonus check for exemplary work is the way to go. Afterall at 4$ a cut if they are too tired the might skip it.

Just my .02
Kris

LoneStarLawn
02-10-2001, 03:05 PM
I think the hardest thing to look at is if you have hourly workers will they milk the clock. My partner actually worked for some one else many years ago and the people he worked with would milk the clock to get overtime each day. Just something to think about.

CHC
02-10-2001, 03:21 PM
Thanks for the input. The reason we are looking at a pay system other than hourly, is that we know the crews are milking clock. Our feeling is that they might work better/faster if their time is their own. If they milk a $40. lawn for an hour, they still get paid an hourly rate; if they do it on a per cut or commision basis, and get it done - to standard - in 1/2 an hour they actually make more $$. I know that this concept has been kicked around a good bit by the CLIP people - just wondering if anyone has actually tried it. Thanks again

thelawnguy
02-10-2001, 03:41 PM
A couple more ideas: Set minimum standards for amount of work you expect them to do. Maybe pay them for the full 8 hours if, say, they finish the assigned route in 6, and they can also be paid for the other two hours they will be working on something else to finish the day? Or send em home early but give em the full days pay? Usually on condition that there are no complaints due to a "rush" job. Easy to work out esp if you hold their pay a week.

I think clock-milking is a symptom of something bigger; are they underpaid compared to others in the industry in your market? Are they usually sent home at 2pm and only paid for the 5 hours they are there?

I dont run a crew, but notice just as many other co's crews running like their azzes were afire as I do those who poke along like they are waiting for the electric chair after the last lawn is cut. Wonder what the difference is.

Sorry for asking more questions when you came looking for answers.

gr8 1
02-10-2001, 10:06 PM
Do like the XFL where they get paid so much, but get paid more if they win a game.
You could pay so much then if there are no re-dos then they get the rest.

kutnkru
02-10-2001, 10:59 PM
I have to agree with Bill that there is probably more to this situation than meets your eye.

Here are some examples of giving bonuses to the crews on a weekly basis during the season to keep them motivated and on their toes.

*** When temperatures rise above 85* we can often complete the mowing schedules in a 4 day time frame. If we do not get any negative response to that weeks work schedules, then come payday (which is Mondays), they receive a full paycheck.
*** When temeratures rise above 90* we cut back our mowing schedules to irrigated clients and high-end residentials. This too can be completed in a 4 day schedule. If we do not get any negative response to that weeks work schedules, then come payday, they will once again receive a full paycheck.
*** During the hottest summer months when temperatures exceed 95-100% we cut our mowing schedules back to basically irrigated clients. We start mowing about 7am and finish by 2 in the afternoon. Same rules apply, if we do not get any negative response to that weeks work schedules, then come payday, they will once again receive a full paycheck.

We figure that what we have done is given them an incentive to continue working to their maximum potential. Afterall, how many employers do you know that would give a full weeks pay for a half to three quarters of a weeks worth of work.

By being more than fair, we have had to deal with a bare bones minimal for turnovers.

Hope this helps.
Kris

LoneStarLawn
02-10-2001, 11:07 PM
Kris how you withold pay for complaints? If so is it legal? Do you have them sign a contract? We don't have any employees yet (well any outside the family; Family business)
so I wouldn't know how you would be able to handle it that way.

kutnkru
02-10-2001, 11:12 PM
Sorry for the confusion.

I do not withold payment for the work they have done. However I do have the right to pay them as much as I would like. So what I do is to compensate them for a full weeks pay (ie. 40/hrs) when they have only worked (ie. 30/hrs). Thats why I refer to it as a bonus.

Hope this helps.
Kris

John Allin
02-11-2001, 08:21 AM
Fundamental business acumen....

Productivity is a function of Management.

Incentives help, but nothing will overcome poor management.
Goal setting helps, but without proper supervision, time management suffers first.

There's no "quick fix".

And, if it was easy - everybody would be doing it (growing, that is).

Just my opinion, not gospel.

Good book for this.... "First, break all the rules".

Skookum
02-11-2001, 08:36 AM
All depends on too many variables. I like Kris's way, but after a while of always getting a full weeks pay it becomes expected by so many employees. Then all it takes is for one bad apple employee to get others riled when the full week pay is not given.

I think it is just a given that when it comes to employees and pay in your business, everyone tries to find a perfect way for it to all work. But when dealing with people as employees, you cannot control how they react, work, think, etc, so they have to fit the plan as well as the plan fits your company. One employee might thrive under a commision style pay and another under a hourly wage and others might just flounder and have problems. Point is you cannot tell which is which until it is not working out right.

I really envy all of you that have employees and make it work!

kutnkru
02-11-2001, 09:40 AM
SCOTT
I understand completely about the "bad apple" theory. The point hat I was trying to make was that under a policy such as ours more often than not, everyone looks out after each other more than they usually would.

There is no telling whats right and whats wrong. But if everyone knows that there's "free loot" to be found in a paycheck, if there's a slacker we know about it.

As far as management goes as J ALLIN mentioned we have brief meetings every morning. I call them ***** sessions. I want our employees to voice their opinions, their thoughts. For our guys it works better if they are able to clear their minds before going to work. My brother seems to be a great mediator amongst the group.

I have found that by us doing things together as a company (grilling on Fridays after work/having brunch on sundays to award emp. for outstanding work/etc.) that it has avoided the mutany that many companies face mid-season.

Kris

kutnkru
02-11-2001, 09:43 AM
Oh and one more thing about the bonuses. We only offer this to them during July and if weather permits in August as well.

Starting in September they rely on their bank hours from the springtime to keep their checks full. So its not like this is an every week occurance. I should have stipulated that before.

My bad.
Kris

Ocutter
02-11-2001, 10:01 AM
Kris- I was wondering, like lonestar, if you do get a call back at the end of the week do you simply say to the crew that "we must go back and fix it" so there goes the bonus?

Ocutter
02-11-2001, 10:09 AM
Since we're talkig about commissions, I was toying with the idea of giving a bonus to employees for bringing me a full service cleanup account. Say 2-3% of the total bill to the cust. Also give them 10-20 for bringng me a well maintained lawn account. Whats everyones views on this.

kutnkru
02-11-2001, 11:30 AM
The complaints that we have encountered are not something that 9 out of 10 times will require going back. Usually its that they didnt blow the grass off the cobwebs by the downspout, someone didnt completely blow the clippings from underneath a vehicle in the drive, they skipped trimming around the shed that week. Im not saying that its insignificant, but I can mostly rectify these complaints by a call to the customer.

The way that I see it is like this. During the hot summer months everyone likes to get that "extra" time off. I am just trying to work with them so that business QUALITY doesnt change during these times. If they can continue to produce high quality cuts like they do in the spring instead of hap-hazardly performing their duties to drink beer and hang out in the pond, I think its fair to compensate them for it.

Kris

kutnkru
02-11-2001, 11:36 AM
I dont think that a bonus check for 2-3% of the maintenace portion of that account is out of the question on top of the regular year end bonuses. However, I would not include any hardscape or landscaping that you may have aquired fron this account. But as far as mowing, fert, shrubs etc goes - why not.

Just my .02

cclllc
02-11-2001, 05:57 PM
When my son was helping me I paid him so much per lawn.He worked faster and we got more done.He made more $$.If it took over an hr.then I would pay more.It was not uncommon for him to make 120-150.00 per day.
I know of one guy who splits everything with employees after expenses.If they mess up then they go back on their own time and fix it.He also lets them bid lawns too.It's like they own part of the business.I may try this myself.They furnish the transpotation and the desire to work.The owner furnishes all the equipment and gets the lawns.Both parties split expenses.
I know that the guy who owns aquascapes has a good idea too.He gives his employees a bonus at the end of the year If they show up late he deducts $50.00 from it.He does this for each infringment.He requires them to wear comp. shirts and bring a sack lunch also.

joshua
02-22-2001, 01:17 PM
Originally posted by CHC
Has anyone had any success with using a commission scale or piece work to pay mowing crews; as opposed to hourly wages. If so, what sort of percentages or rate schedule do you suggest. Thanks for any help.


at my company i pay the guys a hourly rate, and i'm with my crew when they cut, so i know if they try and milk the clock but never has it happened in 4 years of business. i have a list of all the records for every lawn in the truck and i have the average time it takes to cut a lawn, if we beat the record i give them a small bonus. also i have how long it takes to drive to every yard and the total amount of hours it will take to complete the route for the day, if we break that then i give them another bonus, i can do this by only paying my guys $6 or $7 a hour, my guys haven't gone to collage yet so there hourly pay is low on the standards but they really don't mind, because i pay for there uniforms and saftey equipment. also if i day is going very good i will buy them lunch. about call backs i have never gotten one in 4 years of business or lost a customer because of quality.

kutnkru
02-22-2001, 01:24 PM
Josh thats a pretty damn clean slate you've got going for yourself. My hats off to you for superb service. Just curious though how many crews are you currently running??

Thanks.
Kris

65hoss
02-22-2001, 11:20 PM
All problems start from the TOP. John's right. Management problems if they are milking the clock. Why is the on site mgr not making them work? So I guess the site mgr is milking you too. You need to get control of your business. FIRE SOMEBODY! That is the quickest way to get peoples attention and an increase in production. What happens when a new CEO comes into a company? People are afraid they will be the cutback. They get back to work.

Management by walking around. In this case, make surprise visits to job sites. Most hourly workers in this business aren't the most motivated anyway. If they don't know when you are going to show up they will produce. Especially if there is a consequence.

Cut the fat on the jobs. If you have people milking the clock, make them busy by cutting staff and having the same work done. There are many management ways (tricks) to fix productivity problems. Pouring more money at the people doesn't fix a single thing long term.

This is directed at the original post.

Stonehenge
02-23-2001, 09:02 AM
Here's a lesson I learned in corporate america: Always measure the thing you want to improve. Sounds simple, right?

Not always so. You measure and reward fast cutting, you're people will go lightning fast. Just don't look at the quality they're putting out. That's not what you're measuring.

You reward them for happy customers, you'll get all kinds of happy customers. Just don't expect any volume. That's not what you're measuring.

I think the way to incentivize is through your foremen. You set up a package for them, based on quantity and quality, and you won't have to worry about the laborers. The foremen will see to that.

Stonehenge
02-23-2001, 09:11 AM
My father grew up in a mining town and relayed a mining story to me when I was a kid that expresses this idea very clearly.

True Story

A mining company in the UP of Michigan wanted to get more copper out of the mines. To help do that, they set up an incentive program that gave bonuses to the men based on how much ore they pulled out of the mines. More ore = more $$.

The men, recognizing the potential, began experimenting with different blasting methods and other methodologies to become as efficient as they could. They discovered that they could mine much more ore if they drilled holes that were more shallow and used less dynamite. Double bonus!! Lower costs, more ore for the company.

But the company didn't like all the bonuses it was giving out. So they looked at the processes the men were using, and noticed that they were getting X amount of ore by using Y amount of dynamite. And it wasn't much dynamite per ton of ore. So they changed the incentive system - Now they'd get bonuses based on how much dynamite they used. More dynamite means more ore, right?

Measured the wrong thing. The men started cramming every hole they could find with dynamite to blast. And blast. And blast. And now that ore production, which was the result that was important, was not being measured, ore production dropped.

The mining company did not last long after these missteps.

Jason Pallas
02-27-2001, 06:45 PM
The easiest way around the wage issue is to do this - pay the crew chief (supervisor) on a salaried basis then pay the rest of the crew on an hourly basis. The crew chief watches the clock because the faster they work, the quicker he gets done and the more money/hour he makes. This counter-acts the clock milkers - who will draw 4 hours of work into 8 hours. It's the divide and conquer thing. Pit them against eachother. It works well but it does have some problems too.
As per the accounts that have to be re-done : I tell them that who ever screwed up can 1)pay my wages (expensive!) to go back and correct the mistake or 2) go back and correct it themselves (much cheaper). If this becomes a problem on a crew, I 1)make the WHOLE crew go back and correct the job (either for no pay OR at the cost of the person that screwed up) This can get expensive for a laborer who only makes $8-10 hour to pay for a whole crew to re-do something ($40/50 hr!). Finally, if this doesn't work, I hold the whole crew's checks until they go back and correct all the mistakes for the week on Friday afternoon. When they get back to the yard - only then do I give them a list of accounts that need correction - this can add another 2-3hrs to a day - all unpaid. They learn to do the job right the first time real quick. Hope my methods help you.

A+Elawnservice
01-24-2002, 05:05 PM
I would pay them by the day for example each day they get 100$ finished (If only have 3 left is ok)and the next Day they get another 100$ but if it rains and they don't get none done they still get 100$ but the next day they got to work twice as hard but on;y get 100$ and recive all the tips (will incurage them to do a good job becuse they get the tip) this way will probly work best becuse if they work hourly they won't rush and if they work commion they won't argue with you about they got cheep jobs and the other crew got expesive

gogetter
01-24-2002, 08:32 PM
Originally posted by Jason Pallas
[B]The easiest way around the wage issue is to do this - pay the crew chief (supervisor) on a salaried basis then pay the rest of the crew on an hourly basis. The crew chief watches the clock because the faster they work, the quicker he gets done and the more money/hour he makes. This counter-acts the clock milkers - who will draw 4 hours of work into 8 hours. It's the divide and conquer thing. Pit them against eachother. It works well but it does have some problems too.
As per the accounts that have to be re-done : I tell them that who ever screwed up can 1)pay my wages (expensive!) to go back and correct the mistake or 2) go back and correct it themselves (much cheaper).

Jason, after reading your post closely, shouldn't your crew chief be held responsible? After all he's the one rushing them to get done faster so he can make more money per hour.
And anytime you use terms like "divide and conquer" and "pit them against each other" when referring to your crew and crew chief, that just can't be good. Don't mean to sound mean, but I'm glad you're not my boss. :)

I'm gonna go work for Kris so I can get in on that grillin' on Fridays!!