View Full Version : Full timers vs. Part timers....

12-22-2002, 03:58 AM
I've always planned to grow my business to the point where I would have a few employees as opposed to being solo.

I've been thinking about an alternative way to go about setting up a crew (or 2), and wanted to hear your thoughts.

Generally one starts off working full time and then when the workload dictates, they hire a FT helper. Then at some point the workload increases and they hire another FT employee, and so on.

But then you always hear all the horror stories about workers not showing up, being undependable, etc. Well considering that this is hard, hot, dirty, work and that it's only seasonal at that, I can understand why many employees don't stick around. At some point they question what they'll do for the winter and go get a year round job.
I personally wouldn't want to be out there in 95 degree heat doing this 8-10 hours a day for $10-12/hr either.

And besides, say you take on enough work to keep you and a helper busy 40 hours a week. Then one day he doesn't show up, you call, he says "oh, I found another job". You're screwed! You now have to do the work of 2 people while trying to get a help wanted ad in the paper, take calls from ad, and conduct interviews and hire somone. There's only so many hours in the day!

So, on to my idea. I was thinking about using part time employees. In other words, instead of having a crew consisting of 2 full time employees out there working 8 hours a day, I would have 4 part timers. Two guys working from say 8am to 12pm, then the next two guys working from say 1pm to 5pm. From noon to 1:00 the blades could be sharpened, everything refueled, etc.

The advantage is that being that it's only part time, I imagine the guys sticking around all season. Maybe they have a full time night job, maybe they are in school/college. Whatever thier reason, I just think I'd have a better chance of them sticking around. Besides how many part time jobs pay $10-12 hr? Not too many. That's good money for a PT job, but only decent money for a FT job. Also a PT'er may not have as much of a problem with the fact that it's seasonal.

Another advantage I see is if someone calls out or even quits, I have 3 other guys to take up the slack until I can get another guy.

Yet another advantage would be if the occasional large job comes up I have the possibility of having more men available to knock the job out.

A down side that I can foresee could be a problem with 2 sets of 2 guys using the same truck & equipment. And supervising 4 guys instead of just 2.

However, in the beginning, I would be one of the PTer's on one of the crews (probably the early crew). I would then be the one to do maintenance on equip between 'shifts'. This would also allow me time to RUN the business rather then always WORKING IN the business.

So thoughts? There's more I want to add to this, but it's running long as it is. Hopefully there can be a discussion going back and forth to get more of the details out there.
Anyone doing it this way, or know someone who does?

We do 4 U
12-22-2002, 05:44 AM
I am a solo part timmer but have done this work as an employee part time. the biggest thing about part time employee, in my exp., is the turn over rate will be higher thus more training and sloppy work at the begining. Why? Becuase a part time employee most of the time doesn't need the job as bad as a full timer because they will genrally have a full time job. So, they will be more likely to leave when the work gets tough or if thay just had it and a lot of times you won't even get 2 weeks notice.

Randy Scott
12-22-2002, 12:29 PM
Twice as much babysitting, twice the amount of attitudes, twice the amount of abuse on equipment,twice the amount of paperwork for employees, twice the amount of workmans comp insurance (it's per employeee in WI.), twice the amount of headaches in general. MY opinion.

Although on the other hand, you may have more refreshed workers. They may be more stoked to do their part-time job and therefore work more aggressively. I know alot of people do this because they like being outdoors. Using their hands.
Then again, it does take a little time to get rolling and into the working groove and then by that time they would be done for the day.
Alot of back and forth opinions on this situation.

It may work for some so I would hate to rule the theory out. I guess to sum up my thoughts, I personally wouldn't be comfortable with it for alot of these and other reasons.

12-22-2002, 02:05 PM
Just need some time to get situated.

Do you have factories with night shifts in your area? I know a good green industry business that only employs part timers, mostly night shift or 2nd shift workers. Some of L's guys have been with him for 10 years - from back when he started to run like this. You can find dependable people, who like to work outdoors and like a few extra bucks.

And you can pay these people more than the going rate. Once you are established with unemployment insurance, you will be paying a very low rate, because this type will never need to make claims - unempl ins rates are determined by experience. And they have all the benefits they need in the main job: no need to pay benefits => higher hourly rate.

bubble boy
12-22-2002, 02:21 PM
the down time will kill you . easiliy you'll lose 10 hrs a week, and that doesn't include inefficiencies.

when i worked for an lco we sometimes had half days. never got going until 10 or so. done at 1, just as we were getting going...

12-22-2002, 02:52 PM
I started part time years ago, mowing after my 6am to 2pm job for 11 plus years. Mowing for 1/2 that time. I was injured at that job so they laid me off and thats when I decided to come up with a business plan! I though where do I want to be in 1year and so on. I know after 3years have 4 full time employees and 2-3 part timers. I dont make alot of money but I was told years ago you do something you love you are the richest person! Most of our employees are yearly salary do to our snow removal season. They get 2 weeks vacation, sick days are encouraged to stay home in summer but must work in winter if it snows. Use of company equipment for themselves or family matters, Off company time. It took me a good solid three years to get the employees I have and I will do ALMOST! anything to keep them. They are so good I can spend 1/2 the week doing estimates ir what ever and absolute NO WORRY'S! I could take off a month and it would run just fine. So you have to weed out many employees till you find the one who takes pride in there work and try very hard to help the business grow. We take our employees to trade show and seminars whenever possible. The take great intrest in My company and the industry and thats the kind you want. (part timers are alright but most dont really care about your company and just there for a check) I found retired 50's people are the best part timers, find postal workers, mill workers and other trademan and youll find good part timers.

12-22-2002, 05:52 PM
Thanks for the replies so far. Much appreciated.

Bubbleboy, can you expand on what you mean about the down time and losing at least 10 hours a week. Not sure I follow what you mean. Thanks.

An Example of what I DON'T want to happen to me. My nephew was hired by a landscaper last year who had 2 emloyees and one quit. That left the guy in a real bind, so he hired my nephew on the phone! No application, no interview, nothing. My nephew didn't even have experience. The guy just asked him if he could "start tomorrow?". Then met him in a parking lot in the morning. Of course my screwball nephew only lasted about 2 weeks because he could't handle the 10-11 hour days.

A larger company with say 6 or more FT employees can handle it better when one guy quits. There's still 5 guys to take up the workload until a new person is hired. But a small company with one or two employees can really have a problem on their hands if someone quits without notice (or even goes out on a lengthy workmans comp claim).

My thinking is that with 4-6 part time employees, you're covered if someone leaves. And even then you only have to cover a 4 hour 'shift'.

Some (certainly not all) of the problems that Randy mentioned can be reduced with proper hiring methods. Screening the applicants rather then hiring the first guy to show up.
Equipment abuse can be handled by putting some SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures) in place and making employees accountable.

Oh well, just some thoughts. Keep the input coming. I appreciate it.

bubble boy
12-23-2002, 12:52 AM
including drive time, the changeover period, and then driving out again. i bet it would end up costing you two hours a day.

remember its hard enough to develop routes that make efficient use of time, like a circle. you start near the shop, midday youre furthest from the shop, and afternoon you work your way back.

but with double the shifts, you now need 10 mini routes per crew instead of five regular routes.

we have routes that are quite spread out, so if i went to such a plan drive time would kill me.

and 6 bad PT employees is worse than 3 bad full time employees, IMO. i guess either way you're screwed.

also, i think it would make it easier for some marginal employees to slack. the ones that are good guys and work hard but to them it is still work. the might feel guilty blowing you off for a whole day. but a half they might figure why not. or how about this: i can't make it in for the morning shift, i'll be there for 1PM. now you have a solo crew and a three man.

just some thoughts, i will admit i am speculating never seen the situation in action.

12-23-2002, 02:18 AM
Bubbleboy thanks for the feedback.
I can address the first part about wasted drive time. My lawns are pretty close together and pretty close to my home. I think the farthest is less then 4 miles out. Most are under 3 miles.
I think it would cost me less then an hour, maybe 45 minutes for the turnaround time of one crew coming in and the second crew going out. Assuming all goes smoothly and everyone is on time. That could be a big assumption.

However with 4 hour 'shifts', no lunch breaks. So it sorta works out.

Again, right now it's just thinking out loud. Thanks again.

12-23-2002, 03:21 AM
Very good thread. When I had employee's, keeping the good ones was a challenge as Randy mentioned. I was lucky and kept one employee for 9 years until I decided to go solo. Treated him very well. Great worker. Business expanded and I needed another worker. I landed this one guy who had 3 roommates. I could count on his roommates if I got in a bind. Were all in college, so I had to be flexible. Odds are, when I needed help, one of the 4 was ready to go. Turnover could be an issue. Most employees willing to sweat it out in our industry would rather go 8 hrs as opposed to 4hrs a day. They need the $$$ Simple as that. If you live in a college town, than you'll have a good pool of willing part-timers. Now that I'm solo, I've reached the point that unless I get part-time help, I will be unable to take on any more work. I've been battling this for 2 years. Hire help or not? Maybe I'm too stubborn, and think I can do it all myself. My heart says yes, my body is beginning to say no. Good luck!!!

12-23-2002, 03:43 AM
I will add this. Last year I did put an ad in the paper for a part time helper (this was for very limited part time, about 6-7 hours usually, but ad didn't mention amount of hours, just said part time).

I was afraid I wouldn't get enough calls. Was I ever wrong!. I was swamped with over 50 calls before I had them cancel the ad early.
So at least I know I would have alot of applicants to choose from for PT.

I have no idea if I would have got the same response from an ad for FT. I tend to think I wouldn't have. But that's just speculation.

12-23-2002, 01:41 PM
Just speculation, but I would think the change over in the middle of the day would be a huge time waster.

I don't have employees, but it would seem to be a major pain to make sure you were back at the shop in the middle of the day when the first crew was due to be off, and be ready to go again by the time the second crew was to show up and hit the road again.

The thought of part time help seems ok, but I don't like your scheduling idea. I think I would try splitting them up into full days if possible.

But, if you think you can make it work, good luck!

12-23-2002, 04:50 PM
Hi Bruce. Just to clarify. "I" would be on the first crew. And the reason I left a window of an hour (from noon to 1pm), was incase there were problems that hold up the first crew in getting back, such as mechanical problems.
But, providing there were no mechanical problems, then I would be back in time to sharpen blades, fuel up equip, etc, before the second crew came in to start.

Keep in mind that this whole idea is just a way to make the transition from part time solo operater, which is where I am now.
To full time owner with several employees, maybe even FT ones eventually.
I'm just trying to make the transition in a little different way then most. Most work solo FT until they are at 70 hours a week!, then hire a FTer, then increase workload even more so they are both able to get at least 40 hours.

I'm trying to avoid that 70 hour a week thing. LOL!
Seriously, I have some asthma problems that have me a bit concerned. I'm good for about 4-6 hours out there before it becomes a problem. The hotter is it, the worse it is.

But that isn't the entire reason. It's also the fact that I did hard physical labor for 14 years already (back breaking furniture delivery), and I want to start working away from that. I'll be 34 in Jan and I don't want to be a 'laborer' all my life (not that it's a bad thing at all, just not for me anymore).

Thanks again to all that have shared their thoughts on this.
It'll probably come down to just trying it and see how it goes. Worse comes to worse, I'll change up my plan.

12-23-2002, 05:58 PM
My personel spin, or organization would be 1 full timer with occasional overtime and 2 part timers that can flex from 25 to 38 hours if needed. You need someone to step in if you are pulled away from the action. You need someone to be your second set of eyes if they full time they will take ownership in your company.
That my friend is a full time employee that you wanna keep. He also would be a guy that can train your part time associates while you are out growing your business and developing new contacts....

Mowing Freak
12-23-2002, 10:10 PM
Just an idea. Check into a temp agency for workers. They will pay the workmans comp and if you don't like the worker, just call the agency and get another one. If that employee happens to work out like you want, then you could hire him full time. You will pay more per hour for a temp agency, but may be better for you in the long run and you don't have to mess with interviewing and ads. They will pre screen applicants for you and all you basically have to do is a interview if you want. I have never used a temp agent, but may be worth checking into.

12-26-2002, 08:23 PM
Gogetter, Your idea might work. Rainy days would be the toughest, who works and who goes home. The fear of losing full timers is faced in many businesses and in lawn care a very real concern. Knowing a lot of people who need extra cash helps, in todays econemy they can be found. I know it is not legitimate but finding people to work for cash as fill ins can be easy if you know laid off workers.

For long term, as someone else has stated a full timer and some part timers sounds like a good way to go.

As always, the challenge to keep people in this industry is what makes are breaks the big companies. Lawn care is not flipping burgers at Mcdonalds, it take trained workers to get the job done.
Now, highly trained workers might be found at a temporary service, but I dought it. Most temp workers are good for lugging things around and digging holes thats about it. If I went in to get my hair styled and found out the girl cutting was someone they grabbed off the street, or from a temp service, I would be more then a little concerned. Most high end Lawn customers are the same way. Although, at least, in lawn care, once the mower is set you can watch the worker to make sure he goes straight and keeps the stripes pretty. I think most anyone is teachable with enough time, but the person has to want to learn the right way to do the job, which is the owners way.

Good luck gogetter if you do the part timer thing. It may just be what you need to grow. If things got slow you could get rid of two and still carry the reduced work load. Sounds like a plan to me.

Sorry to be so rambling here.


12-30-2002, 02:36 PM
Whatever you do... you need to consider hispanic help. They are very very dependable and typicaly take pride in their work.

01-12-2003, 10:29 AM
I'm a part timer but I always need help. I have had good luck with temp agencies. They do the hiring and all the paper work all I do is cut a check at the end of the month.

If one guy quits there are fifty guys standing behind him with bills to pay. Of couse you do have to retrain them, but I do have the benifiet of some large accounts that are hard to screw up so I usually just point and say mow and then do a walk threw with them at the end of the day.

Rob T
01-13-2003, 12:12 PM
Could work...

We have used a temp. agency before for pt help. I can't say it was a good experience. Most guys we got were helpless. But it's good if you need a guy for the day, as long as someone is there to look over his shoulder.

I must say it is tough starting out with employees. It becomes easyer as you gain more work and need more helpers. After a while you will find guys who want to work. Like another poster said, do anything you can to keep them. Treat them as a equal.

Turnover can be a good thing sometimes, always be on good terms with your help. If your careful not to burn bridges with helpers who quit, they sometimes can refer a friend to you. Sometimes they change their mind and want to return. Never take it personaly when someone leaves. It's just business. I have a few guys who used to work for me. They will come help me do jobs when I need an extra hand. Eventhough they quit on me, their occational help can be a lifesaver.

Around here hispanic people are probably the best workers we have and they usually have friends who want work. Just like refered customers, refered employees are the best ones.

As far as the subject of using pt help... It could be worth a try. However we have noticed pt help seem more motivated, better educated, and more intrested in your business plan. Problem could be getting them to do hard work. Part timers are usually better for doing officework. How about hiring a pt secretary to field calls and shuffle papers while you do mowing with one fulltime quality helper. Could save you some $$$