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View Full Version : Solo operaters: is it worth hiring a helper?


earthandturf
02-15-2005, 12:27 PM
I've been solo ever since I started in this business 5 years ago. I'm now considering hiring a helper because of the amount of work I currently have to turn away. I'd like some input from people who have been down this road, I'd have to by more equipment, pay workman's comp, payroll taxes, etc. How much can I really add to my bottom line? Is it worth it?

MacPhersonlawn
02-15-2005, 12:40 PM
I started last year by myself but it got to much for me (all the work) and I kept getting new customers. Hired someone to help part time. Found that I could increase my performance 40% or more with a helper. After Expenses I think I got a little over 30% increase in income with help. And most important, I was not exhausted at the end of the day. I'm not 25 any more!

Eddie B
02-15-2005, 12:45 PM
The guy I hired last year was the biggest waste of time. I had 3 lawns finished and he was still trimming the first. I make more money on my own.

Five Diamond Lawns
02-15-2005, 02:15 PM
Yes, get a full time helper. Absolutely!!!!
It's one of the most profitable moves you can make in this industry. Never again as your company grows will you be able to effect your bottom line so easily.
The mistake some people make is how to best utilize that extra person. No one here can tell you that, they can only tell you what worked for them. Take that and try using the helper every way possible until you find what works best in your system.

Good luck!

Jason Rose
02-15-2005, 02:16 PM
I tried hireing a helper, a good friend of mine, last summer. I have always mostly worked solo unless I was in a jam and then I have a couple guys I could call that could help me for a half day or whatever to get caught up. It always was such a mess... I am not a boss, nor do I really like to tell people how to do things. But as soon as I hired my friend I was doing both. I just know through years of practice what is (what I feel) to be the most effecient way to do things, wether it's trimming, mowing, dumping the grass, even getting out of the truck and dropping the gate. I think it's all in the employee... My friend just did not want to do anything the way I asked him to do it and honestly would do thigs the exact opposite half the time. so much so, I'd ask him to start mowing in the front and I'd go to the back and I'll be darned if I look up and there he is in the backyard with me mowing and going over stuff I just mowed.

About 1/3 of the time we could actually finish a lawn in almost half the time it would take me by myself. never can be really half but it should be close... But way too many times I found myself doing waaaay more than half of the mowing even though after telling him daily to SLOW DOWN he still would go as fast as the machine would drive with no reguard to how well it was cutting. Plus being solo I was getting done around 5:00 most days, having a helper I was getting done 2 or 3 hours earlier some days. well now what do I do?? I just paid him so I can be bored in the afternoon... If i could have picked up another 20 or so lawns in the middle of the summer when I hired him it would have kept the schedule full and justified paying him, but that's not likely going to happen... I only paid him for a few weeks, never got into work comp and withholding, thankfully. I finally had to fire him so he would stop showing up at my house in the mornings, then when I gave him his last check, where I paid him for lunch breaks and the hours he "worked" he accused me of shorting him about 4 hours and didn't speak to me for a week.

Moral is, never hire friends! As for a helper, I would love to have one, just need to find someone that is more motoivated than me that wants to do good work.

Five Diamond Lawns
02-15-2005, 02:29 PM
The way I started using my first helper was to teach him one thing - Mowing - Then when we pulled up to a job it was his job to unload the truck gas everything up we were going to need then start mowing the largest lawn (front or back) While he was doing that I would start edging everything. Then I would get the other mower that was gassed and sitting on the smallest lawn with a tarp to dump grass on and mow. Lastly as I blew the property he would load everything in the trailer and get all the tarps of grass into the truck. That's the basic plan that worked for me obviously different properties were different but you get the idea.
Also the first year I went through about 4 before I found a good helper and he's still with me, and he has a helper now :p

tiedeman
02-15-2005, 03:11 PM
yes and no it is worth to hire on a helpher. My biggest thing that I hated about help was the hassle of dealing with them. Mostly schedules, showing up on time, etc.

earthandturf
02-15-2005, 06:13 PM
I guess that's one of my biggest worries, taking on more work and then hoping the person I hire will show up and actually be helpful, without wasting time. I worry about being stuck with twice the work I can handle if my helper doesn't work out. Right now I have a teriffic reputation and I would hate to ruin that.

packerbacker
02-15-2005, 06:17 PM
Im solo and i have often wondered the same thing. I think the time to hire someone has more to do with money then to much work.

You need to be able to live comfortably before you start paying someone out your pocket. I wouldnt do it yet. I still have close to 1.5 days of free time to add new customers.

meets1
02-15-2005, 06:20 PM
I have numerous helpers throughout the summer season. My question is when do you hire a full time employee? And what do your guys think is a fair wage for that employee? I am looking at salary.

We offer snow removal, we do all major repairs/maint. on all equipment, trucks, trailers, etc that one could keep busy a few hours out of the day.

As far as helpers go - do you want the responsiblitiy that helpers come with? I hate being a glorified babysitter but I have found the ones that ask the most questions, do a great job slowly at first and then proceed on there own - some of the best guys on the summer crews. I hate to loss them after 4- 8 years being with us.

earthandturf
02-15-2005, 06:23 PM
meets1, do you hire mostly college age helpers?

The landscaper
02-15-2005, 06:26 PM
It will definately be worth it as long as you find someone realiable and hardworking. Make your money grow by being smart, not working your butt off.
Work smart not hard.

locutus
02-15-2005, 06:26 PM
I turn away a lot of work as it is. I am a bit of a loner by nature, so if I were to hire someone, we would have to mesh perfectly or I would fire him quick like. At this point, I don't feel the need for an employee nor do I particularly want one, more money for me or not. Seems like a huge headache unless you find the elusive perfect employee.

newbomb
02-15-2005, 06:41 PM
I have been rolling this idea around in my head too. I kind of have the same question. I am going solo this year and will probably work alone THIS YEAR. I have a friend of mine who can help me if it gets tight for a day or two. A responsible guy my age who works and wont have "accidents".

Next year though I want to hire a college kid for the summer. I need to make this business a little less taxing on the body, in ordere to stay in it long term.

-Paul

meets1
02-15-2005, 06:43 PM
Earthandturf

Most guys seem to start with us during high school. 15 - 16 years old. They are sent with the 18 - 22 yr olds. They were that age at one time as well.

I am lucky in that regard - there are a few area high schools and one college in our town. I have the same guys every year for a period or 4 - 8 years. They all help out during snow removal if schedule allows.

Also in the spring the crew that was with us pretty much take over right were they left off. All the guys mow the same yards each week, drive the same truck/trailer combo and know what to do, what is expected of them, and 98% of the time, I never have a problem. I have never had one complaint yet from a client - I just complain if I see that yard and the lines aren't straight!!

newbomb
02-15-2005, 07:17 PM
Earthandturf

Most guys seem to start with us during high school. 15 - 16 years old. They are sent with the 18 - 22 yr olds. They were that age at one time as well.

I am lucky in that regard - there are a few area high schools and one college in our town. I have the same guys every year for a period or 4 - 8 years. They all help out during snow removal if schedule allows.

Also in the spring the crew that was with us pretty much take over right were they left off. All the guys mow the same yards each week, drive the same truck/trailer combo and know what to do, what is expected of them, and 98% of the time, I never have a problem. I have never had one complaint yet from a client - I just complain if I see that yard and the lines aren't straight!!

There was a discussion on this the other day. How are you able to hire 15 and 16 year olds and send them out to mow? What about minors running power equipment? I know 2 kids I would love to have help me but they're 15 and not mine. I am not finding fault with you, just wonder how you can do it. Is there a rule I don't know about or do you just take your chances?

-Paul

earthandturf
02-15-2005, 08:36 PM
I've entertained the thought of hiring high school or college students, but my busiest times are spring and fall when they are in school. Do you hire them as part timers? and if so do you need to pay unemployment ins. etc.?

meets1
02-15-2005, 09:00 PM
I don't know guys what the deal is. They are summer help. If they are not involved with sports or get an 8th period study hall and are able to leave school early - they do. They help after school spring & fall. We all know college is out by the first of may and those kids are ready to work. They grew up in this town, went to high school and now college, they know the town. Same with snow. I call them all if it is snowing and coordinate schedules. Some have class by 7 a.m., others have the entire day off.

In our area, roofers, cement crews, construction crews - everyone has a few 15 - 16 yr olds emplopyeed - running lift, skids, cleaning forms, ect.

I have one full time person year around with all benefits pgk but for the rest of them, there just "summer help".

Power equipment - well I 90% of time they are the newbi's on a trimmer, blower, cleaning mowers, decks, trailers, following the older guys around and learning.

If there is a law out there stating other wise, maybe somebody should point that out.

TMlawncare
02-15-2005, 10:53 PM
Last year we hired our first employees. Anyone that had legally hired just one part time employee will tell you you better start early finding out all the IRS forums you will need. The amount of paperwork for one part timer is pretty crazy. Once you get everything in order it goes fairly smooth. Once one is hired you can add a few more employees with not adding to much more time in the office. OK, the first thing to realize is your employee will not understand how to edge, trim, mow, blow, pick up debris, place items on the trailer, look for anything to do, notice anything he missed. The first two to three weeks with a new hire is pure agony. I am extremely picky about the overall look of our accounts. During those first few weeks be prepared to throw your standards out the window. It is painful and hard to see the accounts you have spent a lot of time on being marred by your new help. If you think this won't happen, be prepared. It will take more time to finish the accounts with the newbie then by yourself. When they finish the yard, you have to go back over it with them and point our areas of improvement then correct it. Many times we have had the newbies to shadow our best employee. This teaches them the best and most efficient route around the property. After going through all of this I would recommend hiring a good helper. After several months they can really save you some time and stress. If you get sick or hurt, there is someone to care for the business. If you plan on starting a second crew, theres no one better then someone who has worked beside you for a year or so. Just make sure any new hire is someone who enjoys working outdoors and doesn't mind weather extremes.

earthandturf
02-16-2005, 09:37 AM
It seems as though the general idea is that hiring a helper can be profitable if you're lucky enough to find a hard working, consiencious person. It also seems that finding that person could be a long and stressful process, and that, at least initially it increases the amount of paperwork in dealing with the IRS.

Five Diamond Lawns
02-16-2005, 09:56 AM
At the level we are talking about where you can hire a new person and they work directly with you the training is about setting standards. This new person will feed of our energy and you will know very quickly if you have a good one or not. In my first couple years I hired and fired in one day many times.
You just hustle and they need to keep up. If they are tired in the first hour you hustle more and they make it or not. Don't feel bad and slow down because it's their first day, just tell them your sorry and understand why their winded but this is the business and they need to eat a power bar, drink some caffeine and keep up. If they do then their a keeper. You can teach most anyone to mow a straight line and with time edge but it's all about the desire. After about a week you can relax a little.