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Old 11-19-2014, 12:19 AM
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JimLewis JimLewis is offline
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Company Uniform Policy - For Those With Several Employees

This doesn't necessarily apply to companies with just a couple of employees or those who never plan to grow beyond a couple employees. But for those of you who have several employees and/or plan on having several employees, I'd like to share something we learned the hard way over many years.

Like any good professional company, our image is important to us. We have uniforms that our employees have to wear during work hours. They consist of a company hat, company shirts, company sweatshirts (hoodies), and company jackets. The employees always have to have a hat on and at least one of the other items on. This isn't unusual. Just wanted to point out what our uniforms entail.

As we started to become a much larger company with a lot of employees, we found there was a problem with our uniform policy. And this is something I wish I would have address a long, long time ago, rather than waiting until it became a problem. Because after we realized we had a problem, it took us about 2 years to really come to the right solution. Hopefully some of you can learn from us.

The problem is that since the uniforms were free, many of our employees didn't really take good care of them. They'd lose their uniform, wipe up a spill in the shop with their sweater and then just leave it over in the corner. Leave their sweater or jacket under the seat of the truck and forget it was there. Then just ask for a new one. Etc. Over time, since the uniforms were free, they just learned they could always get another one and this just encouraged the behavior. Sometimes I'd even see guys walking down the street with one of our uniforms on - who had never worked for our company before! I was like, "What the hell? Now guys are just handing out my uniforms to your friends? Roommates? Brothers??!"

So the solution was to not make the uniforms free anymore. The workers had learned that because they were totally free, they never had to take care of them or keep them handy. They'd come to work with a regular shirt on and we'd say, "Hey! Where's your uniform?" And they'd say, "I don't have anymore. They all got ruined." or something like that. So we'd hand them several more and they'd go to work. This was happening all the time and costing us a fortune in uniforms. Again, the solution was to make them not free anymore.

So at that point, our management team came up with the idea that employees would get a set of uniforms for free when they first started. And from there, they would pay 50% of the cost when they needed replacements. I'm sure you can guess how well that went down. There was almost a rebellion. Workers were not happy about this and in fact we had several guys quit over this new policy. But we were sick of being taken advantage of and stood our ground. And all of a sudden the amount of money we spent on uniforms started going down drastically. Imagine that! It was working. The remaining employees still weren't too happy about it. But when they saw some guys leave over it and we didn't give in, they realized we were serious. So all of a sudden they started valuing their uniforms and not asking for replacements very often. They started taking care of them!

Now, I should mention we keep the prices pretty affordable. They pay only 50% of the cost of replacement uniforms. Which means they pay around $5 for a hat, $3 for a T-shirt, $4.50 for a long-sleeve T-shirt, $10 for hoodies and $22 for jackets. That's their portion.

So you'd think that would have fixed the problem. But no. This year at our annual company meeting (a day long meeting, training, state-of-the-business sort of meeting) the employees brought it up again. It seems many of them were holding on to older, worn out uniforms because they didn't want to pay for new ones. So they brought up the issue again, trying to get us to relent and remove the policy. All of us managers agreed we couldn't go back to the former free-uniform policy. To do that would mean we'd go back to the same problems and huge uniform costs. So we reached a compromise.

The compromise was: each employee gets a whole new set of free uniforms once a year, at review time. That way if they've managed to make their initial set from last year to last an entire year, now they get a brand new set to replace them, for free.

Since then, the employees have been very happy and felt the policy was fair. Finally, we reached an agreement that helped us keep our costs down AND was fair to the workers too. Some guys prefer to have newer, nicer uniforms all the time. Others prefer to have more than the initial lot that we give them. So those guys are happy to buy a few extras.

So after a lot of trial and error, the policy we arrived at is:
  • Each new workers gets a set of free uniforms when they start. 2 hats, 3 SS T-shirts, 2 LS T-shirts, 3 Hoodies and 1 Jacket.
  • Each employee gets a new free set of uniforms once each year, at review time
  • Employees must return uniforms on termination of employment before they get their final check
  • After initial set, additional uniforms are available to any employee for 50% of our cost.
  • We end up with a fair amount of uniforms that were used for a month or two then that employee left. So with those shirts, jackets, sweatshirts, etc. that are still in really good condition, we clean them and offer them to the other employees for free, if they want them.
  • Employees must keep their uniforms in good order or else buy new ones
  • If additional uniforms are purchased, cost of uniforms are taken out of their next paycheck

That policy has made it so that our employees now value their uniforms, work hard to keep them in good shape, and feel the policy is fair to both the company and to them. Hopefully this helps some of you come up with your own policy as you grow.
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Old 11-19-2014, 12:25 AM
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SRT8 SRT8 is online now
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Whooa! We have almost that identical policy!! Works great!
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Old 11-19-2014, 12:32 AM
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TPendagast TPendagast is offline
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why not go through a uniform company and have the company launder and repair said uniforms.

you/employees never actually own the uniforms, its just a rental, turn in the uniforms regularly of cleaning and repair… simple.
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Old 11-19-2014, 01:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TPendagast View Post
why not go through a uniform company and have the company launder and repair said uniforms.

you/employees never actually own the uniforms, its just a rental, turn in the uniforms regularly of cleaning and repair… simple.
We were quoted like $12k a year for something like that, a lot cheaper for us to provide the uniform and replace as needed.
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Old 11-19-2014, 03:07 AM
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JimLewis JimLewis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SRT8 View Post
We were quoted like $12k a year for something like that, a lot cheaper for us to provide the uniform and replace as needed.
Agreed. We'd spend a LOT more for a service like that. With 43 employees, I don't even want to know what our annual bill for a service like that would be. But I guarantee you it would be a lot more than what we spend on uniforms.
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Old 11-19-2014, 08:47 AM
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grassmonkey0311 grassmonkey0311 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SRT8 View Post
We were quoted like $12k a year for something like that, a lot cheaper for us to provide the uniform and replace as needed.
I worked for years in the uniform industry. The costs are outrageous, BUT, there is more to it than the upfront $12K quoted.

If a uniform came back and was ripped/ruined/stained-beyond-repair, we would get a new uniform for the worker and bill the customer.

If the driver shows up to get the uniforms to launder them and some are missing, we would bill the customer.

If a uniform was lost (we'd keep inventory) we'd bill the customer.

If an employee quits and you don't tell the uniform company, we'd still bill you for that employee. When you finally told us the employee quit, we'd inventory the uniforms and bill you for any lost.

When you add a new employee, there is a set up charge.

The quote of $12K is nothing, its the other things where the uniform companies make their money.
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Old 11-19-2014, 09:02 AM
grassmasterswilson grassmasterswilson is offline
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Jim great idea

Do you have a uniform company that washes them or is employee responsible?

I notice the guys don't get 5 days worth of ls or as shirts? Is that the winter policy?

I have given my guys ss and ls shirts as well as hats. It word well but they are white and wear out fast. I have considered a uniform company but don't have a good location for deliveries.
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Old 11-19-2014, 09:05 AM
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tonygreek tonygreek is offline
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This is an example of a thread where Lawnsite needs reddit-style up votes in order to highlight posts that are outside the norm. It's a shame someone has to stumble on to this one. Nice read, Jim.
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Old 11-19-2014, 09:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by grassmonkey0311 View Post
I worked for years in the uniform industry. The costs are outrageous, BUT, there is more to it than the upfront $12K quoted.

If a uniform came back and was ripped/ruined/stained-beyond-repair, we would get a new uniform for the worker and bill the customer.

If the driver shows up to get the uniforms to launder them and some are missing, we would bill the customer.

If a uniform was lost (we'd keep inventory) we'd bill the customer.

If an employee quits and you don't tell the uniform company, we'd still bill you for that employee. When you finally told us the employee quit, we'd inventory the uniforms and bill you for any lost.

When you add a new employee, there is a set up charge.

The quote of $12K is nothing, its the other things where the uniform companies make their money.
Yea all those other charges would have driven me insane.
For me to purchase a full set of uniforms for our employees is about $6k give or take.
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Old 11-19-2014, 09:27 AM
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grassmonkey0311 grassmonkey0311 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SRT8 View Post
Yea all those other charges would have driven me insane.
For me to purchase a full set of uniforms for our employees is about $6k give or take.
It was VERY common to have a customer call me to complain about their bill. When we met, I'd show them who we currently had uniforms for and we'd go through who wasn't employed with them anymore. Often times they were paying for 60-80 uniforms when they only had 40 or 50 employees because they forgot to call me.
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