A touchy subject

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Mrs. H, Dec 14, 2007.

  1. Mrs. H

    Mrs. H LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 708

    Word around town is that we are going to lose customers, or not get bids because our crew is made up of Black men.

    Now, in the past David was always on most every site himself...but this year he has been not well for a few months and not doing a lot of the work he normally had. Actually, about 3 months he laid here in bed, not able to do much of anything.

    FORTUNATLY for us, we picked up one of the BEST employees that we've ever had. We've felt good about him, his work, and we've raised his pay higher than anyone in the past--save one other man 3 years ago....and he's SO much better an employee than that guy was! (We're afraid he'll wise up and advance to a better opportunity!) And he and our other employee are a great team.

    So, for 5 months we've had no worries, no complaints, no mishaps, etc. Yet, some people have started to tell David that because these guys are black he's going to lose customers and not get new bids. This bothers us.

    David has every intention of keeping this crew going through next spring and running a second specialty (spraying, trimming, etc.) truck by himself next season. But, he dosn't know how to react to these people without being blunt and telling them that their idiots.

    He's probably lucky these people aren't telling me these things directly, because I wouldn't be polite. David is more diplomatic.

    But, what do we do? What would you do?

    This is the first time in 7 1/2 years this has ever came up, and quite frankly, I'm shocked.
  2. PaproskiLandscaping

    PaproskiLandscaping LawnSite Member
    Posts: 39

    There will always be rumors in any business. Most rumors as we know are false and usually started out of jealousy. Let your work speak for you. Personally I don't beleive in bashing the competition. If a new customer tells me they are getting other bids, I educate them on what to look out for in general. I explain in detail what I intend to do and I urge them to compare apples to apples. If someone bashes me (like in politics) it makes it look like they have nothing else constructive to say.

    It does sadden me when we run into situations like this. Whave come so far when it comes to racism, but we have so far to go. Keep your head up, stick to your guns, and I am sure that there are enough racially enlightened people out there to support your business.
  3. dwlah

    dwlah LawnSite Senior Member
    from Argo Al
    Posts: 558

    Im with PaproskiLandscaping stick to your guns
    Youve got a good crew you dont want to lose
    You havent had any complaints while the work was going on
    Likely just the yapping dog syndrome
    Another thought they may just be feeling yall out just to find out where yall stand
    Your selling a service I dont see what difference it makes if the guys are black or blue and orange or crimson and white

    Well I can see where the UA / AU thing could be a problem:)
  4. mark_the_psycho

    mark_the_psycho LawnSite Member
    Posts: 214

    Until these things actually start happening (which I doubt they will), do nothing.
  5. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,899

    I am really confused here perhaps its because I am out of high school and in a large city. Rumors have not been an issue for me since high school. Well I should correct that there are political or news rumors but I doubt the local paper is is commenting on your black crew.

    I don't travel in the same circles as my clients so I rarely know what they are talking about. I would accept the loss of the majority of my clients over my crew because I know how hard it is to replace a good crew. It is much easier to do good profitable work with that good crew. Clients are easier to replace period. I doubt anything will come of this.

    This is a good example that you should not just rely on your work to keep your clients. Try and build relationships with your customers. Not just you but your crew too. Educate them on when it is appropriate to talk to clients and what it is appropriate to say or talk about.

    My direction to my guys is always have your head up look at their faces an give a polite greeting and a big smile if they see them. Its always MR. or MRS. whatever until they tell us differently and I don't encourage them to start conversations but I do encourage them to listen attentively. I also want my foreman or lead guy to knock on the door when we get there. Hi any special requests this week? And just before we leave. Ok we are wrapping it up, have a great week, see you next time. If the owner is the only one doing it I can see where the client could have a negative perception if you are not there. If you are doing this with your leadman the transition will be much easier and the client will understand they you are grooming this guy to move up. No one likes changes especially when it is a surprise.

    I know many of your are just mowing and blowing and don't have the time for the relationship thing but I contest it is cheaper to keep the existing client than paying for door-hangers or mailers.
  6. Mrs. H

    Mrs. H LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 708

    Well, like I said, in 7 years we've had no problem. In a smaller city its easier to get around to find out what your reputation really is. Feed store guy, repair shop, straw guy, sod guy, leader of the local garden club, city maintenance guy, garbage guy, nursury guy, auto shop guy....we know 'em all and they all know us or know of us. Can't spit in the grass without everyone knowing.

    But, I can see this last point you've made about trying to get the lead crew man to talk to the clients a little. There are some, especially older widows, who only will talk to David...one won't even come to the door unless he's out there. But, in the past when we've told her such-and-such guy is alright, well, it's alright with her. Maybe people are a little confused.

    I was hoping their good work would be sufficent. Maybe a little personal contact couldn't hurt.

    David has been feeling better and going out more in the last 2 weeks. Maybe I can mention this to him and he can introduce them to the guy more often. I figure it will be alright in the long run...but this is bidding season...we'll see.
  7. mattfromNY

    mattfromNY LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,581

    One suggestion I am thinking of while reading your post- Send out a mailer, probably a little late for christmas cards??, but something where you could put a picture of the whole crew, dressed up nice and professional, send it to all your customers, put the names of each employee, maybe a 'Thank you for another successful season, We are getting excited about the 2008 season.... From our family to yours....' Just a thought, but it may help to bring a more human feel to your customers about the crew.
    Possibly even list a little info. about each employee... 'Tom brings with him 15 years of professional experience in the lawncare industry'...
    Hope it helps.

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