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Searching for Employees

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by thomaslawn, Jan 22, 2007.

  1. thomaslawn

    thomaslawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 88

    I am about to begin the search for a new employee for the 2007. Currently I have roughly 50 accounts, primarily residential which I need a solo employee to maintain. These properties are maintained utilizing a 52' Bobcat, a 21' Lawnboy and backpack blowers, trimmers, etc.

    This is a route that I have been maintaining solo, and sometimes with a part-time employee when the route exceeds 80 clients. I work with a realtor so the number of accounts fluctuates, however I feel that a maximum of 50-60 yards is a good number for one employee.

    I recently accepted a sales position which gives me the flexiblity to work from home 3 days a week. My lawn business is run from home, thus allowing me the time in the morning and evenings to get the equipment and day's schedule ready for the employee.

    My main question is: Where has anyone had the greatest rate of success in finding and retaining employees? Newspaper, signs, etc? I am also putting the word out to friends, family, etc. Thank you for your help, I greatly appreciate it!
    Don Thomas
  2. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,201

    Why not throw up a little more info here. Why would anyone want to cut grass for you?
  3. DuallyVette

    DuallyVette LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,161

    I guess your going out of the lawn maintenance business.
  4. thomaslawn

    thomaslawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 88

    ed2hess QUOTE: "Why not throw up a little more info here. Why would anyone want to cut grass for you?"

    Thank you for the response Ed.

    Here is what I have to offer a potential employee:

    Up to $14 per hour for lawn mowing, trimming, blowing
    Up to $18 per hour for all cleanups, mulch jobs and basic maintenance other than the mowing service. The employee will never be laid off during the season due to lack of work, aside from the mowing route we are consistanly busy with mulch jobs, cleanups, etc.
    My company has experienced tremendous growth in the last 2 years, the potential for advancement is there. I plan to train a new employee so that later he will be a manager/crew leader.
  5. thomaslawn

    thomaslawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 88

    DuallyVette QUOTE "I guess your going out of the lawn maintenance business."

    You're (not your) guessing that because I'm searching for employees? If I was going out of the lawn business, I would be looking into selling my equipment and accounts. Thanks for your input, it was really helpful. :hammerhead:
  6. Lawnworks

    Lawnworks LawnSite Fanatic
    from usa
    Posts: 5,407

    Usually the best employees are already working for another company. I would try to get the word out if you know any employees at other companies.
  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,841

    Sorry the other posts weren't so helpful. I'll try to be.

    First - the issue of where to find them. There are 3 basic ways I find new customers (and none of them are from friends or family - big hint there).

    1) From current employees. This route doesn't work so well if you don't already have employees or don't have very many. It only seemed to start working welll once I got over 10 employees. But nowadays, they find a lot of my new employees for me. Well, at least the entry-level ones. I just put the word out, offer a finders fee, and one of my employees is at my front door usually that night with a friend.

    2) Employment Department. A lot of people who are out of work go to the employment department and search the postings there. So this can be a decent place to find employees. The good news is it's totally free. And you usually get posted within a few hours of when you call. But the bad news is you also end up getting some calls from those who aren't so ambitious. In other words, they are just calling because it's required to apply for one or two jobs each week so that they can keep their unemployment check coming. So you have to weed people out over the phone. Ask if they have a driver's license. That will weed out 25% of the calls. Ask about their experience. etc.

    3) Newspaper. This is really the best and quickest way to find quality employees. I live in a large metro area. And when we post an ad in the paper I usually get no less than 25 calls for the position within the first few days. Again, I can weed some of them out over the phone just by asking a few questions. But this is usually where the most qualified candidates usually come from.

    I guess a 4th option is Craigslist. I tried that a few times. Good news is it's free. Bad news is most people who are just workers in the lawn care industry don't usually surf the net much. But it's free and worth a shot.

    As for what you have to offer - don't worry about that so much right now. And don't feel that just because you are a small company just hiring your first employee that you have to pay him a very high wage either. $14-$18 per hour is probably a little too high for an entry level lawn care / clean-up position. That's what I pay my top guys with years of experience. I even got a guy with two degrees working for $15 / hr. I don't know what's common in your area, but I have looked at wage studies across the nation recently. And our state was one of the highest. I doubt yours would be higher. I'd expect it would be lower. $14 per hour seems cheap to you, as you are probably charging $40 or $50 or more per hour. But trust me, with labor burden, cost of doing business, overhead, worker's comp., etc. it will all add up very quickly. Soon, you'll wish you hadn't agreed to pay so much.

    There are things that small employers can do to attract employees other than just wage. Offering flex days is a good method. That is, 5 or 10 days each year they can take off - paid - for sick or vacation or whatever. Or you can offer other perks that might help too. For instance, a few of my guys get to take the company truck home each night. Which is a big benefit to them because their family only had one vehicle. So now the wife gets to use it and it makes their life much easier. Another small benefit is to offer them a free cell phone. There are cell phone plans with free nights and weekends. You can tell them they need to keep it to business calls only during the day but at night and weekends, they can talk as much as they want. Then they don't need their own cell phone. This reduces monthly costs for them too. You can be creative like this. There are all sorts of ideas. Do a google search and get some more ideas. But don't feel like you have to pay some abnormally high wage just to attract good workers. I've never found that to be the case.
  8. thomaslawn

    thomaslawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 88

    Thank you for the reply Jim and Lawnworks.

    I agree with you Jim that $14 per hour is fairly high, I came up with that number because this is what I had paid an employee/friend who worked the route alone 3 days per week in the fall. It worked out very well, his pay rate was $10.50 per hour working with me (mowing) and $15 per hour landscaping. Unfortunately he was offered a position in a field he has great interest in.

    By dropping the wage down $3-4 dollars per hour I may have the ability to offer bonuses or other perks. Plus the employee will have the opportunity to make extra money with mulc and cleanup jobs. Fortunately I have a few college guys that are always looking for work, (part-time) it has been a perfect situation for these extra jobs, they are quick and very detailed. I'm actually surprised the one student hasn't tried to pick up his own jobs in the summer.

    You brought up Craigslist and the Newspaper;
    I put an ad on craigslist Monday and have already received 4 resumes.
    Do you think it is too early to put an ad in the newspaper?

    Thanks again, I appreciate all of your help.
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,841

    It depends on when the position is starting. We are hiring for several positions that are all going to start around the beginning to middle of March. And I'd love to advertise now, because the earlier you advertise, the bigger the work pool is. And the later you wait, the more chance that the good guys will already have found work. But at the same time, I don't think it's fair to advertise in Januaury, for a job that's not opening up for 45 days or more. Two problems with that. One is you are kind of offering a carrot to someone who's anxious to get to work then you pull it away and say, "Whoa....not so fast! You gotta wait a month or two!" I think that's kinda rude.

    The other problem with offering a job too early is even if you do get someone who says they'll wait for you, chances are they're going to keep looking in the meantime and may find another job. Then you THINK you had someone, and when it comes time for them to start, they tell you, "Oh. Sorry. I actually found something else." And then you're in a pickle.

    So timing is key.

    For the positions we're hiring for, I am going to wait to advertise them until about Feb 15th. I think about 2-3 weeks before the position opens up is just about right. Gives you plenty of time to conduct multiple interviews and chose the right guy.
  10. gmcplowtruck

    gmcplowtruck LawnSite Member
    Posts: 174

    hey why dont you try the local college that offers turfgrass or horticulture classes i took these classes at the community college and there are always kids (21 -27) looking for work in the field there studying and if they spend money on the classes they obiously want to do this kind of work unlike somebody you met on the streets or something and once you get someone good offer them bonuses like if they go so long with out a accident they get a $0.50 raise for a month if they show up every day for so long on time they get another raise for a month that will help keep employees but like i said you might want to hit up the local college

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