Employees Can Be Fixed

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Sean Adams, May 27, 2009.

  1. Sean Adams

    Sean Adams LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,597

    I know that a lot of the business owners on this site have employees - some just have one employee, others have plenty. It is often said that the biggest challenge in this business is finding, motivating and keeping good "help". I won't deny that. In fact, the more I talk to members of this site I realize that employees are a problem because the owners of the business actually make it easy for turn-over to be constant.

    I know it is that time of the year - you are busy, customers are calling, complaints left and right, etc. But I can assure you of this one thing - if you invest in your employees in way of training and education, it will pay off in the end.

    Create a handbook - it doesn't have to be anything elaborate and you can always add to it over time. Let them know what you expect in terms of when they show up, what they should wear, how they should act, safety, vacation time, etc...

    Talk to them - don't just assume they know what you want and what you are thinking. I have seen it a million times - a guy gets hired, he is handed a few shirts, told to be at the garage at 7:30 and then he is sent off to do the work. And then when the work is done poorly or even at a slow pace, the owner gets angry and wonders why he can't find any decent employees.

    Know the kind of employee you are looking for - whether they are skilled, experienced, have a license, or just have a good attitude (I will take someone with the right attitude any day over someone with experience).

    I know I am just scratching the surface, but what do you think? How do you train your employees? How serious are you about the hiring process?
  2. fool32696

    fool32696 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 993

    I know I should do a lot of the things that you mentioned, they are things that I think about that I need to just do. I hired my first employee this year. I have known him since grade school and he's a hard worker. He is a little slow (somewhere between forrest gump and average) and I really think that he could benefit from more structure. I find myself getting angry at him, yet as you mentioned it's me that hasn't layed out the expectations and rules. I hope more people reply, employees are KEY to growing a successful business.
  3. beegreenlandcare

    beegreenlandcare LawnSite Member
    Messages: 176

    Ya know, at this point i think I've actually got a handle on this point. I have 1 person "helping" this year and granted its not our 1st "helper" he IS 1 of the more motivated 1's I've come across. He wants to work and has a good attitude. Yes he's made several mistakes but are forgivable considering the overall picture.He does too good of a job (yes I know overservicing a client costs me money) So, I had my wife watch him and work with for a few days now. Some may laugh, but she is more demanding than I am!!! I can't always have eyes in the back of my head watching him make mistakes so, the time she spends training will have benefits that I will reap log after she's gone home to work on the books, take my daughter to ice skating practice or just plain be "MOM".
    The thing is "I" realized what was needed and she was able/willing to help.
    I know employees (at least the sane ones) don't say to themselves in the morning "Oh, I think I'll have a really crappy day pissing off the boss". If they fail I AM the one who's probably at fault because of poor training.:cry:
  4. cod8825

    cod8825 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 501

    I come from a little different perspective in that I am an employee of a large Lawn Care Operation plus I am a business owner for my own Lawn Application business. My employer has about fifteen personnel on payroll with anywhere from five full time employees to 10 to 15 part time employees at any given day or week. I run a crew, design, oversee and install all landscaping projects. I do some bidding but will do less this year than last. I have had a revelation of sort.

    First no employee will work as fast as hard as long with a good spirit as long as the owner. My boss is a work aholic we puts in 16 hours a day generally Monday thru Sunday. He expects his workers to not have a life not schedule anything of sorts at all for the entire season we should be able to work from 6 am to 9 pm Monday through Friday no questions asked. Every time someone asks to get off at 5pm he rolls his eyes in a fashion. As an employer we have to understand people have lives they should not have to ask for everything off work insane hours all the time.

    Second do not and I repeat set a schedule that is doomed for failure. My boss still sets a schedule to be done at a pace like he was still running the crew. We run break neck pace 12 hours a day if not longer. If we have one break down then in essence we are screwed. People are going to slow down after eight ten hours.

    Third provide adequate help for the job. I run one of five crews. I do all of the super high end commercial stuff like banks, retail, commercial buildings etc. Most of these places are one to five acres a piece with crazy amounts of trimming, edging, and weed pulling. Most days we have 12 to 14 stops we have me and another worker. That is way too much work for two guys period.

    Third try and create stability I hate the fact that I will receive a list of places to do things to do at them and then get a call to go do this go do that will your out please do this. I like knowing that this all I need to do and I will be done. Nothing is more aggravating or plain makes me angry than getting a call to go mow this place.

    Four let the workers know they are appreciated. We have been going hard since the first of March in Kansas City and my boss has not once said or told me good job. Actually I rue the time I look at my phone and see that it is him calling. Once he followed me around to look at these news jobs we took on and they only thing that came out of his mouth was "Well there where a couple things here and there but overall not bad" What kind of crap comment is that. If there is something special out of your workers let them know. I know for a fact that my work receives the fewest complaints period of all five crews and I have the most difficult accounts.

    Fifth pay them well these individuals only get paid nine months a year so that other three months they have to get a different job that is a pain in the you know where I have done it for four years it is hard.

    Yes and clearly in writing define expectations.

  5. clcare2

    clcare2 LawnSite Member
    from indiana
    Messages: 224

    I had a much more constructive post in my head until I read the last posters comments.

    First of all, I work 24 hours a day, every day. This company is my life.
    I wake up and it is thde first thing on my mind. Then I check on my 2 year old. I am laying out schedule changes in my head in the shower. I eat breakfast while watching the weather and construction updates for last minute routing changes. On my way in, I am on the phone with my maintenance foreman to find out what is still broke from the day before. Next call is to my voicemail, to see who has to take their kid to to the hospital, or their babysitter is sick, or their car won't start, or their grandfather died (again). So now even more adjustments to the schedule.

    Now I get to call a rental company, because while I was on my voicemail, my mechanic called to say that the parts he had overnighted were shipped wrong and and now I get to plead my case with the rental guy, sp he won't force me to return the truck that he promised to someone else.

    Now I arrive at the shop and find out that someone broke in last night and stole 3 grand in plant materials that were handpicked at the nursery by my best customer (read picky, pita).

    Now, remember, this is all before you get your butt to work.

    The rest of the day is a stress filled rollercoaster of meetings, fights,customer complaints, (they never call to just say thank you), interventions and when I remember lunch in the truck.

    When I get home all I can seem to talk to wife ( a freaking saint) about is the business.

    So after spending half and hour with my son before bedtime. I finally shower, while thinking about tomorrow's schedule and whether those damn parts will come in.

    I eventually fall asleep around 12:00 or 1:00 and then the nightmares about whether or not I will be able sell enough work to keep the families of my employee's fed, clothed and under a safe warm roof for one more month.

    So if you need to be reassured that you do good work, or if I seem a little peeved that you want the evening off, or maybe the schedule changes in the middle of day. Before you blame me please look in the mirror. I don't need the stress of wondering if my employees are feelling emotionally full-filled.

    One more thing, this one ticks me off. You took a job in an industry that is seasonal. You knew this going in. If you are unhappy, leave, it would suck to lose a valuable employee, but we are in a recession. I have a stack of resume's and application's 3 inches thick and growing daily on my desk. And for the first time ever, they are all qualified, some of them way over qualified. All looking to take a job making less than I pay my people now, just so that they can have a job.
  6. txgrassguy

    txgrassguy LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,083

    A facet most people do not understand is employees and their management is a direct reflection on the type of person you are.
    Observing your employees is a great feedback mechanism towards eliminating a vast majority of issues both with your employees and also with customers.
    A tactic I learned from my military days is to have the employee repeat what the instructions given are - then correct the recounting until what the employee repeats is what you want.
    Pay is not as important as recognition - there are a multitude of management studies which confirm this behavior. A simple introduction to the client of an employee utilizing a praising manner will work wonders with the employee. This doesn't have to be only with foremen/managers but include laborers as well.
    Scheduling isn't as difficult either - what I have done to great effect is to explain the work load, tell the crews to come up with their own plan we'll review together then implement what seems the most efficacious. I do explain I reserve the right to over rule or alter what the crews formulate but this is done with them so they have a greater understanding of my thought process.
    Cross training/exposure to different tasks should also be a priority. An employee given the opportunity to experience different parts of this industry has an immediate impact on their self esteem which often results in their increased performance and problem solving.
  7. cod8825

    cod8825 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 501


    First thank you for reaffirming my beliefs on my current employer(boss). Your the owner deal with it. I am an employee deal with that. Look I run my own business that does close to 40 acres in lawn treatments while I work as an employee as well. I do not expect my boss, co-workers, etc.... to care that I do this on the side I just deal with it. When I get to the point that I might have to hire an employee I will try and do the things that are listed above. TXGRASS got it right in more than one way. I was simply stating the fact on how to improve employees this comes from first hand experience. If all of the employees state the same grievances then maybe just maybe there is some issues.

    Last thing you take two showers a day:laugh:
  8. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    Your business is a reflection of you. I don't think I need to elaborate on that.

    I respectfully disagree with Sean I don't think you can fix employees. They are who they are. You can do a better job screening them and then train them before you put them into the field. My experience has been if an employee has gotten off on the wrong foot they are not able or willing to change.

    That is why it is so critical to hire responsible people who match your company culture. As long as they have the personality traits you desire in an employee you can teach the rest. If you hire a fast talking , bullshitting liar even if they do work fast you will have problems if everyone else in the company is a boy scout.

    Make a conscious decision what you want your company culture to resemble then hire those people. Your life will be much simpler for the effort.
  9. me!

    me! LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    I don't care if i upset you cause i called you at noon to add a lawn. Or that you think i'm working you too hard. Maybe your the not useing your time wisely, or on the cell to much or taking a couple extra gas station breaks cause you didn't plan ahead.

    I have a list of priorities in my life and here's how the rank.

    1. My wife and kids.
    2. MY BUSSINESS. It will be around longer then you will be.
    2. My customer, without them we all are poor and they will be around longer then you.
    3. Your wife and kids. It is my job to make sure the 9 children of employees of mine have the oppertunity to eat, and have a roof over there head. If i don't keep you busy they don't eat.
    4. My equipment. Without it none of you work
    5. Your payrole every week.
    6. Taxes
    7. Your feelings.
    8. Your wifes feelings.

    If i thought longer, i might get your feelings moved to 10 or 12. If you think my priorities are wrong, then you need to leave as an employee.

    What your missing is i am the only person in the world who has the whole picture. I do truely hope my employee's respect me, but i don't care if they don't like me, Im to busy making sure they all have jobs next month.
  10. clcare2

    clcare2 LawnSite Member
    from indiana
    Messages: 224

    I agree that employee training and feedback is very important in how I run my business. I don't however believe that an employee can be "fixed". The word "fixed implies that there is a major issue that needs to be dealt with. As a small business owner I don't have the time or the resources to take care of every problem employee.

    Now I do believe that I can build a great employee. I prefer to bring in fresh meat with no experience in the industry. When you hire people who have been around they have a tendency to have their own ideas of how things should be done. I have proven systems and expectations that all employees are taught and expected to not only reach for their themselves but to hold each other accountable for. We do things a certain way for a specific reason and it has worked in building a successful and growing company. It can be a real pain, but my clients have gotten used to the level of quality we provide and they expect it every single time and are willing to pay for it. While employee feedback and suggestions are welcomed, they are not exactly encouraged. Many people have a hard time with rejection of an idea.

    These are things that can be taught, but they are not always learned. I spend a lot of time and money on training. And all employees are told that there is upward mobility in all positions. But, you have to earn it and you have to want it.

    After all of this, it is still easier to start over then it is to take a problem employee and try to find a way to teach or reach this person. Some people just don't get it. Putting this much effort into a single person is kind of like playing a sport saying that everyone should get to play. We want to win so we play the players that can get us the best results. Not to say that I give up right away, but is really fair to the other employees who get it faster and are able to perform at a higher level, if I keep on working with one person in the hopes that they will someday get it.

    In response to cod8825

    I get so tired of employees or LCO's who have no employees who say that they would do things differently. And think thast they have any idea what it is like to be in my shoes. I have been an employee and I have been a solo, and now I have employees. So while I know were you are coming from, you have gotten into a discussion that you know nothing about. I realize that you were trying to give a different perspective on the subject, but you came across as just another whining employee. You complained about things that you know nothing about.

    If I call and say that the schedule changed and I need you to run across town and do something in the middle of the day, maybe it because the customer called and I know that you can handle the work. If we are working 15 or 16 hour days. You should be happy that we have enough work to stay this busy. I could have more crews and therefore more overhead and you would get to work less and make less money.

    The one point that you made that I agree with was positive feedback. I am very bad about this myself. Not that I am only giving negative ,but it does tend to come out that way. As a team leader I would expect you to know that you are doing a good job. In my company it isn't easy to get that position and keepiong can be even harder. Not hearing from me is the best compiment that I can give. However, as a leader it is very important to let the crews know that you appreciate the things that they do on a daily basis. I consciously work on this daily.

    This being said, it is your job to do the things that you do everyday. When did excellence become the exception, and people began to think that they should be rewarded for it. You get rewarded for going beyond excellence and bottom line, you will be rewarded when you make me more money. I don't even give out the new seasons raises until 3 months into the season. Just because you came back and you did well last year, you haven't proven that you still deserve anything.

    One last piece of advice. QUIT your current job. It is the only way that you will ever really be able to focus on your own business. There is nothing like the absolute survival of yourself and your company to push you into building a company that will survive. It sounds like you have a good enough base to go, you just have to jump. There is no better feeling than building a company out of pure adrenaline fueled necessity. I complained in my earlier post, but secretly I love every second of it. I look around and it's all mine. You will will probably fail, but only because most do. At least, the first time. But, even in failure you'll know that you gave it everything, because you had no choice.

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