Employment Issues Holding Me Back

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by riverwalklandscaping, Jan 30, 2009.

  1. riverwalklandscaping

    riverwalklandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 759

    I have the customers/demand to expand my company (we do mostly landscape installation and also lawn care/snow removal) and have had for some time, but I am getting caught up on one issue, employees. Perhaps some guys with more experience can help me out. Thanks!

    I do have employees, I'm just not to a place where I have anyone that I could leave alone to work on a site while I am at another, as none of them have the experience that I do. I am also a bit of a perfectionist and I haven't gotten to a point where I can suck it up and just trust that they will do things right. I have a hard time finding people that know the difference between doing something the right way, and doing it to just get it done. I hope to get lucky and find some guys like that this year, but I've had about 10 in a row that just don't get it.

    I pay well, treat them very well, and still feel employee issues are entirely whats holding my company back. I never advertise and always have work booked for the foreseeable future, but just don't seem to be able to make the next step. Perhaps I am hoping for the impossible, but I'd love to have someone working for me who, in a situation like - a compactor is out of gas - would just go get more gas, instead of standing around until I get back, and then say 'it's out of gas what should I do?' I am also worried about the small things, like when a fuse blows on a mower or something. Myself, I would say 'okay, it won't start, what might be the issue' and so on until I figured out what it was and switched out the fuse. I feel like if I send a team out on their own, I will just always be dealing with stuff like that and won't be able to relax and get my own work done. I also worry about things like my reputation when an employee screws something up like not realizing that a blade is dull on a mower and they are leaving miserable quality of cut, or a piece of blue stone still has a slight wobble to it. Some people just can not see the small stuff.

    Safety is my biggest fear, I will tell people to stop using a mower/weed whacker/etc when they see someone walking by on the side walk. I tell them over and over, and yet when I am standing right next to them they don't even do it. That's with me there, I can't imagine what it would be like when I am not even around.

    I guess I am being awful negative, but in the past this is all I've dealt with and I would love to be able to not have to keep turning work down. Thanks - R. Schuyler Watson - Owner, River Walk Landscaping

    P.S. it sounds like (sky-ler)
  2. Doug1966

    Doug1966 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 118

    It sounds like you have a great opportunity here. It may just be a matter of starting to invest your time to build up the Human Resources side of your business.

    1. Create an employee manual.
    2. Have regularly scheduled staff meetings.
    3. Have regularly scheduled safety training with your staff.
    4. Create a company policies and procedures manual.
    5. Have an employee review every 2 months. Don't push it off.

    If you do these things, even though it *sounds* like a big waste of time now, it will pay off. And it will lay the foundation for attracting good employees, keeping good employees, and turning only okay employees into good or even great employees.

    JKOOPERS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,259

    i know what you mean. maybe spend a little more training someone. yeah it sucks at first but look when you first started you were not the best.
  4. riverwalklandscaping

    riverwalklandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 759

    I do like the idea of a manual or video. I was thinking of doing that last year, but I pictured how I never paid attention to them at my past jobs, and feared they wouldn't either. I think I will do that this year. I made 2 guys watch a 1hr long chainsaw safety video last year before doing a large clearing project, although I didn't have them do much because tree work is so dangerous.
  5. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Messages: 2,636

    In the one paragraph you were visualizing employees standing around till you get back with gas. Question, if the lead knew he was responsible for the progress and completion of the job... and he knew you were not there to get gas (you wouldn't get gas because you were not in charge of that job), do you think he would still stand around waiting for you?

    He wouldn't. He would know it was his responsibility and he would get it done.

    If you give a good man the job.. and I mean ALL the job, including the responsibility to get it done quickly and with quality... it is likely he will be empowered and take responsibility for the things it seems you are concerned about.

    In my opinion you are ready to delegate work, but not responsibility. Only if you do both will you empower other people.

    But that is just my .02
  6. cppendergrast

    cppendergrast LawnSite Member
    Messages: 107

    yeah, it has taken me 25 years to gradually gain confidence in things. I mean confidence in MY ability to organize, prepare & execute all things needed to succeed. Once you have that, you must clone yourself in others and it ain't gonna be perfect but you should be able to teach them through mistakes. I have a masters degree in education and started an irrigation install & maintenance co in Nashville. Teaching has been enjoyable & profitable in this instance. Too bad there is no good coop program that ties it all together for younger people.

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981

    The one GOOD thing about the economy is...a lot more unemployed guys looking for work. Hopefully that'll give you an opportunity to find better workers.

    I used to supervise a lot of lawn workers in the past, and there's a few things to keep in mind when dealing with them...

    -Not a lot of Rhodes Scholars in the bunch. Now I'm not implying all laborers are stupid, it's just that you're not getting guys with good analytical skills. They don't look at the cause and effect things. Where you or I would think "Gee...I should go get some gas so we can keep working" your employee is thinking "Gee...I may get in trouble for leaving the jobsite" OR "Yeah...wonder how long it'll take the boss to pay me back for the gas...I need that $20 for groceries tonight"

    -In a highly repetitive job, thinking is not often required. Especially with mowing, it's just very repititive, not much creativitiy or free thinking involved. As bizarre as it may sound, when I guy is forced to make a decision, he may just do nothing. He's not used to using his noggin. His brain just locks up :laugh: Likely also, you're not paying him to make decisions.

    The best thing you can do is to empower you employees, or your foreman at least. Let them know they have the authority to make decisions on their own...and that their decisions should be in the interest of keeping the crew and job on schedule as much as possible.
  8. Steve B

    Steve B LawnSite Member
    Messages: 56

    This is a tough one for a lot of business owners. You're experiences are very similar to many others. I think there is a general lack of work ethic with a lot of people and we are giving them too much credit in some cases to say they are stupid. They aren't stupid, they just saw an opportunity to take a break - that's why they didn't go get gas.

    My advice would be to diligantly look for someone with good work ethic and character - then TRAIN TRAIN TRAIN and give lots of feedback right away. Don't wait until things bug you. Once you get a good person trained, you will have someone you can rely on. I'll take a stupid person with character any day over a smart person that is always trying to find the easy way out.

    All of the above statements about giving responsbility are true also - I just want to point out that it's a waste of time unless you have the right person to begin with. Weed out the bad ones quickly and spend your time on the good ones.
  9. fool32696

    fool32696 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 993

    I of course have no idea what you are paying these guys, but are you willing to pay enough to attract quality employees? Do any of your guys have management potential? If they don't It's time to actively seek out prospects that have the experience and competence to run a crew. You have to look at it from their side. How much would you need to make running a crew and having to support a family?

    I'm not even ready to start another crew and I already have a person in mind to come in. He doesn't even have much experience in the field, but that doesn't bother me. He's absolutely trustworthy, he's extremely bright and learns quickly, and I think he has the potential to one day run my entire company for me. I find myself always keeping an eye out for future employees. Employee turnover costs a company lots of money, find smart guys and give them the incentive to stick around long term. Good guys will want workers comp coverage, health insurance (maybe for their family too), retirement packages, raises and bonuses. Give the guys incentives to do excellent work efficiently. I'm working on a performance based bonus program myself. Guys on hourly or salary only don't have the drive.
  10. riverwalklandscaping

    riverwalklandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 759

    Most of the people I have had work for me were 18-25 years old so they don't have families, and I was paying some of these people around 18+ dollars an hour which around here is more than most anyone gets for their first season working for a LCO company just raking leaves or whatever. I never really looked into hiring older guys because I am so young myself that I worry they won't take me seriously as their boss. Also an older guy would be more likely to need to feed a family or want a year round job, when most of my work is seasonal. I've been using college kids because they have a long summer off and are usually fairly smart (at least I know they are smart enough to get into college). I have talked about Heath/benefits but no one was the least bit interested compared to just getting paid a higher hourly rate. I think after listening to everyone's comments a lack of training is most likely whats causing me problems, but I hate to spend all summer training someone just to know they won't be back next summer. I think once I pick up another truck or two to use in the winter, and can offer some year round work to someone so they could stay full time, I will have better luck finding a more permanent team leader.

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