1. Missed the live Ask the Expert event?
    Catch up on the conversation about fertilization strategies for success with the experts at Koch Turf & Ornamental in the Fertilizer Application forum .

    Dismiss Notice

Hiring new tech's

Discussion in 'Professional Discussions' started by jbell36, Oct 26, 2018.

  1. jbell36

    jbell36 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from KANSAS
    Messages: 1,555

    This isn't just for business owners, it can be for lead technicians as well. How do you hire good irrigation technicians that are worth a ****? How do you know they will be worth hiring?

    I'm having those struggles right now. As many of you, we take quality very seriously. But we also like things to get done in a timely manner. I have one tech that has been with us for 4 years, he's good. Little things here and there, but overall I'm very happy with him. We have another guy who doesn't have a drivers license, but he's good so we keep him around. Not the fastest guy, but not terribly slow and his work always gets done right.

    Our third tech. He cares and does a pretty good job with quality, but he is SLOW. For example, on our current install, he got 9 heads dug, installed, and backfilled. 4 poly tees dug and installed. One valve backfilled. All the pipe was pulled before he got there, and the valve was already installed. This took him from 8:30am to 4:00pm, 20 minute lunch. To me, that's crazy slow. Am I expecting too much? He basically got 2 zones done in one day. I was there the day before and got 5 heads and a tee dug in 32 minutes. That's digging 12" deep and roughly 10' wide. Today I installed 3 heads and the tee on the same zone before I had to leave (again) in 30 minutes. So 75% of one zone was done in 62 minutes. So let's say 1.5 hours to have a zone dug and installed, for ME. I am expecting an employee to have that done in 2 hours. Once again, am I off on this expectation? By the way, he was only working on poly, we only do PVC mainlines that I already had in.

    Our fourth tech. I don't really know what to say. He came from a different landscape company in town. They have an average reputation, not super high quality. Anyways, we needed a 4th tech bad this year, so we put feelers out on facebook and this guy replied. He's someone my business partner knows. So we sat down with him. Seemed like a pretty good guy, pretty sharp, so we figured we would take the risk. Well, anyways, I feel like we made a bad decision. He moves even slower than our 3rd tech. I also don't think he really cares. At least our 3rd tech cares. I think I'm going to fire this guy, but I'm not sure yet. I might give him one more chance.

    After reading all that, my main point is, HOW DO YOU KNOW who is going to be worth it? I knew our main guy was going to be good because he was a mowing crew leader for us first. I knew his work ethic. The second guy we just took a shot at, but ended up being good. Our last two guys we also just took a shot at, and I'm not so sure. I'm wiling to hire guys that have zero irrigation experience if they have a good work ethic. I can teach them my way of doing irrigation. Experience is usually a good thing, but not always. There is no test to take for my city, or state for that matter, so I can't say must have passed the state exam.

    How do you guys do it?
     
    Outlawn likes this.
  2. SoCalLandscapeMgmt

    SoCalLandscapeMgmt LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,349

    I only have three irrigation techs. We have trained all of them on the job since they all moved in from other positions from within our company. Promoting from within works for us because we're already familiar with the employee and their work habits and it lets us train them to do things the way that we do them and want them done. No issues with hiring other companies sloppy work habits. Obviously if you are an irrigation only company you don't have the labor pool to draw from that somebody like us has being a full service company. In the past when we would advertise and interview for irrigation positions we would have a verbal interview but we would also hand them a couple of boxes. One would have a valve that was completely disassembled. The candidate would be instructed to put it all back together. Sometimes we would leave out critical parts. We also would give them a box with all of the parts necessary to build a swing joint in one of two acceptable ways. It was amazing how many people could not pass that test even when they claimed to have experience. Some people are hard to gauge. Some of the people who interview the worst end up being the best employees and vice versa. We're having a hell of a time just finding ANYBODY right now. I could easily use 4 more employees tomorrow but they just aren't out there right now.
     
  3. jbell36

    jbell36 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from KANSAS
    Messages: 1,555

    Yeah we are a full service company as well. Our best employees have come from the mowing crews. If they do well there we promote them to chemical or irrigation technician. Like you said, we like to train our guys from the ground up so they learn it correctly. This year we needed two more irrigation guys, and very quickly. So we threw an ad up on Facebook. Couldn’t steal them from the mowing crew. Now I’m thinking I should have promoted our best mow crew leader, but that would have put us in a tight spot at the time for mowing.
     
    Tara Ann and hort101 like this.
  4. SoCalLandscapeMgmt

    SoCalLandscapeMgmt LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,349

    It's always a hard call when you are tight on labor. I need another construction foreman right now. I have a guy in maintenance that I could move over but then that leaves the maintenance side of things screwed. I've got a backlog of install work that stretches to May of next year but at the same time I'm being asked to bid some substantial commercial maintenance contracts right now. At this point I practically have to talk my brother down off of the ledge on a daily basis. :laugh:
     
    Mike Leary and hort101 like this.
  5. 1idejim

    1idejim LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 12,442

    I’d tell my brother to JUMP! :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018
    Mike Leary and hort101 like this.
  6. mitchgo

    mitchgo LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,359

    People suck . I knew nothing when I started , I didn’t even know sprinkler systems existed . But I had a great work ethic- it was my highest paying job starting out and some of the least amount of responsibilities when I started . I was very thankful . As a tech - I work very efficiently , fast and always thinking of the next step - I run all installs and during the slow season I don’t really have many crew helpers , they are all the other techs in the company . Like you my expectations from my point of view is setting the bar and example of how it should be done . Almost always other then a few guys throughout the years my expectations are rarely met . I quickly start seeing the negatives . .. then gripe about it all to my wife .. I try to figure out ways for each person to turn it around for them so they can help meet my expectations without me
    Being an asshat to them . With that being said it doesn’t work well with other techs

    We have always hired helpers who then get promoted into a lead. Pretty much I’m
    The mentor for them
     
    jbell36 likes this.
  7. SoCalLandscapeMgmt

    SoCalLandscapeMgmt LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,349

    I'd have to shut down the business if he did.
     
    1idejim likes this.
  8. jbell36

    jbell36 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from KANSAS
    Messages: 1,555

    Damn MITCH, your reply sounds as if I wrote it myself.

    I came home bitching to my wife yesterday about all the stuff I put in my post last night. My biggest gripe is work ethic. I only have one guy who comes close to my pace and quality. The others are far behind. I don’t expect my employees to be as fast as me, but I want them to be fairly close. Right now my time is being spent driving back and forth between my two newest techs teaching them how to do things. Sometimes it’s simply just digging a hole, and it’s mind blowing how long it takes them to do that.

    You mentioned always thinking of the next step. That’s me too. It’s very important. Sometimes that next step is simply where your next stop is and which direction you need to come in so your truck is parked on the right side of the street. I have to keep telling my techs think about that before they leave their previous job. I hate when I’m waiting fir a tech to show up and he passes me to go down the street to turn around, especially when a trailer or compressor is hooked on.

    I also try to figure out how to get through to each tech individually so I can guide them into turning it around. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    With that said, I think I’m going to fire our worst tech. He doesn’t work with a purpose let alone walking with a purpose. I run laps around him walking back to the truck for parts. He also lied to me about how much he made at his last job. I found out he was making $1.50 less. We told him we would match. I told him to give me his word and we shook on it. I trusted him. Shame on me.
     
    benhargreaves, mitchgo and Mike Leary like this.
  9. Mike Leary

    Mike Leary LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 23,999

    I've told most of you before: I'd still have my business if it were not for a grip of (trusted) employees that stole, lied, had drug habits and pissed-off all the clients who trusted me. In my market, it was virtually impossible to find anyone that was willing to start at the bottom. I lucked out, found a friend who had a lawn biz and wanted to expand. He had some money down, and made the rest of the five year payments with only a couple of 'gulps' when the economy went sour.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2018
  10. jbell36

    jbell36 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from KANSAS
    Messages: 1,555

    The guy that I bought out in 2014 said the same thing. That was pretty much his only reason for selling the business.
     
    Mike Leary likes this.

Share This Page