How many of you have......

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by MLI, Apr 4, 2003.

  1. MLI

    MLI LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ma
    Messages: 464

    lost your #1 guy? ...and what did you do? I just lost my foreman of 8 yrs. He met a girl last yr, and I think they are getting engaged soon! I wish him the best, but now am searching for someone to take his place! We offer heath ins. paid vacations, good work conditon etc. Our laborers are around $10-$12 per hr.....and foreman are around $18-$20 per hr. I feel this is about you guys?
    Seems to me the big down turn to this whole thing are the winters. We shut down in Dec.....reopen in March! Most of the guys collect for 2 months...and or have a side job, I think my foreman finally had it with unpredictable pay in those few months.
    Question run through my mind like....
    Should I downsize?
    Should I hire more folks...even with a weak economy?
    Should I do more of the work myself(more profit, but now I cant build the business)
    Should I sell off the extra equipment, and pocket cash, rebuild next yr?
    Theres sooooo many variables. What were some of the experiences you guys have had....and what did you do?
  2. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Messages: 8,745

    my number one guy right now is kind of leaning towards the same direction regarding the winter months. He doesn't like the paychecks that are only about 1/3 of what he makes during the season. I pay for his health insurance, personal cell phone, and education, but he has a family to support as well. This winter we are going to look into something else besides the snow removal because the money just isn't there like it used to be. It just seems like no matter what I try if this upcoming winter doesn't put out for him that he is going to leave.

    I personally have been putting in more hours on the job site. I wouldn't hire anyone else on because all of the extra work that I can't do I give to him during the winter months to please him for he won't leave.

    Don't sell your equipment and start all over.. Trust me I did that once, and it was so hard to get back into things again.

    I look at it this way...someone will always find a way to leave. Nobody wants to make an honest living. These get rich kids just think that they are going to make the money just like that...and those are the ones that I always turn away.
  3. TSM

    TSM LawnSite Senior Member
    from MA
    Messages: 707

    ahh, the dilemma of seasonal help!

    here is something to think on:
    offer a bonus...layoff at end of season and IF they return in the spring give them a bonus. The bonus should be big enough to compensate for those small unemployment checks.

    This will help you keep on good help

    this will let the help know you understand and care about their financial needs.

    this will take some money out of your pocket, but is (or should be) worth the price to hang on to good help.

    you dont necessarily need to give that bonus the first day of the season. But say at the end of the first full month. So your guys are able to keep up with their cost of living and you can rest assured they arnt just using you for the bonus (if you gave it the first day they return will they be back on the next day?)

    something to think on
  4. ABM

    ABM LawnSite Member
    Messages: 15

    From what you are saying I think that you're in the right area as far as pay and benefits for laborers and foremen. I also agree with Tiedeman about not selling your equipment, once you have it and it's paid for keep it or you'll wish you would have later. One other thing that struck me while reading this post was that I was in a situation like you described once. It was one of the best experiences that I have ever had in that I learned some skills that I became proficient at and was able to learn from one of the best and most professional in the business. BUT... there came a day when I felt that I needed to strike out on my own, not because the grass was so much greener on the other side rather that I could do these things that I had learned, have more interaction with the business end of things (which I enjoy), and build a company of my own (personal accomplishment). I think that among the ranks of people who become foremen there are few who will be content working for someone else because of the qualitys it takes to be in that position (dependability, leadership, willingness to learn, ability to make decisions, personable, ect.). If someone has these qualitys more than likely they are a leader and will need to do something that is more of a challenge and offers greater rewards (not just monetary but the whole picture).

    Just my thoughts and experience.
  5. AL Inc

    AL Inc LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,209

    I haven't been in the situation yet, but anything can happen. A very successful business man (my friend's father) once told me that if he could go back and change anything about his business, he wouldn't have tried to be such a friend to his employees. He is a super nice guy, and at times was taken advantage of. He said to me, "no one is irreplaceable". He made mistakes in keeping people around that he felt he couldn't live without.

    I have had employees leave and questioned how I could keep going, but it just worked out. Don't sell off your equipment, start looking for a new foreman (or promote someone from within), work in the field if you have to temporarily, and continue with your plan. Don't let this stop you.

    I think so many of us struggle with the same problems. I've been lucky, but my two foremen now own homes and have families, and they need the year round income. I've been thinking of going to salary for these two, but haven't made the move. Maybe someone can shed some light on this? Good luck with whatever you choose, Mike
  6. HarryD

    HarryD LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,068

    put him on a year long salary if he is that good. thats what my boss used to do with us foreman's before I started my own bizz. we would come into the shop and work on equipment over the winter and plow snow
  7. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    Paying a foreman salary can help both the foreman and you if the relationship is right and if that's what the foreman feels he needs to help even out the flucuations of seasonal pay. It also helps you since you can budget better knowing what you'll have to pay regardless of the hours worked for that particular pay period.

    Regarding downsizing - I think immediately you can only take on the work that you're prepared to produce. If that means taking on less than so be it.

    However, that being said, this down economy is the perfect time to prepare for when the economy rebounds. Sales may be a little sluggish, so naturally you may not do the volume of two to five years ago. In theory with unemployment being higher, now is the time to find your key employees to build off of. Three years ago the only people who were looking for jobs were the unemployable. Now people are looking for the right fit with a company. Find the guys now in the slow economy, take care of them and start to build your business around them.

    If possible have back up so that loosing one guy doesn't set you back. To let an employee have that much influence over your business is like putting all your eggs in one basket. There may be times during transition you can't avoid it. But always have a back up plan in mind so that when that one day they come in to tell you that they're moving on, your business does not suffer as a result.

    I'd take this opportunity to find new employees and work to meet their needs in concert with the company's requirements and see if you can't position yourself to take off when the economy heats back up in the next 12 to 24 months.
  8. landscaper3

    landscaper3 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,354

    We pay our foremans salary (but we also do snow removal service) which accounts for at least 50% of the company gross income. Have you thought about purchasing two plow trucks for plowing and sanding for yourself and foreman? Do commercial accounts and pay him salary!
  9. jsr2741

    jsr2741 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 392

    Has anyone looked into hauling wood chips to horse stables.

    One of the guys I work with also owns a lawn company, mostly commercial and said that due to the lack of good help and the fact he's getting burnt out cutting grass he started hauling wood chips to area stables. I believe he said by himself he's making about 3k a month.

    seems to me if you have a few of these in your area you would have business year around.

    Just a thought.
  10. MLI

    MLI LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ma
    Messages: 464

    We have 2 plow trucks now and 1 sander. This winter was great for snow, but most years it just 3-6 events(Boston area) I like the salary idea....Approx. how much do you pay out to the foreman, and is that with benefits? My guy was close to 32k ....1 week paid ins. options. Seems this is going rate...maybe im wrong.
    One of these days I'll have to stop by your shop for a chit chat. I have inlaws that have a summer home in Waterford.

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