Im at a total loss here

Discussion in 'Employment' started by FLC2000, Sep 12, 2017.

  1. FLC2000

    FLC2000 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,989

    4 years ago or so I decided that after 13 years being solo and doing everything on my own I was going to start the hiring process.

    In those 4 years I have probably gone through a dozen guys and the longest one has lasted has been about 2 months. Some last a day, some a week, one a month and one 2 months.

    I have had to let go of 3 of them but most of them just quit showing up.

    It starts with 10 minutes here and 15 minutes there. Then they call in sick for a day or two and then they just quit coming in so I put another ad out and I start over.

    I don't know if its me, the work, society or what is to blame.

    Before anyone goes off on a tangent on what I pay please understand that in different parts of the country there are different pay scales.

    When I first started to hire it was at 10.00 per hour. Since then I raised to 11.00 and now this year I'm at 13.00. Their responsibilities are trimming, blowing, light landscaping and generally helping out where need be. I have trained a few on the mowers.

    I tell them when I hire them if they show up for a month on time Ill give them a dollar raise. If they stay employed for a year Ill give them a weeks paid vacation. Weekly paychecks. I buy them lunch on occasion. Usually once a week or so. I also let them know that if they are interested in driving a truck and running a crew ill bump the pay to between 16.00 and 19.00 per hour.

    The last guy I hired started Monday August 28th. Good worker with experience. I had to retrain him a little on how I wanted things done but for the most part he knew what he was doing. Tuesday he was 10 minutes late. Wednesday he was 15 minutes late. Thursday he was 1.5 hours late. He told me he forgot to plug his phone in and it died so he didn't have an alarm. He met me at the third house we were mowing and worked all day. Friday he was on time. I told him I would look past this week and his cut him slack and he didn't have to start the 30 days over for a raise. The next Monday was Labor Day so I gave him the day off. He showed up on time all week and things went well. Friday rolls around and we are discussing the weekend. He tells me he is going about 2 hours away for a family function, laughs and says " there will be lots of drinking". Yesterday morning I get a text at 6:00 in the morning telling me he has food poisoning and cant come in. He says he is going to the doctor. I tell him to bring me proof of his doctors appt. and I wont hold it against his raise. No response. Yesterday afternoon I text him to see if his coming in and he yes. He tells me he couldn't get into the doctor but he slept all day and is feeling better...whatever... this morning...same text. Too sick to come in.

    I told him to call me around 430 to discuss his future employment. No response.

    I don't know what I'm doing wrong.

    I try to be a good boss. I buy lunch. I try to be flexible with appts. but I tell them to try and do stuff on rain days or weekends. I let them mow and Ill grab a trimmer when I see they are getting tired. I'm a small company (about 100 yards a week) but I try to offer some benefits. I don't take time off their timecards for lunch even though we will stop and eat for 30 minutes. I pay them weekly so they will have money all week and don't have to wait. I keep water coolers on the trucks always cold for them. I try to make work as easy as possible for them because I know it can get hard at times. I pay overtime when a lot of companies don't.

    I cant seem to keep anyone.

    Its always the same thing. They work good for a few days and then the downslide starts.

    I don't want to go back to doing this all myself. I'm 43 and ive been mowing for 23 years. Its hard on my body, my health, my relationships with my wife and kids. I have zero free time to do anything and eventually I snap and get depressed and take it out on the people around me. Its not fair to them.

    Am I a bad manager? A bad boss? Am I looking in the wrong place to hire people?

    I need advice quickly before I just throw in the towel and sell. I don't want to but at times I think it would be easier just to work for someone else. It was always my dream to be self employed but its quickly turning into a nightmare.
    Phenom#1 likes this.
  2. knox gsl

    knox gsl LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,792

    I was in the same spot. Either I got the guys like you're dealing with or the college kids who could only work a few months. I decided recently to get out of the mowing business and do landscaping only. I found a buyer quickly as I have a really good route and he immediately took over. This was the biggest release of tension I've had in years. I'm not saying that's what you should do but maybe cutting back to your most profitable customers and raising prices a little next spring may be the next step. I'm currently in Southern CA with my oldest son on a 10 day long workcation for us. I was paid to drive a truckload of gear out here and wait for the job to be completed then return to TN. We've been hanging out at a theme park and the beach. I was always turning down these opportunities before but that's over with, NO MORE scraping decks and sharpening blades.
  3. FLC2000

    FLC2000 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,989

    Ive actually considered college kids. Our local JUCO has a good turf program and a employment board. I was thinking about putting an ad on it. I would have FT in the summer months and PT in the spring and fall while they go to school and still want to work 15-25 hours a week.

    Frankly I don't want to landscape. I do a little but its few and far between. Its a nice change of pace but I enjoy mowing more.

    Cutting back isn't an option because it doesn't help me get off the mower and into the office. I still would have to find help to do the actual labor part of the job.
    Grassholes likes this.
  4. Grassholes

    Grassholes Banned
    Messages: 495

    I am 42 years old and I have EXACTLY the same problem with people I try to hire. Your pay structure is very similar to mine. I give them a pay bump after 30 days and then again after 90 days. Nobody ever makes it to 90 days. The younger they are, the worse they are. I also take very good care of these guys and the other options out here are minimum wage ($8.25/hr) working in a warehouse or fast food and neither of those have any opportunities for growth or advancement. At times when I was desperate I paid $15-$20 to start and those guys were no better and they did not work any harder.

    I started my first job at 14 and have been working since. I worked at a golf course for 9 years all through high school and college and while my manager was probably annoyed with employees like me when we were younger he said many times over the years when I went in to visit after I stopped working there that he had no idea that the group of people that worked there when I did were shockingly the best crew that he has had and this guy would have no problem telling me otherwise.

    Next year I am officially a one man operation and I am looking forward to it. The amount of money I will save not having to repair broken equipment alone will be like a pay raise. I wasted so much time and resources and I am having to scale back on accounts. It is really sad how hard I worked to get some really good accounts and now I am going to have to turn customers away because people who supposedly want jobs cannot follow basic instructions or show up on time.

    All of the guys out there who say, "If I could only find a few guys like me I would be set" need to team up with each other because you are the only other people who think that way. Then, keep your customers separate but have a portion of your business that operates as a 'shared resources' collaborative and get 1 or 2 bigger accounts together. Then you have some backup in case you get sick or something. The only way this will work is if you need each other so no one company is big enough to absorb the customers themselves.

    I have a lot of opinions on this matter and it all boils down to the unfortunate reality that people want more money for less quality work and nobody can be trusted.
  5. Grassholes

    Grassholes Banned
    Messages: 495

    A couple of colleges do that out here and it seems to work pretty well because they do it every year.
  6. Mitty87

    Mitty87 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,346

    How do the guys with larger companies 10 or more employees manage? Do you have to always have employment ads out and constantly be replacing your staff?? It seems like a couple of the bigger companies on here have had luck with foreign workers having better work ethic and stay a bit longer.
    maelawncare likes this.
  7. Mdirrigation

    Mdirrigation LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,242

    Stay small and " keep it all"
  8. FLC2000

    FLC2000 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,989

    I have 2 friends who run companies. One has 6 trucks that go out with 2 and 3 man crews and that other has 3 trucks that go out with 2 man crews. They are all in the same boat. The larger one hires Hispanics, mostly thought HB2 and the other day he looked at me and said "good luck finding a sober one". The smaller one hires americans and he constantly has an ad running. He loses at least one a month.
  9. eggy

    eggy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,155

    From a employee opinion I've been at the same landscape firm nearly 10 years the other employee about 13 years the pay isn't great, average I would say benefits suck...but we run solo and make the majority of the day out as we choose.. start and quit times are flexiable being solo crews.. zero babysitting..high deal of production Is expected and we get it done daily..the freedom to control my day is the only reason we both stay or at least I can say that for myself and I'm sure the other guy as well.. we could easily find better pay but probably not the flexibility
  10. AL's

    AL's LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,043

    Oh man Im about to be all about this thread bc I feel like ill be embarking on the employee search in 2018 so ive been doing tons of reading and researching and youtube surfing on employees.

    I think there are 2 fixes to this problem. My phone is about to die so I only have time to post the 1st one at the moment as #2 is quite lengthy. Ill revisit later tonight.

    #1 raise prices by $5 on every yard and add that to base pay. $18/hr for starting pay. Explain strict time restraints and must meet training requirements within set time (aka learning to do things the way YOU want them done) and increasing responsibility all the way to driving the truck.

    More pay = better applicant pool. Youll still have tons of moochers trying to make a quick buck but the reliables will call as well. Just have to spot them. And as much as I hate to say it, its a judgement that you have to make. I try not to judge people but in hiring I think you have to judge them in order to make the best decision for the best fit for your company.

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