Is "this" the new normal? Very intriguing...just read.

Discussion in 'Employment' started by Chilehead, Jul 16, 2018.

  1. Chilehead

    Chilehead LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Stockbridge, GA
    Messages: 1,993

    I am asking that the entirety of the Lawnsite community read this thread, and then chime in on your own experiences relating to it as it could be the most insightful and revealing thread in recent Lawnsite history....
    Over the last decade (possibly last 15 years), it appears that there has been a major shift in the culture of the grounds maintenance and landscaping industry. I am not referring to design trends or the latest eco-friendly practices, but the viewpoint that prospective job applicants take.
    From 2014-till now, I have spent over $6000 of my money trying to recruit a full time employee. I thought I was doing everything right: postings on job listing sites, online classifieds, with temp agencies, and local newspapers. During this time only two people were willing to fill out a job application. Additionally, only three to four others even called to ask if I was hiring, only to never hear from them again. Of the two that filled out a job application, only one of them worked for me (in 2016) before quitting because he could not take the heat, and I don't fault him for that. Based upon these facts, it would appear that most individuals have a negative preconception of working in the landscape industry, thus the dearth of applicants.
    Conversely, I see my competition having a different experience. I have noticed their offices getting bigger, their fleets getting larger, and their staff levels increasing year after year. Some of them post company photos on their websites where the group of people in the photo goes from 3 to 15 in a few seasons. I wondered extensively how this could be....Was I offering too little pay? I mean after all, $17.50/hour seemed perfectly acceptable to me for someone with little to no experience. Was my benefit package inferior? I thought providing healthcare/vision/dental and profit sharing was the right thing to do to stay competitive. Was I being to rigid with the work schedule? I thought working a 4-day work week (10 hours a day, Monday - Thursday) was a desirable perk nowadays. I could not rationalize that I was missing anything. Then, something very unexpected happened. I was talking with a friend of mine at church about my hiring troubles who is a top-ranking executive of a company (not landscape related) that does 9 figures gross a year. What he said was very polarizing, "It's not you, Ben. It's that no one wants to work for a one-man show. It does not matter how successful you are as a businessman, how inspiring you are as a leader, or how generous you are as a boss. If you are a one-man op, you will not be viewed as a credible, stable place of employment even if you have a track record proving that you're at the top of your field." As we kept going on with our friendly discourse he continued, "It used to be that people weren't opposed to working with guys like you [one-man op], but this current generation of people want stability more than pay and perks. Traditionally it's been large firms that can deliver that. You're challenge is getting that first person, and in your line of work you have a mountain in front of you. The guys around here [landscaping companies] that have employees likely started with more than one person from the beginning." I will say that I do agree with my friend's statements, as he has a lot of executive experience, and is about to retire (old enough to be my dad).
    So what do you all think? Is this the new normal? What have you experienced? Are one-man operations cursed with a hex of negative job opportunity, or is there hope somewhere? Has the culture changed in the context of what I've presented here? This is for posterity, so please respond thoughtfully and honestly.
    americanlawn likes this.
  2. weeze

    weeze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,965

    i dunno if that's true or not. i get calls every year from people asking me if i'm hiring and i'm solo. they call at weird times though. they never call before the season starts. i'll get calls in may or june or july after half the season is already over. i dunno if it's kids out of school for the summer or what....but being the time they call me i wouldn't guess they would make good employees because they wouldn't stick around. i think they are just looking for a summer job or something because their parents told them to get one. i'm not sure really. i always just say i'm not hiring anyone right now.

    if you want employees you are gonna have to hire mexicans. that's all there is to it. they are the only ones that will stick around. all the big companies around here their entire workforce is mexicans almost. they may have 1 or 2 white guys that's about it.

    $17.50 would be a very high wage around here. you'd have all kinds of people wanting to work for you.
  3. Todd73

    Todd73 LawnSite Silver Member
    Male, from Florida
    Messages: 2,583

    Only people asking if I was hiring was a guy panhandling at a stop light and some guy near my son’s old school that hollered at me as I drove by, “Hey, give me a job!” :laugh:
  4. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 20,409

    You may have too subcontract, or stay solo.

    At 17.50$ per hour you should have all the help you would ever need, might pay to read a few "dale carangee" books?????
  5. OP

    Chilehead LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Stockbridge, GA
    Messages: 1,993

    Good advice, and I have read a couple of Carnegie's works. Have subbed, but only to get inferior hack-job-level results. About pay, this is why I question would think I would have more applicants as I pay more than anyone.
    hort101 likes this.
  6. MarkintheGarden

    MarkintheGarden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,149

    Chilehead, I think there is some truth to what your friend told you. Yes, working for a one man op might put some off cause there is no way to blend in, much less hide.

    But, given what you are willing to put on the table, I would think that you should be having a choice between qualified candidates.

    I think you may be advertising in the wrong places. Is there a local community college with a horticulture program? If so go there and see if they have a bulletin board or school paper.

    On the topic in general, there are a vast number of people who could not even consider working out doors and doing the work we do. And even more who could do it, but would not.

    This work is not for many people. If you do find out how to find good workers for lawn and landscape work, do let us all know.
    hort101 likes this.
  7. That Guy Gary

    That Guy Gary LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,413

    I'm turned off by the faceless corporate culture in America and I know I'm not the only one. You said you only had 2 applicants, how can people know so much about your business already if they haven't even applied?

    I think you're just advertising the position poorly.
    Tara Ann and hort101 like this.
  8. grassmonkey0311

    grassmonkey0311 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,446

    This is exactly what I found to be the case this year.

    I don't understand it either- a previous company I worked for had delivery drivers doing a harder job (for less money) than my current employees do. Yet that company had people on a weekly basis stopping in to apply and never had any problems hiring new employees. I'm having a very hard time hiring and it seems like luck when I finally get what I deem a 'good hire'. Fast food places don't pay nearly as much as me, they don't have a problem either.

    I think it's the overall appearance of the company. It's come to the point where people want stability and growth, but don't see that with 'the little guy'. Doesn't matter how much time or money we've invested, what really matters to them is how many trucks or employees we have. They need to see us as a viable company and not a one man show with possibly a couple employees.

    Great thread.
    Cedar Knoll Lawn Care likes this.
  9. grassmonkey0311

    grassmonkey0311 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,446

    I guarantee most are on unemployment and to keep their benefits they need to show they are "applying" to jobs. They never intent to work for you.

    Another problem I see a lot of is the ones who owe child support. They will work a few weeks and then stop showing up. They need money and don't want child support to take it.

    Just because they call you looking for a job doesn't mean they want to work for you. There is always a reason why they are asking you (or anyone) for a job.
    grass4gas, hort101 and JjEjFjF like this.
  10. JFGLN

    JFGLN LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,436

    Our community college shut down the horticulture program several years ago.

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