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Supervising, How to be a supervisor

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by cnymowing, Aug 21, 2013.

  1. cnymowing

    cnymowing LawnSite Member
    Messages: 123

    I have a problem, I have been running my business for 6 years now, Started by myself, and have built it up to having 3 employees.

    They are all what I'd consider very good - excellent... show up on time or early, do what is asked, don't complain, work well even when I'm gone to pick up materials or whatever, have good attention to detail etc...

    When it comes to installations, both softscape and hardscape I am almost always on site... I enjoy the work and like to be there in case something comes up.

    My problem is that I find myself not being able to be the supervisor that I should be. I just simply can't just oversee a project... If I am there I wind up working just as my employees, which really isn't a problem... they have no issues doing whatever needs to be done. And I also don't mind doing the work either... But it seems like I just can't stand there idle while they work their a$$es off.

    Example 1: Simple 150 SF walkway install, we've done about 12 of these so far this year, so everyone knows the process. We show up, paint the lawn up... break out the shovels and picks, and we all go to town on it... get it dug and tamped, start laying gravel (me plus one shoveling, 2 spreading). Level and tamp, level and tamp... I pick up the pavers they start unloading while I screed and lay... laying takes longer, so while I'm doing that, the other 3 are just doing busy work ( sweeping up feeding me pavers or whatever)... long story short, we all worked our butts off, and got it done without a hitch, but I was doing a lot of the stuff that I would like the employees doing so they can get a little more experience... if that makes sense :confused: And it's not like anybody was slacking either.... It is just hard for me to stand and direct.

    Example 2: Training a new mowing leader last week. I went along with the new leader, and my trained and fairly experienced helper. I went so that in theory I could watch and make sure that the new leader was doing everything up to my specs... 10 minutes into the second lawn I had a trimmer in my hand... I felt like an a$$hole just walking around watching him mow.

    I have never had a "job" where I had a boss or supervisor, so I don't know how/what I should be doing. And like I said, I don't mind doing the work, I am in this business because I enjoy landscaping, I like hard work, and the money isn't bad either ;)

    But I know that in order to grow, I need to be a supervisor, not a laborer.

    Are there any tips that anybody could share to help me out? Am I just too nice? :help:
  2. Sprinkler Buddy

    Sprinkler Buddy LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 1,185

    You can and should do both. Your help works better when they see you getting your hands dirty as well. It takes a big operation to just sit back and site see. It would also cost you more to do so at this point in the game. Your running your business just the way you should be in my opinion.
  3. CorkyE

    CorkyE LawnSite Member
    Messages: 124

    That's just your style, a hands on type person. Like said, that's okay in most situations, especially in a small work group setting. What you need to learn and be aware of is when your employees step back and let you do the work, then you'll have to change your style of leadership. You might want to dedicate more of your time toward recruiting new business so you can step more into the leadership role which would allow you to hire another person and promote a team leader. IMHO.
  4. dllawson

    dllawson LawnSite Member
    Messages: 172

    It sounds like you are doing a good job supervising to me, especially in your mowing example. The fact that you were onsite doing training puts you a step ahead of many companies, and is actually an indication that you are a good supervisor. The fact that you picked up a weedeater to help get the job done is also a great way to keep the respect of your workers.

    I do have two thoughts on example 1.

    Is there something important that you needed to be doing to better manage your business while your guys were doing the paver job? Meeting with customers, managing your money, planning for tomorrow's work, etc. If so, leave the job and manage your business. If not, keep working and get the job done sooner.

    To get your workers to gain more experience, you can focus on being a helper instead of the leader. It is great for moral when workers see the owner working, but sometimes it can break up their rhythm. By helping out with entry level tasks, you also strengthen your crew leader by showing that you trust him to manage the job.
  5. seabee24

    seabee24 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 619

    6 years ago I would go into my shop every Saturday or Sunday. I would clean the shop and trucks, organize and sweep the shop floor.

    I got a few employees that were mechanically included and could fix minor breakdowns with out calling me. Only problem was they didn't know where the tools or spare parts where and had to call me.

    I took a step back one day and figured out , I thought I was saving myself time and money by cleaning on the weekends. But what I was really doing was, allowing a bunch of slobs to work for me because I cleaned up their mess. And they didn't know where anything was which then required my input for everything.

    I let them clean the shop now. It normally doesn't take long because they don't trash it too much anymore. They can fix things because they know where the spare parts are and the tools to do so.

    If you don't let them do it, they will never learn.

    My suggestion, break down each step of a project on paper. Pick the top 25% that is "skilled" work that they might need a hand with. help them on that. The rest of it, I would point, let them know what you need done, then go sit in the truck on-site or off-site and work on paperwork, estimates, or other things. Give them a goal for what time to be done with each task. make sure they know the step they are currently on, and the next step you will ask of them. This was they are not delayed waiting on you if you have to leave the site.

    Here is a min, quick break down of a patio

    Mark site, Excavate, dispose of soil, pick up gravel/sand/brick, unload truck, compact sub soil, install base, install sand, install steps, install pavers, install edging, poly sand, clean up

    Put of those, I would directly be involved with marking the site, possibly excavating, installing the steps, installing the base. They can lay the pavers provided we get the base right. The steps have math that needs to be correct.

    The rest, I would show them what to do, and what they are going to do when they finish that task. and I would go do my work.
  6. McFarland_Lawn_Care

    McFarland_Lawn_Care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,443

    Sounds like you are great. Keep it in mind and like everyone else has said, slowly learn to delegate more to your key leaders. I'm exactly the same way! My most recent guy I hired is very self motivating and I'm slowly making him more of a supervisor.
  7. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    I feel the same way sometimes. I give them tasks a b and c and tell them to finish it by x time. I leave and come back, fix what's wrong and try again on the next job. If I'm there I have to work, so I find stuff to do off site. I also started leaving early and trusting them to clean up and I have them get there before me to set up. They want to feel like you trust them to do it themselves.
  8. Will P.C.

    Will P.C. LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 966

    With a crew of 3 you will be working with them sometimes and there is nothing wrong with that.

    Do some research of micromanaging and make sure you and study how to avoid micromanaging.
  9. Bryan27

    Bryan27 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 152

    If your guys are good at what they do, know what needs to be done and how to do it.... get out of their way and let them work. If you can't stand to step aside while your crew is getting the work done, try leaving the site for a couple hours, plan something productive to do during that time.

    My full-time job has nothing to do with the landscaping business, but the concept of supervision is applicable. I am one who was promoted out of the ranks to supervise crews doing the same jobs I used to do. There is a learning curve in being able to step back and tell your guys "Y'all get it done, let me know if you run into anything, I'll be back later". You have to have the trust in the crew(s) that they are competent in what they are doing and you need to communicate to them what the end result is that you are trying to achieve. When you are on the job with your employees, I imagine the questions that are going through your mind revolve around getting the job done correct and efficiently and you answer your own question with "if you want something done right, do it yourself". Next job, ask yourself these two simple questions: 1) How can I better utilize my employees? 2)What can I do to make my employees better/more efficient? Then take action on your answers. My $.02
  10. cnymowing

    cnymowing LawnSite Member
    Messages: 123

    Wow guys... thank you! all the responses are pretty much the opposite of what I had expected to hear :drinkup: lol... I guess I'm not as bad off as I thought I was.

    Sprinkler Buddy- I know what you mean about the employees working better when the boss is working too... a couple months ago I sent the crew out to do a bunch of lawns and mulch, They thought I was going to be in the nice cool office on that 95* day. I was for a short time, but I also had to go cut and install a bunch of retaining wall blocks for a customer... :weightlifter: The workers showed up, dragging azz until they saw me drenched in sweat and caked in concrete dust lol

    dllawson, I definitely like the idea of being the helper... and I do try to do that sometimes. Like on that paver job, I didn't hardly touch a level or grade rod until the final layer of stone... I just filled wheelbarrows lol. Maybe I'm just second guessing myself, and my workers... ( In the past I have had some very un-trustworthy employees screw me over)

    Seabee- I learned not to clean up the shop by myself last year, now almost every Friday we all spend 20 minutes to put tools away where they belong, take a quick inventory of things like sod staples, fabric, snap edge, spikes etc...
    I definitely need to do the breakdown of steps on paper like you said. Do you think it would be overkill to have a laminated set of SOP's in the tool box? or maybe just a rough checklist for each separate install?

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