Things do come full circle...

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by The Lighting Geek, Mar 18, 2010.

  1. The Lighting Geek

    The Lighting Geek LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 886

    There are always a few good stories mixed in with the bad ones from this economy. I remember when not that long ago, employees ruled the workplace for a lot of us (they thought they did anyway) Workers would demand a raise or they would quit. They would shop other companies and get you into a bidding war to keep them. We had more work than trained people and we were held hostage in many cases. Times has definitely changed.

    In late 2007, there once was a guy, who left me hanging with no notice for a landscape company wanting to steal him away from me. He said if I matched the offer he would stay. Mind you I pay my guys and gals very well and do my best to take care of them. I had a tremendous amount of work at the time and I decided the pain of losing a key person was better than a repeat of this episode in a couple months time. I see this as short term thinking, not a very good long term plan. I told him (and many others like him) when he left that there would be a time where the tables would turn and we would have more workers than work and we business owners would remember the people who stuck it to us when we needed them most.

    He called today looking for work. :) I laughed out loud and repeated my previous statement and hung up the phone. That totally made my day. Many of these idiots are now paying the price for their pigheadedness.

    I also found this article about workers are showing up on time:
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2010
  2. sprinkler guy

    sprinkler guy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 223

    That is gratifying to be proven right. It's the same satisfaction you get when you get that call from a homeowner you gave a bid to, but they used the other "cheaper" guy who said he can do the job just as good as you, and months after it is put in, they need you to come and fix it. The "fixing someone elses mistake" price is a whole lot more than the "I put it in the right way the first time" price.
  3. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    Alas, all true. 3 yeas ago, I remember putting an ad in the paper for temporary Christmas light guys. I start guys at 10 per hour and go to 13.50 for crew foremen. I only had about 7 folks apply for 5 positions open. not too many choices, and most of those folks knew it. but I worked with what I had, putting up with everyones problems, etc. most of them go to 11 per hour after 2 weeks of learning,showing up on time, and hard work. They work 70-80 hours per week for 6 weeks or so, then 60 hours per week for another 4 weeks. I do pay overtime, and most guys were bringing home a grand per week or more.

    I had several guys get together, hit me up for substantial raises in the middle of install season, and threatened to walk out if I did not pay them more. I too had substantial work for 3 crews, but my work was time sensitive, it had to be done now. So I paid the money, got the lights up and made the customers happy, and never forgot it.

    2008 and 2009 were completely different ballgames. over 250 folks called for 3 open positions in 2009. I had electricians, framers, painters, all pretty smart guys begging for work. I chose the best from the best, and they had no problem showing up early and staying late. I still have a couple of guys from that 2007 year that did not hold me for ransom and they make very good money as crew foremen and are happy to have the work. The guys that did hold me ransom still call and need work. They can't find jobs, and I just can't seem to find any work to help them out. what goes aound does indeed come around.
  4. GreenLight

    GreenLight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 508

    I have to chime in here just a little bit because im a firm believer in loyalty. That being said, it works both ways and sometimes I think that can get clouded amongst owners and employees alike. I have been in both positions and there are numerous frustrations with both. As an employee you always feel the owner reaps the benefits of all your hard work (especially when you are in your early to mid 20's). As an owner you always feel like you are the lifeblood by which your employees survive and should be thankful for. Employees often take for granted the unbelievable amount of stress that an owner has to deal with from paying bills, getting work, being accountable for the work you do, trusting your workforce, training them, etc..etc.. On the flipside owners in this industry generally take for granted just how tightly budgeted the most loyal of employees must be to survive off of what most are being paid.

    No knock on you, because it is the norm, but
    You start guys at $10.00 an hour and top them @ $13.50 as foreman. I think that is something most of us don't want to examine any further than we have to. You simply aren't going to get a lot of loyalty out of people who can barely afford to survive. Their options are work a regular work week of 40 hours and not be able to pay your bills or work 60-80 hours per week, pay your bills and manage to avoid spending because your job dominates every aspect of your life. As guilty as the employee who stabs the owner in the back is, the owner has certainly never complained about the unbelievably low rate for skilled labor in the field. Let's face it, for years the hispanic market has kept labor rates excruciatingly low nationally and we have reaped the benefits (ironic considering most are illegal). Now I know most will counter with "hey, I never hired anyone illegal". You didn't have to, the illegal labor was so widespread (and still is) that it kept labor rates extremely low across the board.
  5. sprinkler guy

    sprinkler guy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 223


    You hit on a subject that should probably get it's own thread. I'm going to start one and quote what you said here.

    As for what Dave pays those guys, it may be a decent wage in his part of the country. Taking home a grand a week with overtime is probably somewhere around $1400-1500 gross. I know plenty of guys who would love to do that consistently. Heck, as a business owner it seems we sometimes work 60-70 hours and take home less than that $1000, plus we have all of those aforementioned headaches.
  6. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    I have a add running now and have 5 guys lined up to come in the last two days... only one showed up each day :dizzy: an ex marine on Wed. who didn't last 2 hours.

    Today a 350 lb American Mexican who showed up almost an hour early gave it all he had and nearly had a heart attack by lunch time.

    With the economy like it is I thought I would have a much better pool of candidates to draw from but it seem everyone just canned the worthless people and now there are more of them.

    I have another 5 supposed to show up tomorrow we will see what happens.
  7. David Gretzmier

    David Gretzmier LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,645

    In northwest arkansas, the factory jobs here for gutting chickens and working at the recycling plant that makes deck boards start off at 8 bucks an hour, and they both have full staff, they are currently not hiring. In the paper today, The ads are mostly for minimum wage jobs for McDonalds and Wendy's, with a few professional ads for legal secretaries and etc. I have no clue if the wages I pay are fair, but I do know the wages I pay has went up over the years, , and the prices of my Christmas light services has went up as well.

    As far as survival, I know that rent for an apartment runs around 350-500 a month, there are still decent used cars and trucks to be had for 3 grand or less, and utilities here are probably less than most of the country. so while starting off at 40 hours per week making 400 per week may not seem like much, around here it will easily cover rent, gas, utilities, food, clothing, car insurance, and you still have money left to save or entertainment.

    During Christmas Season, the nature of the business means crews work like crazy ( 70 hours plus ) from Nov. 1- Dec 10, and then have 2 weeks of just 20 or so hours, then takedowns from Dec 26-Jan 31 are another 4-5 intense weeks of 60+ hour weeks. Most guys that work for me are single, share a house or apartment, are very frugal with money and want to work all they can before the temporary job is over. I know that many folks work for me for the 10-16 week season, save every penny they can and live off that money very cheaply for several months afterward. many would rather do that than work 35-40 hours per week at a job year round that only pays 8 bucks per hour with no chance of overtime.

    The bottom line is, I never force folks to work for me, it is always thier choice to leave. most of the time around here they cannot make more money elsewhere unless they have special skills or training in areas like welding, diesel mechanic, plumbing, or any other trade. Since some guys work for me 2, 3, 4, seasons, the money paid for the work must make sense.
  8. The Lighting Geek

    The Lighting Geek LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 886

    I used to hire the friends of workers, guys who I met along the way to a job, etc. I kept coming back to the same result: working by myself when I needed someone the most. I also realized that was an idiot for repeating the same thing and expecting a different result. So I thought about it and posted an ad on craigs list. Here is my ad:

    Entry level position

    I am looking for someone who is good with their hands, works hard, open minded, respectful, clean cut, and willing to learn a craft. A clean driving record is a must. This position will require some homework and will challenge your problem solving abilities.

    I am sick and tired of people who come late, don't show up, don't call, and who are not engaged at work. Texting friends and loved ones all day long is not working in my book. I don't want to hear reasons why people didn't do what they said they would do. Definitely NO DRUGS, DUI's, etc. If you are not clean, don't waste my time.

    I am picky about who represents my company but I take care those who get the job done. I do what I say I am going to do, when I say I am going to do it. I expect the same respect that I give everyone around me. I am one of the best employers one could hope for. The job is landscape low voltage lighting and requires some physical labor.

    Please read this ad carefully and understand I will get many responses. Write a simple cover letter and tell me about you and why this is a fit for you. I read every one. Starting pay is $10.00 per hour plus bonuses, with a future potential of $15.00-20.00 an hour.

    I received 250 responses in 2 hours. I hired the best employee I have had in long time. I was moved by the response as an example of the amount of people looking for work.
  9. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    I too start guys at 10 an hour. I have one trained guy who goes part time with me for $20 an hour and he is well worth it.

    That said I do offer performance bonuses. If we finish a job early or go the extra mile in a situation it makes me and my clients very happy. As a business owner we of course need to watch that bottom line but we also need to respect and I feel reward someone who goes above and beyond for us and our company.

    Last week we finished a small install 3 hours ahead of what I expected because my skilled helper was flawless. Being a small job there was not alot of hours in it for him (like i said he is part time and has a full time job so we are both happy) I gave him a nice bonus. It keeps him happy to work for me and his workmanship reflects that.

    Another key to keeping guys work for me is I make myself avalible to them should they have a problem or concearn.

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