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Larry's Lawns
01-25-2008, 08:22 AM
What I find most on mind during the offseason is growth and my 1st hire. I can keep guessing wildly, or ask the forum and maybe get some experienced opinions.

Anybody have good advice on how to find the right guy and then keep him??
In trying to look forward to this, I keep forseeing a conflict between keeping good help (if lucky enough to find) with enough consistant hours to stay, and the ineviteble 'too wet to mow' periods. *Putting myself into those shoes, I don't think I would be to excited about an 'I'll call you when I need you' income even if it has high potential to be more consistant later.

Your experiences and advice are appreciated.

Larry Puckette
Larry's Lawns
Seguin Texas

Little's
01-25-2008, 01:50 PM
I just happened to find a guy that is the hardest worker I have ever seen. I found him without even looking. I parked by a "labor Ready" agency and was walking to the business next door to it when he approached me and told me he was willing to work hard. He handed me his phone number and address. I didnt think much of it at the time since I wasnt needing help at that time. It was about 2 months later when I called him to help me.
He is 46 years old and does twice the work of a 20 year old and never complains about anything. He is ALWAYS willing to work, and has never turned down any offer to work.
He has told me several times that he will help me finish jobs without pay, just so he doesnt have to sit at home and be bored! I know it sounds too good to be true, but he has been helping me for almost 2 years now, and I am not looking forward to the day when I have to find someone else to help me. I pay him $15 to $20 an hour where I would pay most others maybe $10.
I guess I have been lucky.

F3Nelson
02-09-2008, 01:11 PM
Its my experience that employees SUCK, I dont care how well you treat them or pay them.


That is all

ABurlison
02-09-2008, 04:33 PM
I'm fortunate to have a Brother in College, he only goes until around noon or so, so he's available to help when I need him, and he likes the sporatic cash. My suggestion would be to find someone like this, either a relative or a family friend who has someone younger who just needs some sporatic cash every week.

Steve
02-09-2008, 08:17 PM
Do you feel he will help you bridge that gap between needing only part time help to a full time employee?

Can you for see at what point you would need to hire someone to help you full time?

ABurlison
02-09-2008, 08:36 PM
You know this is really a tough situation, because I'm like the rest of the guys, I wouldn't trust anyone else to operate my business but myself or my brother, so to hire someone I don't know, I would be really be skeptical, cause afterall who can perform the work better than myself. The other scenario would be hiring someone as a worker along side myself, that I train to do the job and do it well, and if I can justify the $10/ hour which is $400 per week at 40 hours a week, than I would go for it, but the labor costs really needs to justify hiring this second worker, and yeah you'll have to keep them busy or they will go elsewhere, so I could try and keep them working as many hours I could to 40 hours a week.

Steve
02-09-2008, 08:38 PM
Ultimately do you think it is better to just be a single owner operator and that's it? Sometimes calling in extra help once in a while? Is it just too much of a pain to have to hire on employees?

ABurlison
02-09-2008, 08:52 PM
Although I think we all want to become large enough to hire on crews to work for us, I've been called quite a bit lately to bid on apartment complexes and commercial properties where all they do is complain about the currect company, their crew does this and their crew does that and they point out all the things the hired help does or doesn't do, and they ask me do you provide personal service? And I do because I'm the owner/operator and I feel more and more businesses and multi unit complexes are looking for that. Not only that, but they want people who speak english, no offense to minorities, they are for the most part good workers, but if the property managers and such have problems, they should be able to communicate with the workers and not have to call the owner every time. I keep hearing about this more and more, and people are getting tired of it.

All Aspects Landscaping
02-09-2008, 09:18 PM
This is a double edge sword guys... you work solo... you are limited to how much money you can make... hire guys and become a factory that loses 25% of jobs each year right? Best thing I think to do is grow slow... find that guy.. train him right and give him a truck after 1 year... in the meantime, you have to market to get more work for next year... It takes planning to grow... You have to learn how to manage people... whether you are cutting grass or hardscaping, you need to manage your men... Put policies and procedures in place that you yourself follow... set an example... hold your men accountable for things....know whats going on upstairs... We do a friday meeting everyweek... 10 mins, pick a subject and discuss it... offer a challenge for your guys and the winner wins $50.00... Keep guys motivated... and happy...know whats going on with them, but let them know you are the boss.... dont be afraid to be honest with the guys... We have 8 full time guys last year and next year it will be 12... I know all their names, birthdays, and marital status... but when I pull up all I see is arses and elbows...I command respect.... or else they get fired...

Steve
02-09-2008, 09:23 PM
James,

Quote[/b] ]offer a challenge for your guys and the winner wins $50.00..

What kind of challenges would you recommend?

All Aspects Landscaping
02-10-2008, 02:21 AM
silly stuff that the guys love... the most lawns in a day in the least amount of hours... the longest one guy can work on one head full of trimmer line... who can do the 50 yrd dash the fastest...we try to give away $50.00 every two weeks to one of our employees somehow... just a little extra incentive to get work done... save trimmer line...whatever it takes... besides... sometimes its funny watching those my guys run a 50 yard dash... plus i dont make it easy... we set it up in heats so they really have to earn their money...lol

Steve
02-10-2008, 10:20 AM
Quote[/b] ]Best thing I think to do is grow slow... find that guy.. train him right and give him a truck after 1 year...

James,

What is your view on how or when to make that jump to the first employee?

Do you need to be solo and going at 110%, pulling your hair out of your head before you make the jump to your first employee? Or should you start off with a part time helper at first and scale up?

Is it even possible to scale up with a part time employee if the jobs aren't consistent? If you don't have enough steady work, how can you keep them around?

Is this why you need to make the jump to your first employee being a full time employee?

F3Nelson
02-11-2008, 10:41 AM
Quote[/b] (Team Gopher @ Feb. 09 2008,8:38)]Ultimately do you think it is better to just be a single owner operator and that's it? Sometimes calling in extra help once in a while? Is it just too much of a pain to have to hire on employees?
I wouldnt have another employee if they paid ME to work

Larry's Lawns
02-11-2008, 11:15 AM
interesting stuff guys.. Nelson seems to see having employees in about the same light I now do in being one. It just isn't gonna work and isn't worth the effort. ** having dealt with hiring and training a staff before, I can understand that. It can be disappointing to put that much hope and effort into somebody and not get the reward you're looking for. - believe me, I can see the value in working alone as much as anybody. But I'm getting old :~} and pushing myself through the extremes without help gets harder and harder. So is the dilemma.... I would find it interesting to hear from those who have chosen to work alone and have success doing so.

As for having a family member available for 'as needed' help, I just don't have that option. I haven't had great luck with the 'day help' either, probably only about 1/2 the time it turned out to be a benifit. I'm starting to think in terms of what social groups may be the source of finding who I need. Any thoughts?

And there are a couple more thoughts here I agree with, which is a nice change. Growing slow is right in line with my nature, and is the plan. Nice to hear others say it's the right way. and then.. the 'be the respectable boss, not the friend' and the competitions and rewards discussions have been my style in previous lives and have worked well for me. If I grow to that level, I'm sure it will work again. These were great ideas on inspiring their daily interest and keeping supply costs under control. I'm wondering if there is alot of additional data tracking envolved though** such as ** how do you validate how much trimmer line an employee used in a day and how much time in that day he spent trimming??

Steve
02-11-2008, 02:51 PM
Hi Larry,

Here is an older post (http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST&f=1&t=1419&st=&&) to a similar question that might help you too

Quote[/b] ]Thanks to Clifford from Sideline Property Management for asking the following question:

Question: At what point did you decide to take on your first employee? Was it determined by revenue, time constraint or did you set a specific profit amount that would determine time to add help?

Answer: Good question Clifford, the decision to take on employees is a big one.

I took on a part time helper in my first year and in my second year I took on a full time employee who turned out to be with me for the entire time I operated by business.

On the one hand, employees mean extra work and expenses so the inclination might be to stay small as long as possible. However, the game of landscape maintenance is one best played with two people. In other words a two person team is more effecient that one for most residential settings. So, my advice is that even if you intend to stay small, get big enough to keep you and a helper busy.

The first signal that you may need help is quite simply that you are very busy and your phone is still ringing with new work. If that is your situation then you should calculate the cost of hiring a helper.

1) Look at your profit and loss data. If you are not profiting without an employee, hiring one will not help you.

2) Add up all the monthly costs that go with hiring an employee and don't forget to included the 'hidden' costs like Workers' Compensation and matching of certain source deductions.

3) Then determine if it is feasable to take on staff based on your current revenue and profit.

It may be that you can only afford a part time helper until you build your business some more. It would also depend on how fast you are able to grow and how difficult it is too find work. You may be pleasantly surprised if you take on a helper that you get enough work to keep you both busy.

For more practical information and useful tips see chapter 8 of my book which deals with how to hire, train and manage your employees.

I hope this helps Clifford. All the best with your business this year!

Larry's Lawns
02-11-2008, 07:09 PM
Thanks Steve. I printed that out for future reference. It adds some comfort to have agreement in your logic, so it's very helpful when other's experiences support the plan.

F3Nelson
02-11-2008, 07:46 PM
I know it may seem as if I am comming off as sour grapes here, but I have LOTS of experiences, way too much experience.

I was an easy guy to get along with, gave days off requested, paid them higher than industry standards at the time, paid health insurance, paid for phones, AND let them drive my truck with my gas as personal vehicles.

Untold to me, one of them was parkng the mowing trailer at their apartment. One morning at 10:00am, not 7:00am, I get a call that all three mowers and the trailer were stolen.

My point is, is that was just some of the problems I had with them.

I told them if they showed up at 8:00am(start time) Id pay one dollar more per hour for that day, never happened.

It wasnt just those employees, I had issues with EVERY empoyee. I will build up a good sized company again, but it will only be me!


Rant over

Steve
02-11-2008, 10:27 PM
Hi F3Nelson,

I do appreciate your insight! It is helpful to know the down side of things too.

Can you tell us other problems you ran into with employees? That way those reading this post will have a heads up and be aware to watch for these problems.

F3Nelson
02-12-2008, 03:31 PM
Quote[/b] (Team Gopher @ Feb. 11 2008,10:27)]Hi F3Nelson,

I do appreciate your insight! It is helpful to know the down side of things too.

Can you tell us other problems you ran into with employees? That way those reading this post will have a heads up and be aware to watch for these problems.
I pretty much ran the gammit, the whole spectrum, the whole if it can go wrong it will, and at the worst time.

Actually my brother was my first employee, and he was a very good one. He actually learned the business very well, and ended up becoming the lead salesperson instead of being a grunt.

So I think to myself, cool, I'll hire my other brother(not Darrell)and see how that goes. It didnt work at all. I found out once he dropped off the guys on his crew to mow a property, and he decided to take his jet ski to get fixed while the crew members were working!

He was a pretty bad employee but I kept him on anyway(another rule, dont do business with family) untill finally one day I asked him if he had mowed an important property and he said yes.

Well, for some reason I checked on it, and it had NOT been done, I had to let him go. (again dont do business with family) It took him a while to get over it, but we are all good now.

I can agree with the guys that say, if you have ONE really, and I mean really good employee, you could get more done. But then your employee will want more money, more time off, sick days......green M/M's everyday before you start......you get the point.

Ive been small and Ive been big in the Lawn business, and I'd never go BIG again!!!! Just me, my truck and my mower and LOTS of cash!

Steve
02-12-2008, 03:44 PM
Would even a single employee that was with you at all times be helpful or no?

F3Nelson
02-12-2008, 08:56 PM
Yes, becuase you should be able to do twice as much with two guys as you can with one, and you are not "splitting" the money with your worker.

I dont think that 3 man crews are very effective though, thats just being lazy, thats what I did, I just didnt wanna trim, so I hired another guy to do it.

Steve
02-12-2008, 09:27 PM
So then possibly if a lawn care business owner wants to do more work but still maintain control over what is going on, would you advise just hiring an extra helper and then keep it at that?

All Aspects Landscaping
02-12-2008, 10:19 PM
Guys... if your not going to hire anybody, you should go be somebodys right hand man... sure growing pains are tuff, but nobody said developing your own business would be easy... In alot of my post you'll notice how I stress that you need to be a businessman (or woman) first and a grass cutter/ landscaper second. You need to learn how to read peoples strengths and weaknesses... Fortunately, I have a knack for that. I look a this, I just hired two new foreman this year which puts me out of the field now. My wife and I talked about it all winter... is it worth $13-$15 dollars and hour to have me out of the field... doing estimates, marketing, following up with customers... absolutely. You cant always look at that $10.00 employee as a liability... hes out to make you money...its up to you to make that happen... and remember, a happy employee is a good employee

F3Nelson
02-13-2008, 12:30 AM
Quote[/b] (All Aspects Landscaping @ Feb. 12 2008,10:19)]Guys... if your not going to hire anybody, you should go be somebodys right hand man... sure growing pains are tuff, but nobody said developing your own business would be easy... In alot of my post you'll notice how I stress that you need to be a businessman (or woman) first and a grass cutter/ landscaper second. You need to learn how to read peoples strengths and weaknesses... Fortunately, I have a knack for that. I look a this, I just hired two new foreman this year which puts me out of the field now. My wife and I talked about it all winter... is it worth $13-$15 dollars and hour to have me out of the field... doing estimates, marketing, following up with customers... absolutely. You cant always look at that $10.00 employee as a liability... hes out to make you money...its up to you to make that happen... and remember, a happy employee is a good employee
You wanna be someone's right hand man, do the same job and make 12 bucks an hour instead of what you should make......LOL


You should run your business instead of it running you......couldnt agree more!


A 10 dollar an hour employee that is out to make you money...............ROFLMFAO, yeah, I bet he's dreaming of climbing that corporate ladder........

I see you have had more luck with employees than I, grats, but you wont ever see anyone but me on my properties this year.

F3Nelson
02-13-2008, 12:35 AM
Quote[/b] (Team Gopher @ Feb. 12 2008,9:27)]So then possibly if a lawn care business owner wants to do more work but still maintain control over what is going on, would you advise just hiring an extra helper and then keep it at that?
Yes, but thats just me.


Ive had employee headaches, and to me they are not worth it...

All Aspects Landscaping
02-13-2008, 12:41 AM
there always room for advancement... the more i make the more my guys make