How to motivate a slacker lawn care employee.

A good lawn care employee is hard to find. There is no doubt about that. But what should you do when you have a lawn care employee who seems to be seriously lacking motivation to get the work done and get it done right? That is the problem one business owner ran into when he shared with us his situation on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

He wrote “The weeks have only been getting more difficult as the season goes on. I can’t find a break! It seems like it rains when I’m ahead just to put me behind. Now we’ve had two days of rain & I’m STILL two days behind. I have been really pushing trying to catch up on my accounts but nothing has really gotten done. I’m tired of trying to get ahead after the rain. I’m exhausted and irritated.

What’s most maddening is that my employee did absolutely nothing today. On one lawn he completed 50% of a backyard. Then he drove the mower across the lawn ruining the stripes when he was finished. On another lawn he completed 80% of a backyard. This made me have to trim EXTRA as he sat in the truck which had to be running for the A/C.

And to top it all off, he drove the mower all over my last customer’s lawn without the blades running for 45 minutes!

Not only is this very frustrating, to watch all this fall apart, but I have to fix his mistakes and I can’t get anything done! I’m always running back & forth because he needs this or that. I’ll hear him yell ‘the lawn mower stopped & I can’t start it.’ His arms are too damn short and get tired from pulling on the starter. More often than not, I find him sitting in the truck being useless. I just don’t know what to do and I am at my wits end with all of this.”

A second lawn care business owner suggested “first off, you need to hire someone who can actually do the job. Pay them on commission. If you make $30 off of the lawn, pay them $10, pay the company $10 and pay yourself $10.

Let them know they are not paid by the hour. Find someone that can work the equipment. Don’t just hire the first neighborhood kid who shows up. They don’t know how to work the equipment and will not show the property the attention it needs. They don’t need to be on your most prized company asset, YOUR MOWER. There is too much damage that can be done with this equipment. Scalping lawns, debris being thrown, hitting a car or house, damage sprinklers etc… etc… etc…

Pick up a new helper. Take him to a test yard, maybe your or their home. Give them a weedeater and put them to work. You need to be the one mowing. Let them do the grunt work. As they show you they can handle the work, give them more responsibility.

Trust me, if you find someone capable of doing the work right, pay them fairly and the job will get done. I run two mowers on my one account. It includes 88 properties. I paid my helper $880. That us $10 per yard with each being .25 acre lots. The yards look great, my helper is happy, we did all 88 yards in two days, and I still put over $1500 in my pocket.

You get what you pay for, and people act their age.”

A third lawn care business owner said “you have a few salary payment options. Pay based on a commission per lawn completed, being one of them, rather than salary. But along with the payment option you choose another very important element is explaining your expectations. You need to let your employee know of your expectations and those of each customer. As many of us know, it can take up to three services of a new client to really get the process down as every lawn is different. Trimming at some can be a nightmare etc.

I have actually had an employee that did the same thing on a few lawns early on until I whipped him into shape by threatening him that he would have to pay me for each yard he didn’t complete. It took about two weeks to train him to where he didn’t take an edger through someone’s perfect lawn, or destroy someones irrigation. I do take out of pay an employees salary for their screw ups.

In this line of business, you need to always consider that your helper has no working knowledge of any lawn care skills even if they say they do. You are the only employee of your business that is NOT replaceable. Everyone else can be replaced, except for you.

Come rain or shine, I am at the customer’s yard on time. Even if I leave a note that will probably be full of running ink on the door that says ‘due to weather conditions I didn’t get to service your property today.’ You are never really behind, unless you have 13 lawns a day, 7 days a week and you are missing a day. Then you are behind. Otherwise, plan to work an extra day. So when it happens, you aren’t going to be depressed about it.

If you continue on your current path, you will burn yourself out my friend. Get an employee that is worth a damn and train them. If they can’t do the job and are not helping you, don’t be afraid to fire them and move on to the next. Once you find someone worthy, pay them well and keep them for as long as you can.”

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