How working with friends can turn into a mess.

When you get your lawn care business started, many times you have no idea what you are doing because this business world is new to you. Since you have a limited working knowledge of how to run your business, you may look to your friends for help and support. That is all fine and well but you have to be careful where you draw the line between having a friend’s support and having an employee. Here is a great example from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum on how situations can get muddy and difficult pretty quickly.

One new lawn care business owner wrote “I just recently started my lawn care business and I’m ready to find work but I have a question. I have decided that I can’t do this all on my own and need help. My really good friend has offered to help me. We got together and talked it out have come up with a plan. I’m going to pay him per job until work picks up. He is really excited to help me get this business off the ground. He asked me if he could have some business cards to pass out with his name on them. I’m okay with that but then it got me thinking.

I plan on having uniforms like t-shirts with my company logo and my trailer will also have my logo. Now what if he finds business on the side and doesn’t tell me about it? If I never document it and he happens to damage something or someone, won’t I be liable? He will be wearing my logo and have his name attached to my business. Maybe I’m just paranoid but the more I think about this, it seems like it is going to be a mess. Will this help actually be more of a hindrance than it is worth?”

What you are talking about doing sounds sounds very messy. Sure when a new business owner gets started, they tend to make a lot of mistakes. It only takes one accident though to turn this plan into a huge mess that should have been avoided in the first place.

If your friend is going to help you, that is great but you really need to figure out if he is going to be an employee or a sub-contractor. The I.R.S. has some strict definitions on what constitutes an employee and what constitutes a sub-contractor. From what you described, this friend is going to be driving around, using your equipment and handing out your business cards with his name on it. All of these points would lead the average person to think he is acting as an employee. If you decide to go any further with this, you had better talk to an attorney and get their legal advise.

He responded “that is exactly what I did. I just got back from discussing this with a friend of mine who has a law degree. He said if something bad were to happen, I could be the one who would be taking the blame.

He also said if I value the friendship to keep things separate. If a rouge employee damages property, the land owners is going to go after whoever LOOKS like they have the money to pay for the damages. That person would be me, the business owner. I can see it now, I would be in court, and the property owner would be asked if he knew this rogue employee was working on the side and was not sent by my company. The property owner would then say, he had no idea. He simply called my number and this person is who we sent. In the end it would be a big mess and I would look bad.

Botton line he said, if my friend wants to do work on the side, I need to tell him he needs to go off on his own and part ways, otherwise he needs to act as an employee and not do any side work. After thinking this over, I now agree 100%. I’m going to have a talk with my friend and tell him I am not going any further with these plans. I now see it will be best to do the work on my own for now and hire an employee later as needed.”

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