How a lawn care business owner scaled up his use of employees.

There is a tendency with sole lawn care business owner operators to work themselves until they can’t work any more. They want to be in total control of every minute detail so they feel they can’t relinquish any control to staff. This can cause a lot of problems as the business naturally tries to grow. In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, we get some insights from one entrepreneur who learned the power of harnessing employees and how he did it.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I am the owner/operator of a landscaping business that was started close to 10 years ago now. I started out as a kid running around my neighborhood jumping fences with a weed wacker. Now I have a small full time crew and am working on staring up another crew truck so I can spend more time on the office work. I also do snow removal. This is my 2nd year plowing and hopefully we will have a better year than last. Last year I only had to plow once and shovel like 3 times.

I used to do all the work by myself. Then some days I would have my sister’s boy friend work to help me out on like a Saturday because I was working 7 days a week and didn’t have time for anything. So he would come in every once and a while to make some money and it would really clean up my schedule. You don’t realize how fast work gets done with another hand until you have one. When you have someone helping you, you don’t want to go back to working by yourself.

Once I got around 50 lawn care customers, I needed help so I knew a friend that was looking for work and had him come on and my sister’s boyfriend was laid off a lot due to the economy so I had those two guys and myself.

I think the jump from 1-2 workers is necessary when you have too many customers and don’t have the time to do the work. It’s nice when you have one guy on the weed wacker, you’re on the walk behind, and another guy filling in the gaps then jumping on the blower to finish the job in no time. Plus you need to make the money when it’s there. People won’t always wait for you to finally get around to doing the job so if you are busy, consider grabbing someone for a couple of weeks and if you get slow, let them go.

As for pay incentives, I pay per day, $100.00/day 8-10 hours usually closer to 8, so those guys make like $12.00/hr.

I think that when I started out I was able to handle 35-40 customers maybe. I mean I am such a perfectionist, it takes me a lot of time to do things right. When I have employees, I run around and check up. If the result is not good, we’ll fix it. So that’s like 8 customers a day, 5 days a week not including the fertilizing, weeding, pruning… so on.

  • With 1 Employee you can probably handle 65-70 customers
  • With 2 Employee you can probably handle 100 easily.

It can be a tough choice to make. I cover a lot of different sized lawns from tiny row homes to 1-2 acres. Some are every 7 days, some 10, some 14 and so on. So I feel that you must make the jump to more employees when you are backed up. Keep your customers happy and don’t make them wait too long. When I worked alone it would take me like 2 weeks to get to other jobs like mulch or whatever done. I feel that as long as you are busy, bring on whoever you can, you will get more jobs done, make more money, and have happier customer.

During spring clean-ups, mulching, or whatever, have more guys around. Then when you get slow during the dry period, lay someone off until the fall clean-ups pick up when you’re busy again. There will always be someone around who wants to work, the questions is will you have someone who you can trust to work or are they just around to work when your there, then when you go somewhere else, do they take a nap behind your back? I noticed that more work gets done when you’re not alone, mainly because you’re not as tired. So I say as long as you can afford it, hire out, this also gives you more time to catch up on paper work.”

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