Lawn care employees and incentives.

Many lawn care business owners I have met on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum have found success through a lot of trial and error. Talking about what works and what doesn’t gives us all a chance to move on quickly from what isn’t working to find what is. One lawn care business owner in specific was finding things really coming together for him as he was growing and hiring new employees.

I talked to him a bit about his success to find out how he was making things work. I asked him, as you are now expanding further, have you thought of more ways to keep your employees motivated to do a good job and to help sell more services?

Have you thought of employee incentives ideas that might help this?

He responded “yes I have. I am now thinking about setting up a bonus structure, based on a crews collective production. For example, if they are hitting my targets & I check to verify that their quality of work is good, I will pay them a bonus. If they don’t they won’t be getting it. If they don’t perform at the levels they should then I’ll have to find out why or ‘who’ is causing the slower pace & fix the problem.

I plan to make the goals within reach but high enough that they need to perform at optimum levels regularly. If equipment troubles slow them down or they get a mower stuck & it slows them down then they may not hit the bonus level for that day. That’s the way it is for me now! So they can live by the same rules. If something breaks & it costs me an hour or 2 down time I don’t do very well per hour that day & it hit’s me in the pocket. So they need to help me keep the gear well maintained & inform me of any problems or unusual sounds to stay ‘on target’ or it could hit them in the pocket too.

Last year I had one full time employee working 10 hr days Mon-Thursday (if all went well) & the another worked the same hours but usually Mon-Wed. Fridays were used to either catch up if we got rained out, or something broke down, or somebody didn’t show up. If all went well then Fridays were used for trimming, pruning, & landscaping jobs.

The 2nd guy was told at the time of hire that it was seasonal work & that hours may vary a bit from week to week. I layed him off in mid October. The 1st guy was really good & I planned to work him as many hours as I could posibly justify to keep him on & hopefully make him a crew chief next year. However he ended up getting himself arrested and has since made things worse for himself. I don’t think he’ll be coming back anytime soon. So right now It’s back to just me. I can handle things during the off season alone (though I really didn’t want to). So for the last couple weeks & probably the next couple months I will be running at full speed solo. I’ll start to ramp things back up with hiring in March.

I technically hire my guys through a day labor service so they are employees of the service not mine, so I don’t need to carry unemployment insurance. I hire my guys on at my choice though. I send in their application & the company gets them on the books in about 5 minutes. I’ve never just called & gotten a ‘day labor guy’ to come work for me.”

Another lawn care business owner responded and said “Wow! I never thought of that. What’s the average charge for a day labor? What about workman’s comp? Do you have to provide it or does the day labor service provide it?”

“Worker’s comp is actually the main reason I use them. I could have been doing the payroll myself & saved money there but the workers comp is insane as an independent. On top of that, most regular payroll or employee leasing firms want a minimum of 2 employees on the books and $1000-1,500 a week in payroll!

The way I do it now is the only fesible way I found to handle keeping all my payroll legit, with the right insurances & have it be (relatively) affordable.

To pay an average laborer type employee say $8 an hour runs my around $12-$12.50/hr. I just take his # of hours x that rate & send a check. They send his paycheck, cover workerscomp, & handle the w-2’s at the end of the year. I don’t deal with any of that.”

I know all of the topics covered here can make you want to never hire any employees, but I do hope this discussion gives you some ideas on the options you have available.

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