Why lawn care employees leave to start their own company.

If you are a lawn care business owner and have employees, you are lucky to have many minds all working together to achieve a common goal. When you are trying to come up with ways to grow your business or improve your processes, you have a valuable resource right under your fingertips who’s brains you can pick for no additional cost to you. Ask them questions, have them share their insight with you. Those employers who do will benefit, those who don’t will be at a distinct disadvantage as we will see from this discussion on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

One ex-lawn care employee wrote and shared “I recently started a lawn care, landscaping, and snow removal business this past year. Before this, I had worked for very well established landscape companies around my area for years. At a certain point, I got fed up with the way I was treated and decided to try to do this on my own.

I have done just about everything landscape wise, from mowing to mulch, pruning, installing patio pavers, installing drain tile, and snow removal. The main thing I need to do now is get my name out.

All the places I worked in the past were very well established and didn’t have to do any kind of advertising, yet they still kept 24 or more guys busy early spring through late fall and everyone came in for snow removal. The most recent landscape company I worked for got their start over 20 years ago.

At first it was just the owner and one employee working. Their niche service was installing retaining walls using railroad ties. Two years later, the owner purchased a tractor and added grading and seeding to his services. The maintenance side of the company didn’t start until about 5 years ago, but built up very fast. My boss told me that getting his first tractor help jump start his growth and led him to become a very large company.

After leaving them, I tried to ask the owner what he did as far as getting lawn care maintenance customers, but he was very sour about me leaving to start a competing mowing service on my own. He wouldn’t tell me anything really. The thing that amazes me is that I didn’t want to leave his company as an employee. I actually liked it, but certain things they did began to grade on me over time and they never took a moment to ask me what was wrong and why I wanted to leave.

The company was managed very efficiently when it came to making money and servicing customers quickly. The management knew what they were doing, and talking about. The president was rarely ever around the office. He never had to be. I don’t think that anything is holding the company back from growing larger, but I do have some not so great feelings as to how the employees were treated. When it boils down to it, we were the guys out there doing all the work, yet we never received any respect. One of the main reasons I left to try this on my own was because I was sick of being treated that way. The management would constantly be putting all of the employees down, and pushing us extremely hard for faster work.

The biggest conflicts would arise when management wanted to keep pushing for faster service while still wanting to keep the same high quality finished product the company was known for. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t see you could either get fast service or high quality but you couldn’t get high quality lawn care fast. The faster you went, the more mistakes you would make. It was just inevitable.

Customer surveys would go out during the year in efforts to get a base line for how the company’s performance was. They would ask the customers to respond to all sorts of questions but never once would they survey their own employees to find out how processes could be improved. The employees were simply hired hands that were easily replaceable. The turnover rate at the lawn care companies I worked for was unreal and it led to poor service.

With all my experience, I now see how valuable skilled lawn care employees are to a landscape company. The longer you can keep them around, the better your company will function.

Now that I am a lawn care business owner, I hope to grow my company to the point where I have many employees. Through all of this I have learned a valuable lesson. Customer feedback is important but employee feedback is just as important. Don’t let your lawn care employees slip through your fingers because you failed to ask them what you can do to keep them around a little longer. Keep them for as long as you can and constantly ask how you can improve your company.”

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