image of how to hire lawn care employees

Your lawn care business is growing, and you need to hire new employees fast. But, deciding that it’s time to hire and actually getting the process started are two very different things.

It’s easy enough to see that you should hire a new employee when your workload becomes too heavy, but that’s not the only reason to consider bringing in a new team member.

Bringing on more staff can help you scale your business, offer more services, cover more clientele, or bring more order to your organization.

When to hire lawn care employees

Adam Sylvester, owner of Charlottesville Lawn Care explains it perfectly:

“Did you know when you started your business that you wanted to grow? Do you want to be able to go on vacation without anyone noticing because the business keeps running smoothly without you? If so, then you never want to be the bottleneck.”

“In light of that, you should force yourself to replace yourself in the field much earlier than it feels comfortable. Business owners tend to wait too long because of the impact it has on their personal income (employees cut into profits).”

“But, long term it’s worth it if you want to build a business that doesn’t rely on you for regular operations. Stop doing manual labor and actually build the business day by day. ‘Work on the business instead of in the business.’ You simply can’t do that when you’re spreading mulch.”

You should consider bringing on new employees:

  • Before your busy season starts. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

This can cause a lot of problems for both you and your clients such as delays, rushed jobs, and overworked employees.

  • If you’re looking to transition out of fieldwork.

As Adam Sylvester says, “Stop doing manual labor and actually build the business day by day. Work on the business instead of in the business. You simply can’t do that when you’re spreading mulch.”

Your replacement could end up being one seasoned employee, two juniors, or a remote administrative assistant—whatever you think will work best to take on the work you were doing.

  • When you have a job that calls for a specific skillset.

Reach out to professionals who can do the work you can’t do. Consider bringing them in on a one-time or seasonal basis as a subcontractor. That way, your client is happy, you keep a client, you also grow your service offering, and you build your professional network.

For more information, skip to the subcontractor and employee section of this article.

  • If you need to start bringing in office staff to scale your business.

Handling all the paperwork from quotes, business expenses, payments, and resumes is going to become a big part of your business. That may be one aspect of your lawn care business that you gladly hand off.

Administrative assistants and receptionists can help to book jobs, handle customer service issues, organize paperwork, take calls, complete accounting, and even balance your books.

Learn how David Mulcahy, owner of ohDeer – South Shore grew 1800% in 5 years with the help of outsourced administrative assistants.

Hiring lawn care employees vs subcontractors: Different types of employees

One thing that can hold you back from hiring is not knowing the difference between employees and subcontractors.

If your high season is booming but your low season is relatively quiet, you might not want to hire full-time employees.

Let’s cover the basics below.

Is it better to hire a subcontractor or an employee for your business? We share the pros and cons of both here.

Lawn care employees

Employees work for you full-time or part-time. Depending on where you live, some employees are entitled to receive health benefits, and vacation and sick pay. Plus, you cover the cost of their materials, office space, and anything else they require to do their job.

Bear in mind that you can hire full-time or part-time employees for seasonal work.

Check out Edward’s tip on hiring seasonal work below.

Lawn care subcontractors

Subcontractors work for themselves and are paid per job. They are typically not eligible to receive health benefits, sick leave, or vacation time.

They usually pay for their own materials, but in a lawn care business may be provided with larger tools like mowers on a rental basis.

Subcontractors make the most sense when hiring lawn care field workers for specific jobs, or work you wouldn’t normally do, such as pruning, regular maintenance, or snow removal.

That way, you gain an occasional day to do a project that you might otherwise be forced to turn away. It’s all about figuring out the best mix of low profit margin and consistent work versus higher margin and one off project work.

What’s the real difference between subcontractors and employees? All your questions answered here.

7 Quick steps to hire lawn care employees

To hire lawn care employees for your business, you’ll need to:

  1. Write out an employee handbook that outlines your expectations of employees while they are on the job. Have this ready before you start interviewing and hiring staff, to ensure everyone is on the same page. See below for more details.
  2. Create a job description and title (for example, if you need a receptionist, what will their main responsibilities be?).
  3. Post a job ad online (like on Indeed), in a newspaper, on lawn care job boards, and/or on social media (like through Facebook Jobs).
  4. Don’t forget to ask current employees or subcontractors if they know anyone who might be interested in and good for the position.
  5. Keep track of the top candidates using a spreadsheet. Take notes during the interview and when you call references later down the line so that you can easily refer to different candidates as you consider them.
  6. Interview your favourite applicants. Ask meaningful questions. Don’t forget that they are interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them.
  7. Check references and get background checks for employees who pass the interview.
  8. Offer the best candidate a position with your company using an offer letter.

Our experts’ top 6 tips for hiring:

1. Hire the right talent for seasonal work and treat them well

I hire mostly summer university students. They worked really well with my service window: we would start in May and they’d be done school in April, and they’d go back to school in September.

It’s the perfect labor market because they’re young, fit, and want to be outside. We had a couple older staff who would start a bit earlier and end in October, too.

Image of edward Ramsden, lawn care professional

Because we worked with summer students, I knew we could get 3-4 years of work with them. But, we would make it really clear to them how they could stay on board with us. I would level with them a lot.

Sometimes I’d say, “hey I get it, you want vacation time, you want to go to music festivals… no problem. Just let me know a month in advance and we can figure it out.”

You need to make it clear that if they do a good job, they like the job, and if I like them, they would be able to come back for years and never have to worry about a summer job again. I would offer them a raise for the next summer if they came back.

––Edward Ramsden, Owner of Enviromasters

2. Have an employee handbook ready for your new hires

When you hire an employee, have some sort of document or employee handbook.

It should clearly state what your company policies are as far as the way they dress, what time they arrive, any benefits they may receive, and a chain of command. Everyone should be on the same page communication-wise.

Content Marketing in Field Services - Monetize your know-how by giving it away

Each employee should know what the expectations are, what the benefits for meeting those expectations are, and what the consequences for failing to meet those expectations are.

Make sure the employee has read and signed that document and kept it on file. This can also help you if you ever have to fire an employee if they somehow failed to meet the requirements that were laid out.

––Jason Creel, Owner of Alabama Lawn Pros

3. Consider sign-on bonuses

I pay a sign-on bonus for every new employee we hire. The sign-on bonus is paid in three increments—a portion at 30 days, at 60 days, and at 90 days. The signing bonus has given my company an edge in finding workers that will stay.

We started looking at what it cost us for our turnover, what it cost us to recruit, how many interviews we were doing, the orientation process, going through the manual, giving guys new uniforms and never getting the uniforms back.

Kory Ballard for Jobber

We started saying, “would we pay $500 for a great employee tomorrow?” We decided we would. They’ve got to make it to the 90-day period, and they can’t have any write-ups.

––Kory Ballard, founder and owner of Perficut Site Management and Ballard Inc.

4. Show your employees that they can make a difference in your company

A lot of keeping my employees happy was about input. I designed a process of how to get the most jobs done in a day, and then I would ask them: “if you could change the schedule, how would you change it?”

Taking their suggestions to heart means a lot to them. Maybe they thought of something that you haven’t thought of, for example. I think that it doesn’t matter what job you work at, what you truly want is input into what they’re doing.

Everyone wants the ability to offer suggestions, and I don’t think that changes, even if you’re at a summer job or mowing lawns!

––Edward Ramsden, Owner of Enviromasters

5. Hire someone with at least a little bit of experience

In my experience, I’ve found that it’s better just to hire somebody with experience in the lawn care business.

I’ve had success stories where I’ve brought somebody in who I felt like had the character I was looking for and the work ethic I was looking for, and was able to train them.

But for the most part, I need somebody who already knows what they’re doing, at least to some degree, and is used to the pace and the work level that comes with working in the lawn care industry. I haven’t had success by bringing people in with little to no experience.

––Jason Creel, Owner of Alabama Lawn Pros

6. Use employee referrals to your advantage

Referrals from existing employees is a winning recruitment method that has helped my company attract and retain some of its best workers. Our referral program pays $300 to any employee that refers someone who stays with the company for at least 90 days.

We found that our number one recruiting is our people inside our company. Because those guys hang out with guys that do the same thing—whether it’s construction, landscape, or snow removal. And I think it also comes from trying to create an atmosphere where they want their friends to work for a company where there’s opportunity and they’re treated well.

––Kory Ballard, founder and owner of Perficut Site Management and Ballard Inc.

What to do after you hire a lawn care employee

After hiring a lawn care employee, you will need to get them set up to work for you. Here’s how:

  • Get them set up with payroll and accounting for pay, taxes, health benefits, etc.
  • Have an office space or meeting point ready for their first day
  • Gather their uniform basics, like a company branded t-shirt and baseball hat
  • Organize your company vehicle, materials, software, or other necessary supplies so they can start off on the right foot
  • Onboard them with your HR policies and employee handbook so everyone is on the same page
  • Cover your quality standard and customer service protocols with them so they understand your workflow
  • Set them up with Jobber so that you can schedule lawn care jobs and start dispatching once training is complete

Interested in a more efficient way to schedule your employees?

Try Jobber for free and see how scheduling and dispatching can work for your lawn care business

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