Lawn maintenance is a service business that counts labor as its single largest expense. Within this large expense lies an untapped resource: the workforce. Although field personnel are often underestimated and underutilized in terms of their capabilities, empowering field personnel makes perfect sense.
Why? Because a lawn maintenance company that does $100,000 per month in sales probably spends at least $50,000 of that on its workforce, meaning crew chiefs and their crews. This is a significant amount of money that merits the same attention in terms of training and development that is offered to managers and sales staff. Furthermore, it makes good business sense for companies to utilize their crews to better assist management and the overall business in general.
Here is something you and your crew members can start doing right now: Make sure you are well-equipped and prepared to do your work. Your golden rule is to help make money for the company you work for. This will translate into a gainful opportunity for you in the long run. Keep it simple: Be smart, keep learning, and be consistent, responsible and reliable.
How To Create Superstar Laborers
As the crew chief, you can play a role in helping your workers become more valuable to the company. Below are some basic requirements of being a standout laborer that you should help hold your crew members accountable for.
Come to work looking like a professional—clean clothes and work boots, keeping oneself groomed and clean.
Be pleasant with customers and offer a smile and greeting.
Have a positive, ‘can do” attitude. Work in a clean, organized manner. Be responsible and show up on time. Comply with company policies.
Become “landscape industry certified” since an employee becomes more of an asset when he or she has knowledge. (Make sure your boss and/or the owner of the company knows you have employees who want to become certified.)
Make sure the employee can read and write well enough to communicate with company managers and customers.
Learn weed and pest controls.
Know how to use all hand tools associated with the trade, and always keep them maintained and properly stored.
Know how to use all necessary tools.
Understand what specific workmanship characteristics are important to the company. For example, if the company prides itself in the lawns it maintains, know how to mow straight lines.
Know how to operate and maintain small engine equipment necessary in your trade.
Always wear appropriate safety attire required by the industry and company.
Always watch for and anticipate hazards. Comply with all local and state laws relating to the use of chemicals commonly used in your trade.
How To Become a Superstar Crew Chief
Getting the most out of your crew members is only part of your job as crew chief. In order to become a great crew leader, you must make yourself valuable to the company and know what activities you provide that translate into value for customers.
In addition to the requirements set forth for your laborers, you as the crew leader should do the following:
Attain a license that allows you to apply and handle chemicals used in your trade. Most companies will pay for this type of training, testing and ongoing education.
Stay current with trends in irrigation. Take courses and keep up with the new products. Most vendors offer free information pamphlets, forums or training courses as a means to familiarize their customers with their products.
Get certified in CPR and first aid.
Learn weed and pest identification.
Understand low-voltage lighting.
Know your company’s landscape maintenance guidelines.
Understand the contractual obligations for projects under your control.
Know how to provide great customer service.
Learn how to use a wire multi-tester and wire tracer so that you can fix broken irrigation controller wires.
Know how to repair broken irrigation lines. Know how to fix irrigation valves.
Be able to program a variety of irrigation controllers.
Have a valid and current driver’s license with an insurable driving record.
People Management Skills
Be able to provide direction to your crews.
Know how to plan and organize work for your crews.
Be able to develop and train a good and productive crew.
Know how to develop highly motivated and effective crews.
Know the proper way to discipline crew members for justifiable reasons.
Know how to delegate work and gain the respect of your co-workers.
Always look out for and anticipate hazards, and also report them.
Make sure that those you work for practice good safe methods of operation.
Jon Ewing has over 30 years experience in the Green Industry. He was the founder of Landtrends Inc., a multi-state landscape construction and maintenance firm based in San Diego, and was also the co-founder of Miramar Wholesale Nurseries. Visit jonewingconsultingservices.com or call (858) 229-9893.