I was recently speaking with a new acquaintance at a dinner party who just filed bankruptcy because the landscaping business she and her husband owned had failed. When I inquired as to what troubles they’d encountered, she said their number one issue was finding good employees.


In a business like landscaping, finding and keeping qualified, committed employees can really be difficult. I don’t want to diminish this. Fortunately, the current job market makes it a bit easier, but generally business owners managing this type of employee will encounter two primary challenges: ATTENDANCE and PERFORMANCE. We talked a bit about what new research is uncovering about employee (and general human) motivation and I encourage you to read Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink to educate yourself. But, old school ways of motivating laborerers can still be effective. Here are some ideas:

1. Hire smart. Check references. Look for enthusiasm, interest, and job stability. We have a series of member videos on hiring well.

2. Be clear about expectations. VERY CLEAR.

3. Build a culture of responsibility. This means YOU must be responsible to your customers and employees before expecting anything of them.

4. Build a culture of respect and appreciation. My example above mentioned they had one great employee they could count on. I wondered if that employee had been told (and shown) how appreciated he was. I wondered if the business owners had asked him “where can we find more of YOU?” and offered to pay him a referral bonus if his recommendations panned out.

5. Be audaciously present. I first heard this tip from a book on parenting and you do not want your employees to feel parented. But you also cannot be absent. You must show up unannounced on jobs, you must talk to customers to see where problems are. Even if you are succeeding to the point of hiring a general manager, DO show up periodically.

6. Reward. Reward for attendance. Reward for performance. Surprise with small tokens of appreciation. Notice and reward good work. Rewards do not have to be large and they are most effective when they are not routinely planned, and thus expected.

6. ALWAYS BE RECRUITING! Just because you’ve got your team filled does not mean you stop looking for great folks to replace them when they are gone.

You can plan in advance to diminish the possibility of problems and you can manage well throughout the lifetime of your business to improve success. Be someone your employees look up to. Be kind, but firm. Be a leader!


by Steven Schlagel