Labor, hiring and good customer service

LandCare in the News

LandCare’s very own Bill Horn sits down with Lawn&Landscape and the NALP for their “Ask the Experts” Q&A. Here, he lends his thoughts on hiring and customer service.

Labor, Hiring and good customer service

The employees you have and the customers you serve are crucial to the success of your business.

Q: Like many companies, we struggle to find good long-term employees. I am wondering what we can do that we haven’t already tried to get good employees in the company and then get them to stay.A: If you are going to have a successful landscape company, you must solve the problem of attracting good employees and keeping them. These days, with the problems with H-2B and with E-verify compliance, that can be a problem. Here are some of the things that have worked in my career – some of them sound counter-intuitive but I promise, if employed correctly, they work.

Pay more than the competition.

I know that sounds problematic if profit margins are tight. However, I have always offered more in salary, benefits and training and education, and that has paid off because employee turnover is expensive and that helps to cut those costs. Well-trained, tenured employees generate faster production rates, which can help give you an advantage when bidding work.

Offer employees a seat at the table.

Have them participate in operational decisions and don’t just pay lip-service, but really do it. For instance, don’t have your operations manager make purchasing decisions in a vacuum. Let the people who are going to use the mowers and equipment make the decisions.

Take them to GIE+EXPO and let them see and test drive the options. They are the ones using it after all. They will be happier and they will have ownership in the running of the company.

Create a culture of respect.

Word gets around if your company is a good place to work and creating a culture of respect is the key to that. Respect the employees, don’t talk badly about employees, learn about their families and their lives, do little things that can mean a lot. Giving employees gift cards to take the family out to dinner – little things like that mean a lot and will keep your employees loyal to the company.

Q: I am always telling our employees to treat the customers well and connect with them, but there never seems to be enough time. There are always fires to put out, so how do we make that part of the natural work process?

A: We all want happy clients and the beginning of that is regular contact. And I don’t mean sending a text or email. I mean regular personal face-to-face contact.

We have a monthly matrix at our office and we have to make personal connections with a certain number of clients each month. Stop in, tour the landscape with them, talk about issues, but most important – get to know them on a personal level. If you can’t catch them in the office, leave your business card so they know you stopped by. It shows them that you care.

People like to work with people they like and trust, and that is why it is so important to take time to make friends with your clients – even on the smallest contracts. When prospecting for new clients, don’t assume that just because the landscape looks good that the client is happy.

Recently I got a new client because I stopped in on a business just at the time the CEO was frustrated with the landscape. I have to say that it looked great, but there was one small debris pile by his parking spot and their current company wasn’t responsive in taking care of it.

So even though it looked great overall, they probably didn’t realize that that one small thing was enough to irritate the CEO enough to change companies. If they had a strong personal relationship with the client and were following up regularly, they wouldn’t have lost the business.

Of course, treats for the clients help as well. Gift cards for a dinner out, hand-written thank you notes, support for their charities of choice – those things are icing on the cake of a great working relationship.

To quote the poet Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you have said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Strive to make all your clients feel good about you and the company you represent.

Bill Horn, NALP Trailblazer, Branch Manager, LandCare

Ask the Experts is brought to you in partnership with NALP, the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Questions are fielded through NALP’s Trailblazers, the industry’s leading company mentoring program. For more questions visit

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