When your crew shows up at a job site, you want to make a great impression from the moment they set foot on the property to the moment they drive away. But even the most seasoned crew won’t look that way in cutoff shorts and ragged T-shirts. Uniforms can help crews look like professionals, plus they’re great advertising for your company.
“By definition uniform means it’s the same, right?” says Lance Forsee, president at Colonial Lawn & Garden. “So we like to build teamwork and professionalism any way we can and it’s just one more way to set us apart from the sea of competition out there.”
The lawn care, maintenance and tree care company based in Yakima, Washington, budgets $5,000 a year for its employees’ uniforms, which range from 25 to 35 during the season.
Forsee says uniforms help promote not only the professionalism of his company, but the industry as a whole. Back when Colonial was first starting out in 1985, Forsee says there were only a couple of landscaping companies with uniforms, making his company stand out.
Over the years, the industry matured and now most companies are using some sort of dress code.
Mark Borst, president at Borst Landscape & Design in Allendale, New Jersey, uses a uniform company to provide shirts, pants and cleaning services for his 65 field employees. The company used to provide apparel in house, starting with shirts and sweatshirts and then adding pants, but it got to be too much work.
“Internally, I think it gives us a sense of team. We’re all on the same team; we’re all wearing the same uniforms.” Lance Forsee, president, Colonial Lawn & Garden
Now, Borst has an outside company handle it and the employee picks up the $6 weekly charge, with the company handling administrative fees. He estimates that the total annual cost for uniforms is $12,000 per year. He says it has worked out well, especially since the company is no longer paying for uniforms.
“I know that the employees liked, when we went over to the uniform company, that they didn’t have to wash their own uniforms,” he says. “They looked at that as a benefit.”
GreenScapes Landscape in Columbus, Ohio, also started out with shirts and then added pants to the uniform along with cleaning services. President Bill Gerhardt says too many of his guys were wearing sweatpants or jeans with holes. “I was surprised at how cheap uniforms are,” he says. “It’s pretty inexpensive per person and I think their wives prefer it because the guys come home with all of that dirt on their uniforms and it’s going in with the family clothes.”
Forsee used to use a rental company, but opted to buy and maintain uniforms at Colonial since it’s cheaper and the company has more control over the process. “And we don’t have a contract that we have to be concerned about,” he says.
Choosing the uniforms.
Uniforms not only need to look professional, they need to be functional, durable and comfortable so that crews can do their best work. Companies use their logos and colors, of course, but there are other factors to take into consideration like durability and breathability for the hot summer months.
All three companies take their employees’ feedback into consideration. “We have the guys test the uniforms, take a look at the shirts, so we’re trying to provide something that will breathe a little, something that’s going to keep them cooler and then instead of a polyester type shirt we try to do some kind of a cotton shirt,” Borst says. “It’s something that will breathe at least.”
Borst also lets employees choose what kinds of accessories they want, like knit hats or baseball caps. Foremen at GreenScapes wear dark green collared shirts while the rest of the crew wears a lighter green T-shirt. That makes it easy for everyone, including the customer, to identify who’s in charge.
Colonial has used several colors over the years, starting off with green shirts and hats. The current uniforms are built around blue button-down shirts, with the company adding charcoal pants later on. “The blue was a nice, professional-looking color. It didn’t have to be green just because we’re in the green industry,” Forsee says.
Lawn care or spray division workers wear long sleeved shirts, while maintenance crews wear short sleeves, unless they’re pruning. “But they’re the same style and form of uniform so we’re really consistent looking,” Forsee says.
Borst also opted for blue, and although the company color is navy, the field shirts are a little lighter to keep crews cool in the sun.
Getting everyone on board.
And while uniforms are great for increased visibility and marketing, there are benefits for the employees too. “Internally, I think it gives us a sense of team. We’re all on the same team; we’re all wearing the same uniforms,” Forsee says.
Gerhardt says it also helps set the standard for employees right from the start. “You come to work clean and neat and ready to go,” he says, adding that it also helps with company procedure. Employees know they have to be equipped with boots, safety glasses, uniforms and any other personal protective gear.
There are occasions when an employee will wear the wrong hat, but in general Gerhardt says there haven’t been many issues.
“I always tell them, ‘Look, you’re on my dime and you could be on a jobsite where you’re on the news or a photographer comes up to ask you a question.’ We do a lot of public work and I want the GreenScapes logo on there for marketing reasons.”
But if an employee does show up without the proper attire, GreenScapes will sell him or her a new hat or shirt right on the spot.L&L