Photos courtesy of the Greenskeeper

While out running errands the other week, I noticed a lawn care company that was mowing at a commercial property. The employees looked like they had chosen their oldest and most-worn clothing for work that morning.

Since they were driving unmarked trucks, I immediately figured they were a new start-up without resources and probably without proper insurance. Of course, this may not have been true, but this is what naturally comes to minds of customers when employees are dressed in this manner.

Some companies will make some effort regarding uniforms by requiring employees to wear t-shirts that have the company logo on them. This is better than nothing, but it could be so much better.

Many years ago, my husband and I attended a landscape industry conference. There, we heard a man speak on the benefits of requiring uniforms. It was so long ago that I don’t even remember the reasons he gave, but his speech was compelling enough to make us decide to give it a try for our next season.

After a bit of research, we created our company uniforms consisting of a dark green polo shirt and khaki pants or shorts.

Over 25 years later, we are still using the same company uniforms. Here are some of the benefits we have experienced from making this change.

1. Company uniforms make your business stand out.

What is going to make your company emerge as the top choice among the others out there? Imagine yourself as a customer that is looking for someone to mow your lawn. Let’s say you meet with two different companies. The first man comes to your door wearing a dirty, stained t-shirt and jeans. The second man comes wearing a clean polo and khaki pants. If their prices are the same, which are you going to choose? When you and your employees wear uniforms, you immediately look different and better than your competition.

2. Company uniforms look professional.

Uniforms say that we are serious about what we do. We are not some fly-by-night company that doesn’t care about how we present ourselves.

3. Company uniforms provide free marketing.

Shirts that have a clear, appealing logo on them give us an opportunity to market our businesses wherever our employees go during the day.

4. Company uniforms make being a boss an easier job.

There are no worries about inappropriate or crude sayings on t-shirts. There is no concern that someone will come to work in ripped jeans or sneakers. With a uniform requirement, these kinds of situations are lessened considerably.

Implementation.

Now, you may be wondering how to go about getting them into place. The first thing you should do is decide on your company’s specific uniform requirement. It can be something eye-catching or it can be subtle. But your selection should reflect your company’s colors in some way.

After you have decided on colors, you can contact a few local printers and start gathering prices. Be sure to look at both printing and embroidery options. Get some sample shirts. If you’re not sure where to start, ask around for referrals of good printers. Once you have a company in place, you will need to decide if you will pay to provide the uniforms, pay part of the cost or make the employees pay the full cost.

Our company policy is to provide five free shirts to newcomers and then three shirts each season after that, if needed. We also provide a $25 credit towards a sweatshirt in the fall. The company we use currently has worked with us to create an online store we open twice a year. Together, we have come up with items our employees can buy that are considered appropriate for a company uniform, including both short and long-sleeved polo shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, a raincoat and several different types of hats.

Once you have worked with the printer and have decided how much, if any, of the cost you will pass on to your employees, it is time to do some research on the rest of the uniform. Whether it be jeans or the dressier khaki or navy twill pants, come up with something that your employees can find easily and cheaply on their own. There are also uniform companies available that will provide and even wash these items for a small, weekly charge.

While you are working on creating a uniform, it’s a good time to make some requirements for footwear. The wrong shoes can not only cause stress to feet and knees, but can also be downright unsafe. It is wise to require proper footwear for all of your employees.

After all of these decisions are made, it is time to make up a section that includes these details in your company policy. If you don’t have a company policy, then this is a great time to put one together.

After this is completed, call a company meeting to explain the new changes and requirements to your employees.

Before you get into the new policy, it is important that you get your employees to buy into your idea. This may be a bit difficult in this casual culture.

To help with this, we recommend that you help offset the costs of the new uniforms, especially as you get started. Don’t just push the cost for this change entirely onto them. That will be sure to breed resentment.

Find shirts made from soft, breathable cotton or wicking sports fabric so that it is something they actually enjoy wearing. Then, provide a way for them to easily find and purchase whatever you choose at a good price or present the uniform company option. The key is to make the change look appealing to them.

Be excited as you share this new change. A monotone, unenthusiastic presentation is sure to fall flat. You may want to give them a copy of the policy to read along with you. Be sure to give them a deadline to have their purchases of pants and shoes completed by and then have them place their orders for shirts and sweatshirts at the meeting. Add and total up the orders and give to your printing company.

While the process may sound a bit complicated, it really is pretty straight forward. Once you have taken these steps, you will find yourself and your company well on the way to providing a professional appearance that is a cut above the majority of companies in your area. L&L

The author is vice president of The Greenskeeper, a landscape firm based in Pennsylvania.