Photo courtesy of Elkhorn Lawn Care

We all know that great owners can’t build a great business alone. To create a well-oiled, thriving and successful organization, you will need to understand how to attract, retain and reward your team members. I will walk you through all the stages of building your team, and share what I’ve learned growing my company.

Step 1: Evaluate & Plan

This step is the most important. It helped with the success of my company. Before you even decide to hire, you must do this.

Write down everything you do on a typical workday, in and outside of work. Where do you spend your time? Take note of all the tasks that have taken your time away from building your business. Your workday may involve the following: mowing, fertilizing, building retaining walls, sprinkler repairs, billing, payroll, marketing, maintaining equipment, data entry, bookkeeping, etc.

Now that you know where you spend your time, can you hire or pass along the work to someone else? For example, do you spend 75% of your workday billing out invoices and doing paperwork?

Can you hire someone to take over these tasks from you and pay them $40,000? If so, with the extra time you open up, focus on building your business. Make phone calls, meet potential customers and reach out to existing customers. Not only can you move on to more critical tasks, but team members will also be able to help with other office duties on their downtime and bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to the table. I guarantee that you will pay for that team member’s salary in no time.

Now it is time to define the new positions. Your new team members need to know what their daily duties will entail. This will ensure that both you and your team understand their role and your expectations. Performance reviews are easy to do when job requirements are known.

Now, calculate and write down the desired compensation plan based on position. There are plenty of local and state resources to find comparable pay scales for the position you are looking to fill. Or, simply search other companies’ open positions in your industry for reference.

Elkhorn Lawn Care CEO James Manske says in order to retain good employees and keep the business growing, his team meets weekly to brainstorm new ideas.
Photo courtesy of Elkhorn Lawn Care

Step 2: Avenues for Hiring

There are many websites and avenues which offer help when seeking new team members. These sites are an excellent source for specific positions and very difficult for others. Ensure you include relevant keywords for the job, such as:

  • “Minimum __ years of experience.”
  • “Valid driver’s license in the state of ___.”
  • “Must be able to work in ___ weather conditions.”

These are just a few of the many examples that will help you narrow down your ideal team member. Always research all applicants on these sites. Look at the work history timeline. Have they changed jobs or their careers frequently? Call their references and past employers. Look for any grammar issues in their resume.

Implementing an employee referral program has been one of my company’s ultimate advantages for bringing on new team members. By offering a referral bonus to existing employees, I have numerous individuals acting as head-hunters! Once the referred person is hired and begins work, I compensate the employee that brought in the new team member with a monthly bonus.

The monthly bonus typically stays around $200-300 with a max of five months. The referral bonus after the five months is between $1,000-$1,5000 per referral. It is a great way to grow your organization and have current team members earn extra money at the same time.

Step 3: Onboarding Process

You’ve selected the right person for your company, now what?

There are several key items that you need to have in your onboarding process. Consult with your attorney based on your business needs. This quick list is an example of what should be in your new hire packet:

  • Employee Contact Form - Name, address, cell number, emergency contact, etc.
  • I9 Form - Works in part with E-Verify to ensure work eligibility
  • W2 - Collect data for payroll and tax needs
  • Team Member Handbook

The handbook is the bread and butter of information to provide to new hires. It should lay out the critical details about your business. This outline should be general and not include specific contract information for employees. Each page needs to be initialed, ensuring your new team member has read and fully understands your company’s policies. Some examples of what should be in your employee handbook may include:

  • Mission statement, vision and core values
  • Hours of operation for all staff members, including observed holidays
  • Payroll procedures, including clock in/out requirements
  • Dress code and appearance of all employees
  • Sexual harassment/Relationships statement
  • Safety procedures
  • Drug and alcohol procedures
  • General conduct on and off the jobsite
  • Use of company resources and equipment
  • Driving expectations

One thing you may also want to consider are contracts for salary positions. Employee contracts are typically for salaried team members or those that have foreman/management positions. These contracts should have detailed lists of the employee required responsibilities and day-to-day tasks.

Include a detailed description of their rate of pay and observed holidays. The yearly amount of sick days, PTO, vacation time they will have and also their sales commissions, if applicable. If you offer any health coverage or retirement programs, give specific details of what the company will provide. Remember, these contracts are to be signed by both the employee and the employer.

Retention and growth.

Within our company, we are very keen on improving our skills. There are many things we do to keep our management’s skills sharpened and continually growing. I have broken down what some of our team schedules tend to look like:

On a weekly basis, we perform sales meetings to discuss new promos, new leads, what works and where we need improvement.

Our management team also reads books throughout the year. We have an assigned chapter for the week. On Fridays, we get together and discuss what we liked or disliked, what we can implement and any ideas that can relate to our industry.

“Implementing an employee referral program has been on of my company’s ultimate advantages for brining in new team members.” James Manske, CEO of Elkhorn Lawn Care

These books are typically self-help, sales and customer service-related books. Throughout the year, some of our team cannot attend or did not have the chance to read, but we still meet. The biggest component is consistency. Include as many people as you would like to better yourselves and everyone’s futures.

Quarterly, our management and office staff go over what services to focus on selling and promoting for the next quarter. We discuss advertising ideas we have for upcoming services and ideas on how to grow specific divisions. It is an excellent opportunity to brainstorm ideas on creating better processes and find avenues to increase sales before seasonal services begin.

During this time, we also perform a S.W.O.T. analysis. This stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. We write down our current thoughts and company details next to each letter on a whiteboard.

The goal is to move all weaknesses and threats into the strengths and opportunities columns for the next quarter.

Lastly, after each year, we pull together all the management team and heads of departments. We do a thorough review of our company Profit & Loss statement. It helps us to compare where we stand year over year for all sales and expenses.

We give praise to the divisions that have extraordinary growth and encouragement to the divisions that did not do as well. We brainstorm on how to be more efficient and economical in raising our bottom line for the next year.

These ideas are just a glimpse of some of the tools and methods I currently use to grow my company and team to greatness. Your company needs a team of winners to be successful. You need to come up with ways to find and keep those winners happy.

I encourage you to break out of your normal traditions and do something that may seem odd or monotonous to grow your business. By treating your company like a process-driven machine, I guarantee you there will be no limit to your success.

The author is owner/CEO of Elkhorn Lawn Care in Elkhorn, Nebraska.