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How to find and retain good laborers for the sidewalks???

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by mtnbktrek, Jan 4, 2014.

  1. mtnbktrek

    mtnbktrek Senior Member
    from NEPA
    Messages: 144

    Finding good sidewalk guys is the hardest thing to do for me. We pay at least $3 more p/hr than the competition. We don't give any of the guys a hard time about running to the store or warming up in their cars we have atvs coming around so they only have to shovel to where the atv can grab it. Oh and spreading calcium.
    We buys the guys a meal usually pizza and soda or if it's an am storm we grab breakfast sandwiches and coffee
    So I think we treat them well!
    We usually hire people we know or other employees know but They don't last.
    I tried craigslist this last storm a bunch of replies quick had to delete add within the hour.
    I hired like 5 guys but like 8 were supposed to show up which is fine.
    We usually have like 18 guys on at a time for anything over 3".
    We don't pay cash so I know that hurts us but we do get the guys a check within a week of the storm.
    Now the area we are in these guys think a FT job that pays $12/hr is a great job. And we pay a lot more than that
    So question is how do you retain these guys so I don't have to train constantly!
    Also hard time finding good operators - I think gas wells are hurting us on that one and our pay is a bit lower than competitors.
     
  2. deicepro

    deicepro PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,124

    18 guys..?
    Do you do commercial walks..?
    Have you thought about a sidewalk machine..? One of those can cut down on your time a ton.
     
  3. deicepro

    deicepro PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,124

    I found 2 good guys in the last 2 years, so good that after helping me for a year that they went on their own....
     
  4. Glenn Lawn Care

    Glenn Lawn Care Senior Member
    Messages: 551

    Pay your help well, have good equipment and they should stay. Not hiring lazy deadbeats helps also.
     
  5. WIPensFan

    WIPensFan PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,508

    Nobody will do this work anymore, not even if they are paid well. Even if they are dependable and hard workers, they will be gone for a steadier higher paying job with benefits, after 1 or 2 seasons. Like was said, it's too easy to start your own thing now, might as well make the money for yourself rather than someone else. Really the only way to do it is to pay a yearly salary with some benefits and try to keep people busy year round. Of course that kills your profit if it's done legit. There will always be room for a few larger companies to operate like this, but only a few per town, city, or village. Tough problem, good luck.
     
  6. daddy daniels'

    daddy daniels' Member
    Messages: 32

    Treat seasonal employment as just that. Don't worry about getting "good" guys or guys that want to stay, it's about bodies. Our average rate of pay in southeast Michigan is $12 to $14. We pay $18 to start, $20 after four successful runs, then $22 after eight runs that are b.s free. We are always hiring, it doesn't matter if we got 30 people on the books ready to shovel and we only need 12, we keep hiring. We call in 1.5 times the amount of shovelers we actually need, because experience tells us that 1/3 of them won't last. Personality wise, we need hardcore, punch me in the face if you dare kind of guys, and they only respect similar folk, so get fiery leaders. Go to where the tough guys roam, the construction sites. I'm not talking drywallers and plumbers, I'm talking roofers, cement/masonry guys, demo guys and smaller landscape crew members who's outfits don't do snow removal. These types of guys know how to operate in the elements, and they need seasonal employment. When you get these guys funneling through the leaders will emerge. They're the guys that the others follow even though he's not officially the "boss". Keep him around by paying him double what the other guys are making, and giving him any available work first. I'd be glad to share as much as you like on this topic, I love talking about the industry.
     
  7. daddy daniels'

    daddy daniels' Member
    Messages: 32

    Get those guys out of there own vehicles and into yours. There's no telling what they are doing in there, along with a host of other concerns.
     
  8. mtnbktrek

    mtnbktrek Senior Member
    from NEPA
    Messages: 144

    We try to keep them in ours but last storm was sooo cold we let them go in theirs
     
  9. mtnbktrek

    mtnbktrek Senior Member
    from NEPA
    Messages: 144

    Yeah 1 large commercial 2 mid siZe and 2 small we sub out 1 small one but the 1 large and 2 mids are right next to each other and we also do the roads off that connect them
     
  10. mtnbktrek

    mtnbktrek Senior Member
    from NEPA
    Messages: 144

    I think you are spot on as our rates are nearly the same I like the idea of the tiered runs.

    We tried to over hire like you but the few steady guys want the long hours and get mad when they pound out the storm quick now the large lot is hourly but mids are seasonal so I try to keep the steady guys on the $ lot.

    I think I'm gunna just put an add on craigslist and hire a crap ton of guys and see who sticks.

    You are right on the punch me in the face type. They are the best for this. Problem is our client is beyond fussy he is fanatical on removing all snow- light posts,yellow safety guard poles near truck ramps and doors, handicap poles snow has to be brushed off them all snow gets hauled out etc. it's a nice account. Those type of guys are a pita because they say it's good enough we are done and when I tell them it's not good enough they get pi$$ed.
     
  11. daddy daniels'

    daddy daniels' Member
    Messages: 32

    Give the steady guys all the work they want, don't worry about anyone else, that's where the body count comes into play. If the newer, less cared about guys don't like any aspect of the job, who cares, let them go away, there's another body waiting to take their place. The tiered higher pay rate will ease some of the concern for the steady guys also, they won't have to worry about getting every hour possible as much, since they are making a higher hourly rate. The right leader will keep those rough around the edges guys in check, tell him what you want and let him dole out the responsibility. You therefore empowered him with a sense of duty and responsibility, at which will strengthen you and his relationship. On the business end, you're paying him double what the other guys get, make him earn it.
     
  12. WIPensFan

    WIPensFan PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,508

    What happens when they find out what the leader makes...
     
  13. edgeair

    edgeair Senior Member
    Messages: 597

    Yep. Then the hiring cycle starts all over again.

    I used to worry about not being able to retain sidewalk guys, until I realized the problem was with them, not me. You can entice them all day long, but this type of worker will jump ship for the littlest of reasons or none at all.

    Basically there are 2 scenarios:

    1. You only take on jobs where you don't need to shovel (this usually affects being able to get the bigger jobs that you want so see point #2)

    2. You mass hire and hope enough stick to get the job done.
     
  14. SNOWLORD

    SNOWLORD Senior Member
    from MN
    Messages: 610

    I agree with daddy daniels on most of this, I have had a very long and tiring experience with shovelers. You definately need the rough crowd, I have found farm kids, (which I am myself) cement guys, roofers etc to be the most durable. You cant take a guy who doesnt perform well and give him a bunch of money to try to turn him into super man, you can however find a super man type who is durable and shows up and pay him very well to stick around but it takes years to find many guys like this, as there seem to be less guys around who are willing to really work anymore. One thing you can try instead of craigslist is go to your local labor ready or similar type and get to know the person in charge and once you have established a trust with that person they can usually tell you which of their workers you can rely on.
    I have had up to 30 shovelers going at one time before and like daddy daniels stated the trick is to have one reliable tough guy run with 5-10 more questionable shovelers and lean on him to get his properties done and usually the pecking order will emerge on its own. I could probably tell you 100 crazy stories about shovelers nonsense I have dealt with but it is better now then it used to be.
     
  15. daddy daniels'

    daddy daniels' Member
    Messages: 32

    Doesn't matter, if they don't like it they can hit the road. The good ones will see that wage as a challenge, and work hard to get some of the action, keeping the current leaders on their toes and fostering a new round of leaders for you. The business is winning either way.
     
  16. daddy daniels'

    daddy daniels' Member
    Messages: 32

    The hiring cycle never stopped my friend.
     
  17. edgeair

    edgeair Senior Member
    Messages: 597

    Precisely.
     
  18. SNOWLORD

    SNOWLORD Senior Member
    from MN
    Messages: 610

    One more thing. You can go to one or all of your local cement contractors in the fall and either talk with the owner about what your looking for or post something on their bulletin board I have got quite a few really good guys this way, with the owner of the cement companies help. The owner told me "I would rather have my guys helping you all winter than finding another cement contractor that has a bunch of indoor work this winter and I risk losing my guys" You may have to pay some green depending on their winter situation but like I said earlier I have got some really good guys this way.
     
  19. Flawless440

    Flawless440 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,543

    I pull from C list..

    Nightmare...
    Last storm all guys show work for 5 hour quit and want paid..

    I had to deal with this all night while i'm trying to do other lots..

    Guys never show up when their suppose to..
     
  20. WIPensFan

    WIPensFan PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,508

    Unemployment is to easy, it's hard to compete with a phone call( or online ) and trip to the mailbox. In my experiences a lot of guys work in spring, summer and fall and then take care of the kids in the winter, you can't pay them enough to overcome childcare issues. I'm glad I don't have to deal with it anymore, it's just sad what has happened to the labor market.