What's your biggest pain point? Email
Colorado Green NOW
Wednesday, November 11, 2015 04:00 AM


Frustrated man“This has been the hardest year of my professional life. I almost gave up this year – it was all about people.” That is what one landscape company owner replied in response to ALCC’s Fast Friday question asked in early October about what company’s biggest pain points were this season. Another wrote, “It was the worst year of my life.”

The majority of Fast Friday poll respondents said finding labor and related issues has been number 1 this year. In fact, 82% of respondents placed labor highest on their pain list and the few who made no mention of labor-related issues at all only totaled less than 20%.

What are people saying?
For a few, finding and keeping quality employees this season was almost unbearable. For the rest of respondents, finding and keeping labor was also their top issue. For most, employee issues revolved around the quality of available candidates and employees who were ultimately hired. Lack of mature employees, work ethic and knowing the basics of why they need to get to work on time were common complaints. Also related to the general labor picture is the interplay between rising labor costs and related overhead issues like health and other required insurance. Some noted that unplanned increases in wages combined with stagnant pricing cut into their margins significantly. 

What customers are willing to pay for services aggravates the problem. Said one employer, “I would like to pay my staff more while not feeling the pinch on profitability. If we could get paid more for what we do, we could pass it along to staff.” 

Lack of training
One respondent listed training and quality control as his No. 1 pain point. The need for widespread training was another common thread among companies. Employees with a basic work ethic and who also have the skills to do the work are in high demand. Being able to weed out the low producing employees and replace them with skilled workers was high on the collective wish list. 

Compliance issues
Many respondents said they were confused and sometimes overwhelmed trying to keep up with DOT and other compliance that relates to workers. Examples cited included dealing with the Affordable Care Act and HR issues such as recent changes concerning salaried versus hourly workers. 

Customer demands
In response to the question, “If you could snap your fingers to solve one problem in your company, what would you wish for?” one owner replied, “Pleasant, patient customers willing to pay for quality services without complaining!”

Many reported that customer relationships already at risk due to weather delays and backlogs were compounded by being short staffed and having so many employees who were largely unskilled. Respondents told us, “Customers want everything faster, faster, faster,” and “Customers are complaining about the difficulty of getting services and the wait time.” Another wrote, “The notion is landscape work should be cheap because it’s a non-technical industry. They want responsive, detail-oriented service without paying the price associated with it.”

Bottom line
This poll validates and pulls together the random pieces of information that we often hear anecdotally in the wind: the landscape industry is hurting for quality, trained and skilled people. It’s the universal problem. And that problem is compounded and intensified by the price customers will pay for services, heightened customer expectations/demands, lack of training, i.e., a skilled workforce, reduced margins and a variety of compliance issues.

Read more in this issue of Colorado Green NOW:
Colorado Outdoor Water Regulation Guide & app

H-2B legislation introduced in Congress
Career pathways program update
ALCC members win big in Louisville

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