Goodbye summer vacation, hello stress.
Yes, being a contractor has a lot of benefits, but also brings a lot of uncertainty. Even the weather is unpredictable.
Recently we were inspired by a Turf magazine study taking a look at contractor stress, so we asked around and wanted to take a look of our own at the main stressors our contractor customers face, and the primary ways to combat them before they hit their breaking point.
The top stressors for contractors, and how to beat them.
1. Ability to Attract and Retain Employees
The contracting business is a labor-driven field, and it is difficult to find employees willing to put in the hard work. Plus, even if you do find employees, there is no telling how long the employees will decide to stay with the company, and churn happens.
Sam Adams, a landscaping salesman at Reinders who works with several local contractors, confirms that his contractors’ biggest struggle is retaining employees. “Most landscape contractors aren’t even able to take the summer vacations they usually take because of the labor shortage,” Adams said.
How to beat the stress of employee turnover: Make your company an attractive place to work. What sets your company apart from other companies? One idea might be to offer educational training, whether it be through skilled trade programs or on-the-job training. This “extra” attracts potential employees because it shows that your company cares about their career development.
If you are looking for online training, look no further! Check out Reinders Online Training Portal. Reinders’ contractor training portal provides you access to the industry’s best knowledge on every aspect of operating a contracting business. Courses and educational content can be accessed through the computer or tablet 24/7.
Pro-tip → Make your employees more productive by registering them individually in the Reinders Online Contractor Training Portal.
Patrick McKinley, another landscaping salesman at Reinders weighed in on the issue. McKinley, who works with several landscapers as well, says creating incentives for employees helps retain employees.
Some examples include a referral program for finding a new employee, supplying clothing, especially for winter work, or supplying key employees with company vehicles.
McKinley explains one creative incentive from a customer:
“A contractor places $800 on a table during his spring start up meeting, the amount he typically spends on replacement of lost tools. If the crew loses a tool during the season, the replacement cost is taken out of the $800. At the end of the season, the remaining money is split between the crew and each employee takes home some cash.”
Makes sense. Why not incentivize the crews to take care of the equipment and in return maybe make a little extra cash?
2. Acquiring New Customers
You aren’t going to need to retain employees as much if you aren’t acquiring new customers. Acquiring new customers and making more profits will always be near the top of the list.
How to beat the stress of acquiring new customers:
- Customer confidence is key. To build that confidence, face-to-face interaction is vital. Consider adding local events and/or trade shows to your schedule to meet new faces firsthand.
- If you are in the early stages of acquiring a customer, make the time to go visit them personally to show that you are willing to be invested. Make it known that you are interested in creating a relationship with them, not just gaining sales.
- Utilize social media. Many potential clients can be found online – whether it be Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. These are platforms that local contractors can use to build brand awareness and educate clients on all the services you offer, promotions you are running, and so on.
3. Having inefficient operations
Being in the contractor business, your work speaks volumes – and quality work likely means more jobs. But what about all the other duties that come with a business, like scheduling? Organizing of jobs? Hiring? All those side duties add to the stress of a contractor’s already stressful job! If you are a contractor that feels disorganized, contemplate the following tips.
How to beat the stress of wearing too many hats:
- Consult a consultant. Consider hiring someone that can handle the business side of things. This employee (or employees) could be responsible for those duties so you can worry more about your work and crew. If that isn’t something that interests you, you can also reach out to a landscaping consultant, who can give you advice for what you’re stressing about. Sometimes all you need is an outside perspective!
- Use mobile technology. Crews are meant to be out in the field, so why not keep them out there? Think of giving your crew mobile devices that let allow you to connect to time sheets, work orders, weekly schedules, etc. Not only would this save time, but keep your employees organized and up-to-date on everything.
4. Lack of free time
Since the typical day your industry is not a 9-5, one of your biggest stressors roots from not having enough free time. Stress can stem from not spending enough time with your family and friends, and/or not having enough time for a social life or activities you enjoy, like working out. After a while, you can start to feel distant and like your life revolves only around your job as a contractor. Sooner or later, you are going to burn out.
“Landscape contractors feel like they can’t afford to take any time off,” Adams said.
How to beat the stress of never taking a day off:
- Just do it. Force yourself to take designated time off, whether it be to spend time with your family or go to a ball game with a few of your friends. Block off your calendar. You have to realize that you deserve time to “get away from it all” and take your mind off work.
- Another simple solution is to pick a few days a week to go to the gym, for a run, etc. Exercise is one of the best ways to unwind after a stressful day on the job!
- Another idea? Delegate your tasks. Let go of the reins a little bit and ask for help from your employees. Get that free time you deserve!
5. Low profit margins
No matter what industry you are in, money is always a stressful topic. In the contractor world, there are always companies driving down margins – this is nothing new to the industry. But if you don’t know your true costs, it could result in your company losing money to low-ballers. Sad!
How to overcome the stress of a crowded marketplace:
- Obviously, you want to be competitive as possible. But what you really want to focus on is what makes your company stand out from other companies in the area. Do you specialize in something? A consumer wants to know what makes you different, so if you know how to properly apply chemicals or if your team knows a lot about soil or water features, USE THAT! Anything that sets you apart from other local contractors should be used to your advantage.
- Specialization is key. If you don’t have a specialization, who says you can’t have one? Take a few hours each week to educate your employees on something new!
So, how can I be “less stressed”?
Don’t let that stress get you down! Here are some more ideas to help you decompress.
- Implement weekly check-in meetings with employees to make sure everyone is on the same page and up to speed on company happenings.
- Check out the Calm App – it’s a free app that has tons of free meditation and relaxing sessions. It really does help! Take 10 minutes a day for some peace and quiet.
- Designate at least one day a week to do something fun – whether it be date night, grabbing drinks with some friends, or seeing a movie with your family. Make time, you deserve it.
- Check out Harvard Business Review tips of the day – each day this website provides management tips. Learn something new every day!
- Why not try adding a water feature like the Aquascape Stacked Slate Urn to your yard or patio? Seriously. Water features are known to make you feel calmer and relaxed after a long day on the job.
- Take care of yourself – eat healthy (as healthy as you can on the job!) and make sure to get enough sleep at night!
- All in all, it is most important to maintain a professional and positive work environment! By creating a positive environment, you and your employees will do a better job.