Like everyone else in the industry, Mark Borst, owner of Borst Landscape & Design in Allendale, New Jersey, says he has struggled with finding labor. But he also says he’s found a solution that has helped. While he still posts ads in the local Spanish newspaper and on Craig’s List as he always has, Borst says the number one solution has been offering a finder’s fee to his existing employees if they bring in someone new. He says to any other business owner who is struggling with finding more labor — you haven’t kissed enough frogs yet.
The idea to involve his existing employees in finding labor was born out of frustration with potential hires not responding to ads, Borst says. He thought there had to be a better way. At first, he began asking employees if they knew friends or family who were interested but Borst says he didn’t get a huge response. Then, about five years ago, he began to offer a finder’s fee and Borst says it has made a big difference.
Of course, it’s a bit of a gamble. That’s because Borst offers a payout right off the bat — with no guarantee that the help will stick around. But he says it’s been a risk worth taking.
“We do a two-fold payout with the finder’s fee,” Borst says. “We’ll give the first reward on the person’s first day. If they stay for three months, the referring employee then gets a second reward.”
Borst says he initially tried the incentive by only offering a reward if the employee stayed but it just wasn’t as compelling. Now the two-fold payout is getting a lot more response.
“Of course, we’ve had people that didn’t stay — but a lot of them do so it ends up being worth the risk,” Borst adds.
Borst says it’s also important to avoid becoming complacent. He says that you can never assume people will stick around forever. That’s why he is continually hiring for all positions and will often have a “bullpen” that is ready to go.
While he interviews and hires often, Borst is also quick to let someone go if there’s a problem. That’s something he says a lot of business owners struggle to do since labor is so hard to find. But he says that’s one risk that’s not worth taking.
“We get rid of people immediately if it’s not working,” he says. “I know business owners like to give people a chance and it’s also hard to let someone go when labor is hard to come by but an unmotivated worker can be like a cancer to your company. It’s best to lose that one employee than to let them affect others. If you let a problem go, you could ultimately wind up losing a bunch of employees instead of just that one.”
Read more: Taking it a Step at a Time
Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them.