Like so many others in the green industry, Fred Oskanian, owner of Terra Lawn Care Specialists in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, is about to enter busy season with less workers than he could really use. Unsurprisingly, he is challenged by finding good people. In fact, he admits, he’s challenged to find any people who are willing to put in the hard work. But Oskanian says he is taking a multi-faceted approach to finding laborers, and hopes that it will pay off as the spring season closes in.
“It’s pretty crazy how difficult it is to find laborers when you’re offering a very good wage,” Oskanian says. “I think it comes down to people just not wanting to do this type of work. It’s hard labor.”
But Oskanian is addressing these concerns head on. He has found that the best way to attract high-quality people is to have a high-quality company. So Oskanian has really focused on building his company’s image in recent years. He has purchased all new trucks; built a 13,000-square foot building including a warehouse, mechanic’s space, and offices; and has invested in new equipment. This will be the first busy season with the new building up and he’s hoping it will have a positive impact.
“I’m hoping that having built such a strong image within the community will start paying off,” Oskanian says.
Having just gotten through Winter Storm Stella in his part of the Northeast, Oskanian was pleasantly surprised that for the first time ever, laborers were calling him to inquire about snow work. If that’s any indication as to how the upcoming busy season will go, Oskanian says he will be pleasantly surprised.
But he’s not taking any chances.
For the first time, Oskanian has also signed up for the H-2B program and expects to have 10 workers arriving in mid-April. Having heard stories of workers not arriving on time or other hold-ups because of governmental red tape, Oskanian will also do a heavy push to advertise locally for laborers as he has done in the past. He hopes that the combination of these efforts will pay off with available workers.
The good news is that Oskanian says he hasn’t had a lot of trouble keeping people once he does hire them. The bulk of the challenge lies in the initial search.
“I know the value of a good employee once we’ve hired them and will do what we can to keep them,” Oskanian says. “Fortunately, we really don’t have a hard time with retention so our focus is on getting people to join our team in the first place.”
Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them.