As a business owner, you wear a lot of hats. One minute you’re figuring out your marketing plan and the next minute you’re focusing on making payroll. On top of that, you’re constantly thinking about the bigger picture: How do you grow? What hurdles do you need to jump through to realize your long-term goals?

These continuous streams of worries are what keep business owners up at night. And these are just a few of their concerns, according to a study from The Network of City Business Journals. Respondents to the survey were very or somewhat concerned about the following:

  • Cost of health insurance and benefits – 93%
  • Finding and keeping employees – 90%
  • Having enough money to retire – 86%
  • Safety and security of business – 84%
  • Having a business succession plan – 76%
  • Finding business advisers to trust – 64%

When looking inside the lawn and landscape industry, this isn’t that far off base.

I just attended the Professional Landcare Network’s Great Escape event Feb. 26-28. And in a special focus group sponsored by Caterpillar, contractors got together to discuss the business issues and labor challenges that keep them up at night.

One of the group’s biggest complaints was finding quality labor – mostly middle management positions that enable owners to delegate and get day-to-day things done while focusing on the bigger picture.

“Getting a good team in place – sometimes that’s my restriction to growing,” explains Joe Guarino, LCM Plus, Melrose, Massachusetts. “You start delegating things and then they come back to you. Part of it is letting go. My goal is to keep putting a good team together so I can do what I should be doing as an owner.”

“Finding middle management is a challenge for us,” agrees Blane Pshigoda, division manager of government projects, Davey. “It’s finding those people who can reach that next level of branch or regional management and getting those folks to take ownership and look at this as a career and not just a job.”

For Mark Dean, president of Grounds Maintenance Services in Park City, Utah, it’s about “finding those people who will be the owners of the business some day,” he says. “I have a few good people in place but it’s about finding the team they are going to need to allow them to replace me. I need more maintenance and construction managers. Not having the right people keeps me from moving on.”

Here’s some of the best advice the group offered for these labor-related concerns:

  • If you want to hire millennials today, you need to show them their career paths in order to retain them – from what they’ll be doing upon hire to six months down the road to one year later and then two years later. You have to lay it out for them because if they don’t see the vision, they won’t stick around.
  • Hire for potential and consider paying people a little more than they’re worth so they can grow into their salaries. This can result in good retention because people can clearly see their career paths.
  • Ask your current crew members for recommendations on new employees. Often, they will bring in people they trust and want to work with, not people who won’t carry their weight.
  • Leverage technology. If there’s a technology that can boost the efficiency of your team members, it becomes a no-brainer to use it.

What are your biggest labor concerns this year and how are you handling them? Would these solutions work for you? Let us know by sending a note to nwisniewski@mooserivermedia.com.