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Departments - Editor's Insight

Santa isn’t going to deliver quality employees for Christmas. You have to go find them yourself.

December 5, 2012
Chuck Bowen
Chuck Bowen

Ask 10 landscape contractors what their biggest problem is and 11 of them will tell you it’s labor. Ask those same 10 guys what they’re doing to help fill the labor pipeline with smart, talented people to hire, and you get what feels like 100 blank stares.

Turf and landscape programs across the country are under threat from budget cuts and dropping enrollment. Santa isn’t going to deliver quality employees for Christmas. You have to go find them yourself.

Here are four key points to drive home to potential employees.

You do more than dig ditches. The landscape industry provides legitimate careers to thousands of people. With the right mix of talent, ambition and (in many cases) tireless work ethic, a young person can develop and move up the ladder.

You make good money.
The average owner makes $66,000 a year, according to our latest Benchmarking Your Business Report. That’s higher than the median household income. Foremen, account managers and designers all pull down between $30,000 and $40,000 to start. That won’t help you rub elbows with the 1%, but it’s enough to put food on the table and raise a family.

You help people. I don’t usually recommend this, but put down the magazine you’re reading and go to our website. Search good works. Go ahead. I’ll wait. We’ve published dozens of stories about landscapers who have pitched in to help their employees, families of veterans and communities through hard times and natural disasters.

You improve the environment. Landscapers are on the front lines of some of the most pressing environmental questions facing us today. Name another profession that every day helps positively impact the world through water management, erosion control, carbon sequestration and heat mitigation.

Bottom line is this: Landscapers have a real, tangible impact on the world. Take just the companies on our Top 100 list. In 2011, they grossed $6.8 billion and employed more than 62,000 people. That doesn’t count the thousands more families they’ve supported, or the impact they’ve had on the communities where they work.

So, this winter, call up your local vocational school, high school counselor or FFA adviser. Ask to speak to the group about what a great career a company like yours can provide. Offer to give students and their parents a tour of your shop. Tell them about the benefits and opportunities that are available to their kids if they choose to become a green industry professional.

If you want good people, you have to go out and find them. Landscapers have a great story to tell, but nobody’s going to tell it for you.


– Chuck Bowen