5 things to motivate hardscaping crews

Frank Gandora, president of Creative Hardscape Company, discussed top things to motivate crews to make more money on hardscaping jobs.

$74,000 – this is the money Frank Gandora, president of Creative Hardscape Company, managed to save his business by implementing a few strategies to motivate his crews in one year. According to Gandora, the jobsite is where many contractors and hardscapers lose money.

“Many dollars are lost or made on the jobsite,” he said. “That’s where it’s at. You can try to save money by calling a manufacturer to knock five cents off per square foot on a product, but your money is made out in the field.”

To profit better, he said to refocus on the jobsite and motivate crews. The following are five steps he said helped him to save money and streamline business:

  1. Write a plan. According to Gandora, about 98 percent of the people he talks to don’t have a plan for performing hardscaping jobs. However, he said this is critical to saving money on the job and in turn motivating crews. “Even if you just write a plan down on a napkin, write that down,” he said. “You need a plan that you can have in your back pocket.” This includes having a plan for what crew will do at a jobsite as well as paperwork for the homeowner where a hardscaper is performing a job. In addition, it means having a safety plan in place. Gandora recommended hosting weekly safety talks with crew members to further motivate them.
  2. Provide offsite or classroom training. Offer a few levels of training, both for the foreman and for the crew members. With the foreman, make sure he knows how to motivate people. “I would say the foreman or superintendent has the toughest job in the company,” Gandora said. “It’s all politics – you have moody crew members, men who call in sick every day and another guy who won’t clock in until 2 p.m. We’re in the people business, so spend time with the foreman to teach him how to reason with his guys and manage people.” With crew training, invest time in training them their first days on the job. He recommended having them do video training before having them out working on the equipment. Also, he said take some time to invest in an annual training day with an expert who can come on site to talk about different topics, like a manufacturer coming on to talk about their products.
  3. Follow some production tips. Boosting efficiency on jobsites by following certain production tips can also further help motivate crew members and increase revenues. According to Gandora, this might mean minimizing movement on the jobsite. “Movement doesn’t make you money on the job,” he said. “Our most productive ones are the ones where we move less.” So, he said to invest in equipment that helps to minimize movement to make things more efficient. In addition, he said to give foremen and crew members job startup procedures to help things move more smoothly. It’s also a good idea to let homeowners near where a hardscaper is doing a job know about the work that will be done. “I call this our six-pack program,” Gandora said. “The foreman passes out a letter that says to neighbors, ‘Hey, we’re in the neighborhood and will be making noise. Here’s a number to call if we piss you off.’ It’s a courteous thing, and sometimes it gets us one or two extra jobs a year.”
  4. Have a crisis action plan. Things fall apart on a jobsite sometimes. Four things that really mess a hardscaper up are weather, labor, architects and materials, Gandora said. He added that it’s wise to consider how to prepare for a people crisis, an equipment crisis, a material crisis, a safety crisis or an environmental crisis to alleviate extra stressors on the job to make things run smooth.
  5. Perform project reviews. When a job is nearing completion, Gandora concluded that foremen and crew need to perform a walk-through on the site and ask the homeowner if there’s anything else that might need done before they leave. “So, if there is a problem, you can fix it right then and there,” he said. “The foreman can also explain issues to the homeowner and then collect the check.” 
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