The following article was orginally published by PLANET NEWS INFOSCAPES in August 2008.

Finding good people is the industrys number one challenge, says Tony Bass, former landscape contractor, and founder and owner of Super Lawn Trucks and Tony Bass Consulting. Many companies, mine included, have relied heavily on the H-2B guest worker program to build a legal workforce. Its a terrific program, but when the returning workers exemption was not renewed this year, our industry was caught between a rock and a hard place.

Bass contends that the industry has become complacent about recruiting thanks in large part to the effectiveness of the guest worker program. With the program in doubt, business owners need to re-hone their recruiting tools to be able to survive. Says Bass, Business owners have to be resourceful and use a multitude of recruiting strategies. They also have to watch their budget and find ways to recruit that wont break the bank.

This industry veteran offers several cost-effective tips for competing in the ever-shrinking labor market. Here are just a few of them:

  • Leverage your rolling office. When retailers need help, they simply display a help wanted sign in front of their store. That doesnt work for landscape contractors, many of whom work out of locations with little drive-by traffic. What they have, though, are trucks on the road all day long. Bass advises contractors to invest in a magnetic sign that conveys a help-wanted, ca-reer-opportunity message. This is an inexpensive way to recruit to a cross-section of the labor market.
  • Make it easy. Wendys and McDonalds restaurants have job applications right on site. Keep a supply of job applications right in the truck, says Bass. When individuals inquire about a job, they can also fill out an application.
  • Put your Web site to work. Include a job application on your Web site. Adds Bass, It will be there 24/7 year-round.
  • Use your entire business card. When Bass conducts seminars and participates in other speaking engagements, he asks attendees if they carry business cards. On average, I would say that 45 percent of those in attendance dont carry a business card, Bass relates. Of the 55 percent who have cards, only 10 percent of them use the real estate on the back of the card. His tip? Use the back of the business card for recruiting  for job descriptions, detailing career opportunities, and so forth. Cards, he notes, can be pre-printed. Printed labels are also effective and inexpensive.
  • Timing is everything. Bass sold his landscape contracting company in 2006. While in business, he says he could get a 20 to 30 percent better response rate on help-wanted newspaper ads when running them in the fall, more specifically, during Thanksgiving week. Friends and family are returning home for the holidays, and many are looking for work, Bass explains. The timing couldnt be better for another reason, he adds. Most landscape contractors advertise for employees in the spring and not the fall, which means that your fall ad will stand out.

Labor challenge

Bass, who recently published a book entitled 50 Ways to Find, Recruit, Hire, and Retain Superstar Employees, cites a Department of Labor statistic to put the industrys labor challenge in perspective. According to government figures, there are 822 different jobs in America. In terms of average entry-level salaries, our industry ranks number 753 on the list. That means there are only 70 jobs in this country that pay less than we do. We have to be good at recruiting to survive.

He concludes, The only way to win the battle for employees is to take advantage of a multitude of strategies all year long. Ad-vertise online, have an ongoing recruiting presence at two- and four-year schools, participate in job fairs, and become resourceful using cost-effective recruiting strategies.

You can contact Tony Bass at (478) 822-9706 or e-mail him at

You can view the orignal article by clicking HERE: