FOR THE PAST 20 YEARS, OUR FAMILY-OWNED COMPANY HAS APPLIED FOR OVER 40 WORKERS TO TRAVEL FROM TAMAULIPAS, MEXICO TO ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI ON TEMPORARY 9 MONTH WORK VISAS TO PERFORM LAWN CARE AND LANDSCAPING SERVICES FOR OUR CLIENTS.
Over the winter we jump through a few government hoops, pay a bunch of fees, send out renewals to our clients, plow for a few snow events, and vacation in the tropics with NALP. When spring time comes, the Mexican employees arrive and it’s off to the races! We get busy completing massive amounts of work and clients are happy. It requires minimal quality oversight because the same men have been coming each year and know our properties and training. We throw a goodbye party in November to say thank you and then the cycle repeats itself.
For 20 years this process has repeated and our company has grown and experienced huge successes serving nearly 1,000 clients. Until 2015.
BUT, 2015 WAS ALSO THE YEAR THAT WE CHANGED OUR MINDSET.
For many of you reading this, it sounds like a terrible nightmare. And it was. Believe me when I tell you that if you are using the H2B temporary work visa program, this is like cancer; it can happen to anyone. Just run a quick google search and you’ll find thousands of souls complaining about how terrible the Department of Labor and Department of Homeland Security are for slowing down the process and bankrupting small businesses all over the United States, and destroying people’s lives.
I recently ran a marathon and it was a challenge. It pushed me outside of my comfort zone. It was the most physically challenging day I have ever experienced. But, let me tell you this. Overcoming our dependency on the H2B program last year has been the mental equivalent of running a marathon at a sprinter’s speed. There were no breaks. There were no days off. It hurt. It sucked.
But, what didn’t suck was our results. I realized last year that our small Dowco team is stronger and has more will power to succeed than the United States government. I know that because here are the facts:
If you started reading this article to get 50 instant ways to recruit and hire new employees, then I’m glad you’re still reading. Because if you’re of the mindset that you can use H2B as a crutch to keep a viable business then all of those tips would be useless for you if your heart’s not in it.
THE FIRST WAY TO SURVIVE A CRISIS LIKE THIS IS THAT YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR MINDSET.
Remove yourself from all negative conversations relating to H2B problems. Avoid naysayers who tell you that a seasonal business like yours will never be able to find reliable workers who do a good job. Stop following people who tell you that the new generation of American workers are lazy and won’t show up to mow grass in the heat of the summer.
Instead, think critically, proactively and long term. Surround yourself with positive people and read books or articles that can help you right now. Focus your personal development and growth on developing a place that Americans want to work. Because here is the truth – if you’re using H2B, this is like cancer; it can happen to anyone. And when it does, it’s ugly. And the bigger you are, the uglier it gets. Can you imagine applying for 200 work visas and getting zero? That happened in Kansas City.
Relying on the government for such a vital piece of your business – the labor – is a kiss of death. You’ll see it over and over again on the news when seasonal businesses close their doors because they couldn’t figure this out and they kept waiting for a day that things would be back to the way they were.
If you want to build a scaleable business model, start changing the way you view your employee hiring, training and retention processes now.
As a turf care professional, you’ve learned that the best defense is a great offense. Want to block out opportunistic weeds in your lawn? Have a thick, lush turf. Want your lawn to be able to withstand drought, insects and disease? Overseed in the fall to keep a thick, lush turf. Apply the same strategy to your business world and entrepreneurial journey. The best defense is a good offense. Stay in control over your destiny and don’t give Uncle Sam the power to control the fate of your company.
To be completely transparent, Dowco hasn’t stopped using the H2B program completely. But we have reduced our dependency on it. We went from applying for almost 50 temporary work visas to applying for only 16 and we have 13 employed this year.
We are continually pushing our hiring, training, and employee retention strategies to the limit. I’m happy to teach anyone who is interested about some of the actual techniques that we used if you send me an email.
But I truly believe a mindset shift has to occur first. Start putting your trust and confidence into things that are in your control.
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