If you know anyone in Jackson who’s looking for a job, do them a favor. Tell them the best employer in town is a family-owned U.S. Lawns franchise with a 15-year history of success. David and Suan Pursell purchased the Jackson territory in 1999, and have recently expanded to Vicksburg, where their son David, Jr., serves as GM. With more than 30 team members, the Pursells have an outstanding record of employee retention and customer satisfaction. (Their scores ranked in the Top 10 among all U.S. Lawns franchises.) They’ve earned the title, “Best Place to Work.”
We asked David to reveal the secret behind his high level of success. Here are some he shared for making any business a great place to work.
1. Create a culture of service, not blame. “We try to teach that it doesn’t matter who’s to blame; it’s about fixing the problem and keeping the customer happy,” Pursell says. Recently, he cited an issue involving sod and a multi-property company. It wasn’t exactly his team’s fault, he said, but they replaced the sod anyway to keep the customer happy. This creates a more positive, results-driven culture where employees work together instead of pointing fingers.
2. Pay your managers what they’re worth. “Don’t be cheap about salaries if you want the best people,” warns Pursell. This approach has obviously paid off for him, as nearly all his management staff has been with him for 5-8 years, and his son has also chosen to enter the business.
3. Offer benefits to everyone, including the crews. The Pursells are an anomaly among businesses their size: they pay 100% of every employee’s health insurance, and they’ve done so for years. This doesn’t include seasonal labor, of course, and it also doesn’t extend to family members on an employee’s policy. Still, the idea that a person’s health care premiums would be entirely covered by his/her employer is almost nonexistent these days. And with the rising cost of prescription drugs and other medical treatment, it’s definitely an incentive for crew members to keep their jobs.
4. Incentivize with competitive camaraderie. Recently, David implemented an incentive program for crew members. What’s more, they added a competitive element that’s really upped the ante. “Every month, we draw for a $300 prize,” Pursell explains. “The first month, it was a TV; this month it’s cash.” To be eligible, crew members must not miss a day of work, always be on time, and not have any accidents on the job. “Everyone’s name is written on a sheet of paper, and as people become ineligible to win, they’re crossed off the list where all their co-workers can see,” says Pursell. This program has been extremely motivating. At the end of the first month, only 13 people were left on the list, but that number had risen to 20+ by month two. Pursell says he expects that number to be even higher when this month comes to a close.
5. Give employees the best, most up-to-date equipment and facilities. Extras are great, but Pursell stresses the need to “keep the office a neat place and make sure your employees have the supplies they need.” After all, it’s frustrating when you can’t do your job because the gear isn’t up to snuff. “We purchase new mowers every 2-4 years, and weed eaters every season,” Pursell says.
6. Don’t tolerate under-performance. Maybe it goes without saying, but under-performers really do bring the entire team down. “I say, be slow to hire and quick to fire,” Pursell opines. “If someone isn’t doing their job, you shouldn’t allow them to stick around. Let them go, and you’ll find your good employees will thank you for it. Of course, you need to be sensitive to people’s personal lives before you determine they’re not a good fit. Staying close to the employee is an old U.S. Lawns adage, and it’s the best piece of advice I can give. Everyone on your staff is a person. They need you to care and listen to their needs.”