Many of you liked the article we posted last week about a landscaper who stood on the street corner with a cardboard sign to bring in employees. But what came of his efforts? Here’s the full story:
Lance Forsee started Colonial Lawn & Garden in Yakima, Washington, in 1985, and the company offers weed and insect control, irrigation systems, aeration, landscaping and lawn maintenance services.
Although he has an established business, he still has a hard time finding employees. “There’s been a shift from blue collar, physical work to the computer age,” he says.
He tried the traditional route but never had much success. “We’ve typically used classified ads in the newspaper and held job fairs, but we only got a handful of applications from those,” Forsee says. “They were really only bringing in people who weren’t working, and we wanted to attract people to our industry who wouldn’t have considered it before. We were starting to get desperate.”
So when he needed to fill six positions for his business, he came up with an out-of-the box (a cardboard box, to be more exact) idea.
“Here in our local community, we have panhandlers with signs that say things like ‘Will work for food,’ and ‘Every dollar helps,’” Forsee says. “And here we are struggling to be fully staffed.”
To take the reverse of this idea, he pulled a box out of the garage, and one of his staff members wrote this on it with a Sharpie: “Desperate business owner will give $ + benefits to outstanding workers! Every employee helps! God bless.” He later added the company’s name to the sign.
“First, I tried it outside of our office, and I stood out there with a three-piece suit on. Getting out there behind the sign, I felt like a panhandler, with people not making eye contact with me. It was humbling,” says Forsee, who later moved to other streets. While not everyone looked his way, he definitely caught a lot of people’s attention. “It struck a chord with them.”
And it wasn’t long before the local radio and TV stations picked up his story. “By the time I got back in, people were streaming in. People would come up to me – some even brought resumes.”
Within a couple of days, Forsee received more than 200 job applications.
His business is now fully staffed, averaging 31 employees, thanks to his radical idea.
But don’t expect Forsee to stop with the sign.
“I might try it again, but it becomes clique if you do it too much,” he says. “I’m trying to think of other creative ways to advertise not just for employees, but our services, as well.”