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It’s finally summer, and your busy season is getting busier. 

Long days and warm weather make summer the season for big projects, which means you may need to take on extra staff. You’re certainly not hiring high school kids to tackle pipe bursting jobs or leak detection and location work, but you very well may be among the many contractors who hire young workers for part-time or seasonal help. 

This month’s Safety First column should serve as a precautionary tale to everyone who finds themselves in that position. There are strict regulations related to the work employees under age 18 are allowed to perform, and if you don’t follow them, you could find yourself in big trouble. 

John Wilkes, the owner of a Florida tree service company, found that out the hard way when a 14-year-old employee fell from a tree and died. The company was fined $10,900 by OSHA, and Wilkes is staring down a
15-year prison term for aggravated manslaughter in what was an easily avoidable tragedy. 

Sometimes the threats to your staff are different in nature. Sometimes they come from your competition. Most of you probably have one or two key people you really count on to keep your business running smoothly. Suppose you just signed a big cleaning and inspection contract with your local municipality. What would happen if your competition swooped in and hired away your best operator? 

Keeping your best workers on staff doesn’t have to cost a lot, as we discuss in this month’s Money Manager column, but losing them will. The U.S. Department of Labor puts the average cost of training and developing a new staff member at one and a half to two times the annual salary of that individual. Of course, there’s also the work you could lose. That municipality you signed the contract with won’t be too happy if the work takes 90 days instead of the 45 you promised. 

So don’t let it happen to you. Don’t be among those bosses who shrug their shoulders and figure they just have to hire continuously. Providing simple incentives, a good work culture and strong leadership will all help you keep your staff together.

Working together

This month’s profiles feature BLD Services and Underground Eyes, two contractors that frequently work together to maximize their efficiency. BLD has spent the past six years focusing on lateral lining work, while Underground Eyes has found it profitable to concentrate on cleaning and inspection. Together, they’ve formed a symbiotic — and profitable — relationship. 

The stories are intertwined because their work is intertwined. One picks up where the other leaves off, and together they make each other stronger. Underground Eyes uses two-man crews for inspections and can do the work cheaper than BLD, which is then able to move from job to job lining the laterals without all the prep time and crew changeovers. 

As a result of the companies’ relationship, Underground Eyes has been able to narrow its scope, focusing more exclusively on a niche market it serves very well. Revenue has increased substantially since the partnership began, and approximately 50 percent of Underground Eyes’ business now comes from BLD. 

These are stories of success, and I hope they offer some perspective and can help you make your own businesses stronger. 

Enjoy this month’s issue.


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