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picframer
10-12-2009, 05:42 AM
Steve closed his thread but I wanted to say it is 100% clear to me that we need to stay on jobsites as long as possible and I have two very recent examples.

Customer contacts me, wants some brush cleared and a small driveway put in for his camper, meet with the client, simple $1,200 job....we talk and walk around, oh look four large trees in the back leaning, I think yto myself there is another $800, so I ask, do those trees concern you that are about to fal and hopefully not on someone, he said yes, he tried to cut, then called a company but they wanted 1,500 and he thought it was too much, I said we would do it for $800 as our gear can go right into the area and chip the branches on the spot, time savings of probably two days, we get the job.

So as I am grading the small driveway, neighbour said how much to regrade my driveway, I say $200.00 to grade and roll, long story short we picked up 8 jobs all on this street, don't have to move the gear at all.

The job I mentioned where the delivery guy did damage, the initial job saw us on site over two weeks with a lot of gear, we picked up 5 more excavation jobs, another starting today, when it's all said and done it is almost $100,000 in work and we will never get it done this year.

The private gated community is another example and I posted images, that got people talking, we now have total property care for four of these communities off the same street and another 9 from people right on the main road that are not from a community.

There is far more profit staying put, transportation has always been an issue for me this summer but not anymore, there is enough work in this area to keep a good sized crew busy 6 days a week, I made arrangements with a homeowner to keep gear in his garage as he doesn't use it, in turn I will offer him free spraying, my cost is next to nothing and the security there is top drawer.

Point being, people see you once or twice at a site they just notice you, when they see you there for a period of time they take notice and wonder what is going on, it pays and pays well, try to get jobs where you can really shine at what you de and stay there as long as the client has projects and money:)

Steve
10-12-2009, 07:49 PM
Andy,

We have seen many different business viewpoints on here in the past. Some feel comfortable with point out issues on a property and offering to resolve them while others feel they don't want to be pushy and try to upsell any additional services. Some feel it is better to just do the job you have been asked to do, do it and leave.

Do you feel this is something you had gone through in the past? Is there a process here of growing where at first you are not comfortable pointing out issues, but as you get more comfortable and confident in what you do, it comes easier?

What advice do you have for the business owners who sit there and read this thinking it's too pushy to be suggesting these upsells?

picframer
10-13-2009, 04:44 AM
Andy,

We have seen many different business viewpoints on here in the past. Some feel comfortable with point out issues on a property and offering to resolve them while others feel they don't want to be pushy and try to upsell any additional services. Some feel it is better to just do the job you have been asked to do, do it and leave.

Do you feel this is something you had gone through in the past? Is there a process here of growing where at first you are not comfortable pointing out issues, but as you get more comfortable and confident in what you do, it comes easier?

What advice do you have for the business owners who sit there and read this thinking it's too pushy to be suggesting these upsells?

A few ways to look at this, I do not hard ball sell, I can't stand anyone doing it to me and I won't do it to others.

I would bet 99% of the time the homeowner doesn't even realize we offer the service for something other than why they called me, I hear this all the time, Oh you do that??? I bid and almost always get it, to me I am offering a solution to a problem, not trying to sell and get my hands deeper in the project.

My sales approach is very....hard to explain, buddy like, I befriend the homeowner quick which makes them comfortable, suggest we do things in stages, most times they want it all, some agree do this then in xx weeks come back and do this next part, works every friggin time for me.

My opinion, if you are in this business to make money, then do it, look outside the box of simply mowing and trimming, there is a pile of cash to be made and a lot of people will be happy including you, I have been in business since mid April, I had to tweak this business and did, it cost a lot of capital to get where I am however nearly everything I have bought is now paid for and that is over 300,000, meeting the customers needs, set their expectations then exceed it. If a person is afraid to sell or approach a customer with an additional offering and they want to make money, take a course to get you there.

I have never been afraid to upsell, why would we be? All the homeowner can do is say thanks but no thanks, educate them on what it is you can do if they say no, good lord it's not the end of the world, even if they say maybe later as cash is tight, fine, at least they know and they will not forget, raise you bar a little higher and make the jump, you can do it.

Andy

Steve
10-13-2009, 08:09 AM
I bet offering to do the job in stages allows you to build a rapport with the customer. They don't feel like they are committed to a high value contract if they are not liking the results.

They can basically call an end to the project at any time and maybe that control over the job, even if they don't exercise it, empowers them and makes them want you to fulfill their dreams of a perfect landscape.

picframer
10-13-2009, 03:50 PM
I bet offering to do the job in stages allows you to build a rapport with the customer. They don't feel like they are committed to a high value contract if they are not liking the results.

They can basically call an end to the project at any time and maybe that control over the job, even if they don't exercise it, empowers them and makes them want you to fulfill their dreams of a perfect landscape.

I have two thoughts, first if it's a good sized project, doing it all at once is not good for anyone, if it's done in stages the client can change their mind along the way and add or take away things, it's good for us as I don't like a crew on a site more than a week, it's too much resources, there are always excaptions.

Also is finances, if I give you a quote to do what you just listed of say $20,000, you will have sticker shock, if I say Look Steve, how about we break this up into four projects and lets both see how things go, first part will cost you $5,000 and here is what it will include, when we are done lets talk about stage 2.

It works.....at least for us.

Steve
10-13-2009, 08:13 PM
That makes sense.

I don't like a crew on a site more than a week

What is your view on why you don't like to have a crew on site for more than a week? Any thoughts as to why that time frame?

picframer
10-14-2009, 04:01 AM
That makes sense.


What is your view on why you don't like to have a crew on site for more than a week? Any thoughts as to why that time frame?

It's a long time to be at one location, in my head for some reason I like to move after a week but we will not leave any site until the job is finished and the customer smiling....It's hard to schedule work when you have jobs that go on and on, we had maybe 8 this year where we were there two weeks or more, staff also tend to get bored with the same site so I will switch some of them out after four days leaving at least 2 on the site at all times that have been there at least two days, by then they know everything that is going on, sometimes however the client takes to a crew and doesn't want me to do this so I don't, that has happened at least three times.

I have four university staff that stay in contact with three clients we did big projects for, one is in a high position with government and wants them to come to work for the government (Taxation) as part of their University work terms they must do. One owns an engineering company, we have two students that are taking engineering and I forget what the other client does, she and her husband are super people.

Steve
10-14-2009, 08:48 PM
Do you think this is another part of your business niche? That you shoot for jobs that you can judge to be week long?

It's quite fascinating. There are an unlimited amount of niches that exist out there. Some might feel, the larger the job, the better because I will be making more money, but there is a down side to it as you explained.

picframer
10-14-2009, 08:53 PM
Do you think this is another part of your business niche? That you shoot for jobs that you can judge to be week long?

It's quite fascinating. There are an unlimited amount of niches that exist out there. Some might feel, the larger the job, the better because I will be making more money, but there is a down side to it as you explained.

I think it might be more of a comfort zone I like to work in, perhaps if I find the right people that will change next year, I hope to double in size and I am pretty sure that will happen, if so then we will take on more of the longer jobs.

Being our first year it was just too hard to juggle and I had far more on my plate than I could eat most of the year, things are winding down and I am having a lot of fun as everything is very managable.

It's been a stellar year for me and I look forward to having fun in 2010, will build on mistakes and profit on what has gone well as I will repeat it just on a bigger scale.

Steve
10-15-2009, 06:21 AM
It's been a stellar year for me and I look forward to having fun in 2010, will build on mistakes

When you reflect back on the year and think of the mistakes, what stands out in your mind? Do you have advice for all of us on the issues you had to deal with that were problems that you were able to overcome?

It seems the first year of business is the biggest killer and the issues you ran into could be issues others run into but can't figure out how to get around them.

picframer
10-15-2009, 06:25 PM
When you reflect back on the year and think of the mistakes, what stands out in your mind? Do you have advice for all of us on the issues you had to deal with that were problems that you were able to overcome?

It seems the first year of business is the biggest killer and the issues you ran into could be issues others run into but can't figure out how to get around them.

Well I thought my research was sound and I had the lawn care nailed, I never intended to expand into what I have, I neglected the number one rule, what are the customers needs. You see the lawn being mowed needs were being met by law rate service providers, I am in this to make money not just mow lawns so I had to go to the customers ask what they were doing that they would rather hire someone to do, once I did that and advertised the service, everything changed.

I overlooked it takes time to show staff the ropes to get the results I and the customer want, we did get there however it was a stressful trip, now I have the staff in place so that is taken care of.

Don't buy equipment until the demand is there, I have a $12,000 ZTR I thought I would need, to be honest the X749 All Wheel Steer out performs a ZTR is every way, just my experience and I should have bought this tractor long ago.

On the excavation side the 17D I have has paid for itself, I sold myself short I should have bought at least a 35 although the 17 has done jobs where space is an issue and the 35 could not have.

Trucks, I really screwed up here, I should have bought either a 350 or a small dump truck, now I have two rangers and a F150, I just wasn't thinking.

Most companies fail due to a host of reasons, managing cash and cash flow has to be number one along with receivables, I knew this going in and it has never been an issue.

The old saying it takes money to make money is ringing loud and clear, if I didn't have access to my own capital, I would never be where I am today, in short I invested in myself and kept the company out of debt, it has pretty much paid me off.

Take the risks, I would stew over making large financial investments in commercial gear, just do it, most of this companies gear is paid for and I haven't been in business that long and it all looks new.

More research and the research has to be on going, stay ahead of the competition by looking and testing new products, this is how I built the security company and it came to me in September I should be doing this in lawn care and I have started.

Pretty much everything else I had in place and it saved my butt, I went at this in February writing software, doing research, business plan etc. all of that saved me when the flood gates opened in May when I started offering services that had nothing to do with mowing lawns.

I screwed up on storage, I could have and should have made the time to have a building built and ready, anyhow the rent isn't that bad and I have a place at Metro Self garage Storage booked, it's 24 X 20 with a 9 foot ceiling, I can fit 60% of the gear in there which is fine I have enough room at home for the rest in other buildings.

DON'T sub out, either take control and do it or pass, when there is a problem with a sub, it's your problem with a customer, I got burnt once and that was the end of it.

There are probably other things but that covers the things that come to mind.

Steve
10-15-2009, 09:18 PM
Well I thought my research was sound and I had the lawn care nailed, I never intended to expand into what I have, I neglected the number one rule, what are the customers needs. You see the lawn being mowed needs were being met by law rate service providers, I am in this to make money not just mow lawns so I had to go to the customers ask what they were doing that they would rather hire someone to do, once I did that and advertised the service, everything changed.

This is really fascinating because it makes you wonder, how much research can and should an entrepreneur do before starting a business. Is it even possible to know what you need to know, before you get started? Could you have gone out and knocked on doors and asked the home owners if they need lawn service and how much would they pay? Would they tell you? If you had done this would it have changed your plan initially?

Is this something others should be doing too before they even consider starting up?

Was does it seem with all of us, we do things on a gut level feeling. We think this or that can work and then we jump in and only then, when we are on the field and ready to play do we realize the field is not solid but in fact quick sand!

picframer
10-16-2009, 04:01 AM
This is really fascinating because it makes you wonder, how much research can and should an entrepreneur do before starting a business. Is it even possible to know what you need to know, before you get started? Could you have gone out and knocked on doors and asked the home owners if they need lawn service and how much would they pay? Would they tell you? If you had done this would it have changed your plan initially?

Is this something others should be doing too before they even consider starting up?

Was does it seem with all of us, we do things on a gut level feeling. We think this or that can work and then we jump in and only then, when we are on the field and ready to play do we realize the field is not solid but in fact quick sand!

I think my method of research was wrong or I was looking and thinking wrong, I spoke with friends about mowing their lawn, mainly the rich area of Halifax, everything was positive until I looked at the rates, my mistake was once I had the green light I went over the top on mowing equipment.

My focus should have been and now is a bedroom community, average age around 46, average home age around 14 years, 90 percent of my work is there, no traffic, all highway, no parking issues, lots of small places for staff to eat, this age group is ideal, home owner age perfect as they can afford to get things fixed. I can leave my gear in this area at safe spots, clients I consider friends, it's working perfect.

Knowing what I do now, I wasn't looking at all the angles from sitting in traffic to do city jobs to not being able to park.

What saved this company Steve is I had access to my own capital and was able to use it to take the company in a totally different direction, excavation, pressure washing, tree cutting and chipping etc. and do it fast.

Your last comment is very true and I don't have an exact answer as it's probably different for many of the readers, it took a lot of tweaking to get things rolling and then once I did it was like starting a snowball at the top of a hill then giving it a push, at one point the snowball was so big I could not manage it and had to learn to say no, we can't take on any further jobs, this really tore at me but thank god I did or I may have fallen apart.

I am going into year two with a lot of knowledge, I have learned more of what clients need and to grow next year I will take the company further into excavation, bigger equipment, bigger jobs and septic fields. As I mentioned I know a lot of developers, I told them for this year I didn't have the equipment, that was not totally true, I wanted to get the engine firing on all cylinders before I took on these big contracts.

There is a lot of work to do before you open the doors and this should all be done in the off season months so that when the season to be on the road comes, we hit the ground running, personally I will work at this Jan to March.

Advertising a service without the equipment may make some frown but for me it works, if enough prospects contact me, I get the equipment and start the jobs, doing this I have not made one mistake buying equipment, I have advertised services a few people asked about and it was a flop, didn't cost me a dime, I suppose if one was still unsure you could rent the equipment for a few jobs.

Steve
10-16-2009, 09:12 PM
my mistake was once I had the green light I went over the top on mowing equipment.

Being that a lot of start up lawn care businesses read the forum, what equipment would you suggest they get where they are not going over the top with purchases? What equipment purchases would be too much for a start up?

I have advertised services a few people asked about and it was a flop, didn't cost me a dime, I suppose if one was still unsure you could rent the equipment for a few jobs.

This is interesting because I am sure a lot of readers find themselves buying equipment first and then advertising for the service.

What services do you feel were a flop?

justin_time
10-18-2009, 08:31 PM
Don't buy equipment until the demand is there, I have a $12,000 ZTR I thought I would need, to be honest the X749 All Wheel Steer out performs a ZTR is every way, just my experience and I should have bought this tractor long ago.



Depends on the situation, if you were in my shoes, cutting grass with a tractor, you wouldn't go far.

I cut down my time in half with my ZTR since I had 5 schools to take care of

picframer
10-18-2009, 09:10 PM
Depends on the situation, if you were in my shoes, cutting grass with a tractor, you wouldn't go far.

I cut down my time in half with my ZTR since I had 5 schools to take care of

Agree to some extent but as with everything things change, an X749 Deere will cut rings around a ZTR and do everything a ZTR will do but more, in the same time plus open a lot of doors for the business owner, this is why research is key to any business, add to that it has a PTO with 24HP means roto tilling, wood chipping and a host of other abilities, a 3 point hitch means it will handle all the attachments for a CAT 1, front end loader option, runs on diesel and in my experience so far costs about eighty cents an hour to run, All wheel streer four wheel drive with Dif lock front and rear means it will leave a ZTR behind on grades a ZTR simply can't make, it's a big investment, but having one and a 997 ZTR which is probably the most expensive one on the market, I will never but another ZTR, they limit what I can do for the dollars spent, I can put a 7 Iron deck on my 749 if needed and they are considered one of the best in the industry.

swstout
10-18-2009, 10:23 PM
It's a nice machine, but at a cost pf $15,000.00 (including tax) the return on investment would be very small for my situation. The population here is only 12,000 and spread out. I like the PTO feature and the power, but, the economy will have to really jump before I could consider it. Until them I can just dream!

Steve

lawncrafter56
10-19-2009, 02:04 AM
Thanks andy!
I will very much consider the unit yet this winter. Though happy with my ZTR there is room for improvment and that very well could be green.

picframer
10-19-2009, 04:48 AM
Thanks andy!
I will very much consider the unit yet this winter. Though happy with my ZTR there is room for improvment and that very well could be green.

The key here is two things, it will match and exceed the ZTR as I mentioned, the main reason I went shopping is two of these gated communities we picked up early fall have places with insane grades and my competition could not get up them with their ZTR, I went in with my 997 ZTR as it's a pretty big unit, not a chance, I spun out and there is no way to get to the top and mow down, aside from that it would be dangerous if those tires lost grip heading down, the operator would fly down.

So I brought Deere out and the sales guy said a 749 will play with that, my response was drop one off which they did and he was right.

Then I got to thinking you know we till around 90 places, this unit is far smaller in size but has the same power and abilities as the bigger unit, I could do tight areas I had to turn away this year.

Then I was thinking you know we have turned down quite a few lawn jobs due to traction, this thing would do it no problem.

Anyhow when you buy a machine like this I appreciate the investment is steep but you are raising the bar and cutting the competition out, this will make you a lot of money and you can offer so many services with a unit like this, I think there is something like 45 attachments for lawn care that go on it, it will even run a wood chipper.

Then you can add a snow plow, blower etc. traction will never be an issue.

Steve
10-19-2009, 11:44 PM
Andy,

How does cutting speed factor into this? How do they compare and is this an important issue?

picframer
10-20-2009, 05:00 AM
Andy,

How does cutting speed factor into this? How do they compare and is this an important issue?

The X749 is just as fast as my ZTR 997, I watch speed, I will not allow my staff to go full speed on any lawn, to me, and again this is just my personal opinion and based on customer comments, go med speed, do good work as people are watching.

I see ZTR's on site and they are flying, more power to them, clients you know actually do not care for this even if it's not their property, don't take it from me, this is feedback from talking to customers and I have to agree.

We picked up another mowing contract yesterday, why?? Mowing season is finished.....the company that was doing this ladies place didn't wear safety gear and she said they had removed the guide from the trimmer, she was upset by this and didn't want them on her property.

Steve
10-20-2009, 05:58 AM
I have advertised services a few people asked about and it was a flop, didn't cost me a dime, I suppose if one was still unsure you could rent the equipment for a few jobs.

This is interesting because I am sure a lot of readers find themselves buying equipment first and then advertising for the service.

What services do you feel were a flop?

Mowing season is finished.....the company that was doing this ladies place didn't wear safety gear and she said they had removed the guide from the trimmer, she was upset by this and didn't want them on her property.

This is a fantastic lesson! I bet many don't consider this to play a factor in whether they will be rehired or not in the next season. No home owner wants a contractor hurt on their property. Those that show safety comes first, project professionalism. Those who don't look like amateurs. No one wants to hire an amateur.

lawncrafter56
10-20-2009, 09:09 PM
I couldn't agree more Andy with your experience of showing concern about mower speed & safety detail. It just looks so much better
My mower carries a pair of fire extinguishers on the roll over bar.
An attention getter as some have noticed. along with eye & ear protection and the most important item of equipment to me are the dust masks that I wear when ever temps allow while mowing and shredding as chemical applications could be hot for days..
had a dear friend who was a weed chemical applicator in the yard and property biz for many years..he died several years back from a cancerous tumor he felt was from his occupation.
Attention to details along with wanting to be the best has only helped me stay booked all summer

Steve
10-21-2009, 03:38 AM
My mower carries a pair of fire extinguishers on the roll over bar.

I'd love to see a picture of your setup!

picframer
10-21-2009, 05:24 AM
I'd love to see a picture of your setup!

Me to!!!

As most of your know 90% of my staff is University students, to help them out I buy all the safety gear including boots, if you are on a tree crew you also get safety pants and we have a discussion, there is no second chances with my company, if I catch anyone of my employees on a site without safety gear on for the job, you no longer work for us.

The guys know I am serious, I have never had an issue.

I personally found it interesting this lady noticed this about her previous provider, very, very few people would take notice and many would not even care.

lawncrafter56
10-21-2009, 09:11 AM
No need for fire prevention today, it's pouring with rains forecasted for the area till the weekend, much need but very untimely for leaf pickups. I will get some pics up soon as the weather clears just a little when time permits. I buy fire extinguishers at garage sales, auctions and now buying the new disposables available at the big box like stores. I Velcro them on to the ROPS, then wrap a couple of rounds of electric tape to hold them in place until possible use. They strip off easy when needed. Several are also carried in my trailer and pull truck, I keep them at home also. Considered life savers...Often have I have thought they could some day be of importance in a roadside emergency.

Steve
10-22-2009, 01:44 AM
you also get safety pants and we have a discussion

I would think there are a lot of topics one would need to cover as far as safety goes, not only for operating mowers but for tree services as well. How do you make sure you cover all the issues you want to go over with the new employees?

picframer
10-22-2009, 04:18 AM
I would think there are a lot of topics one would need to cover as far as safety goes, not only for operating mowers but for tree services as well. How do you make sure you cover all the issues you want to go over with the new employees?

This is just about what put me under stress wise in May as we were growing to fast and I didn't have anough people trained up however, I worked with every new employee for at least one week, that is now about two days as I have people in place that know their job well and know what I expect and how to train new people.

Steve
10-23-2009, 01:39 AM
How do you go about making sure the new employees are trained on specific topics? Do you keep a check list the crew chief has to check off one by one as they go or what would you suggest to be the best way to do this?

picframer
10-23-2009, 03:53 AM
How do you go about making sure the new employees are trained on specific topics? Do you keep a check list the crew chief has to check off one by one as they go or what would you suggest to be the best way to do this?

I wouldn't say we have a check list per say but there is one very experienced top quality result person on each site, they are responsible for the job and ensuring the staff helping them work towards those results.