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musician/lawnman
07-11-2008, 01:22 AM
I know costs are up & everything is expensive as hell.
but I am going insane. Busines is so good I'm now turning them away unless they are ideal clients & looking for annual service. I'm getting ready to start dropping many of my pay per service clients, I've gained 40 new clients in the last 60 days. (one of which is a development, 15 homes & all common areas.... the entrance, around the gates, sidewalks, & around the lake).
I'll do more gross business this week than I did in january & almost as much as I did in december & january combined. My business is just over a year old & It's been going well all along but the snowball has gained momentum & I can't seem to slow it down! Fair prices (NOT LOWBALLING) & the best damn service you can provide is the way to go fellas.

By the way, I'm adding a 3rd guy to the crew (should be starting tommorrow)
I'm currently running 18-22 lawns a day with 2 of us (and doing a nice job, no mow & go service here) & each day we have at least some trimming at a stop or 2 also. Can't wait to see what we are capable of as a 3 man team.
Up until 2 & a half months ago it was just me last summer & fall I was busy,then slow for the winter, & man has it just exploded going into this season.

Steve
07-11-2008, 06:12 AM
Chuck,

Sometimes a person finds there thing in life. Where they finally fit and they have a platform to shine. I think you have found it. You are just rocking and rolling with all this.

I do look forwards to hearing your thoughts on the difference in going from a 2 man crew to a 3 man crew.

Let us know your reflections on it.

Little's
07-11-2008, 01:21 PM
Hey Chuck, maybe you could throw a little work my way! haha

VPS Lawn Care
07-12-2008, 01:16 AM
Chuck, congrats on all the sucess, man must be nice, trying to get it going here ( Also in Florida, east coast,central) just so many low-ballers out there, i have not broken down and lowered my prices , but man, seems like there are so many as you put it once " mow for beer money" outfits out there makes it tuff on the guy starting out that pays for Lic,Ins,TAXES,And does a real good job,and every cust i have seems to be cutting back to bi-weekly, aanyway, sorry for blabbing in your thread but i guess just frustratedi have only been at it for 2 months now, have 12 bi-weekly's 2- small commercial, a property management co., and starving still, ugg......good job Chuck, once again sorry about my rantting

Steve
07-12-2008, 05:19 AM
Chuck,

Since you have been able to make it through that initial tough time, what advice would you have to Sherman on this topic?

musician/lawnman
07-12-2008, 06:28 PM
Sherman,

I know it's tough starting out. In the beggining I accepted the bi-weeklys too. Working harder for some money was better than sitting home for no money. Some of those biweeklys from last year eventually went weekly & then became annual customers of mine this year. Some I dropped when they declined to at least go to a weekly per cut, There are a few biweeklys I kept if they were next to or across the street from another customer of mine but I charge 1.5x normal rate for bi-weekly service. Say maam $30 is our weekly rate during the growing season, the grass grows too fast to service bi-weekly. If you insist on that service frequency I charge it as a cut & a half. After all it will take me nearly twice as long since I am cutting & mulching twice the grass growth, However it does save me a trip here so I do not charge double. I understand your need to save money, but I've got to cover my additional expenses for the amount of time & fuel it will take & for the additional wear & tear on belts, blades, & pullies..... & I stick to it.

I've had customers say "but you've got that huge machine that can plow thru anything! why do you need to charge me more?" I answered yes my machine can make it through about anything because I spend $8 grand per machine to buy professional quality gear that has a long life expectancy under normal use. Mowing high grass all the time is not normal use & will cause breakage & a shortened service life. (people tend to cringe at the though of 8,000 for a mower & he did, so I continued) If you think that's bad yo should see the repair bills for it, or the bills for the fuel such a monster consumes....

I won't back down. Business is business, personal is personal. Befriend your customers & build repoir personally. Then help them understand & respect you as a professional. Everything is as expensive for you as it is for them. Your fuels, electric, water, tv, phones, are just as ridiculous as theirs. You need to turn a profit to surive, or the great price for them will only last until you run yourself out of business because you tried to be too nice. Your in business to make money, not to cut grass. That just happens to be how you make money. I've told potential clients "listen I don't need the practice here.... I'm not providing a service to break even at the end of the day"

Hope this rant helps you!

justin_time
07-12-2008, 08:58 PM
Sherman,

I know it's tough starting out. In the beggining I accepted the bi-weeklys too. Working harder for some money was better than sitting home for no money. Some of those biweeklys from last year eventually went weekly & then became annual customers of mine this year. Some I dropped when they declined to at least go to a weekly per cut, There are a few biweeklys I kept if they were next to or across the street from another customer of mine but I charge 1.5x normal rate for bi-weekly service. Say maam $30 is our weekly rate during the growing season, the grass grows too fast to service bi-weekly. If you insist on that service frequency I charge it as a cut & a half. After all it will take me nearly twice as long since I am cutting & mulching twice the grass growth, However it does save me a trip here so I do not charge double. I understand your need to save money, but I've got to cover my additional expenses for the amount of time & fuel it will take & for the additional wear & tear on belts, blades, & pullies..... & I stick to it.

I've had customers say "but you've got that huge machine that can plow thru anything! why do you need to charge me more?" I answered yes my machine can make it through about anything because I spend $8 grand per machine to buy professional quality gear that has a long life expectancy under normal use. Mowing high grass all the time is not normal use & will cause breakage & a shortened service life. (people tend to cringe at the though of 8,000 for a mower & he did, so I continued) If you think that's bad yo should see the repair bills for it, or the bills for the fuel such a monster consumes....

I won't back down. Business is business, personal is personal. Befriend your customers & build repoir personally. Then help them understand & respect you as a professional. Everything is as expensive for you as it is for them. Your fuels, electric, water, tv, phones, are just as ridiculous as theirs. You need to turn a profit to surive, or the great price for them will only last until you run yourself out of business because you tried to be too nice. Your in business to make money, not to cut grass. That just happens to be how you make money. I've told potential clients "listen I don't need the practice here.... I'm not providing a service to break even at the end of the day"

Hope this rant helps you!


Well said :D

VPS Lawn Care
07-13-2008, 07:28 PM
As usual Music/Lawnman And all, you have good advice, though tuff i will not give up, will not be a quiter!!...I take what i can get this is true, and will prob this year. This is what iam doing, what i want to do, and to tell the truth, out of all the things i have done in my life for work, this is the one thing i really enjoy doing. I worked for 15 years after colleage for the worlds largest food dist, i managed 168 truck drivers in florida alone, and though i made very very good money, i hated every min. of it, every! i had a small lco when i was in school 20 some years ago, and that is why i am back doing this now, i enjoy it. The truth to the matter though is like you said Chuck, i am doing it for a living, to feed my kids and wife , and i have to do it right.
I still have so much to learn and you guys have been great ith alot of that. The lawn care buiss has changed alot since the late 80's though, still moving forward as slow as it may be.
Thanks

Steve
07-14-2008, 08:00 AM
Sherman,

What do you think kept you from starting your lawn care business earlier? How did you justify it in your head that it was ok to hate your job and just suck it up and deal with it?

I think a lot of people sit on that fence everyday and are afraid to do anything different.

VPS Lawn Care
07-14-2008, 10:55 PM
Sherman,

What do you think kept you from starting your lawn care business earlier? How did you justify it in your head that it was ok to hate your job and just suck it up and deal with it?

I think a lot of people sit on that fence everyday and are afraid to do anything different.

Good Question Steve.
Well i only have 2 answer's. There names are Jennifer & Travis,as i mentioned before, i had great benifits, and made really good money, i was able to take care of my kid's and wife without ever any doubt. Always had money, to make sure they always had what they needed with school, or just wanted. Always had food on the table, clothes on our backs, and the vacations for my kids that will give them the memmories they wont forget. I have always been family first and could never bring myself to take the chance while they where still young, and very needy as most kids are. OK, Now this is where it gets funny, Kinda, I turned forty Two last August My son turned 18 last year, my doughter turned 20, ok i tell my self now is the time. LOL make all the arrangements to get my LCO off the ground and guess what, I had a new grand baby girl born on Dec 22 2007, well that's kinda funny huh, well then to to get to the real funny, i had a brand new Baby Girl My New Doughter born on Dec 25th 2007, yep Christmas day. and well i am now a lco, a grandpa, and a father all over again in the same year. Well thats my story, and i am working my butt off trying to make a go of it.:rolleyes:

Steve
07-15-2008, 07:42 AM
WOW That is a great story!

Do you think that you are better prepared mentally to deal with running your own business than you would have been when you were younger. Has life experience made it any easier to run it?

VPS Lawn Care
07-15-2008, 06:51 PM
WOW That is a great story!

Do you think that you are better prepared mentally to deal with running your own business than you would have been when you were younger. Has life experience made it any easier to run it?

Yea, i am more able to run it now, i have more years under my belt. A prime example is in 1984 i started a LCO, as a side gig, as it went in the first month i had14 accts, all commercial, it seemed so much easier then to get the accts. I was 19 and making 2800 a month on these accts.(i also pressure washed the side walks once a month for the resturants) But thought i had to keep with the BIG CO. and use all that learning paid so much for. I had some good accts. The UAW hall, Perkins resturants (5) Pondarosa's (4) and a couple hotels in liss. by Disney, and at that age , when i felt i was stretched to thin, i just stopped doing them, did not go back , call or anything. That i would , could never do now, then young and dumb even with all that college.
Just wish it was as easy to get the accts. now as it was for me then. It has changed alot since the mid 80's

musician/lawnman
07-16-2008, 08:13 AM
Stick to it Sherman, You'll be fine dude.

musician/lawnman
11-16-2008, 08:57 AM
Just an update on this post...

So I ran all summer with a 3 man crew(2 employees + myself), at 1st it was a situation where 2 guys could no longer keep up, but 3 guys on the team basically ment we could get more done in the day but only little more than enough to cover the 3rd guys labor. As we worked I kept working on different stratagies & found a system that helped make us more efficient once at a clients home. Then I revamped my route again. Then we kept gaining new clients & each new customer within our service area ment the stops were now closer together. Drive time is the biggest killer of productivity & there more guys on the crew, the more it hurts. Cause 3 men can't get there any faster than 2. 10 min of driving with 2 guys is 20 labor, & 30 minutes with 3 in the truck.

As this season progressed we got to the point we were doing 28-30 properties a day. So towards the end of the summer we had gotten back to being a more profitable business machine. If your route is tight, a 3 man system works. If you're all over town, your better served alone until business gets better.

Going into next season I plan to set up a 2nd truck, I'll probably run 2 employees on 1 truck & go solo on the other, at least for a while, Then I'll add a helper on my crew as things progress. Ultimately the most profitable system seems to be 1 guy per truck, but unless you've got the capital to buy 2-3 full riggs as you expand it's not a practical business model.
Say for instance (to explain): one man can probable average around $40-45 average gross per hour. 2 guys can hit $70-75, while 3 were usually say $90- $100. So $100/hr is nice but it's with 3 guys? 2 trucks with 1 man each could collectively hit $80-90 per hour and save an entire guys labor. So either you invest in the equipment, or you invest in unessesary labor.... So I guess that's why most factories are so automated now.

Team Gopher
11-17-2008, 07:20 AM
Chuck,

That is really very insightful.

Say for instance (to explain): one man can probable average around $40-45 average gross per hour. 2 guys can hit $70-75, while 3 were usually say $90- $100. So $100/hr is nice but it's with 3 guys? 2 trucks with 1 man each could collectively hit $80-90 per hour and save an entire guys labor.

Do you have any estimates on the profit level for each of these categories? I bet a lot of readers are looking at this and thinking WOW with 3 guys I can hit $100 an hour, but that is not the real full story one should focus on. It's the profitability of it. What's your view?

musician/lawnman
11-17-2008, 07:14 PM
Steve,

For one, yes 3 guys can run that much pe hour but I'll tell ya, seems to me it's gotta be the right 3 guys & on a relatively tight route. If you had a gated community, 2 guys (hussling) could do it too. But I've had a few employees come & go, & if you lolly gag... your probably not getting there.

I don't have any hard numbers on the profitability for you as my line up changed too much. What I mean is for most of the summer I ran 3 days with 3 guys & 2 days with 2 guys. 2 of my routes were a little lighter & more spaced out, so I decided I couldn't really justify the extra labor those 2 days.

The problem lies in that I lacked the business this year to buy another full truck & rig just yet, but a 2 man team couldn't keep up. I think the most profitable system is 1 guy per truck & here's why:
If you have say 2 guys on a truck & run 20 stops that day, for ease of math we'll say each stop takes 20 minutes start to finish, then 5 minutes travel bettween each stop. So during that day you have 6.6 hours per man = 13.2 hrs actually on the jobs making money & 1.6 hours per man = 3.2 hours wasted driving. A total of 16.4 hours labor to complete 20 stops.

2nd Scenario: 2 guys each with their own truck (trailer, mowers, etc.) running solo. Each guy does 10 lawns, only now it takes each one 40 minutes to complete alone, the travel time remains the same.
Each guy ends up at 6.6 hours of productivity = 13.2 hours total, and now each man spends .83 hours behind the wheeel of the truck for a combined total of 1.6 hours travel. A total of 14.8 hours to complete 20 stops.

You save 1.6 hours labor per day in this comparison. Then the question is, how many days doee it take for that to offset the costs of new equipment?

& other variables play in too, like running solo last summer I peaked out one day at 16 stops alone, the best I've done with 3 guys is 35 stops. Today I completed 25 stops with just 2 of us, and at that, I had a ded battery on 1 mower this morning (25 minutes lost per guy) & we did some trimming & pruning at one clients home. IF it had been light out longer we'd have finished my 31 stop cut list for mondays on schedule despite not having my 3rd man on the truck!

You gotta weigh out everything in this business, it's a business of minutes & seconds. You have to do a quality job, but 5 wasted mintes per stop can keep you from finishing a handfull of additional lawns per day. That hurts the pocket at the end of a week, month, year.

How's that for long-winded!?

Steve
11-19-2008, 10:39 AM
When you add a second crew, will you need to duplicate the same equipment of can you have one crew for larger properties and one for smaller? Or what would be ideal? Also what is your plan for truck or trailer needs for the second crew?

Should all of this be interchangeable so each set of truck and equipment is the same?

musician/lawnman
11-19-2008, 05:34 PM
As of right now my intention is to buy an older regular cab "work" truck to tow my current trailer & the main crew (all employees) will run that set up with my current mowers & gear. They will Ideally handle the lions share of the mowing, trimming & pruning.

I plan to remove the tailgate from my current truck, install a trailer style drop gate in it's place. I'll install trimmer racks to the wood sides to hold the trimmers, blowers etc. I will run this rigg with not trailer handling new estimates, landscape measurements, proposals, 1st time cuts, & pick up any slack from the main crew, all the while being free to roam & check up on them at any time. You can bet that if I'm not on the jobs personally there will be a high standard for quality control, & I'll visit properties shortly after my crews have been there & I'll follow the routes to find them & make sure they are where they're supposed to be.

I'll run solo again at 1st other than that any new employees will have to train with me for a few weeks before being put onthe other crew. Once things get too busy for the other crew & me alon to handle I'l hire on a helper for my truck.

I know the dangers of growing too fast & while I think I'm growing this a bit faster than the average company grows... I'm being careful & thinking each move through. Each time you grow as a company (new employees, equipment etc.) your profitability drops a bit at 1st. It's a natural occurance. Growing pains!

Steve
11-20-2008, 09:35 AM
I know the dangers of growing too fast & while I think I'm growing this a bit faster than the average company grows.

Chuck, you bring up a great point here too.

How does a lawn care business owner know when they are growing too fast? What are the warning signs they should look out for and what is the upside or downside to growing too fast?

musician/lawnman
11-20-2008, 10:46 AM
Well in a podcast about a year ago while discussin this topic another forum member suggested 20% growth per year or less was relatively safe & beyond that he found it risky. Once a business is established this seems like a good guidline. All I can say is watch your numbers! As I said above your profitability drops a bit each time for a while. If you are dumping all your profits into new growth, equipment, man power etc. you can push yourself into the red pretty quickly. You've got to invest some $ back in the business then let the profit level gow to your new increased business capacity. Then repeat.

Steve
11-20-2008, 11:46 AM
Oh yes, I remember that discussion now. Thanks!

As you are now expanding further, have you thought of more ways to keep your employees motivated to doing a good job and to help sell more services?

Have you thought of employee incentives ideas that might help this?

musician/lawnman
11-20-2008, 07:27 PM
yeah Steve I have, though I won't roll out any programs till next spring.
I was thinking about setting up a bonus structure based on a crews collective production. If they are hitting my targets & I check to verify that their quality of work is good, I'll probably have an available spiff or bonus. If they don't they don't. But if they don't perform at the levels they should then I'll have to find out why or "who" is causing the slower pace & fix the problem. I plan to make the goals within reach but high enough that they need to perform at optimum levels regularly. If equipment troubles slow them down or the get a mower stuck & it slows them down then they may not hit for that day. but that's the way it is for me now! So they can live by the same rules. If something breaks & costs me an hour or 2 down time I don't do very well per hour that day & it hit's me in the pocket. So they need to help me keep the gear well maintained & inform me of any problems or unusual sounds to stay "on target" or it could hit them in the pocket too.
Not sure if I'll do it weekly or monthly yet. We'll see.

Steve
11-22-2008, 10:04 AM
Do you think there could be some simple incentives a newer lawn care business could institute?

If so, what should they institute? Should it be some kind of percentage?

What about an end of the year bonus to get the employees to stick with you all year and then have money for the holidays when they need it?

barry
01-05-2009, 11:24 AM
Hi Chuck

Well if you are have a proable with to many clients .them you can sent me sum to. be like sent to you
Barry's Lawns N More

Barry:D

legendlawn
01-05-2009, 02:34 PM
Chuck-
Are both of your employees full time? I have always looked down on having part time employees in this business for several reasons. However I ended last season with 2 part timers after running Me and 1 full timer employee for the first half of the season. Both guys are in college and plan on coming back this summer. One day in particular we are really going to need a 3rd guy this year, but are only going to need me and 1 guy the rest of the week. (starting out). Having part timers allows me to bring in a 3rd guy on certain days, but stay as lean as possible on others.

musician/lawnman
01-05-2009, 06:40 PM
Well last year I had one on full time working 10 hr days mon-thursday (if all went well) & the other worked the same hours but usually mon-wed. Fridays were used to either catch up if we got rained out, or something broke down, or somebody didn't show up. If all went well then fridays were used for trimming, pruning, & landscaping jobs. The 2nd guy was told at the time of hire that it was seasonal & that hours may vary a bit from week to week. I layed him off in mid October. The 1st guy was really good & I planned to work him as many hours as I could posibly justify to keep him on & hopefully make him a crew chief next year. However the dip**** got himself arrested has since made things worse for himself & I don't think he'll be coming back anytime soon. So right now It's back to just me. I can handle thing for the off season along (though I really didn't want to) So for the last couple weeks & probably the next couple months I'm running my *** off solo. I'll start to ramp things back up with hiring in march I suppose.

legendlawn
01-05-2009, 06:54 PM
aahhh the joys of reliable green industry labor! All of us who have employees know exactly what your going through.

figtree
01-20-2009, 12:32 AM
Seeing how this is a seasonal business do the employees collect umemployment during the down season?

musician/lawnman
01-20-2009, 08:50 AM
Great Question.....
I technically hire my guys through a day labor service so they are employees of the service not mine, so I don't need to carry unemployment insurance. Yeah you could get hit with that.
I hire my guys on at my choice though, send in their application & the company gets them on the books in about 5 minutes. I've never just called & gotten a "day labor guy" to come work for me.

figtree
01-21-2009, 02:48 AM
Wow! I never thought of that. What's the average charge for a day labor? What about workmans comp? Do you have to provide it or does the day labor service provide it?

musician/lawnman
01-21-2009, 02:55 PM
Workers Comp is actually the main reason I use them, I could have been doing the payrol myself & saved money there but the workers comp is insane as an independant. Then most reguar payroll or employee leasing firms want a minumim of 2 employees on the books, & $1000-1,500 a week in payroll! This way was the only fesible way I found to handle keeping all my payroll legit, with the right insurances & have it be (relatively) affordable.
To pay an average Laborer type employee say $8 an hour runs my around $12-$12.50/hr. I just take his # of hours x that rate & send a check. They send his paycheck, cover workerscomp, & handle the w-2's at the end of the year. I don't deal with any of that.

Steve
01-22-2009, 02:02 AM
but the workers comp is insane as an independant. Then most reguar payroll or employee leasing firms want a minumim of 2 employees on the books, & $1000-1,500 a week in payroll!

Do they employment leasing firms get a discount on their workers comp because they have more employees? Or do you think they may categorize the work they are doing in a way so as not to be hazardous? Or does that not factor in at all?

Also are you saying you need to hire two employees at least to use them?

musician/lawnman
01-22-2009, 05:19 PM
Yeah many of the firms want a minimum of 2 employees on the payroll. But when I hired my 1st guy it was just he & I, I wasn't going on payroll. I handle my taxes & I am workers comp exempt so there is no need to have me on the payroll. My 1 guy (in the beginning) was not EVER going to hit $1,000 a week in payroll. There were times mid summer with 2 helpers on the payroll that I hit a grand, but that was months later & was not a regular thing.

I think they get a better rate just due to the volume of business they give the insurance carrier.

Steve
01-22-2009, 11:15 PM
Yeah many of the firms want a minimum of 2 employees on the payroll.

So for others looking to do this and only have 1 employee at first, what advice do you have about how to find a firm that will work with you? Should you team up with another lawn care business somehow? Or no?

musician/lawnman
01-23-2009, 03:34 PM
Like I said earlier in he post Steve, I use a Day labor firm not an employee leasing firm.