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musician/lawnman
06-12-2009, 06:51 AM
Guys, rainy season is back and the lawns are growing with a vengence again.
I've been working 9-10 hr days in the field & still can't keep up! I have 3 landscape estimates/designs waiting to be done, 2 homes to do complete trimming/pruning clean ups, & about a day & a half worth of lawns to mow, I can't belive it's already friday. I am exhausted. The phones are still ringing too with new lawn maintenence clients, I am at the point where I am pretty well booked up so I have raised my prices in the past month bacause I can't (& honestly don't want to) land ALL of these new people as customers.
It's insane. I am thankful to be busy, I must have something going right for me as they are still signing up! All I can say to the new guys is people are willing to pay a little more for quality & reliability so don't sell yourself short.

I haven't been on here much lately so I figured I drop a quick update. Business is good.
Now I am off to work. Have a good one!

Steve
06-12-2009, 12:58 PM
Hi Chuck,

That is fantastic news!

so I have raised my prices in the past month bacause I can't (& honestly don't want to) land ALL of these new people as customers.

Do you have any advice as to how much a lawn care business owner should raise their prices when they start filling up their schedule?

picframer
06-12-2009, 04:06 PM
Great news, may be the time to consider adding staff, IMHO when we get to a size that we can hire people, that is when you make serious cash without working the 16 hour days.

musician/lawnman
06-12-2009, 08:17 PM
Steve, I am up about 8-10% over pricing a few months ago, I do want some new customers to complete in the schedule (which I am about there) & then a few more so I can decline to renew agreements with a few PIA customers & slow payers from last year.

Picframer,
I have 2 employees now & so we run a 3 man team. Granted one of them was out 2 days this week which didn't help either. As far as employees go, in a lawn mowing operation here is what I have found....
1 man running solo is the best $$ per man hour
2 men is a good happy medium, each man hour is fairly profitable & you can move faster.
3 man teams can FLY all day long & keep that pace up for a 9-10 hour day if you rotate out the guy on the line trimmer to give them a break. Less fatigue thus a steadier pace all day long. Though, when you figure that because you got more done, you have used more fuel, miles on the trucks, & hours on the gear etc. The 3rd guy rarely (unless your day goes perfect... no mechanical delays or estimates with really talkative people..) covers much more than his labor costs in additional revenue. I am at the point where without the 3rd team member I can't keep up, but not quite ready to roll out crew #2, So That's where I am at there. If you are running BIG properties, gated communities etc. Then the story is a little different & 3 men are more profitable that way. Drive time is the supreame enemy with this configuration. You gotta keep blades on grass or the labor will eat you alive.

Steve
06-12-2009, 08:26 PM
I am up about 8-10% over pricing a few months ago, I do want some new customers to complete in the schedule (which I am about there) & then a few more so I can decline to renew agreements with a few PIA customers & slow payers from last year.

For the newer lawn care business owner trying to figure this out. When should they look to raise their prices? Should they do it when they start hitting x% capacity?
When it comes to non-contract customers, will you stop servicing the non-contract customers that aren't as highly profitable to make way for newer more profitable ones? Will you want the new ones to be on a contract or no?

musician/lawnman
06-12-2009, 09:30 PM
Capacity is all relative, Capacity of what?
For me I am at the capacity of what 1 truck can feasibly do with up to 3 members on the team.
I blew past 1 man capacity over a 14 months ago, Hired 1 helper, then blew past one mower capacity 12 months ago, & added a 2nd machine. Then even with 2 machines.... 2 guys couldn't keep up, so we added a 3rd guy 11 months ago. Next step up is a 2nd truck, trailer, machines, & at least 2 more employees. That's a damn big step! So that is the threashold at which my prices are heading up.
This is going to vary for everyone. Nobody & I mean Nobody runs their business the same as anyone else on here. Some are more cautious, some are more aggresive at growth. Some are rpiced to land the high end clientel with quality, some are low ballers incapable of great quality due to the equipment used & lack of experiance.

As to contracts? I prefer a nice 50/50 split of contract clients to per cuts. In the summer you do more work & thus have higher expenses, It's nice to have the extra cash flow from per cut clients who spend more in the summer & less in the winter. But in the winter you need those monthly agreements to survive the slow months.

majoe7
06-12-2009, 09:40 PM
Steve, I am up about 8-10% over pricing a few months ago.

Chuck,

I glad to see that you are busy on the west coast of Florida. I hear you loud and clear when you say that you can't keep up. Everybody is asking for quotes on jobs and lawn care. I had to pass some off to my good friend. I did the same and increased my prices 20 - 30 % and they still want me to service them. I am part time at this and the money is great. Staff is happy. Everyone is making money. I think that with all the rain that we had and will continue to have clients don't want to be out there maintaining their own properties. Also with these giant, mammoth mosquitoes eating us alive it really stinks.

I agree with you about the 3 man crew. Everything runs smoothly and controllable. I listen intently to Andy with all that he has going on and maybe it's time to take my company in a different direction. With us having year round nice weather we could make a ton of money.

Anyways glad to see you stopped by and said hello.

John

Steve
06-12-2009, 10:06 PM
I listen intently to Andy with all that he has going on and maybe it's time to take my company in a different direction. With us having year round nice weather we could make a ton of money.

What would you ideally like to do differently?

picframer
06-13-2009, 04:15 AM
Steve, I am up about 8-10% over pricing a few months ago, I do want some new customers to complete in the schedule (which I am about there) & then a few more so I can decline to renew agreements with a few PIA customers & slow payers from last year.

Picframer,
I have 2 employees now & so we run a 3 man team. Granted one of them was out 2 days this week which didn't help either. As far as employees go, in a lawn mowing operation here is what I have found....
1 man running solo is the best $$ per man hour
2 men is a good happy medium, each man hour is fairly profitable & you can move faster.
3 man teams can FLY all day long & keep that pace up for a 9-10 hour day if you rotate out the guy on the line trimmer to give them a break. Less fatigue thus a steadier pace all day long. Though, when you figure that because you got more done, you have used more fuel, miles on the trucks, & hours on the gear etc. The 3rd guy rarely (unless your day goes perfect... no mechanical delays or estimates with really talkative people..) covers much more than his labor costs in additional revenue. I am at the point where without the 3rd team member I can't keep up, but not quite ready to roll out crew #2, So That's where I am at there. If you are running BIG properties, gated communities etc. Then the story is a little different & 3 men are more profitable that way. Drive time is the supreame enemy with this configuration. You gotta keep blades on grass or the labor will eat you alive.

Chuck, Just thinking.....

I new you had at least one helper, that is excellent that you have two. I also recall you pull a trailer.

Would it be worth considering letting the two that work for you have your truck and trailer and let them go at the bigger lawns, hire a part timer for yourself, get a used truck (us Canadians envy you guys in Florida as vehicles & trailers are so cheap and old stuff is mint, many friends drive down and buy their vehicles there), you and the part times could do smaller lawns and gardens, this would require the least amount of capital. The upside is you have time to work the new calls and get the part timer trained up.....just a thought.

I struggle with travel time and cost, it's ok for the wood clearing and excavation as we charge a daily fuel charge, it's desperate expensive moving gear for us, gas here is now $4.45 a gallon, I suspect we average 12 mpg. Excavation jobs generally require two trips to get set up, one to bring an excavator and we almost always need a loader and other stuff, at the moment I only have two trucks that can pull this stuff due to weight, we are generally pulling in the 5 to 6 thousand pound area, never go over 45 on the highway, even though I have weight distribution systems on the trucks, Tambor stabilizers on the springs, overload springs and sway bars, at 45 if a gust of wind hits that 18 foot trailer with gear on, it can make your heart skip a beat, I really need at least one of those 2 ton diesel trucks.

The spray crews are high profit for me so travel is not so bad, lawn care is the one with the least profit as our lawns are scattered.

Most of the crews are three person, as you noted allows longer hours per day, some of this work as you know is desperate hard, especially spreading top soil and laying sod. My lawn crews are two person, for the trimmers I bought the body harness from Stihl, I think they are around $125.00, man they are comfortable and you can run a trimmer all day and not get tired, just something to consider.

It is great that your business is doing so well and I hope it continues to grow as I am sure it will.

Andy

musician/lawnman
06-13-2009, 07:41 AM
Andy,
I hear you as far as the 2nd truck & I had really planned to do just that this spring. But to be honest I think I have been growing boarderline too damn fast. So I decided to but big growth in neutral this season & let the bottom line catch up a bit. Growing fast is fine but you are reinvesting every dime counting on the future profits that way. So I want to sit back & use this summer to filter out a few clients, get myself better organized, get an actual employee handbook together & be ready to gear up bigger next year if I feel the timing is right.

If I remember correctly... you are relatively new to this business right? You have started many business also? I'd love to get on the phone with you one of these nights & B.S. for a bit. I find it interesting & impressive how well you seem to be doing too.

picframer
06-13-2009, 01:37 PM
Andy,
I hear you as far as the 2nd truck & I had really planned to do just that this spring. But to be honest I think I have been growing boarderline too damn fast. So I decided to but big growth in neutral this season & let the bottom line catch up a bit. Growing fast is fine but you are reinvesting every dime counting on the future profits that way. So I want to sit back & use this summer to filter out a few clients, get myself better organized, get an actual employee handbook together & be ready to gear up bigger next year if I feel the timing is right.

If I remember correctly... you are relatively new to this business right? You have started many business also? I'd love to get on the phone with you one of these nights & B.S. for a bit. I find it interesting & impressive how well you seem to be doing too.

10-4. would love to talk to you, am out straight this weekend on projects, just came home to have a barbacue with the kids then heading out again.

Yes I guess I am new to yard care other than my own or neighbours but I have been running heavy machinery since I was 13, so what I am doing as far as work goes is not new.

Background is 14 years Corporate Finance with Canada's 2nd largest bank, I took a package as I refused to transfer, was the regional VP, flew aircraft up north for a year for an oil company, two years in West Africa as VP Finance & Investor Relations gold exploration company, built homes for two years, have owned a high end woodworking company for 17 years, mainly hobby but it turns serious coin, took over a security company 9 years ago 18 +/- employees, resigned in January of this year to do this, 451 employees today, sold half my ownership, invested a small part in this, split most of the rest between the kids, paid off my own debt.

Done a bit of everything in between, built and sold an accounting company on the side, mainly commercial tax returns, plowed snow for the past 17 years to make extra $$$ to buy equipment for the workshop, worked for WOOD Magazine for 7 years (Meredith Corporation), ran their on line forums and wrote a few articles, my speciality is exotic woods.

Have taught many courses on building companies, have lectured at numerous local Universities and Community Colleges, was hired and travelled with the provincial government helping local companies find export opportunities in the USA and Europe, was offered full time but it wasn't my thing, left after three months but was very, very successful helping local companies.

Education is two pages long, bank paid for everything so I was always taking business/marketing/sales courses, my final year at the bank I personally lent 1.6 Billion, keep in mind however I was Corporate finance, didn't touch anything under 25 million as that would fall into commercial lending.

That is it, all in all I am a very simple guy at heart, love the outdoors, tractors and running big equipment, it has always been in my blood so I am in short living a dream, woodworking in the winter, Yard Care in the spring, summer and fall.

musician/lawnman
06-13-2009, 11:27 PM
Oh yeah... sounds ahhh, simple. heh :rolleyes:
Where the hell did you find time to get laid? No less raise a family in the middle of all that? Jeeze. I felt I had a good amount of experiance in different fields & industries that help me to have a more well rounded view in business. Compared to all that I am a business rookie playing on the minor league farm team.

majoe7
06-14-2009, 12:13 AM
What would you ideally like to do differently?

Steve,
I am thinking more of fertilizing and spraying for the shear profit and with the Organic items it would be easy to get permits. Right now with all the rain we have had and the mosquito problem, it would be a great service to offer. Some counties and cities donít require a license, just knowledge of handling, application process and a MSD booklet on hand. Basically hassle proof from the local Munis. Secondly, clearing of new home lots, major overgrown areas for better use of the land for the homeowner. Be it for a view or larger lot size expanded out to their boundary lines. I have a friend who is semi retired from his own large excavation company with all the equipment just sitting idle. We have discussed this before in doing some jobs together being that I have some experience in this field but not like him and we get along great like brothers. Remember I do this part time and make great money, but full time and work less with greater profit would be exciting.

John