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  • Any successful one man operations? When to hire?

    Hey guys,

    I am getting more work the I can handle these days so I'm beginning the quest to build my team, reluctantly, at that.

    I guess because I've built my company from the ground up I'm not entirely thrilled about hiring workers for the sake of making money, but I know its going to become a reality sooner or later.

    Currently my girlfriend helps me all summer and on the weekends but is a teacher Sept - June.

    In terms of employee's what are some of your magic numbers?

    - 1 laborer, 2 , 3?

    I'm thinking one solid apprentice would be great, a kid who wants to learn and put his passion into this.

    I would walk right up to people as a kid and give them my resume or ask for a job.

    These days people say I need some extra cash, would you hire me?

    I want to see a young man with some cohonas who wants to work hard like I was when I was young.

    What are you experiences with hired help?

    Currently I am doing about 2 large projects per week and about 8 - 10 houses maintenance - Yesterday I cut 7 in 7 hours and boy am I feeling it today!

  • #2
    I want to see a young man with some cohonas who wants to work hard like I was when I was young.
    That would be ideal, but it is quite possible, those people are out there working on there own businesses.

    Maybe you could start looking for a part time employee that could help you a few days a week. Then if you need more help, scale up the hours they work.

    A new season of Survivor just aired the other day and it is Generation X vs Millennials.

    The show is trying to look into whether the Millennial generation is lazier than Generation X.

    I don't know how the different generations truly differ, but if there is a difference, it could explain why it is so difficult to find hard working employees.
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    Comment


    • #3
      I currently service 56 clients solo (and at my maximum capacity till the right employee fills out a job application). Having the help takes a lot of the pressure off of meeting deadlines, but also takes a considerable chunk out of my wallet. When you get to the point where you can see that taking on an additional 3-4 clients will cause you to start getting behind on your work, that's when you know to stop taking on new work and hire an employee. Try to hire part-time, acquire new work till you reach that 3-4 client threshold mentioned above, and then do one of the following: hire a second part-time worker, or increase your initial worker's hours to full-time (if he wants it). If you plan on having employees, make sure you get workers' comp insurance and have both training and marketing plans in place before you hire. This will save you a lot of headaches.
      As far as getting someone who works hard (dedicated to the job), maturity has a lot to do with it. If the individual is over 18 but lives with his parents, he likely does not have the financial responsibilities of one who is trying to make it on their own. In other words, they may not need the job as badly, thus, may not perform up to your standards. My experience has found this to be true....hire someone who needs money to survive, not to play. Starving is no fun.
      integritylawnpro.com

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      • #4
        I'm back and forth between hiring a college kid every year, part time, to help me out. This is a side job for me, but I have secured some premium customers who are used to a good job with no problems.

        I dont think I'll ever go past 1 helper who I can be on property with.

        As my accountant (who's brother had 4 crews at one point) says, it's easy to make money solo, much more difficult to pay someone 12-15/hour and trust them with $20,000 (or more) in equipment. Especially in August after they've been around the same tracks and it's steamy outside. A couple gutters or bad mow jobs and the customer is on to the next guy. The guy who cares like I do for $12/hr, most likely isn't the brightest apple. Wages have not kept up with cost of living. I worked for $12/hour 20 years ago. It' just doesn't go as far today.

        So, I'm working to flesh out the fertilizer side of the business and keep the mowing to 25-30 hours/ week.
        Last edited by tannerduncan; 09-30-2016, 06:45 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Here's what I did:
          When I got to the point where I needed help, I raised my prices a little. Not much, but enough to thin the herd, as it were. I lost a couple of pesky customers who were always trying to negotiate the cost of mowing and being as cheap as possible. After that happened, I found I didn't need to hire anyone right away. I lost some questionable accounts, but I gained income by thinning the list.

          The next season I found I had 34 new customers, on top of the last season's mowing list. All at the new, higher rate. Now I needed help. I tried putting an ad on Facebook, Craigslist, what have you. I attracted a lot of interested people, unfortunetely, they would work a day or two then quit, it was too much for them to push a mower, or ride on a tractor. Next I tried raising the pay rate, not a great idea at all. Now you have an overpaid employee who works a day or two, then is "sick" the rest of the week. So much for Facebook and Craigslist... This has been my experience with millennials thusfar.

          I get all my auto parts and odds & ends from the same auto parts store, one of the big box stores. Think about retail a second... Up here in Alaska, none of the retail operations hire full time anymore because of Obamacare. With that in mind I started talking to the part time employees at the store about working for me in their off time. GREAT idea! I now have 4 part time employees, which amounts to 2 full timers for my business. They work when they are with me. I have found that people already working, who demonstrate a work ethic with their current employer, wind up being a great resource, even if it's just part time to start.
          Last edited by AKDave; 09-30-2016, 11:14 AM.

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          • #6
            Currently I am doing about 2 large projects per week and about 8 - 10 houses maintenance - Yesterday I cut 7 in 7 hours and boy am I feeling it today!
            I remember those days of long ago! The hardest business decision I had to make was investing in a trailer and a riding mower. After I took that initial plunge, my income went up, I started ditching the small lawns and grabbing bigger lawns that one person can do on a tractor or zero turn. I went from $20 and $30 small lawns to $60-$100 lawns without changing the number of lawns per week. Might be something to consider instead of hiring. You need to budget every penny until you have enough saved. For me in Alaska, it was right about 2,200 for the tractor & trailer.

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            • #7
              Thanks for the reply Dave!

              Very helpful.

              I think I will continue to run solo for now and have good friends of mine help me on odds and ends jobs. We are all 29 / 30 year old's with houses, girlfriends and mortgages, the "adult life".

              I trust them.

              As for myself next season I like the idea of increasing my rates and thinning the herds out. I definitely have my eye on a 30" commercial mower and Miska trailer.

              Funny thing is, I'm getting way more landscaping renovation job estimates then maintenance estimates. They both have their pro's and con's.

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              • #8
                I'm getting way more landscaping renovation job estimates then maintenance estimates.
                What do you attribute that to?

                They both have their pro's and con's.
                What's your view on what you like or don't like about them?
                - Subscribe to my Lawn Care Marketing Blog Feed and get daily tips sent to you. Free!
                Download your Free trial of Gopher Lawn Care Software.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hey guys,

                  I am getting more work the I can handle these days so I'm beginning the quest to build my team, reluctantly, at that.

                  I guess because I've built my company from the ground up I'm not entirely thrilled about hiring workers for the sake of making money, but I know its going to become a reality sooner or later.

                  Currently my girlfriend helps me all summer and on the weekends but is a teacher Sept - June.

                  In terms of employee's what are some of your magic numbers?

                  - 1 laborer, 2 , 3?

                  I'm thinking one solid apprentice would be great, a kid who wants to learn and put his passion into this.

                  I would walk right up to people as a kid and give them my resume or ask for a job.

                  These days people say I need some extra cash, would you hire me?

                  I want to see a young man with some cohonas who wants to work hard like I was when I was young.

                  What are you experiences with hired help?

                  Currently I am doing about 2 large projects per week and about 8 - 10 houses maintenance - Yesterday I cut 7 in 7 hours and boy am I feeling it today!
                  Personally, I won't hire someone until I have exhausted all other options. There are a couple reasons. I have had guys help me int he past for a day or two, cash under the table. I know I shouldn't have, but here is my point. These guys never worked as quickly as me and had quality issues. They also seem to take breaks constantly, just 2-5 minute breathers, but that adds up when they take 10 a day. So if they take longer and do worse, then you are going to have to babysit them and check everything, and also they cut into your profit margins because they are increasing the labor on the job. BTW, these were guys from the landscaping industry with over 10 years experience that had worked at the same landscaping company as me in the past, not random Craigslist find or a friend of a friend.

                  Now let's assume you do hire someone, and it is legitimate. You have to now pay someone to prepare payroll for you, or do it yourself. Either way, it takes up some of your time and money. You also have to match certain tax contributions for them, I think it is like 4.5% of their pay. You also have to provide worker's comp insurance for them. I got 2 rates this year for this, one at .12/$1 and one at .10/$1. So you pay them $10/hour. You also have to pay another $2/hour in taxes and worker's comp. Then you still have to process payroll. Let's say you pay them $15/hour. Now you have to pay $3/hour in taxes and worker's comp, plus run payroll. Take what you are earning now per hour, and subtract $12-$18/hour out of it. Keep in mind you still have to cover your overhead, taxes on the business, make a profit, and pay yourself.

                  It is very hard to do until you reach some real volume.

                  I personally will continue to invest in equipment that allows me to get the jobs done quicker, be selective about new customers, and upgrade/replace existing customers. I have customer I make $45/hour on, and some I make over $100/hour on. If I can get a new customer at $100/hour, I am getting rid of the lowest paying customer at $45/hour if I don't have time for them both.

                  To give you an idea, I currently service 35 residential, 2 equine, and 2 commercial (restaurants), and work 4 days a week, and usually 6-8 hours a day. If you are struggling to keep up with 8-10 a week, and 2 large projects, you may need to evaluate. Are they spread out too far apart? Are you using a mower that is too small or slow for the job (push mowing 1 acre lots, or using a big box store riding mower vs. a commercial grade walk behind or ZTR)? Do you really have the expertise to be doing the jobs you are doing? Are you doing them the hardest way possible (hand digging trenches for drainage vs. renting a trencher)?

                  Not trying to be harsh, just giving everyone something to really think about. I've had guys tell me how hard putting in a french tile drain is and it took them 3 days to do a 100 ft. After asking why, I found out they are hand digging trenches because they don't own a machine and putting in perforated pipe with gravel, being installed and covered by hand. When I tell them I could do the same job in 3-4 hours, they don't believe me. I go rent a trencher for $50/4 hours and use NDS French Tile Drain pipe with styrafoam in the sock. You dig the hole, check your grade, drop in the piping, cap the end/install pop-up emitter, and cover back with dirt. No gravel, no shovel work, and it's super easy. I charge the same amount of money as they would because the pipe is more expensive and I have to rent the trencher, but I am done in 1/4 or a 1/6 of the time.

                  Edit: Some may wonder why I would charge the same as a 3 day job and have higher cost (trencher, more expensive piping). Simple, opportunity cost. Every second I am on a job, is a second I could be on another job. If I make $200 less doing it the easy way, but get done in 3-4 hours vs. 3 days, I can spend the extra 2 1/2 days working on another job, growing my business further, or relaxing. This more than makes up for the $200 lost in having higher costs on the one job.

                  Just because you are small, doesn't mean you can't act and perform like a big LCO who owns every piece of equipment possible.
                  Last edited by acrajchel; 10-05-2016, 05:10 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Great reply,

                    Thanks for your input.

                    Will take all into consideration.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hey guys,

                      I am getting more work the I can handle these days so I'm beginning the quest to build my team, reluctantly, at that.

                      I guess because I've built my company from the ground up I'm not entirely thrilled about hiring workers for the sake of making money, but I know its going to become a reality sooner or later.

                      Currently my girlfriend helps me all summer and on the weekends but is a teacher Sept - June.

                      In terms of employee's what are some of your magic numbers?

                      - 1 laborer, 2 , 3?

                      I'm thinking one solid apprentice would be great, a kid who wants to learn and put his passion into this.

                      I would walk right up to people as a kid and give them my resume or ask for a job.

                      These days people say I need some extra cash, would you hire me?

                      I want to see a young man with some cohonas who wants to work hard like I was when I was young.

                      What are you experiences with hired help?

                      Currently I am doing about 2 large projects per week and about 8 - 10 houses maintenance - Yesterday I cut 7 in 7 hours and boy am I feeling it today!
                      I don't know much about your business, but first, are you properly licensed (for the services you offer) and insured? Do you hold an active business license?

                      This will help me answer your question much better.

                      Comment


                      • #12

                        I don't know much about your business, but first, are you properly licensed (for the services you offer) and insured? Do you hold an active business license?

                        This will help me answer your question much better.
                        The licensing part really depends where he is located.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I would make sure you have your prices at or above market value first. raise prices and be honest, include drive time....$55-60/man hour. then see who you have left. you should fleece some customers, and some who appreciate your service will have no problem. the key to the employee is you need someone to care as much as you for 1/3 of the money...that's a tough proposition, but they are out there. be selective. If you take a guy on, be ready to market and grow to fill up what you both can handle. Repeat.

                          The money isn't in the grass when you're employing mowers, it's in the other opportunities like hardscape, fert and snow. Are you prepared to move into those areas?

                          Comment


                          • #14

                            The licensing part really depends where he is located.

                            Yes, sort of....read my post again. Is he properly licensed for the services he offers? Does he hold an active business license? Everyone needs a business license....whether a sole prop, LLC, INC, DBA, etc. Other licenses come in to play depending on his state requirements.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I would make sure you have your prices at or above market value first. raise prices and be honest, include drive time....$55-60/man hour. then see who you have left. you should fleece some customers, and some who appreciate your service will have no problem. the key to the employee is you need someone to care as much as you for 1/3 of the money...that's a tough proposition, but they are out there. be selective. If you take a guy on, be ready to market and grow to fill up what you both can handle. Repeat.

                              The money isn't in the grass when you're employing mowers, it's in the other opportunities like hardscape, fert and snow. Are you prepared to move into those areas?
                              I'm sorry, but you are dead wrong. The money is in profits...not the services you offer. If you want to remain solo, raise prices and cherry pick. If you are looking to grow a business to have employees, evaluate where you stand on profits and grow from there. My business is 99% mowing and my profits are great.

                              Comment

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