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DFW Area Landscaper
02-02-2006, 10:36 AM
two totally separate industries. Not quite as separate as construction & maintenance, but still two totally separate industries.

Take me, for example. I have three years experience in the business, all of it is residential. Not a single commercial client the whole time. I am very good at pricing residential maintenance. But put me out on a shopping center with a lot of shrubs and a lot of large lawn areas, I am totally lost as far as quoting a price is concerned.

With commercial maintenance, generally speaking, the company who mows the lawn does everything else too. Tree pruning, color changes, irrigation programming & repair, crepe myrtle pruning, mulch for the beds, chemical apps...everything. Often times, in the North Texas area, this includes overseeding the lawn with rye in the winter and mowing it in the winter. There is work to do every month of the year. Also, these agreements are more often than not written agreements with longer term commitments from the customers.

With residential lawn mowing, the company who mows the lawn often times does nothing else. There is usually a separate company that does the chemical apps. And the home owner often times does everything else, such as trimming the shrubs and color changes. Residential clients almost never over seed the lawn with rye, so there is no mowing to be done in the winter. By and large, residential clients have zero work for the lawn mowing company for 4 to 5 months per year. Also, with residential mowing, there is usually not a signed contract, nor is there usually a long term commitment from the customer.

I just see these two industries as not having much in common. I would definitely classify these two industries as separate industries.

Would you?

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

Rhett
02-02-2006, 11:05 AM
DFW, You hit the nail on the head. I try to steer away from commercial as there are so many variables. Like dealing with one person per account. How much time am I going to budget to a commercial each week? Is there going to be a large amount of trash? How many vehicles left over from the night before. I do one bar and one night club and a constucton company. Dread the places thast sell alcohol as you never know what you will run into.

EvandSeby
02-02-2006, 11:17 AM
Just to show the differences in areas, but most of my residential customers have me overseed with ryegrass, prune smaller trees, and do the shrubs. I think that target marketing is the key. Find your specific nitch, and go for it. Mine is small to medium sized residentials in upper middle class neighborhoods. Commercial work here is almost all done by larger outfits with a lot of resources.

DFW Area Landscaper
02-02-2006, 11:40 AM
It seems to me, and to the guy in Arizona, that commerical maintenance is generally done by larger companies with more resources. This isn't a hard and fast rule, but generally, it seems that way. Often times players like Trugreen are doing this maintenance. Uniformed crews are normal. Lettered trucks are normal.

The typical residential lawn mowing company is very small and looks to be operating on a shoe string budget. Again, not always, but generally. Often times they are carrying 21" mowers in the bed of the pick up and sometimes they even stow them in the trunk of a car. The workers have no uniforms. The trucks are not lettered. Often times, the residential lawn mowing company looks like something from Sanford & Son.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

Jpocket
02-02-2006, 02:56 PM
I have a few commercial contracts and do 80% Residential, i definitly don't view them as different industries. DFW I can see why you would say that b/c you are servicing a Niche market.

My residentials and commercials get all the same services, just the residential is more Ala carte if you will.

The commercials just require more attention.

HOOLIE
02-02-2006, 04:19 PM
Yes many of the larger commercial jobs around here are a different ballgame from residentials. I'm talking about very large HOA and office complexes, places like that, where the LCO really has to be knowledgeable in all facets of the green industry. That leaves it pretty much to the big boys. Even if a small LCO has the knowledge he wouldn't have the manpower required to deal with these large commercials.

chuck bow
02-02-2006, 06:01 PM
I agree with several posts here, On the very large commercial accounts the smaller guys dont have the manpower or resourses to get the job done right and in a timly matter ( some larger commercial accounts and hoa like the moweing ect to be all done in 1 day ) but on the smaller commercial a smaller company or a solo guy can get the job done. I have several small commercials like Dr's offices and clinics and banks that i can do the job just as well as the big guy and still turn a good profit. The down side to commercial is that they arent loyal and most go to lowest bidder unless you know the managers ( like i do ) . But then again homeowner type accounts can be a pita too wanting all the extras for a little of nothing. I guess all accounts have there good points and bad points too.

LwnmwrMan22
02-02-2006, 06:49 PM
I agree with several posts here, On the very large commercial accounts the smaller guys dont have the manpower or resourses to get the job done right and in a timly matter ( some larger commercial accounts and hoa like the moweing ect to be all done in 1 day ) but on the smaller commercial a smaller company or a solo guy can get the job done. I have several small commercials like Dr's offices and clinics and banks that i can do the job just as well as the big guy and still turn a good profit. The down side to commercial is that they arent loyal and most go to lowest bidder unless you know the managers ( like i do ) . But then again homeowner type accounts can be a pita too wanting all the extras for a little of nothing. I guess all accounts have there good points and bad points too.

This is what I've targeted over 17 years. Small - midsized commercial accounts where I get to know the owner / property manager on a first name basis. Each year you just stop in, say "hey, I'm mowing again this year" and they say okay. Off you go for another year.

Precision
02-02-2006, 09:02 PM
Residential and commercial are as similar or as different as the clients want them to be.

A doctor's office on a 1/4 acre plot is no more complicated than any full service reidential other than they may have a preference on what day / time to be serviced.

A 40 acre apartment complex with 20 buildings, 750 residents 1900 parking spaces 3 swimming pools, a tennis court, 600,000 sq feet of beds ...

Sure, that is an entirely different animal. But so would a 40 Acre residential with estate gardens.

But as someone mentioned, figure out what your good at and make money there. Or be crazy like me and set up two businesses and go after both ends of the spectrum.

mtdman
02-02-2006, 11:30 PM
For once I agree with DFW. One of the biggest mistakes that new lcos make, imo, is going after commercial right off the bat. They make some $$ on residential at first, see the bigger properties and think more $$. But it's not more $$ if you don't know what you are doing, don't have the right equipment, employees, capacity, etc. And 90% of the time, a larger more experienced company can beat your price and your service because they are equipped for it.

I agree with DFW that I am lost when it comes to bidding large commercial properties as well. I'm good with residentials, but the larger properties don't fit the how I normally operate and it's hard for me to bid. Although with residentials there isn't as much full service ability, there is more upselling and the possibility of creating client loyalty.

I think $$ can be made in either, but they are two seperate ballgames and you would be wise to realize that early on.

:D

topsites
02-03-2006, 12:28 AM
It takes time to bid the commercial props, I can hardly encompass the smaller ones in my mind, say 100-200 offices or apartments is more than enough for me. I find I have to go about it methodically and section off the big momma into smaller, manageable pieces. I then drive around and add up all the smaller pieces one by one until I have a total. Then, I do it 3-4 times over to make sure I'm on the money.
An hour or two is not unusual, thou I can usually get a small one estimated in 30-45 minutes. That is not speaking of the one-lot McDonald's or whatever, that to me would be handled the same as resi, I'm speaking of complexes and lots and stuff.

I also agree, when new in the business, don't fall for the trap of bidding commercial as you're more likely to either get skru'd or skru yourself. Understanding that it's a bidding industry is one thing, remaining firm on the price in the face of what I just said is a completely separate, and developed skill. I don't lower my price because it's lowest-bidder wins, because it's not about who can do it for less, it's a matter of the person with the right equipment will likely get the job... Because the closer suited the equipment and the company is to the work, the better they can do it in the least time, of course for less but they're still getting paid good / hour.
I got more offers for commercial work in my first 2 years than in the last 2, a lot more. I think, personally, it was someone who could see I was new (well it's hard to miss), and was hoping they could get something for nothing from the inexperienced guy... I still get a few like that from time to time, but once they get my proposal, I usually never hear back from them and most of the time, I like to know the person I'm speaking to beforehand anyway.

I just put in a bid on a small commercial prop, it might be about 8 acres or so total area, the grass part appears to only be about 1/2 acre but it's all in little pieces spread out with a TON of curbs and islands and bushes and crap, it will take most of a day.
And it's scary, and these are the small props... I wouldn't dare fool with some 1000+ acre corporate plot, lol... But even anything more than small props, it's just not for me.

And, you almost have to do them either at night or on Sunday, there's no way I'm working around 200-some cars, not even with insurance (which is usually another requirement).

DFW Area Landscaper
02-03-2006, 12:30 AM
The biggest difference is the work requirements in the winter. With commercial, there is plenty to keep a crew busy. Deadhead pansies. Clean leaves. Prune trees. Prune crepe myrtles. Mow over-seeded rye grass. Do chemical applications. Bring fresh mulch for the beds.

Residential clients for the most part have no need for an LCO between mid-November and mid-March. There are chemical applications to be made for the small handfull of residential lawn mowing companies that do chemical apps, but other than a leaf clean up here and there, there just isn't any demand from home owners. And most of the lawn mowing companies I compete with don't do chemical apps. I can only think of two companies in my entire area that do residential lawn mowing and chemical apps. One of them has clearly changed focus and appears to migrating away from residential.

The nature of the two industries pretty much dictates that the migrant worker is the only worker willing to tolerate the complete lack of income during the winter months. With H2B, or even with an illegal immigrant worker, going home to Mexico to spend time with family in the winter makes perfect sense. For guys who need real US incomes to fund such things as retirement plans and health insurance, residential lawn mowing just doesn't fit in my opinion. The money is ok during the mowing season. But then you have basically nothing for 4 months a year and thats where you get killed.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

Precision
02-03-2006, 09:08 AM
The nature of the two industries pretty much dictates that the migrant worker is the only worker willing to tolerate the complete lack of income during the winter months. With H2B, or even with an illegal immigrant worker, going home to Mexico to spend time with family in the winter makes perfect sense. For guys who need real US incomes to fund such things as retirement plans and health insurance, residential lawn mowing just doesn't fit in my opinion. The money is ok during the mowing season. But then you have basically nothing for 4 months a year and thats where you get killed.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

Very true

We have a slightly longer season here and it is still difficult to keep the entire crew up and running 50 weeks. Obviously attrition doesn't get replaced in the winter, but still. 42 cuts per year with 6-8 of them being really quick, so I have 8 weeks of work to come up with to fill in and keep the guys paid.

Most of them understand that overtime in the summer and 30 hours weekly in the winter is normal. Not that they budget for it.

DFW Area Landscaper
02-03-2006, 10:34 AM
I wish the residential market were more conducive to full service everything. But that is not reality. I would guess 75%+ of my mowing clients have never had us trim the shrubs. It's like, with lawn mowing, the home owner understands that it can't be procrastinated so they want a service. But with shrubs and everything else, they can do that when they finally get around to it.

My revenues in December were 95% lower than they were in September. So that gives you an idea of how many of my residential clients want us to do fall clean-ups and full service type stuff and how many of them just want us to mow the lawn. If it weren't for the chemical applications, I would not be able to have a worker this time of year. There are a lot of crews running around working this time of year. The catch is, most of them are working on commercial maintenance.

H2B seems to be the only logical fit for residential mowing because the workers are required to return to Mexico once a year. US workers simply won't tolerate an annual lay off of this magnitude.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

mtdman
02-03-2006, 01:13 PM
I wish the residential market were more conducive to full service everything. But that is not reality. I would guess 75%+ of my mowing clients have never had us trim the shrubs. It's like, with lawn mowing, the home owner understands that it can't be procrastinated so they want a service. But with shrubs and everything else, they can do that when they finally get around to it.

My revenues in December were 95% lower than they were in September. So that gives you an idea of how many of my residential clients want us to do fall clean-ups and full service type stuff and how many of them just want us to mow the lawn. If it weren't for the chemical applications, I would not be able to have a worker this time of year. There are a lot of crews running around working this time of year. The catch is, most of them are working on commercial maintenance.

H2B seems to be the only logical fit for residential mowing because the workers are required to return to Mexico once a year. US workers simply won't tolerate an annual lay off of this magnitude.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

You're funny. Try living in a northern climate without H2B workers. You'll find plenty of US workers willing to tolerate annual layoffs. When I was hiring last August, I had people practically stalking me to get a 2 month job. Not to mention northern lcos have been dealing with winter time slow downs forever. Even in warm winters with little snow, successful lcos can make it through the winter just fine.

DFW Area Landscaper
02-03-2006, 01:21 PM
I have no doubts that people wanted the work in August. But will that same worker be ready to come back to work for you in the spring? That is the question. My guess is, you'll be training a new guy because the worker you hired last August probably has another job by now.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

mtdman
02-03-2006, 05:37 PM
I have no doubts that people wanted the work in August. But will that same worker be ready to come back to work for you in the spring? That is the question. My guess is, you'll be training a new guy because the worker you hired last August probably has another job by now.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper
Doesn't matter. There is always turn over in this business, that's part of the deal, and something I expect. Not only expect, but prefer. The longer you keep someone, the more experience and the greater the pay. Unless it was someone really worth his pay, I'd rather turn over helpers and keep the payroll low. I prefer to turn them over during the offseason so I'm not constantly hiring people, though.

Flex-Deck
02-03-2006, 08:28 PM
two totally separate industries. Not quite as separate as construction & maintenance, but still two totally separate industries.

Take me, for example. I have three years experience in the business, all of it is residential. Not a single commercial client the whole time. I am very good at pricing residential maintenance. But put me out on a shopping center with a lot of shrubs and a lot of large lawn areas, I am totally lost as far as quoting a price is concerned.

With commercial maintenance, generally speaking, the company who mows the lawn does everything else too. Tree pruning, color changes, irrigation programming & repair, crepe myrtle pruning, mulch for the beds, chemical apps...everything. Often times, in the North Texas area, this includes overseeding the lawn with rye in the winter and mowing it in the winter. There is work to do every month of the year. Also, these agreements are more often than not written agreements with longer term commitments from the customers.

With residential lawn mowing, the company who mows the lawn often times does nothing else. There is usually a separate company that does the chemical apps. And the home owner often times does everything else, such as trimming the shrubs and color changes. Residential clients almost never over seed the lawn with rye, so there is no mowing to be done in the winter. By and large, residential clients have zero work for the lawn mowing company for 4 to 5 months per year. Also, with residential mowing, there is usually not a signed contract, nor is there usually a long term commitment from the customer.

I just see these two industries as not having much in common. I would definitely classify these two industries as separate industries.

Would you?

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

I diagree - I just mow trim - blow --- Have landscape company that does the trimming of trees, etc. We work together. thanks