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View Full Version : Solo Operators I Would Like To Hear About Your Business


Martin Lawn
09-11-2007, 08:02 PM
Hi folks, I have several questions for those of you that are solo operators or those of you that started as solo operators that I would like some insight into. I just recently started this year as a way to make some additonal income along with my full time job and I really enjoy the business. I was wondering for those of you that are full time LCO's working primarily by yourself how many accounts do you find yourself able to service working 40-60 hours per week?
My reason for asking is that I currently work full time at a power plant and although the money and benefits are good I really don't enjoy going to work. Now I'm not looking to leave my job tomorrow but I've been considering a 3 year plan. Unfortunaltely there's only so many hours in a day so there's only so many clients I can take on part time, but if I could build up enough of a client base with good accounts I would consider leaving in the future. On average what is the average income of a solo operator if you don't mind sharing it with me (I know it's different geographically) who mainly services residential lawns and offers most of the upsells such as aeration, fall cleanups, tree trimming etc. Please let me know if your bottom line includes health insurance, a retirement account and all that good stuff.
Currently I am mostly debt free except for the new chainsaw and pole saw I purchased the other day for 0% interest for 12 months, but other than that my 06 Dane 36" commercial wb, H&H 8 by 12 trailer, trimmers and blowers are paid for, my truck isn't but I don't consider that a business expense as I use it as much for personal use.
Next year my goal is to pay cash for a lightly used ZTR, I'm thinking it shouldn't be to difficult as I don't currently take a payroll check. I guess I was just curious as to how many of you are making a good living just doing it on your own. Sorry for the longwinded post:laugh:

deapee
09-11-2007, 08:54 PM
Martin, there comes a time when it's just time to go and do it. I don't see the point in anyone telling you how much they made their first season going full time or how many customers they acquired. It's all relative to the amount of work you're willing to put in. If 10 people tell you that they quit their job, went full time and made nothing, would you give up the dream? If 10 people tell you that they quit their job, went full time and made $80k the first year, would your pursue it harder?

Both are possible, and both are highly probable outcomes. If you're willing to put in the time acquiring the work, the work is there. If you're not, then you will fail.

I've seen guys take it on full time, go all out and get $30k worth of equipment thinking the work would come in...and waiting all summer and end up selling everything in the fall and going back to work for someone else. Just the same, I've seen guys start it out small, build slowly, acquire little to no debt, and have 3 guys working 5-6 days a week by the end of the year. Your goals should be clear and well-thought-out, and you should not stop pursuing those goals until you get what you're after...or of course until you adapt. Always be willing and ready to adapt.

Martin Lawn
09-11-2007, 09:16 PM
Martin, there comes a time when it's just time to go and do it. I don't see the point in anyone telling you how much they made their first season going full time or how many customers they acquired. It's all relative to the amount of work you're willing to put in. If 10 people tell you that they quit their job, went full time and made nothing, would you give up the dream? If 10 people tell you that they quit their job, went full time and made $80k the first year, would your pursue it harder?

Both are possible, and both are highly probable outcomes. If you're willing to put in the time acquiring the work, the work is there. If you're not, then you will fail.

I've seen guys take it on full time, go all out and get $30k worth of equipment thinking the work would come in...and waiting all summer and end up selling everything in the fall and going back to work for someone else. Just the same, I've seen guys start it out small, build slowly, acquire little to no debt, and have 3 guys working 5-6 days a week by the end of the year. Your goals should be clear and well-thought-out, and you should not stop pursuing those goals until you get what you're after...or of course until you adapt. Always be willing and ready to adapt.

Thanks for your reply, while I understand you will only get out what you put into it I was curious as to the kind of numbers a solo operator could see if everything went well. Obviously there are several factors to consider, but if everyone said I busted my butt and only made $30,000.00 the first few years I would second guess my decision of taking it on full time. If I was unmarried and had no kids or mortgage that would be one thing but with the responsibilities I have I have to be carefull when dreaming about a new career path:) I was just curious as to what kind of money a LCO could make with no employees when the business was managed properly with lots of hard work and dedication. Thanks again for your reply.

JeffW0011
09-11-2007, 09:23 PM
Martin,
I would be glad to tell you what I know and relate my experience to you. I would strongly caution you leaving a decent job with decent benefits until you really have a going propostion. Does your wife work? Does she have good benefits? I was fortunate to have a wife with a solid career and solid benefits that allowed me to pursue this. I know guys who have been doing this for years and are real successful with it and still say paying for all the insurance and what not for their family and self just kills them. Plus, you will definetly have a lag time of a few years before you can get where you need to be. Can you weather the storm financially?

bohiaa
09-11-2007, 10:39 PM
you may wanna hold off on the ZTR..

you will have to target your customers.
think about what type of customers you want.
and what type and how many are in your area.
a ZTR may NOT be for you.

in my area there is NOT any 1/4 acer lots. there for I cut mainly acerage.
my largest customer is 10 acers. yes 10 that's there front and back yard.
it's an every 10 day'er..

most of them are 2 to 5 acers.
frome time to time I get calls about 1/4 acer lots and I have to trn them down simply because I have no 21" mower.

there are several web sights that have averages of people, income, and proptery value and sizes. this may help you to target your customer better.

Good Luck.

Martin Lawn
09-11-2007, 11:41 PM
Martin,
I would be glad to tell you what I know and relate my experience to you. I would strongly caution you leaving a decent job with decent benefits until you really have a going propostion. Does your wife work? Does she have good benefits? I was fortunate to have a wife with a solid career and solid benefits that allowed me to pursue this. I know guys who have been doing this for years and are real successful with it and still say paying for all the insurance and what not for their family and self just kills them. Plus, you will definetly have a lag time of a few years before you can get where you need to be. Can you weather the storm financially?


All good points, my wife does work and makes good money but she is self employed so the benefits would be the real kicker. I haven't looked into insurance as of yet but I imagine I'm easily looking at around $800 per month for the family for less coverage than I already have and since I would like to retire someday I also have to consider a retirement account. Financially weathering the storm is something I need to start planning for now should I decide eventually to try doing this full time. Thanks for your input.

Martin Lawn
09-11-2007, 11:50 PM
you may wanna hold off on the ZTR..

you will have to target your customers.
think about what type of customers you want.
and what type and how many are in your area.
a ZTR may NOT be for you.

in my area there is NOT any 1/4 acer lots. there for I cut mainly acerage.
my largest customer is 10 acers. yes 10 that's there front and back yard.
it's an every 10 day'er..

most of them are 2 to 5 acers.
frome time to time I get calls about 1/4 acer lots and I have to trn them down simply because I have no 21" mower.

there are several web sights that have averages of people, income, and proptery value and sizes. this may help you to target your customer better.

Good Luck.

Due to where I'm located in Omaha I have about 1500 homes within 2 miles of myself that range anywhere from $300,000 to 7 million and that is the target for my advertising next spring. Now I'm sure several have relationships with current LCO's but I figure it sure wouldn't hurt to try. The lot sizes range anywhere from 1/4 acre to upwards of 4-5acres so if I'm able to get enough of these accounts I would then consider a ZTR. No need for me to have a machine I really couldn't use, just thought it would really help production and open up some possibilities of bidding larger properties.

bohiaa
09-12-2007, 08:54 PM
Due to where I'm located in Omaha I have about 1500 homes within 2 miles of myself that range anywhere from $300,000 to 7 million and that is the target for my advertising next spring. Now I'm sure several have relationships with current LCO's but I figure it sure wouldn't hurt to try. The lot sizes range anywhere from 1/4 acre to upwards of 4-5acres so if I'm able to get enough of these accounts I would then consider a ZTR. No need for me to have a machine I really couldn't use, just thought it would really help production and open up some possibilities of bidding larger properties.

Yes IT will.....

I didn't get mine untill there was a need.....

I was trying to lead your thinking towards target the customer... and it looks like I didn't need to do that. you chimed right back with a Great response and additude.... your already above the croud.......

you will need to remember about insurance and such going into this business.
all areas are diffrent, I'm sure you cauld get some quotes and do the math..

good luck

topsites
09-12-2007, 09:32 PM
It's more than just about the money to me, I pay myself a grand a month so it ain't get rich quick or slow for sure and I'm in my 6th year, but...

The FREEDOM omg the freedom, absolutely no feeling hit me harder than this, you are 100% free to do as YOU please!
When, what, how, where, all of that is entirely in your hands, every minute of every day you are teh man!

- Wake up and go to work, or not. I probably work 6 months out of the year.
> You bet I wake up at the crack of noon, get to my first yard by 2p, home by 7 and LOL.
- Dump $100 in fuel in the truck and act like it's nothing.
- CALL the dealer and ask if some $300 trimmer is in stock, if so could they have it ready in 20-30, then swing past swipe tha magic credit card and 5 minutes later have a brand new tool in hand, lalala.
- Act like the town idiot and fail to care. Why? Why not?
- Nobody to write you up or fire you, your job is as secure as you make it.
- Your choices and decisions directly affect your income in real time, for once in your life when you do the right thing you reap the reward and now, nobody else slips in front of you and nobody else gets or takes the credit.
- No corporate nonsense, however I'd like to add that today I finally SEE why some of it was necessary :laugh:
- Still, you run it the way you deem fit, I never liked a lot of things in the real world, to this day I categorically refuse to do things everyone else is absolutely convinced of, for no other reason than I just don't like that.

Now those are some of the things I like, don't get me started on the bad stuff.

Good luck

DGomez
09-12-2007, 11:50 PM
how can you afford the internet or life in general making 6-8k a year????

thanks
Dan Gomez

TurfGuysInc.
09-13-2007, 12:07 AM
Martin Lawns,
Where in Omaha do you service?

WALKER LANDSCAPE
09-13-2007, 12:13 AM
Martin
Have been doing this for 10 years now 7 of those years was working at Roadway Trucking 7 at night till 3 in the morning up at 8a.m. done by 5p.m. and off to Roadway again. Finally did it Benfits are the most important thou.

greenerman
09-13-2007, 12:59 AM
Hey Martin, so many variables for a lot of different outcomes. I work alone, that's the way I found was the best. I know exactly what kind of job is being done for my clients. Many years ago I worked for Sears and was taught how to treat the customer right ( the good ol days) I use that philosophy today in my business. I also do more than lawns, such as pres. wash, gutters, etc. more of a property maintenance rather than just lawn maintenance. Do you have a business plan? Where do you want to work? What do you want to include as services? Will you have a professional looking image? etc. etc. My wife works full time for our local municipality so our benefits are all covered. Medical here in Canada is not a problem. My company insurances are relatively cheap. I used to be a Commercial Transport Mechanic working usually eight hour days and now depending on the season I work approx. six to ten hours a day and make the same amount of money as I would today wrenching. I could work like a dog and make more, but I like were I'm at now. So much depends on you and what you want and what you are willing to do to get it. Remember that anything is possible.

Martin Lawn
09-13-2007, 02:03 AM
Martin Lawns,
Where in Omaha do you service?

Currently I just have a handfull of accounts around the 132nd and Center area right now, this was my first year and by the time I got organized purchased equipment, paid for business cards doorhangers etc. it was almost June, then I proceeded to get buried at my full time job pulling 16hr days so I didn't have the time to actively go looking for new accounts or the time to service them.

Daddy Joes Lawn Service
09-13-2007, 05:12 AM
My wife makes good money for her i got to pursue my dream. 12 to 15 a year
and yes it is low but as long as my girls have clothes on there back and food in there mouth i'm very happy about the money i make. Each year it gets better and better.:clapping: