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View Full Version : 2008 - The Year of the Dogs


JimLewis
07-25-2008, 02:32 PM
This is an odd year, that's for sure. Unlike any other year in the 12 years I've been in business.

I say the year of the dogs because it seems like a much higher percentage of the bids I give these days (for new landscaping, hardscapes, irrigation systems) are from clients who are just totally wasting my time; Dogs in other words.

We're actually up in gross sales this year by 15% by some miracle. But it sure doesn't seem like it. I haven't run all the numbers but I would bet that even though total sales are up, profit margins are lower than usual. And probably the only reason we're up is because of a few huge windfall jobs we landed. Otherwise, normal jobs are hard to come by this year.

Anyway, seems like almost every bid I give these days is just a total waste of my time. Either the client wants some really odd things done and there's no way to do the job to where they could afford it AND we would make any profit. Or their budget doesn't even come close to the reality of what they want done (champagne taste, beer budget). Or they call and act like they have a large project and when I show up it's a little tiny townhouse and they just need a small $500 or $1000 job done (and again only have a $250 budget).

It just seems like 80% of the bids I give this year are these total time-wasters. It's usually not that high of a percentage. Typically, maybe 20-25% of the bids I give are like that.

I feel like I am running around giving bids every day just totally wasting my time. I feel like I am working 3x as hard to land jobs than I ever had to in the past. It's freakin' discouraging as heck.

I guess I should feel fortunate that we are still landing jobs and staying busy and sales are higher. But it just seems like so much work to get there. Argh!!!!

Anybody feelin' my pain???

fool32696
07-25-2008, 03:00 PM
I'm just getting into landscaping and decorative concrete this year. I've been doing lawn maintenance for over 8 years. I been doing LOTS of estimates on both pool decks and landscape jobs. Most of the estimates have been between $1000 and $6000 and I'm having the same issues as you, about 80-85% of the estimates are just wasting my time. I'm admittedly not the best salesman (and I'm working on that) but it seems like when the job runs over $1k I never hear back. I'm just hoping I'll come out of this when things turn around as a better businessman and salesman. Similar to your situation, this is still the most profitable year that I've ever had despite the hard sells and fuel prices. It's just comforting to me to know I'm not the only one that is having trouble closing deals.

Lawnworks
07-25-2008, 06:44 PM
It is a wierd year... my gross is up as well... I keep wondering if I am going to stay booked 2 weeks to 4 weeks out, but the work never seems slacks for my landscape crew. I guess it is just media hype. I have only done one job for a builder all year, but I never really relied on builders anyway. I bet all three of my crews have averaged 60 hours per week the whole summer. I think it is going to be a good year if Odumma doesn't get elected.

White Gardens
07-26-2008, 09:50 AM
I'm having a good year. I haven't run into same problems with budet restrictions. If there is an issue with the final price, then I suggest doing stages on their landscaping rather than doing it all at once. 9 times out of 10 they are willing just to do the whole thing rather than wait another year to finish.

I don't know what it is, maybe I am a good salesman, the local economy, or my reputation, but I haven't had to bid against any other companies this year on any residentials. Every client I've talked to wants my company to do the work and no one else. The reason I started this business was because of the shoty work other companies were doing. I have one client that I told them that I was booked until sept, and I have a g-pa that is failing in health, and if it was an issue that I could find them a good landscaper to do the job. They declined and said they would wait.

jaybird24
07-26-2008, 10:56 PM
Things are doing real well here too, profits are up 30% and that's mainly because we were booked till June coming into the year so all my bids have been extremely high, so the ones I get turn out to be money makers. The calls keep coming and now were taking bids for next year, seems the higher the price the more people want us to do the work. Very strange, I hope it keeps up. Jim- I remember a post you had a few weeks back about people wanting to talk work with you everywhere you went. After that post ( which I agreed with) I decided to tell people right off the bat we are booked for the year, but I will be working on bids for next year in the coming months. Maybe this could help weed out some of the price shoppers. And for God's sake take a vacation or weekend at least to get away and just enjoy something other than work, you deserve it.

shovelracer
07-27-2008, 11:45 AM
I think we are all seeing the same things. Most of it is caused by media hype. The majority of what Ive seen is the potential client has a mental budget of X that they want to spend on the house. One option is to spend it on landscaping. Most have unrealistic expectations as to the cost of it so they get disappointed. The money gets spent on one of the other options. This is different where in years past if the estimate was over by a reasonable amount they would find a way to make it happen. Now if it is a dollar over they cant do it, and are looking for the biggest bang for the buck.

YardPro
07-27-2008, 01:39 PM
jim,

i'd be willing to bet you have a big yellow pages ad........

I refuse to get a yellow pages ad because of the "tire kickers" that would totally waste my time... got tired of running all over for people that could not afford me...

mdvaden
07-27-2008, 04:32 PM
It's different alright.

One of my best years ever - as of when we moved back near Portland - with what seems to be a bit higher than a 90% acceptance rate on estimates.

As much pruning as any other time, maybe a bit more, some landscaping projects.

About 1/4 the amount of water features.

And landscape blueprints / design plans, maybe 10% of other years.

Some of the water feature stuff was rebuild - not first-time for the property stuff.

So it seems that there is less business pertaining to planning and developing new landscaping and waterfeatures from scratch, and more along the lines of upgrading, maintaining or repairing.

JimLewis
07-28-2008, 01:56 AM
jim,

i'd be willing to bet you have a big yellow pages ad........

I refuse to get a yellow pages ad because of the "tire kickers" that would totally waste my time... got tired of running all over for people that could not afford me...

No. I don't like Yellow Pages. Same advertising we've always had. Nothing has changed in our advertising. But the results we're getting is what has changed.

mdvaden
07-28-2008, 02:36 AM
No. I don't like Yellow Pages. Same advertising we've always had. Nothing has changed in our advertising. But the results we're getting is what has changed.

I thought you were going to say something like that. I recalled you posting not too long ago about some ad related stuff, and yellow pages was part of the conversation.

Hey - we did not hook up about that tree stuff yet.

Didn't call this weekend, figuring you might like to chill. I laid low and web surfed, and watched an old flick called "12 Angry Men".

Have some time on my hands tomorrow.

socallawndude
08-03-2008, 07:57 PM
Completely agree, like what's said in Glengarry Glenross, "some people just like talking to salesman". Which ultimately is what we are, and it is very frustrating to have time wasted.

JimLewis
08-03-2008, 09:40 PM
Well, as of the day I posted this thread I had enough of these time-wasters. So I decided to take some action.

Starting last week I had my office manager screen the leads we get. If the caller is a previous customer, referral, neighbor, or friend of mine, they get through. If not, we look them up by home value (Zillow) and what neighborhood they are in. If the home value is above $500-$600K, I'll go ahead and meet with them and give them a bid. Those people can typically afford us and aren't usually time-wasters. If the value of the home is less or is in a part of town where we don't get much leads, then my office manager gets a detailed description of the work to be done. She calls me and I give her a "ball park" price. She calls them back and gives them the "ball park" price and stresses that it could vary depending on site conditions and other factors. If they say that this price is within their budget and they're still interested, only THEN do schedule them for a bid.

I've also been making sure our office manage has the customer go to our website and look around before I arrive. I find that if someone has already got a good feel for the kind of work we do and seen our references, etc. then they are much more receptive and respectful when I come to give them a bid.

This has seemed to help so far. But we've only been doing it a few days so far. Time will tell. I know we've scared off a few people already with our "ball park" estimates, and I think that's a good thing. Those people would have most likely been a waste of my time.

palm boy
08-04-2008, 01:13 PM
It is a wierd year... my gross is up as well... I keep wondering if I am going to stay booked 2 weeks to 4 weeks out, but the work never seems slacks for my landscape crew. I guess it is just media hype. I have only done one job for a builder all year, but I never really relied on builders anyway. I bet all three of my crews have averaged 60 hours per week the whole summer. I think it is going to be a good year if Odumma doesn't get elected.

Employers have just trimmed their payrolls for the 7th straight month and the unemployment rate has just hit a 4 yr high. So no, this is not media hype. People are losing their jobs and those that are not have less to spend. We are in a bad economy right now and you can blame who or what you want, but Obama does not take office until next year.

Lawnworks
08-04-2008, 04:49 PM
Bad economy?? I don't know about that... the economy still grew 2% last month.

mdvaden
08-04-2008, 05:40 PM
Employers have just trimmed their payrolls for the 7th straight month and the unemployment rate has just hit a 4 yr high. So no, this is not media hype. People are losing their jobs and those that are not have less to spend. We are in a bad economy right now and you can blame who or what you want, but Obama does not take office until next year.

That's right.

What senate seat will he be taking again?

But as a senator, he'll definitely have an office to take.

palm boy
08-04-2008, 06:01 PM
Bad economy?? I don't know about that... the economy still grew 2% last month.

listen, I have had a decent year as far as business goes. But I know that it is a fact that our economy is slow, in a recession or whatever you want to call it. You may say it grew by 2% last month, but businesses these days are making less profit, if any. Several AP headlines today: 1) Rising Prices Beat Down Consumer Spending in June 2) Wall Street Reels and Braces for Tough Economy and 3) Recession now and no recovery until 2nd half of 2009. You might be impressed by the 2% increase in the economy last month, but if that is true, it was at the expense of employer's job cuts jumping 26% in that same month- July.

Lawnworks
08-04-2008, 07:28 PM
listen, I have had a decent year as far as business goes. But I know that it is a fact that our economy is slow, in a recession or whatever you want to call it. You may say it grew by 2% last month, but businesses these days are making less profit, if any. Several AP headlines today: 1) Rising Prices Beat Down Consumer Spending in June 2) Wall Street Reels and Braces for Tough Economy and 3) Recession now and no recovery until 2nd half of 2009. You might be impressed by the 2% increase in the economy last month, but if that is true, it was at the expense of employer's job cuts jumping 26% in that same month- July.

I think you just gave 3 examples of media hype... I am glad you are not hurting... makes you wonder who IS hurting.

And by the way, your third example is a prime example of media hype... there is no recession as of yet. We can't just go changing the definitions of words to create something to report on.

I just wish they would lower taxes and cut spending! That apparantly is just the craziest idea up on capital hill.

5.0
08-05-2008, 01:21 PM
I feel like I am running around giving bids every day just totally wasting my time. I feel like I am working 3x as hard to land jobs than I ever had to in the past. It's freakin' discouraging as heck.

I guess I should feel fortunate that we are still landing jobs and staying busy and sales are higher. But it just seems like so much work to get there. Argh!!!!

Anybody feelin' my pain???

Couldn't agree more. The high price of diesel just makes it that much more discouraging when you know you just burned up $40 in fuel to write an estimate for a dog...

PSUturf
08-05-2008, 10:41 PM
I have been getting work out of about 25% of the estimates I send out. If I do an estimate for someone who came to us through the Yellow Pages or our website I probably close about 5-10% of those sales. I would like to charge a $50 estimate fee (refundable if we do any work for them) to weed out the tire kickers but the owner of the company thinks we won't get any work with that policy. It worked great for my previous employer.

Trying to limit ourselves to only bidding for work at houses worth more than $500,000 won't work here. The higher the home value the more likely they will go with the lowest bidder which is never me.