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westernmdlawn
09-06-2008, 07:23 PM
Hi Guys. Just wondering how everyone is doing with keeping hardscaping jobs booked going forward? We have one at present, with another good prospect in the works. So, not very many for us right now in Western Maryland. I'm thinking that people aren't spending much right now. Anyone concur?

Thanks

DVS Hardscaper
09-07-2008, 11:10 AM
Let me put it this way.......we're doing mulching and fall clean ups! We have NOT done this service in the fall in at least 10 years!

It's Sunday, and today I have an appointment to present a prospective client with a lighting proposal. Under normal economic times it would be a cold day in hell before I see a client on a Sunday!


The hardscape industry is a luxury service.

Just like boat sales, motor home sales, etc.

Yes....we're slow! It really seems like the Wash DC area is taking a hit. Heck, one of our suppliers used to have at least two tractor trailer loads of Techo-bloc delivered a week. Now when I call to place an order they say "so far we don't have enough orders to fill a truck"! And this is one of Techo's largest dealers!

Last week I received a call from another supplier 60 miles away trying to get us to buy from them! They even offered to match our current supplier's prices and delivery fees!

Then, yesterday I received a nice, 4-color mailer from ANOTHER supplier, 70 miles away!!

In the 12 years I've been doing hardscapes, we've never had suppliers from far off in the distance contact us! They're slow so they're knocking on doors.

We have another local supplier that is on a major highway. Prime location for selling pavers. And last week they didn't have any new prospective homeowners stop in and kick tires.

I have a friend that is in the swimming pool maintenace business. He tells me that nationally new pool installs are DOWN 75%. Nationally, new hot tub sales are down 70%.

Last week I received a well written letter in the mail from a large furniture company. Stating something along the lines of "the economy is killing furniture sales, we're offering bargins, stop in and see us it's a win win for both". In all honesty, it was a very compelling letter, by that I mean if I were in the market for furniture and had extra cash set aside - I would be running in to see them.

I am going to take this letter and rewrite it so it's geared for my hardscape / landscape business and send it to all our previous clients.

shethinksmytractors_sexy
09-07-2008, 12:39 PM
i have about three months of walls lined up and still getting calls every week for them. i hope i continue getting these jobs because last winter i didnt work for three months. but i think walls/hardscapes are in a bigger demand here now. they are newer to this area so once somebody sees it they want it and are willing to pay for it.

DVS Hardscaper
09-07-2008, 03:02 PM
i have about three months of walls lined up and still getting calls every week for them. i hope i continue getting these jobs because last winter i didnt work for three months. but i think walls/hardscapes are in a bigger demand here now. they are newer to this area so once somebody sees it they want it and are willing to pay for it.


Thats great! I had heard from 2 different people that Tennessee is really doing quite well.

Our main supplier for hardscape material is John Deere Landscapes.

A while back I was talking to my main contact there about how some parts of the country seem to be dead in the water and other parts are thriving.

Being John Deere is a national company, they do some sort of print out for their employees as to which JD locations are doing what. My rep had told me that this year their locations in Tennessee are ON FIRE :weightlifter:

shethinksmytractors_sexy
09-07-2008, 04:22 PM
yea there is a john deere 5 miles from me and they seem to be always busy. they have raised there prices alot also. i will get material from them but mainly i use sequatchie concrete as they are the supplier of cornerstone block. all of the hardscape innovations are alot newer to tennesee rather than virginia and above. its boomin!!! but i hope the winter is that way also.

DVS Hardscaper
09-07-2008, 04:39 PM
Cornerstone is what we use to for SRW.

I have heard Vern (the creator and owner of Cornerstone) speak, as well as have had 1 on 1 conversations with him. He is just incredible. Words can't describe his wealth of knowledge and ingenuity(sp?). Just an amazing man.

Mike33
09-07-2008, 06:56 PM
See what i have been telling you Brian, its tough times. Just got back from the beach today we will tie up for that beer soon. DVS, I switched to cornerstone my self, and Vern is the greatest man i have ever talked too. Anyone that tears a garage off of the side of a house to get equiptment down over hill to build a wall then rebuild the garage is awsome to me.
mike

westernmdlawn
09-10-2008, 10:44 PM
Yeah... I guess you are right. It just seems so weird to me, I've never ever seen things this slow. I'm thinking maybe some good has come out of it though. I have been forced to scale back and have realized that this isn't such a bad place to be at all! The money is good here! Plus my fat arse gets a little more exercise this way.

I've heard a few stories of contractors scaling back to one crew, a 2 or 3 man operation and making much more money. My dad always preaches that theory too. The overhead will kill fast if work slows down, such as it has recently.

I had someone call me and ask me for a job today. They work at a mulch yard out of town somewhere and said that they are used to 70-80 hour weeks this time of year normally, but now are struggling to get 30 hours! They called me because they thought we would be busy and need help.

Mike I'd like to get together soon when you have time. I have some questions for you about the idea of scaling back - permanently. I thought maybe I could pick your brain a bit about some of the business end of things. I thought maybe I could share some of our trials and tribulations too on my end.

PerfiCut L&L
09-11-2008, 09:25 PM
We've starting picking up the past couple weeks. Just finished a large week long project a week ago. Was looking forward to taking a week or so off, when I started getting responses to past estimates. We've just signed up two more this week, and I have a third contract to close on this weekend. In addition I just submitted three more estimates this week.

I guess I'll take a break in October.

PSUturf
09-11-2008, 10:08 PM
Here in Madison, WI some companies have been busy all year and some have been very slow. We were very busy until the third week of August. Now we have about 2 weeks worth of work lined up. Hardscape jobs have been a bigger part of sales than ever before. When I talked to our Unilock supplier in late July he said they were having a great year.

DVS Hardscaper
09-13-2008, 04:48 PM
.......I've heard a few stories of contractors scaling back to one crew, a 2 or 3 man operation and making much more money. My dad always preaches that theory too. The overhead will kill fast if work slows down, such as it has recently.




Everything has it's perks.

The biggest perk is that I was able to pack up and take a family vacation in August and not worry about loosing prospective jobs! And, we've been talking about going on a tropical-get-away this winter. The timing is perfect.

We're a small company. And it's times like these when you're thankful to have a small company. We're not dead and we're doing hardscape and landscape jobs every week. you have to be able to adapt and go with the flow. Basically I'm having to work much harder to land sales. I'm a believer in having a 'wish list' of jobs to do as fillers, which is why I'm marketing fall mulching. Also, these times are also good for selling patio cleaning and sealing to former patio customers.

Being small means you don't have a bunch of managers and other behind the scenes personnel to pay each week. And if you're wise - it also means you're not up over your head in equipment debt. I wouldn't have it any other way!

westernmdlawn
09-13-2008, 05:22 PM
I guess if we get super swamped with work I can be more choosy about which jobs I take, and also create a deep backlog. A deep backlog = security and profitability due to the opportunity to schedule and operate more efficiently. I still have two grass mowing crews operating, but I scaled back on the landscape / hardscape stuff some. I got rid of my lead foreman and I work in his place. I also brought the office guy out into the field as well as the shop guy. Since we are doing less jobs I can do that. I just do my office work in the evenings and on Saturday. I have eliminated the following costs:

1.) Lead Foreman: $15/hr. + O.T. pay @ 1.5 + bonuses periodically.
2.) Office Mgr.: $12/hr., usually 30-40 hours. Amazing what I can get done in the evenings!
3.) Shop Mgr.: $7/hr. usually 30-40 hours.

There are other savings as a result of these changes, but they are miniscule in comparison to the above.

Here's what I'm realizing in savings:

1.) $750 - $1,000 per week saved which = $3000 - $4000 per month.
2.) $425-$575 per week saved which = $1700 - $2300 per month.
3.) $250-$335 per week saved which = $1,000 - $1340 per month.

Grand total so far... = $5700 - $7640 per month saved with above stated changes (scaling back).

That's huge! Plus things are simpler. I don't have hardly any stress! I mean, its not hard to run the business when you do everything yourself mostly. The stress I had previously came from other peoples stupid decisions.

It's only been about 2 - 2.5 weeks since I've implemented these changes and I'm already seeing the benefits. We've made excellent profits on the jobs that we have done, my cash flow is much better, I have less stress, and so on. You know the funny thing? I am only working 10 - 20% more hours if I had to guess. Plus I'm getting excersise. Also, I have decided to start paying for everything when I get it. No more credit card or account charging. I'm thinking that will help alot too with interest fees, and general peace of mind. The monthly vendor bills are outrageously high. Last month I had to write a check to our local mulch yard for $10,000! That's just too much to accumulate.

I feel wiser...lesson learned? I think so.

Mike33
09-13-2008, 07:16 PM
Good job Brian!
Mike

bishoplandscape
09-14-2008, 05:10 PM
Just started to slow a little for us does it every year at this time but we still have enough to keep us busy until i shut down in November. just been bidding jobs for spring now. But it doesn't help its been raining for days straight so we may have a few days of cleaning shop and office coming up.