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TPnTX
09-12-2008, 07:37 AM
Before this year I was doing some mowing as well as installs and fences.

This year my step-son joined me and we decided to start up a mowing route. I did most of the sales and as of Sept we have about 40 accounts residential and commercial.

We've had a couple of different helpers and for the most part that has worked out pretty well. We just hired a guy a couple of months ago who is excellent and I'm hoping to be able to keep him for a long time.

My step-son however has decided not to continue after this year. He'll be re-enlisting in the coast guard. I'm disappointed but I could tell he's not into it. Maybe July and August took it out of him.

There is a local business directory which is must-do in this area. If you're not in it, people often ask why. So far I've gotten several calls and its current until next summer. I bought the ads before I knew I would loose my main guy.

I intend to focus on high end residential and commercial. I'm looking into some other things but for now I should be able to keep things running with that.

If I had been focused on sales this year my route would be full. I got distracted by a heavy work load from doing installs and really I was constantly trying to encourage him to do more(any) sales. I really had high hopes because it's so much easier for two people to accomplish things. My hopes dwindled however as the summer went along. I can't say I was expecting it but at the same time I wasn't too surprised when he told me he would be leaving in Feb.

So....I'll probably start out next year in the truck with Jose. Get it up and running and as soon as possible replace me with another helper. These 40 account I have, only a handfull of them are small yards. The rest are large resi or commercial.

My 1st concern is my residential contract arrangments. I just got a cancellation of a lady and I knew it was going to happen. I already know getting the balance out of this person is not going to happen. So her canceling this late in the season means that she has been getting her yard mowed cheap all year. I think she's got it down to a scam.

So am I doing this right?
Take 38 mows/bed maint, 4 ferts, 3 seasonal color, weed control.
Add all that up, tax it and divide it into 12 monthly payments.

Doing this in March for example you stand the risk of mowing through September or November and then a customer dropping you and you holding the balance.
Again this just happened and I think she had intended this all along.

On the up side you have cash flow through the off season with a reduced overhead. You couple that together with the fact that it helps sales by allowing the customer to budget for the year.

I hate to do it but I guess I'll have to call around to other contractors to find what the norm is for contracts in this area.

So for those of you who do contracts, is this how you do it. Im hoping I'm not crazy for doing it this way. I based it off how the commercial contracts work.

David Haggerty
09-12-2008, 08:21 AM
I just spent my first full day yesterday without my son helping me. He had to take a factory job to get him thru the winter. I don't expect him back next spring.

It's more seasonal here so I wouldn't do annual mowing contract in Ohio. All of the clients would pull the same scam that lady pulled on you. Even if I offered snow removal they'd try to scheme some way to skip paying for the months without work.

I mow as needed and bill only for work performed. It seems to work the best for lawns 10 acres and larger.
Their accounts payable departments whine about it because the price isn't fixed. Not my problem. If I could predict the weather I wouldn't have to mow lawns for a living. I'd go work for NOAA.

Az Gardener
09-12-2008, 09:39 AM
You just have to modify your contract to make it so if someone cancels before the contract has expired it will revert to a service by service bill and they will be responsible for the balance.

You have to give them an out for shoddy service but you need to clearly define shoddy service so they can't weasel out of it. There is a local guy here who has a similar contract. I have not gone to it as I have not had the need. I even had one client I picked up last fall and they canceled in the spring so I actually made out on that one! Can you say Karma BabY.

Our hours to service a home vary greatly from summer to winter but we do service homes year around. I did a bid yesterday and the summer hours were just over 10 hrs per visit and the winter hrs are 3 hrs per visit. The yearly avg is 6 (winter is only 3 months) so that's what The bid will be.

Just run on over to Marty! and see what he does. :laugh:

Ooops sorry Tx Haggerty will have to talk to Marty! maybe he can get bact to us.

ed2hess
09-12-2008, 05:38 PM
When people that are on a 12 month contract drop after the mowing season finishes it isn't hard to get the balance. They always claim they didn't understand but ;the court don't take any of it. We go to a law firm that we use for our busninees in general and they handle it.l Usually after one letter from the firm they come wanting to settle. On the one that almost went to court the people had to pay the total bill plus the lawyer.

Roger
09-12-2008, 10:05 PM
I know you were expecting your step-son to return for more work, but hat's off to him for his enlistment with the Coast Guard. You don't say his age, but his career path with the Coast Guard at this point may be the best thing for him.

topsites
09-12-2008, 10:29 PM
How this situation is any different from any other every day thing escapes me :p

Because if I had to do all the grunt work while the owner gets to drive around and
sit in the air conditioning doing all the easy peasy chill stuff I would've lost interest, too.

On that note, your step-son lasted a whole lot longer than I would have,
I don't think I would've made it 3 days under those conditions, and that
assumes I came back from lunch on the first day.

HOOLIE
09-12-2008, 11:28 PM
I do flat rate billing, but offer a few different options. For example, the 8 month option had billing dates from 3/31-10/31. For any new customer, I don't allow them to go with 12 month billing. Once they finish the first season they may do so for the following year....but I run the 'contract' starting in January, so pretty much I've been paid already 3 times before I even do any work.

Just structure things so you're ahead of the customer, and it'll all be fine. I find also, most customers like the flat rate billing, but don't really want to be billed 12 months. 8 or 10 months are the most popular.

delphied
09-13-2008, 12:56 AM
I know you were expecting your step-son to return for more work, but hat's off to him for his enlistment with the Coast Guard. You don't say his age, but his career path with the Coast Guard at this point may be the best thing for him.

No kidding. Who in their right mind would want a relative to try to make a living in this limbo business of "who can go lowest on price"?

Kennedy Landscaping
09-13-2008, 01:01 AM
Alot of guys say no contracts unless commercial account. I only have on commercial though so I'm not too big on contracts.

Richard Martin
09-13-2008, 05:55 AM
My 1st concern is my residential contract arrangments. I just got a cancellation of a lady and I knew it was going to happen. I already know getting the balance out of this person is not going to happen. So her canceling this late in the season means that she has been getting her yard mowed cheap all year. I think she's got it down to a scam.

So am I doing this right?
Take 38 mows/bed maint, 4 ferts, 3 seasonal color, weed control.
Add all that up, tax it and divide it into 12 monthly payments.

Doing this in March for example you stand the risk of mowing through September or November and then a customer dropping you and you holding the balance.
Again this just happened and I think she had intended this all along.


You have to provide for this situation in your contracts. Here's a part from mine...

If either party exercises their right to cancel this contract before July 31, 2009 then an audit of the account will be performed by Richard Martin. The audit will include all services performed by Richard Martin (at the prices outlined below) and all monies received for those services from Sally Smith. If the account is deemed to have a negative balance then Sally Smith agrees to make an immediate payment of the negative balance. If the account is deemed to have a positive balance then Richard Martin agrees to issue an immediate refund of the positive balance.

Further down in my contract it outlines the individual prices for everything I do from cutting the grass to trimming the bushes (by the hour pricing). Just keep accurate records of everything you do at the property.

TPnTX
09-13-2008, 03:46 PM
As usual Topsite you just like to hear your keyboard click. You have nothing to offer but a useless self serving opinions. In this case you are insulting me and accusing me of something that you know nothing about.

You chime in on almost every post sometimes to to point of being belligerent. I don't like you. I dont value anything you have to say and if you never reply to another on of my threads, I'd appreciate that. You want to know what I really think? Next time your in Texas look me up I'll show you how small my mind really is.

TPnTX
09-13-2008, 04:21 PM
yep thanks Richard, I know I needed that in there and I like that way you word yours.

At the risk of sounding naive, this person was the only one that I would even question in terms of integrity. As a matter of fact I saw it coming. I told both my PARTNERS, early on that we should drop them while we're ahead. They disagreed and I was voted down. I actually refrained from my normal stance on things I believe to let these two learn a quick lesson.

This has been one of those situations where you go to everyone you know to get a business off the ground. So most of these customers I'm connected to one way or another.
Now having said that, it isn't part of my business plan nor do I intend to do any more given the fact that all new customers from this point on will be a direct result of referrals or marketing.

With one exception. There is this Real Estate Capital company that I've signed up. On one of our routes they had two strip malls that looked pretty bad. Once nicely landscaped they looked terrible. So I called the guy and asked him if he was happy. He politely blew me off. I relentlessly sent him email, Left voice mails, I sent him a hand written letter with a refrigerator magnet. I even sent him a x-mas card. My step-son said that I was behaving unprofessionally and that I was waisting my time. Well...pie for his face. We now maintain six of his commercial properties and will be landscaping another when construction is finished. Back to my point. Firstly this guy was exceedingly loyal to his former LCO. They had to really f things up before he called me.
I called a friend of mine who is very successful maintaining restaurant chains. I asked to see his contracts and I used what he had to deal with cancellations.

I knew in my gut that it didn't read right but my friend is so successful I thought what the hell and hurriedly used it anyway.
So the guy calls me and says Basically "what the hell is this" I explained the obvious to him and he told me he isn't interested in any of that. If he cancels me then it's because of a problem and he wants the ability to move on down the road. He explained that he is so busy really doesn't care to deal with that.

I agreed and we currently have a significant cash flow from him not to mention improvements and repairs. It's mine to loose and I know he isn't constantly shopping me.

Residential, whole other story. I can' believe how sorry people are in general. To the extent that you have to assume the worst. I've already picked up two new jobs in that area since they canceled. The way I look at it, if a customer is a constantly a pain in the butt. Drop 'em because this can be a fun job.

TPnTX
09-13-2008, 04:46 PM
Delfied with all due respect, I can't imagine someone from Flint Michigan being able to accurately reflect the state of our business to someone in DFW. Two completely different worlds. I wish it were different but when your current customers die, they don't get replaced.

I say this with some humor but it's true isn't it?

delphied
09-13-2008, 11:50 PM
Delfied with all due respect, I can't imagine someone from Flint Michigan being able to accurately reflect the state of our business to someone in DFW. Two completely different worlds. I wish it were different but when your current customers die, they don't get replaced.

I say this with some humor but it's true isn't it?

I guess I dont get the joke.

mississippiturf
09-14-2008, 12:09 AM
I guess I dont get the joke.

Whew!! I thought I was the only one who didn't get it!!:laugh:

Baywatch
09-14-2008, 12:13 AM
Alot of guys say no contracts unless commercial account. I only have on commercial though so I'm not too big on contracts.

I do it the same way. It isn't worth the hassel on residential. I have been doing this full time for four years and have yet to not get paid.

I have threatened to mistakingly send past due invoices to a clients neighbors and even had an inspector buddy of mine show up at a property that had some code issues. Lets just say that I end up getting paid or I make their life more expensive for them in other ways.

I am a solo operator so it doesn't hurt my feelings to cut someone off and replace them with someone that wants to pay their bills.

As far as the stuff with the step son, I can't really help you on that one other than to say that I try not to do business with friends and family.

TPnTX
09-14-2008, 07:54 AM
Baywatch, It funny you say that. We eat at Chilis every now and then. We always see them there too. There is a neighborhood yard of the month club, which she won last month? go figure. And their property is a pristine corner lot where there is plenty of public area to put signage on weekends. None of that is worth my time but I do think about it all. I'll take the high road.

Im not hung up on the step-son thing. We tried it and for the most part it has worked well. There's no bitterness but I will tell you this. If his heart isn't in it and quality begins to suffer, things will change fast.
Hes got his eye on rescue swimmer school. At 27. Me I want be a porno star. Instead I have a reasonably successful Landscape Company after 25 years of cubicle IT. - Ever seen Office Space the movie. I'm telling you thats me. Well minus the Jennifer Anniston part.

Delphied, hey man there is now joke. What I meant was I being somewhat light hearted. Isn't it true that large portions of Flint are retired UAW. When they go away, move or whatever, no one is there to replace them. I wasn't meaning to insult you. Flint is no North Texas. Sorry but it's a fact.

TPnTX
09-14-2008, 08:08 AM
Delphied I guess what I was trying to say to you and as usuall it came out the wrong way, is that if it I didn't live in DFW or another similar area with virtually endless prosperity, I would not even think of doing this.

We do landscape design and installs, stone work, outdoor kitchens, low voltage lighting, ornamental steel fence and gate work, high end wood fences, and as of this year large residential and commercial maintenance. I am very resourceful, somewhat talented very determined and lucky enough to live here.
piece.

delphied
09-14-2008, 07:00 PM
Delphied I guess what I was trying to say to you and as usuall it came out the wrong way, is that if it I didn't live in DFW or another similar area with virtually endless prosperity, I would not even think of doing this.

We do landscape design and installs, stone work, outdoor kitchens, low voltage lighting, ornamental steel fence and gate work, high end wood fences, and as of this year large residential and commercial maintenance. I am very resourceful, somewhat talented very determined and lucky enough to live here.
piece.

I guess its just my area then. And good for you if you can make it. My area is simply a race to the bottom.