View Full Version : Overall conclusion....

04-12-2002, 11:01 AM

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a huge jump in 'pricing' questions on this site.

For myself, I have to say that it is a bit discouraging.

For one thing, I'm sure myself and others who have been here are 100% sick of answering the question of 'how much to charge for a mulch job', but that is beside the point.

What really bothers me is the thought process being demonstrated by everyone. Not for nothing, but if you have to ask what to charge for something, then do your really know what you are doing?

For some reason, no one seems to have a clue what it is they are doing. Pricing is simple. Figure out your costs, add in your overhead, and the figure out what YOU want to make on the job (well, there are a few more things, but I want to keep it simple)..

From all of the recent posts, it seems everyone wants to know what 'I' am making on the job. Well, what I need to make or what I want to make are most likely completely different than your needs and desires.

Not to rip anyone's head off, but I just want to say that this industry really needs to become more educated in what they are doing.

For some jobs, there are questions to be asked as installation may be very technical, the job may be extremely large, etc. and there are variables that cannot be accounted for.

However, when it comes to small jobs, common sense needs to be taking.

It just seems very obvious that there are way to many people out there doing work withoud a clue. To all those asking questions, please do me a favor.

Take a business class, go to school, do SOMETHING! Landscaping is like any other business and the principles are the same for our business as any others. It is not a matter of 'what would others charge'. It is a matter of what you need to charge.

The lack of the 'basic' business principles here is becoming very disturbing.


04-12-2002, 03:49 PM
i took a intro to business/ business principals class for the first two semesters, very good class, rather easy for me though, i got an A. i am also takeing two years of computer applications and a year of desktop publishing, next year im taking intro to accounting.

04-12-2002, 05:48 PM
I dunno Steve...I have a BS in Ecomonics, a second BS in Marketing, and my MBA. Granted my BS degrees were granted to me in '77 and my MBA in '81, so they might be a bit out of date.

Regardless, with all of the business courses I have taken over my lifetime and the number of years (18) I spent in the corporate world, I still once in a while have a problem "pricing" something out in my (8 years) of being an LCO.

I'm kind of glad to see all of the responses and inquiries about "pricing". It's encouraging to see that more and more of us want to take a more educated approach to pricing than just "shooting from the hip".

just my 2 cents...

dan deutekom
04-12-2002, 06:43 PM
Steve: I too have been getting a little ***issed about all the postings on "How much should I charge to do this". You are absoulotly right. I would much rather see questions on HOW to price a job. NOT HOW MUCH SHOULD I CHARGE. Every job is different; as is every business and if you have to ask how much to charge then you have serious buisness problems that need to be addressed. Everyone has problems once in a while in pricing a job. But these problems usually amount to not knowing how long it takes to do something or are there unknown variables that you don't know(inexperience). If you break down the job to what has to be done, how much it will cost you to do it, and how much do you want to make doing it, then you have the price.(simplified).

04-12-2002, 07:06 PM
Remember there are no dumb questions!

I enjoy reading how people price installs, I talked about it with my father yesterday. We remember how bigger companies priced work out before, most are not in business any more, they couldn't keep track of costs or got burn't with wage increases and labor over runs.

Knowing your cost is great but you need to know that not all jobs go as planned and somewhere your going to run into problems! Plan for it.

04-12-2002, 07:15 PM
There are excellent resources out there for learning the pricing process for landscape and lawn care. Books by Van Der Koi, Jim Huston, Frank Ross etc are all very helpful. Many are available through ALCA and the other assoications. Also you will find articles in many of the industry periodicals on this subject. The real key in most cases is knowing your production rates. Knowing all of the other costs is fine, but labor will be your most important cost. You can't predict your labor cost, until you have a good handle on estimating production rate. There are books that list this kind of information but those are only averages. You have to keep track of your own time to complete various types of work, and develop your own rates.

Asking me to tell some one else how much to charge is worthless, because I have no idea what their costs are I only know my own. You make a profit in this business by charging more than your costs. This doesn't necessarily mean you charge a high price. Many times, you make a profit in this competetive business by having the most efficient equipment or crew configuration, or by a more efficient technique. You might by able to charge less and make more profit than a competitor just by efficiency

Doug Austreim
Austreim Landscaping Inc

04-13-2002, 02:37 AM
I can't stand reading those types of posts anymore, even though I used to post them :p I agree, everything is different, materials, overhead, direct costs, how much you need to profit, your market, etc.


04-13-2002, 09:34 AM
It seams to me that there are two problems here. One that is being discussed is the method of determining a price. The other is simply knowledge.
They don't have any experience past cutting grass. They don't know how to do things or how long it will take. Even if you understand how to calculate a price, it is impossible to fill in the blanks as to time and materials if you don't no what you will need and how long it will take.
This is a very easy type of business to start. So easy in fact, that people with no experience go into it. I am not against that, this is America after all. There is a wide diversity in the services needed by people. A complete rookie can do a mow and go and be serving a client well if that is only what they need.
The problem lies in that once they proclaim themselves a landscaper they believe that they are capable of and should perform every service related to landscaping with zero experience.
If you want to operate a full service landscape company you should work for a company that does this type of work well to gain experience. You will know what you are doing, how to manage and train help, how long jobs take, what services are worth offering and what are not. You will even learn where to buy materials, their costs, and maybe pricing methods.
You will be getting a pay check, too.

04-13-2002, 09:34 AM
I am on both sides of this fence. For one, it seems a little ridiculous about all the "mulch" pricing posts. Sorry. Next you have to figure out what you want out of your work. The best way to find out is cost estimating jobs you have done. My price per foot of any thing shouldn't mean jack to someone else. Ask me how much time. etc...

But, paul said it. Its nice to see what others charge so you know you're not alone when some lowball scrub beats your bid by 10$ a fc. ft. For newbies it gives them a competitive way to start without getting a brick through their window. Lastly, its just like bad television programming. No one has a gun to my head to read these posts, so if I don't want to, I don't;)


04-13-2002, 09:40 AM
I have been a little disappointed also about questions pertaining to pricing mulch installs. I ran a search for someone a week ago and found 24 threads relating to mulch pricing in the last 3 months.

But I've also grown tired of reminding people to do a search, so I just don't respond.

I too enjoy discussing different aspects of pricing now and again, but 24 threads in 90 days on a topic that seems to be pretty pedestrian, seems to be more than is needed.

It may give an opportunity to newer members who haven't had a chance to speak up much to voice an opinion on this topic.

But it also has the ability to diminish the deep-delving analysis that some of us have become accustomed to, as those who dig deep visit less and less, as the subject matter gets less varied and less complex.

John from OH
04-13-2002, 09:47 AM
Glad to see your post Steve. I reply to very few posts because of this. I am bothered by someone with no experience asking how to do a simple service. If they don't know how to do something, I feel they should not be experimenting on the marketplace practicing what a professional should already know. Experience should not be gained at the expense of an unsuspecting client. They are hiring you for your knowledge and professional ability. Many of these posters really need to work for another company to gain experience, then they would be ready to jump into the marketplace and provide true professional services at a professional price. So much training is available through suppliers and manufactureres as well as evening classes at vocational schools, community colleges, and trade associations. Those who avail themselves to the education first, will be much farther ahead later.

creative concepts
04-13-2002, 10:13 AM
I too am getting feed up with how much to charge questions. I don't, however, mind the questions about pricing when someone got beat by a lowballer and wants to justify his pricing. It seems as though people are not putting in the time to work for someone to get expereince before they start their own company. This is one of the major reasons that I posted awhile ago about making it a law to have to be licensed. If this were to take affect, it would make it necessary to work for another company for a few years to gain the experience (both business and horticultural) needed to run a successful LCO. The biggest problem is that these people are most likely the same that we call scrubs because they have no idea on how to price correctly, lowering the pricing standard of the industry, and making more and more homeowners frustrated. It is one thing if you have been an established maintenance co. for a few years and have a general question but if you have been around for a few years, you can not tell me that you have never mulched before! I mean come on now! If you don't know what your overhead is, how much the materials are, how much you need to make per hour to survive, how much you need to make er hour for profit, etc... then how the hell are you still in business in the first place? I better stop before I get too agraveted here.

04-13-2002, 06:47 PM
Allot of good points in this post ... I agree with Dan ... I am much more interested in how you came up with the quote than anything else ... other peoples sq. ft prices mean nothing to me. I'm also very interested in production / times, as well as faster, better ways of working, different types of equipment, new products ..old products I may not have used or seen.

Lance Takara
04-15-2002, 05:30 PM
I agree 100% with all of you . . . Production rates are the key.

I'm not trying to rock the boat here. However . . . Is it possible . . . . on the flip side . . . that somewhere in out past, some of us may have been in the same "boat" as some of those that post the pricing questions. Maybe not in the exact context but maybe in providing an additional service to an already functional business or maybe just as a reference point or maybe i other ways.

Even if someone has worked for another large landscaping firm for 20 years, starting a business is an entirely different story. Doing production work is only one aspect of the business. I'm digressing a bit but my point is the saying "you don't know what you don't know."

Maybe that's the case with many of the pricing questions. Maybe a little nudge in the right direction is all that is needed. By the time I'm through and retired from this business, I'm sure I'll have asked many questions that may seem "stupid" or "irritating" to many other more seasoned landscapers, but I hope someone can just give me that nudge in the right direction. On the opposite side, if I read one of those questions, I'll try and return the "nudge".

Of course, repeat offenders need to get bonked on the head. No debate there. Enough said.

04-15-2002, 06:23 PM
I think there is a good point to be made here. There will always be those that jump into business without knowing what they are doing and they will continue until their out of business, hurting both their competion and their customers in the process. Those types usually don't ask for advice and wouldn't take it if you gave it to them.

Then their are those that are new that do ask questions. By answering politely and honestly those of us with experience can help bring them up to a higher level, helping them to become good competitiors and good business men in the process.

If we blow off and insult those that ask, they will quit asking and continue blundering along harming themselves and everyone else. In my thirty plus years in all aspects of the landscape industry, I've seen a lot of businesses come and go. Those that came to the association meetings and were willing to listen to those that had more experience were ususally successful in the long run. Those that didn't aske and thought they knew it all often didn't make it.

There will always be competition. The question is do we want to help insure that we have good competion or do we want to deny our new competitors an opportunity to learn and improve.

Had some of my early competion not been willing to share honestly and cordially, I probably wouldn't have lasted 5 years, much less 30.

Doug Austreim
Austreim Landscaping Inc

04-15-2002, 06:45 PM
Well put Doug. Good Karma dude.

04-15-2002, 07:59 PM
Ok, please check this out:


There are a few that aren't directly related to mulch pricing, but not many.

The thing I am frustrated with is less to do with wanting to know pricing info as it has to do with laziness. With that many threads, just about mulch pricing, clearly there are many that aren't doing their homework before starting a thread. Homework that is right here, at this site.

So I feel no sense of obligation to take up time to answer something like that, where I used to try to answer everything that came by, even if I didn't have a wealth of knowledge in the area.

So sure, we could all use to hone our pricing skills, but for me personally, I'm only interested in doing so with people that have at least anted up some of their own time to get to the answer.

04-15-2002, 10:38 PM
dougaustreim is right and we all can learn by asking questions regardless of experience. But, you have to admit there are some questions that are far below minimum competency asked at some times.
I always say that there is a niche here for everyone, but you have got to work within reason of your ability.
A person returns a mower after using it for two weeks and tells the service department it does not cut well. The service manager says"let's have a look at it". If he fires it up and the "scaper" says "what is that loud noise?" it is time for the scaper to get a job to learn more.

04-16-2002, 11:15 PM
FOTFLMAO Gotta hand it to the new guy. AGLA you'll do all right here. ;)