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View Full Version : Advice needed: 1.5 hours for a lawn


MiguelTX
07-16-2009, 04:26 AM
Hey everyone,
I timed myself the other day and hit "start" before touching any equipment and "stop" when it was all put away. I took me right at 90 minutes... here are the specifics:

The land area is 10,630 sq ft, the home is 1990 sq ft so there's 8640 sq ft of St. Augustine to mow (corner lot). Lots of pine trees (about 15) to work around. There's a strip of grass between the curb and sidewalk that has to be mowed/edged too.

My equipment: 21" w/b push mower, Echo trimmer, Echo edger, gas handheld blower.

My technique: mow front and back (bag all clippings), trim around house, trees, fence, etc, edge, blow clippings into a pile at end of driveway, sweep up blown clippings/pine needles into garbage bag and finish it off with a quick blow to get rid of dirt/tiny clippings that I couldn't sweep up.

I had to roll up the garden hose in the back yard, I would sip on some cool water when I had to empty the grass catcher. Besides getting a 32" (or bigger) mower, how in the world can I cut down my time?!? As a solo operator with a 21" mower, is 90 minutes about average? :confused:

Thanks in advance for any and all replies.

bohiaa
07-16-2009, 08:27 AM
What you didn't list was your pay?

how much did you get paid ?

there may NOT be any need to tweek your Process..

MiguelTX
07-16-2009, 09:07 AM
What you didn't list was your pay?

how much did you get paid ?

there may NOT be any need to tweek your Process..

It is my own property. We had 2 different LCO's stop by a few months ago and they both quoted $35 mow, trim, edge, blow. If I were to charge that amount as a solo operator that would only be $23.33/hour.

ron mexico75
07-16-2009, 09:09 AM
Well, my guess is those LCO's who quoted you weren't doing it solo and if they were it wasn't with a tiny push mower.

MiguelTX
07-16-2009, 09:20 AM
Well, my guess is those LCO's who quoted you weren't doing it solo and if they were it wasn't with a tiny push mower.

Correct. They both had big trailers with a lot of gear on board. I guess the bottom line, as a solo operator, would be to just bite the bullet until I could afford a 32" to make up some time.

whoopassonthebluegrass
07-16-2009, 09:20 AM
Use Round-Up to spray rings around your trees. Save yourself a ton of trimming time and protect the trees. Just scalp out the dead grass once the Round-Up has done its work - so it isn't an eyesore.

MiguelTX
07-16-2009, 09:26 AM
Use Round-Up to spray rings around your trees. Save yourself a ton of trimming time and protect the trees. Just scalp out the dead grass once the Round-Up has done its work - so it isn't an eyesore.

Hmmm... never thought of that! Walking circles around all those trees with my trimmer literally makes me dizzy! I go around one, turn around and do another, take 4 steps and knock out another... :dizzy:

FYS777
07-16-2009, 10:44 AM
try this: edge and trim first, and sense you have pine needles, blow them in the lawn along with clippings, then mow, you will bag all that up sense your bagging, and pack a couple of heavy plastic yard bags on your mower, that way you wont have to walk so far to empty the mower bag, and start your mowing to the farthest point and work towards your truck mowing, this will save a little also, you should be able to save tweenty minutes.

Bob_n_weave
07-16-2009, 11:21 AM
I work solo with and have a few yards that take 90 min. So what ? Don't stress over it and you will enjoy your work alot more. Are you trying to win a race ? Just make sure you are charging accordingly.

golfnpreacher
07-16-2009, 04:19 PM
I know you said $23 something... let's say you can tweak it to $25 an hour, that's around $52K a year. That's more than a lot of people are looking at.

(yes I know we don't work 52 weeks a year)

fl-landscapes
07-16-2009, 04:25 PM
pushing a 21" through st augustine is brutal!!!! I dont know how you do it. With that equipment the time sounds about right. I would certainly be looking to upgrade to at least a wb comercial mower.

bohiaa
07-16-2009, 05:26 PM
It is my own property. We had 2 different LCO's stop by a few months ago and they both quoted $35 mow, trim, edge, blow. If I were to charge that amount as a solo operator that would only be $23.33/hour.

WOW things must be VERY diffrent in your area than mine....

were at 60-75.00 an hour.

J&R Landscaping
07-16-2009, 05:44 PM
Do you have any plans of going into business or are your just a home owner? I'm not sure because you say its your personal lawn. If its just your lawn, maybe a small wb or tractor would be decent. Though, 90 minutes isn't too bad considering the size and what your working with.

MiguelTX
07-16-2009, 06:33 PM
I work solo with and have a few yards that take 90 min. So what ? Don't stress over it and you will enjoy your work alot more. Are you trying to win a race ? Just make sure you are charging accordingly.
Good point. My 90 min. lawn is done at a steady, even pace. It just frustrates me that it takes so long.

WOW things must be VERY diffrent in your area than mine....

were at 60-75.00 an hour.
Well, that sounds about right on with $35 for my lot. 1 man is 90 minutes, 2 men would be a little less than 45 minutes. These 2 LCO's that stopped by had a CREW in their truck! They probably would have knocked out the entire lawn in less than 30 minutes in and out. $35 @ 30 mins is $70/hour.

Do you have any plans of going into business or are your just a home owner? I'm not sure because you say its your personal lawn. If its just your lawn, maybe a small wb or tractor would be decent. Though, 90 minutes isn't too bad considering the size and what your working with.
Yeah, my when son was born 5 year ago I had about 6 lawns I was doing. I had a Sutech 33" with catcher, my Echo trimmer, edger, blower, and a tiny trailer I put together from Northern Tool. All pulled behind a little Ford Focus! :laugh: I did it for 1 summer but my full-time work schedule would change every week: 1 week I was doing 5a-1p and the other week I was doing the middle shift or overnights. I couldn't keep "on track" with work, mowing, home, and infant. These days I'm on a regular 10p-6a Sun-Thurs shift.

Not to get into the really boring details but we got a "notice" from the IRS last week and I had to make a visit to the North Houston IRS office on Monday. I really need to figure out a way to bring in a few extra $$$ and mowing would be one of the ways since there is no overtime at my regular job. What makes matters worse is we don't have any money to buy a 32" w/b or anything. Plus, with our finances being as they are if my wife saw me spend $500 on a used w/b she would literally flip out! :laugh:

I searched for "pricing" and found a lot of talk on here. So when I see everyone talking about making $50/hour (or more) I get pretty depressed that my 8640 sq ft lawn takes over an hour and would bring my earnings down to $23/hour. Even if I "ran" and busted my butt it would still take over 1 hour and I would still only make $35 for the job. In this Houston 100+ degree heat it would kill me and I wouldn't last more than a month. People around here don't care if you're solo or have a crew but they are very aware of what the going price is for their lawns. :rolleyes:

I guess my only option is the same as Bob-n-weave said, don't worry about it. I know that if I could get a handful of clients I could eventually save up to buy something (anything) bigger than my 21" deck. Thanks for all the replies and tips guys! I really do appreciate it.

lifetree
07-16-2009, 07:48 PM
... My equipment: 21" w/b push mower ...

First of all, a 21" push mower is not considered to be a "real" WB ... it's exactly what you said it is, a push mower !!

FYS777
07-16-2009, 08:48 PM
Good point. My 90 min. lawn is done at a steady, even pace. It just frustrates me that it takes so long.


Well, that sounds about right on with $35 for my lot. 1 man is 90 minutes, 2 men would be a little less than 45 minutes. These 2 LCO's that stopped by had a CREW in their truck! They probably would have knocked out the entire lawn in less than 30 minutes in and out. $35 @ 30 mins is $70/hour.


Yeah, my when son was born 5 year ago I had about 6 lawns I was doing. I had a Sutech 33" with catcher, my Echo trimmer, edger, blower, and a tiny trailer I put together from Northern Tool. All pulled behind a little Ford Focus! :laugh: I did it for 1 summer but my full-time work schedule would change every week: 1 week I was doing 5a-1p and the other week I was doing the middle shift or overnights. I couldn't keep "on track" with work, mowing, home, and infant. These days I'm on a regular 10p-6a Sun-Thurs shift.

Not to get into the really boring details but we got a "notice" from the IRS last week and I had to make a visit to the North Houston IRS office on Monday. I really need to figure out a way to bring in a few extra $$$ and mowing would be one of the ways since there is no overtime at my regular job. What makes matters worse is we don't have any money to buy a 32" w/b or anything. Plus, with our finances being as they are if my wife saw me spend $500 on a used w/b she would literally flip out! :laugh:

I searched for "pricing" and found a lot of talk on here. So when I see everyone talking about making $50/hour (or more) I get pretty depressed that my 8640 sq ft lawn takes over an hour and would bring my earnings down to $23/hour. Even if I "ran" and busted my butt it would still take over 1 hour and I would still only make $35 for the job. In this Houston 100+ degree heat it would kill me and I wouldn't last more than a month. People around here don't care if you're solo or have a crew but they are very aware of what the going price is for their lawns. :rolleyes:

I guess my only option is the same as Bob-n-weave said, don't worry about it. I know that if I could get a handful of clients I could eventually save up to buy something (anything) bigger than my 21" deck. Thanks for all the replies and tips guys! I really do appreciate it.

the highlighted above is probably why you dont have enough money to buy a w/b mower, 3 guys working and makin 70 an hour just don't work..U figure 3 guys at 30 min. thats 11/2 hours wage, if you pay them 10 an hour thats 15, that only leaves you 20 for gas insur, etc.... thats not enough profit margine, sorry!!!!!!! 3 guys working an hour should be at lest around 120 an hour, depending on what you pay for wage of course.

MiguelTX
07-16-2009, 09:55 PM
First of all, a 21" push mower is not considered to be a "real" WB ... it's exactly what you said it is, a push mower !!
My bad. I use a 21" push mower for my property.

the highlighted above is probably why you dont have enough money to buy a w/b mower, 3 guys working and makin 70 an hour just don't work..U figure 3 guys at 30 min. thats 11/2 hours wage, if you pay them 10 an hour thats 15, that only leaves you 20 for gas insur, etc.... thats not enough profit margine, sorry!!!!!!! 3 guys working an hour should be at lest around 120 an hour, depending on what you pay for wage of course.
OK, that makes sense. I don't quite know their business model so I can't comment on their profit/loss margin. All I know is what I found through doing a search for "pricing" on here. Seems to be one of the biggest questions on the starter board and the common reply is to do a search instead of asking the same question that's been asked over and over.

So what I keep pushing for is time reduction. Someone earlier in this thread had an excellent suggestion: trim and edge first then blow everything onto the lawn and start mowing with my bag. I can honestly see that cutting down my time because the way I'm doing it now, blowing all those pine needles to the end of the driveway, bagging them, then blowing the small stuff away is close to 10-15 minutes! ;) So if I'm pushing to make $35/hour for my time, any little time-saving steps would raise my hourly income. I guess another huge time saver would be to skip bagging the clippings but, depending on the length of the grass, it could leave an unprofessional result. Plus, almost every LCO around NW Houston has a grass catcher on their w/b and/or you see the clippings bagged and left on the customer's curb.

STIHL GUY
07-16-2009, 10:46 PM
well it will be tought nad may take some time but if you startmowing a couple lawns a week with your 21'' you will soon be able to upgrade mowers and make more profit

MiguelTX
07-16-2009, 11:57 PM
well it will be tought nad may take some time but if you startmowing a couple lawns a week with your 21'' you will soon be able to upgrade mowers and make more profit

Thanks Stihl guy. I think you and Bob-n-weave are right. I'm coming to terms with my limitations based on my equipment. Sounds like 90 mins is about right for my corner lot using a 21" push mower and bagging clippings. It's like I'm trying to squeeze blood from a turnip. :nono:

topsites
07-17-2009, 12:40 AM
Yeah...

And I'm not picking or talking down on you, but...

Can you guys see how much TIME flies past at an account?
1.5 hours is a bit on the high side, but not with a 21"

I like your method, I time myself a lot, too.
I also believe a lot of Lco's don't, or the clock doesn't start / stop when it should.
I highly recommend doing it, from right BEFORE starting to just PAST finished.
Trip time is important as well, a split-timer helps for that but at least time the jobs.

I did three today, about that size...
Didn't time it exact but 2 to 2.5 hours for the whole bunch.
Takes practice, and I wasn't in a hurry.
The 48" helps. :p
But it's not all in the width of the deck either, when I was new it would take longer.

Still there's a lot of guys here who will say that's way too long, it only takes 4 minutes blah blah blah...
Time yourselves, you might be surprised.

MiguelTX
07-17-2009, 02:04 AM
Timing with an actual watch or stopwatch... Brings back memories of when I worked at a TV station. Sometimes programs wouldn't load, the video tape machine wouldn't spin up the heads and start playing, or the server that held commercials would go offline. The result: black on-air (a major no-no in TV). When I write up the discrepancy report, I have to write down exactly what happened, what time it occured and what time programming was restored (down to the second). So I'm guessing around 2 or 2 1/2 minutes for restoration and I write down my times, etc. Then the supervisors pull the DVD recording for the day and watch it. It burns the time in 24 hour format down at the bottom of the screen so it's really easy to see what time everything happened. The result was something like 4 1/2 minutes of black on-air!

You're right topsites, getting a watch/stopwatch and keeping actual time is a real eye opener!

Lawn Pawn
07-17-2009, 09:54 PM
OK... this may label me as a poor business person but it has to do with personalities too. You bet I have a good idea of how long a property may take. However if I try to keep to a strict schedule.... or scheduled to much for a day... I go crazy if I get behind and I make mistakes!!!

Time IS money!!! And wasting time for whatever reason is a profit killer. Especially making mistakes that need to be corrected.... or damaging something because you are in a hurry trying to keep on schedule.

I need to work slower and be very meticulous to be productive. Yes I work hard and steady.. but I cannot rush or try to beat the clock as it were. I recognize this as who I am.. can live with it... and it is working out fine.

We all are not the same... we have physical and mental limitations. Doesn't mean we are better or worse, as long as the job gets done to everyones satisfaction and it's profitable.

airsoftamazon
07-17-2009, 09:55 PM
My average is around an hour and a half and that's without bagging. I mostly mulch since I cut high enough on St. Augustine grass. I'm not trying to compete, hurry up, or run a race...and so on. I do everything at my own pace. That's why I went into business. Don't mow and go, that just cuts down on quality. I charge usually $40.00 average for up to 3/4 acre as for I'm a solo operator with low overhead i.e. I have all my equipment paid off and it didn't cost me an arm and a leg to get it. I enjoy what I do and appreciate my work after I do it. That's what it's about for me. I have no intentions of getting fifty zillion lawns, but only to make a decent living and to say I have a steady and stable job to go to every day.:weightlifter:

topsites
07-17-2009, 10:09 PM
OK... this may label me as a poor business person but it has to do with personalities too. You bet I have a good idea of how long a property may take. However if I try to keep to a strict schedule.... or scheduled to much for a day... I go crazy if I get behind and I make mistakes!!!

Time IS money!!! And wasting time for whatever reason is a profit killer. Especially making mistakes that need to be corrected.... or damaging something because you are in a hurry trying to keep on schedule.

I need to work slower and be very meticulous to be productive. Yes I work hard and steady.. but I cannot rush or try to beat the clock as it were. I recognize this as who I am.. can live with it... and it is working out fine.

We all are not the same... we have physical and mental limitations. Doesn't mean we are better or worse, as long as the job gets done to everyones satisfaction and it's profitable.

I see what you're saying, but I don't time myself for that reason although I
can agree that the mental trigger of making oneself WANT to rush is there.

There's a lot of times, I can go weeks and months without doing it, other times seems like every job, hit up the stop watch.
But it's not about rushing, yes there are times when I find a new shortcut but I don't time myself everytime either,
either way just go at the usual pace.

The reasons I time myself so I can be more aware of not only how long it's taking, but
then that translates into my eventually figuring out a part of my cost of doing business.

Just to see if I'm still sharp, or did this job REALLY take 2 hours?
Because that's another thing, what if I quoted that 2 hour job at $40?
But then how would I know, had I not timed it?

It's not all mowing either.
Sometimes it helps me adjust the price, too.
Either up OR down.

Anyhow...

golfnpreacher
07-17-2009, 11:00 PM
What I've read here (not just this thread, but this forum) shows that there are too many people out there that do not understand how to PROPERLY formulate a rate. Apparently too many are running this as a second income, or basing their rate on what others charge. Just because operator "X" charges a certain amount it does not mean you have to charge something in that neighborhood.

I'll use my operation for example. I work SOLO (okay occasionally my son, who is 25 will work with me a day a week) I have 20 properties I take care of. It takes me, working solo, 4-5 hours a day 3 days a week to get it all done. I'm not full time and while I plan to get there, I don't want to do it too quickly. Every piece of equipment I have is paid for, liability insurance is $50 a month, business insurance on the truck is $30 a month, gas for truck and equipment is $160 a month (and that covers business and personal use). I cover FIXED expenses in one day. I know a provider that takes a week to do that and he works full time with a helper.

Now, I set aside money for maintenance and replacement of equipment, I practice preventive maintenance and do most of that myself. Because I've put into place the things necessary to keep my overhead down, I can work for a smaller hourly rate, but show a similar bottom line.

I am content with my Profit / Loss statement. I can live with it.

Bob_n_weave
07-17-2009, 11:13 PM
My average is around an hour and a half and that's without bagging. I mostly mulch since I cut high enough on St. Augustine grass. I'm not trying to compete, hurry up, or run a race...and so on. I do everything at my own pace. That's why I went into business. Don't mow and go, that just cuts down on quality. I charge usually $40.00 average for up to 3/4 acre as for I'm a solo operator with low overhead i.e. I have all my equipment paid off and it didn't cost me an arm and a leg to get it. I enjoy what I do and appreciate my work after I do it. That's what it's about for me. I have no intentions of getting fifty zillion lawns, but only to make a decent living and to say I have a steady and stable job to go to every day.:weightlifter:


Ditto. No boss telling me to hurry up and impatient Customers rolling their eyes because they in big hurry and can't wait 3 min.

Put my headphones on, work at MY pace and keep my schedule manageable.
I don't want so many accounts that it becomes crazy, no thanks

MiguelTX
07-18-2009, 03:25 PM
Wow... good points guys! Since my "motivation" stems from IRS problems, I guess it doesn't matter if it takes me 30 mins or 90 mins for a $35 lawn. In the end, I still have $35 so I can buy a money order to send off. That's $35 that I didn't have when I woke up that morning. Sure, it would be nice to knock out 2 $35 lawns in 90 mins and make $70 but then it becomes a "what if" game: what if I didn't bag and did 4 lawns? What if I just run through each lawn really quick so I can knock out 5 lawns instead of 4? And so on...

bigslick7878
07-18-2009, 03:36 PM
What I've read here (not just this thread, but this forum) shows that there are too many people out there that do not understand how to PROPERLY formulate a rate. Apparently too many are running this as a second income, or basing their rate on what others charge. Just because operator "X" charges a certain amount it does not mean you have to charge something in that neighborhood.

I'll use my operation for example. I work SOLO (okay occasionally my son, who is 25 will work with me a day a week) I have 20 properties I take care of. It takes me, working solo, 4-5 hours a day 3 days a week to get it all done. I'm not full time and while I plan to get there, I don't want to do it too quickly. Every piece of equipment I have is paid for, liability insurance is $50 a month, business insurance on the truck is $30 a month, gas for truck and equipment is $160 a month (and that covers business and personal use). I cover FIXED expenses in one day. I know a provider that takes a week to do that and he works full time with a helper.

Now, I set aside money for maintenance and replacement of equipment, I practice preventive maintenance and do most of that myself. Because I've put into place the things necessary to keep my overhead down, I can work for a smaller hourly rate, but show a similar bottom line.

I am content with my Profit / Loss statement. I can live with it.

I guess you forgot about Uncle Sam and what he gets. Just a minor detail you left out.

FYS777
07-18-2009, 06:47 PM
Wow... good points guys! Since my "motivation" stems from IRS problems, I guess it doesn't matter if it takes me 30 mins or 90 mins for a $35 lawn. In the end, I still have $35 so I can buy a money order to send off. That's $35 that I didn't have when I woke up that morning. Sure, it would be nice to knock out 2 $35 lawns in 90 mins and make $70 but then it becomes a "what if" game: what if I didn't bag and did 4 lawns? What if I just run through each lawn really quick so I can knock out 5 lawns instead of 4? And so on...

na there is no what ifs, because if you figure stuff out you will know your cost, being your own place its not bad, BUT, cost of string, gas, equipment cost figured in, you probably make 29 dollars, then if you pay yourself, but then we didn't figure like insurances for business or truck or, ect..... or wear and tear on you, and so forth, fact is 35 for 90 minutes is way low, don't care what kind of equip, you have, but do whatever suits you though.

MiguelTX
07-18-2009, 07:11 PM
na there is no what ifs, because if you figure stuff out you will know your cost, being your own place its not bad, BUT, cost of string, gas, equipment cost figured in, you probably make 29 dollars, then if you pay yourself, but then we didn't figure like insurances for business or truck or, ect..... or wear and tear on you, and so forth, fact is 35 for 90 minutes is way low, don't care what kind of equip, you have, but do whatever suits you though.

Yeah, you're right about there not being any "what ifs" if you sit down and figure it all out. Good point.

Do you pick up a penny you find on the ground? If you saw a $20 dollar bill blow across a busy street, would you chase it? When I was a kid I used to think that someone earning $30k/year was rich. I saw a used truck parked on the side of the road with a "for sale - $1500" on it. Mercedes Benz owners say, look at that junk; contractors say, I could really use something like that to haul stuff. Do you get outraged by countries overseas that pay their factory workers $3/day for a 12-hour shift?

The reason I say all that is because it's all about perspective (after reading everyone's response here). If you don't hook up your trailer for less than a $900 work day, that's OK. Others would JUMP to work a $700 day, even if it was 12 hours. That's OK too.

golfnpreacher
07-18-2009, 09:32 PM
I guess you forgot about Uncle Sam and what he gets. Just a minor detail you left out.

Well dear ol Uncle doesn't get a dime if I don't make a dime, so that is not a fixed expense I HAVE to make. It is a percentage of what I make.

Bob_n_weave
07-19-2009, 01:04 AM
[QUOTE=bigslick7878;3098971]I guess you forgot about Uncle Sam and what he gets. Just a minor detail you left out.

Who ? :laugh:

MiguelTX
07-24-2009, 09:51 PM
Well, I tried a new technique that was offered up here. I edged and blew all the pine needles on the lawn before mowing. Then I ran my 21" over the pines needles as I was mowing to bag 'em all up. The result? It ended up taking 1.5 hours again! :dizzy:

What I found was that the pine needles caused me to have to empty my bag a lot more. Also, since I edged 1st, all the small grass clippings fell inside the gap between the sidewalk/grass edge. So obviously when I had to blow again I had to spend extra time blowing the clippings out of the edge job I did. :(

Here's what I used to do when I had my 33" w/b with a steel grass catcher and was running about 8 lawns: I would empty the clippings onto 1 spot of the lawn, near where I was going to leave the bags, some place that had already been mowed. When I was done mowing, edging, trimming, and blowing I would just lay a garbage down and step on the bottom part with my heels. 1 hand on top of the bag to hold it open and the other hand scooping all the clippings into the bag. I may just try to do that again...

FYS777
07-24-2009, 10:04 PM
if those pine trees are droping that many needles every week there is something wrong with your trees. I did a mow on a lawn the other day that was 7,500 feet with my 21 self propelled and mowed edged and blow out a drive that was 50 yrds long, only took 40 minutes.. so i am confussed why it takes so long, do you have pictures we can see???

MiguelTX
07-25-2009, 01:49 AM
if those pine trees are droping that many needles every week there is something wrong with your trees. I did a mow on a lawn the other day that was 7,500 feet with my 21 self propelled and mowed edged and blow out a drive that was 50 yrds long, only took 40 minutes.. so i am confussed why it takes so long, do you have pictures we can see???
I'm mowing about 1000 sq ft more with a 21" push (not propelled). Also, I'm bagging everything. I think if I just mulched I could knock it out in less than an hour. I'll try to get a couple of pics. Also, I'm not trying to perform miracles with a 21" push on a 8640 sq ft corner lot but I am always looking to work smarter, not harder.

Lawnut101
07-25-2009, 03:15 AM
Your working too hard! Mulching is the way to go.

milkie62
07-29-2009, 02:21 AM
I bid one lawn last year for $90/cut.I was hoping to do it in 2 hrs.Takes just 3 hrs.Trimming is more involved than I alloted for.About 60 small fenced maples along both sides of the driveway.I thought I could have just went around each one with the 21" and make a mowed line to the next so when I went back with the ztr I could almost just mow along them all without jogging much.But anyway I need to weed trim each tree since most of them have a small dip and it looks like crap just mowing only.Homeowner claims he did it all in 4 hrs but NO WAY he did .Anyway they called this spring and asked if it would be cheaper since gas was cheaper.I do not dare to try and get more now for fear of losing them.So now I am stuck at barely $30/hr.I need this customer since my big residential customer moved south and new homeowner brought their guy with them.

Whitey4
07-29-2009, 02:42 AM
What I've read here (not just this thread, but this forum) shows that there are too many people out there that do not understand how to PROPERLY formulate a rate. Apparently too many are running this as a second income, or basing their rate on what others charge. Just because operator "X" charges a certain amount it does not mean you have to charge something in that neighborhood.

I'll use my operation for example. I work SOLO (okay occasionally my son, who is 25 will work with me a day a week) I have 20 properties I take care of. It takes me, working solo, 4-5 hours a day 3 days a week to get it all done. I'm not full time and while I plan to get there, I don't want to do it too quickly. Every piece of equipment I have is paid for, liability insurance is $50 a month, business insurance on the truck is $30 a month, gas for truck and equipment is $160 a month (and that covers business and personal use). I cover FIXED expenses in one day. I know a provider that takes a week to do that and he works full time with a helper.

Now, I set aside money for maintenance and replacement of equipment, I practice preventive maintenance and do most of that myself. Because I've put into place the things necessary to keep my overhead down, I can work for a smaller hourly rate, but show a similar bottom line.

I am content with my Profit / Loss statement. I can live with it.

That first paragraph.... how can you NOT take into account the going market rates? You can't set prices from an ivory tower or soley based on your own overhead and time.

At least in my neck of the woods, pricing is very competitive, and one had better be in the ballpark, or either leave money on the table or lose customers. I can be a bit higher based on quality, if in fact that is my business plan strategy, but knowing what going market rates are and how my prices compare... well, it's a chicken and egg thing.... the market rates are what they are, I have to manage my overhead and time to work within the local pricing structure for this service industry. To ignore market rates is fundamentally unsound.

MiguelTX
07-29-2009, 02:51 AM
So what you're saying is, for example, I go finance a new w/b and good used truck. Then I also buy insurance, a uniform, etc. Let's say the market in my area is $30/medium sized lawn but doing the math I would have to charge $45/lawn at a 5 lawn/day minimum to meet my costs. Do I have it right? I don't think there are many sympathetic customers willing to hear your story about the cost of your truck, trailer, equipment, maintenance, etc. As far as they're concerned, that's your problem if you decided to buy everything on credit and expect to make it back by ignoring the market.

Whitey4
07-29-2009, 03:19 AM
So what you're saying is, for example, I go finance a new w/b and good used truck. Then I also buy insurance, a uniform, etc. Let's say the market in my area is $30/medium sized lawn but doing the math I would have to charge $45/lawn at a 5 lawn/day minimum to meet my costs. Do I have it right? I don't think there are many sympathetic customers willing to hear your story about the cost of your truck, trailer, equipment, maintenance, etc. As far as they're concerned, that's your problem if you decided to buy everything on credit and expect to make it back by ignoring the market.

What I am saying is that market rates will, absolutely WILL dictate what you will be able to charge for your services. That is the starting point. Yes, you seem to understand what I am saying.

You start there.... then you develop a plan... and this is the tricky part... project how much $ you will have to spend to get X number of customers. If you want (or need) 30 accounts, at an average of $32 each... how much will it cost to get those 30? Then begin to figure out how much overhead you can carry based on those numbers, and then develop a budget for equipment purchases.

All of these factors have to dove tail into one another. This is something that requires a lot of thought, some research, some guess work and a lot of tweaking along the way.

When I started, the cheapest way to get customers was to use door hangers. I put out about 1200 by myself, on foot, but it was the least expensive way I could find. I also advertise in my church bulletin, all strategies I wanted to use to get a very tight route. My plan was to have almost all of my customers very near to my home, within a few miles, less gas $, less travel time.

There is much more that should go into a business plan, but those are some basics.

golfnpreacher
07-29-2009, 08:22 AM
That first paragraph.... how can you NOT take into account the going market rates? You can't set prices from an ivory tower or soley based on your own overhead and time.

.. well, it's a chicken and egg thing.... the market rates are what they are, I have to manage my overhead and time to work within the local pricing structure for this service industry. To ignore market rates is fundamentally unsound.

There may be times a company makes adjustments due to "market rates", but what I believe you have missed is that my rates are generally on the low end of "market rates" even after I sat in my "ivory tower" and figured my time and overhead. It is because I have watched my overhead, it is because I follow my business model, that I can do this.

I plan for approximately $25 an hour profit. (profit, not rate) I have one neighborhood that I did four townhome lots in. I charged $15 for each. Some here said I gave away my services, they wouldn't touch them for less and $25 (market rates) but I did all 4 in about an hour and maintained my $25 dollar profit. It fit my business model, not theirs. Now I'm doing 7 lawns in this neighborhood and I'm done in less than 2 hours, still maintaining my profit margin.

Lawn Care is not much different from any other business. It is not what you charge, but what you make. Too many LCO's do not have a workable business model. They will take any lawn they can get to and then complain because their routes are not "tight". They buy equipment because it "saves times" but then can't figure out why they aren't saving money, because they know "time is money"

badaspsvt
07-29-2009, 09:44 AM
MiguelTX,

Are you using your own lawn just to base your job on site time vs. your potential income? If so, I think somewhere you answered your own question - with the equipment you currently have, you really should stay away from customers with lawns the same size as yours. Target smaller yards, and assuming you won't be charging much less than $35, you can do more lawns in less time and thus increase your hourly income. Do this for a while, give some to the IRS for your levy or whatever, put some aside for a larger w/b. Then you can target larger yards for more accounts. Do you have a friend or family with a smaller yard you can test your time on?

Whitey4
07-29-2009, 10:35 AM
There may be times a company makes adjustments due to "market rates", but what I believe you have missed is that my rates are generally on the low end of "market rates" even after I sat in my "ivory tower" and figured my time and overhead. It is because I have watched my overhead, it is because I follow my business model, that I can do this.

I plan for approximately $25 an hour profit. (profit, not rate) I have one neighborhood that I did four townhome lots in. I charged $15 for each. Some here said I gave away my services, they wouldn't touch them for less and $25 (market rates) but I did all 4 in about an hour and maintained my $25 dollar profit. It fit my business model, not theirs. Now I'm doing 7 lawns in this neighborhood and I'm done in less than 2 hours, still maintaining my profit margin.

Lawn Care is not much different from any other business. It is not what you charge, but what you make. Too many LCO's do not have a workable business model. They will take any lawn they can get to and then complain because their routes are not "tight". They buy equipment because it "saves times" but then can't figure out why they aren't saving money, because they know "time is money"



So, you weren't in an ivory tower, you know what market rates are. Having said that, if you are at the low end of market rates, you are likely leaving money on the table, if your quality is superior to the average LCO. Conversely, if one priced their services based on too much overhead, their market rates would not be competitive.

You went in at 40% under market rates? Yes, you left money on the table... and are basically buying market share. I have a minimum I want to make per hour, but will take more if I can get it!

White Gardens
07-29-2009, 10:59 AM
Use Round-Up to spray rings around your trees. Save yourself a ton of trimming time and protect the trees. Just scalp out the dead grass once the Round-Up has done its work - so it isn't an eyesore.

Little liquid trim eh?

Unless you are really good at it, it's hard to keep from drifting occasionally and the results look kinda cheap.

bdaisey
07-30-2009, 11:16 PM
MiguelTX, I know you are short on cash right now, but have you considered taking on a couple more lawns and saving up some money for better equipment?

Using a 21" mower with a good self-propel system will make things A LOT easier on you. A couple of years ago I cut 6-7 lawns a day with my 21", a Toro Personal Pace, cost me about $375. There's no way I could have done that many without a self-propel system, pushing the mower plus the weight of clippings in the bag yourself causes too much fatigue and by the end of the day you will be CRAWLING along!

If you start doing other lawns regularly, be sure to get some insurance!

Best of luck to you.

MiguelTX
07-31-2009, 03:49 AM
Thanks for you replies everyone. Yeah, I was gauging the time on my own yard to figure out how much $$$ I would make per hour. I know about the old saying, "get the right tool for the job." My 21" push is definitely not the right tool for any kind of work besides my own lawn but I just have to start somewhere. That Toro Personal Pace would be a huge help so maybe, as money comes in, I would slowly upgrade mowers until I could afford a commercial mower (I want to pay cash for everything).

Thanks again everyone.

golfnpreacher
07-31-2009, 08:26 AM
So, you weren't in an ivory tower, you know what market rates are.
You went in at 40% under market rates? Yes, you left money on the table... and are basically buying market share. I have a minimum I want to make per hour, but will take more if I can get it!

I too have a minimum, actually is not so much a minimum as it is what I've set for a profit margin. I will exceed it from time to time, just as a business has different profit margins on products. But I'm not going to jump 40% just because I can. My business model is to give great service at reasonable prices and to grow as much by client referral as by advertising. Client referral tends to be in the same neighborhood creating tight routes with less travel time keeping overhead and downtime low. And while my rates are low, but service quality high, customers are less inclined to change.

Now, this is my business model and it is working for me. I don't want lawns spread out all over the city (Virginia Beach covers a lot of land) but I do want to be "the one" in a few neighborhoods. What people fail to understand is that in starting a business, in growing a business, sometimes it is a wise decision to say NO to what appears to be more business.

Lawn Pawn
07-31-2009, 09:20 AM
I too have a minimum, actually is not so much a minimum as it is what I've set for a profit margin. I will exceed it from time to time, just as a business has different profit margins on products. But I'm not going to jump 40% just because I can. My business model is to give great service at reasonable prices and to grow as much by client referral as by advertising. Client referral tends to be in the same neighborhood creating tight routes with less travel time keeping overhead and downtime low. And while my rates are low, but service quality high, customers are less inclined to change.

Now, this is my business model and it is working for me. I don't want lawns spread out all over the city (Virginia Beach covers a lot of land) but I do want to be "the one" in a few neighborhoods. What people fail to understand is that in starting a business, in growing a business, sometimes it is a wise decision to say NO to what appears to be more business.

This is about the smartest... best... advice anyone has ever given!

MiguelTX
08-05-2009, 06:31 PM
Here's a pic from one of those satellite maps to give you an idea of my property size. The County list the property as 10,630 sq ft and improvements are 2000 sq ft.