View Full Version : Small crew

07-08-2002, 03:13 AM
Does anyone run a specilized crew and set-up for small lawns? One or two guys, 22" push mowers, curved shafts, hand held blower and stick edger all in a business looking S10 or ranger... Maybe even a 32 if the market needed it...

Just wondering my options for next year's expansion... Alot of small residentials and commercials around here and walkbehinds are even to big sometimes... $15-$25 jobs...

07-08-2002, 03:16 AM
Forgot to say that my larger contracts have been great and that the thought had crossed my mind to get away from residential more and more commercial.. Mostly because it's less money for me and that I don't enjoy mowing the small yards as much as I should. This is a solution that I would consider though if it proved profitable...

Doc Pete
07-08-2002, 08:22 AM
Originally posted by yardboyltd
Forgot to say that my larger contracts have been great and that the thought had crossed my mind to get away from residential more and more commercial.. Mostly because it's less money for me and that I don't enjoy mowing the small yards as much as I should. This is a solution that I would consider though if it proved profitable...

I don't understand. The larger properties have "more" of what you don't like, and that is "mowing". At least, that's how I take what you are saying.
Funny, but with the hot weather I'm glad to have smaller lawns that allow me a minute or two in the A/C of my truck, as I go to the next job. I find it hard to believe you'd rather be in 100 degree for an hour or two, without a break, when the smaller lawns offer you changes in work, by blowing or whacking, and also let take a breather (in the A/C) as "part of the job".
Those big lawns may get you more money, but you're paying for it by not getting break time in between. If you figure out those small lawns that are yielding $80/hour for the actual time you mow, the only reason may make a bit less is from the break between lawns. And, if you want to stay fresh after 20 years of mowing, those breaks are what you need. In my opinon, non-stop mowing for 2/3/4 hours regardless of what you are using is not my idea of work, it's slave labor.

07-08-2002, 05:45 PM

I like cutting my bigger accounts more than the small ones as well. Maybe it's because time driving (albiet a rest) is money spent not made. I would rather be working than driving.
Plus I have a routine. Trim, edge, mow, blow, and I would rather pull out my equipment once on a large job than a bunch of small jobs wasting my time unloading and loading my equipment.

Just how I feel. Does this convey your feelings YardBoy?

P.S. YardBoy I don't think it would provide a good image or be worth the money you would spend on a smaller truck etc. I don't think "specialized" is the way to go unless all your jobs are small and it sounds like you dont like the small ones as much anyway.


07-08-2002, 05:56 PM
Yep that's sorta how I feel...

I do take breaks frequently, lots of water, sit in the truck, it's all fine.

I want to do some figuring on this exactly... Wouldn't have to be supernice pickup, just nice paint and low maitenence... wouldn't have to have expenisve trim mowers, just nice cuts... curved shaft because in my expierence they save time in small yards because you get all around an object faster than a straightshaft... This would be less dangerous job than others, help could probably easily be found for this job for a fair wage...

I'd just have to calculate of course. It's just that I wish I was either doing all large commericials or all small yards...

Ground Master
07-08-2002, 07:42 PM


2 trimmers, 2 blowers

the 21 sees very litte use

07-08-2002, 08:31 PM
Originally posted by Switchless@aol.com
In my opinon, non-stop mowing for 2/3/4 hours regardless of what you are using is not my idea of work, it's slave labor.

What about 6-7-8-9-10 hours straight?

That's what hiring people is for.

So would that be paid labor?

07-08-2002, 10:06 PM
I have a one - man "crew". He does 40 residentials a week, 4 of them are about 3 acres in size, the others average 10,000 sq. ft. It usually takes him about 28 - 34 hrs total. He has a pickup and a 16" trailer and carries the following:
60" ztr
21" trim mower
32" wb
42" Walker w/ mulch deck
He only uses the ZTR on the acreage jobs.
I made a list of what day the properties needed serviced and have left it up to him how he organizes his day. It has worked out great. Frees me up to do all the big commercial stuff. I love setting on one my big ZTR's all day. :D

Doc Pete
07-08-2002, 10:20 PM
Originally posted by LAWNGODFATHER

What about 6-7-8-9-10 hours straight?

That's what hiring people is for.

So would that be paid labor?

I agree with you, however, I was assumming this was a "one man" operation and he was asking for suggestions for himself. Also, as he mentioned, he takes breaks and so forth. My suggestion was to incorporate "those breaks" as the time to go from one job to another.
As far as equipment loading and unloading, as a one man operation, my trailer and mowers are setup so I am mowing within 30 seconds of getting out of my truck. I understand your point, and that's why I spent a fair amount of time setting and positioning my mowers so they are ready in an instant.

agrostis palustris
07-08-2002, 10:57 PM
Yardboy, I went from what you are saying, a bunch of small places, largest being about 15M to doing a lot of big places which went up to about 3 acres a piece and it SUCKED. In my experience, its not too bad to do a bunch of the small places. Once you get into doing the big places where they have lots of acreage, you're not just going to be doing the mowing, they are going to book you SO full of side work your head will be spinning. The year I started taking on big places, I got 1 place that required 1 guy there pretty much full time, and a group of accounts that required I be able to drop what I was doing whenever they called and go running (they paid very well). Then there was a group of people who were very finicky about the work that was done. Honestly, I would not take on the big places if it was just me again. Stick to the small places if your a one man show. Between just a few big places they will run you ragged.

07-08-2002, 11:31 PM
I find the smaller lawns (5k or less) to be the most profitable for me (solo operator).

When I started out (3 years ago) I flyered my neighborhood, which are mostly 1 acre lots.

I get $40 to $50 for them. Bought a Lazer (60") my second year in order to be able to do more of them. It takes me between 50 minutes to 1.5 to service them...depending on the trim work, ect.

I picked up 3 small lawns (less than 5k) in one cul-de-sac from an ad I ran in the community newspaper and since they have small gates on the privacy fences I just whip the 22" off the back of the trailer and do them all at once at $25 apiece. Usually takes about 50 minutes from gate down to gate up.

$40 an hour while putting hours on the ZTR or $75 an hour with the 22"??? I'm going to target that little neighborhood (and others like it) myself...even bought a 36" Turf Tracer HP in anticipation of going for these smaller lawns and being able to crack 4 of them ($100 per hour).

Another bonus is that these newer, smaller neighborhoods have storm sewer systems...NO DITCHES! :D

07-08-2002, 11:59 PM
I have (normal and fill in customers):
(1) 1/4 acre lawn
(1) 1/2 acre lawn
(1) 1.25 acre lawn
(1) 3/4 acre lawn
(1) 2 acre lawn with a 2 acre back lot (sometimes just one or the other)
(1) 2 acre lawn (mine)

I like a medium size one better (1/2 acre) but think i make more money on a larger one. Course it depends on the size of the mower. Mainly I have a 32" Toro rider and two 21" Toro SP's that never get fired up really and a new Stihl FS80 trimmer. I "have access to" a 48" garden tractor as well. It's my parents but i only borrow it for the 2 acre job which is an occasional fill in, and our yard of course. So I think it depends on the size of mower. I don't like the 2 acre job when I'm only using my 32" because it gets very monotonous, and i dont' make as much on the small job, so i like a medium one.

agrostis palustris
07-09-2002, 12:58 AM
I really don't do many places anymore, as I don't have the time and am looking to get into different (more profitable) aspects of the industry. However between the couple places that I do, do they keep me PLENTY busy. However between just a few big places (that are willing to spend money of course) you can keep yourself and several other people busy each day of the week. I figure that between just 10 of my accounts that I have had in the past and currently I could keep myself and one or two other people busy each day of the week. Keep in mind that there are people who only work at 1 house for years on end. They are employed by the owner and the equipment is bought by the owner. To get a gig like that though takes a lot of knowledge and trust.

bubble boy
07-09-2002, 11:55 AM
we run a crew for small props.

2 21" sp toro prolines, stihl fs85 and echo blower. in other words, top notch equip. You dont want downtime, whether big or small props.

as well, when you do 25-30 props a day as opposed to say 10, thats a lot of starting machines, unloading by hand (which tends to beat the wheels), etc. this is often as hard on equip as anything.

and that crew uses a ram, we need full size for plowing so an
s-10 or "beater" truck would be of limited use. you always need room for leaves, bags, etc.

LOTS of companies around here do that.

07-09-2002, 05:12 PM
Yea mowing man, that's what I had in mind...

07-12-2002, 02:59 AM
I think that if you work by yourself, you would probably prefer small jobs, and if you hire people, big ones.

1. Big jobs means less drive time. You have a 3 man crew, you're tripling the down time in between jobs. If you work alone, you could probably use the 5-10 minute break in between jobs anyway. I never take "breaks", instead, using drive time to rest and if in traffic, plan and make calls. So I don't really consider drive time "down time" at all. With a few employees, that'd be different.

2. Desireability of the work. I got into this biz to enjoy my day, not do what I consider drudgery. For me, smaller and mid sized lawns are best. I do a few big properties, but after 2 hours in the mower seat, it gets old. Big properties, in my experience, also require more non-mowing work to be done, since they're too much for the homeowner to handle. Mulching, pruning, cleanup, etc....I'd rather mow than do all that, letting the machine do the work, not my muscles. My smaller properties have less "extra" work. Again, if you have employees, you don't care as much, and even prefer some "extra work" for slow times. I also prefer to keep it simple, and doing extras plays havoc with scheduling efficiency.

3. Profitability. For my equipment (Lazer Z HP 48", Toro Proline 36", Toro 21"), I am less efficient on really huge properties. The Lazer can handle 90% of the work on the size lawns I do. Really small lawns or tough terrain may require a 21", which I don't mind, but I can't walk mow all day. I can ride a mower. So too many really small lawns can be a problem too. But as for profits, I make $22 on lawns that I'm at 15 minutes. I make about $52 on lawns I'm at for a full hour. So Per-hour of actual work, I make more on small lawns($88 vs. $52). Factor in drive time and it's about even, with the edge perhaps going to small lawns. But my limiting factor is fatigue(and boredom), not hours, so small lawns work better for me. I would think it difficult to manage scheduling and dealing with hundreds of small lawns, though, if I had employees.

Finally, small and moderate lawns are, at least here, MUCH easier to obtain as customers. Show up, do a good job, and you're set. From what I'm hearing commercial is very price sensitive. Most of my customers are long termers. They would only switch if I did something bad. Not to save a few bucks. I think a lot of big operators in tight markets should consider residential work more. They're beating their heads against a wall trying to get contracts that aren't that profitable due to the intense competition.

My least favorite client is high-end residential. Why? I can't get a price commisurate with the time and difficulty involved. They want more "extra work" done, and are more demanding on quality. A similar sized high end job may require twice the time to do right, but might bring only 50% more than a "mow blow n go" home with an elderly lady in it.

Even my uncle blanches at the $60 price to mow his $700,000 home with a huge lawn that's split by a longgggg driveway, and has to be mowed carefully to avoid scalping in spots. . Meanwhile, not even retirees or single moms seem to balk at $30 for their postage stamp weed patch I'm in and out of in 25 minutes. It's less satisfying when you're done mowing a crummy little lawn, but it's also less tediously stressful and I make more money. Some people take great pride in "maintaining" a really nice place. I'm more worried about being able to afford one.

Doc Pete
07-12-2002, 08:10 AM
Originally posted by brucec32
I think that if you work by yourself, you would probably prefer small jobs, and if you hire people, big ones.

Great post. After 20 years of mowing, sooner or later you find much of your post is right on. It may have been brought up before, but another plus to doing smaller lawns is, gaining or losing a smaller lawn has little impact on your salery. However, losing one large account, may put you out of business, or at the least, really hurt you.


07-12-2002, 10:56 AM
Do you pay yourself a salary?

Anyways, my area is a slightly depressed small town. Plenty of lowballers... there are no high end residentials in town. I probably live in the nicest part of town anyways (100k-250k houses). Lots of postage size lawns... but it's a very volatile market. I've found the commercials are slightly more easier to get along with. In fact I haven't had any issues with them. With the residential customer, it's requests etc... Not that thats anything wrong, it's a staple of alot of companies...

But I'm just tired of this whole Commercial vs. Residential issue because it's not an issue. You can't tell what each independent market is like. Everyone should be able to tell themselves what they need to do.

Anyways my post wasn't a matter of commercial vs. residential. It's about the economics of a mini-crew...