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pblc
01-12-2011, 07:46 PM
So today I get a call from a good customer inquiring about their latest bill. Long story short they thought it was too much - of course!

We charged $40/man/hr for leaf removal (for all our other accts we charge $50) - we utilize a leaf loader and truck, ztr mower, and backpack blowers. Took 38 man hours to complete the project.

Reason they're questioning is because they have a large nursery take care of all their shrubs and mulching and new installs, etc. The nursery charges $25-30/man/hr. I'm sure they can afford to do this because they make the majority of their money selling plants. Now I know how the rest of yall feel when bidding against the big companies who have ridiculously low margin and make up for it with volume.

Just a rant I guess....... but what do the majority of yall charge per labor hour for leaf removal with bigger clients? We get killed on the per cut price ($22.50/manhr) so the only reason we keep this client is the leaf removal - maybe not any longer...

JDUtah
01-12-2011, 08:34 PM
Charge per job (based on your estimation of hours) and they wont have information to compare to other people who charge by the hour.

BrunoT
01-12-2011, 09:01 PM
$60/hour here and I that is my give-it-away price. I make somewhat more mowing and mowing is easier. But this is a solo op, not employees.

I'd be wary of doing $1500 worth of work on a "per hour" basis without a very good working relationship with an established customer. If they didn't know your "per hour" rate at all going in, then that is a pretty wacky relationship you guys have. Probably worth discussing before you start that it's going to take roughly xxxx hours.

This is another example of how leaf loading/hauling off is a very expensive service to provide, and (In my opinion) most customers don't see it as a great value relative to what you can mow the property for.

My advice would be to charge what you need to get for the mowing, rather than trying to "make it up" with other services. As you've found out, they will cherry pick companies to get it done as cheaply as possible. Eventually they want everyone doing their particular thing "cheap".

So today I get a call from a good customer inquiring about their latest bill. Long story short they thought it was too much - of course!

We charged $40/man/hr for leaf removal (for all our other accts we charge $50) - we utilize a leaf loader and truck, ztr mower, and backpack blowers. Took 38 man hours to complete the project.

Reason they're questioning is because they have a large nursery take care of all their shrubs and mulching and new installs, etc. The nursery charges $25-30/man/hr. I'm sure they can afford to do this because they make the majority of their money selling plants. Now I know how the rest of yall feel when bidding against the big companies who have ridiculously low margin and make up for it with volume.

Just a rant I guess....... but what do the majority of yall charge per labor hour for leaf removal with bigger clients? We get killed on the per cut price ($22.50/manhr) so the only reason we keep this client is the leaf removal - maybe not any longer...

ELS LLC
01-12-2011, 09:46 PM
We price the big leaf jobs not at hourly but per job. The clients usually are impressed at how efficient the crew gets the job done. It's hard for an elderly lady to rationalize paying $40.00 per man hour, which is low, when she was earning 10 cents an hour back in the Depression! Bump your hourly figures up, dump fees, and give her a set price. Then year after year the price will be pretty close. With two guys and a leaf loader and all the right equiptment you need to be billing more than $80 hour. On top of that you are giving the mowing away and she still complains. Explain nicely that you are a business and it costs alot to have a crew out. If that fails bump her mowing price way up to where it should be and if she complains cancel her. You cannot MAKE money with cheap people. Good luck!

pblc
01-12-2011, 09:52 PM
Total leaf removal last year was $2250 on that property and $2950 for this year. Leaves must be removed because property has lots of money invested in sod - much more than the maintenance costs required for it. We got this job because we could remove the leaves in a timely manner - they had to replace a large portion of the sod because the last outfit let me sit on the turf and it damaged it to where the homeowner thought it needed replacing. So leaf removal is a necessity at this location. And this client is a "do the job and send me the bill" or has been before this. I believe what happened is two large leaf removal jobs were included in one bill because the leaves fell late this year. Weekly mowing is $90.

Roger
01-12-2011, 10:02 PM
I sure hope no customer is good at math for the "per job" charges. It would be disaster if they were able to divide the total cost of the job by the number of hours to learn the hourly rate. Yikes! As long as these folks don't learn the high math, we are good to go for the "per job" charges.

ed2hess
01-12-2011, 10:23 PM
Just ask them what amount they want to pay. At least you might save the account.

DA Quality Lawn & YS
01-13-2011, 12:21 AM
Maybe gently ask the customer why they want to shortchange you, and what they feel would be a better rate?

I am very glad I do not get fully into the cleanup biz. A lot of work and the margins are poorer.

Richard Martin
01-13-2011, 03:47 AM
Total leaf removal last year was $2250 on that property and $2950 for this year.

This is the problem right here. If you were to raise my bill for the same service by $700 from year to year I would have something to say too. You're lucky they didn't fire you.

Say it costs $2250 for a dealer to service your mower. And then the next time it was $2950 to do the same service. Wouldn't you question why? What if the dealer said that there was more oil in your mower this time and it cost more to dispose of it. Wouldn't you want to see some proof? Or maybe he got a new mechanic and he works half as fast as his old mechanic. Would you want to have to pay more money because someone is working slower?

I can understand that you won't have the same amount of leaves from year to year but that is a 17.5 hour difference at $40 an hour. That's a lot of variable.

ALC-GregH
01-13-2011, 08:45 AM
What Richard said. I'd flip out if you told me it will cost $700 more this year for the same service you did last year.

mcw615
01-13-2011, 09:23 AM
Generally, I never tell the customer the breakdown of how we are going to charge them. Depending on the situation, we have different hourly rates for different things to be completed through the whole job/project-and that can just overwhelm them.

If you are going to charge more for generally the same thing you have done in the past, I would tell them it will be more ahead of time and why, such as the leaves are wet and there are a lot more than the typical amount of leaves on the lawn. You cannot be giving away more service for the same price of lesser work, that just drives into your profits, and at 40.00 an hour that is by far already a bargain. Everyone has different overheads, labor and labor burdens, and profit margins, and most of all markets.

I would apologize to them and let them know you can understand their shock when receiving the bill, work with them to reach a mutual agreement, and know in the future it might be even during the job when you forsee it is going to take longer than expected you need to approach them about the issue.
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hackitdown
01-13-2011, 09:24 AM
Very good point on the $700 increase. That is a 30% increase in one year for the same service from the same company.

$3K for a cleanup is no small amount of money. My area has large lots and crazy leaves, but most cleanups are from $300 to $500.

How big is this customer's property?

gasracer
01-13-2011, 09:42 AM
Can you give them (and us) a good reason why the $700 increase?

Clark Griswold
01-13-2011, 11:18 AM
Very good point on the $700 increase. That is a 30% increase in one year for the same service from the same company.

$3K for a cleanup is no small amount of money. My area has large lots and crazy leaves, but most cleanups are from $300 to $500.

How big is this customer's property?

Totally agree on the 700 bucks!

I was wondering the same thing about the size of the property too, 38 hours to do a leaf cleanup, holy moley!

pblc
01-13-2011, 11:43 AM
Yes it's a very large property that is covered - completely covered with trees. They water every other day for 45 minutes per station to keep the grass green while fighting the trees. Kicker for the longer time is everything has to be done by hand - no ztrs are allowed on the turf. So everything has to be blown out by hand then picked up by truck. Pushing large piles makes the time add up - and they want every last leaf gone. A 38 hr job is just a day and a half job for 3 guys - this is probably the largest property in town in regards to leaves. We loaded the truck 7 times with that one job.

Price is more because we charge more this year - $30 last year and $40 this year. Our normal price is $50/hr for removal and I explained to them that I gave them a discount for the large job.

My main point is how low the nursery charges for their services..... however I believe the responders of this thread missed that point.... and the nursery isn't some startup or small outfit - they are the largest nursery in the area.

bradseabridge
01-13-2011, 11:53 AM
No, we got the point. You raised your price by $700 from last year to this, and your wondering why the customer is complaining. Yep got it, who cares what the nursery is charging it's not your business and your customer went with you.. unfortunately for them.

Also you answered your own question about the nursery in your previous post.

Clark Griswold
01-13-2011, 12:08 PM
So, your charging flat $40 per hour for 3 guys, right?

Either my math is way off or there's something else I'm not understanding!

3 guys at $40 per man hour times 38 hours is $4560
3 guys at flat $40 an hour for 38 hours is $1520

You have $1430 in dumping fees in there also?

chipk1
01-13-2011, 12:15 PM
Sounds like you either shorted yourself by only charging 2 employees at 38 hours or you overcharged by 1 employees at 38 hours?

gasracer
01-13-2011, 12:18 PM
Sounds like you either shorted yourself by only charging 2 employees at 38 hours or you overcharged by 1 employees at 38 hours?

That was my thought.

elitefox
01-13-2011, 02:26 PM
What Richard said. I'd flip out if you told me it will cost $700 more this year for the same service you did last year.

Trees get bigger, Gas goes up, INS goes up, EVERYTHING goes up from year to year. You should always be raising prices to keep yourself ahead of the rest.

Can you post pics??? I feel I could do a leaf removal for half of Missouri in 38hrs. This has to be one of the biggest properties I've ever heard of... A week long leaf removal??? :confused:

pblc
01-13-2011, 02:54 PM
Crew is three men. 38 hrs total. Meaning we were there just a touch over 12 hrs - a day and a half. Anyone thinking they can pick up half the leaves in any state in a day and a half is out of their mind. And apparently hasn't done very many leaf removals.

Richard Martin
01-13-2011, 03:13 PM
You guys have to bear in mind that he did this job twice for $2950. He said he did it twice in his fifth post "I believe what happened is two large leaf removal jobs were included in one bill because the leaves fell late this year." His hours kinda work out and that's why I didn't point that out. It was the $700 increase that killed him.

In any case... Did you inform the customer beforehand that you would be going up on labor by 33%? I've had "just do what needs to be done" customers before but you still need to inform them of major price changes. That way there isn't any ugliness when the bill comes due. You've learned something here I hope.

pblc
01-13-2011, 05:10 PM
The total of 2950 was actually for 4 leaf removals - 2 early on ($600 and $175) and these two at year end ($1575 and $600). Yes I agree everything should be more open but what killed me with the questions is when I sent a bill for $2175. The previous years the removals have been spaced out over a few months - thus the total of $2200 last year wasn't as noticable to the homeowner with that total divided over three months of leaves falling....

Knight511
01-13-2011, 07:37 PM
Maybe gently ask the customer why they want to shortchange you, and what they feel would be a better rate?

Accusing/blaming the customer and belittling their concerns won't make the situation any better...

The total of 2950 was actually for 4 leaf removals - 2 early on ($600 and $175) and these two at year end ($1575 and $600). Yes I agree everything should be more open but what killed me with the questions is when I sent a bill for $2175. The previous years the removals have been spaced out over a few months - thus the total of $2200 last year wasn't as noticable to the homeowner with that total divided over three months of leaves falling....

It is about perception....

I find that I do better with a "per job" price based on estimates (meaning I make more with happier customers) instead of using "per man hour." It may be very close numbers, but "per man hour" is mysterious and can leave the customer feeling cheated.

This is why auto mechanics use a program that standardizes estimates based on industry estimates of time needed. If the customer agrees to 10 hours of work to change the timing belt for a total of $1000, they would feel cheated if they found out it only took 3. Instead the bill shows "Labor" as a unit instead of "10 hours labor."

It is all in customer perception.... and I agree with what has been said... a sudden 30% INCREASE in price is a lot to swallow, from the customer's perspective, the job size didn't increase by 30%. :) Happy mending.

Richard Martin
01-13-2011, 07:54 PM
The total of 2950 was actually for 4 leaf removals - 2 early on ($600 and $175) and these two at year end ($1575 and $600

Ya see now... Now you're changing the story... :dizzy:

First it was 2 and now it's 4... :hammerhead:

oldclawn
01-13-2011, 10:29 PM
We use a 3 year moving average on the hour count so that the count is reasonably consistent. If we have been on a job averaging say 14 mhrs per fall then this year the crew time totals up to 21 something is wrong. We view the weather we dealt with--rain--extra windy days, etc and all things aside using an avergae to be fair all around keeps the customer happy. We only do leaf for people we mow for and we expect to make premium dollar for our time using the best of equipment.

pblc
01-13-2011, 11:08 PM
Ya see now... Now you're changing the story... :dizzy:

First it was 2 and now it's 4... :hammerhead:


No. I did not change my story. I never told the total amount of leaf cleanups early on because that was not where I was going with my post. I later said the reason for the trouble is because two removals were on one bill - totaling 2175. Thus, if you can subtract you would know that there must be more than simply two because 2950-2175>0.

Not overall important, however I don't like being called a liar.

justanotherlawnguy
01-14-2011, 12:12 AM
thats why I never ever quote a job by the hour!

fyi, all customers ever want to know is how much the job is going to cost.

If you mowed a yard for $25 and it took you 20 minutes, would you quote the person $75/hour. No way, you would never cut any yards. If someone calls and wants to know the hourly rate, I take it to be that they are cheap and tell them that we price by the job, end of conversation.

Richard Martin
01-14-2011, 01:48 AM
Not overall important, however I don't like being called a liar.

Before you go getting your panties all in a twist know this...

When you tell a story don't leave details out so it makes your story more dramatic. People like me ask questions and when you start leaving important details out like the number of times you did something, just to make the problem sound worse, then don't be surprised at the responses.

elitefox
01-14-2011, 03:32 AM
Crew is three men. 38 hrs total. Meaning we were there just a touch over 12 hrs - a day and a half. Anyone thinking they can pick up half the leaves in any state in a day and a half is out of their mind. And apparently hasn't done very many leaf removals.

Well I just got back from Alaska with my Br 600 MAG and yes, I did over half the state today alone... Thanks for saying it cant be done!!!!!!:drinkup:

With my very little experience doing lawn care, I would suggest next time billing after EACH leaf removal, possibly even just adding it to the invoice total for the month it was done.... But like I said I have very little exp and I am just speaking as if it were me that procrastinated

pblc
01-14-2011, 10:14 AM
We bill everyone at the beginning of each month for the previous month's work. So I didn't procrastinate - that's how we do business.

And I wasn't leaving out "important details" to make the situation sound worse. AGAIN my point was how do we compete with outfits that charge what I would consider to barely be paying their employees and directly related expenses - not even looking at overhead. So.... again... take my thread somewhere else and then complain "I didn't give you all the necessary details"

BrunoT
01-14-2011, 02:10 PM
My approach would be:

"I can do it for $3,000 with YOUR preferred method, or I can do it for $1500 using my equipment and approach. Your choice".

Any business with idle employees is going to be able to beat your hourly rate, as they are just happy to break even or even lose a little on the job to keep the employees busy.

I again recommend trying on at least one account weekly to bi-weekly visits to handle leaves as they fall on high quality properties using mulching mowers and when needed, high capacity baggers to get remnants. On this property, charging $150/pop for that maybe 6-8 times a year goes down easier than the more laborious methods. The lawn looks good every week instead of looking neglected for a month, then pristine, then back to neglected as more leaves fall. Lower price, decent results, more consistent look to the property, more visits (they feel they're getting more for their money), and lower hassles trying to schedule huge jobs that eat up 1/3 a week at a time, especially when there are so few good weather days for leaf cleanup.

bushog
01-14-2011, 02:23 PM
Our rate is $55 man/hr plus disposal, on big or small properties. We use to charge 35 to 45 man hr , cant make a dime with those rates, especially with 2 trucks and all the equipment.

elitefox
01-15-2011, 01:18 AM
Our rate is $55 man/hr plus disposal, on big or small properties. We use to charge 35 to 45 man hr , cant make a dime with those rates, especially with 2 trucks and all the equipment.

That is so huge, many people don't even factor that in and realize it later. I'd want to as close to a $1 a minute I could get. Cause right, $35 an hr and you think sweet! This is cool, I charge $35/hr for this guy, can pay him and still make around an extra $20 an hour for him helping. WRONG!!! lol...

yardguy28
01-15-2011, 11:32 AM
So today I get a call from a good customer inquiring about their latest bill. Long story short they thought it was too much - of course!

We charged $40/man/hr for leaf removal (for all our other accts we charge $50) - we utilize a leaf loader and truck, ztr mower, and backpack blowers. Took 38 man hours to complete the project.

Reason they're questioning is because they have a large nursery take care of all their shrubs and mulching and new installs, etc. The nursery charges $25-30/man/hr. I'm sure they can afford to do this because they make the majority of their money selling plants. Now I know how the rest of yall feel when bidding against the big companies who have ridiculously low margin and make up for it with volume.

Just a rant I guess....... but what do the majority of yall charge per labor hour for leaf removal with bigger clients? We get killed on the per cut price ($22.50/manhr) so the only reason we keep this client is the leaf removal - maybe not any longer...

i charge each and every client $35 per man hour. doesn't matter how big or small of a job it is. doesn't matter if is residential or commercial work.

everyone is charged the same hourly rate for the services that require hourly rate charges.

just like mowing is done on the size of the property. a commercial business that has the same amount and time of turf to maintain as a residential client will pay the same amount.