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View Full Version : When to expand? Advice from the wise please!


Lewis541
04-22-2011, 12:57 PM
Ill keep this brief.

I always try to get deals on equipment, my costs are low (under 40%), my business has no debt. Currently I have around 30 residential maintenance accounts @ and average of $35 ea. and growing quickly (1-3 accounts per week).

Also I just received my license for irrigation and back-flow from the state and i have been super busy with activations & repairs. I have also been swamped with aeration's and thatching jobs bringing in on average $300-500 per day.

I have been so busy with all of these other side jobs that I have not serviced any of our maintenance accounts which is fine because the weather is just now turning. However, I could have serviced the properties at least 2 wks this month bringing in around $2100

My question for the more experienced guys is when do I expand and what is the wisest way? I feel like I am on the cusp of expansion.

Here is my thinking:

Hire an employee at $9.50-$11 to run maintenance all season ( except slow weeks then I will assist the employee)

While he is doing maintenance I will try to keep myself busy by marketing my business and doing random jobs and irrigation.

Purchase a new truck. Should I buy a $4-6 2wd f150 that will last the next 5 seasons (on credit) or a white straight body 93 f150 for $1000 that will last maybe 2-3 seasons? Remember I am trying to keep costs low and maximize opportunity.

I already have all of the extra equipment, trailer, mowers, blowers etc...

Has anyone been here before? Any advise and wisdom?

Thank you

SLMGT
04-23-2011, 07:28 PM
Lots of companies have been where you are at and yes, it can be stressful deciding on when to pull the trigger on hiring help. Once you hire help, you've got to grow in order to cover the employee's cost. But it sounds like you've got the ball rolling and if you're not careful you'll end up killing yourself trying to cover everything. Theoretically your employees should make you money, not cost you. Make sure to train your employee well and if he turns out to be good, pay him well (not just money but give him opportunity to grow as your company grows). Good luck and keep it going.:usflag:

Southern Pride
04-23-2011, 07:51 PM
I cannot agree more with the above post about the employee. My business is EXACTLY like yours, except I am just the average landscape company (cuts, cleanups, leaves, mulch, hedges, weed control) Noone asks for aeration and I always sub contract out fertilization jobs, etc.

Anyway, the point I wanted to add was taking baby steps. Just finding a single employee (ppl don't like working alone) to do ALL of your stuff for $9-12/hr is a huge obstacle all in itself. Most of my lawn career I have ran many various sized companys, and a $9-12/hr guy can only care so much you know what I mean. You have to make sure to treat them well. Pay them well and after a long hard week spend time with them. Take them out to eat and buy some drinks, whatever. I know that would of meant all the difference to me with some of the companys. The smaller companys were the best with employee morale, and the larger ones, the owner lived at his lake house and just paid a guy on salary to do EVERYTHING. Those type owners I don't really care for. I believe a business owner should always be out in the field sweating, directing his employees, guarantee quality work, and overall making sure his employees are happy and seeing his business evolve and constantly changing with it. I am right in the same position as you right now while dealing with fire academy and trying to get on the FD. I wish I had all the time to focus on my business. Every single "helper" I have ever got has amazed me at what they think passes for "edging". It scares the heck out of me handing over the rains just to some guy that being paid $10/hr...Finding those quality guys, training them, and keeping morale up is 90% of the game I believe. I also believe some of THE BEST companys out there are the ones that are a tad smaller and the owner is thoroughly involved. That is just my .02 man but for the most part I have not been there in the big time owner position yet but for 10 years I have been the front man for many companys, and I believe that's a very valuable experience. Let me know your thoughts. Start out small with 1 guy, gradually have to work your way up. Noone hands over 40hrs a week to a 4 man crew overnight. It's a slow gradual climb.

McFarland_Lawn_Care
04-23-2011, 10:08 PM
Great post, I am there this season too. I have decided to bite the bullet and hire an employee - got 55 weekly mowings avg 1/3 acre. Not counting fert and squirt treatments that I am really trying to advertise this year. I will let you know how it goes, gonna really try to be proactive selling instead of waiting for word of mouth accounts. Good luck guys, let me know how it's going. Got my workers comp and payroll mostly setup - be hiring in two weeks.

Exact Rototilling
04-24-2011, 01:06 PM
Would need more info on your how long youíve been in biz, age, who's doing paperwork etc.

topsites
04-24-2011, 01:09 PM
I dare say if you're growing that fast it could be because your prices are too low and if you expand now you'll only end up
in that treadmill where you keep thinking more customers to pay the bills and then omg I need more workers again because
it's too much work so then you need more money to pay the workers so it goes back to getting more customers and on it goes
back and forth and work work work until one day it all comes to a head and...
You're out of business before the dust has even settled.
And it can take years, but you might not even see it coming.

And yes I said could be and maybe and might not but don't laugh too hard, it wouldn't be the first time it's happened.
So, maybe slow down just a little.

Would need more info on your how long you’ve been in biz, age, who's doing paperwork etc.

Yep.

SNAPPER MAN
04-24-2011, 01:28 PM
Your idea is absolutely idiotic IMO. Why buy another truck and hire someone to mow your accounts. Just have that helper work with you and do all your mowing in 3-4 days so you have an additional 2-3 days for extra work. That's what I've done and it's worked for me.
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pdenney11
04-24-2011, 02:07 PM
Your idea is absolutely idiotic IMO. Why buy another truck and hire someone to mow your accounts. Just have that helper work with you and do all your mowing in 3-4 days so you have an additional 2-3 days for extra work. That's what I've done and it's worked for me.
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I'm in the same boat. This is the approach I took this season and it has been a great decision so far. Last fall I ended up with enough grass to take care of (35 res 12 comm) that I was struggling to get my mowing taken care of if it rained at all. I was having to push back lawn renovation, landscape installs, aeration and other non mowing jobs. I enjoy the other work more then the mowing but can't survive without it. Mowing pays the bills and other work just puts money in my savings. I hired a part time worker to mow with me Wed, Thurs and Fri every week. We are able to mow all of my accounts in those three days if I have a good route lined up. This gives me plenty of time to concentrate on my other work Mon and Tues each week and still take weekends off unless we get rained out. My worker knows that if he sticks with me until I grow enough to make him full time that I will treat him well.
I am still young and have full ententions on working atleast 40hrs a week to help cut out some labor each week even if that means I have to do the marketing and advertising part of the business on weekends. I can't speak from experience but buying a truck for a 9-11$ per hour worker to service all of your mowing accounts like like a fast way to lose quality in your business and generate alot of extra headaches and expenses. My part time worker knows my routes and has had experience with all of my accounts now and is a very good worker, but I still wouldn't be able to hand him my keys and tell him to go mow all day by himself without having to really worry about him.
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humble1
04-24-2011, 02:17 PM
Read procuts threads how to fail
Posted via Mobile Device

ALC-GregH
04-24-2011, 02:35 PM
Ill keep this brief.

I always try to get deals on equipment, my costs are low (under 40%), my business has no debt. Currently I have around 30 residential maintenance accounts @ and average of $35 ea. and growing quickly (1-3 accounts per week).

Also I just received my license for irrigation and back-flow from the state and i have been super busy with activations & repairs. I have also been swamped with aeration's and thatching jobs bringing in on average $300-500 per day.

I have been so busy with all of these other side jobs that I have not serviced any of our maintenance accounts which is fine because the weather is just now turning. However, I could have serviced the properties at least 2 wks this month bringing in around $2100

My question for the more experienced guys is when do I expand and what is the wisest way? I feel like I am on the cusp of expansion.

Here is my thinking:

Hire an employee at $9.50-$11 to run maintenance all season except slow weeks then I will assist the employee)

While he is doing maintenance I will try to keep myself busy by marketing my business and doing random jobs and irrigation.

Purchase a new truck. Should I buy a $4-6 2wd f150 that will last the next 5 seasons (on credit) or a white straight body 93 f150 for $1000 that will last maybe 2-3 seasons? Remember I am trying to keep costs low and maximize opportunity.

I already have all of the extra equipment, trailer, mowers, blowers etc...

Has anyone been here before? Any advise and wisdom?

Thank you

This is your first problem. You can't pay that kind of money and hope to find reliable honest help. If you want to pay 9-10 an hour then you need to have them working beside you part time to get the accounts done in a reasonable time. Then spend your time doing the other stuff. If you send a 10 an hour worker out with all your equipment, the chances are, you'll start loosing customers and gaining more expense on repairs or possibly broken windows and other stuff on the properties. If you expect a worker to go out on his own with your equipment you need to spend double what you thing if not more. Even then it will be hard to find a worker to "run" your mowing side without any problems. I personally would have a problem letting ANYONE take my equipment out without me being there. You need to sit down and go over it all again and rethink what you should do.

Dr.NewEarth
04-24-2011, 02:41 PM
The fact is an employee can take over a year to train properly. Mowing can be learned quickest, but I have seen people continue to screw that up months into their career.
Crooked lines, torn up lawns, plants broken or they cut over a piece of paper or chop up some-ones hose that wasn't picked up. What if they don't tell you they screwed up?
You don't have time to check every-where on every property each week. That can be frustrating to find out about and repair.

We use mostly 21/22 inch mowers. Senior guys operate the ride-on.

I prefer to get people onto a string trimmer asap. There are some tricky techniques that need to be learned. In my opinion this is one of the most important tasks to master for lawn care. The basics are easy, but tree circles and edges have to be done when you aren't using a stick edger all the time. I start them in a low profile area...and always make sure they wear the straps, have it properly balanced and erganomic and utilize all of their safety gear!

Where I operate, every new employee must be shown how to use each piece of equipment properly. They must be officially trained. We use a sign off sheet that they initial once they have been shown how to operate each piece of equipment. This is for legal reasons and workers compensation too.

You can find safety manuals on line or through the landscape associations.
Get employees to read the equipment manuals.

If you can find workers with experience this late in the season, You will have to pay more to keep them around. You could incorporate some kind of benefit into your
system. We give a company Costco card, and they get a discount on work boots and work clothes. If they quit, they give back all company property.

We also supply safety gear, by law. Eye and ear protection, a first-aid kit. We have gloves if they need them, but boots and gloves are usually their responsibility.

There can still be problems with experienced employees. What if they have learned to use equipment in a dangerous manner? I hired one guy with seven years experience and he used the line trimmer upside down. Rocks used to shoot every-where, because the safety guard wasn't deflecting them towards the ground. You don't remove the safety equipment either! He could not and would not learn the proper way to run a trimmer.
He quit after a week. That was frustrating for both of us.

I have had the best luck mostly with team players. Soccer, baseball...they love the outdoors and have energy. We keep to a routine and work rain or shine.

If you are buying new equipment or a truck, it is a good idea to charge back a percentage per hour to cover what it will cost in 3-5 years to replace that equipment, otherwise it will come out of your pocket again! Search Return on Investment for more information

Aaronnc
04-24-2011, 05:05 PM
Read procuts threads how to fail
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I agree. That was a good thread.......
Part 1: http://www.lawnsite.com/showthread.php?t=262189

Part 2: http://www.lawnsite.com/showthread.php?t=341157