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Loosestrife
10-18-2002, 09:30 PM
RANDOM THOUGHTS>>>


This industry MUST get it's pricing in line. I have lawn services quoting prices that are half of what I was charging in the early 90's! This is not a business like the cell phone business, where once the infrastructure is in place, money can be made on volume.

How can someone pull up to a residential home with $70,000 worth of equipment, 3 or 4 persons, and walk away with $35 or $40?

I have been in this industry a long time, longer than some posters have been alive. I cannot even begin to remember the shiny new trucks, trailers and mowers with some young energetic workers. I recall seeing their advertisements poushing low prices. What I notice most is that nearly all of these rigs do not appear after the rookie season.

In our local paper, there usually are 60-70 ads for lawn service in the spring. I kept track, and 80% of the ads mentioned low price, best price, reasonable...

Speciality services and commercial work used to be a safe haven, the new contractors couldn't get into these areas. Now, it seems as if the new contractors are going after these once safe havens.

I have been around this discussion forum since the first Lawnicure days. I also don't see many posters from years past. What happened???

I am working on a business plan to create revenue from new lawn services. It gets more and more difficult to compete.

cantoo
10-18-2002, 09:50 PM
I'vebeen around since the Lawnicure days too. Two years ago I gave notice that I was quitting my day job, with 1 week left I took a serious look at my business and decided it wasn't going to replace my wages soon enough. I took a different job with the same company and my wife actually runs the business now. I only work on weekends and holidays and it seems to be working good. We can buy the equipment we want and not worry about paying for it. We don't have to take every job or give low prices either.

Currier
10-18-2002, 10:07 PM
An ad from my newspaper service directory:

Under Sprinklers:

Bob's sprinklers
Winter blowouts $20.00

And the best one,
Sprinkler System installation
Irrigation $2499.99
Domestic $1499.99
Winterization $25-35
Mowing $10-25
Fall clean up and leaf removal

Can you say IDIOT?

Piedmont Lawn
10-18-2002, 10:15 PM
Not that this will help but a friend of mine bid on a state contact for grounds keeping at an 11 acre site and janitorial service that his wife runs, he has lost on a bid twice and asked me if I would help if he got it when I could. He figured the grounds keeping at under 00.30 cents a minute . I said no....!

Kelly

Brickman
10-18-2002, 11:40 PM
Originally posted by Currier
An ad from my newspaper service directory:

Under Sprinklers:

Bob's sprinklers
Winter blowouts $20.00

And the best one,
Sprinkler System installation
Irrigation $2499.99
Domestic $1499.99
Winterization $45-35
Mowing $10-25
Fall clean up and leaf removal

Can you say IDIOT?



Idiot no kidding.
Here the average residential sprinkler blow out -- winterization is $50. A lot of the contractors charge that. Some are lower, but I can't think they will be around long.


As most of you guys know I used to be LCO and sold this summer. Now I transport used autos. Trust me guys there are scrubs in this biz too. For example, there is one car hauler that hauls for $45 where myself and most of the other MEN charge $70. This is price per vehicle for a certain distance. How he pays for insurance, truck and trailer payments is totally beyond me. I did hear yesterday that his pickup is on the repo list for the finance company that holds his truck title. All the legit guys are hoping they catch him soon. I am certain that there are scrubs in any biz no matter what you do. After a while they didn't bother me in LC, I hope the day comes when I will have too much car hauling to do that they won't bother me here as well.

Columbia Turf
10-18-2002, 11:46 PM
Loosestrife, couldn't agree more. It seems some of these newer companies will come in and ruin things for everybody. Then leave when they can't replace equipment or survive a dry August. I have had "arguments" with residential customers over $5.00 before. At the beginning of a mowing season, I told a lady her price was $5.00 more than the previous year. She told me she would not pay that, but wanted us to do the job. She got somone else to do it for less. 2 weeks later she called and said she fired them and wanted us but would still only pay the old price. She actually was very beligerant with me at the end of the conversation

One good thing, sometimes this is the best time of year to purchase some good used equipment.

1MajorTom
10-19-2002, 12:04 AM
It's always going to be like this. Someone is always going to be cheaper because maybe this is their second income and they're doing this for "some spare change", maybe they aren't reporting any of their income to uncle sam, or maybe they just have an extremely low overhead. And you need not worry about the guy pulling up with the $70,000 worth of equipment because he probably won't be around for too long if he plans on targeting the $35.00 market with his overhead. It doesn't take much brains to take out a loan, but I think most of these "brainers" forgot their business plan. I understand what you are saying though. (They are driving the market down.)

So how can you stand out and get the prices you want?
Well with you being in business for so long, you ought to be getting the jobs just from name recognition. I would think you would be able use your long term business success as a key point when placing your bids. Clients should know they are paying for your dependability. You need to point that fact out to potential customers that you are not some fly by night operation, you are here to stay and reliability comes with a price.

It's always funny to hear the other side. Where you are located, we perceived it to be an area where money flows easy. Lots of development where you are. Do you install new landscapes?
Seems there should be some good money there. Is that what you meant by "new lawn services"?

Quote: I have been around this discussion forum since the first Lawnicure days. I also don't see many posters from years past. What happened???

Well Jac, maybe they changed their name and signed up again under a new name. ;)

SLS
10-19-2002, 01:47 AM
1MajorTom sez:

"I would think you would be able use your long term business success as a key point when placing your bids. Clients should know they are paying for your dependability. You need to point that fact out to potential customers that you are not some fly by night operation, you are here to stay and reliability comes with a price."

This is absolutely the truth! The longer people see me in my selected area of operation...the more they approach me to do their lawns. "Our lawn guy just shows up whenever he feels like it...I'm always having to call him...blah, blah, blah. Now, I've noticed you around the neighborhood for quite a while now and your lawns always look so nice........". It happens quite frequently. Thankfully. Easy sells too...and easier to convince them to go with weekly service. They open the door, and in I walk! :)


Yeah, it can be tough sometimes with the flood of cheapo-priced upstarts that come in the spring. But, either they make it...or we take over when they screw up or burn out.

Yesterday, while mowing a client's lawn, the UPS man stopped by with a delivery. Then he stopped me and started asking questions about the biz..."how much money do you make"..."is that big machine (my Lazer Z) really necessary?"..."I just want to pick up some spare CASH...and not worry about Uncle Sam"..."how much do you charge for this lawn?"... ect, ect. :dizzy:

Jodi is right...SELL YOUR "DEPENDABILITY"! It really does work...particularly with folks who are tired of dealing with undependability. :)

KLMlawn
10-19-2002, 02:19 AM
How about advertising (for those who need the extra accounts) " If you want a reliable service and quality work, Not Some Uninsured SCRUB ... CALL US NOW!!!" ... ???

GarPA
10-19-2002, 03:35 AM
Yes the lowballers are out there....but I'm also in PA and I have more work then I can handle and my prices are in no way lowball. My biz is only a year old. Almost all of my work is from referral.....and as stated above....people want reliability more than anything else. I also do everything from mowing to landscaping to fert to Xmas decs....if you can do all these services you need fewer customers and most of those clowns only know how to sit on a mower.....I chuckle at them everyday...but they concern me not a bit

nu83
10-19-2002, 04:12 AM
What you are complaining about is just business in a free market system. The market dictates price, if a job can be done cheaper it is likely that someone will do it. Read Jack Welch's book, even companies like GE have to constantly look for ways to become more efficient. Do you need $70k worth of equiptment to service that house? Maybe you do, I dunno but we need to constantly be looking at ways to cut costs and increase revenue.

In our industry there are more start ups because of the low cost to get in, however they should not affect your business model. If they charge below cost they will either run out of money and leave the industry or they will cut corners and their service value will drop, along with their customers.

bubble boy
10-19-2002, 01:52 PM
if it helps, consider the guys who run around scalping lawns for $20. they are selling something entirely different form you. they sell their customers TIME. their customers now have a spare hour a week.

for those with quality work, you sell your skill. or if you prefer, you sell a product, a perfectly manicured property.

different markets, thus different prices.

sheppard
10-19-2002, 03:26 PM
The godparent of my son, who is also a bank president, called me to invite me to bid on doing his bank. Did so and found out they picked someone who bid 1/2! as much as I did (with the same number of cuts in a year). It was not completely the bank pres. decision. But in light of there being that much discrepancy, they tossed my bid out. I was shocked that they bid so low.

I even had a guy from the dealership that I do most of my business with come with me and do the man hour computations for himself- we jived pretty close. (The place had a slew of bushes- at least 1.5 hours of trimming per visit).

Matt, the Pres., was gracious enouph to give me a copy of their contract.

They could not be making more than 50.00 to 100.00 max in profit per month.

Geez!

Cordially,

Sheppard

dmk395
10-19-2002, 04:33 PM
There is business in $35 lawn mowings....its just a volume business.

awm
10-19-2002, 05:35 PM
all this is why u dont set on your duff.
just because things are good now for u, dont mean it will stay that way.
was a time u learned a trade and could count on making a living that way. not in the 21st century tho.i am constantly trying to invent ways to make a buck . sometimes ive hit good ones ,but its a gamble. win one, lose one, rains one out.

LLMSERVICE
10-19-2002, 05:56 PM
The pricing depends on the level of competition and other economic factors in the community. When people get laid off, they seem to pick up a lawnmower. They don't think about the business of it, they're just looking for extra cash in the meantime. I'm not sure how often I get people asking if "I'll be around next year." becasue their experience has been with transiant service providers.

I lost a tree cutting job to someone today who quoted a silly amount. A 40 foot birch cut, root ball removed and hauled away for $200.00 USD. We're already doing a lot of work for the client so its not a complete loss but I refused to match his price. The upside is I picked up two new clients for next year across the street and a third one later on who didn't ask the price. The reason was that they weren't happy with what they are getting now. They see the work I do for their neighbor and they want that quality.

That all said, I lose a lot of quotes on price to people with no investment in even the most basic equipment. I've just learned not to get too worked up over it.

MCGRAIL LAWN
10-19-2002, 07:05 PM
My company is kinda new but we have several customers in oak lawn (realy realy small lawns). They take about 5 min to cut and put the gear back on the trailer with a crew of 3. We do these lawns for $12 a week. Some of my competition charges $10 a week.

I know that if I had 3 or 4 houses together it would not be a big deal but for the most part I have 1 house here and one accross town.

Then i have customers in another town and I charge 13-35 per week there.

I also did some work for a realtor in crete
I was charging them $60.00 a week for each of the 3 lawns
and CRETE CUSTOME CUTS (competitor) was charging $35 for the same size lot.

All I can say is what you can charge and make depends on the type of people living in the house.

A homeowner of a $400,000 will spend more than a $100,000 homeowner.

bubble boy
10-19-2002, 07:12 PM
Originally posted by MCGRAIL LAWN
. We do these lawns for $12 a week.

good luck.

FrankenScagMachines
10-19-2002, 08:01 PM
Ok, so say I have 4 lawns that take 10 minutes each with about 5 minutes drive time total, so I do these 4 in 45 minutes, and get $17.50 each, total $70. So $70 in 45 minutes. Does this mean I'm a lowballer? I have one helper I pay $10 per hour to trim and blow. Mower would be a eXmark 48" Turf Tracer with a sulky.
Am I lowballing?

williamslawn
10-19-2002, 08:22 PM
I will not unload the truck for less than $32.00. It might take 5 min or up to 30 min. My minium is $32.00

odin
10-19-2002, 08:28 PM
Mcgrail lawn

I know crete custom cuts real well they do volume biz all over the southeast suburbs

Randy Scott
10-19-2002, 08:31 PM
[i]Originally posted by Loosestrife

In our local paper, there usually are 60-70 ads for lawn service in the spring. I kept track, and 80% of the ads mentioned low price, best price, reasonable...

[/B]

Actually, this is key advertising, any marketing professional will tell you that you need to announce some type of discount to draw attention to your company and service. Whoring yourself and your wanna be business is another thing. For the most part, this doesn't bother me because it's a free country and these people can do what they want. I sell quality, dependability, a willing to satisfy for compensation. No doubt, these so called "lowballers" and "weekend warriors" do nothing to help the industry. Problem is, that's life. All you really can do is try your hardest and try to find a niche in the market. Some people just won't rationalize and will always search for the cheapest guy out there. Hopefully, in time, they will get what they pay for. Although while doing so, will make our lives tougher. I guess, when it's all said and done, the cream always rises to the top.

Actually, I have had discussions with 20 year plus guys around me, and they openly have admitted to me they price on the low side. Similair lawns side by side, and I'm 45 to 50% more per cut per week. How is that? I guess it's all where you want to be in life and where you want to go. If he is happy cutting for less that really is his perogative. Somehow their making it work. Do I like it? No. Not much I can do but stick to my own game plan and pursue the customers I need to get the money I want and need.

:)

Likestomow
10-19-2002, 09:17 PM
Loosestrife --- I think what would be helpful at this point is to get more info from you on your situation.

Are you talking about commercial or residential accounts? Give us some square footages on some properties, like residentials (if that is what you are talking about) along with the price you are charging vs. the price your competition is charging. Just give us more details to actually understand what you are talking about.

I have just recently hired some Latinos to help me after I began to suffer from a back problem, and I experienced just the opposite effect you did. I pay these guys a total of $18 per hour, and from that they made me about $60 - $80 an hour after I paid them their part. Now I did go out with them, but wasnít able to do hardly any of the work except maybe blow sometimes.

bdemir
10-19-2002, 11:28 PM
I am also from the lawnicure days and also out of this business. You cant make money easily by doing what others can do easily. There is too much competition and overhead and headache involved for it to be worth it. Like you said in your post. You pull up with 70k and 4 men and pull away with pennies compared to your overhead. Ican tell you its not a promising future. Show me one piece of equipment that can work on its own without maintenance and man hours and can pay for itself in 3 years and ill show you a profit. Not quite so in this buisiness.



Bedros

Brickman
10-20-2002, 04:55 AM
Originally posted by SLS

Yesterday, while mowing a client's lawn, the UPS man stopped by with a delivery. Then he stopped me and started asking questions about the biz..."how much money do you make"..."is that big machine (my Lazer Z) really necessary?"..."I just want to pick up some spare CASH...and not worry about Uncle Sam"..."how much do you charge for this lawn?"... ect, ect. :dizzy:[/B]


I got some of this too. That was when I would lay the BS on THICK. Tell them about PITA customers, high price of insurance or the lack there of. Extremely picky customers. High price of fuel, customers that don't pay. And what would it hurt to tell him you were cutting for $10 when you really weren't. That might scare him out of it. I have no qualms about trying to keep a person with this mentality out of the biz. I have had plenty of people ask me about the car hauling, if they are local I will give them the same load. DOT BS and expense of that, insurance, how hard it is to get work and on and on. If they live in another area I will give em some advice. From LS alone I have had 4 guys ask me about it, 4 and counting. :)

Some body that comes right out and tells you he is wanting to go behind the IRS back, I would tell him that he just screwed up. That you are an undercover IRS agent. I PROMISE you he will beat it FAST.

SLS
10-20-2002, 09:31 AM
Brickman,

How about this one?:


"Whew!...now is a really bad time to get into this business...what with the sagging economy and layoffs. Everyone with a mower is out there right now trying to drum up business...and driving prices back to 1970's levels too! A man's lucky if he can break even mowing lawns these days. To pay off my equipment I will have to borrow MORE money...or even take on a THIRD job just to keep my head above water...oh yeah, if you do get into this business, DEMAND cash payment...in advance too! Collecting your money is like pulling teeth! People bounce checks like you wouldn't believe! And don't be late or not show up when you are supposed to, rain or shine, because you can bet that some other 'part-timer' will be doing YOUR lawns the next day...at half of your price! These guys ride around looking for lawns that look like they need cut, leave a note on the door saying they will mow it for $8.00,...and BAM!...you are in the soup line!" :cry: :cry: :cry:



Now theres a Halloween horror story for ya! :D

Brickman
10-20-2002, 10:38 AM
That would work too. I have no problem with giving some body that has a weekend mentality a load of BS to try and scare them off. It is guys like that that will give any industry a bad name.

I really like the part about being late, or missing a day from rain or sick.

No problem at all with running losers off. If they want extra spending money go work at McDonalds.

fprintf
10-20-2002, 11:00 AM
Originally posted by KLMlawn
How about advertising (for those who need the extra accounts) " If you want a reliable service and quality work, Not Some Uninsured SCRUB ... CALL US NOW!!!" ... ???

As someone not in the business I can tell you that not many people know what a scrub is. Come up with a better term, however, and this just might work!

The Lawn Choupique
10-20-2002, 11:08 AM
That is what is great about this business. Being part time it does not matter if you charge less than everyone else. It is all just extra money. That is actually the name of my company Part Time Lawn Care. We are not the most expensive-But we get the job done. When you let the people know that you just cut grass part time and do not have to rely on the income as your sole support they know that they will get a fair deal.

goose
10-20-2002, 01:58 PM
The Lawn Choupique's reply is what I think is not so great about this business. Anybody can cut grass and thats not good.

Brickman
10-20-2002, 02:12 PM
Originally posted by goose
The Lawn Choupique's reply is what I think is not so great about this business. Anybody can cut grass and thats not good.



That is what is killing lawn care, and other biz.

Guido
10-20-2002, 03:45 PM
Originally posted by goose
The Lawn Choupique's reply is what I think is not so great about this business. Anybody can cut grass and thats not good.


It is sad......................

This is one instance where I wouldn't mind the gov't implementing and inforcing some regulations on who and what you need to be to operate and even some pricing structure (like at Auto Body Shops / Garages / Towing Companies, etc, etc.

f350
10-20-2002, 04:02 PM
"All I can say is what you can charge and make depends on the type of people living in the house."

"A homeowner of a $400,000 will spend more than a $100,000 homeowner."


i would have to disagree with this bud...

i cant belive some body actually posted that they wouldn't " unload my trailer for under $32 "

i am also infavor of goverment regulations in the greens industry. i would love to see a law that mandates all companies to have a pesticide license, nursery and in some cases certified landscaper
( mi doesn't have that ) but some of guy's saying you wouldn't do this or that for this much really dont have a grip on the business aspect of things. i read post after post about mower blades and oil changes,,, come on... how about a post on aggressive marketing tactics, not yellow page ad's or picking up 300 accounts from a 5,000 piece mailer. ( which is a pipe dream ) i really want to see proven results and idea's. everyone is so quick to post
" scrubs are ruining my business " well no they are not, you are. anyone and everyone can cut grass.. can everyone write and follow a great marketing plan consisting of more than flyers and yellow page ad's? do you know the tool's that are available to you? do you understand about volume pricing, if we have 2 accounts in a neighborhood and there are 4 possible others will i try to take these? you damn skippy, my bottom line or your's??

The Lawn Choupique
10-20-2002, 04:47 PM
Originally posted by Guido
It is sad......................

This is one instance where I wouldn't mind the gov't implementing and inforcing some regulations on who and what you need to be to operate and even some pricing structure (like at Auto Body Shops / Garages / Towing Companies, etc, etc.

Free enterprise. In case you don't know, the pilgrams did not come to America looking for price fixing or goverment intervention, they came looking for opportunity. If anyone does not like this business maybe they should move to california and hire on with the long shoremen.

If you need the goverrment to hold your hand I suggest you go to work for the goverment sit on your tail and wait for retirement.

Guido
10-20-2002, 04:55 PM
Originally posted by The Lawn Choupique
If you need the goverrment to hold your hand I suggest you go to work for the goverment sit on your tail and wait for retirement.

FYI........

I do currently "work for the Government". I'm in the US Air Force. I'm in the largest Civil Engineering Squadron in the Air Force. I would hardly say that I'm sitting on my tail waiting for retirement. I easily exceed 70 hours a week at work, not including all the work I take home with me.

But thats besides the point. I don't need the gov to hold my hand either. We need them to regulate certain industries (like they already do in some) to keep people that are out looking for a spare buck from gouging the potential profits in a certain line of work.

You want to work for free, go for it. I don't plan on it though. Eventually operations like yours will be eliminated.

Sorry, but thats life. I don't want to start an argument, but any Tom, Dick, or Lawn Choupique should be able to perform a home improvement service with no type of licensing or certification.

The Lawn Choupique
10-20-2002, 05:06 PM
I been cutting grass since the 60's. I wonder just how long a time frame "eventually is". Stick with your goverment job. Leave the free market to those who understand that more goverment regulation is not the answer. Since it takes about the same skill level to cut grass as to deliver pizza, I will make my $25 per hour cutting grass and leave the pizza delivery to some goverment worker who has no idea what free enterprise means.

Rhett
10-20-2002, 05:17 PM
I like Guido spent 20 years working for Uncle Sam.( Or hopefully on his way) I do not think anyone is looking for protection or price setting in this industry just an even playing field. That means that if I pay taxes and lisence fees that everyone should be required to pay the same. If my competition chooses to live 10 people to a small apartment, work out of a beat up Areostar van with three 99 dollar Murrarys and a 66 dollar weed wacker and a blower that does not run,so be it. Just as long as they are doing so legally. By the way I take a little offense at the working for the govenment and sitting on my butt waiting for retirement. Like to think it wa s earned.


Rhett

Guido
10-20-2002, 05:21 PM
Originally posted by The Lawn Choupique
Leave the free market to those who understand that more goverment regulation is not the answer. I will make my $25 per hour cutting grass

If you understand so much about the free market, why do you limit yourself to $25 an hour? You could be making much more, ya know?

Ohhhh....I think you DO know.......but if you charge on the level it should be, you'd have to compete with all the REAL contractors out there making a living off their business.

All I'm saying is that your price should not be a factor for competing with other local companies. You bring the whole market value of the industry down just so you could make a quick buck.

Like I said before.....It's sad.

I'll leave it at that....... Its just my opinion (and I'm sure I'm the only one that thinks this way:rolleyes: ) so I'll leave it at that.

Its someone else's turn.

kppurn
10-20-2002, 05:21 PM
After your cost of doing business..........that $25.00 an hour is close to what you can make delivering pizza. Just a thought......

Guido
10-20-2002, 05:23 PM
Originally posted by Rhett
By the way I take a little offense at the working for the govenment and sitting on my butt waiting for retirement. Like to think it wa s earned.

It was earned.......we know that!

And yes, I'm on my way....I'm only a little of a 1/4 of the way there, but I'm doing great and love the life, so I'm going to stick out my 20 then get back into the Green Industry.

Thanks!

The Lawn Choupique
10-20-2002, 05:25 PM
What I do not understand is that at least 99% of the people that cut grass do so bacause they are not capable of doinig much else, and the reason they were able to take advantage of the opportunity to get into the lawn game is because anyone can do it, and then they start to whine and complain that what is wrong with this business is that anyone can do it. Makes a lot sense does it not?

kppurn
10-20-2002, 05:48 PM
I disagree that 99% of the people in this business are incapable of doing anything else. We all have choices. I was studying to be a psychologist and after year three, asked myself what I would truely be happy doing? I still have an interest in psychology, but I love what I'm doing now.
It's hard to operate a business when people are bidding work for half of what you are. Yes, this is part of doing business. Most of us, however, would like a more level playing field.

Brickman
10-20-2002, 06:18 PM
I agree with Guido on this one.

About 5 years ago a customer told me that she thinks there should be a green industry union. That would level the playing field, provide a retirement, and health benifits. At the time I dismissed it as an old womans idea and nothing more. But in the years since then I have given it some thought.

Any body else??

f350
10-20-2002, 06:21 PM
"What I do not understand is that at least 99% of the people that cut grass do so bacause they are not capable of doinig much else, and the reason they were able to take advantage of the opportunity to get into the lawn game "

this is probly one of the most azz9 things i have ever read on this forum... you my friend are the one not capable of doing anything else.. i choose this sector of the service industry because it is and always will be profitable.. i have a charted technical background, what do you have? so you have been cutting " grass since the 60's huh " ok so you make $25 an hour huh, well guy that SUCKS... you are the cancer of this industry....

Guido
10-20-2002, 06:38 PM
Originally posted by The Lawn Choupique
at least 99% of the people that cut grass do so bacause they are not capable of doinig much else

You mean 99% of scrubs.


I'm sure 99% of Green Industry related contractors that are making great livings from their BUSINESS (not hobby) are just worthless losers who can't do anything but push a lawnmower, right?:angry: I think not.

I'm sure that they're business skills have nothing to do with running a good business, right? I think not.

I'm sure that when they educate themselves in all areas of they're field so they can speak proffesionally and knowledgably to their customers has nothing to do with it either.

How about their knowledge in marketing......that would never help them in this business, right?

How about mechanical knowledge, that wouldn't help them when something went wrong with their equipment, would it?

How about:

Welding/Metal Working
Management Skills
Equipment Operating
etc.
etc.

I'm sure all the successful companies are ran by a bunch of dummies who can barely tie their shoes.





But who am I talking to here? I'm talking to a guy who replied just a few minutes ago to a question about a contract in the business forum. The question was asking on suggestions to the length of a seasonal contract. Your reply was ...AND I QUOTE: "I don't use them.....I have no use for them."
Great advice. Your a great mentor for someone trying to run a legit business and make a good profit at it.

Ignorance makes me upset!

And for you earlier comment of when "eventually" will happen.........it's when people like you retire and smarter, business oriented people take over this industry. Its when we can weed out (no pun intended) all the "grass cutting" companies.

awm
10-20-2002, 07:14 PM
both sides of this argument ,have truth.
its true anybody who can operate a mower can do this wk. its also true that
what they do and what a professional lco do are vastly different.if any thing its my opinion that many good lcos dont realise how much they know ,compared to homeowners. these just my observations for my area. i do hate to see it made against the law to mow u neighbors lawn . but dont know the answer to our problems.

gogetter
10-20-2002, 07:36 PM
How about that Lawn Chopique, a scrub that's PROUD to be a scrub. LOL!
This is a guy that doesn't care about "the industry" or his fellow lawn maintenance/landscapers, he cares only about himself.
If that works for him, great. I personally couldn't be that way. I have respect for the hard working, honest guys that are trying to make something of themselves and thier businesses.

Yeah, I get bummed when I get turned down when I give someone my price, but I try not to dwell on it too much. It's really more about frustration that the home owners just don't understand the differences in quality of work and service. And they don't understand our business (our costs, the seasonality, etc.).

But I guess I'm sorta lucky. Although there are about 100 lawn maintenance/landscapers in my area (legit and not), there are also THOUSANDS of lawns in this area. So I feel there is enough work for all of us around here.
But I know it's not that way everywhere and I feel for the guys that live/work in less populated areas where work can be a little harder to come by.

Randy Scott
10-20-2002, 08:06 PM
Guido, don't get sucked in here, consider the source of your frustration. Let's ignore the ignorant.

If ANY of you are going to sit here and think this doesn't happen in EVERY other business in the whole fricken' world, your foolish. The backyard mechanic, bodyman, house painter, computer geek, plumber, electrician, etc., etc. That's the blue collar. Then we have the white collar giants screwing the company for millions. MCI, Enron, who else? Oh yeah, don't forget our great politicians. Then we want to turn to them for some type of control or litigation in our industry. No thanks, I'll go it on my own. Unions, no thanks, I can think and talk for my self. If my job or career is so bad, I'll quit and move on, not cry and hide behind the union.

It's sad to say but we have no one to blame but ourselves. Our country is driven by greed, the undying thirst for financial gain, and we will do anything to get it. I myself get sucked into this way of thinking. What can I do to beat out the next guy and take the work away from him? Unfortunately, too many times it results in cutting prices. Look at the attitude of many of the younger generation, they can't get paid enough for what little they do or know at their young age. I have never seen so many arrogant, young smartasses that think they know it all. They must have learned that from someone, probably us.

Too many people look to make excuses in this world, blaming others for their misfortune. There are thousands of successful businesses in this industry and will continue to exist. I am quite thankful for the opportunity to run my own business and the exciting challenge it creates.

Instead of whining about the people bringing the industry down on a public forum, why don't you attend the hundreds of seminars put on every year by the successful businessmen in our industry. These people are willing to offer you what they have learned and mastered over years. Sure, their is a cost involved, these seminars are not cheap. Although, if some of you were to get off your lazy, crying butts, and invest the amount of time in a seminar that will actually teach you something from a pro, rather than unloading a bunch of BS hiding behind a computer every night and weekend, you might actually suprise yourself at what can be accomplished in life and earned in life, and this industry.

Take a count of how many hours are wasted in pissing matches on the computer, which who really knows what truth or lies are spouted out in your testosterone bellowing, because to be quite honest, bragging about the amount of new equipment you have is worthless to me or anyone else. Spend those hours actually doing research about business practices. Attending seminars and schooling yourself within the industry. After that, you might actually see that there are ways to make money and not even second guess all "the new LCO's with new trucks" in your area. I wonder how many of you have attended a simple night small business course at a local tech school. I'll bet next to no one.

I myself have tons to learn and look forward to the wealth of knowledge that is out there and available to me. Maybe I'll fail, or maybe I'll succeed. All I can say is that the opportunity is out there for ALL of us! Quite frankly, YOU hold the key to success in your hands. Looking to others with excuses is simply your failure. You have no one to blame but yourself for failure. Make all the excuses you want about others ruining the industry. The fact that everyone on here has the knowledge to set up their internet connection, fill out their profile, make a post, complete sentences? (that's a good one), order parts online, etc., means they have the ability to take care of themselves, quit blaming others.

This site is a good place to come and learn some neat ideas from people in the industry, an avenue to reach other areas of learning, and just generally talk. Pissing and moaning about the new "scrub" in town is just an avenue to take for your own personal failure and excuses.

This is merely one little mans opinion in the midwest. A fly on the wall perhaps. Though when I go to seep at night, I know that success or failure rests on my shoulders, and my shoulders alone. That said, I am willing to accept whatever happens, laying the blame of success or failure solely on my shoulders, not someone else. If it makes you feel better to blame someone else, that's your problem. If you think differently, that is your free right to do so. Opinions vary!

kppurn
10-20-2002, 08:13 PM
I think that was well said Randy Scott.

HOOKMEUPRED
10-20-2002, 08:50 PM
Well Anthony Robbins better watch out. I am so glad I found this web site. I have learned more in a couple weeks on this site than I have in 7 years diving tractor trailers. Thanks

roscioli
10-20-2002, 09:59 PM
Originally posted by Randy Scott
It's sad to say but we have no one to blame but ourselves. Our country is driven by greed, the undying thirst for financial gain, and we will do anything to get it.

Originally posted by .. i cant find who... but the other person also said a very similar comment.

I hate to say it guys but this is pretty much the definition of a Capitalist Society. We (as Capitalists) are driven by our regard for our own self interest, not the interest of our customers, our neighbors, or the rest of the industry.
Here's a quote from Adam Smith, it is from memory though, could be a word or two off:
"It is not by the benevolence of the butcher, brewer, or baker that we get our dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest."

If you dissagree with this perhaps you should go elsewhere, there are still a few countries left attempting Karl Marx's idea.

Don't freak, I am not calling you commies. Of course people are in this business to make THEMSELVES money. Honestly, I got in it because it was an EASY business to start. My father's toro and my buddies truck and I was off and running. That was a few years ago, now I am legit, and proud of it. The simple nature of this business is ruthless. The competition is fierce, from the legit and non-legit companies.

AWM said it well "both sides of this argument ,have truth.
its true anybody who can operate a mower can do this wk. its also true that
what they do and what a professional lco do are vastly different."

Another said that it is frustrating because the customer doesnt understand the difference between someone who 1/2asses and US. Perhaps you could make money 1/2assing then?

Basically I disagree with the following: 1. Government intervention. 2. Attempting to make a business that is clearly blue collar into something more.

I would love to see the government enforce tax paying more in this business.

Sorry that this does not flow well, but I have said what I wanted to say.

Likestomow
10-21-2002, 12:43 AM
LOOSESTRIFE has voiced his complaint about the market in broad generalities. I have no idea what he is complaining about.

He says he has $70K worth of equipment on his rig, 3 or 4 workers on the job, and is mowing a residential account for $35 or $40. What he does not say is how long it takes him. Iíd guess not more than a few minutes. Two guys on Zís, one trimming, the other blowing... 5 - 7 minutes and they are on the road or doing the property next door. Whatís wrong with that?

He says the ďIndustryĒ must get itís pricing in line. Ever hear of price-fixing or anti-trust? What is he talking about? Is he talking about the MARKET? If so, the Market is always ďin lineĒ. Itís called Equilibrium, where supply meets demand.

Markets vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, so if he is sour on his market, maybe he should move to a different neighborhood. If that doesnít work, then he should figure out how to reduce his costs to be able to compete and make a profit. If he canít do this, someone else willÖ every single time.

Do you think the Lowballer isnít making money? Sure he probably isnít licensed, insured, or paying taxes, but most community governments really donít care so why have a fit? Does the customer cares if his service person parks a beat-up truck in front while doing the yard, as compared to a 2002 beauty? Donít kid yourself. I see them all the time in the $300K+ neighborhoods.

It all boils down to costs. If you have suitable equipment along with good help, you most likely can compete with low price and still make a profit. It might not be $60/hr but it can still be done. Remember, not every account will be down to the knitty-gritty. You will always find slack. Profit is a result of good business management. The guys who fold every year simply donít have it. Donít get sucked into negative thinking.

Guido
10-21-2002, 01:57 AM
Originally posted by awm
its true anybody who can operate a mower can do this wk.


Your right, anyone can do this work, but how many of them can run a business?

That mentality of blue collar working is going to fade away. I hope the work ethics don't go out the window with it, but I hope some of the grunt mentality does.

There's more to any service related industry than being a laborer, but some people don't want to look past that.

bubble boy
10-21-2002, 09:42 AM
Originally posted by roscioli

Here's a quote from Adam Smith, it is from memory though, could be a word or two off:
"It is not by the benevolence of the butcher, brewer, or baker that we get our dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest."



Nice quote, i hadn't heard it since third year in university:cool:

some of likestomow's points can be questioned:

If we are going to start getting into market equilibrium, remember no market is perfect. these "firms" enter the market, charging a price below others, and driving market price to a level below where the industry makes economic profit. this becomes an equilibrium where all firms can't survive. some must leave (go under). once they leave the market, with the damage done. why can this happen? to few barriers to entry.

in basic terms, too easy to get in the game. to many people expect, and are promised, a top job from the murray pushing guy with the lowest price. he can't perform, he goes under and they expect the same price from me.

a market "getting its pricing in line" is not price fixing. in our market collusion is not possible. and whatever price is prevailing in any market is not necessarily long term equilibrium. in the scenerio of a lowballer's market, it can't sustain itself. a market is NOT always "in line" for the long run


for some markets, this is reality thus not negative thinking. Here it has not come to that. if it does, i won't play that game. trying to squeeze the same margins out of say 20% lower price is not worth the hassle. as likestomow says, someone will do it. not me, my solution then would not be to cut costs, but to leave.

until then, my firm will do what it can to prevent a situation like that.

Alan
10-21-2002, 11:46 AM
In a few minutes I'm having lunch with a contractor customer of mine who may end up being my employer. He has, on several occasions, commented that while I'm not low end on pricing, he never has to "babysit" the work I do for him. He is now getting into excavating and has called the other day to ask if I would be interested in a "working foreman" position overseeing that end of his business.

I've spent quite a lot of my life in the past in supervisory positions in the construction industry. I do really well at directing and overseeing jobsite operations but I am not much of a business person as far as upper management goes. I've discovered that over the past few years in this business.

By this time of the year I'm tired, both physically and mentally. I'm tired of fighting the low prices and losing good work to someone who has no clue of how to do it. Granted, I'm a one man band, but I can't find it in my heart to hire help at the starvation wages I see others hiring at.

Not really sure what the point of this post really is, other than been there, done that, and if I can make this offer work out I'll be back to part timing it. There are some customers I'll keep because they are friends now after several years. The socializing I can do by being able to spend a little time with them is worth more for the soul than the money is for the pocketbook.

Loosestrife
10-21-2002, 05:36 PM
Origonal poster here-

Some detailes. In the early 90's, I was charging in the neighborhood of $10/1000 for core aeration. Some lawns were a little more, others a little less, but $10 /1000 was the average. We now have lawn services doing 15,000 sf lawns for $50-$60. That price is 1/3 what I was charging (and getting) 10 years ago.

It is not just small, part time companies that are undercutting.

Before we offered fertilization programs, I had a national company doing my home lawn. They charged $50 to treat the front and sides. Last year, that same company gave me a quote of $38 to treat the entire lawn! I realize that they have more buying power than me, but I can hardly purchase the material for what they are charging.

We do fert & squirt for a few lawn services that don't offer it. I personally measured a commercial property for one of these contractors, and when I called to let him know our price for the fert & squirt, he asked what I thought about the mowing. We were not interested in the mowing, but he just wanted to see if his price was in line. I didn't look at the job with mowing in mind, but said that I felt it would probally be in the $125 range; he thought $140. As it turns out, the winning bid was $50. This was not a case of someone having bigger/more efficent equipment, because of the layout of the property. It requires much 21" mower work, as well as much string trimming.

It is no longer the high school and college kids that are charging low prices. Many, many young folks mow a few lawns in there heighborhood for extra money. I was one of them years ago. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is companies that are legimate operations driving down prices. They have got to be somewhat legit to be in the phone book, bid and get commercial, plaster their name all over town...

I see this in all fazes of this industry, from the mow and go; to the complete installations.

I can't even tell you the last complete install we did through a home builder. Guys are doing them for just over the cost of materials.

I know our costs, and our numbers. I know for a fact, that some of these guys CANNOT make any money with what they are charging, no matter what their overhead is. Even if they have zero overhead, there is still no room for profit.

It seems that there is a large demand for lawn care services, BUT, I feel it is only because the prices are so low. I see numerous people buying lawn service only because it is cheap. I feel that if these people were forced to pay FAIR rates, that they would not buy the service. Most folks are like this in one way or another.

I am sure that we all buy something that is cheap, and only because it is cheap. If we had to pay a higher price, we would do without. Take car oil changes. For $19.99, it is not worth it for me to buy the oil, jack up the car, change the oil, get rid of the old oil... If I had to pay $39.99 for an oil change, I feel that I would probally really consider doing it myself. If I had to pay $49.99, I would definatly do it myself.

Lawn care is no different to the consumer. Why should they cut their own grass if they can have it done cheeply? The difference in the lawn care business, and the quickie oil change business is that the oil change business CAN survive on high volume, low price. Lawn service generally cannot compete on high volume, low price, except in some very specific situations.

As a homeowner, I can rent an aerator for $50. It will take at least half of a Saturday to pick up the machine, get it home, learn how to run it, perform the work, clean the machine, and return it. Why in the world would any homeowner want to do this, when he can have the service performed for what it would cost him to rent the machine? On the other hand, if he had to pay $150 to have the lawn aerated, he may think about renting the machine. He could take the saved $$$ and take the family out that night.

These are just some random thoughts. From the number of replies, I feel that this subject may have struck a nerve with some?

lawnworker
10-21-2002, 05:39 PM
The problems of this business has been discussed a lot on Lawnsite. Lawn care is a tuff game to play. I used to listen to Bruce Williams on the radio. Bruce,a financial advisor, who knew some major players in lawncare and landscaping, did not reccommend lawncare to a caller thinking about pursuing it for many of the same reasons we have discussed already. That being said, there is still money in this type work, but each year things are getting worse with all the competition and unpredictable weather patterns. Those that will last, will be the ones that really learn all there is to know about lawns, fertilizing, overseeding, grass plant varieties, and a host of other scientific fact about turf grass. "Any body can cut grass" this has been said so much. So what, any body can drive a nail. would you want just anybody to build you your $400,000.00 dollar house? The same thing applies to the guy owning the house when he needs to choose a lawn care provider, so the "scrub with the murry mower" is not really a issue here. The true problem of this business is when there are to many qualfied pro outfits out there, which is the case in many areas of the country now compared to the amount of existing potential customer base.


I dont believe that gonenment regulation is the answer. time alone should tell if this business will continue to be a viable industry for people to pursue as a life long career. The over abundance of companies will in time weed themselves out, leaving the survivers left.

For myself I am always looking for a exit to something else, and I also admit I have not given this thing my all when it comes to learning all one should know about lawn care. Part of the reason for this is the drawbacks lawncare, but I wont jump ship tell somthing really good comes my way. I like being in business a lot and would enjoy a business with more stability. I also would enjoy a career as a profesional like a lawyer are a teacher. As a teacher one could mow in the evenings and do landscaping in the summer all while building up retirement monies.



:cool: :cool:all for now

Flex-Deck
10-21-2002, 09:57 PM
Wow - what a thread! - All we are talking about here is competing. You take a guy or gal on this thread running a $5000 machine or what ever price - I do not care - It boils down to how much can you mow and trim per minute, or per hr, or whatever - I Know that my customers with the Flex-Deck have increased the production of their machines 50 to 100% per hour depending upon wheather it is on a 60"ZTR or a 36" WB - Obviously the 36"WB + the Flex-Deck is the 100% increase - Those people are competing and making money both -

Thanks Brad

The Lawn Choupique
10-21-2002, 10:58 PM
Flex-Deck, you hit the nail on the head. There is only a certain amount of hours in any given day. Getting the accounts is the eazy part. A lot of people in this business it seems like would rather whine and complain than to do something to get ahead of the competition. Well I been cutting grass since the 60's and ain't going nowhere anytime soon. It is amazing though, in any other business if someone came up with a way to increase productivity by only 5% much less 50% the inventor would be hailed as hero. But alas, this is the lawn care industry.

bubble boy
10-22-2002, 09:41 AM
Originally posted by Flex-Deck
You take a guy or gal on this thread running a $5000 machine or what ever price - I do not care - It boils down to how much can you mow and trim per minute, or per hr, or whatever -


this is only true to an extent. you can have all the productivity in the world, but still not make up the $ in an 9 hr day due to low pricing.

and in terms of a biz and its long term survival, there is infinitely more than productivity. even if you charge $80 hr, you still need to find the people willing to hire you. and i'm not talking gettting 60 people on your "list" that never grows. i mean running crews, getting more and more of a customer base. marketing.

and accounting, especially cash flow. there are people skills. if you do commercial, there's the ability to make a sales presentation. i could go on all day.

every single person reading this thread just has to think of all the things they to in a day, week, and month for their biz OFF the lawns. all these skills will not be gained by a 50% increase in productivity.

of course, for those with an established business, increasing grass cut (say with a flex deck) would be a positive, no doubt. but all the other factors must be there.

but for sure Brad, on the lawns, flex deck will help an LCO make the money faster.

i think i agree with chopiques above post:laugh: :dizzy: :eek:

scott's turf
10-22-2002, 10:05 AM
I think the main reason people low ball is that they don't have a good understanding of their overhead. You should be keeping track of every business expense and at least an estimated time doing non paying duties (books, reapairs, maint. etc) With this you will quickly see that the $60/hr has dimenished significantly. I know personally my part time biz I only average around $20-$25/hr after all expenses and all my other time averaged in. Just because it is a PT biz doesn't mean the prices should be lower than the FT guys.

bilbo7021
10-29-2002, 10:51 AM
I hate to say this but, delivering pizza isn't all that easy! I did it for 7 years and you wouldn't believe the cost of doing that job! Most pizza delivery persons (if they're doing it right) have more costs in running their little business/job then you might think. Between the cost of feul, auto maintainance, uniforms, and other stuff, I spent about 25% of my income just keeping myself going. In order to do it right, you have to know about tax deductions, what maintainance costs are, and the best way to pay for things you need (like replacing a car every year or so, monthly repairs, and such). And many of the larger chains consider pizza drivers to be self-employed.

Lawn care seems to be pretty easy for those who see it from the outside looking in. Just pick up a mower and go. Um.......wrong! Since I started into this gig I've found out that this idea may be as expensive, if not more, than the pizza biz. Between the insurance, maintainance, and other paperwork, well......it's a pain in da arse. Originally I was looking for something that would make up the differance from my current job (waiting tables....another "fun" job), and man was I underestemating myself with this.

After getting my business license, applying for tax numbers, registering my name etc., I finally realized it'll cost me about $2,500 per month to go full time with this idea. Now I'm hoping I can make it, or I just may have to bail out.

As for Gov. regulation, it wouldn't work. Look at all the other business with gov. regs. Contractors, mechanics, HVAC, and they all have "little guys" who do that same job on the side. You just can't catch them all.

KirbysLawn
10-29-2002, 11:20 AM
I didn't read all the replies but I get the idea of what's being said. This fall has been my best, but it has taken time and effort to explain to customers why my services are different.

Did a aeration job recently, while bidding the prospect stated his neighbor just got their lawn seeded/aerated/fertilizer/ for $90, 4 guys showed up and was done in 45 minutes. I explained to him that my expenses on doing his lawn would be that much and that their was no way they used and quanity of seed and it must be very cheap seed.


Education of the customer is very important, the more you know the better off you will be. A funny story: Last month I was contacted by a guy that was looking for aeravation services, he had received a flyer in the mail but wanted to learn more, did a search on "aeravation" and my website was the first to come up. He called and we met, I gave him my bid with the understanding that I my get 5 more lawns beside him also. HE then stated the other guys price and showed me his flyer....the guys was charging $22 per k for aeravation/seeding/fertilizing/and high calcium lime!

This is someone who has no idea whay is expenses are or he does not care about repeat business and just wants to make a little and run. Needless to say 2 of the 6 picked me to do thier lawns even though I was $10 per k more and the lawns were 18 & 25K in size, I did the job and my lawns look great! The other guys lawns look like crap, he successfully lost the 5 he had and I will be doing 7 there next year. :D

trimmer
10-29-2002, 04:47 PM
And people wonder why I want to get out of business.

Loosestrife
10-29-2002, 06:36 PM
Wow, I have really generated some interest.

Flex-Deck- While you have an interesting product that has its place, I don't feel that it is a "cure all" for the situation being discussed. I know that your product can save time, thus increasing productivity, HOWEVER, when one makes an investment to increase productivity, they must also make an adjustment to the hourly rate that they are charging.

Many contractors get faster equipment but never reap the rewards of that faster equipment. They feel that they can work for lower dollars, because they are faster. They may also feel that they do not have to increase prices, because they are spending less time doing the same work.

KirbyLawn- I agree wholehardetly about educating the client why your price is more than the other fellows, however, one cannot spend two hours on a sales meeting for a couple hundred dollar one time job.


Does anyone have any thoguhts about the low prices=large market idea I posted a few days ago? I'd like to hear the thoughts of others on that...

grassworks
10-29-2002, 08:49 PM
Speaking residentially..8 or 9 years ago it was still a "mowers" market. The professional LCO service was easily spotted. They had the nice WB mowers ( and a few ZTR's) and all Equipment was superior to the "scrub". During the past several years it has become very easy to finance superior equipement wich has allowed almost anyone to compete in this market (wether there business plan is sound or not). I doubt any professional LCO's are getting beat out by a 21"crapsman during these times. Heck- you can only mow so much with a 21 inch. The industry has matured.... mowing is more & more a part timers business because it's easier to survive PT. There will always be room for quality work , but the gravy days have been over for awhile. Zillions of small Biz but equipped with similar machines will overtake the Labor choked larger overhead services. Has anyone noticed that even the neighborhood boy is seen less and less with his little push mower ? Even He can't compete with the PT mower in todays market.
PS- I'm not knocking PT residential mowing, I think it is becoming the way to go. Fulltimers must supplement ( fert plans ,etc...)

Flex-Deck
10-29-2002, 09:41 PM
loosestrife - where do you come up with the hourly adjusment deal - if you are charging an account for example $100 and it takes you two hrs to mow, if you put the flex-deck on and it only takes one hr. I would assume the account is still worth $100 so you would still charge $100 - We save that kind of time and therefore you have to readjust as to the mind set that says - "this job is worth this much- even though I can do it in much less time" ---- Your competitors that do not have the flex-deck can not under bid you with the normal machines out there

Thanks, Brad

LKNServices
10-29-2002, 09:54 PM
I totally agree with Kirby. If we offer quality services and explain that is what the customer will receive, then some customers will be willing to pay the extra. I'm at the point now that I'm not going to go hungry if I don't get a job,and I know what my time is worth. I know I'm not the cheapest ***** in town, but I'm the best. When I started out in this biz I was only guessing at what I should make. Most newcomers just don't know. I think it's important that we should offer advice,help,etc to all newcomers so that they will be on the same page. I'trying to organize a local group to talk about pricing etc.and make it open to all who want to come. I don't mind if "Joe's Mowing Service" TELLS THEIR CUSTOMERS THAT i'M DOING THE SAME YARDS FOR MORE $$$. If their customers are the kind that I want , they will understand that you get what you pay for. The bottom line is that I don't want to work for everyone. And if "JOE " wants to work for 25 $$$/hr OK. I know that I have as many Lazers as he has crapsmans sitting in my building. And he's working just as hard as me;)