View Full Version : starting out in lawn care

Land Design
12-29-2002, 06:00 PM
OK so here's the question.......kinda of a lot but any help would be appreciated so thanks in advance......

I have been in landscaping for 4 years and want to brach out into cutting. I wanted to know a few different things.
1. is grass cutting going to help draw money in quickly and efficently as opposed to staying with landscaping only ( i would be doing 60% residential and 40% commercial ...2-4 acres)

2. brand of mowers ? I have researched and have found ex-mark to be the best deal / built/ dealer location/ and quality, what are your thoughts?

3. what kind of setup? I was thinking 1 rider and 1 walk behind. Do you think 2 riders would be ok ( i would prefere this but figured could not do all places with riders only)

4. Trailer setup....... I want to get a 20-24 ft. enclosed set up with racks on walls, lights, vents, shop at front. and use the extra room to store landscape equipment in back or front to take trailer to landscape jobs with me. your thoughts?

5. number of crew needed to cut/ whip/ blow efficently?

6. number of and brand of whips/edgers/blowers needed?

7.any other thoughts you have that would help me make my
decision to cut or not to cut.

Trailer would be pulled with a 2002 f350 psd.


Land Design :dizzy:

12-29-2002, 06:25 PM
To answer your questions...

1. It will draw in money...but as far as I am concerned, cutting leads to the more profitable services like fertilizing, de-thatching, aerating, etc.

2. eXmark is good, but only one of many good mowers. Here in NJ eXmark isn't real big, whereas Ferris, Toro, Scag, and Bobcat dominate the market. Hustler, DC, Grasshopper, Gravely are virtually non-existant, but that is NOT to say they aren't good machines as well/

3. Have as many Z's or riders as you want/need. But you will always require a WB for where the Z's/riders can't go.

4. Sounds like a plan...plan on spending about 6K+ for that kind of setup. They have their +'s and -'s.

5. Number of crews...can't help there cause I don't hav a crystal ball to know what your jobs are/willing to be like.

6. Same thought here...Echo, Redmax, Shindaiwa, Little Wonder are all good manufacturers.

7. To cut or not to cut...hard for me to tell you one way or the other. Maybe some of the others 8k+ LS members can shed some light. We are going into our 9th year and 70.5% of our business is strickly mowing.

Hope that helps some...and Good Luck

ps. feel free to contact me at rspronck@aol.com

12-29-2002, 08:32 PM
From my point of view, cutting grass is not a big money maker. It pays the bills and that's about it. I did however hear about somebody out west, IL? that only does commercial mowing, does about $11,000,000 in business a year and makes like $350,000 a year, profit.

12-29-2002, 09:11 PM
gross sales $11,000,000 a year and only profits $350,000 a year :confused:

12-29-2002, 09:19 PM
thats not very good at all in profit margin!!

12-29-2002, 11:24 PM
Land Design, where are u from in Michigan. I work in the Birmingham/Bloomfield Hills area.. I do small landscape jobs but mow and do landscape maintenance..

It would definately help the flow of $$ coming in.. but keep u busier..

Land Design
12-30-2002, 12:11 AM

I would be looking to cut in the westbloomfield/ novi/ troy areas

12-30-2002, 12:37 AM
That is still 3.5% What do you all make percentage wise for a profit? If a company is running a legitimate operation, treating its employees and customers fairly... 10% is the most it can expect to make for profit. 10% is high too, very rarely will a company profit 10%

12-30-2002, 01:32 AM
1: Mowing is a very BIG money maker and, yes it's totally worth it!

2: I would say snapper is pretty good and I haven't had any problems yet.

3: I think for the mowers get all wb's because they are more easy to manuver, and all around easiest as space and ur wallet.

4: Yes I think a 24' would be good because you could put a workbench @ the front and work onsite. It also gives you a chance to have a big advertising on the side of the trailer.

5: I've seen a guy go from a crew of 3 with wb's down to a crew of 2 with supersurfers but, I know u are gonna need a wb for sure on the hills.

6: All stihl products.


12-30-2002, 02:34 AM
A two guys crew works better than a 3 or 4 unless most of your propeties are one next to the other or really big, windshield time is a big loss.

I find myself in the opposite situation I want to do less mowing and more landscaping, because it genarates more income for me.
But I have to have a mix of both.

12-30-2002, 03:13 AM
A 15 year old kid just gave you advice.

12-30-2002, 03:49 AM

some 15 yr olds are smarter then alot of 40+ yr olds . age is a state of mind

12-30-2002, 07:25 AM
My biz is only in its 2nd year so take my comments with a grain of salt. My mix is 60% landwork and 40% mowing. While I make a higher profit margin on the landwork, my mowing is also a money maker because I have taken the advice of people here on this site and charge an adequate price to sustain the business. I never get into a bid war with a lowballer and a customer who cares only about cost. Having more good residential mowing accounts will generate more "extra" work. Now I have too many commercial accounts that dont want (or need) cleanups, aeration, fert, etc....but they do spend allot of money on seasonal color, plantings, mulch etc.

If theres one mistake I made, it was buying a Z b4 I had enough of the right sized accounts to justify the expense.(and the fact that Z's cant go where a w/b can should not be overlooked) As noted above, I think 2 w/b's is the way to start and then get the Z when you are darn sure it passes the cost/benefit test.
Good luck...there are many veteran guys here who know this biz and will go the extra mile to help you.

Tony Harrell
12-30-2002, 08:58 AM
I'll respond to the money part only. Generally, most solo operators seem to do about 40 accounts a week. If there's an average of 26 weeks then multiply those numbers by your weekly charge for mowing. $30-40K is a reasonable goal for a solo op just mowing. I'm not sure if a 2 person crew could double that or not. Granted, properties are not all the same size and the work performed may change a little from property to property. There's also many opportunities available such as fert/herb/pest. Also, aeration/overseeding is very good money in the fall. It seems that having mowing customers would compliment your landscape customers and you would have ample opportunity to sell projects to them.

12-30-2002, 10:18 AM
40 Accts. per week, what would the average size be??? Just curious, I have been doing 35 a week part-time, ranging from 1/4 acre to 7 acres??????

12-30-2002, 10:52 AM
First of all, the info from this site is worth its weight in gold. However, everyone has there opinion and most are bias to how they would do some things and what equipment they would buy. I would read the board, check the profiles of the information you are receiving.

I opened the past year to Landscapeing and new maintenance accounts. I worked a two man crew plus myself and found it impossible to keep up. You'll find that it is hard to get the jobs done and bid on new ones. You'll need a good dependable leadman for the mowing and two men for landscape. That should free you up some. You can use the extra guy to bounced between landscaping and mowing.

You said 2-4 acre properties, if you have enough to pay for it, by all means get a ztr. Unless you have some really step hills and fenced areas I would'nt consider a walk behind. Buy equipment as you need it. Eight years and I've never found a need for a walk behind as of yet.

Brand equipment depends on the service you get. If something breaks you need it fixed asap. If exmark is close consider them, I've been very satisfied with there support. I've been happy with Stihl, Echo, and Husky, service has always been close if ever I needed it. Each one has its pros and cons but service is never a question.

Land Design
12-30-2002, 12:05 PM
Thank you everyone for your help this far! Any others would be greatly appreciated or anything you would like to add to your current post also

Land Design

Alan Bechard
12-30-2002, 12:29 PM
I guess we are at the other end of the spectrum on the Walk behind thing. If I got a walk behind for my wife (she does all the work) she would just ask me who the heck is going to run it cause it darn sure will not be her or the lady she works with!

We run 3 Z's, Exmark 60, Dixon 60 and Cub Tank 48. If the Cub will not fit in the gate it does not get done. If the hill is too steep for the Z to be comfortable, we just do not do that property, While that limits us in some ways we do not really look at it as much of a loss, there are just limits that you place on your self, as well as limits that your equipment places you under, there is a niche for every machine. I would not want to do the big church they do with a walk behind. Not saying you could not do it, just that I would not want to.

I sound like a broken record I guess but I do not think that mower brand is as important as dealer support. I have a freind in Florida that has a shop, he gets the LCO machines out in 24 hours or less. I have been too a shop when we started out where they said they would look at my machine in two weeks! I had bought it from them two weeks previous and it was incorrectly set up. Different areas of the country are just different I guess, but anyway, back to your question. or point.

I would be quickly looking to have backup equipment or a darn good plan in place. Repairs, and equipment failures can devestate you quickly when starting out. Say you break two main mowers hard, how soon will you be back and cutting grass? Your customers will not want to wait two weeks, I can gauruntee that! Not trying to scare you off, just something that I see each year in startup folks. Have a plan to deal with those contingencies, and hope you never have to use it.

My 2 cents.

Al B

Tony Harrell
12-30-2002, 12:43 PM
The figures I gave are arbitrary and don't mean much except it's a good way to figure what's possible. If you schedule 5 days a week (not recommended) and can do 8 accounts a day x 5 days, it comes to 40. Here, there's about 32 weeks available to cut grass. Subtracting a few for hot weather, I call it about 26 billable weeks. $30x40(customers)x26weeks=$31200, $40x40(customers)x26weeks=$41600. Kinda makes you want to push for that extra 5-10 dollars huh? Again, properties range in size and complexities but for simplicity, I've used this to show what's possible. I really don't want large acreage to mow because it seems the actual price per square foot comes down the larger the property. Also, I'd rather have more small properties because losing $30-40 doesn't hurt as bad as a $100-150. I learned that big accounts hurt when you lose them while I was doing commercial pest elimination. I lost half of my route when a big account changed hands. These are just my opinions and viewpoints so, take them for what they're worth.

12-30-2002, 12:59 PM
You just brought up another good point, even though I don't think you meant too. In most areas of the country our "main season" is limited to 8 or 9 months per year. I don't understand why one wouldn't be out there working 6 or 7 days a week, 12 hours a day too make as much money as you can, while you can make it. I think the hours we are willing to put in are what seperates the men from the boys, so to speak. Lawncare IMO is not a 5 day a week, 8 hour a day business. I'm curious the kind of hours you guys put in?? I know Tony's numbers are just a rough estimate, but I would not do this if I could only gross 40,000 or 50,000 a year. Seems hardly worth it. With overhead and expenses, you are not making much money??

12-30-2002, 01:12 PM
I think if you limit yourself to just ride on mowers you could miss out on alot of other work . mowing gets your foot in the door for your landscaping , aeration , spring & fall cleanups , overseeding , dethaching and a host of other stuff .

some people dont want the big Z's on there yards and thats cool with me I just charge accordingly . plus chasing a mower is good for your heart :) riding all day every day tends to make you lazy IMHO

Tony Harrell
12-30-2002, 01:18 PM
$30-40K is only the beginning. I want to build the applications side up to about 100 before I hire someone. A conservative figure for 100 application customers would gross another $30K. 500 application customers is my 5 year goal and that should gross around $150K alone. I personally only want to schedule tue-fri. This way, I always have mon and sat for make up work if there's rain. I commend your willingness to work hard but, you'll wear your body out prematurely. Also, what are you going to do when you have 15-20 properties a day x 5-6 days and it rains for 3 days?

12-30-2002, 01:34 PM
Once again, good point. I know rain can be a problem, but I have found that most people are reasonable to a certain degree. I am not doubting you know what you want to do and how you want to do it. Sounds like you have a good plan!! Good luck, maybe I'll be calling you for some advice??

01-01-2003, 05:16 PM
Mowing is a very BIG money maker and, yes it's totally worth it!

Mowing can be a money maker if your doing 200 lawns in 5-6 days and QUALITY is not an issue. If that is the case then you can call yourself a scrub. Production cutting is what I call it. Get as many done in a 8-10 hour day. I myself only do 32 accounts and do other maintenace work as well, but do Quality. But yes I don't take 1 hour to do a lawn that can be done in 20 minutes. A 20 minute job in my book is done by a production company in less then 10 minutes. Quality of work is how you get clients and keep them and keep $$ in your pocket. What I'm trying to say is how can u do a quality job mowing jobs at mach 14 all day.