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View Full Version : How to improve operations next season


guitarman2420
12-23-2012, 09:04 AM
I am trying to come up with the best method of reducing fuel/marketing costs for bidding/estimating.

In the past I have advertised "free estimates". This leads to lots of wasted trips where the prospective client is looking for the cheapest price. I have since changed my ad to eliminate the word "free".

I personally drive a large F250 diesel pickup. All the vehicles I have available to me are not fuel efficient. I don't have the room in the budget to buy a new fuel efficient vehicle for sales calls. I occasionally drive my wife's Equinox, but it is not branded with our advertising.

Are any of you having "real world" success with estimating from off site with estimating software, etc.? We are a full service landscaping company. We provide mowing services, landscape installation, landscape design, snow removal, mulching, etc. The only services we do not offer is irrigation services. Any ideas or solutions found would be greatly appreciated.

Last month I spent @ $450 in fuel (not including maintenance costs, etc) to provide estimates for leaf jobs, mulch, etc.)

maelawncare
12-23-2012, 10:21 AM
$450 a month in fuel. I spend that easily in a week.

If you cant afford the gas to go look at properties. Than you aren't charging enough.

I drive my wifes edge sometimes to go look at properties. But most times it's my truck. I don't care about the fuel, I care about the time.

I know 90% of the yards in my area. Been here all my life. So I tell them I can give em a rough ballpark figure over the phone. Then if they agree I drive out and look at it, this is for mowing pricing. Works everytime. We aren't the cheapest in town so it gets rid of the tire kickers.

DanaMac
12-23-2012, 10:47 AM
Can you use Google Maps to give you a preliminary view of the property, and then give the customer a price "range"? At least for mowing. Then if they are ok with the range, you could drive out for a final walk through. It might eliminate the price checkers and tire kickers. I am irrigation repair only, and I won't go out to do a free estimate on repairs. If I did, I would never get any work done.

guitarman2420
12-23-2012, 10:50 AM
1. I want to make sure that you understand that the $450 a month is just for sales calls. Our monthly fuel bill runs 4-5 X that.

2. Google Maps can be used; but in Virginia, most lots are so heavily wooded that it is hard to get a good look at them.

Have you bought any of the estimating software where you can highlight beds and it tells you the square footage?

branchoutshrub
12-23-2012, 12:09 PM
We use Google maps when possible. I drive my truck and sometimes use the wife's car to save money and miles. It's always a gamble when I don't look at the property myself.

guitarman2420
12-23-2012, 12:52 PM
Posted via Mobile Device

guitarman2420
12-23-2012, 12:56 PM
I try and give clients a range of prices, because I know the neighborhoods, but every once and a while a yard will surprise you with steep grade issues or large beds vs. grass.
Posted via Mobile Device

acculawnsystems
12-23-2012, 01:20 PM
Use Acculawnsystems.com and give instant quotes to your potential customers. It save time, fuel, manpower and is very effective.

JCLawn and more
12-23-2012, 01:22 PM
I try to do most all my estimates off google maps with the measurment tool or I do estimates on my routes.
Posted via Mobile Device

guitarman2420
12-23-2012, 01:38 PM
I try to do most all my estimates off google maps with the measurment tool or I do estimates on my routes.
Posted via Mobile Device
Posted via Mobile Device

guitarman2420
12-23-2012, 01:39 PM
What do you mean estimates on your routes - travel times?
Posted via Mobile Device

JCLawn and more
12-23-2012, 01:49 PM
What do you mean estimates on your routes - travel times?
Posted via Mobile Device

Well I always work with my employees so I just make a stop on my route and try not to meet them and just look at the lawn or job. If you have multipal crews then that would be hard but you could always ask your head guy to see how much time it would take his crew to do the job instead running oyt their yourself. If he is good he might know beeter than yourself you never know. I'd just ask him time and then you know what to charge. If it goes well you could give him bonuses of some sort.
Posted via Mobile Device

guitarman2420
12-23-2012, 01:59 PM
Well I always work with my employees so I just make a stop on my route and try not to meet them and just look at the lawn or job. If you have multipal crews then that would be hard but you could always ask your head guy to see how much time it would take his crew to do the job instead running oyt their yourself. If he is good he might know beeter than yourself you never know. I'd just ask him time and then you know whatto that's a great idea. I have a fantastic operations manager and you're right he actually knows the times it takes to mow a yard probably better than I do charge. If it goes well you could give him bonuses of some sort.
Posted via Mobile Device
Posted via Mobile Device

newguy123
12-23-2012, 03:42 PM
I am trying to come up with the best method of reducing fuel/marketing costs for bidding/estimating.

In the past I have advertised "free estimates". This leads to lots of wasted trips where the prospective client is looking for the cheapest price. I have since changed my ad to eliminate the word "free".

I personally drive a large F250 diesel pickup. All the vehicles I have available to me are not fuel efficient. I don't have the room in the budget to buy a new fuel efficient vehicle for sales calls. I occasionally drive my wife's Equinox, but it is not branded with our advertising.

Are any of you having "real world" success with estimating from off site with estimating software, etc.? We are a full service landscaping company. We provide mowing services, landscape installation, landscape design, snow removal, mulching, etc. The only services we do not offer is irrigation services. Any ideas or solutions found would be greatly appreciated.

Last month I spent @ $450 in fuel (not including maintenance costs, etc) to provide estimates for leaf jobs, mulch, etc.)

I use the google earth along with city property tax information (online) to determine price for mowings/snow, along with very specific questions to the homeowner. I would suggest going this route.

ponyboy
12-23-2012, 04:22 PM
Yes Pre qualify by giving out minimums prices
Grass maintenance is a free estimate after they know my base prices and I won't drop of an estimate always meet people see why they are not happy
Construction estimates are not free but if they use us they get the estimate for free usually a $300 charge for estimate and design charge
I also will not advertise with coupons or meeting prices I sell on quality so you don't get all price shoppers
As far a fuel it is part if the business
Posted via Mobile Device

guitarman2420
12-23-2012, 05:05 PM
Yes Pre qualify by giving out minimums prices
Grass maintenance is a free estimate after they know my base prices and I won't drop of an estimate always meet people see why they are not happy
Construction estimates are not free but if they use us they get the estimate for free usually a $300 charge for estimate and design charge
I also will not advertise with coupons or meeting prices I sell on quality so you don't get all price shoppers
As far a fuel it is part if the business
Posted via Mobile Device
Posted via Mobile Device

guitarman2420
12-23-2012, 05:08 PM
I realize fuel is part of the business, but if you can eliminate some of the cost of the fuel its money in your own pocket. Fuel is a cost in running any business but good companies always look for ways to improve their costs.
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ponyboy
12-23-2012, 05:46 PM
Call me cheap I have a fuel transfer tank in my truck 1 for gas 1 for disel I go at night time fill them up and then go early to my shop and fill up machines and trucks eliminate the need for my crews to go to gas station
With 4 crews I run and the fuel cost difference NY to NJ I go to NJ where it is cheaper I'm saving over $5, 000 a year in fuel and time with 3 men per crew
Even after buying the tanks and pumps almost $2000 first year still well worth it also I mix the oil for proper ratio on 2 cycles so no employee errors

jrs.landscaping
12-23-2012, 05:48 PM
Call me cheap I have a fuel transfer tank in my truck 1 for gas 1 for disel I go at night time fill them up and then go early to my shop and fill up machines and trucks eliminate the need for my crews to go to gas station
With 4 crews I run and the fuel cost difference NY to NJ I go to NJ where it is cheaper I'm saving over $5, 000 a year in fuel and time with 3 men per crew
Even after buying the tanks and pumps almost $2000 first year still well worth it also I mix the oil for proper ratio on 2 cycles so no employee errors

Just make sure DOT doesn't find out you have gas in one of your skid tanks ;)

ponyboy
12-23-2012, 05:51 PM
It was made for gas according to dealer

jrs.landscaping
12-23-2012, 06:15 PM
It was made for gas according to dealer

Making sure :drinkup:. Quite a few guys try to put it in diesel skid tanks :hammerhead:. We found the same thing with buying bulk fuel, saving 2 hours per week on fueling up vs. the gas station. Now everything is fueled up at the shop and ready to go for the next morning.

guitarman2420
12-23-2012, 06:28 PM
Posted via Mobile Device

guitarman2420
12-23-2012, 06:30 PM
We use a direct bill fuel service. Itz next door to the shop - no coffee, etc, just fuel.
Posted via Mobile Device

maelawncare
12-24-2012, 10:17 AM
Making sure :drinkup:. Quite a few guys try to put it in diesel skid tanks :hammerhead:. We found the same thing with buying bulk fuel, saving 2 hours per week on fueling up vs. the gas station. Now everything is fueled up at the shop and ready to go for the next morning.

I do the same thing. Just fill up my 100gal tank on sunday and fill up the mowers throughout the week.