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View Full Version : If your contract states 30 cuts, and your customer.....


justmjc
01-06-2004, 01:08 AM
want's to end the season off at 26 or 28 cuts, do you enforce the entire contract and bill for the remaining weeks? Do you bill for the weeks you are asked to skip?

My uncle says that if you skip a week he still needs to get paid. Do you enforce all these billings or just risk losing/drop the account.

I don't want to list 30 cuts on a contract and when the grass starts slowing to every 2 weeks of cutting, they just say, ok your done for the year. I want my money until a set period. Obvisously if the weather does not permit it, but if it's still growing and they say stop.

Do you still bill them the remaining cuts or say ok, I'm done.

o-so-n-so
01-06-2004, 01:33 AM
Thats the reason for the contract. So they wont cut you off at the seasons end. If your contract states 30 cuts, I would show up if all I had to do was blow off walkways, pick up debris or something. I know...people can be ridiculous at times.

I have a friend that starts all his contracts in november just for this reason. If they quit you, you are ahead.

You might consider in the future of bidding based on 30 cuts and word your contract to read "As Needed" as long as you control the fertilize application. You don't want the homeowner applying fert at a rate that would cause the grass to run rampant and you mowing once a week and working your butt off.

mtdman
01-06-2004, 05:30 AM
This is a subject that I can't agree with most people about. I for one, don't bill people for work that I don't do. If the weather turns dry in the summer and there isn't a need to mow a lawn, I won't. Should I get paid for that? I don't think so. Some people think that when you are hired as a lawn service, that customer should pay for the full length of the season, even if a week is skipped. My take on it is, if I'm hired to cut the grass, I'm going to charge when I do the work. If I'm not doing the work, I'm not going to charge for it. I know lots of people don't agree with me, and that's fine, it's my opinion.

On the other hand, if there is work to be done, and people don't want me to mow a week because they are cheap, I'm not a happy man. If grass is growing in October and the lawn needs to be cut, I'm going to cut it. I have had a few people that will try to put me off so they won't have to pay, and I don't play that way. You have to watch out for your best interests as well.

So usually what I'll do is state that if the lawn is not growing due to weather conditions, I will allow for call offs. But if the grass is growing and needs cutting, I'm cutting.

David Haggerty
01-06-2004, 07:06 AM
He's said it perfectly.

My business philosophy exactly! The only thing I might add would be why do it this way.
It's because it drives customers nuts to bill them for work not performed. Especially here in the north where it becomes pretty clear when the lawn goes dormant.

Scheduling them for 30 cuts per season is already getting into their pocket for an extra four cuts. Unless someone's applying liquid "N" with a bucket!

I have one client who is scheduled for 30 billing increments. One extra for pruning and shearing, another extra one for mulching the beds, and two more to cover core aeration in the fall.
This year due to the extra rain I think I billed them for 32 service calls. But they got their money's worth each and every time.

Dave

Pilgrims' Pride
01-06-2004, 07:43 AM
Hey guys,

I was cutting when I first started out and I was up front with customers from the get go.
I explained that I would not be inteerested in taking on an account that i would not service every week.
I realize that there are times when the grass won't need to be cut and should I arrive and find that to be the case, I will spend that time doing other work whatever that might be.
I explained that I lose if I take an account that is only bi-weekly or is going to skip visits and that my kids still like to eat!.

Only one time did a potential customer object to my plans.
They also went through several services that year!!

I agree with mtd however, I would never bill for work not done.

Pray for snow or spring!

Bob

bobbygedd
01-06-2004, 09:09 AM
and of course, my opinion is different. if we agree on 30 cuts, then it's 30 cuts, i'll tell you why: what is a "grasscut"? defintion: on a medium residential, a "grasscut" is no more than 30 minutes of my time, mow, weedwack, edge every other week, blow drive and walks, clean up curb area. now, there are times (high, wet grass, or in early fall, when the leaves start to come down) when this service takes longer than expected, but that's ok, because i know in late july/august, it will slow down and i'll make that lost time up. this is how it averages out. now, if u state that "you only charge for work you do", that's fine, but your cutting fee should then vary from time to time to cover the extra work during rainy seasons, etc. our contract states "the schedule calls for weekly mowing, however, from time to time it may be necesary to skip mowing, any missed cuts due to weather(rain, drought, non growth, acts of god) will be solely at our discretion." the reason for this is because if u start to allow the clients to call and say don't come this week, it will start happening all too often.

Currier
01-06-2004, 09:15 AM
I don't include a set number of cuts in my agreements. I basically call it a 7 month season beginning in April. I bill one set fee April thru October. Some months have 5 cuts some 4 and April may only have 2/3. It all evens out in the end.

I tell my customers their price is based on anywhere from 26-32 cuts. Usually it is right on 28. It works for me...

mtdman
01-06-2004, 09:23 AM
Originally posted by bobbygedd
the reason for this is because if u start to allow the clients to call and say don't come this week, it will start happening all too often.

I agree. Which is why I only agree for call offs when the yard is pretty dead/dry. Usually, the customer will leave the decision to me, it's rare that I get a call off. Believe me you, I want to get paid, but I'm not going to drag my mowers over dead, burnt grass just to say I cut it. When I set my fees, I take into account how much average work it's going to take. And when I don't do any work, I don't charge.

I see the attitude too much that a customer seems to owe us something just because they are on our customer list. I don't believe that. That's a dangerous attitude to take. We owe them our service, and then they owe us charges for that service. That's how I look at every customer. If it gets dry in the summer, and there's no work for me to do, I'm not going to charge them just because they are my customer. I charge them when I do the work.

That's not to say I'm going to let them call off whenever they decide they want to save some money. As I said, when there's work to be done, I'm going to do it and they are going to pay.

Scraper
01-06-2004, 09:47 AM
I agre with MTD. In my case I have customers on a 12 month paying cycle where I estimate their cuts for the season in the beginning (Usually 28-30) and at the end of the season I determine how many cuts were made and either adjust their winter bills accordingly to make up or refund the difference.

bobbygedd
01-06-2004, 10:06 AM
mt, i agree about not dragging my machine over a dead dried out lawn, but, for one i'm not gonna drive from house to house to look and see if it needs cutting, and number two, when you allow "call offs", the trouble begins. iv'e had them call me off, and when i go next week i need to double cut. so now what? i think allowing "call offs" opens the door for problems. 99.999% of the time the lawn does need cutting each week. granted, a couple weeks may allow you to skip the wacking and edging, and you're only taking off a quarter inch of top growth,and leaving some stripes, but, like i said, this is how it evens out. and, miss that week, get 3 days of rain, and you're bustin your ass the next week. so, one way to avoid it, 30 cuts is 30 cuts, skip one at my discretion only, u call me off, i don't agree, u pay for the visit anyway, you don't pay, chances are the way we work our billing we are always ahead of you, so u WILL pay anyway.

mtdman
01-06-2004, 10:29 AM
Originally posted by bobbygedd
mt, i agree about not dragging my machine over a dead dried out lawn, but, for one i'm not gonna drive from house to house to look and see if it needs cutting, and number two, when you allow "call offs", the trouble begins. iv'e had them call me off, and when i go next week i need to double cut. so now what? i think allowing "call offs" opens the door for problems. 99.999% of the time the lawn does need cutting each week. granted, a couple weeks may allow you to skip the wacking and edging, and you're only taking off a quarter inch of top growth,and leaving some stripes, but, like i said, this is how it evens out. and, miss that week, get 3 days of rain, and you're bustin your ass the next week. so, one way to avoid it, 30 cuts is 30 cuts, skip one at my discretion only, u call me off, i don't agree, u pay for the visit anyway, you don't pay, chances are the way we work our billing we are always ahead of you, so u WILL pay anyway.

I think we basically agree, we are just saying it differently. If a customer calls off when the weather is fine, and says their lawn does not need it, I will have a problem with it. But if it's the middle of August and the lawn isn't growing, I'm fine with it. I'm not going to cut a dead lawn, and I'm not going to charge someone regardless if I don't do a cut because the lawn is dead. Usually the decision is left to me, I don't get many people calling me to not cut. And I explain my position on this before the season starts, my customers are aware of my policies. If a customer turns out to be a cheap-o that takes every opportunity to call off, either that behavior stops or they stop being a customer.

And to add to that, I've managed to weed out folks who aren't interested in watering or maintaining their lawn in dry conditions.

mtdman
01-06-2004, 10:33 AM
Originally posted by Scraper
I agre with MTD. In my case I have customers on a 12 month paying cycle where I estimate their cuts for the season in the beginning (Usually 28-30) and at the end of the season I determine how many cuts were made and either adjust their winter bills accordingly to make up or refund the difference.

I have been leaning to this lately. My thought was to figure a season total based on 26 cuts, and devide it into 7 payments May through November. For the November bill, I was going to adjust based on missed cuts/over 26 cuts and refund/bill accordingly. How do your customers like this, has anyone objected or had reservations? Do you often have to refund $$?

When I do my season prepayment, I figure based on 26. I have had a few customers that went under the 26 cuts, but I've offered either an extra service to make up for that difference or a refund. I've never had to give a refund, and most customers don't realize I didn't do the full 26.

:D

Scraper
01-06-2004, 10:50 AM
The ones on the program like it. It is a win/win as no one is getting "ripped off". How are we to know in March what the season has in store for us? This past season, I cut lawns every week the entire season, which are normally dormant come August from the heat and lack of rainfall. I haven't had to refund anything yet as I usually underestimate. I look at it as an added bonus during the winter months when I am getting paid to sit at home. Sure I don't get as much during the work season with a 12 month billing cycle, but it helps with my budgeting as well as the customers knowing what is going to consistently be coming in or going out during the winter months. This 12 month billing is only for mowing and basic fertilizing. It does not include add-ons like aeration, mulching, special lawn apps., landscaping, etc....

mtdman
01-06-2004, 10:56 AM
hey scraper, check your pm's.

Thanks!

:D

DFW Area Landscaper
01-06-2004, 11:17 AM
One thing is for certain: If you don't address the issue with your customers before-hand, you will get skips.

It's hard enough to put the pen to paper and figure out how to make any money working just over half the year. Throwing in a few 'skips' with each customer doesn't help the bottom line much.

For me, the solution was a skip policy on my contracts. I ask my customers to initial next to my skip policy when they sign my service agreement. It says that if the customer elects to skip a scheduled mowing for any reason, they will still be billed for 100% of that days' scheduled work. (Do I feel guilty running my mowers over a drought ridden Bermuda lawn??? Heck no.) I've also addressed the issue of a locked gate that prohibits me from accessing the back lawn...they still pay full price.

If you don't address the issue somehow with your customers, you're going to get skipped by some of them. Simply translated, you've agreed to a pay cut.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

Remsen1
01-06-2004, 11:45 AM
When I sell an account I tell the customer that the price is $X for the season, which can be paid up front (most do), three balloon payments (a few do this), or x number of payments through (end date). The lawn will be mowed when mowing is needed. When determining the price, it is taken into consideration that mowing may not be necessary at set intervals (ie weekly).

I make sure that the customer understands that the price is not for "mowing each week", the price is the weekly payment for the season price.

It doesn't sound like you explained his contract this way though so I would just let it go and tell him you'll see him next season. Or if he is doing it to just save paying for a couple weeks tell him you may have to charge him for a cleanup if it goes to long without being looked after.

mtdman
01-06-2004, 11:49 AM
Do you ever take an account halfway through the season, and if so, do you prorate the season figure?

WeatherMan
01-06-2004, 12:00 PM
All My Accounts pay on a 12 month contract. So they pay a set amount every month through out the year If I cut or not, and it is set on 36 cuts per year I know thats a little much but 4 years ago when I started this way of billing that is how many cuts I had in that year, and I just never changed it.

Kelly's Landscaping
01-06-2004, 12:51 PM
2 points.

1 Do you intend to keep the customer next year or do you like starting from scratch and getting a whole new list?

2 If I sent you a bill for work I did not do would you feel obligated to pay me? I can tell you first hand Colombia House video never saw a dime of the 36 dollars they had the nerve to demand from me for movies I did not buy but they felt I should of.

Some people will cave they cant handle confrontation so perhaps you could bully the people into paying for services you did not provide but there is no way you can say its ethical or moral. Its disgraceful and as a business owner you should be better then that. You can expect to loss cuts in August and in Oct but freaking out over losing a handful of lawn cuts is over reacting. My old employer use to talk about charging them 150 dollars to break his contract LOL to date heís never got one person who didnít like him to think oh yea your right I should give you some more money.

Randy Scott
01-06-2004, 02:51 PM
All our customers are on contracts for the season. We take the anticipated number of cuts based off past records for the mowing season, and bill them in seven monthly payments. We range anywhere from 24 cuts to 28 cuts per year. Many properties vary within those numbers. Our contracts are set at a billing for 26 cuts, times their weekly charge. That gives their monthly payment.

We sell this to them in a manner that they are buying our company for the season to be at their "beck and call" to service their property. We make room for them in the schedule, we provide manpower and equipment, we provide all the related expenses to handle this task, therefore, we need to be compensated for these services. We are selling them "lawn mowing insurance". There are only so many weeks in the season for us to make money. We need to maximize production and profitability in this amount of time. People like to forget that we need to make 12 months of income in about 9 months, give or take. Therefore, every minute counts. Seasonal charges also aid us in being able to try and even out the time spent at the properties that vary hugely from spring growth to summer drought. Manhours spent on properties can almost double in spring versus summer. I wonder how many customers would be willing to pay on a floating pay scale as well, based on actual time versus per cut basis. Telling them it may be $50 one week, or $100 the next week. Probably nobody! There is plenty of other work out there that we could do to replace mowing. Mowing is nice to have because it provides some type of regular monthly payments that you can at least count on to cover certain fixed expenses. It's pretty hard to predict a drought and then try to prepare for it by scrambling to get other work. You may be able to see a drought somewhat forthcoming, but never really know when it may end surprisingly as well. Perhaps you have filled that spot with a landscape project that isn't complete and then what do you do if grass needs cutting?

This is how we sell our seasonal mowing to customers. If a customer does not agree to this, they are welcome to find another service provider. Their other option then would be to put the shoe on the other foot. Fine, you only want to pay us for weekly cuts, we can do that, the only problem then is I tell them that it is very possible we may be busy when they need us. To me, it's telling them the same thing they're telling me. They only want our services when THEY need us, fine, we only want their business when WE need it. If we can get them in the schedule, we will, if we can't, they'll have to go somewhere else, or wait. Then the next problem for them would be differing charges due to excess growth the following week.

Our work and financial status is driven COMPLETELY by weather. We are not plumbers, electricians, retail stores, restaurants, etc. These services are rarely, rarely, ever affected by weather conditions. All we do is dance around the weather to try and make money. That is why we sell contracts ONLY.

I need to respect the others vue on this and if it works for you, then continue doing so. I just can't see leaving money on the table or even just selling myself short. Maybe it's easy for a one or two man show to fill your schedule at the last minute, but not with 4 or 5, or even more people working for you. Then it becomes extremely costly.

We may have not picked up new customers for our methods, but certainly have never lost any, if that makes any sense. This is just our policy and that's it, it's not open for discussion with customers. It works, we have enough mowing (which isn't highly pursued anyways) and we continue to expand our client base with profitable customers.

Remsen1
01-06-2004, 02:57 PM
MTDMaster, Yep, If the season is partially completed, I pro-rate.

mtdman
01-06-2004, 03:02 PM
Originally posted by Remsen1
MTDMaster, Yep, If the season is partially completed, I pro-rate.

Thanks.

:D

PrecisionLandService
01-06-2004, 04:42 PM
That 12 month billing cylce sounds crazy... Why would you bill a customer all winter when you are not providing the service. You bill after the service is preformed. None of my customers would go for that... and i cannot see why you would want to. If i do the work I want my money Now!

studentlawn
01-06-2004, 05:23 PM
I totally agree with remsem and randy on this. I think it depends on how you look at your service. I set my accounts up like this.
They are charged for 30 weeks of service (billed over 12 months) between april 15th, - november 15th, usually at the cutting price once per week. At this rate we will take care of their lawn at one visit for week. This includes spring and fall cleanup.

My company does not simply cut the lawn, we maintain the lawn. So wether the lawn needs cutting once a week becomes a little irrelevent. In mn 22 cuts seems to be about the average, but by the money the customer saves on leaves. So it averages out quite nicely while keeping a very stable and consistant exchange between us and our customer.

thill
01-06-2004, 10:32 PM
PrecisionLandService

My customers love it when they are paying the twelve month average amount when we service the property five times in one month.

We love it when they are paying the twelve month average amount and we only service the property one time in one month.

It goes both ways.

Tom

DuallyVette
01-06-2004, 10:35 PM
Some of you guys must like to eat and pay your bills JUST once in a while. We have 12 month contracts. The summer of 1986 we had a major drought. The grass didn't get mowed for two months. We checked out the lawns weekly, picked up sticks, blew off a few driveways. Billed all customers each month of the year. Lost NO customers. Had NO complaints. Some customers do have irrigation. Some didn't want to waste water on their lawns.

mtdman
01-06-2004, 10:39 PM
I worry that on the 12 month deal, during the winter months when I'm not doing the work, they will be reticent about paying. I have a few problems as it is at the end of the year getting people to pay once services are over, kind of an outta sight outta mind thing. I imagine that it might be the same way with paying during the winter when I'm not working. Or even worse, I would worry that people would pay for the 7 months I am doing the work, and then skip out on the last 5, screwing me out of payment for the work I've already done.

If I go to the equal payment thingy, it will be 7 or 8 payments, during the season, I believe.

bobbygedd
01-06-2004, 10:46 PM
mt, i get the same thing, even customers who usually pay on time, take long at this time of year when they don't need us. i would never go with 12 payments

DJL
01-06-2004, 11:20 PM
2003 was the first year for my company. I'm very small, only 1 small commericial and 9 residential accounts. I don't like the idea of having a minimum amount of cuts per year/season. Currently, I do not have any contracts/service agreements set up. Basically, it is on the honor system. As I'm sure a lot of you have, I learned the hard way that you need a contract and/or service agreement. I didn't lose any payments, but I did get into arguements on what was include in my service and what wasn't. I'm figuring out you give an inch they'll want to take a mile.

Anways, I've spoke to my attorney about the contract. He says that I will need to make it short, simple, sweet, and to the point. So.....my idea was to word it so that my services are provided from date X to date Y. I will also include that there will not be a minimum amount of cuts for the season. However, I will decide weather or not the account requires servicing. I figured this will keep the customer happy in the event there is a drought, hot spell, etc. they will not be required to pay for services not rendered. However, it will cover my company to avoid those that call and try and save a weeks cutting b/c they are going on vacation or something.

So my question is, does anyone do this? Has anyone done this? If so/If not, why or why not? Your comments would be greatly appreciated.

Flex-Deck
01-06-2004, 11:51 PM
In SE. Iowa, I give the customer two options.
1. Per mowing bid - For example $60 per mowing
In our part of the country we average 24 mowings per year.' so I offer them the option of paying for 24 mowings divided by 6 or 12 monthly payments. I also state in my bid sheet that my reputation is on the line, and if I want to mow every two days, it is my perogative, if they are on the 6-12 deal.
2. 60 x 24 = $1440 divided by 6 = $240 per month.

I like the averaging deal. Some years we mow 26 times, some 22.

Currier
01-06-2004, 11:57 PM
I know we all have our ways that work for us us I personally could not see giving a refund or pro-rating at the end of the season because I didn't do enough work!

I have customers that would eat you alive if they thought that was an option. These are not bad customers or pita's. They are simply business minded and love to get discounts (never mind that it is out of your pocket. You offer it. You pay it)

BUT... all my accounts have irrigation so I don't have the drought issue unless there is a terrible drought and water gets rationed, and that has not happened yet.

I just cannot imagine the end of the season when you are planning for the famine of winter and then cutting checks back to customers. I work hard for them all season. The price is the price.

tazz
01-07-2004, 08:07 AM
If you dont take care of growing your business on a solid foundation"contracts" you will always struggle with the way things are going. I started out not charging for skipped mowings to be nice. Then you start getting the dont come this week after mowing double cuts all spring with no extra charge.Sometimes they want to be skipped more than a week. I cant pay my guys to wait on their grass to grow. We find other things that can be done,prunig ,cleanout beds, whatever. this way your customers can depend on you and you can eat.It takes time but with a solid foundation you will grow a strong business.

Mike Fronczak
01-07-2004, 11:59 AM
I think it all comes down to what you & customer agree to. If they agree to pay a "serasonal price" then they should pay it, period. In the spring it will take longer to perform said services, in summer it may not need it but every two weeks. They are paying you a retainer basiclly.
I look at it this way, from a snowplowing philosphy. If a customer signs a seasonal contract, & you plow 5 times you make out better, if it snows 20 times they make out better. Or another example I just had from a conversation with a brach manager, with a per visit contract. The snow had come down as such that we got there right after they had opened, serveral cars were in the lot. I went back that night to do a clean up. He called me & wanted to know if they were getting charged for the clean up, my answer was yes, he asked if for a full trip, I said yes. My explination was this if there is 12 inches in the lot, you get charged the same as if there's 3 (3 inch contract), it takes longer so I lose on that one, on a cleanup run I end up making out. It all works out in the end. Sad part is he dosen't pay the bill & purchasing won't hassle me about it, just wants to be a PITA. BTW I've had this account for 4 years & counting.

mh1314
01-07-2004, 05:00 PM
In your contract state that the "terms of the contract are for a 12 month period from x to z, not to exceed # of cuts during this time period."

DJL
01-07-2004, 10:02 PM
Thanks. I like the sound of "not to exceed x amount..."

proenterprises
01-07-2004, 10:10 PM
i also agree with the fact that i would not keep billing if the customer did not want me to keep cutting at the end of the season.

on the subject of the call-offs-you guys are 110% correct, if you let it happen one time, it wil always happen 5 more. call offs and skip me's will kill us slowly. this is personally somthing i cant stand, and unless it really dosent need to be cut-i am their every week.

i dont tollerate skip me's unless they are justtified.

David Haggerty
01-08-2004, 05:30 AM
I think some of you create the problems you're trying to solve.

I keep my billing simple as possible. It helps build confidence in me from my customers.
Nobody tells me when to cut their lawn.
They trust me to keep up with the mowing and not gouge them by overmowing.

And if I had a problem managing my finances thru the winter it's for sure I wouldn't be trying to involve my customers in it. They're my bread-and-butter. And I learned as a kid not to play with my food.

Dave

JVS
01-08-2004, 06:03 AM
Make it 26 cuts and the 4 are for disposal charges to and from the dump site