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View Full Version : Career change..Big mistake?


J and M Mowing
06-23-2004, 12:13 AM
I'm a cop in this town of 100,000 people and have been for the last 15 years. I have come to a point in my life where I have become unhappy in my job. It seems that the only thing I enjoy is being in the lawn care business and being my own boss. I'm tired of the night shift and not seeing my family. I started this business to help my 14 year old make extra money, but enjoyed it so much that I did everything that I could to build it up to a money making adventure. I can't tell you how cool it is to do something that pays reasonably well and doesn't require me to put on a uniform. I have always been a closet entrepeneur and feel like this is the time to jump ship and go full time into the lawn care business..am I crazy or what? By the way, I always thought that lawn care guys were on the bottom of the gene pool, but since I started doing lawncare several years ago and most recently became a member of Lawnsite.com, I have found that the opposite is true. Most of you (including you Bobbygedd) are smart business people. I learn something about business here every day and truly enjoy looking at all the threads. Cheers!

RedWingsDet
06-23-2004, 12:15 AM
get some business cards, and nexttime you give a ticket, staple a business card to it ;) that'll gain you some business.

MudslinginFX4
06-23-2004, 12:19 AM
Welcome to the site! Only you can know if going full time is a good move. It sounds like you have the determination and the will to make everything happen, but you still need to be prepared to wait a long time for everything to fall into place. I'm not sure how many accounts you currently have, but you will need to get your name out there through every form of advertising you possibly can. If you really like doing this type of work, and don't mind getting really dirty, spending long hard hours at first, and are willing to sacrafice money in the beginning then it sounds like you are off to a good start! I wish you and your business the best of luck!

Rick Jones
06-23-2004, 12:20 AM
You have 15 years in now, how long until you can retire? If we are only talking about 5 years, I'd ride it out and enjoy the pension benefits. Then you could jump into lawn care full time.

J and M Mowing
06-23-2004, 12:29 AM
I have 5 years....but I could be vested in the pension plan today. If I quit now, I would have to wait 5 years (for a total of 20 years) to draw a retirement. I have 15 residentials and 2 commercial accounts. I definitely would like to have more accounts before I make the jump. But landscaping and tree jobs provide a lot more income also.

J and M Mowing
06-23-2004, 12:31 AM
And yes, I love getting sweatty and dirty!

dvmcmrhp52
06-23-2004, 12:36 AM
Originally posted by J and M Mowing
I have 5 years....but I could be vested in the pension plan today. If I quit now, I would have to wait 5 years (for a total of 20 years) to draw a retirement. I have 15 residentials and 2 commercial accounts. I definitely would like to have more accounts before I make the jump. But landscaping and tree jobs provide a lot more income also.


I would suggest you wait till more accounts have been built up before making a comitment that could be very stressful for the first 2 years with only 15 current accounts.
I'd wait a year or 2 at least before "jumping"

carbon737
06-23-2004, 12:47 AM
Like dvmcmrhp52 said I would definetly wait I few more years to jump over. Build a "nest egg" so when you do jump you won't be shocked with too little income or not enough clientele. Buy equipment a little at a time so you're not over burdend by bills and never bite more than you can chew. Ask your family for support through your adventure and know that you are not the only one in your situation. Good luck.

4734
06-23-2004, 12:52 AM
J&M,
I know the feeling, I'm a auto theft detective with almost 22 years of service. I am currently building my business up to a point where I can "jump". Luckily I can retire out with a full retirement but now is not the right time for me.
Is there anyway you can change shifts to allow some more time to build the business and build the retirement fund more?

Good luck on your business.

hole in one lco
06-23-2004, 12:56 AM
If i were you i would not quit your job you guys get a grate pension. If you quit know you will only collect a partial pension.
Don't forget about your benefits to you need to look out for your family's best interest. If you get killed in the line of duty your house car and all bills are payed and your spouse collects your pension. If you get killed cutting grass you get a funeral to pay for
keep grass cutting as a side job. You should have enough seniority to switch to days .

Potchkins
06-23-2004, 12:57 AM
Originally posted by PremierLandscaping
get some business cards, and nexttime you give a ticket, staple a business card to it ;) that'll gain you some business.

i would only do that with warnings

Palmer Lawn Care
06-23-2004, 01:05 AM
Originally posted by Potchkins
i would only do that with warnings

That is what I was just thinking :cool:

Acute Cut
06-23-2004, 09:36 AM
Can you build it up so that you can hire help? I would say stay till you are able to draw the full pension as well. It would be nice to have crews out working so you can get days off sometimes.

DFW Area Landscaper
06-23-2004, 09:56 AM
++++I have come to a point in my life where I have become unhappy in my job.++++

That's life, though, isn't it? Be glad you have a recession proof job. That's a BIG deal.

++++I have always been a closet entrepeneur and feel like this is the time to jump ship and go full time into the lawn care business..am I crazy or what?++++

I've only been in the business 18 months, but I wouldn't recommend it. You're not crazy. On the surface, landscaping looks like good money. I'll bet a lot of our customers think we're all getting rich.

A few realities to think about:

1.) Yes, you make decent money when you've got work to do. But have you done the "back of the envelope" calculations to see how much money you can make if your schedule is full? Now, go back in and make sure you aren't counting on more cuts per season than you can really get. I get 32 to 34 here in North Texas. Now, go back in and plug in those numbers with a schedule that's only 25% full or 35% full. That's going to be the reality your first year. You're not going to have a full schedule your first year. I've been in business 18 months, have a profesional websight, have a 1/3 page yellow pages ad, and I've done thousands of door hangers. In short, I've done everything I can think of to gain customers. My schedule is only 50% full as of today.

2.) Just as you're thinking of going full time into landscaping, you're not alone. You'd be hard pressed to find an industry with a lower barrier to entry. There will constantly be part timers, high schoolers and illegals competing with you. All of these groups can be happy making far less per hour than a full timer. They're cost of living is being paid via another source or, in the case of the illegals, it's a poverty standard of living that they're happy with.

3.) How do you price a mowing? There is no formula. Only experience can tell you how long a property should take you. Until you have that experience, it's a guessing game. The tendency with an empty schedule is to bid a little low to win the business. Ok, fine, you'll master the learning curve on this and eventually you'll have your prices right. Problem is, you're still competing with inexperienced guys with empty schedules who don't know how to price their work. They'll underbid you and you'll lose a lot of opportunities/customers.

4.) The green industry is the "black market" industry in terms of tax evasion. Most LCO's illegally classify their labor as subcontractors to avoid payroll taxes. Many simply pay their labor off the books all together. In many states, landscaping and lawn mowing are subject to the sales tax. A great many of your competitors will evade these taxes. Your only option will be to either pay these taxes and have a much higher labor cost than your competitors or evade these taxes. If you evade them, you'll be more profitable, more competitive. But you'll always be one audit away from financial ruin.

5.) If you're going to do this full time, you'd like to have insurance. Commercial Auto. General Liability. Workmans Comp. But it isn't cheap. You can take you're chances doing this for a living and hope that nothing ever happens. That's probably not a real smart idea if you plan on doing this day in and day out for years, though. The insurance premiums reflect your real profit because statistics say that eventually you'll have an accident. If you're uninsured, paying for that accident will be a cost of business. But be forewarned, the majority of your competitors won't have insurance. See number two above. How many part timers can afford to carry the same cost for general liability as a full timer? The insurance companies don't differentiate between the two groups (at least to my knowledge).

Good luck in your decision making. I wish I had been lucky enough to have stumbled onto lawnsite before I had already jumped into the business.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper

txlawnking
06-23-2004, 10:18 AM
6: Take everthing you read here with a HANDFUL of salt. DFW makes some good points but reality is, IF you want to succeed, make an effort. I am an A.S.E. master auto tech, and have extensive automotive and manual machine skills. I left that industy for a grcery list of reasons but #1 was I DON'T LIKE making other people $79.50 an hr. while they paid me $25(flag), not to mention an enormous expenditure each year in training, tools,etc. Bottom line is the thing DFW mentioned, specifically, low cost of entry, a requirement of excellent sales and marketing skills( weak points of mine that I'm trying to make into strengths) Are the very reasons I got into the green industry, plus I LOVE making my customers lawns look beautiful. Even if I fail my first year, I will not give up I will learn my lessons and attack again next year. Good luck dude, may GOD bless all of your efforts.

capmaint
06-23-2004, 10:35 AM
J and M, You are too close to the end to walk away. I feel your pain. Ive been a cop for 19 years and about 6 years ago I was getting pretty tired of the grind myself. I decided however, the problem was actually me and not the job. I changed my attitude and transferred to a new assignment. I spent the next 5 1/2 yrs as a detective working robbery/homicide and with the change in attitude and assignment came a renewed job satisfaction. Recently I promoted to Sgt and am back in patrol having a blast. No matter how much I might make in lawn care, the pension and benefits are too important in the long run to walk away from now.

Look for a transfer, stick it out another 5 yrs, build up your business in the mean time, and enjoy your retirement. My experience is that "Former" cops seldom succeed elswhere while "retired" cops do just fine.

Good luck!

Acute Cut
06-23-2004, 11:34 AM
txlawnking:
One thing that made a huge difference in my sales were speech classes at the community college. I took like 5 speech classes. My last two the teachers told me they couldnt teach me anything after our second day there. Sales is simply speech and drama classes. I got straight A's in both. JMO though.

Turf Medic
06-23-2004, 02:55 PM
Originally posted by DFW Area Landscaper
[B
I've only been in the business 18 months, but I wouldn't recommend it. You're not crazy. On the surface, landscaping looks like good money. I'll bet a lot of our customers think we're all getting rich.


Good luck in your decision making. I wish I had been lucky enough to have stumbled onto lawnsite before I had already jumped into the business.

Later,
DFW Area Landscaper [/B]

DFW please don't take this as a put down, but have you noticed that you don't have much good to say about the business lately. As Zig Ziglar would say, man you are sufferin from some stinkin thinkin. Are things really as bad as you seem to think? Judging by your more recent posts, one would think that you have lost all hope of making it in the business. Please take this comment in the spirit it was given.

MMLawn
06-23-2004, 03:27 PM
J&M

I was a cop for 17 years and as a dept head made $65K a year. As I was vested in the retirement sys I froze it and walked away to work for myself and have never looked back. I will draw an 80% Pension staring at 50 yoa or 100% at 55 still and that is still at 100% only going to be about $1900 a month based on $65K. I make more than I would have ever made as a cop. You and any other LEO with more than 10-15 years will also fully understand this. The job just "ain't what it use to be".

Johnson
06-23-2004, 10:58 PM
Originally posted by Rick Jones
You have 15 years in now, how long until you can retire? If we are only talking about 5 years, I'd ride it out and enjoy the pension benefits. Then you could jump into lawn care full time.

J & M,

I am a full time Deputy Sheriff here in Ohio. Me being a part time guy in LC as well, I think we can relate a little. I don't have anywhere near 15 years on. However, I would encourage you to stick it out and get your FULL retirement. If you are truely unhappy at the PD, try to do something new...How about DARE, being an FTO, detective bureau, other specialized units. I would definitely try to get off of nights. The decision is ultimately up to you and your family. I am just offering my opinion. Good luck in what ever you decide to do.. Keep us posted.


Dan

GeeVee
06-23-2004, 11:22 PM
My first thought on this thread was: Isn't there a message board where cops and firefighters can go if they want to get off topic about their side jobs?

Points others missed: He's been at it several years, so I believe he has the staying power.

A pension and a retirement plan are two different things.

I think you ought to stick it through (to 20), and jump in with a finely sharpened blade.

Others here offered you some sage advice........

I tell myself all the time, if I fail at this, I can always cut enough grass to feed my family. Well, you're smart enough to know you will de double dipping, and won't have to "really" cut grass to eat.

So we're not oversimplifying your story, you're not going to build a super comapny, just work yourself?

fixer67
06-23-2004, 11:35 PM
J and M Mowing
From what I have read in some of the posts on Lawnsite you may want to keep your vest and weapon while mowing. Just a thought.

Randy Scott
06-23-2004, 11:38 PM
Originally posted by Turf Medic
DFW please don't take this as a put down, but have you noticed that you don't have much good to say about the business lately. As Zig Ziglar would say, man you are sufferin from some stinkin thinkin. Are things really as bad as you seem to think? Judging by your more recent posts, one would think that you have lost all hope of making it in the business. Please take this comment in the spirit it was given.

Some people are cut out to own a business, and some people aren't. We are starting our fourth season and turn less desirable work down every day. We're adding another employee to make 6 including myself. What makes me so special that things are doing alright for me? Owning your own business is a lot more work than most people think. I get the impression from a lot of people that they think they will all of a sudden be some bigshot high roller with oodles of money because they started a business. or that life is a cake walk because they are the boss. Sorry, not happening for the majority. It's more work than I ever imagined, but it still is the most enjoyable thing I have ever done (besides getting married, in case she see's this). Look around you. There are success stories everywhere. Even in landscape and maintenance companies! If my business fails, it's MY fault. No one else is to blame. Some of you need to keep that in mind. When you started your business, that put you, and only you, in control of the results. Go ahead, blame the market, blame cheap labor, blame the recession (what recession), blame a flooded market. Reality is, YOU YOU YOU are the cause of success or failure. There are countless, countless resources available to each and everyone of us to make our businesses succeed. I sure hope I never fail, but if I do, it was my fault. I'm man enough to realize that, and to try and conquer that. Anybody who doesn't agree, is pretty much fooling themselves and looking for an easy way out. Aside from the rare overnight success story, it takes a business from 3 to 5 years to really see profit, get established, and be somewhat stable.

dvmcmrhp52
06-23-2004, 11:46 PM
Originally posted by Randy Scott
Some people are cut out to own a business, and some people aren't. We are starting our fourth season and turn less desirable work down every day. We're adding another employee to make 6 including myself. What makes me so special that things are doing alright for me? Owning your own business is a lot more work than most people think. I get the impression from a lot of people that they think they will all of a sudden be some bigshot high roller with oodles of money because they started a business. or that life is a cake walk because they are the boss. Sorry, not happening for the majority. It's more work than I ever imagined, but it still is the most enjoyable thing I have ever done (besides getting married, in case she see's this). Look around you. There are success stories everywhere. Even in landscape and maintenance companies! If my business fails, it's MY fault. No one else is to blame. Some of you need to keep that in mind. When you started your business, that put you, and only you, in control of the results. Go ahead, blame the market, blame cheap labor, blame the recession (what recession), blame a flooded market. Reality is, YOU YOU YOU are the cause of success or failure. There are countless, countless resources available to each and everyone of us to make our businesses succeed. I sure hope I never fail, but if I do, it was my fault. I'm man enough to realize that, and to try and conquer that. Anybody who doesn't agree, is pretty much fooling themselves and looking for an easy way out. Aside from the rare overnight success story, it takes a business from 3 to 5 years to really see profit, get established, and be somewhat stable.




Very sound commentary.
It takes time and effort,lots of both.

skmodmsl
06-24-2004, 12:37 AM
I finally ended up in lawncare because I was miserable in my career. After 15 years in the automotive field I had had enough. I personally wasn't giving up any pension and I don't have a family to support ( just my equipment- lol). I spent 2 miserable years working with my Dad in the stone mason trade. It wasn't the hard work or long hours that did me in but my Father's miserable attitude. My Father actually suggested getting into snowplowing and mowing. I honestly can say that I wish I had done it years ago ! I am the type of person who prefers to work alone ( take after Dad - LOL).

Unfortunately in todays world finding a job where you can retire and collect a pension is becoming very hard. It is starting to become a thing of the past. I wouldnot suggest not giving that up considering that you have a family to support. You mentioned that your son is 14. In two years he will be 16 and old enough to drive. He can then drive the route himself. You can continue to help out part time until you can collect that pension. Then you can go full time in the business.

As I said in my case I had nothing to lose. I work long hours. Luckily my mechanical ability has saved the day in these lean times. I do all my own maintenance on my machinery. I've even fabricated parts to fix a machine. At least I am my own boss. But I don't have anyone to worry about but myself.

NNJLandman
06-24-2004, 12:52 AM
My father is a cop in town, were a small town but one of the cops started his own graphic business, doing truck lettering n all sorts of signs n stuff. Hes made out pretty well and with his connections with the PD and getting around a lot his business has sky rocketed. Start using up those sick, vacation, n personal days use some of your connections to get the business going then think about maybe leaving the force. Glad to hear business is going so well for you.

Jeff

barringtonbrothers
06-24-2004, 01:20 AM
You could call your service Pig and Piglett Mowing service. J/k my old mans a pig. I wish you luck with what ever you decide.

dcwalker
06-27-2004, 12:26 PM
Hey J and M, I'm in Norman as well. I made the jump last year. I was in retail managment and just quit after 14 years. I had no truck or equipment, just a dream. While last year was a bit of a struggle, this year has been great (thanks to tree trimming and removal for the slow weeks in the early spring.) I think I'll stick with it. Good luck!
Of course if I had a pension waiting for me I might have sucked up 5 more years before I jumpped in both feet.

ztrx
06-27-2004, 01:28 PM
Greetings-
I chucked a job with a fortune 100 company because I was very unhappy with their BS. I Keep in mind these points.
1. Downsize. Pay off your cars, credit cards, loans and any unnecessary expenses before you quit your job.
2. Purchase and pay off your lawncare equipment before you quit your job. Banks don't like to loan money to small businesses with less then 2 years history.
3. Check into health insurance costs before quitting your job. You might be better off staying on the force until you qualify for these benefits.
4. Build and diversify your business before you quit the force.Cutting grass will not keep you fed year round. Landscaping, irrigation, home improvements,etc. will keep you afloat when the grass dont grow.
5. Pay attention to what these other folks have said in their posts, I have learned the hard way after much grief and suffering.
6. Do the math, overhead, taxes, administrative, insurance,illiness,etc. can and will wipe you out if you are not prepared
7. Being in business for yourself is very rewarding and self gratifying if you have the self disipline to run your business correctly. I have seen others jump ship to run their own business just to fail because they were not prepared.
Good luck.
Nick