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View Full Version : Who went/is going to lawn care only???


ChicagoLawn
12-13-2004, 09:14 PM
Hello fellow professionals...............

Just wondering if you can persuade me to dedicate my efforts to lawn care instead of lawn maintenance. I have been in the industry for almost 12 years now and have discovered that I am extremely passionate about lawn care and snow and ice management.

I feel that by dedicating myself to less will provide more in the end......... you know what I mean?

I have the means to still provide the lawn maintenance services that I have offered at a reduced profit level.

What do you think?

ChicagoLawn

j fisher
12-13-2004, 09:24 PM
Explain the difference between lawn maintenance, and lawn care. To me it's the same. I just give my customers a choice of what services they want, and price accordingly

TURF DOCTOR
12-13-2004, 09:51 PM
huh,................

ChicagoLawn
12-13-2004, 09:55 PM
Lawn maintenance would be to mow, edge lets say trim bushes, cultivate soil or mulch (No license currently available)

Lawn care would be to provide the proper nutrients (fertilization), scout/analyze and treat various diseases turf grass may face and of course weed control. (License needed to provide service)

ChicagoLawn

Envi-Lawn
12-14-2004, 09:19 AM
Chicagolawn, My personal experience- Ran a lawn maintenance business from 1978 to 1988.Got my supervisory license in 1987. Sold the maintenance business outright, and started lawn care business. It was an easy transition. I never had a second thought on changing. Servicing lawns 5-7 times a season leaves alot of flexibility in scheduling, I easily handle 125 accounts alone, as well as any side work(planting, seeding, mulching) that my 125 accounts ask for. I enjoyed maintenance, but many customers considered me a "necessary evil". Lawn care customers seem to appreciate having a nice green weed -free lawn, and will pay for it. For several years I've taken winter off -3 months- and am still paying my bills without strain.

ChicagoLawn
12-14-2004, 02:50 PM
Envi-lawn,

Would it be ok if I ask your age? Just curious.

When you sold the lawn maintenance off, did you lose some of the lawn care work with it?

Thanks in advance,

ChicagoLawn

Envi-Lawn
12-14-2004, 03:04 PM
Chicagolawn, I'm 50 y.o. I've worked my ballz off for 25. When I sold off maintenance, I retained all of the chemical work, but it wasn't that much at the time. Basically started from scratch.

SOONER GREEN
12-14-2004, 09:54 PM
I Do Both Lawn Maint And Weed Control Fert. One Of The Best Things About Wcf Is The Equip Cost And Maint Is Much Much Less .A Good Spray Rig Will Last For Ever If You Take Care Of It.You Will Have Hoses And Pumps To Maintain, But I Havent Had To Drop The Thousands Of $'s Into That Side Of The Business Like I Have The Maint Side. Also The Neighborhood Kid Or A Part Time Mower Wont Be Able To Take Your Customers Because Of Licensing, & Insurance Costs.the Thing I Like About Maint Is Winter $ With 12 Month Contracts.

ThreeWide
12-14-2004, 10:09 PM
Currently doing both, but I found out right away that fert and weed control is a much better business model for a solo operator.

Mowing is a huge schedule constraint that you have little flexibility with. While the revenue generated per client in a year is high, I found my profit margin to be 30% at best. Without crews, there is only so much a solo can accomplish. Equipment maintenance is also an ongoing issue.

With fert and weed control, one needs a significant amount of clients. However I see the profit margin at 50%. This allows me to compete with the big companies on price and deliver higher quality results. The trick is getting enough clients. It will eventually happen, but not in year 1.

DiscoveryLawn
12-15-2004, 12:27 AM
I did it.

I had been landscaping since 1986, fertilizing since 1989 and (professionally)mowing since 1992. My mowing and landscape maintenance revenues were at $300,000.00 last year and I walked away from most of it except for some landscaping in the spring. I started completly from scratch this year focusing on residential lawn care. The previous years I was strictly maintaining HOA's and some commercial props.

This has been the best year I have ever had since I have been self employed. Don't get me wrong ... I have never been so broke ... but I have never been happier. I do not miss all the stress and worrying that goes with maintenance but I sure do miss those revenues. I absolutely agree that lawn care is more profitable than maintenance but it is much easier to grow a maintenance business quickly.

One of the mistakes I made was thinking that I could grow a lawn care business as fast as I did my maintenance business. And maybe I could have if I had taken a different approach in the beginning. Another mistake was I should have kept one mowing route and not did any landscape maintenance at all this year. I spent valueable lawn care selling time running around all spring doing mulching and pruning estimates and pushing a wheel barrow when I should have been out there selling my lawn care services. If I would have kept one mowing route instead I could have had a couple of guys generating mowing revenue while I was selling and doing my lawn care until I built up a solid customer base. AFTER I filled my fertilization route I could have canned the mowing.

Anyway... here I am at the end of my first year without mowing and I finally am passionate about my work again. It has been a tough year but I made it through and have enough in the bank to pay all of the bills until April (which rarely happened when I was doing maintenance). Don't get me wrong... I did not make much money I was only able to pay myself $4000.00 this year. I do not regret dropping maintenance its just that my timing was way off and I should have phased it out. But now that I am where I am, I have no disire to go back into maintenance and I will concentrate all of my efforts into lawn care.

If you are interested look for a post that I started back in February (I think) titled "dropping mowing" or something like that. You follow the process I went through as I made the decission and transaction. I was given excellent advise by lawnsite members in that thread.

I would pull it up for you but I do not know how to ad a link to a post.

Good luck with your decission.

David

jajwrigh
12-15-2004, 12:57 AM
This was my last season mowing and my plan for next season is to fert/squirt mainly. I was do some small landscaping installs to supplement income, but at least all maintenance is gone!! I am forced to start with minimal clientele, but this is just going to be an enjoyable part time gig for a few years. Its times like this when I thank God I have another full time job with excellent benefits.

ChicagoLawn
12-15-2004, 04:13 AM
Man..................................... you guys are making me want to do what I love (once again!!) It can be like starting all over again but WITH experience.

I will be planning my way out of maintenance and into lawn care (100%).

If you guys can offer any feedback on your lawn care ventures please do. I am going through a bit of tough love with the maintenance side of my business. Not only has it helped me find lawn care, but I have met a lot of good people because of it too! I know the maintenance experience is a huge benefit (specially determining certain landscape/turf needs) but are you guys satisfied just in one niche in the green industry? I know its a loaded question, I just love pounding a new thoughts/concepts in my head :dizzy:

Have a good one!

ChicagoLawn

DiscoveryLawn
12-15-2004, 08:33 AM
I know the maintenance experience is a huge benefit (specially determining certain landscape/turf needs) but are you guys satisfied just in one niche in the green industry? I know its a loaded question, I just love pounding a new thoughts/concepts in my head :dizzy:

Have a good one!

ChicagoLawn


Am i satisfied in just one niche? Good question. I have many properties that are being maintained by other companies and all I do is the applications. I am always thinking to myself of how I could do such a better job. I am always coming up with ideas to improve the landscapes for my customers. One of the propblems is I find myself giving too much advise with no way to recover the time I spend doing it. At least when I was doing the landscape work the time I spent advising on the landscape was recovered in the billable time working on their landscape.

The other thing is I am always coming up with ideas and ways I could have ran my maintenance business better. I know that if I were still in it I would run it a lot smoother now. This is another area where I find myself giving out free advice to other LCO's. I just can't seem to help myself.

OK ...with that said ...I AM NOT GOING TO GO BACK INTO MAINTENANCE EVER EVER AGAIN. :blob3: The pros definately out way the cons.

AS my accountant said GO FOR IT!!

David

James Cormier
12-15-2004, 05:13 PM
David, Im glad you made the move, I remember the thread back in spring about doing this.

I started in the lawn care ( fert ) business and then fell into the maintenance end of it,we always offered both, but the ease of selling maintenance corrupted our company and we lost our direction, until 2001 and I was lucky to sell off the maintenance end.

Best thing I ever done, by far, less work, less headaches, less expenses and more income.

ChicagoLawn
12-15-2004, 11:28 PM
James,

Just out of curiosity, are you a solo operator or do you have labor/assistance that you routinely use?

I realize a solo operator can make a very good living performing lawn care services, just unaware of the possible un-known's of having licensed technicians under your employ.

Can you offer any suggestions as to the optimal operation size in relation to profitability.

Thank you in advance.

ChicagoLawn

James Cormier
12-16-2004, 10:03 AM
James,

Just out of curiosity, are you a solo operator or do you have labor/assistance that you routinely use?

I realize a solo operator can make a very good living performing lawn care services, just unaware of the possible un-known's of having licensed technicians under your employ.

Can you offer any suggestions as to the optimal operation size in relation to profitability.

Thank you in advance.

ChicagoLawn

Chicago,
I am a solo operator, I service around 350 fert customers,95% residential. With all my up sells added my customer avg is around $545. per customer.

At one time I had a medium sized landscaping company ( 150 full service customers ) and several full time employees and several part time. I never had a licensed applicator as a employee, my guess it would be a little easier than your typical landscaping employee.

For now Im happy doing what Im doing, I plan no growth for 2005, just replace what I loose this winter. However Im starting to plan for growth for the 06 season, I would like to get out of the daily production by then and spend more time here in the office and with customer service.

Your welcome to email or PM if you got more specif questions

Jim

DUSTYCEDAR
12-16-2004, 10:34 AM
i dumped all my mow and maint customers to do just fert and i like it a lot more however as has been said the first years r hard cash flow droped off
growth has been good but a little slow in my opin but it has alowed me to give better service and keep and eye on things that need inprovement
good luck with your adventure

ChicagoLawn
12-16-2004, 11:26 AM
Thanks Jim for the reply............

Sounds very good!

Are you performing aeration and slit-seeding services for the lawn care customers also?

I had seen a outside picture of your truck/trailer set up (I dont know which thread) it looks very efficient. I have been through a Chevy 1-ton van (didnt like it due to lack of storage space and ventilation issues), currently run a F-350 crew cab w/8' bed, it does the job but I would really like to have enough storage space for more/different granular product on hand and be able to haul around even a aerator in addition to a PermaGreen.

I am speaking to Mike at GNC Industries, in regard to the custom enclosed lawn care body/Isuzu NPR HD with access ramp for equipment storage. I sent him my specs last night, he will have pricing next week. The length of my F-350 Crew cab is long enough not to mention when pulling a trailer tight turns become a REAL challenge.

How do you like the trailer "lawn care setup" over a conventional or even custom single vehicle? I know cost is a huge concern (at least with me....) yet productivity is extremely important also. I always like to think that the investment made in productive equipment far outweighs the additional cash outlay. What do you think?

ChcagoLawn

James Cormier
12-16-2004, 01:05 PM
Thanks Jim for the reply............

What do you think?

ChcagoLawn

I went with the trailer set up 5 years ago, its when I switch to the PG's. I did this for several reasons.

Cost was the biggest, I already owned the truck, but putting the pg in the back was not a option, 6' bed didnt leave much room for anything else plus to high off the ground for me to be comfortable loading and unloading.

Even though I got room in my shop for pallets, I find it easier and cheaper to just visit my 2 local suppliers ( both within 20min of office ) to pick up products, the swing out doors ( back ) allow a fork truck to just load the pallet right on the trailer, no lifting of bags, When things are really busy I can get 2 pallets in the trailer and still have room for the PG. This way I dont need fork truck at my office. This has help saved my back, I dont load anybags by hand anymore.

The trailer keeps things dry, including the pg, If I do production on rainey days, I just drive into the trailer ( side door ) to load the machine with fert, then back out and go, this way nothing gets wet but me.

I keep no pesticides in the pick up bed, all tip'n'pours, jugs and flags are in the trailer, at the end of the day, I disconnect and drive home. Never any worries of having pesticides in my truck and at my home. Also I dont have to put up with smelling materials like you would in a van set up.

I get alot of comments on the set up , big rolling billboard.

Now some downsides, well you gotta be good at driving trailers, Im lucky Ive been pulling them for years so theres no where I cant go, or get out of. BUt that comes with time. Its also a big strain on the truck pulling it, I had a 2000 chevy hd pick up that had 60k on it all either pulling that trailer or plowing, thats a tough life for a truck. The one I have now is a 03 same truck, Dulley deisel would be a better choice for this set up.

I plan to retire this setup for a few reasons, mostly I can afford to, but I am looking at a box/cabover set up, or a Stepside truck. I havent found the one yet , but Im looking. This way the pick up would be just my ride to and from the office and local work, I relize not all small solo guys can afford to own 2 new trucks.

Now the bigger question is when I add on routes which way am I going? Not sure, it depends on my employees, if someone has no experince driving trailers I dont want them learning with my equipment, but it really is one of the cheapest ways to go.

Hope this helps
Jim

ChicagoLawn
12-16-2004, 04:52 PM
Jim,

Thank you for the continued clarity!

In regard to the trailer, how do you possibly deal with parked cars on side streets in front of your stop, dead end streets, "getting lost" - finding unknown streets............ oh you know what, did I read that you did 100% weed control with the perma green?

It makes sense if there is no spray hose stemming out of a open trailer door. It would be difficult probably only on 10% of my route with respect to pulling a hose from a trailer without obstruction. By the way, I consider my self versed also with a trailer, its just one more concern in my day that I can do without.......... you know what I mean?

Can you offer advise on the size of trailer and possible options that you like for use with the PermaGreen and at least 1 pallet of product? I also have a PG Ultra that I would like to give more of a work out this season. I have (2) 16' Wells Cargo enclosed trailers, (1)10' Wells Cargo and a Cronkhite 17' open deck trailer and have found that I would probably want to stick to a double axle trailer for additional weight concerns and just stability traveling down the road.

Your professional advise is greatly appreciated!

Joe

James Cormier
12-16-2004, 05:13 PM
Jim,

Thank you for the continued clarity!

In regard to the trailer, how do you possibly deal with parked cars on side streets in front of your stop, dead end streets, "getting lost" - finding unknown streets............ oh you know what, did I read that you did 100% weed control with the perma green?

It makes sense if there is no spray hose stemming out of a open trailer door. It would be difficult probably only on 10% of my route with respect to pulling a hose from a trailer without obstruction. By the way, I consider my self versed also with a trailer, its just one more concern in my day that I can do without.......... you know what I mean?

Can you offer advise on the size of trailer and possible options that you like for use with the PermaGreen and at least 1 pallet of product? I also have a PG Ultra that I would like to give more of a work out this season. I have (2) 16' Wells Cargo enclosed trailers, (1)10' Wells Cargo and a Cronkhite 17' open deck trailer and have found that I would probably want to stick to a double axle trailer for additional weight concerns and just stability traveling down the road.

Your professional advise is greatly appreciated!

Joe

Joe, Im not sure if a single axle trailer will hold a pallet, and the pb and everything else you would need for a days production. 6x12 is the largest I've seen for a single axle.

My trailer is a 7x16 ( or maybe its a 14) and its just big enough, if I was going to do it over again I would go bigger, 8x18 maybe. That would give you more room to move around inside.

The one thing I didn't do that I regret is spraying the inside with rino liner, Over the years fert has found its way thru the cracks, and rusted parts of the trailer.

Ive done work in down town boston and in the boonies of western mass with the trailer, I just manage, really the worse thing is not fitting thru dunkin donuts drivethru's but I can fit it almost everywhere else. I am getting sick of driving with the trailer, that is why I bought the pg rack for the back of the truck, I use that in fall when I was just pushing fert. I like it but I still nervous about that thing hanging off the back of the truck, the rack was made by PG ya know, thats kinda scary.

Yes I do all weed thru the PG's sold the tanks,

So ido have some lawns I gotta park 100 yards away, I just drive the pg down the road, when Im the farthest way is when I usually run out of gas on the thing :angry:

ChicagoLawn
12-16-2004, 06:04 PM
Jim,

I was afraid that you would say your trailer was bigger than 14'! My truck turns bad enough now, with a longer trailer makes tight maneuvers almost impossible.

Any particular makes of trailer that you recommend?

The more I think about it, I may leave the spray tanks I will use in the back of my F-350 than pull a trailer for the PG and supplies. I was really trying to lose the tanks in the truck so I can drive around without a spray tank in my truck, its not too bad......... I guess I'm getting too fussy?

Oh, by the way I have the PG hitch carrier rack also. It looks ok, but my F-350 sits almost too high where the carrier's 2 drop down ramps do not sit flatly on pavement below and the angle of the dropped ramps to the platform is really quite steep. I have strapped the PG rack to my flat bed trailer for a great PG transport/mount. So what I have is a real expensive PG hold down device. :cry:

Thanks again,

Joe

lawn king
12-16-2004, 06:11 PM
If i we're to start another lawn care co. it would be in the chicago area! You have it easy, deep, rich topsoil,all flat landscapes, heavy winter snowfall and all those wealthy folks in evanston! You should go for it! Don't eat too much at the taste in july or you will blow out the tires on your'e equipment!

DUSTYCEDAR
12-16-2004, 07:20 PM
i went the route of the van a e-350 streched i can get a 200 gal tank in it a 1000 lbs of fert with the tank full 2000 lbs with the tank emptie and my pg and a push spreader when needed it is tight but i dont have the trailer to worrie about is it perfict no but it is the best thing i have found just short of a box truck
i would use a trailer but i have to many places that it wont fit that is why i have the van the best part is i can lock up all my stuff when i am away form the truck

ChicagoLawn
12-16-2004, 08:03 PM
Dustycedar,

Can you post some pictures?? It would be nice to see what the interior of the box looks like loaded with the equipment you mentioned.

Have a good one!

Joe

James Cormier
12-16-2004, 08:06 PM
i went the route of the van a e-350 streched i can get a 200 gal tank in it a 1000 lbs of fert with the tank full 2000 lbs with the tank emptie and my pg and a push spreader when needed it is tight but i dont have the trailer to worrie about is it perfict no but it is the best thing i have found just short of a box truck
i would use a trailer but i have to many places that it wont fit that is why i have the van the best part is i can lock up all my stuff when i am away form the truck

Dusty, thats a lot in that van, my only concern for you is if you get in a accident and all that weight comes forward. That is why I like the cabover type trucks, the box is separate from the drivers compartment. I really love the panel vans ( bread trucks ) but the only thing thats holding me back it the issue of not enough protection behind the driver from the load.

Chicago, as far a trailers go I do believe Wells Cargo are the best made, I don't have one, I got a avenger, seems to be middle to top of the line, not quite as good as the WC, I hear you about the length issue, I see you got the 4door long bed, so adding a trailer will really make you long.

The key for me was the swing out rear doors, because ramp doors are not strong enough for fork trucks will a load, I don't want to be hand loading anything.

DUSTYCEDAR
12-16-2004, 08:19 PM
i will get u pics
i have a bulk head i made that is between me the and the load so i fell safe but who knows i may die hope i dont fell it

ChicagoLawn
12-16-2004, 08:26 PM
Looks good Jim!!

We thought of going with a step van also a few years back. Not bad if you have the funds available for new, but the used step van/trucks (whatever you want to call them) were VERY used and VERY rough. Most were old FedEx trucks that may have been re-sold once or twice and now on the market again. I like the slide driver/passenger doors..... gotta love those flat "bill board" like walls for some major advertising/exposure.

I think brand new they start at $26,000+. Do you guys know of any truck upfitters that will customize a certain size opening for spray reels, etc. I wonder if you can get some gas/shock or industrial automotive hinges for the new doors created.

Joe

DUSTYCEDAR
12-16-2004, 10:27 PM
some pics---------------

DUSTYCEDAR
12-16-2004, 10:29 PM
---------------------

gslawncare
12-17-2004, 02:40 AM
Hey lawncare. Ever dabbled with Aggrand organic fertilizer? want to know if its a good idea or should I invest in a spray system, like trugreen. Is that what a permagreen is?

DUSTYCEDAR
12-17-2004, 09:31 AM
permagreen

DUSTYCEDAR
12-17-2004, 09:57 AM
when it was new :)