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FrankenScagMachines
12-28-2004, 10:23 AM
I guess this question goes to anyone who has "made it" by that I mean, worked from a struggling solo operator to full time LCO and got past the initial road blocks. At what point is it worth it? It seems like I get all the nice toys but never really clear a significant profit at the end of the year. I have a really nice business here, full legitimate, have all the goodies- two trucks two trailers a z, w/b, 21" and lots of nice top of the line 2 cycle/handheld stuff, leaf vac, snowblowers, plow, all the hand tools, shop tools and supplies, etc. Its a nice business, we maintained about 30 lawns a week last season and plan to double that this next year. Did lots of one time leaf removals and this winter are doing snow removal for many of our regular customers and a few one-timers. We have customers that just have us do the leaves or just the snow, and they come back every year. Our rates are fair, many might consider them high on some jobs. Most jobs you could find someone to do it considerably cheaper, even a legitimate LCO. I do not lowball just to get a job. If its an area I really want into, I will sometimes lower my price just to be even with other professional legit LCO's but never below their price. Its a you-get-what-you-pay-for deal with my company. All of my customers are very happy and rarely do i get complaints. I am 17, a senior in high school. I plan to go full time in '05 here next spring as i graduate. Will it all get better when i go full time? it seems like I am constantly under much stress trying to accomplish it all and make ends meet. Its like I am always having to buy more equipment to meet my customer's needs, and a good bit of the stuff is used and i do my own mechanic work (although i have great luck with used stuff) so i save money with those areas (save cost of new and do own work) and buyin this stuff to get the jobs done is great, but it seems to never end. Its always "one more thing and i'll be happy and everything will go great" but that never wants to happen. Things were simpler last year just a pickup, 12' trailer, w/b, trimmer, edger and blower.... I have good employees too. The one is especially good i never have to tell him how to do it or babysit him. Just tell him what i want done and let him have at it. I can go to other part of property or to another job a house or two away, or send him over there and not worry a thing about it. He's good. I wish he would stay with the business but I can only have him probably another year as he is a junior in high school and has plans for college. The other guys I have on my "on call" list for when i need extra help or a fill-in, they're alright too. I pay fair, $7-7.50 starting wage, and $8 for "experienced" help.

So why am I having a hard time with it? Is it just that I have to buy the equipment for a full time LCO but only have part time income? Is there something else I'm missing? More than once since this past fall I have seriously thought of selling out... the whole enchilada, everything included, or just sell the main stuff and keep the w/b, one truck, small trailer and the older smaller 2 cycle stuff, and a few select customers and go from there, everything paid for that way, low overhead. But I don't know what else i would do after school so then i think i'd better keep what i have i worked two long hard years to get it all i better just hang on and keep going. This stuff will last a long time and will make me a lot of money as it already has. But at what point does all this hard work pay off? 2 years? 3, 4 or 5 years?

:help: :help: :help:

fga
12-28-2004, 10:32 AM
I guess it depends on what YOU mean by making it. if you set goals for yourself, like steps, it can be very satisfying at the end of the year, and better evry year.
and you gotta keep your overhead down.. that's my prime #1 thought in making money. I don't buy something unless i have to. really have to, not cuz it looks good on my truck.this is going to be my 7th year full time. Have i made it.. by my standards no. BUT i have gotten bigger and better each year. just bought my first enclosed trailer. bought my biggest mower this year. added an additional blower..
some go out and put themselves in the red all the time. if i bought all the equipment i ever wanted, i think i would make a profit sometime in the year 2030.
making it depends on you business decesions and goals.
alot of guys around here pop up around spring, buy 60,000 in equipment, trucks,... then are gone by june. everyone wants to be a millionaire :rolleyes:

overall, set goals for yourself, and a budget for spending. As long as you growing each year, inevitably you will "make it".

Norm Al
12-28-2004, 10:54 AM
mowing lawns never totally pays off! when you make the transition from making money for laboring to creating something,,,,,it will then pay off!

ALL the people who have ever made real money in the green industry have either totally left mowing or mowing has become the lead into other aspects and they just keep the mowing because it keeps feeding the other stuff!

Tn Lawn Man
12-28-2004, 10:57 AM
Ok, I will give you my opinion based on how I think your business is set up....so I might be really off base.

First, it sounds like you are building equipment like crazy....that will eat away your profits fast...you have to be very disciplined when buying more equipment. Weigh what you need versus what you want.

However, equipment is essential to building your business. All I am saying is that is where a "chunk" of your money might be going right now and that is not necessarily bad. It is better to build now while you don't "have" to have the income to survive rather than build later when you are competing with other bills like house payments etc...

Also, be very careful when hiring help. This too can eat up your profits if not managed correctly. Employees can make you a lot of money but they can also suck you dry. Ask yourself a few questions. Do I NEED this employee or do I just like having extra help? Is there enough work and a tight enough route to keep the employee working consistantly or is there a lot of down time?

Then of course there are other things to consider like having more accounts, tight routes etc....

Hope this helps

grass_cuttin_fool
12-28-2004, 11:19 AM
I have watched you on this site for a while now, you re invest money back in your company and are making improvements. I have bought alot of newer equipment the last 2 years but before that I hadnt and that equipment made me good money but was getting worn out.
Im with Adam, alot of guys go in debt fast and try to get everything at 1 time and alot of them dont last long, I quess the payments and the intrest is more than some can bear.
I dont know at what point it pays off, I try to make a living each year and keep the equipment in good enuff shape to preform the work so I dont have to buy new stuff so often. Last year I bought me a new walk behind , this year a new scag tiger cub, and just yesterday I bought a new 16 foot open trailer. next year Im hoping for a new Back pack blower to upgrade the stihl I have now.
HAng in there and keep digging and when school is out and you have more time for more accounts or better accounts maybe the picture will be more clear of what you want

Evan528
12-28-2004, 11:31 AM
Alot of good advice here. Id also like to chime in because I was in your situation several years ago. I operated this business throughout my entire time in high school also. You do really need to draw the line somewhere with equipment purchases if you really want to make a nice personal salary.
I started at 9 years old with a craftsman push mower maintaining neighborhood lawns. Over the years I paid cash for every new machine I bought (some I needed, others I just wanted). Till I was about 16 I invested just about every dollar of profit back into the business so that I would have the proper equipment to operate full time at 18. After I bought my new truck at 16 I started only buying the nessesities and replacing low cost equpment (2 cycle equipment) when nessesary. From age 16-18 I was able to pay my self a nice enough salary to be able to put a pretty big chunk of money down on my first home 3 months after I graduated high school. Once you have a mortgage to pay for and a boatload of personal expenses every month, shiny new Ztrs arent quite as appealing as they used to be. I would now rather have a higher personal salary then buy a new machine im not even sure I need.

I do think all those years of working just to pay for machines have paid of for me. I have a pretty large arsenal of machinery now in wich to operate my business with and dont owe a penny on any of it. I am by no means wealthy now...but I like to beleave a make an above average income and live pretty nicly.

The only unfortunate thing you might discover is that when this business turns from a hobby to a source of revenue to support your self its not quite as fun as it used to be.

launboy
12-28-2004, 11:31 AM
For being 17 and a senior(i know age really doesn't mean anything) you have a lot of equipment, especially for 30 accounts. When you are out doing your 30 lawns a week with one of your pick ups and trailor, what is the other truck and trailor doing. To me it sounds like you have major equipment components just sitting on your drive way costing more money then they are actually bringing in. You say you have roughly 2 employees plus yourself, for 30 accounts that seems like a lot of man power for 30 accounts.
Just because a customer wants services that require equipment that you don't have doesn't mean you have to go out and spend top dollar for the euipment. Rent it or pass the service on, it sucks but one thing i've learned from my expiernces and older lco's word of mouth is don't spread yourself thin. Focus on one thing and go to town with it. Then when that is accomplished SLOWELY move to the next service. It just sounds like you are spending more money than making it.

coastallandscapesolutions
12-28-2004, 11:43 AM
When is it worth it? How do you define "worth it?" Is it when you are making enough money to pay your bills? Is it when you work for 20 years and retire? Is it when you have the freedom to do what you want to do? What is your time worth? Where do you want to be in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years and 20 years. What are your goals? Matrial things? Family? Education? What are your dreams and goals? Do you like what you are doing? Do you see yourself doing this is 5 years?

If someone handed you $100K for your business, what would you do if you sold it? What makes you happy?

What you are asking is something that only you can say.

DUSTYCEDAR
12-28-2004, 12:14 PM
its not what u do its what u keep
only u know what u make
so do a biz plan and see
just for fun lets say u work all year and make 50k
then u pay all your bills for the biz 45k and u end up with 5k in the bank
was it worth it?
only u know the true cost to be in biz and the average lawn guy will not get rich fast lol
but i like the freedom it gives me to do what i want when i want to for the most part.
the other thing is u dont have to do all for all people stop buying stuff
do a few things well and u will make money if u keep buying crap u will only make money to pay the crap off and never any for yourself
there will always be something that u want or fell u need but dont buy it its the nature of landscaping bigger is not always better lol
good luck in the new year

Soupy
12-28-2004, 01:26 PM
Do you really need the employees? They can eat into profit real fast if they are not needed. Wages, WC insurance, Taxes etc.

Have you ever heard the phrase "I work for my employee's"? That is when you actually make less then your employee. This is very common, and I have seen it many times. I was a shift manager at a restaurant that had 1.5 million put into it. I was the only management staff that also waited tables (I was basically just the head server with a few duties that got me listed as night manager) and I made more money then anyone associated with the restaurant.

Now in my example it couldn't be helped, but A part time LCO can be run by one man.

Runner
12-28-2004, 01:55 PM
Alot of good advice and observations have been given here. The first thing you need is a plan. What do you call "making it"?
First, ask yourself...How much do you want to make? 50k? 75? 100?
After you establish that, then work down from there. You are getting experienced enough to know how TRUE expenses work (I say this, because there are still many that don't). You need to know exactly what it's going to take to pay for these expenses. I'm talking true expenses...in other words YOUR mortgage. YOUR garage and/or shop. YOUR consumers bill. YOUR supplies. You may even want to get with your dad and ask HIM on some of these things...this will be a great help to you, and I think he'll admire you for inquiring and thinking ahead. Then, figure in all of your expenses, labor, taxes, insurances, etc.. By doing this, you will get a decent idea of just how much you have to gross in order to end up with what you want to make. (Hint: What YOU make is a SMALL fraction of what the company grosses).
Now, you are ready for the next step. How can I achieve this? How much grass will I have to mow to do this? Do I want to just mow grass, opr do I want to venture into some other operations that are more lucrative? (You can't pick any other operation that ISN'T more lucrative than mowing). From there, you will say this is where I am...this is where I want to be. McDonalds was doing pretty good when they sold their first Billion hamburgers, but you know what? They THEN said. "Hey, if we can sell this many here in the U.S., how many can we sell in Germany? France? Japan? China? England? Well, you get the picture.
Anyway, any true successful businessman doesn' talk about what he has accomplished...he is talking about what he is GOING to accomplish what he is building. There are those that live in today's world,..and there are those that live in tomorrows.
You, are one of the types that build. When I say that, I mean build your future. The main thing is, is what do you want to do? Myself, I wouldn't be happy doing anything else. I've done a few things that I figured I'd like - I even aquired a college degree to pursue it. This is why I do this. It is what I love. Would I love to make more money? Yes. Would I love to have medical benefits that I could actually afford? Yes. Would I love to be making enough for a real wealthy retirement? Yes. (Because right now, I'm not). It takes planning. I have just gone through some transitions, and am still going through. I am still traveling in the same direction with the green industry, though. Sometimes, you've got to roll with the changes. Here, you might as well give it up if you think you're going to make a good living cutting grass. It's just not going to happen. You have to be a full service operation. This is one of the changes that is being made in our industry. It is getting to a point where it is a "One call" market. People are wanting more and more to shop under one roof. They want to make one call, and have everything taken care of. When my customers have a question about mowing, thay call me. When they an issue with their irrigation, they call me. When they have an issue with teir fertilizer or disease, they call me. When they have weeds in their beds, they call me. When they need flowers planted and cared for, they call me. When they need their shrubs trimmed and ornamentals pruned, they call me. When they have landscape to be replaced, they call me. This way, they are not talking to 3 different people who are passing the buck. They are also not writing out 3 different checks for various services. As I say, the buck stops here. Know this ahead of time, Eric, because you mark my word...you're going to see ALOT more of it in the near future. Word of advice.....Read this book by Robert Kiyosaki entitled "Rich Dad Poor Dad". I think you will indeed get something out of it that you will carry with you the rest of your life.

mdmowerman
12-28-2004, 02:03 PM
i am also in teh same situation myself. (school and lsc) one of my buddys dropped out of school and took out a $300K biz loan when he was 22. (had 3 mowing crews....) over time things began to crash...and when i say crash i mean one of those NASCAR wrecks w. 15 cars in it that spans around the whole track. employees beat stuff up, truck got it wrecks due to carelessness, DOT regs, blah blah blah..... now its him and 1 helper. 97 properties a week. hes told me that "making it" in the landscaping company, pretty much comes down to luck. you can have all the equipt and best employees for a bit, then you luck can turn. sometimes it is completely out of your control.

what ive learned....
if you want to do physical labor after youve graduated from college (which better not be for more than a year or 2 for me if i stick w. it) and things seems to be going well. game on!
if not... abandon ship

CASH & CARRY...

DO NOT get yourself into dept (other than a vehicle).

NEEDS vs. WANTS...... personally its come to self control for me...also depends on what day of the week my 'wants' come up.

Kelly's Landscaping
12-28-2004, 02:11 PM
Your question is a lot easier to answer then most here think. Itís right in front of you. You want to know when will you start making real money you gave a list of equipment you own and most here have focused on that. But that my friend is not the problem you posted you have 30 accounts. That is not the problem you posted you have 2 employees at what for me sounds like very cheap wages but they are not your problem. You posted you want to double your accounts this year what that tells me is you are growing. You are still actively trying to make your business larger that requires tons of cash equipment, man power, advertising, accounting you name it its on the list.

So when do you start making real money? Do this set your goals for how big you want to get. Number of accounts number of trucks, mowers, workers. Then reach that goal and stop spending when you get there buy the new mower only after the other one is dead tighten your routs make sure your guys are very well trained and do not waste your time going back to fix things. You do all that Eric you stay at that level and do not try growing once you meet your goal and guess what you will have more money then you know what to do with. I am going in to my 18th year in this trade and my 3rd in business for my self I am still pushing and still trying to grow as fast as I can. Right now we net around 10-15 k a month and if I was not trying to still grow then I would say for many that would be enough. It is not for me so we keep pushing we pay cash for our equipment and have for the last 2 years this year I am looking at loan to speed things up in spring and why 75k sounds big when I see our figures will be hitting 50k + a month it no longer looks that big. If you are going to borrow cash Eric do so very limited do not borrow what will take you years to pay back try to only borrow what you can pay off in 1-3 months and you will not get caught in that trap you hear people here speak of.

So do some soul searching Eric and figure how big you want to be and then how long it will take you to get there. Don't just pick a number and shoot for it be realistic in what your experience tells you that you can do. Once you know this your have an idea how long it will take you before you are making the income level you seek.

Smithers
12-28-2004, 03:21 PM
Eric, lots of great advice from the experienced guys here..

I just have to add one more thing. There is a ceiling with mowing lawns..once you hit that, the only way to screw yourself is to add more employees thinking that the more lawns you get, the more money you will make...Which in fact will result in lots more overhead and nothing but trouble for you (and more headaches).

I am a part timer, had 5 accounts this year. Next year planning on getting another 5-8 accounts. Did my business plan. It was an Excel file, not really a 100 page plan that you take to the bank for a loan.

Let's say i made $20K gross this year, kept $7K for example. My numbers for next came out to $50K gross and $15-$17K net.. These are just examples, not the actuals.

and that includes me being busy ALL THE TIME. this means that I can NOT make any more than that from next year on becuase i still have a full time job. This is pretty much what i will be making year after year. Make some calculations based on 60 or 100 accounts (easy, just multiply you earnings now x 2 or 3) and you will see if htat will be enough.

My moral of the story.....As Runner and Kelly said.....mowing is just to get your foot in the door. The installation is where the beef is. I made $65 installing 14"x15" piece of sod this year. Made $35 pulling out a shrub....Made $25 installing a new shrub in the same place.

It would have taken me 3 cuts to earn the $65 that i got for the sod...

In the install business, there is 3 times mark up incase the plants/trees die....I have made more than 125% profit on installs...great money and people appreciate it more...cause everyone can cut their own lawn (they just choose not to), but not everyone can install a piece of sod (dont want to).

hope this helps.

Smithers
12-28-2004, 03:25 PM
forgot to mention....you are 17 years old. If you cut grass 80 hrs a week, when will you meet women? when will you spend time with them getting to know them? do your calculations on having Fridays and Saturdays off and you will see that just mowing will not cut it.

If you have one install per week that cost $3K ($1500 profit) ....how many lawns cuts do you have to make to get $1,500 profit? easy question.

Just one problem....fot the installs....you need lots of BIGGER equipment like a tractor, bob cat, bigger trucks.

mtdman
12-28-2004, 03:36 PM
My first 3 or 4 years in the business, we spent a lot of $$ investing in equipment. After we obtained all the equipment we needed for the services we provide, we didn't have to keep reinvesting every year. For the last 5 or so years, I really haven't had to buy anything major. A trimmer or blower here and there, nothing major. I have taken profits to buy the aerator to expand my services, but that wasn't necessary. So pretty much after I got past the first few years, things were smooth sailing. Now, however, I'm at the point where I'm going to have to start replacing mowers and reinvest again. It's sort of a cycle.

I understand how you feel, though. Our first full time year, we didn't make any major purchases really. We made a lot of $$ that season. But the next year we added another mower, a new trailer, bush trimmers, dethatcher, etc and spent a lot of $$. That was discouraging.

As far as mowing only, that's mostly what I do. I don't think it's necessary now or in the future to HAVE to be a total service business. It all depends on what you want to do and who you want to aim at. Personally, I want nothing to do with landscaping or installations. I sub out my ferts so I don't have to do them. I want to stick with lawn maint and improvements. I am looking to diversify in that area, but I don't feel I have to do everything that I could do just to make a living. If you aren't prepared or organized, you could end up running around trying to do everything, and getting nothing done. I've learned that first hand. As long as you can make $$, do what you want to do, offer what services you want to offer.

tinman
12-28-2004, 03:49 PM
Once your biz turns from part time to full time it is more stressfull, takes more time & attention, because it is your living not a hobby. I think if you like what you're doing & make decent money you have made it. If you don't like it you will never be happy. The biggest probelm with the Lawn care biz is needing / wanting so much equipment. It is never ending as you said and it is mechanical tools so it will eventually tear up. This is different from other service businesses.....painting (few rollers, brushes, ladders, caulk guns - no engines on these tools) , Pressure washing ( only one machine, hoses, ladders, tips) , house cleaning (ladders, rags, broom, mop, vac, etc)

Personally I will have made it when I'm in an office doing only desk work and listening to sports talk 4 days a week, 9 months a year!

Smithers
12-28-2004, 04:16 PM
Tinman,

You dont need to be listening to the DAWGs games...they are not going to the Dome anytime soon....now that Meyer has landed into the Swamp. :blob3: :blob3: :blob3:

rodfather
12-28-2004, 04:18 PM
Eric I can tell ya it took me at least 5 years to being "comfortable" doing this full time (2005 will be our 11th). I think my forte has been the ability to attract great employees and my fairly extensive business background (don't forget, I just turned 50) to help me run my company. Not only was I a VP of a mangement/marketing consulting firm, I was also the Director of Training at Hertz for many years as well.

I don't wanna use any cliches, but you are ONLY 17 my friend (btw, at your age, I was only interested in racing my 61 Vette and chasing skirts). I've read many of your posts during the last couple of years and have always admired your enthusiasm, determination, and ingenuity. BUT, things just don't happen overnight.

I can tell ya firsthand going from 30 to 60 accounts in one year will produce some growing pains...good and bad. And as mentioned, there will come a time where you don't have to feel like you are constantly putting money back into the business (by buying equipment) each and every year. What you need to look at is the point to where maybe only 1 major purchase (a truck, a mower, etc.) is needed every other year or so.

The best piece of advice I can offer you Eric is advice my Dad gave me eons ago. He said to me, "Rod, when your job is no longer fun and becomes nothing more than just work, get the hell out and get out quick, too." I guess what he was trying to impress upon me was even though work can be stressful and tiresome, but it should be enjoyable as well.

You know you can always give me a shout or email me. Hope that helps some...Cheers :)

DLCS
12-28-2004, 06:20 PM
The best piece of advice I can offer you Eric is advice my Dad gave me eons ago. He said to me, "Rod, when your job is no longer fun and becomes nothing more than just work, get the hell out and get out quick, too." I guess what he was trying to impress upon me was even though work can be stressful and tiresome, but it should be enjoyable as well.

You know you can always give me a shout or email me. Hope that helps some...Cheers :)


Rodfather,

Your dad must have been a very wise man cause so many people take their whole lives to figure that out.



FSM,


Enjoy being a 17 year old kid, you have you have a life time to work hard and build your business.

rodfather
12-28-2004, 06:24 PM
Rodfather,

Your dad must have been a very wise man cause so many people take their whole lives to figure that out.



FSM,


Enjoy being a 17 year old kid, you have you have a life time to work hard and build your business.

He still is as he turned 80 last week.

rodfather
12-28-2004, 06:26 PM
FSM,


Enjoy being a 17 year old kid, you have you have a life time to work hard and build your business.

Hear hear, very well put.

muddstopper
12-28-2004, 06:51 PM
Eric, I think you are missing the big picture here. You are growing your business as you should be but, Having to have it all right now is what is eating up your cash. Sure you buy used and restore, nothing wrong with that but, you seem to think you need every bit of equipment you can get your hands on. Your Ideal is that you will need it as your business grows. And you will but, do you really need it now. Another thing, you are graduating high school, what about plans for furthering your education. You can learn a lot in college, like how to manage a business successfully. This doesnt mean you need to quick growing your business, it just means you need to slow it down a little and take the time to figure out which direction you want it to grow. Maybe you should consider just keeping the account you have and concentrate on improving your education some more. Then decide if the lawn business is for you.

geogunn
12-28-2004, 06:58 PM
at what point is it worth it?


eric--I don't think you will find that point in the LAWN BIZ.

IMHO--you are an industrial engineering genus in the making.

you need to go to school and get that degree.


GEO :)

Norm Al
12-28-2004, 07:33 PM
if you could dance like this guy you would be a millionaire?
http://www.freephotoserver.com/files/img68573642_54938446.gif

rodfather
12-28-2004, 07:34 PM
eric--I don't think you will find that point in the LAWN BIZ.

IMHO--you are an industrial engineering genus in the making.

you need to go to school and get that degree.


GEO :)

GEO, I have to say in the last few years, that is the smartest thing you have said btw.

Norm Al
12-28-2004, 07:48 PM
http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/charliechocolatefactory/

tinman
12-28-2004, 08:34 PM
Tinman,

You dont need to be listening to the DAWGs games...they are not going to the Dome anytime soon....now that Meyer has landed into the Swamp. :blob3: :blob3: :blob3:

They'll make it next year even though the local yocal's favorite QB David Greene will be gone. Shockley will do fine and all those backs will put some huge #'s up. I think I remember Tennessee winning the National Championship the year after Peyton left.
As for Meyer, it will take more than one season to get used to the SEC. He is a good hire definetly but it's not too easy to beat UGA, UT, and now South Carolina just to make it to the Dome.

mrusk
12-28-2004, 09:55 PM
Your 17 and still in school. You do not need to worry about making profits. Dump every dime into the business you can. Think about it. You have nothing to loose now and everything to gain. You have no wife, kids or morgage. Don't worry about having money in your pockets now. If you invested every dime into the business now, when your 22 and get married your'll be pulling in over 100k a year and will be able to sleep easy at night.

I am 18 and am set to go full time in the spring. I worked my butt off this year to making going full time possible. I made more money this year then what the starting salary at my old HS would be for a new teacher. All my money is going into my business. I know with my plan for growth i won't have any extra money for 4-5 more years. But thats ok, because i will be doing what I WANT. I will be incrediable proud of my self to be driving a truck and trailer with my name on the side of it, depending on no one else except myself.

Matt

MacLawnCo
12-29-2004, 08:11 PM
Eric, I think you are missing the big picture here. You are growing your business as you should be but, Having to have it all right now is what is eating up your cash. Sure you buy used and restore, nothing wrong with that but, you seem to think you need every bit of equipment you can get your hands on. Your Ideal is that you will need it as your business grows. And you will but, do you really need it now. Another thing, you are graduating high school, what about plans for furthering your education. You can learn a lot in college, like how to manage a business successfully. This doesnt mean you need to quick growing your business, it just means you need to slow it down a little and take the time to figure out which direction you want it to grow. Maybe you should consider just keeping the account you have and concentrate on improving your education some more. Then decide if the lawn business is for you.
Listen to this man please, he is on to something.

Without an education, you are going to be very thoroughly screwed once someone figures out how to get growth ******ent for a full year from a PGR for example... get my drift? Have a fall back plan for your life.

With every thing you purchase, do a need vs. want evaluation... guarantee you dont NEED 2 trucks, 2 trailers, 2 large mowers...

Do you have a mentor yet? An old chinesse proveb says to ask at least 3 older people (mind are all at least 50) before making any large decision.

Look at your market... Columbus IN isnt where i would dream of starting a landscaping business... can you say Blue collar?

Fareway Lawncare
12-29-2004, 08:24 PM
You're not Making Real Money until You are Running the Biz from an Air Conditioned Office. Take Yourself Out of the Physical Work ASAP...Manual Labor is a Dead End.

ALarsh
12-29-2004, 11:37 PM
Having an education can bring you where you have never thought you could go before in life.

I think some of this "have a fall back plan" is BS. What do you want to be thinking day in and day out?

1) It's ok if I fail. My plan is to go to the construction company if I fail so I will still be fine.

2) I'm not failing. I'm going to make it, not matter what it takes. I am going to be in the top 50 list of LCO's, what ever it takes; Iím going to be there. Yes, thatís where Iím going.

Get an education, grow your business.

Show TruGreen whos boss. :drinkup:

PaulJ
12-29-2004, 11:42 PM
Eric, You must have had a busy fall. I haven't seen you post much on here lately.

First I have always admired your drive and joy for this business.

Next year will be my fifth season. I am full time solo but This isn't our only income.
I think you have more equipment than I do So with that you will easily be able to handle much more work without taking time out for school. I know no school in the summer but usually spring and fall are busier. I think you must like equipment like I do. If there is a machine to do a job easier I want it. But you really have to weigh how much use you will get out of a machine before you put the money out for it. sometimes it's better to rent do the job another way.

Seriously consider continuing your education after high school. If there is a college close to you you could take some classes part time and still run the business.
Anything horticulture related would be a plus and some business courses couldn't hurt. A full 4 year program may not be the way to go but with the right training you can expand into landscape design or irrigation or tree work and the list goes on. Something I have found is that the more services you can offer your customer the better. Especially commercial locations. Many want to make one call for everything outside.

Hang in there the grass will be green again in few months.

geogunn
12-30-2004, 12:19 AM
GEO, I have to say in the last few years, that is the smartest thing you have said btw.

why thank you ROD! I do try from time to time. I really do! :p

GEO :waving:

battags
12-30-2004, 04:18 PM
eric--I don't think you will find that point in the LAWN BIZ.

IMHO--you are an industrial engineering genus in the making.

you need to go to school and get that degree.


GEO :)

I've told Eric that in previous posts, as have others. He's right, Eric. Get your degree and keep the lawn biz on the side until youre done. It will always be there if you decide school is not for you. Better yet, just start out by taking a few business classes at a community college.

Brian

Turfcutters Plus
12-30-2004, 05:16 PM
Hey frankenscag,you do have lot's of engineering smarts.You're young.Go to school and use your smarts for something better unless you truley love this business.I started because i'm a musician/teacher who loves working outside mowing as my main job.All i wanted to do at old jobs is play!This biz alows me to play when i want.My downfall is that i hate business beyond myself and all the crap that goes with it.I've made all my personal goals happen.I'm a lucky one.Good luck to you,i know you will do the right thing for you.Use your smarts and make some $.I felt successfull banking$20,000 yearly after all costs.

Flex-Deck
12-30-2004, 06:41 PM
Hmm. Two trucks - 2 trailers, ---- 30 lawns. How big are the lawns - I am guessing 1/2 acre average = 15 acres = very little income = very large overhead.

My wife and I will mow 38 acres for the county next summer - 120 miles - (thank God I have a diesel dodge) for $1000 per mow-10 day cycle and we can do that in one long day with a JD 455 (tractor-for all you ZTR fans) and a JD 595 (tractor):

Now we also have some 7 & 14 day accounts. In all, we will average 38 hrs a week for 7 months (Including driveing and mowing time,) and gross $60,000, That is an average of $100 per hr. including driving time. Man - It is neat to get behind the windshield and know your money is still coming in.

There is a thread about what do you do for efficiency - I know what I do, and it works.

Soupy
12-30-2004, 07:47 PM
Hmm. Two trucks - 2 trailers, ---- 30 lawns. How big are the lawns - I am guessing 1/2 acre average = 15 acres = very little income = very large overhead.

My wife and I will mow 38 acres for the county next summer - 120 miles - (thank God I have a diesel dodge) for $1000 per mow-10 day cycle and we can do that in one long day with a JD 455 (tractor-for all you ZTR fans) and a JD 595 (tractor):

Now we also have some 7 & 14 day accounts. In all, we will average 38 hrs a week for 7 months (Including driveing and mowing time,) and gross $60,000, That is an average of $100 per hr. including driving time. Man - It is neat to get behind the windshield and know your money is still coming in.

There is a thread about what do you do for efficiency - I know what I do, and it works.

Flex, I know I give you a hard time, but that is because you brag about it in every post. I don't believe your efficiency has anything to do with your tractor. It has everything to do with the Modification that you made to your tractor (big difference). You can't just go in and buy this miracle tractor, so why do you keep comparing it to a ZTR?

Also, your efficiency just means you cut more grass a week for the same amount of money. How does this help your overall expenses? I can cut much, much less turf for $60,000 gross a year. Besides that isn't that great for two people (you and your wife). I can cut two small lawns in an hour and gross more then that. So how does cutting 7 acres compared to 1/2 acre per hour help your bottom line?

All you have proved is that wider decks cut faster then smaller ones. You are still only making $50 per man hour. I make a little more then that and my stock mower cost a lot less. So show me were the efficiency makes you more money.

Besides the fact that we (most co. with a ZTR) can make the same GROSS income per hour, we have less wear and tear (your cutting 10x more turf), less operating expense etc (it cost you a whole lot more to run two engines and maintain that beast of yours, plus it cost you more). So How efficient are you again?

I always end my post to you with a compliment, so here goes. I think your modification was brilliant. You can no doubt cut a butt load of grass with that thing. You would no doubt be efficient if you could/would charge for it. Your mower would be great for a home owner or business cutting acres of land in house.


Note: I am talking about operating efficiency and that is what you always refer to. I will always admit that your tractor mod cuts fast and is efficient in time. This is why people should never charge by the hour. The guy cutting with a 21" can't expect to make the same hourly rate as the guy cutting with a 60" ZTR.

ALarsh
12-30-2004, 07:50 PM
Here we go again

Soupy
12-30-2004, 08:46 PM
Here we go again

Yea, I thought the same thing when I replied :rolleyes: I need to just let it go, but it is hard for me to understand the whole concept. I wouldn't even care, if it wasn't the center of every single post he makes. I'm done though. I feel like I am being a real jerk to Flex (that is not what I am trying to do) , but if he would have a conversation about it (maybe he can prove me wrong) we could put it to rest. I know that is never going to happen. My only intentions is for readers to realize that his comments don't pertain to the real world and that Joe Blow should not think a normal JD garden tractor is going to outperform a ZTR like he would have you believe.

Flex, I am sorry for hounding you. I will stop now. Good luck in the future!

mrusk
12-30-2004, 09:33 PM
Eric,
You need to get into the more profitable jobs such as installs, pavers and walls. With the right jobs you can easily NET 10 grand a week with 2 laborers. Don't tell me it can't be done, because i've done it.

Matt

Smithers
12-30-2004, 09:41 PM
Eric,
You need to get into the more profitable jobs such as installs, pavers and walls. With the right jobs you can easily NET 10 grand a week with 2 laborers. Don't tell me it can't be done, because i've done it.

Matt
Matt,

Here is a question for you. How did you lean how to do these things.....pavers, patios, walls?

Please dont tell me "Learn as you go" because there is nothing more amberrasing than the customer wondering why you are reffering to a boook.

edward hedrick
12-31-2004, 11:40 AM
Eric: your top heavy. I have 30 clients, one truck part time.

Too much extra for 30 to carry. Need more work or less overhead. Ed

captaingreen
12-31-2004, 12:34 PM
Matt,

Here is a question for you. How did you lean how to do these things.....pavers, patios, walls?

Please dont tell me "Learn as you go" because there is nothing more amberrasing than the customer wondering why you are reffering to a boook.
I'll second this. I am REALLY wanting to learn more about hardscape specifically, but can't seem to find a good source anywhere here in Mid-MO.

YardPro
12-31-2004, 01:03 PM
i agree with the satement that you are really top heavy.
My father has about 80 accounts that he (76years old) and two part time helpers (my father and his helpers only work about 30 hrs per week in the season) care for with a 44"toro zmaster, an old dixon, 3 weed eaters, two backpack blowers, a 21" a stick edger and a set of hedge trimmers. They only use one truck.

He works 30 hrs a week for about 7 months ,has 2 moths starting up and finishing with much reduced hours, and has 2-3 months almost completely off.

he puts over $60K in his pocket every year ( he is retired, so this is just grandkids money).

whoever said there is a cieling to mowing is dead wrong. There is if you stay solo, but adding employees and doing more work will add profit.

mbella
12-31-2004, 01:17 PM
Eric,
You need to get into the more profitable jobs such as installs, pavers and walls. With the right jobs you can easily NET 10 grand a week with 2 laborers. Don't tell me it can't be done, because i've done it.

Matt

Absolutely, it can be done. However, I wouldn't say easily ( if net means the same to both of us).

To learn more about hardscape, the best way is to read as much as you can (ICPI's website) in order to learn about soils, compaction, estimating and the overall construction process. The other thing to do is get hands on experience. In order to get hands on experience you either have to work for someone else or volunteer your free time with a reputable contractor. If you really want to learn, this shouldn't be a problem.

J Hisch
12-31-2004, 04:34 PM
I am reading a central theme. Too much equipment and too much help for the amount of accounts. It might serve you better not to do all the extra for the one timers and stick with your 30 accounts and handle it yourself. Also all the insurance and trucks equipment maintenace are eating away your bucks. 30 accounts when you graduate you should make a nice living with that for being 18. But the problem you seem to currently have is your equipment line hasnt caught up with your work load. Meaning your at a barrier. If you could grow then you equipment will be maximized. Remember it is not haw much equipment you have that equals success. It the amount in the bank that makes you successful.

rodfather
12-31-2004, 04:44 PM
whoever said there is a cieling to mowing is dead wrong. There is if you stay solo, but adding employees and doing more work will add profit.

I've been saying that exact same thing for years here...

FrankenScagMachines
01-05-2005, 12:26 PM
Sorry for not responding guys. Been really occupied with lots of other things and have not been on here since making this post. Thanks for all the great posts. They have really challenged me alot and made me think about some things seriously.

Let me explain a little further:
Truck 1- primary work truck- 1989 Ford F350 flatbed dually w/460 motor. Low cost to own, repair and maintenance is cheap. I paid for it in full at time of purchase. Very reliable and capable, will do anything I ask with ease. Gives large capacity for cleanups and mulching, etc. The expensive part is gas (6-7 mpg) and insurance (i'm working to get that price down too).

Truck 2- plow truck/winter driver/toy/backup towing truck- 1976 Dodge 3/4 ton 4x4 w/360 motor. Paid for at time of purchase. Cheap rough truck, repairs easy for me to do, parts are cheap, insurance is real cheap, the only bad thing of this one is it gets no better gas mileage than the Ford F350.

Trailer 1- 22' open trailer, that I built myself this past summer. Built it because I outgrew the other trailer i started with, and really needed something bigger to put everything in and free up truck bed space so it could be used for hauling debris and such. Great to have this trailer.

Trailer 2- 12' open trailer that i started business with. My parents bought it several years ago, last spring I rebuilt it using mostly my money. So its still their trailer because I thought it was worth the rebuild cost for them letting me use it all this time. I still use it occasionally for small stuff but it is really theirs.

I have all the 2 cycle stuff, plenty of that for regular use and then backup use as well.
Mower 1 is a 2004 Ferris 52" ztr i bought this spring new, financed it through their great finance deal they had.
Mower 2 is a 1999 Exmark TTHP w/b 52" or 36" that I bought last year used. It is paid for of course. Also have a 42" snowthrower for it, so this machine is a great year round work horse. I converted it to 36" this summer after purchasing the Z, I sold the junky old 32" gravely walk behind i had, and put the 36" deck on this one to handle the gated areas and such. Its been great and this spring I beleive i will put the 52" deck back on to let my helper use it, and i don't beleive we will have as much gated areas to need it on so this will maximize its use.

So my only debt is on the Ferris, it should be paid off next year. My main costs are gas, insurance and payment on the Ferris. I am not interested in landscaping or hardscapes/installs that sort of thing. I have no interest whatsoever in those areas. I sub out shrub work and let customer find someone else for fert. work. I do the mulching, mowing, leaf removal, cleanups, snow removal, and anything closely related to that. I have never really had to rent equipment because I keep my work limited to what i can effeciently handle with the equipment I have. We don't do everything but what we do, we do well. My helper is only part time as needed. He worked pretty much almost full time this past fall, but we were booked a week or two in advance most of the time as we have alot of extra work in the fall besides regular customers, and that is great in my opinion. I find it extremely difficult to do fall cleanups working solo. For the larger mulch jobs I usually get someone to help, small jobs I do myself. For the mowing, only help as needed such as if i get behind due to being rained out or had a breakdown or whatever.

For next year, I plan on advertising in the yellow pages and maybe in the newspaper (previously only used paper and it works ok, tried flyers but not effective here and takes more time to do that than i have available). I have thought of selling or trading the flatbed and getting a half ton or 3/4 ton pickup with a small block V8, like a Ford F150 or F250 with no bigger than a 351 motor. Now that I have the larger trailer, a large truck is not needed as badly (though still great for mulch, leaf removals and cleanups we could work around that I guess). It would save alot on gas and insurance as well plus be more practical for running errands and for personal use (which is an issue as of now I drive the old Dodge or sometimes the Ford but they're both hard on gas, and neither good for road trips as neither have overdrive... just not practical for personal stuff). I don't mind using either truck for personal stuff at all its just costly. My parents are pretty good about loaning me a vehicle to use for this stuff but i feel bad using others stuff and worry about the possibility of a wreck. I have never been in a wreck or had a ticket but I would feel bad if something happened to one of their vehicles while i was in it.

I can't remember who it was but someone mentioned how would i have time for women? I probably wouldn't and that would be great!!!! another great way to cut costs!!! LOL.

I was planning on taking a couple of classes at a local community college. I really want to take a year off for a break after i graduate and before i take those classes (OF COURSE my parents don't think that is a good idea).

The thought has crossed my mind to sell out the biz and get a job somewhere, but I can't think of anything i would rather do and I know i would get bored and wish i hadn't done it. I have thought of selling the big trailer, the Z, the flatbed (and get a pickup) and some of the other stuff and going back to where I was last year, except being full time... no debt at all, cheaper operating costs, smaller and simpler stuff. BUT that would kind of be backpedaling as I have worked 2 years hard to get to where I am at, ready to go full time with all the equipment I should need, i will have double the income and less overhead. Hopefully that formula should work! I am thinking of selling the flatbed to get a smaller pickup and keep the old Dodge for backup and plowing. I am hoping to get a property this year with a barn/garage/shop and maybe an apartment on top of it or a small house. Our house/driveway/property is just not working.... we live on a highway and it is dangerous to get in and out of the driveway with the rig, there is no room at all once in the driveway (due to too much stuff and my things are too big to utilize the circle drive) and the rest of the property is no good as it is all sloped sharply downhill from the driveway, have to share the garage with dad plus all my tools and gear there is no room to get anything in to work on. All my stuff has to sit out in the weather all the time. So i know I gotta minimize costs and maximize income.

Anyway sorry for rambling but hopefully this will help tell where I'm coming from and what I have to use/deal with. Thanks for all the helpful informative replies. I'll try to check in more often and reply to this thread.

Eric