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CharlieBingo
02-03-2005, 03:54 PM
After downsizing, I began making more money. Grossing less and netting more. I have watched guys go belly up with two, three and four hundred customers. I know several guys with less than 100 lawns doing very well. Are muliple crews ,fleets of trucks and too many workers like quick sand. Everyone aspires to get bigger are we barking up the wrong tree?

Randy Scott
02-03-2005, 04:15 PM
How small of downsizing are you talking? One man show with a helper? One crew, two crews?

Money can be made at this game, whatever size you choose to be. Don't blame the business for failure if someone can't do it large scale. It's their fault, no one else's. Plain and simple.

My question is, do you want to do this every day all day when your 55 years old? I sure as he ll don't. Therefore, I better be able to succeed with many employees.

Flex-Deck
02-03-2005, 04:48 PM
I am solo - wife helps a bit - would never want to put up with crews, headaches, people tearing up my equipment. Thanks

packerbacker
02-03-2005, 04:57 PM
I am solo - wife helps a bit - would never want to put up with crews, headaches, people tearing up my equipment. Thanks




Flex, how many accounts do you have and whats the average size of them?

021462
02-03-2005, 05:04 PM
I also am mostly solo. I have a part time helper for about 20 hours a week and on big jobs I pick up a few others just for that job. I have about 50 to 55 accounts at this time. I have a friend that has twice as many accounts and he keeps two guys on the payroll year round. He make 3 times as much money as I do but, when it's all said and done we have the same amount of money left over at the end of each month. I don't know if growing the business past a certain point is the answer or not. Sometimes you feel like all you are doing is touch the money for a breif moment and then handing it over to someone else. I guess the question is "how much headache do you want"?

grass_cuttin_fool
02-03-2005, 05:13 PM
The headache part is what I was afraid of. Employees not showing up or maybe making a customer mad, abusing equipment. Atleast being solo, I dont have thoose problems. Plus being able to keep the employees in work year round, it would be hard to do because Im mainly a mow, trim, blow and go. I do offer hedge trimming, mulching and leaf removal but I just dont think I could keep a crew busy enough to keep them
On the downside of being solo, if you get sick or down who does your work and where does the pay check come from?.

Harleyboy52
02-03-2005, 05:17 PM
How small of downsizing are you talking? One man show with a helper? One crew, two crews?

Money can be made at this game, whatever size you choose to be. Don't blame the business for failure if someone can't do it large scale. It's their fault, no one else's. Plain and simple.

My question is, do you want to do this every day all day when your 55 years old? I sure as he ll don't. Therefore, I better be able to succeed with many employees.


55 is just a number!! I'll be 58 next week and this year will be my first full year. I work as a full time firefighter and work 24 on and 48 off so I'll be able to mow 4 days a week. I only have 7 accounts right now but hope to have about 35 by May. I bought good equipment so I'll have to make a go of it to be able to pay for my stuff. I know I haven't been out there in the 95 degree heat yet but I'm pretty tough. I have a lot of expensive hobbies so I have to work two jobs. Out of the 75 firefighters at my dept. there are about 30 LCO's. Wish me luck.

rodfather
02-03-2005, 05:29 PM
My business gets bigger each year with a larger customer base and more employees...wouldn't have it any other way. Period

SprinklerGuy
02-03-2005, 05:32 PM
I think there is a tweener point...meaning, in between small and large. That tweener point is a bad place to be, in any industry.

Think about it: (please don't knock the example...it is just an example)

one guy 50 accounts at 30 each....(for this example I'll use 40 mows each) 60k right?

Lets assume your helper will cost you $500 per week with labor and labor burden...just assume, please don't knit pick these numbers. so that adds 10 to your costs per lawn.....meaning you only make 20 per lawn...remember this is very simplified...not taking anything else into account but the labor and it's burden!! :)


Now before you added this guy you were mowing a total of 2000 times at 30 bucks each right?

After you add the guy you are mowing a total of 75 accounts 40 times = 3000 mows...but you are only making 20 each because of labor burden.....same money correct? 60,000 dollars in net.

Please remember this is fictional..but it is a numbers thing and it does play out correctly.

Now, you have a helper, you aren't working as hard, yet you are on the jobs yourself and they are still getting done properly. And you aren't really getting as beat up as you once were...but you are still working the same hours probably.

As you add accounts and employees and crews etc…..you make less per lawn, but you can do more lawns. There is a certain point in your growth where this makes sense…and not only that, you are building a BUSINESS instead of having a job. Yes there are more headaches…yes it sux to have employees and responsibility, all of these things are issues for sure, but so is your body.

Lets say you are mowing lawns for 20 years….you still have 50 accounts..you are still making pretty good money, but now your body hurts. What do you think you will do? You can sell the business for peanuts and get a job…but you probably won’t make the same money and now you are working for someone after having 20 years of autonomy. Boy, I know I don’t want to do that. No way.

If you had continued building a business over the course of these 20 years..and managed it properly..chances are you have a business that you would be able to sell. Or maybe you won’t have to, because by then you probably aren’t working in the field much, if at all.

I have run into this same issue with my company in Arizona. Right now it isn’t really paying the bills because I downsized to concentrate on other things. Because of this, I need to make a decision. I either have to grow again to get out of the “tweener” zone, or I need to sell the company at a huge loss. I have grown quite accustomed to being out of the field…and I enjoy the office work, but I got lazy and let the company slide a bit. But at one time, I was making very good money and not doing any physical work. I know it works, I also know it is a PITA to operate a large company with 10-12 employees…but if I had kept it that way….I would have had something to sell.

I am getting off track and I’m sorry. The bottom line is you have to make that choice. Smaller companies are more streamlined and can be profitable…but they have their limitations. I think the biggest limitation is time leverage. With employees you can leverage THEIR time and energies to make you money, without them, you are leveraging your own time…and while you have the time and energy to do the work yourself you can do quite well and have very few headaches. But as you grow older and get tired, that will change.

Sorry for the ramble..but this is a bit of a sore spot with me…and being on both sides of the fence at one time…I feel like I have a bit of experience and knowledge in this area.



Good luck to you whatever you decide.

CharlieBingo
02-03-2005, 05:38 PM
I'm talking about one crew (three or four guys). If run properly and charging properly can generate a lot of net profit. In my area any idiot can have two or three hundred lawns; just work cheap! I define success by how much I net not by my new truck or multiple crews.

SprinklerGuy
02-03-2005, 05:39 PM
Btw...just can't shut up can i?

Yes smaller is probably more profitable....measure in percentages...but you are limited by how much work you can actually do.

Bigger will have smaller profit margins...but............

20% of 1 million dollars in gross revenue is 200k.....can't do that solo.

Smalltimer1
02-03-2005, 05:43 PM
After downsizing, I began making more money. Grossing less and netting more. I have watched guys go belly up with two, three and four hundred customers. I know several guys with less than 100 lawns doing very well. Are muliple crews ,fleets of trucks and too many workers like quick sand. Everyone aspires to get bigger are we barking up the wrong tree?


Common economics question, we are talking about this very thing in my college economics course.

There is a 'sweet spot' so to speak for a business. You are experiencing a higher efficency rate than your buddy. The more you can do with less labor, the better off you will be. The big question is are you equipped to be able to maintain this level of efficiency??

marko
02-03-2005, 05:46 PM
As long as you can run efficiently, bigger will always make more money. Even if after a crew is set up and equipped and all expenses paid, they make you an extra $200 a week ($5400 - $8000 a year) Is it worth it having to put up with employees, more customers, etc for the return??? It does put it in a little different perspective seeing $200/wk x 27 - 40 weeks, huh? Could you imagine having 20 crews like that? Even up north that would be a respectable income (with the short season). The question is do you want to deal with the headaches of being bigger??? To some it is just not worth it. Some can't "let go" and have a crew operating without the owner standing over them watching everything. I am starting out the year solo, but I am concentrating on small properties only (20 - 25 min a cut). I will not have the overhead that some do using multiple ZTR's, $10,000 trailers, $35,000 truck, etc, etc, etc. As I grow I plan to almost double in size every year until I have 3 crews going. Then I will re-evaluate, where I want to be and make adjustments from there. I think one area people get into trouble is buying excessive equipment, and then taking work (sometimes jobs they should turn away) just to get money coming in with the hopes of dumping them down the road when a profitable job comes around. They end up going broke before the good ones come around.

DennisF
02-03-2005, 06:46 PM
Larger companies don't necessarily make a bigger profit margin. Total profits of a larger LCO's will obviously be greater, but the return on investment can fluctuate wildly. It would take a semester or two of economics to cover all the pros and cons of big verses small, but if you want to make a comfortable living without a lot of headaches then solo is the way to go. You won't get rich as a solo, but you won't die young trying to get there.

Flex-Deck
02-03-2005, 06:58 PM
Flex, how many accounts do you have and whats the average size of them?

I have 10 accounts that average 4 acres each - ranging from a double lot in town to 17 acres - I am pretty much geared to larger areas in the commercial end.

I just landed the county parks bid for next summer - 38 acres - 10 sites all the way from 11 acres to 2/3 acre. Most of the sites are around 4-5 acres.

rodfather
02-03-2005, 08:14 PM
Simple fact. You will never become wealthy or retire well working alone in this business. Period

rodfather
02-03-2005, 08:16 PM
Larger companies don't necessarily make a bigger profit margin.

Very true Dennis...but my firm will make it up in volumn...many fold.

rodfather
02-03-2005, 08:29 PM
It would take a semester or two of economics to cover all the pros and cons of big verses small, but if you want to make a comfortable living without a lot of headaches then solo is the way to go. You won't get rich as a solo, but you won't die young trying to get there.

Doesn't take a couple of semesters Dennis, believe me. I have a BS in Economics, another BS in Marketing, and a MBA in Industrial Relations. i know how long it takes.

You want a comfortable living without headaches? Hire reliable people and pay them well...treat them well too. Die young? I just turned 50 and I've had my company for 11 years now and make more money than any solo op could ever imagine. done

mommacutz
02-03-2005, 08:40 PM
Doesn't take a couple of semesters Dennis, believe me. I have a BS in Economics, another BS in Marketing, and a MBA in Industrial Relations. i know how long it takes.

You want a comfortable living without headaches? Hire reliable people and pay them well...treat them well too. Die young? I just turned 50 and I've had my company for 11 years now and make more money than any solo op could ever imagine. done
Did you start off solo or with a crew?

Mark McC
02-03-2005, 08:48 PM
I have a tremendous amount of respect for both Dennis F and Rodfather, but I have to say I think Rod is on the better side of this debate.

Dennis, I think that if you were to explain that line of thinking a bit more in depth, you'd probably tell us about marginal returns versus marginal costs...among other things. It's a point we'd all do well to think over seriously when looking at expansion.

But I have to tell you all that I just don't believe it makes sense to allow your entire economic existence to rely on your continued good health. Yes, it's less headache, personnel-wise, to work solo, but God help us if any of us blows a spinal disk.

I was solo last year, and am looking to hire a full-timer this year. It will likely be 2007 or '08 before I can think about a second truck/rig, but I have to think along those lines. But projecting numbers, as fuzzy as they can be if one is not strongly familiar with the market, is really the simpler part of the task of managing a business with more than one employee.

So, while it's true that managing people is really the toughest part of any management position, those who opt not to try to scale that rock are profoundly at risk unless they're insured to the hilt for income loss. That's real expensive insurance, if I'm not mistaken.

CharlieBingo
02-03-2005, 08:54 PM
I wasn't talking about a solo operation. I was thinking more about one crew streamlined and running at max efficiency. Rodfather, I know so many LCO's who sound exactly like you; about getting bigger every year with several crews and they usually have too much to control. Crews start slacking, smoking grass instead of cutting it, cutting their own lawns on your time with your crew, abusing equip. etc. With perfect workers ,dealer support, etc it's easy; but most of the bigger guys have trouble with illegals, out of state drivers licences, guys not showing up to name a few.

rodfather
02-03-2005, 09:01 PM
Did you start off solo or with a crew?


Just the 3 of us...me, myself, and I...lol

jim dailey
02-03-2005, 09:06 PM
How small of downsizing are you talking? One man show with a helper? One crew, two crews?

Money can be made at this game, whatever size you choose to be. Don't blame the business for failure if someone can't do it large scale. It's their fault, no one else's. Plain and simple.

My question is, do you want to do this every day all day when your 55 years old? I sure as he ll don't. Therefore, I better be able to succeed with many employees.

1. What the hell is wrong with 55 years old? I'll be 56 next month. Been into this going on 16 years coming up. I am physically fit, and always have been that lucky.
2. I have 71 customers. I am solo except for a nephew that helps out 15-20 hours per week. Some weeks...not at all...he has a girlfriend. I would love to do this until the day that I wake-up DEAD. At one time I had 145-150 customers with 2 crews and all the associated equipment. Unfortunately, I also had all of the associated headaches...and no more money than I do now. I down-sized and am more than happy this way.

Randy Scott
02-03-2005, 09:12 PM
So, while it's true that managing people is really the toughest part of any management position, those who opt not to try to scale that rock are profoundly at risk unless they're insured to the hilt for income loss. That's real expensive insurance, if I'm not mistaken.

This is really what I'm basing our company from. A one man show can crumble in an instant. God forbid something terrible happens, loss of a limb, a stroke, a heart attack, an auto accident entirely someone else's fault, could destroy your business overnight. I find it hard to believe too many of you are prepared for a tragedy of that nature.
I can, conceivably see still being able to "run" a business based off most of those disasters. Not that it wouldn't be a mountain to climb, but it could be done. Delegating work from a wheel-chair should be a little easier than trying to crawl onto a ZTR from that wheel-chair. Hiring office staff to delegate work to relieve heart stress should be a little easier on you than trying to go out and do that labor after a heart attack. How about partial paralysis from a stroke? That weadeater might get a little difficult to operate properly.
I know they are all "what if's", but they happen, and they happen to good people. Don't think your in the clear, ever.
Not looking for argument's here, just some ideas of what could happen. Guess everyone will do what they feel is best for them.

DennisF
02-03-2005, 09:27 PM
I've got a great deal of admiration and respect for Rodfather and he knows this business as well as anyone here. I have nothing against growing a business and expanding it over many years. It works well for many people. But I think it takes a certain kind of individual to grow and maintain a large business in this industry. If a person starts young and works hard, studies and learns the business there is no doubt that he can be very successful. I won't discourage anyone from attempting to grow a business to whatever level possible. But the very competitive nature of this business and it's physical demands on the person coupled with problems posed with training and supervising employees makes it a difficult challenge.

I didn't get into this business full time until after I retired from GM. While working for the General I spent a great deal of time in production supervision. At times I was responsible for 50 or more hourly, unionized employees. I was in effect a business owner with 50 employees, each with their own problems. Each of them wanting to make their problems mine. That experience was enough to convince me that if I were to ever go into business, it would be a one man operation.
My hat is off to anyone who accepts the challenge of growing a lawn care business and I wish them the best.

lawncare4u
02-03-2005, 10:07 PM
I am solo - wife helps a bit - would never want to put up with crews, headaches, people tearing up my equipment. Thanks

Well said my friend :waving: :waving:

Turfcutters Plus
02-04-2005, 01:11 AM
Amen to Jim Dailey and flex-deck.As for Rodfather i wouldn't want to be you for all the tea in china!But whatever floats your boat.............. :dizzy:

YardPro
02-04-2005, 07:17 AM
i agree with rodfather.

PMLAWN
02-04-2005, 07:54 AM
There is no question that a multi crew/ bigger operation can make more money. "Can" being the important word here.
First each person has to be comfortable doing what they want to do.
There are many people on this site that run solo operations that have set up a well run business.

But, I think that a big reason that a lot of solo guys don't do well growing is that they never set up the business to run right (for growth) in the first place. They don't understand what profit is and how to structure it in the business. They don't really understand overhead. They will use their personal truck to work out of and if they don't have a payment they say it is "payed for". They stick money in their pocket and don't realize that they have to support that truck, or the mowers, or their time in the office, or their overhead.
They do not structure the business to pay themselves and still pay for everything else. And end up with a profit.
There is nothing wrong with doing this. Many people will do ok like this. But if you start to put employees in the operation, This business model will not work.
The business plan has to be set from the beginning to accept growth. The plan also has to be set up to accept the "headaches" or extra costs incurred with the growth.
Yes, A proper run, properly set up business will bring in more money as it grows.
In the end each person has to be happy with their situation and comfortable where they are at.

I would believe that there are very few if any solo people making $100,000.00 (take home, not gross). There are a bunch that make that or more running Trugreen-Chemlawn. Just a point, don't shot me for that.

plateau lawn care
02-04-2005, 08:32 AM
HarleyBoy i think you have been in more than 95 degree heat before. I myself am a firefighter and we had a fire the other night when it was 15 degrees and i was burning slap up in that house. But as far as the ? I am a small 1 man bus and also legite and Incorporated I have no overhead except what comes with gas and upkeepand 1 new mower that will be paid for this year. It just depends on how much money you want to make. Myself i clear about $22,000 a year after taxes and that will go up about 2500 next year when mower is paid for. and i still have extra time to spend with family, but thats how i want to do it we also have 2 other salaries other than lawn buss. It works out great for us.

outsidepride
02-04-2005, 09:54 AM
I ran a spraying company that had 2500 customers grossed $480000 and if we had good year net 12-15% profit range $67000 profit plus my pay of $35000, well i make that right now with two of us with out all the head aches and running 70 hours a week plus telemarketing during the off season. Now i cut grass and plow in the winter instead just my two bits :)

jccordes2
02-04-2005, 11:43 AM
I think PM Lawn hit it on the nose!

can you give me some good ideas/ways you set up your busniess plan?
what formula do you suggest to justify how many people to hire?

I already have a "cost of doing business" grid set up.

Thanks in advance for the advice!

Jeff

tiedeman
02-04-2005, 11:51 AM
I downsized last season and loved it. I went from 2 full time, 1 part time worker down to just myself. Yes, more money in my packet and less hassle. But will I always be solo, nope not at all. I figure that this year is probably going to be my last year at solo, and then in 2006 add a crew back again.

I just needed a break from the hassle, reorganize things better with better systems in place, and most importantly off all pay off some personal debt.

MLI
02-04-2005, 12:24 PM
Im in the same boat as some of you folk...I needed to reorganize...things were getting out of hand. We've been running around 300k gross with profit around 25%. Seems good margins in all, but freaking employees are driving me nuts. I pay my foreman $20 per hr and still get nothing but problems! Im gonna step back and try to run this with 2-3 guys including myself. Im 37 and have been in this racket for 20+yrs. Another way of looking at streamlining with large profits vs. volume and diminished profit is to take some of your hard earned $$ and stick it into the stockmarket. I know for a fact I can do the same net....heck do some simple math...if you live within your means....you should be able to invest 20k+ each year! As a solo you are open to more versatile financial moves like realestate...mutual funds....stocks....cd's..ratherthan have your $$ tied up with business expenses. Ive already built the client base,already have productive methods and connections to streamline.....nows the time for some serious cake!!

YardPro
02-04-2005, 12:35 PM
before my merger in 99 i had the same deal.

i made 35K per year when i did 100K in sales. I did $450K/year and still made 35K
that was all due to poor business decisions. I merged with a company that had been in business for 25 years, and it's owner is a schrewd businessman. Now i make in the $60K range. and have half the headaches.

thinks like keeping your money in a money market account and transferring funds twice per month to cover payroll and recievables (all our venders bill us monthly. if we don't have an account, we won't do business there.) . also most places will give a discount if you set up an account. we always get a minimum of 10% off. but most are much greater.

rodfather
02-04-2005, 12:43 PM
I figure that this year is probably going to be my last year at solo, and then in 2006 add a crew back again.

...and back to snow plowing too I bet. :D

jpmako
02-04-2005, 01:02 PM
Charliebingo,

I am in the same relative position as you.
Like you said in our area any idiot can take on 100- 150 lawns and work cheap. There is one company that comes to mind immediately when you said that. But on the other hand there are many smaller companies some that I have been friends with for a long time, and they will tell you that bigger is not always better. I like to think that I provide high quality services and I care. Some of these others in our general area do not. These are the guys that can have a 6 man crew cutting 1/2- 1 acre lots for $20.00 - 25.00
These guys seem to think that volume is what is making them money.
I myself have about 60 accounts and plan to add approx 20-30 more this season. I have been on numerous estimates last year only to find that some competitors are charging $22.50 for a lawn that I would get $120.00 $140.00 a month for lawn maintenance. I can't compete with some of these guys so I try to sell quality. Having 6 trucks and 15 guys on the payroll is going to be tough to manage especially in our area like where you said out of state licenses and Laborers taking you stuff and doing work for themselves, and all of the other S*** that goes on around here.

Stay small and sell more services to your existing clients. That is what I am trying to do this year.


Jason

brucec32
02-04-2005, 01:05 PM
You have to make a major choice. Do you want to make a living working outside or do you want to be a "businessman". Both have their pros and cons. But I cannot see why, other than lack of education, capital, or skills, anyone would choose to try to get rich and be a big business in this industry. There are much more pleasant and profitable ways to make lots of money if that's your goal.

I was a businessman. I worked with employees and superiors in a corporate enviroment. The last thing I wanted was to recreate those stresses and hassles in my personal business. I especially didn't want to trade working with intelligent (sometimes) people, cute women in skirts, in the air conditioning for working with uneducated smelly guys I often can't even have a conversation with in the heat and humidity.

Basically, if you want an office job, with sales calls, meetings, cash crunches to worry about, phone work, and all that BS, go create or take an office job. If you enjoy working with power equipment or creating beauty outside, go do that. Who trades a higher paying higher status gig managing people and problems for a lower status, lower paying one?

The advantage to me of this business is I don't have to deal with all the people and hassles. And doing that solo or perhaps with a good helper is the way to do that for me.

Want to make a lot of money and don't mind being on the phone all the time and dealing with people and their annoyances? Go sell real estate. Take a course and you can be earning in a few months.

I see guys who are up at 5:30am, out by 6am, home at 8pm, dealing with low-life employees they can't trust or keep, stressing over cash flow, begging for work on endless sales calls, putting out fires constantly, etc. If you're willing to do all that, you can make a lot more elsewhere.

Realize also that you're in an industry that has connected itself to a doomsday device in the form of immigrant labor. Either they will eventually shut off your source of cheap labor, or the immigrants themselves will start up their own companies, employ their friends, and put you out of business unless you are very sharp. So, for all the hassle and expense involved, go do something fun instead.

tiedeman
02-04-2005, 01:15 PM
...and back to snow plowing too I bet. :D

it is funny that you said this, because the last two weeks I have been reconsidering it again. For example, the last 2 to 3 weeks I have only had one snow event to take care of. Pretty boring. I figure that I will probably stay with the snow removal next year again. BUT, if I have a great summer, and I mean really great, then no I will not be doing the snow removal. I gave myself until July to decide what I am going to do.

jccordes2
02-04-2005, 01:24 PM
Since were on the subject of solo or a crew, what have you biggers guys been paying your help $$ ? what do you pay for a highschool kid, what do you pay for a good Hispanic? what do you guys pay for a good Foreman?

The landscaper
02-04-2005, 01:53 PM
It seems like things are pretty well split. I think downsizing every now and then can be a good thing, to weed out lower paying customers. But, I definately would say going big is where you want to be. Just take the time to learn the ropes on the way there. Dont add additional employees until you really need to. Be sure to keep that profit margin as high as possible. If possible, find really good foreman who take away from some of your headaches. I would much rather be out playing golf while my employees are mowing for me and the foreman are taking care of as much as possible. I would rather pay the foreman alittle extra and go play golf than be all over everybody all the time.

Randy Scott
02-04-2005, 02:01 PM
Yes, I think it's definitely down the middle here. There is no right or wrong, it's what each individual can handle. I'm biased and lean toward bigger. Maybe after ten years of that I'll think different. Who knows.

I guess you just need to do what you can handle and what makes you happy.

tiedeman
02-04-2005, 02:53 PM
yup, couldn't agree more with ya Randy

nriddle77
02-04-2005, 03:14 PM
Great thread with lots of ideas to consider. It seems to me that the bottom line is making the most of your situation. Whether you're big or small, you'd better learn to be efficient, productive, and always looking for new ideas to improved your situation. That's what's great about lawnsite, the opportunity to bounce ideas around.

gogetter
02-04-2005, 04:48 PM
What is big? What is small? What is living comfortable? What is a lot of money? What is successful?

These are all subjective questions. As Randy said, there is no wrong or right.
It's about personal preference. Do you prefer coffee or tea? There is no ONE, right answer.

Some guys would prefer the headaches of employees over being out in the field working in the hot sun all day.

Some guys prefer vacationing in Hawaii, others prefer a local bed and breakfast.

Some guys are content with the simpler things in life, while others like a newer house, newer car and lots of toys in the garage.

I will say that I would hate to see someone work so hard to grow a business only to lose it all because of an illness or injury. And I've seen it happen here.
That's not a risk I'm willing to take, so employees are in my future.

As for the comments about employees smoking grass and mowing their own lawns on the clock, well that's just bad managing!!! Nobody to blame there except the boss.

mommacutz
02-04-2005, 05:12 PM
Just the 3 of us...me, myself, and I...lol
How long did it take for you to get your 1st crew. Did you plan it or did it just happen? I mean did you always know that you would expand or did the growth come and you were forced to expand.

mommacutz
02-04-2005, 05:18 PM
I love what we do but I could do it a lot happier no mortgage, 32' boat, golf membership, kids tuition paid, summer home in the bahamas and well you get the idea. I won't stop expanding til I get it. :)

Lawn-Scapes
02-04-2005, 05:32 PM
I have been solo for a long time and the fact is I'm not getting any younger. I don't want to do this work by myself until I'm 60. I'm would like to add an employee this year and see what happens...

Hey Rod... when is that NJ Expo happening? Is dinner still on you?

rodfather
02-04-2005, 05:43 PM
I have been solo for a long time and the fact is I'm not getting any younger. I don't want to do this work by myself until I'm 60. I'm would like to add an employee this year and see what happens...

Hey Rod... when is that NJ Expo happening? Is dinner still on you?

1st week of March I seem to remember Tom at the Meadowlands...like maybe the 2nd? Dinner? Hell yes, why not.

rodfather
02-04-2005, 05:46 PM
How long did it take for you to get your 1st crew. Did you plan it or did it just happen? I mean did you always know that you would expand or did the growth come and you were forced to expand.

Think it was our 2nd year...maybe our 3rd...can't remember that far back.

Was it planned? Of course and so was our expansion and continual growth...it's called having a Business Plan.

Lawn-Scapes
02-04-2005, 06:12 PM
Rod.. You are going to the expo.. right? I'd like to go and meet up with you and anyone else that makes it. Where can I find information about it? Do I need to buy tickets now or anything else? I don't know where you are in relation to the Meadowlands. Are you close by?

rodfather
02-04-2005, 06:26 PM
Yea Tom, I'm going.

I will get more info about it this weekend...monday at the latest. I'm like about an hour away. You can see NYC from the Meadowlands and I am clear across the state about 15 minutes from the PA line.

I know of some others that are going too as well.

Lawn-Scapes
02-04-2005, 07:02 PM
You must be in the Hunterdon area off 78 somewhere? I'll pick you up along the way....

mtdman
02-05-2005, 07:04 AM
I think it's all a matter of preference. But my opinion has evolved the longer I've been in business and the older I get. I for one would not like to be any bigger than 2 crews. That's my preference now, but who knows how that opinion will change in the next few years?

The thing is, you can't expect to remain the same type of business as your business grows. The focus I have as a solo operator will change as I add employees and grow, and find more free time to pursue other avenues in this business. I believe that if you expand your horizons as you grow, the money will be available in other avenues that weren't available as a solo operator.

The first guy I worked with went off and built a huge business with about 6 crews after I stopped working with him. That only lasted a few years before he sold the business. I talked to him a few years ago and he said the headaches involved with employees and crews weren't worth the $$ to him, and that the biggest profit he had was in the year he only worked with 1 other fellow individually.

Whatever the answer, you gotta make yourself happy first.

Mr. C
02-05-2005, 07:25 AM
I think it depends on what you are looking for from the business. If you are looking just to make a good living the smaller is better because you have more personal control over everything but how long can you personally cut grass, run the weed eater and get down to pull weeds. At some point you are physically not going to be able to do those things and what will you do at that point? Find another job, just retire or what?

PMLAWN
02-05-2005, 07:44 AM
There are also people that get satisfaction form running a business. The headaches that most talk about are the reason for doing it as it is a challenge. Coming up with solutions to the problems of the day can be "fun" to some people. It's all about getting out of your enterprise what you want. If you are getting that you are successful

rodfather
02-05-2005, 09:12 AM
You must be in the Hunterdon area off 78 somewhere? I'll pick you up along the way....

Exactly...I can see 78 from where I live in Clinton.

lawnprosteveo
02-05-2005, 10:16 AM
After downsizing, I began making more money. Grossing less and netting more. I have watched guys go belly up with two, three and four hundred customers. I know several guys with less than 100 lawns doing very well. Are muliple crews ,fleets of trucks and too many workers like quick sand. Everyone aspires to get bigger are we barking up the wrong tree?
Just ask the CEO of True Green if he thinks getting bigger is less profitable. I believe you shouldnt hire a helper or buy a piece of equipment unless you are sure it will increase your bottom line...whether it allows you to cut more small residentials per day or whether it allows you to compete in the larger commercial markets.. Buying stuff because it's cool or hiring a guy because you want to get home earlier wont pay off economically. It's just money spent at that point.

rodfather
02-05-2005, 10:20 AM
Just ask the CEO of True Green if he thinks getting bigger is less profitable.

Good point. But I also understand why some solo ops stated they prefer to work alone too.

mtdman
02-05-2005, 12:38 PM
Just ask the CEO of True Green if he thinks getting bigger is less profitable.

This is a good point, but the focus of a huge company like true green is going to be a lot different from a smaller company or solo op. I think with true green, volume and sales is the key for them. Selling as much as they can to as many people as they can. With a smaller operation like me, I don't focus on that kind of thing. I try to focus on quality and customer satisfaction. Two different beasts.

One answer isn't going to cover everyone, and there is money to be made in the business just as long as you are properly focused.

Mark McC
02-05-2005, 01:25 PM
I think with true green, volume and sales is the key for them. Selling as much as they can to as many people as they can. With a smaller operation like me, I don't focus on that kind of thing. I try to focus on quality and customer satisfaction. Two different beasts.

This is precisely how start-up companies crack the market, by providing better service than the behemoths. Thank God for those niches in the market that feed small fries like us.

CurtisHinds
02-05-2005, 02:10 PM
Hey guys. My name is Curtis, and I am out of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. I am new to the site (first post), and run a Lawn Maint business called eco-green.
I have to tell you tha this is one of the more intelligent helpfull threads I have read in a long time. I started my business 'cold' last year, and I have grossed about $80k in my first year. Did not know that this was so good until one of my freinds said 'dude! do you have any idea how well you have done in your first year'.

I am probably going to really really side with 'rodfather' on this one as well. I have started many organisations before getting into lawn care, and can tell you from experience that going the route of expansion in the 'long term' is the way to go. I would like to look back on my business in ten years, and really be able to relax (take relax with a grain of salt. One does not really ever relax when it is your baby).

It really is a choice is'nt it. You have to know what you want your future to look like, and work towrads that picture. Anyways guys. I am really glad to be on this site, and am looking forward to being the newbie that learns from all of you.
payup

tiedeman
02-05-2005, 02:24 PM
welcome to the site Curtis

CharlieBingo
02-05-2005, 02:34 PM
I never said "go out and grab a shovel". My point or question is to manage one "super crew" or three "half a$$" crews"? It's not impossible but is diffucult to build up multiple crews and collect premium rates! Obviously, I believe in the one "super crew", raise rates and focus on quality and extras. There is no one on this site that would be happier to see all you guys make a fortune than me; I honestly feel a lot of us are spinning our wheels!

rodfather
02-05-2005, 03:24 PM
It's not impossible but is diffucult to build up multiple crews and collect premium rates!

Actually, I think it's easier to collect premium rates as your business expands...let me share with you why.

First, my company is at the point with multiple crews that people understand I either get X dollars for something or I walk. I have payroll, payroll taxes, rent, insurance, WC, administrative expenses, new equipment acquisitions, maintenance and repair, and a whole myriad of other costs/expenses that are there everyday whether I get X, X+, or X- dollars per manhour per day. Trust me after 11 years of this full time, it's X+ or nothing at all.

Second, I'm at the point where I don't really need the extra business. If I get a new client or additional business with an existing client, great. If not, I'm not going to lose any sleep.

Third, in some ways IMO, I think it's harder to get premium rates as a solo op. People look out the window when a solo op shows up and sees one person (for example, running just one mower). Conversely when one of my 3-man crews show up, they hop out, 2 begin mowing and 1 is off trimming. We're going to be out of there a helluva lot quicker than a solo operator and I charge accordingly for that customer benefit.

A person who runs multiple crews just has more expense and needs to be fairly compensated...period

DennisF
02-05-2005, 04:43 PM
Actually, I think it's easier to collect premium rates as your business expands...let me share with you why.

First, my company is at the point with multiple crews that people understand I either get X dollars for something or I walk. I have payroll, payroll taxes, rent, insurance, WC, administrative expenses, new equipment acquisitions, maintenance and repair, and a whole myriad of other costs/expenses that are there everyday whether I get X, X+, or X- dollars per manhour per day. Trust me after 11 years of this full time, it's X+ or nothing at all.

Second, I'm at the point where I don't really need the extra business. If I get a new client or additional business with an existing client, great. If not, I'm not going to lose any sleep.

Third, in some ways IMO, I think it's harder to get premium rates as a solo op. People look out the window when a solo op shows up and sees one person (for example, running just one mower). Conversely when one of my 3-man crews show up, they hop out, 2 begin mowing and 1 is off trimming. We're going to be out of there a helluva lot quicker than a solo operator and I charge accordingly for that customer benefit.

A person who runs multiple crews just has more expense and needs to be fairly compensated...period

Rod
I agree with the first two points. I'm in the same position as you as far as accepting X+ dollars or nothing at all. Being a solo, I'm at the limit as to the number of accounts that I can handle. I don't need any new business so If I can't get premium prices for service I won't accept the work. I'm at the point where I had to make a decision. Either expand the business and take more work or remain solo and pick and choose which accounts to keep and which accounts to dispose of. So far I've chose the solo route. But you never know, I may at some point decide to take on an employee or two and give that route a whirl.

But I can't agree with you on point three. I have many customers who have used large LCO's in the past. Most of them have a story that goes something like this "when the crew arrived to cut the lawn they flew through the yard and were gone in 5 minutes". Many of these customers stated that they felt they were being charged to much for the time that the crew was there.
Now, you and I know they probably weren't charged more than what they should have paid, but many people think that $25 or $30 should get them more than 5 minutes of work. I think it's a psychological thing telling them that they should somehow get more for their money. Now not all people think like that, but I've run into plenty that do. Especially older retired folks like we have here in the Sunshine State.
Anyway..that's my thinking on the third point. But again it's just my opinion

rodfather
02-05-2005, 04:57 PM
But I can't agree with you on point three. I have many customers who have used large LCO's in the past. Most of them have a story that goes something like this "when the crew arrived to cut the lawn they flew through the yard and were gone in 5 minutes". Many of these customers stated that they felt they were being charged to much for the time that the crew was there.
Now, you and I know they probably weren't charged more than what they should have paid, but many people think that $25 or $30 should get them more than 5 minutes of work. I think it's a psychological thing telling them that they should somehow get more for their money. Now not all people think like that, but I've run into plenty that do. Especially older retired folks like we have here in the Sunshine State.
Anyway..that's my thinking on the third point. But again it's just my opinion

I see what you mean Dennis...and value your opinion too btw.

lawnguyland
02-05-2005, 05:04 PM
I see what you mean Dennis...and value your opinion too btw.
Ohhhh, isn't that so cuuuute! We can all just get along, can't we :)

Turfcutters Plus
02-05-2005, 05:08 PM
Being solo,you do need lots of friends and family to cover you in an emergency.I know some part time help from the past that could help also.By the grace of god i've never missed a day of work 15 years in the biz.Yea i know that's lucky.I'll continue solo for time being,But as i get older i'll probably have a helper again.Then when i'm way too old,maybe a crew or two.I really do enjoy myself now,so why rock the boat? :) I wish much success to everyone!

rodfather
02-05-2005, 05:13 PM
Ohhhh, isn't that so cuuuute! We can all just get along, can't we :)

Made more sense than some of the idiotic bantering and name-slinging that goes on here...I was voicing my opinion.

lawnguyland
02-05-2005, 05:26 PM
Made more sense than some of the idiotic bantering and name-slinging that goes on here...I was voicing my opinion.
Yeah, I know, I was only joking around, hence the smiley face and it seriously is better than the bickering. But on topic lest we digress, both sides have their benefits and that is ususally the main topic other than equipment that is discussed here, just in a different form of question.