View Full Version : Looking To Grow.... ?

02-05-2005, 10:25 PM
im lookin to grow this season,,,just a bit nervous... i need to ad heavy.. to get enough work..right now we do one crew (3)men, a few days of lawn and a few days of installs (pavers plants Landscape work) however i cant seem to make enough at this.. so my thought is to expand Two crews.. one lawn and one landscape.. although i need another truck . hopefully a 6yd dump..cost is crazy! especially if i go deisel.. any experience with this venture. advice wanted>>>> plus i would need 2 more employees.. to really make it work.. its either too much work and not enough guys or too many guys and not enough work! thanks

02-06-2005, 10:05 AM
Has anyone taken this jump..? from small to med size comp? i know its risky. but business in itself is risky. I am putting all my stuff on the line to jump to the next level, but not sure exactly how to start off, and grow

02-06-2005, 10:22 AM
My biggest concern when axpanding are good formen. I can get laborers no problems, but finding someone that is good enough to be a team leader is the hardest part IMO. Equipment, trucks, and trailers tend to come easy, but the people behind them are what count. :)

02-06-2005, 02:49 PM
have a foreman that could run lawn crew.. i would head up land crew, and need 2 others and a 5yd truck

Randy Scott
02-06-2005, 03:44 PM
We're going from 4 full timers to 6 this season. That doesn't include me in either number. I realize now that we're making the step of me working in the business to me working on the business. I have decided that I cannot rely on myself for any manual labor in the field. Last season I ran myself ragged trying to do estimates, delegate work, promote the business, and all the newly added paperwork. There just aren't enough hours in the day for this type of scenario. You will not be able to make it work well at all. The sooner you realize that, the better off you'll be. To keep half a dozen people busy takes a lot of time and effort. From all aspects of the business. You might think you have a lot of work to do until you start getting it done more efficiently and with the added labor. Before you know it, half the season is over and you didn't sell enough work for later in the season.

It's very hard to let go, but it has to be done. You can kid yourself all you want, but you can't do it all. At least not very well or in the profitable fashion that you will need to.

You have to make a decision as many have in growing their business, you have to take yourself out of the field. Your other choice is to have additional help for estimates and selling work along with a bookkeeper. I chose to do those roles while my help is in the field. It's tough enough to let go in the field, there was no way I was going to let go of the interior tasks.

Yes, the tough task of buying equipment to supply the help is always a challenge. Like you said, you have to take risks. If not, punch someone else's time clock and let them have that burden.

Personally, it's almost getting a little late to start your game plan for this scenario starting this season. Working on new budgets, marketing ideas, and looking for help. I have about 80% of all these tasks done or put into motion. Which I started working on months ago. It takes some brainstorming and sleepless nights to gather your thoughts and ideas to make this transition, and hopefully make it work as well. You might want to chug through this season as you are and plan for next year. Might be a good year to really fine tune procedures and employees so that it is a bit less of a worry next season. The smoother the operation the smoother the transition.

Just some things to think about. The bigger you get the more critical everything becomes. Little mistakes become big ones. There is a larger ripple effect as compared to a one or two man show.

02-06-2005, 04:53 PM
we jumped into a 2nd crew last year. We went to 2 two man crews. It takes 2 men a little longer to get each of thier jobs done but we didn't have to add as much new work to keep both crews busy. This year we are adding an applicator for the fert. end. This will help me so thats 1 less thing that I have to do. He will also help on a couple of days each week on the other 2 crews so we can add some more with them as well. We can add a 3rd person as needed also. Things went real well last year but i'm looking for A foreman as well this year. Good luck

02-07-2005, 02:15 PM
Hey garden keeper, how was the expansion from 1 to two crews.. did you have 1 lawn and 1land? I think 4 men total.in 2 crews is efficeint, and regarding taking myself out of the picture..No not yet. Im not speakin of growing that big, just lookin to grow the landscape end, and get myself out of the Lawn end of business. I already have a foreman for this (lawns) i would be the landscape forman and we could all team up if things get busy or if things get slow ( lawn crew works with land and vice versa) You dont think this will work??? and advertising is in process now. You cant really sell landscape jobs with snow on the ground. nobody here is even thinkin about summer yet.. give your opinions to this
My overall idea is even if the two crews dont pan out exactly as i like. I still need a 5-6yd dump to make our landscape jobs go smoother. the 3yd is ok but inefficient. Just cant seem to make enough$$$ with 3 men on one crew cutting lawn 3 days and installs 3 days.. need to branch off

02-07-2005, 03:54 PM
i hate to be the rude one, but i think you have a larger issue at hand.

you mentioned twice, that you cant make enough money. getting larger is only going to compound that problem; not fix it.

I cant tell you exactly what you are doing wrong, but if you want to put up some financial ratios and vague stats, we all can get a much better idea of where your issues are.

02-07-2005, 05:47 PM
you gotta spend money to make money. I just cant see staying where your at. if you cant produce more you need to expand. and 3 men can only do so much on one crew? with two, there would be a lot more work getting done, provided i have the work. Its a risk, i know, but am willing to jump in

02-07-2005, 07:04 PM
some random thoughts:

out of curiousity, is "you gotta spend money to make money" your sum response to macLawn's question or are you digging up your financial projections for us to chew on? if you haven't done that, any advice people might give has zero bearing on your business because the phrase quoted has no bearing on what you seem to want to do. "spend money" doesn't mean "add significant headcount and overhead" if you have no solid, strategic marketing plan to financially support those goals. it could be applicable if you are adding additional service lines, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

spend money to make money is like an amatuer golfer trying his hardest to get that sweet back-spin on the ball when it lands on the green. if you haven't flown the ball past the pin, the back-spin looks great, but you're farther from the hole.

buying an expensive truck to make current work "smoother" is not a cure. buying an expensive truck to handle additional work is.

look over your last couple/few years of work and figure out what type of backlog you've consistently had.

and as randy said above, it's really late in the game for those types of goals, for all of the reasons he listed.

02-07-2005, 10:39 PM
For me it worked VERY well. We had 2 trucks already. Both 3/4 tons. When we added the 2nd. crew we were overbooked by the end of the season the year before. We knew we could land more Mowing jobs / Maint. jobs so that is what we went after. Crew #1 did primarily the mowing and weeding. While crew 2 took all landscape, Mulchings, prunings and xtras. We have a condo assoc. that takes all of us to do on 1 day. that left 4-4 1/2 days for the rest. Like I said I was overbooked last season working 50 + hours per week. By taking a 3man crew down to 2 and adding more work I was able to keep employee hours real close to the 40 with very little overtime. this helped the bottom line. We got everything done except a couple $3000. landscapes done.to be carried over for first thing this year. I also can't take me out of the labor force just yet. But I am gaining on it to cut back a bit hopfully in a year or two. The nice thing about the lawn crew is once in place it doesn't get slow. ALL our lawns are irrig. We did add a 12000# dump trailer which was cheaper than a nother truck. Look at your numbers very carefully because the other guys are right. I knew that I could add More maint. I was already over booked and ready to expand and yes I was making money with moderate but steady increases each year.
Good luck Gardenkeeper88

02-08-2005, 08:44 PM
without a doubt. you gota look at your numbers, and yes maint acts or mowing are not the issue, if i advert, (which i never do) i could probably triple.Its the landscape installs that i cant be sure of to have 5 days per week
As for the truck, like i said, i really need a step up for our installs. We use the 3 yd truck- say on a 3000sq sod replacement, and i loose my foreman for a couple hours of trucking. with a 6 yard truck you take less trips overall in and out. This jump is not extreme, i dont know why everyone is getting all negative?? I already have 75% of the labor i need, i have all necesssary equip, and 1 of the trucks(3yd would use for lawn ) Just need a truck )6yd ) and 1 good employee, as for work, i always find March and April are my months of booking, I dont get many to sign up in Dec or Jan, on either maint or construction jjobs. I know many who have also made this jump, *as mentioned above* Worst case scenerio???? guess i would have a big truck and an extra guy?? keep comments coming,,,, thanks

02-08-2005, 09:28 PM
I guess to a point were at that stage in the game as well. Were doing 150K, looking at adding another branch company 20 miles away and I am looking at 350K in that area.

I am moving our main manager over there to run daily ops. I will am adjusting to business owner as to business worker. I have a hard time letting go of the hands on stuff but I also realize I own, run, manage, the business at hand.

With this though we are jumping into the sweeping & striping business as well. If I can offer mowing, spray/fert, general maintanace of the grounds, were going to offer striping/sweeping as well.

As with everything, you need to know your numbers, keep overhead low, and starting out - manage debt.

02-08-2005, 11:30 PM
a few days of lawn and a few days of installs (pavers plants Landscape work) however i cant seem to make enough at this..

It might be helpful if you quantify what you feel is "enough" money.

Are you struggling with a volume issue or a margin issue? If you are booked 5-6 days a week with one crew and you do not feel you are getting an adequate return form that crew then you are looking at an expectation or margin issue. If you are not booked then with a volume issue I can better see your point. I am assuming that similar to most operations that I have seen/modeled your maintenance accounts are providing you a lower margin than your install accounts. A typcial trap that you can fall into is that you are not as profitable as you can be but you are going to "make it up in volume".

Good Luck

02-08-2005, 11:41 PM
Just was wondering why you send you foreman, your best man and guy who makes all the decisions when you are not there, to go get sod. Don't send your highest paid guy to get sod, etc. and sit in the truck, when you could be putting his knowledge and experience to work on site. Send your next best guy to do that. Your not paying him as much, therefore not wasting as much money. Just my 2 cents.

Had the same thing happen here. Foreman would always jump in the truck to run and get everything. When he is the one that knows how the job is to go and should be done. Then the other crew members were not sure exactly how things were to be done. Therefore wasted time.

02-09-2005, 01:02 AM
"This jump is not extreme, i dont know why everyone is getting all negative?? "

last i checked, a near doubling of headcount and a hope of doubling revenue, all within this calendar year IS the very definition of extreme when you seemingly do not have any formalized strategy or financial projections to support the jump.

don't take this the wrong way, but i really don't get the feeling that you've come up with an actual plan to do this. have you figured out your hard costs that you will need to cover through growth? do you have the ability to meet payroll as you try to scale up?

as for the worst case scenario you seem to be wanting, isn't it pretty obvious what that is?

have you figured out what that extra truck and guy will truly cost you?

the people who've responded so far seem to have a handle on what they needed to grow, ie solid supporting numbers, so the mention of them as comparison on the basis alone of having made a successful jump is apples to oranges.

02-09-2005, 10:32 AM
LLCO- it is a volume issue with installs. cant get enough! and

jrieff- exactly( my foreman jumps in truck - but hes also an older guy) and needs that break and the only one with CDL and experience driving efficiently

Tony- i agree all negative on me--- it not extreme and yes ive been crunching numbers for months- just keep having worst case scenario thoughts
I have much experience and education in Buisness(mkt, acctg, mgmt ) ect
just having a hard time making decions????

02-10-2005, 09:11 AM
What would you do?????

02-10-2005, 06:11 PM
"What would you do?????"

come up with a solid plan and work towards whatever goal you have. short of that, what exactly are you looking for?

you say you have much education and experience in the key business areas, but so far you've seemed to have tossed all of that out of the equation. if you were using those skills, your decision making process that you seem so troubled with is not a problem whatsoever. none. zero. why is it not a problem? because if you've used those, you've made realistic expectations and revenue forecasts tied to overhead costs needed to facilitate that growth and realized that your view of chasing money by spending money is flawed at it's core.

short of you sharing your projections so that an apples to apples comparison can be made and advised upon, this thread will continue on only by you bumping it. sorry, but that's the reality of business.

02-11-2005, 09:34 AM
ok tony, education is the financial end of this expansion question--covered. Not saying i dont know how im gonna finance my stuff or what not, just need experienced advice of how people in this trade have taken a 3 man lawn and landscape firm to a 4 or 5 man multi services - seperate crews firm. Just like reinforcement of my plan, i guess.

02-11-2005, 11:51 AM
look into getting a mentor. ALCA used to offer such a program... duno if its still around now that it is PLANET. there is no reason to go this alone, but no one is going to hold your hand either.

02-12-2005, 08:36 PM
I guess i need to know what types of marketing work best. For obtaining more landscape (installs and so on)??

02-13-2005, 10:43 AM
When reading all the entire thread, the longer it goes the more unsure it sounds like you are. This reply isn't Meant to be a negative for you ,but I feel you should be sure of your business, market around you and what new accounts you can realisticly sign. If you are not sure than than maybe try to hold off a year. If your sure that it'll work than finalize your plan, Start going for those new accounts and "go for it". I usually see that uncertainty does nothing but holds business's back. Sometimes a little sometimes alot. There is always unknown factors, but none of us here can help you with those. Its now down to you, and the strength of your business and available market. I always have 1 more helper in my decisions (other than my Wife LOL) and thats God. I'm not a every sunday church goer, but he does help us in ways we don't always see. Best of luck, and by all means keep growing. Cause a stale business will get you no where. :D

02-13-2005, 01:25 PM
Thanks Garden. Good point, got a lot of stats and info to review!

02-13-2005, 11:50 PM
What type of ads/mktg work best for you>? direct, indirect, local paper, door hangers, cold calls.?? thanks

02-13-2005, 11:56 PM
Instead of all that money spent advertising - do a buy out of a local competitor or friendly foe willing to get out of business!

That should increase sales, work load, accounts, and your time!

02-15-2005, 07:57 PM
That would be sweet. but what do i do? call every LCO and see if they are thinkin of goin out of biz.? good idea, but i think i need a way to drum up my own biz. I've tried door hangers - not much luck. thinkin of direct mail, buying a list, and doing the mailings myself. What do you think?

02-15-2005, 10:07 PM
I don't know your area at all and every one has a different approach, tactic, and moral / ethical business idea of what to do and to do.

One example of what we did two years ago. There was an area "boy" that starting mowing and took a few of our residential accounts. He was 16, driving, dad's money, but a nice kid. Dad was well known and that was his leverage.

Well, I offered him a job and a small finders fee for the yards that he had in return he work for us.

He is still with us and I gained 18 accounts, 4 which were ours in the beginning, and everyone is happy.

02-15-2005, 10:38 PM
Good idea, i could try that

ACA Lawn Care
02-16-2005, 02:06 AM
The Law of Diminishing Returns in economics, is a law stating that if one factor of production is increased while the others remain constant, the overall returns will relatively decrease after a certain point. Thus, for example, if more and more laborers are added to harvest a wheat field, at some point each additional laborer will add relatively less output than his predecessor did, simply because he has less and less of the fixed amount of land to work with. The principle, first thought to apply only to agriculture, was later accepted as an economic law underlying all productive enterprise. The point at which the law begins to operate is difficult to ascertain, as it varies with improved production technique and other factors. So keep this in mind, what goes up must come down. Don't jump in head first.

02-16-2005, 09:20 AM
sO what you're saying is not to hire too many guys. i know the rule of diminishing.... but its always either too many guys or too much work. I dont think there is ever a happy medium?

02-16-2005, 10:35 AM
Scraper, If my advice is worth anything, I might recommend that you focus. Do some analysis and see which types of jobs net you the most profit and also see which jobs are the most abundant. Hopefully, these two are the same but if they are not, try to determine which is more profitable in the long run. For example, if you net $400 a day in landscaping and $600 a day in mowing but you think that there are more landscaping jobs available then mowing jobs, then go with the landscaping.

Once you have determined which area to focus on, then do it. Put your time, energy, and resources into that area. Maybe if you focused on landscaping, you would get particularly proficient at it. You would be able to streamline more and reduce your overhead. You need to be using all of your equipment every day. If you don't then you are loosing money.

Advertising - Try this. 100 sq. ft. flower garden installed for $X. And put a picture of in on a flyer and put it on peoples doors. Underneath that picture you write "Other landscaping services available." People don't want to have free estimate. They want to know the price. There is a difference.

02-16-2005, 11:32 AM
I never let them know the price up front. too many variables

02-16-2005, 11:42 AM
I never let them know the price up front. too many variables
Yes, I know that. That is the problem.

But what variables do you have with a flower garden that you cannot control?

We have already set the area - 100 sq. ft.
We have a set number and type of flowers.
We have a set amount of mulch
The install time will remain relatively constant

When you put a picture of your work along with a price on a flyer and deliver that to a customer, they will see your work and they will think "yes, I like that and can afford it." You then go to do the install (which you are particularly proficient at since you have done many that are similar) and you point out some other work that needs to be done. The customer then thinks to call you for their other landscaping needs.

You win both ways with this. You make a good profit on the install and you get your foot in the door with a customer.

02-17-2005, 02:13 PM
thanks for your input PTP, but arent you the guy saying your getting 400 accts this year? sound like a loose cannon to me. But i thank you for your input!