Very true, i like the story
We've been beat up with "lawn accounts" all last year and even so the year prior.. $20 companies/jo smoes coming in now cutting our $40/$45/even $50+ accounts with small and cheap machines all day long.
Reliability and customer service and professionalism dont mean squat to clients these days, at least not 90% of them. Ive built this business to the point that i can offer all 3 at an affordable rate. But why will a client choose to pay my rate over a guy thats 20% cheaper that offers nothing but just the straight service thats on the contract... cut lawn once a week for $20?
I've felt like i've been in the MID area for a while now. I keep saying im a "small company" which by my income sure as heck feels like it. I went from push mowing lawns to doing everything now. Your competition frequently out prices you in any aspect.
Hard to compete with hardscaping because the 100% hardscaper comes in cheaper, faster, more efficient, cheaper labor workers, cheaper product, better supply costs and can probably do a better job sometimes too than I can.
Landscaper comes in that does it 100% of the time, again cheaper supplies, cheaper labor, bang, 20 10' tall trees in the ground in 5 hours and customer is happy, my customer :/ because they were $300 cheaper in the end.
Irrigation companys come in, you bid 3k for a install job for your own client. 1800sprinklers comes in and offers it for 2k, or less even. I dont know this until the end, i try to cut down on almost all profits off the job, to offer the job for $2300 to the long time client, he tells 1800sprink that another company was lower, even though i was not, they come back $1800 WITH 7% sales tax, WTF? they get the job, client now reviews everything we do for them and thinks that we over charge, one client switched his lawn company even for 2008 because we were $39 a cut, xyb company/joe says he can do it for $28, he asks me for counter offer, i said we dont cut anything less than $30!
I can go on and on, this has to be one of the toughest "labor" businesses out there. I see big huge companies fail all the time especially now with the economy. Companies that i hated because they sucked up all residential patios and landscape jobs last year now will have zilch for work and i know are probably going to go under by end of 2009. It seems every year I've made huge drastic adjustments to where we focus our core services.
Started, i built up the lawn mowing business, look at the mowers i own now, and we now use them all 1-2 days a week, they sit for most of the week every single week.
Then bolstered landscaping, tree installs, planting, garden drip irrigation.... last year was way low on that too.
Started 12v high end lighting, did a few last year, but just mostly quotes and then sticker shock for potential clients, they go and buy a $300 malibu kit and never call me back :/
Started tree services, trimming, pruning.... now we have 3 chainsaws, pole pruners, powered telescoping pole pruner, ropes, harnesses, probably well over 10k plus a small chippper...... i used this stuff 2x last year for small jobs.
Started bulk commercial maintenance, one employee lost our only better Echo hedge trimmer that was in mint condition but 2yrs old :/ Bought 2 new stihl 81s, 24" for 1k. We got the dump trailer, built sides on it, now need a f550 12' landscape body dump truck and dump insert for the other truck.
50-60% of our work last year was maintenance, commercial mulching and trimming and weeding and bed edging services. I never thought my nearly 4k hydro bed shaper from Little wonder would ever pay off when i got it 2yrs ago. But this work is difficult at best, long lists of work with completion deadlines, employee problems, one guy wants to be home by 5pm, another 7pm, another will sleep on the mulch pile overnight and work until 11pm if i wanted.
Then after putting in 60+hrs a week for a month straight doing this work, it comes to a halt, you go back to your 2-3 residential jobs a week and now instead of needing 7 guys you need yourself and 1-2 others if that.
I go from having every truck out each day in april to 5 trucks and more trailers sitting the whole rest of the year.
Fall comes and every joe with a leaf blower wants to blow leaves for $20 an hour when we need a minimum of $150 in 2008 just to entertain sending 2-3 guys out to cleanup, blow or collect and remove leaves and fall debris.
Then you get a call from one commercial account that they're unhappy because your guys didnt pickup and dispose of a huge 6' wide, cut down hedge that another house contractor hacked at the base in may, your guys mowed around it the whole year and now they expect this to be removed as part of their leaf cleanup? It never ends.
We have a customer list of probably 500 clients, only maybe 40 are active in the present time, we've only gained as many as we lost each year for the past 3 years it seems. Its always something, or lower prices, or they move, or they do the work themselves. I feel the days of 5-10yr clients and contracts are long over. My longest is 4yrs i have a few people, most are 1 season and thats it, yet most claim they were happy with the service.