Thank you Jim Lewis
Thanks for this thread Jim Lewis. You have proven a point I have been making; basically, different stokes for different folks.
I'm still a few weeks from launching a lawn care company, but have been doing extensive research and worked last summer for two established local companies to learn the ropes. I've also talked to many equipment dealers and every lawn guy I run into out in public.
I've found a great diversity in opinions on any given topic, but one thing 75% of people agree on: each person's particular way of doing things is the only way it can be done!
For example, an operator told me adamantly that you CANNOT make money in the lawn care industry if you are not running Ferris and Redmax. Makes me feel sorry for all those Exmark/Wright/JD/Dixie Chopper/Stihl owners out there laboring away for naught.
Here (Central FL) we have hundreds of developments, tens of thousands of homes, all built in the last 30 years, all with relatively small lots. The newer/nicer (middle class) properties (target market) seem to actually have the smallest yards.
The norm is to drag around a 60" sit-down and a 36" walk-behind (with/without velke). The 60" is for a 60-second mowing session in the front yard. Then they park it in the shade (can't put it back on the trailer yet) , walk back to the trailer to get the 36 for the back yard. After the 36 is put away, they walk back to the 60 and put it back on the trailer. Since most front yards seem to be small, it seems obvious that you could accomplish the same thing in the same or less time with just the 36; but then you'd have to give up the "big truck, big mower" mentality.
I'm going to try a leaner approach, with just a 36 stand-on, a smaller & lighter trailer, and (heresy) a smaller tow vehicle (mostly because that's what I've got...may upgrade that later). I believe this set-up will produce as well, even when you factor in the many lawns without fences (gates) for the back yard.
Thinking of it as a "scalable" business, I believe I can outfit three crews like that for the same money as two crews with the 60/36 combo...that's potentially 50% more revenue (assuming approximately equal productivity) for the same capital investment. Even as a solo operator, I believe I'll have nearly equal productivity for several thousands of $ less capital investment.
I explained this concept to one guy who was so upset by it that I thought we were going to get into a fist-fight. (Should have kept my mouth shut!)
I used to service another (now dead) industry as a consultant, travelling to dozens of operations in 8 states. I noticed a similar phenomenon in that industry: (1) everyone was doing something either a little- or a lot different and (2) they were each convinced that theirs was the only way it could be done. Most everyone wanted to know how they could make more money; but only a minority were willing to try anything new to accomplish it.
The guys willing to try new things might lose money on some of the ideas and then make back a lot more money when they found things that worked better.
My concept is different than the local norm, but I'm willing to be wrong. In this case, it happens to be a cheaper way to start out anyway. If it turns out that THE ONLY WAY I can make money is to cart around another $8k+ machine then I'll just go get one; I'll still need the 36 in either case.
Having said all that, you can see why I love seeing your post as proof that bigger is not always better. Congratulations on your obviously successful operation. I will be thinking about it as an inspiration as I move forward.