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Old 07-06-2014, 02:44 PM
Steiner Steiner is offline
LawnSite Senior Member
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Central NY
Posts: 407
I can help...

Two guys with Mowers:

Teacher here making 62,000 a year plus massive benefits. Close to 100,000 in a separate 401k that would be in addition to my NYS teacher retirement system. 33 now with only 20 years to work to retire with 30 years.

I can help you, as I work with/advise lots of young local contractors, and I am exactly in your position, and I decided to keep my profession and still do this on the side.

A few key ideas to ponder:

1. Mowing is time/equipment/maintenance intensive. It is also one of the lowest paying areas of the landscaping realm, which is why I went into design/build, and hardscaping. As a teacher I knew that being able to schedule jobs on a Saturday for a 1,000 dollars was going to profit me way more than mowing a ton of jobs for 45 a cut. I get out at 3 but I want to concentrate my effort into one day and not 6 or 7 lawns after work to not hurt my family time. I do a spring cleanup here for 1,000 bucks on my larger estates, in an out in 8 hours, with only about 400 in costs. Key Idea: Concentrate your hourly effort into high paying side work.

2. During the summer I knock out about 40-50k in gross sales which is easy with a few hardscaping jobs and 4-8 complete landscape installs which sounds awesome right? Wrong. Businesses on average profit about 20% from their gross, after taxes, fuel, insurance, workers comp, etc. So if you gross 100k plan on putting 20 in your pocket and driving a fancy truck as most do on here(I don't advise that) Key Idea: Remember that gross sales sound awesome, but they really don't paint that way in real life. As a side job guy I know what your feeling, your flush with cash from the "extra," and your getting hooked. Its like a drug. Be careful, I did a huge hardscaping job for 30k a few summers ago and almost quit my job, problem is the next few years I had nothing that large. I also took a real hard look at those numbers and when I finally looked in an unbiased way I realized I would have a hard time living off that money. You can make numbers up that even you can fool yourself with. BE CAREFUL.

3. This is the tough one to hear so I am going to break it to you softly. It looks like all fun and easy, riding a mower, smelling the spring time, being your own boss, but there are really hard days owning your own legit business. You will stare straight back into the office and wish you were in AC not fixing another breakdown. Take it from me, running a small business is easy the first few years, and its awesomely exciting. But if you really are going to work as hard as you say to make the money you say you are going to make, you will be putting in more hours and trading a lot more. Key Idea: Life is about tradeoffs, everyone thinks being a business owner is easy, the truth is, it is risky, time consuming, and you might just lose all your free time. Make a list if the things you would give up to have your own business, and you will see it is a tougher decision that it feels like right now.

4. Do yourself a huge favor, shadow a few full time landscapers/business owners for a few days and see what it is like. Do a few days with someone in the hectic spring, then do a few in the slow winter and see what that is like. My entire family is contractors/self employed in some form or another, and I see the stress and tired on their faces. Owning your own is tiresome. Do you want to work that much? Key Idea: You need to see past your own limits, before you make a huge step.

Now with all that being said, I travel a lot, and we Americans have it all wrong. Our culture places too much emphasis on the dollar amount at the end of our name. Please be careful with advise on this site, because for most of the people you post to, 80,000 plus is a dream. You have to do what is right for you. Life is about passion, and feeling good about what you are doing, but we need money to survive. We work too hard, in jobs we hate, to buy **** we don't need, to impress people who don't care. You want to avoid that. If you really want to make the switch, try giving it a few years get a bit bigger to see where the stress points are, and try to stay open minded. I talk about switching all the time and my wife reminds me how good I have it.

I work 180 days a year teaching, and make an average pay, with great benefits after 10 years of working. Sure I get bored and my job is stressful, but I realize that anything you do for side work is going to seem glamorous. I still don't know if I will make it 20 more years doing this and I don't know if I will make the jump. I just realize that when I start day dreaming I never seem to think about the tradeoffs. My wife says all the time the grass is always greener!

Side note: If you are just after the money: If average businesses have profited 20% since time immemorial (look up the stats), then how does that compare to the almost 10% return in the stock market for doing nothing? You could take your extra cash, live on less, and throw more into the stock market, and now all your dollars become your employees working day in and day out, making you rich. if you really want a business your choice is: make 10% and do nothing or make 20% and bust your ass, is how I have always explained it to young guys starting out.

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