First of all, you should never drop your maintenance accounts. As long as you are making money on that side of the business, keep them and keep the maintenance side growing. It's your bread and butter. It's what keeps the bills paid regular and is a great source of reliable, guaranteed cash flow every month. Maintenance accounts are also a great source of customers to feed INTO your landscaping design/build business. A lot of people prefer to use a company they are already familiar with - already using. We get a good 15-20% of our landscape design/build jobs each year from our maintenance customers. That's over $200,000-$280,000 a year in jobs we wouldn't have if we didn't do the maintenance for them. It's also much easier to land a landscape job from an existing client than it is from someone who hasn't used your company before.
The maintenance accounts are also a good source of publicity for your company, if you do it right. We have 5 maintenance crews and 2 enhancement crews out doing mowing and other light landscape work each day who are also advertising for our company everywhere they go. Big enclosed trailers become basically a billboard for our company. And with 7 of them out there rolling around every day (in addition to our design/build crews, irrigation techs, and manager's trucks) that's a lot more advertising and impressions we're putting out there every day. It makes a huge difference.
Yes, the design/build part of this business is the more profitable side. You're right and I'm always surprised how many lawn guys on Lawnsite never figure that out. I guess most of them go out of business before they ever get a chance to figure it out anyway. But yes, it's very profitable and that's because of perceived skill and craftsmanship. The more difficult and skillful people perceive something is, the more they are willing to pay for it. Most lawn care operators don't have the experience and skillset to do this kind of work
. And customers realize that. So for those of us who can, they're willing to pay a lot more.
Incidentally, having a lot of really nice photos of beautiful design/build jobs will allow you to also charge more for your maintenance too. There is a belief that if you do landscape installations very well than you also must be one of the better maintenance companies as well.
What you should do is consider maintenance and design/build two separate divisions of your company. Continue to built both divisions but each division has separate crews, separate trucks & trailers, separate equipment and often even individual advertising/marketing methods. Obviously, one of the businesses will be a little more up and down and more seasonal. And if you don't have enough design/build jobs to keep a crew doing it all day every day you may have to improvise and have them do smaller side-jobs or something sometimes. But the goal should be to have two separate divisions.
We essentially have 3 separate divisions. The maintenance division which handles maintenance crews and enhancement crews. The construction division which handles design/build jobs. And the irrigation service division, which is where our sprinkler service techs work. They're all totally separate from one another in terms of managers, trucks, trailers, equipment, etc. But it's the construction side of the company I like most. That's where I spend most of my time. Love that kind of work and as you've noticed, it pays a lot better.