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Old 04-12-2012, 11:32 PM
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chrisvinky chrisvinky is online now
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Location: Central City, KY
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Growing Pains

I will try to be as open as possible here so hopefully some of you with more business experience can help me out...

I am a solo operator that started out about 4 years ago with one yard to mow. I quickly gained 8-10 yards and then 3 years ago, I lost my job and was forced to either find another job (not likely around here with what I was making) or grow my business. I decided to grow my business. I added landscaping to the mix and started getting a few jobs. The last two years were pretty much the same.

About a month ago, I started getting calls and have added several new mowing accounts. I am at about 3 days a week mowing by myself. I have one complete house to landscape and 10-15 jobs that should take anywhere from 2 hours to two days.

My dilemma is this...I feel if I don't get on these landscaping jobs quick they may become impatient and find somebody else. I can't seem to get estimates done quickly because I am constantly trying to get another job done. With all the other "stuff" that goes along with owning a business (this morning I spent two hours meeting with a client and getting some signs ordered) I seem to have less and less time to do anything.

One side of me says to buy another mower and hire somebody to help, cutting mowing to two days max and spending the other days landscaping. If I hired two guys, I could quit shoveling rock and do what I need to be doing...being the face of the company and meeting with prospects and customers, getting estimates done and scheduling jobs. The other side of me says that if I hire two guys, what will I do after the spring rush is over and we're all sitting around looking at each other!

I also don't really have the money to hire right now but feel if I was freed up, I could get more jobs to bring in more cash flow. I have been thinking of trying to get a line of credit to grow the business...so far it has been bootstrapped except for the mower that is at 1.99%

I also need more equipment like a tractor or skid, a newer truck (3/4 ton since now I have a 1/2 ton 1999 model) and have entertained the idea of getting a lot to store material on like mulch, rock, etc...

HELP!!

I feel like a rat in a wheel!
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Old 04-13-2012, 01:53 AM
vaacutabove vaacutabove is offline
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I had a lot of the same problems you are having last two years. Find someone who can help you mow. I found some one who now does things the way i like them and I can trust him to mow alone. Now i just need another truck. If yall role you could be able to cut your mowing time in half. Start with one helper that will be hard enough finding one worth a crap.
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Old 04-13-2012, 09:10 AM
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calvinslawnservices calvinslawnservices is offline
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I am in the same position you are and what I did is keep the mowing myself (2 days a week) and then schedule landscaping the other 3 or 4 days. As for helpers, I worked in a factory on second shift and contacted them to see if their interested in making a little extra money on random weeks when I need the help. Also have friends that work with me if needed also. This works because I have a large list to call incase the better people are busy. You get the help you need when you need it and they know that they can't quit their job for your business.
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Old 04-13-2012, 10:23 PM
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GreenI.A. GreenI.A. is offline
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I would say hire one guy, then if needed a second temporarily. When I have jobs lined up and just need extra labor for a couple days a week for a few weeks, I use a staffing service LaborReady. It costs a little more per hour, but they cover the laborers pay, taxes, workmans comp, etc, all I do is cut LaborReady one check. It's worth it because i don't have to spend time looking for a new person, interviewing, doing all the paperwork. if the laborer works out i can request them again the next time I need one. If I have jobs lined up and need extra laborers for an extended period like a few months then it is cost efficient to hire someone. Here in MA, we can hire someone for temporary labor, as long as in the job description we list the specific time frame and jobs they are hired for we can let them go once the time frame is over with out worry about unemployment or having cause to fire them.
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Old 04-14-2012, 10:17 AM
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Efficiency Efficiency is offline
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_City,_Kentucky
you list this as your home. With ~2000 houses in your city, I would say your market is very limited. Here is the question:

Do your business finances dictate that you can afford to hire 1, 2, or more employees? What do the numbers say?

True story: I used to do office work until 2 am every night after working in the field til dark, only to get up at 6 and do it all over again when I was just starting and had no employees. That is what starting a business takes; doing whatever it takes to make things happen.

It sounds great (and is easy to believe) that when you have employees you can go out and sell, do office work, etc but Im here to tell you thats crap. Especially in an area and city your size.

Again, what do your numbers say? What do you actually make from your mowing route? Does it produce enough free cash flow to fund a 40 hour week for an employee (they dont like less than 40 hours you know). How are you going to pay your salary? Is there anything left over to afford rent on a 'yard or shop'?

Take this as you will. Tell me im a negative cynic if you want. Or take this as a constructive critic from an outside perspective helping you see things you dont. Your call.

But to help you out, I will tell you I didnt hire my first employee until after the business did $120k a year in sales. At that point, I KNEW the numbers justified it.
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Old 04-14-2012, 10:59 AM
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Bunton Guy Bunton Guy is offline
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Why add two employees? just add one to help you mow and get your landscape work done. Try mowing tue,wed & Thursday leave Monday & Friday open for landscape work & meeting with clients. Work Saturdays till noon either mowing or finishing up projects. And from noon till 5 or 6 working on maintenance on equipment. Sunday is paper work & number crunching day.
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Old 04-14-2012, 11:06 AM
Duekster Duekster is offline
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I think it is a common problem in this industry.
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Old 04-14-2012, 11:16 AM
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White Gardens White Gardens is online now
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I too have jumped that hurdle the last couple of years.

Luckily in my position, I was always higher on mowing estimates and that was fine with me as even though I wasn't competitive on the mowing price wise, it limited me to profitable mowing accounts, or at the minimum part of a total landscape management account that included mowing.

This model has helped me keep my landscape projects rolling along without fussing with mowing constantly.

Profitable or not I wanted to focus on the landscape rather than the lawn. This way, most projects or maintenance requires more time in one location, and little travel time overall compared to a mowing route.

I also hired someone on. A young kid that has OCD, so he is very much in tune with the details that we have focused on and built the business on. If I get more mowing accounts, I can at least send him off by himself that half a day on accounts I know he can handle. Then I can still be part of the main mow route that one day a week.

So, what I guess I'm trying to say is get someone hired on as a permanent employee. Take the time to post multiple add postings and do at least 10 interviews before deciding on someone.

Ultimately what I figured out last summer is how much more production I get with having a part to full time employee on all my landscaping projects. Now with him on the mow route, I might only save 1/3rd of the time production wise when mowing, but I'm getting almost a 1/2 cut in landscape projects.

So, it sounds like you've been building business at a nice slow growth rate, but now seems to be the time to make that jump into expanding and taking on employees. In my situation, once I figured the glass ceiling of doing the work myself, then I knew it was time to take on workers to up production.

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Old 04-15-2012, 03:26 PM
cutbetterthanyou cutbetterthanyou is offline
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Like someone else said this is no 8-5 job.You are going to have to work long days. In my experence i really am not much more efficent with two guys that one mowing, so i prefer to mow alone.Landscaping I feel is oppisite , when i add a guy to a landscaping job i get it done faster than half the time. No more up and down in the truck, one guys can stay in the truck shoveling mulch, while the other on a wheelbarrow. It cuts out having to stop what your doing to do another task, the little stuff like that adds up. If i where you i woulf try to find a teenager with a will to work. You can cut in the morning and deal with bussiness.When he gets out of school pick him up a do landscaping till dark. Teenagers arent concerened with 40 hrs a week most of the time.
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Old 04-15-2012, 03:51 PM
Duekster Duekster is offline
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You often see 3 guys on a mowing crew doing these 80 x 120 lots. You will often see 4 guys on larger commercial lots. Some times more.

Not much sense in 4 guys on a residential lots unless one of them is pulling weeds in beds or something.

You can increase crew size for a while and add some equipment then later split it back down to a 2 man crew which requires a truck and trailer but you now have them trained and most of the equipment. That is my plan anyway. I already have the truck which I drive.
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