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Old 11-15-2012, 12:16 AM
lawncuttinfoo lawncuttinfoo is offline
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Location: minneapolis, MN
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Others have said it well. Focus on one thing figure out how to do it faster and faster each day. It sounds attractive, being able to do tons of things but diversifying right away is a huge time sink into non-billable hours. Time is money. Time is the greatest resource of all.
If you insist on trying a bunch of jobs at least figure out which one you make the most in and then drop the others.

When you say averaged out, do you mean averaged over 12 months?
If so, $32,400 net / yr sounds respectable starting out. Can you go part time?
My first 5 years in lawn care, I was full time at a company and basically droped a day each year till I quit in 5 years. Worked great for me.

Being a super multi tasker could be beneficial if you have a small amount of dedicated rich customers who you know will go to you for everything. This takes a lot of luck and knowing the right people though and leaves you vulernable to people moving away, droping you, (eggs in one basket thing)
Doing one small thing for tons of people is great insurance.
Just be prepared to hear a lot of people say, wow you are in and out of here fast. Another quote from LS years ago comes to mind
"I didn't spend 40K in optimized equipment to stroll around your property and sip lemonade all day"

Customer service is important but if you are shooting the breeze with people for more than 5 min a day you are doing something wrong.
Billable hours, billable hours, billable hours.......
"Make hay while the sun shines."
Sun up in T-8 hours, I need to sleep.
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Old 11-15-2012, 03:26 PM
britsteroni britsteroni is offline
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Location: Missouri
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Originally Posted by thomas.creation View Post
Yes lawns are routine. But like I've stated before I only plan on using the lawn business as supplemental to my landlord business. Being a landlord is ball of fun and its never predictable. I enjoy both and feel that they could compliment each other.

You've received solid advice from both Roger and willretire@40.

If your long term desire is to be a landlord, lawncare as a part time business would provide capital each year to purchase more properties. For a discussion forum geared toward real estate investments with solid advice and contributors, see

I would stick with your teaching job and save as much money from it and the lawn business to buy additional rental properties. Run your lawn business lean and mean. Only buy the equipment that is absolutely necessary, don't buy fancy new trucks, stay out of debt, tell everyone you know about your business (word of mouth, low cost advertising), do outstanding work, ask your loyal customers for referrals. Lawn maintenance is a simple business model and can through off some nice cash each year.

You mention the fear of the teaching job being cut. So what if it is cut? Then you will be forced to ramp up the lawn business (which you are considering anyways). There is no reason to play the what if game. Ride the gravy train as long as possible all the while building towards your ultimate goal.

From what you've said, your ultimate goal is to be a landlord full-time. Using a combination of the strategies mentioned above, you should have no problem reaching full-time status within a decade.

Good luck!
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Old 11-15-2012, 08:02 PM
thomas.creation thomas.creation is offline
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Posts: 43
I'm on Bigger pockets, its a great forum.

Yes, the lawn and rentals both equate to $34k/yr net I make $50k gross with the teaching job and take home about $30k. They take out about 10% for retirement and $175/mo for just health care for a fam policy. They also take out about $100/mo for the union fee. Then comes uncle sams part.... but the thing is, I spend about 10hrs/wk averaged out year round on the lawn/rental biz. I believe I could do much better if I spent the 50hrs/wk I currently put in teaching on rentals and mowing. There's big money in the rentals.
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Old 11-15-2012, 08:07 PM
easy-lift guy's Avatar
easy-lift guy easy-lift guy is online now
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Location: Venice, FL. USA
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Originally Posted by thomas.creation View Post
I'm keepin up with what your puttin down. I just want to follow my dreams. That's all I can really say.

I understand that this business is not easy. I've been in it since I was a kid. Lawn care has been supplemental to my teaching income and when I leave to go on my own I feel it will be a supplement to the rentals. Neither the rentals nor the lawn care are stabile incomes but together they can offer some peace of mind. Going with a helper is a good idea and I have often thought about it but Iím unsure of the legal side of this. I have liability insurance on my business already. For those of you with employees, how would you suggest I go about getting someone on my payroll? Is it worth it with say a 10hr/week guy?
If your worried about hiring an employee, lease the employee out with an agency. Generally all aspects of your legal requirements are full filled, anything else would be up to you and who you hirer.
easy-lift guy
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Old 11-15-2012, 10:22 PM
32vld 32vld is offline
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Location: Long Island, NY
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Originally Posted by thomas.creation View Post
Good to hear advice from a former shop teacher. How long did you teach for? Yes the shop equipment is def a plus. I have everything from cnc plasma tables to a/c equipment at my disposal. I live and teach in IL, pensions are on the cutting block as are heal benefits. We actually lost the right to choose our health care plan in this contract because the school is considering dropping us into the new fed health care program. I'm tenure at the end of this year (4). I've heard a lot of people say that at 10 years we can get some level of pension. I'll have to look into this as this is a very good point.

I have 10 houses that I do full service on. I'm nowhere near 50k. I could be if I was on my own.

I really do appreciate the advice guys. I get the dear in the headlight look from most people when I discuss this crazy idea.
I taught for 13 years. I would go back tomorrow and keep mowing on the side.
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Old 11-16-2012, 12:16 PM
britsteroni britsteroni is offline
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At this point I think you've made up your mind, but I'll give it one more shot.

Let's work backwards to get where you want to be (quit teaching, do lawn care to provide capital to buy more rental properties).

Monthly Gross $4,167.00
Retirement (417.00)
SS & Medicare (319.00)
Union Dues (100.00)
Health Insurance (175.00)
Fed & State Income Taxes (656.00)
Net Pay from Teaching $2,500.00
Current lawn care net 750.00
Total Net Income 3,250.00

Yearly Net Needed 39,000.00
Health Insurance Costs 13,000.00
Retirement at 417/month 5,000.00
Tax Needs 24,000.00
Net Income 81,000.00
SS & Medicare Taxes 12,393.00
Fed & State 12,150.00
Net After Taxes 56,457.00

So let's assume you need to hit around $80,000 in net income to achieve the same income and receive the same benefits that you currently receive.

Assuming an 65% profit margin (not too agressive for a solo operation), you would need to gross $124,000 a year.

Also you probably aren't considering other benefits provided by your job (probably a small life insurance policy as well as disability insurance).

Just some food for thought. Not many solo lawn guys grossing $124,000 a year. Those that do are working twice as hard as what a public school teacher does.

None of this is to discourage you, just trying to point out it is much more difficult than most folks imagine.
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Old 11-16-2012, 01:02 PM
MDLawn MDLawn is offline
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Originally Posted by thomas.creation View Post
I'll start out with some background. I'm a High School Shop teacher with 4 years under my belt. I'm married and have one child. My wife is a stay at home mother but has a Bachelors degree and I have my Masters. I've always wanted to own my own business and have looked at teaching as the fundraiser for this. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching and I do my best every day but I like my business life more. Diversifying is always a good thing for business owners and this is where I'm a little different. I do lawn maintenance and light install work along with snow in the winter. Averaged out I'm only at $700/mo net. I also own rental properties and currently bring in close to $2k/mo net. Combined I'm about dead even with my income from teaching minus the benefits. So right now I feel I'm doing real good for central IL where cost of living is low. I'm starting to plan out my departure form teaching and would like to hear some input and advise. Things I should consider ext. At this point I'm thinking it could happen within 2yrs but I don't want to wait more than 5. In that time I plan to purchase additional rentals and grow the lawn business a little but I'm about out of free time to do so.
I'm not a teacher but work in education, have a masters, and not feeling fulfilled either. I've been doing this lawn/landscape stuff for 11 years, 6 helping and 5 on my own part time. My job should make 60-75K per year. Unfortunately I work at one of the cheapest places on earth and my job is harder to get than most I know. Anyways I've been contemplating for the past few years if I could get this lawn gig going. My ace in the hole is my wife has an excellent state job and could carry benefits if we needed it to. My salary sucks, I work long days, have a ton of time off, deal with crazy people all day, have incredible health and retirement benefits, and do enjoy what I do (that list shows whats going on in my head). I have 2 kids that as of right now suck all the money and life out of my wife and I but I love every minute with them. What to do? If logic is on the right shoulder and desire is on the left one here is what they are saying.

Logic tells me that giving up a ok paying job with pennies out of my pocket for a $15,000 full family health plan that includes $1,200 for copays, a 1:3 retirement plan (I put in 3% they put in 8%, yes thats almost 3 times what I put in), get raises every year, have some unseen benefits, get EVERY major holiday off and still run my own show is the dumbest thing I could do.

Desire tells me that dealing with the crazy demanding personalities, 12-14 hour days, missing family time, paying insane amounts for day care, dealing with poor pay (compared to the industry) is not worth the headaches of benefits my wife can carry. Having personal freedoms, making every decision, enjoying family time can make me a happier person.

Obvioulsy strict logic guy chooses the 1st scenario, the desire guy chooses the second scenario, but I'm completely in between. I have the money earning wife for money and benefits but I still need to contribuite. I have that advantage over you in that my wife works (and she has a bachelors and makes more than me). The desire in me wants to get the business going just enough to pay what I need to pay. Enjoy more flexibility maybe, more family time. I have all the equipment needed and most paid for, even the big stuff. But the logic guy in me is saying "what are you friggin nuts!!" You have a guaranteed paycheck!!!!

I do like the freedom side of the business being part time. If I dont want to work, I don't have to. Plus the money doesn't always have to "support" anything. It kept my wife home for 5 months each time our kids were born. It remodeled a bathroom, gave me tons of commercial grade equipment for my newly acquired home and larger lot I have, and money to just go spend vs. paying bills with it. But the spring and fall are tough as thats when my 10-12 hr days start up again, plus needed to possibly work weekends. Creates a little stress with mowing nights and/or weekends. I'd like to focus on the landscape side like mulching jobs, sod installs, landscape installs, etc.. because there is no long term commitement like mowing. But these jobs can tend to come from mowing.

So what am I going to do??? Well I'm going to see what next year brings. I moved this year so had to restart, did ok, but need to do much better even for part time. I have my bad days at my job but then there are days like today where I had a few morning commitments, nothing for 6 hours, going to eat a steak and chicken lunch (on them), and one more late afternoon commitment. So for now I think part time is the best choice until things just get unbearable and they may never get there. In times like this and with a family it's probably a bad choice to leave logic in the wind. But that desire is always knocking at my door.

I will say this and some have answered this. For the guys who say "What are you crazy?" Did they move from a full time to landscape? Are they high school educated vs higher college, meaning that can't even apply for jobs educated people have so they are frustrated they can't even get out of the industry? Are they just a bad business that can't make anything happen? Are they 40 or 17 (and that goes either way)?
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Old 11-16-2012, 01:29 PM
britsteroni britsteroni is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Missouri
Posts: 334
Not sure if the last few posts are directed at me, but I would be glad to answer. I have a bachelor's degree in finance and accounting. I have graduate coursework to get to 150 credit hours in order to sit for the CPA exam. I've worked for one of the largest CPA firms in the country.

I am a newly minted CPA. I work with landscape contractors currently providing services of tax planning, tax preparation, financial planning, outsourced CFO, and controllership services. I haven't pushed a mower or landscaped a yard outside of my own since I did this to help pay for college.

I was genuinely trying to be helpful.
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Old 11-16-2012, 01:35 PM
MDLawn MDLawn is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Western NY
Posts: 1,284
Not directed at anyone. For me when, in any threads, people complain I just wonder what they have. And I know plenty with education that are happy with general labor jobs with a state/government organization. But I have a friend who is rather intelligent but didn't get any higher education. He runs a detail shop at a Ford dealer and hates his life. He could do a job way better than most but because he doesn't have the education he's stuck and thus he crabs. It's not ALWAYS about money and how much of it. But stability or freedom I guess.
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Old 11-16-2012, 02:00 PM
britsteroni britsteroni is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Missouri
Posts: 334
Yeah, I think everyone knows someone who didn't live up to their potential or made some poor decisions and are stuck doing something they hate for a living. And there are plenty of people who get the good job (doctor, lawyer, professional...) and hate it. No one can determine your future for you.

I don't think anyone who has advised him to think twice before making the leap is saying it's all about money. In fact, if you read back a bit I tell him that a 10 year plan should be more than feasible if he is willing to put in the hard work to make it happen. Roger also gave some great advice about considering different business ideas if he wants to be self employed.

Many people think that business ownership is some sort of freedom or euphoria. For some it is. For many others, they do not have the skills nor drive to make it happen. On a forum like this, there is no way to know whether the OP is going to start the next Brinkman or is going to be the next guy to list all his equipment for sale because he couldn't make it a year later.

Also, another point to consider is his family status. He has a wife and young child that solely depend on him for food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. Is having a family and starting a business form scratch impossible? Of course not! But it would be unwise to give the same advice to OP as to a single guy/gal without a care in the world. When a person decides to get married and start a family, he/she is adding extra responsibility that must be considered when making career and life altering decisions.

People have given some thoughtful advice to OP. It is easy to say, "You only live once, shoot for the moon!" "Who cares if it doesn't work out, you can always start another business/job!" "People are trying to hold you back!" Quotes like these could go on for pages. But people who give that advice usually aren't on the other side when said person's new business ends up failing. It isn't easy to watch people who own their own business struggle and fail in this tough economy.
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