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Old 12-09-2012, 11:36 PM
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Herrick Herrick is online now
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Metamora, Illinois
Posts: 506
"Just won a big one" comes to an end...

In reference to this thread:http://www.lawnsite.com/showthread.php?t=253180 from a few years back, for any of you that remember.

Summary: won a large contract for a retirement community, 46 acres total, about 1/2 turf. Mow, trim, blow and bush trimming twice a year. Quit a 36k/yr job to do this.

At first things seemed to go really well. I was having a blast doing what I loved. Funny how over time reality sets in.

First year (2009) was a one year contract. I recruited my dad to help out and we worked our way through it. I did all the trimming and blowing and dad helped with 1/3 to 1/2 of the mowing. Towards the end of the year I started realizing how things were wearing on me... Wife volunteered to come out and help as she had free time between her part time job and our 4 kids. In September I wound up purchasing a second (new) zero turn so she could quit her job and come help the following spring. Now i had 3 mower payments, plus the typical fuel, ins, etc... Typical growing pains with doing a large complex like this for the first time, few complaints, but you can't please everyone, right? Especially with almost 300 retired folks staring out the window at you. Got a three year contract signed that fall/winter. I was on top of the world....

Second year (2010) is when things really started to come apart... With the wife now helping full time, I picked up two school districts along with the other 20 or so small stuff we did. With three machines going, we should be able to knock this out in no time.... Wrong! My wife soon realized that this was actually like work, especially trimming around almost 80 duplexes. We start getting behind a day or two because of rain, and the spring growth quickly gets away from us. These 300 retired folks now start calling the executive director because the head of maintenance keeps blowing them off. By August we receive a letter saying that if things don't improve and we don't come up with a better plan to keep up on things, we won't be working there next year. We end up hiring a high school kid to help trim, more money going out instead of in. We end up stepping up and keeping the contract.

Year three (2011) One school district is only a year contract, so we don't re-bid that one, and cut out a couple other small jobs to try to devote more time to this big one. Head of maintenance is replaced with a great guy and communication of issues resolves them before they can get out of hand. High schooler is still with us, and things actually go pretty well... Except the budget. This is when we start to realize how much this is really costing us to do.... $1200 a month in fuel, $600-800 a month in labor, $750 a month in mower payments... Suddenly it's getting harder and harder to keep up with things. I start to realize that we can't really afford to do this anymore... But by now it's late summer, and we have no money saved up.... We can't rely on snow money to replace what this contract pays over the winter (we had it set up on 12 month billing). We've got to finish this out.
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