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  #31  
Old 11-30-2012, 08:39 PM
RScapes RScapes is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Columbus Ohio
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darryl G View Post
When I started out I was kind of retired myself, even though I was only 39. I lost my job as a project manager in the environmental consulting and engineering field and had already built up a fairly healthy financial cushion. My mother was dying of Lou Gehrigs Disease, my dad had been gone for 3 years so she was in my care, I had two young sons (ages 3 and 6) who hardly knew who I was, my wife and I had gotten somewhat distant because I was pretty much consumed with work all of my waking hours...I brought work home every night...reports to review/edit and non-billable work to keep my billability rate up high to get my company profit share rating high. I got a pretty good severance package from my company and was collecting unemployment until I started the business.

I invested 10K as start-up cash and bought a new walk behind mower, trimmer and blower and had a trailer made by a local trailer shop. I already had a truck and landscape tractor for my own use. I cashed out an annuity I had taking monthly payments for 10 years. That allowed me to take it easy at first and put most of what I made back into the business for the first couple of years. My wife hadn't worked since our second kid was born so we got to spend a lot of time together and with our kids. We spent a lot of time recreating on our back acreage and in the river and going to the local attractions. Bascially I semi-retired while I was able to enjoy it with my kids. My wife took a total of 12 years off and is back to work now part time and I'm full time on the business with some seasonal help from the kids. It was really nice to be a young family with me only having to work part time on the business. We didn't get to travel out of state much or do vacations, but we had a lot of fun.

My biggest problem was that my 1985 truck went down on me twice the first season, once for a week to have the top of the motor replaced. I had a tow hitch put on our van to use as a backup. It was a 2002 VW and actually has a 3/4 ton chasis, extra load tires and handled the trailer well as long as I balanced it properly...didn't end up using it but it was available if needed. I mentioned it earlier, but you need to have a spare for just about everything or at least something you can substitute on a short-term basis. Some dealers will have loaner mowers they will let you use. You can get a short-term rental truck from Home Depot or some other source...just don't mention you want to use it as a landscaping vehicle...you're moving furniture You don't want to be in a situation like I was trying to service your lawns out of a Taurus station wagon with a push mower for a week.
Great story-especially the investment of time with the family!
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  #32  
Old 11-30-2012, 08:56 PM
RScapes RScapes is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CowboysLawnCareDelaware View Post
I do agree with what shovelracer was saying.

Although I feel that your Toro mower should suit you well, if you do happen to get more than 20 accounts you may want to consider the idea of getting a used 60"/72" mower. Just make sure you can make enough money back to still be in your profit area.

Make sure you have spare belts for your mower, good traction on your tires, and all the normal maintenance.

The grass cutting season spans for apprx. 32 weeks of lawn mowing, plan on as little as 25 cuts per lawn due to droughts, unless they are really bad droughts in your area. Some areas may cut for a longer span but that is mostly towards the Southern parts of the country.

You shouldn't go through more than 2 rolls of weed wacker string in a season, assuming you don't go over 30 lawns or have to edge a lot of driveways and sidewalks. Buy 50:1 mix in bulk in the beginning of the season, Echo oil comes in 8 packs of 2.5gal or 1gal mix, im sure it varies more but that's what my supplier carries.


-Michael
Thank you sir for the tips.

I spoke with a homeowner who has 3 acres of mowing. Haven't looked at it yet, but will look soon. He said it was flat with only a few small trees. The property is only 10 minutes from me. Unless there are surprises that I may not have been made aware of, how would you suggest a solo operator price this (using the 52" Toro walk behind)?
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  #33  
Old 11-30-2012, 09:13 PM
CowboysLawnCareDelaware's Avatar
CowboysLawnCareDelaware CowboysLawnCareDelaware is offline
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Location: DE
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I personally don't cut large properties, I stay under 1 acre. I did grow up running a local tournament softball fields organizations, although I still haven't been able to get their contract because a large company whom I am friends with hasn't raised their price in 5 years. They charge $400 per cut for 7 acres and that is dirt cheap. The minimum you should try to charge is $45 an hour, according to this site. I would say that you would most likely be around $200, on flat, smooth(fast) ground.

Everyone will tell you a different price, those are good starting points and figure out what you need to do. I use to always use google maps to see the property before I drive there so I have an idea what I am going to be looking at, now that I have this measuring site it's even better.

Use this site to measure your properties, don't forget to subtract house and driveway. 43,560 sq ft per acre.

http://servicevines.com/jobs/measureit

-Michael
__________________
There is an Old Blue Chair for each and every one of us, we just have to find it.


2006 GMC Sierra 2500hd crew cab
BOSS 8'2" Power V
Hustler X-one 60"
Toro Proline 36" wb w/t-bar controls
JS46 22" walk-behind (wouldn't recommend)
Shindaiwa T254, Echo trimmers, chainsaws, pole hedge trimmer, pole saw, hedge trimmer
Shindaiwa 633 and Husqvarna 130BT blower
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  #34  
Old 12-01-2012, 07:08 AM
shovelracer shovelracer is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RScapes View Post
Thank you sir for the tips.

I spoke with a homeowner who has 3 acres of mowing. Haven't looked at it yet, but will look soon. He said it was flat with only a few small trees. The property is only 10 minutes from me. Unless there are surprises that I may not have been made aware of, how would you suggest a solo operator price this (using the 52" Toro walk behind)?
This is were you need to start considering your area and intended clients. The nice part about this type of account is you only would need a few of them. You are not going to do more than 2 in a day like that. The downside is that if someone stiffs you than you stand to be affected more so than if you were doing all $50 lawns. Another benefit is reduced drivetime. It takes a while to get a route that is tight and efficient. A lot of guys lose hours in the day driving between accounts. A 52"WB is not great for 3 acres, but will work. The thing is do you want to setup for acreage accounts or do you want to deal with smaller lawns in the inner parts of town. With 8 of those large accounts you would be working 30-35 hrs a week and sell about 40K in the season. (See above, this is not your personal net which will be significantly less than this number.) Those accounts typically pay less per square foot than smaller accounts. If you could get $180 per mow would be acceptable for your setup, but if your area is saturated than expect the soliciting offers to be about half of that. Best bet is to talk to the client and see where they are at with budget, needs, etc.
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  #35  
Old 12-01-2012, 11:09 AM
RScapes RScapes is offline
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Location: Columbus Ohio
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CowboysLawnCareDelaware View Post
I personally don't cut large properties, I stay under 1 acre. I did grow up running a local tournament softball fields organizations, although I still haven't been able to get their contract because a large company whom I am friends with hasn't raised their price in 5 years. They charge $400 per cut for 7 acres and that is dirt cheap. The minimum you should try to charge is $45 an hour, according to this site. I would say that you would most likely be around $200, on flat, smooth(fast) ground.

Everyone will tell you a different price, those are good starting points and figure out what you need to do. I use to always use google maps to see the property before I drive there so I have an idea what I am going to be looking at, now that I have this measuring site it's even better.

Use this site to measure your properties, don't forget to subtract house and driveway. 43,560 sq ft per acre.

http://servicevines.com/jobs/measureit

-Michael
Thank you sir!
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  #36  
Old 12-01-2012, 11:38 AM
RScapes RScapes is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shovelracer View Post
This is were you need to start considering your area and intended clients. The nice part about this type of account is you only would need a few of them. You are not going to do more than 2 in a day like that. The downside is that if someone stiffs you than you stand to be affected more so than if you were doing all $50 lawns. Another benefit is reduced drivetime. It takes a while to get a route that is tight and efficient. A lot of guys lose hours in the day driving between accounts. A 52"WB is not great for 3 acres, but will work. The thing is do you want to setup for acreage accounts or do you want to deal with smaller lawns in the inner parts of town. With 8 of those large accounts you would be working 30-35 hrs a week and sell about 40K in the season. (See above, this is not your personal net which will be significantly less than this number.) Those accounts typically pay less per square foot than smaller accounts. If you could get $180 per mow would be acceptable for your setup, but if your area is saturated than expect the soliciting offers to be about half of that. Best bet is to talk to the client and see where they are at with budget, needs, etc.
Yes this this is one of my target areas for clients. In a perfect world, my first spring, all of my accounts would be here, just 10-15 minutes away. But......I know that won't be reality, at least the first year. It is however, part of the 2 or 3 year goal/plan.

With that said, in order to get established in that area, should I price slightly lower (at least for year 1)? The neighbors would see my sign, see the work, and hopefully hear positive things from the initial clients with the goal of attracting more clients in the target area? This area consists of homes in the ($230 to $400,000 range) and lots from about 1 to 4 acres.

In this area, the economy, competition, do it yourself homeowners with their own quality equipment, etc., puts this 3 acre job (mentioned above)in more of the $75-$95 per mow range (from what I am hearing).

Thanks for all of your advice!
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  #37  
Old 12-01-2012, 05:31 PM
shovelracer shovelracer is offline
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Perhaps than you should reconsider that account even it potentially stands to be your first. You are looking at 4 hours to mow if the grass is decent quality. Grossing sub $25/hr will lose you money real fast. You would be better getting a job at the local box store.

The other thing is the neighbors will see your sign and they will see your work, but whether they call will depend more on your appearance than not. By that I mean if you appear inexperienced, new, or hacky you will draw in the snakes, if you appear professional, and dare I say expensive you will get far less solicitations but the quality of them will be far greater. I'm not sure that there is a lawn in this country that has not been solicited, and if your area is saturated than they get many and know exactly what the potential range is. If you go in low to be low than you will have a very hard time raising prices later. Furthermore, most quality clients will already have a service and generally will not entertain low offers. This leaves the bottom clients to fill the low priced route. These clients are the late payers, PITA's, and cut me every 2 weeks every 4 in the summer type. It is hard to make a living on these types of clients.

Now if you are lower than the competition because you are lean and efficient than that is a good thing for you. This is not lowballing. The trick though is to know exactly what your costs are. For example you can cut the neighborhood for $40 a lawn because you are already there if you have enough. Those same 10 lawns spaced 5 miles apart each would need maybe $50 to net you the same because of lost time due to travel and fuel, etc. Lowballing is if the market price is $100 and you come in at $50 knowing it is below cost to force out the competition. Sometimes this happens with inexperience as well. Some people seek these contractors because when the company goes under there will always be a another new guy to take their place. I suggest you stay away from this all together.
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  #38  
Old 12-01-2012, 05:37 PM
shovelracer shovelracer is offline
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Location: North Jersey
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Rscapes send me a PM with your email address if you want me to look at your business plan or budget. I'm checking out here.
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  #39  
Old 12-01-2012, 06:51 PM
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CowboysLawnCareDelaware CowboysLawnCareDelaware is offline
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Use the link I sent you to make sure it's 3 acres, because a lot of people say one size and it's really another. I know several of my customer's would rather see a properly dressed landscaper with nice equipment mowing their lawn, but their are plenty of people who just want the huge company with 3-4 hispanics on a crew and they are in and out of there in 45 minutes.

It's all about figuring out what your client is looking to get out of his landscaper. Does he want someone who is gonna cruise over his lawn and just get it done? Or does he want someone who does that extra step to make sure everything is perfect and the weeds are out of the mulch beds and that a piece of paper isn't run over in the yard?

-Michael
__________________
There is an Old Blue Chair for each and every one of us, we just have to find it.


2006 GMC Sierra 2500hd crew cab
BOSS 8'2" Power V
Hustler X-one 60"
Toro Proline 36" wb w/t-bar controls
JS46 22" walk-behind (wouldn't recommend)
Shindaiwa T254, Echo trimmers, chainsaws, pole hedge trimmer, pole saw, hedge trimmer
Shindaiwa 633 and Husqvarna 130BT blower
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  #40  
Old 12-02-2012, 06:50 AM
Duekster Duekster is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: DFW, TX
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CowboysLawnCareDelaware View Post
Use the link I sent you to make sure it's 3 acres, because a lot of people say one size and it's really another. I know several of my customer's would rather see a properly dressed landscaper with nice equipment mowing their lawn, but their are plenty of people who just want the huge company with 3-4 hispanics on a crew and they are in and out of there in 45 minutes.

It's all about figuring out what your client is looking to get out of his landscaper. Does he want someone who is gonna cruise over his lawn and just get it done? Or does he want someone who does that extra step to make sure everything is perfect and the weeds are out of the mulch beds and that a piece of paper isn't run over in the yard?

-Michael
Who says you can not have both?
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