$20 yards, seems to be a ton of em'

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Grnhed, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. Grnhed

    Grnhed LawnSite Member
    Posts: 61

    Hello folks,

    First a bit about me, I am in start up mode, in business a month, have ten accounts so far from door hangers. I have been in biz to biz sales for almost 15 years and this is my first venture on my own. 53 yr old Male with wife and one 5 year old, yes thats correct a FIVE year old and, as far I as I know its my first child *grinnin*. In a nut shell lost my job twice in 09 and for my almost a 40 yr career, I have had two jobs. One in commercial publication printing and the packaging sales job I led off with. Told myself that was the last time I would leave my destiny in someone else's hands. So, here I am!
    To the point. Most of the accounts I have picked up are small interior residential lots and for one reason or another they are leaving the incumbent for lack of attention to detail. They were great in the beginning but as time went on, they got a bit lazy. As the title suggest, these are all $20 weekly accounts. Some i will have the opportunity to maintain the beds, some I will get the chemical business, some pruning here and there and hedge and shrub work.
    Is what I am seeing normal? Do we all take the small accounts that appear to be a bit thin in the margin dept., just to get a book of business and as better margin accounts begin to fill the books, we begin to kick the smaller thinner ones to the curb, OR should I focus on getting these done in the most efficient way and in the shortest amount of time, (20+/-minutes) and bunch these together as most are in my own neighborhood, on the same day to reduce windsheild time, while maintaining quality and slowly raise their pricing? OR, and in addition to, try to make up the margin shortfall in the "extra" business I get from them, be it mulch, seasonal color, stone work?

    I appreciate you feedback and I just wanted to say I have been a lurker during the winter, and with the banter and experience you guys seem to freely share with each other, helped me decide to pull the trigger and try to make a go at this.
    I only have residential gear so far and hope it will get me to a decent cash flow level to buy some decent gear.
    Honda HRR216 variable
    Two Ryobi 26cc power heads with two string attachments an edger attachment and blower attachment.
    My first goal is a back pack blower, then an edger, Stihl or Echo.

    Am I headed down a decent path.
    GrnHeD-and yes I love chasin' dem Mallards
    Harry Harper
    North Texas Turf & Landscape Service
  2. MikeKle

    MikeKle LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,253

    Well, its sad to say that $20. yards are becoming more common! But if you can get a bunch of them on the same street, that would be OK and you could be in and out quickly. I did have one $20 account last year, but dropped it last fall. but her yard was a postage stamp I couldve done with a trimmer alone if I had to. I had been wanting to drop her for awhile but continued to service her because she was older and wasnt able to get around real well, and I just felt sorry for her, but last fall, a guy who fixed her fence one time took an interest in mowing it for her since he lived in the same area, so I basically gave it to him, so that worked out nicely for everyone. I do not think the Ryobis will last too long in this industry, but maybe for 10 accounts? Is the mower you have a WB or rider? Honda is pretty good, but not used much in this industry, but just using until you can get something better suited may work out OK? I would try to get a 36-48" commercial WB, like exmark, scag, gravely, etc. and maybe a used commercial trimmer and handheld blower for now, until you can afford the back pack. Trimmers take a beating in lawn care, and anything short of a commercial grade unit will crap out quickly. Many guys make the mistake of trying to get the biggest baddest ZTR when they are just getting started, when they should be looking for a smaller WB that is very versatile and can handle just about any type of terrian you get, but a ZTR will not handle steep grades, and small areas as well as a WB. Good luck, and you will find the search button very helpful.
  3. Grnhed

    Grnhed LawnSite Member
    Posts: 61

    I "preeshate" the feedback my friend, and the best of luck to you this season as well.

    Harry-PS, the Honda is a WB 21" quadracut variable speed, mulch or bag.
  4. djchiodo3

    djchiodo3 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 345

    Sometimes you have to look what you make per month, not what you make per lawn. What is your total monthly income? Most people work 40 hrs per week and collect a paycheck. What is your pay check after a 40 hour week? This might help justify those lawns that pay on the low side.
  5. unkownfl

    unkownfl LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,838

    Thats the problem people look at what they make at 40 hours per week. They don't put into consideration actual cost of business, growth they wish to achieve, and taxes. They figure hey at the end of the week I have 500 bucks thats 100 more I use to make working for someone. Then comes the day they need a new mower or truck and then they are out of business.
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Yeah, it takes time, and maybe I wouldn't be thinking about
    kicking certain folks to the curb for a bit of a while yet.

    Because you might be surprised when times get tough, which you might catch a spot or two of those...
    You'd be surprised how seemingly unaware customers suddenly become aware how things aren't going well for you...
    And you might catch a few real surprises when you find out who sticks with you, and who ends up bailing.
    At least I was, don't think customers won't leave on their own, some bail at the first hint of trouble,
    some others later, and then there are those who wouldn't leave you for nothing in the world.

    Watch who these folks are, I'd be willing to wager some of those $20 yards are in that lot,
    so please don't be so presumptuous as to assume it's all about money, and not to talk down
    on you because I also feel once the blood starts to running in your veins I think you will see
    for yourself how it runs far deeper than that.

    And remember when you get years down the road, who it is that got you there.
    Yes sir.

    Peace out
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2010
  7. twcw5804

    twcw5804 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 439

    I don't mind doing a yard for under $25 as long as a solo operator I am making $1/minute while I'm there. However if you have to drive cross town 20min and have no other jobs there then its no good. I have a $15 yard that my wife and I can mow together in 10min in and out, but then drive 20sec around the corner to cut a 93yr old ladys yard not much larger for $25, but she talks for 20min and I end up being there for 45min. Since I'm part time I allow for some of the slower ones. If I had 20 more people to get to in one day it wouldn't be such a good idea.

    For me I would never kick those customers to the curb. They are usually my yards where I consider giving back. For instance the only reason I cut this yard for $15 is because they lady cannot afford more, and I got it because her daughter cut off two fingers trying to raise mower while running. Yes she was more than old enough to know better. But mowing 2 houses down I naturally got the referall.

    Last example. I have a $25 yard that is connected to 3 other yards that all pay $25, no traveling. I get so mad at this yard because it has a steep slope in the back yard that is hard to stand up on even when dry. Last fall the old lady behind them hired me for $40/mow. Like everyone said, set your own goals and stick to them.
  8. Grnhed

    Grnhed LawnSite Member
    Posts: 61

    I apologize if it came off as presumptuous, I really meant to pose it as a question rather than a statement. I was trying to get the perspective of this tenured group, like you say, once the blood starts running in my veins. i know for me in my sales career, margin was important but, my relationships with my customers enabled me to keep some of that margin even when times were tough. The relationship was the result of how my customers felt about me, or my company, OR the price. For me there were only three types of customers, ones that were loyal to the rep (me), ones that were loyal to the company I worked for, (especially national accounts), and, dare I say it, (whores), only concerned about the price, easy to get, but just as easy to lose over a penny. I had much more respect for the customers that were difficult to land. I wanted that kind of loyalty too once they became MY account.
    I hope I didnt come off as taking the smaller customer for granted as I am a firm believer in "dance with the one that brought you"
  9. MikeKle

    MikeKle LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,253

    Despite what some others may tell you on here, establishing personal relationships with customers in this industry is a great thing to shoot for, they will remain loyal to you and you alone, as long as you continue to provide quality service. I do not know why some are so against it, yeah, it may seem old fashioned and not the norm today, but who likes the way most companies treat their customers today anyway, Most people would love to have a personal relationship with the guys mowing their lawn.
  10. NorthTXlawnguy

    NorthTXlawnguy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 83

    Hey Grnhed, you can do all right in this business as long as yuo provide the detail the others missed out on. You may have to take on some early on at $20, but the detail and added customers over the next few years will allow you to raise that rate in no time. If you establish the personal relationship and do the detail you will maintain most of them and in 3 years be at $25 or more...not to mention the extras you may get along the way.
    Pm me when you get your 10 or so posts and we can get together if ya like. I am starting over after 15 years in the business in the midwest. Been a small one man operation and had a partner doing 150 lawns a week. Nothing to crazy, but I have done a little!

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