2008 - The Year of the Dogs

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by JimLewis, Jul 25, 2008.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,841

    This is an odd year, that's for sure. Unlike any other year in the 12 years I've been in business.

    I say the year of the dogs because it seems like a much higher percentage of the bids I give these days (for new landscaping, hardscapes, irrigation systems) are from clients who are just totally wasting my time; Dogs in other words.

    We're actually up in gross sales this year by 15% by some miracle. But it sure doesn't seem like it. I haven't run all the numbers but I would bet that even though total sales are up, profit margins are lower than usual. And probably the only reason we're up is because of a few huge windfall jobs we landed. Otherwise, normal jobs are hard to come by this year.

    Anyway, seems like almost every bid I give these days is just a total waste of my time. Either the client wants some really odd things done and there's no way to do the job to where they could afford it AND we would make any profit. Or their budget doesn't even come close to the reality of what they want done (champagne taste, beer budget). Or they call and act like they have a large project and when I show up it's a little tiny townhouse and they just need a small $500 or $1000 job done (and again only have a $250 budget).

    It just seems like 80% of the bids I give this year are these total time-wasters. It's usually not that high of a percentage. Typically, maybe 20-25% of the bids I give are like that.

    I feel like I am running around giving bids every day just totally wasting my time. I feel like I am working 3x as hard to land jobs than I ever had to in the past. It's freakin' discouraging as heck.

    I guess I should feel fortunate that we are still landing jobs and staying busy and sales are higher. But it just seems like so much work to get there. Argh!!!!

    Anybody feelin' my pain???
  2. fool32696

    fool32696 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 991

    I'm just getting into landscaping and decorative concrete this year. I've been doing lawn maintenance for over 8 years. I been doing LOTS of estimates on both pool decks and landscape jobs. Most of the estimates have been between $1000 and $6000 and I'm having the same issues as you, about 80-85% of the estimates are just wasting my time. I'm admittedly not the best salesman (and I'm working on that) but it seems like when the job runs over $1k I never hear back. I'm just hoping I'll come out of this when things turn around as a better businessman and salesman. Similar to your situation, this is still the most profitable year that I've ever had despite the hard sells and fuel prices. It's just comforting to me to know I'm not the only one that is having trouble closing deals.
  3. Lawnworks

    Lawnworks LawnSite Fanatic
    from usa
    Posts: 5,407

    It is a wierd year... my gross is up as well... I keep wondering if I am going to stay booked 2 weeks to 4 weeks out, but the work never seems slacks for my landscape crew. I guess it is just media hype. I have only done one job for a builder all year, but I never really relied on builders anyway. I bet all three of my crews have averaged 60 hours per week the whole summer. I think it is going to be a good year if Odumma doesn't get elected.
  4. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,776

    I'm having a good year. I haven't run into same problems with budet restrictions. If there is an issue with the final price, then I suggest doing stages on their landscaping rather than doing it all at once. 9 times out of 10 they are willing just to do the whole thing rather than wait another year to finish.

    I don't know what it is, maybe I am a good salesman, the local economy, or my reputation, but I haven't had to bid against any other companies this year on any residentials. Every client I've talked to wants my company to do the work and no one else. The reason I started this business was because of the shoty work other companies were doing. I have one client that I told them that I was booked until sept, and I have a g-pa that is failing in health, and if it was an issue that I could find them a good landscaper to do the job. They declined and said they would wait.
  5. jaybird24

    jaybird24 LawnSite Senior Member
    from midwest
    Posts: 623

    Things are doing real well here too, profits are up 30% and that's mainly because we were booked till June coming into the year so all my bids have been extremely high, so the ones I get turn out to be money makers. The calls keep coming and now were taking bids for next year, seems the higher the price the more people want us to do the work. Very strange, I hope it keeps up. Jim- I remember a post you had a few weeks back about people wanting to talk work with you everywhere you went. After that post ( which I agreed with) I decided to tell people right off the bat we are booked for the year, but I will be working on bids for next year in the coming months. Maybe this could help weed out some of the price shoppers. And for God's sake take a vacation or weekend at least to get away and just enjoy something other than work, you deserve it.
  6. shovelracer

    shovelracer LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,009

    I think we are all seeing the same things. Most of it is caused by media hype. The majority of what Ive seen is the potential client has a mental budget of X that they want to spend on the house. One option is to spend it on landscaping. Most have unrealistic expectations as to the cost of it so they get disappointed. The money gets spent on one of the other options. This is different where in years past if the estimate was over by a reasonable amount they would find a way to make it happen. Now if it is a dollar over they cant do it, and are looking for the biggest bang for the buck.
  7. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,563


    i'd be willing to bet you have a big yellow pages ad........

    I refuse to get a yellow pages ad because of the "tire kickers" that would totally waste my time... got tired of running all over for people that could not afford me...
  8. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,944

    It's different alright.

    One of my best years ever - as of when we moved back near Portland - with what seems to be a bit higher than a 90% acceptance rate on estimates.

    As much pruning as any other time, maybe a bit more, some landscaping projects.

    About 1/4 the amount of water features.

    And landscape blueprints / design plans, maybe 10% of other years.

    Some of the water feature stuff was rebuild - not first-time for the property stuff.

    So it seems that there is less business pertaining to planning and developing new landscaping and waterfeatures from scratch, and more along the lines of upgrading, maintaining or repairing.
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,841

    No. I don't like Yellow Pages. Same advertising we've always had. Nothing has changed in our advertising. But the results we're getting is what has changed.
  10. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,944

    I thought you were going to say something like that. I recalled you posting not too long ago about some ad related stuff, and yellow pages was part of the conversation.

    Hey - we did not hook up about that tree stuff yet.

    Didn't call this weekend, figuring you might like to chill. I laid low and web surfed, and watched an old flick called "12 Angry Men".

    Have some time on my hands tomorrow.

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