# Any mathematicians? Universal and simple estimating multipliers

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by BrendonTW, Jan 7, 2011.

1. ### dougdmLawnSite Memberfrom St. Louis, MOPosts: 143

subscribing, cause I am in the process of trying to build my own version of these systems.

I have begun to see this big debate. A fellow old timer lawn service owner does it his way by just looking at the job and then giving the bid. He has beat me 3 times now. We talk on occasion over a few beers . He has told me that once you get these systems figured out, you can begin to remember them and make them easier for you give the bids on the fly. He was a tool maker at a machine shop, then retired and started a one man. His methodical thinking has helped him build his systems for bidding.

3. ### lukemelo216LawnSite Bronze Memberfrom ...Posts: 1,267

exactly the solo guys just want to ball park it, but im saying as you grow and add people to do estimating for you, you need a system in place. Guy a could go to a property and say its going to take 3 hours to do all of this, while guy b can go to that same property and say its going to take 5 hours to do this. When you have a system in place where you measure things out and just plug in numbers your going to be accurate. And we dont measure at each property, we have been using google earth and now are considering using goilawn. We still go to the property to walk through it, but we can get the measurements done online, and we just print off a property photo and bring it with us to verify that it is correct, no major changes. Then we just simply plug the numbers into a excel sheet that has been developed and spits all the numbers out. I can usually spit out an estimate in about 1.5-2 hours with measuring, walking the property, and inputing the numbers.

either method works good, and theres nothing wrong with what one you choose. Some choose numbers, some choose in the head.

4. ### BrendonTWLawnSite Senior MemberMale, from Oklahoma CityPosts: 554

Great input. My difficulty now is calculating the time and price for each extra crew member on the job site. I did my front yard today and came up with this;

18,224 square feet to mow = 14 minutes or .77min/1k square feet
545 linear feet to edge = 4 minutes or 136ft/min
235 linear feet to trim = 1.25 minutes or 188ft/min
18 trees to trim (spacing will always be different) = 3.75 minutes or .2min/tree
and blowing off drive and sidewalk is about 1.5 times the time it takes to edge

It took me a total of 29 minutes. Here's the approximate percentages;
Mowing = 48%
Edging = 14%
Trim Linear = 4%
Trim Obstacles = 13%
Blow Debris = 21%

Based off of these percentages I can gather some useful info;

How many guys should be on this property. If I can make fairly "even groupings" of divided percentages, I can assign that number of guys. Kind of confusing but example;
Here, Mowing is about half. Since it's half, it would only be efficient to have one guy mowing and one other guy to do everything else. However, if mowing was closer to 33%, and some two other methods of grouping by task could equal approximately the same percentage, 33%, then I could send 3 guys and they would all finish closer to the same time. (or 6 guys depending on the size of property, etc...) If I had 3 guys on the property where mowing was 50%, and had only one guy mowing, then one guy spends 50% on the mower, and the two guys manage the other 50% in double time, meaning they have to sit there waiting on the mowing guy to finish.

My problem now is pricing. I guess I take the total man-minutes per property and add those up and multiply them by my labor rate of \$1.25 per minute. I was hoping that my "estimating" system in excel would tell me the total time it would take to finish the job as well, but it will only be the total man-minutes, not the total on-site minutes. Any ideas on how to achieve the total on-site time out of all of this data?

Most of you probably think this is "too complicated", and I'm sure it seems that way right now as I am thinking and brainstorming out loud, looking for any input any of you might have. However, I don't need any of the "you're doing too much" comments. As I am intentionally going through all this mass confusion. It will be clear in the end! Hopefully, lol.

5. ### BrendonTWLawnSite Senior MemberMale, from Oklahoma CityPosts: 554

Actually, somehow I missed page 2 and 3 before I wrote that last reply. Some of the input was good. I wish I was a moderator and could delete all the pointless crap that does not apply to this thread whatsoever.

This discussion is for those of us who ARE interested in working these systems. The title is clearly not asking "SHOULD I DO ESTIMATES THIS WAY?". It seems obvious to me that I AM doing estimates this way. The rest of you who don't do it this way can stop spamming my thread. I've said this before, it's no wonder people don't use the search feature. They find a topic that was exactly what they were looking for and then have to try to tread through the worthless crap trying to find replies that actually apply to the original question.

Last edited: Jan 8, 2011
6. ### XLSLawnSite Silver Memberfrom southern middle tennesseePosts: 2,038

18,224 square feet to mow = 14 minutes or .77min/1k square feet \$27.34
545 linear feet to edge = 4 minutes or 136ft/min \$12.00
235 linear feet to trim = 1.25 minutes or 188ft/min \$12.00
18 trees to trim (spacing will always be different) = 3.75 minutes or .2min/tree
and blowing off drive and sidewalk is about 1.5 times the time it takes to edge
18.00
It took 1 man a total of 29 minutes. or .483 man hrs for Total \$69.00

I had to.

7. ### BrendonTWLawnSite Senior MemberMale, from Oklahoma CityPosts: 554

Which is about \$15 too high. My labor rate needs to either be down around \$40 or my minimum charge needs to be \$20. But I won't do a lawn for less than \$35.00. Hmm.

I haven't calculated my man-hour rate yet. I just threw out \$75, which seems pretty steep compared to most of you. Once I figure my actual rate up, I will get better results.

8. ### BrendonTWLawnSite Senior MemberMale, from Oklahoma CityPosts: 554

I don't know how you got your calculations, but they weren't correct. The end result was almost right on though.

18,224 square feet to mow = 14 minutes or .77min/1k square feet = \$17.50
545 linear feet to edge = 4 minutes or 136ft/min = \$5.00
235 linear feet to trim = 1.25 minutes or 188ft/min = \$1.56
18 trees to trim (spacing will always be different) = 3.75 minutes or .2min/tree = \$4.69
and blowing off drive and sidewalk is about 1.5 times the time it takes to edge = \$7.50
\$36.25 at 1.25/minute plus the \$35 call out is \$71.25

9. ### lukemelo216LawnSite Bronze Memberfrom ...Posts: 1,267

yup etermine your hourly COST of Doing Business, just to break even, no profit or anything like that. Marjority of people should be in the \$30-40/hour range. Not everyone but majority. Which if your at 40 even at 60% mark up your at 65\$/ hour. Companies like brickman and valley crest operate on PM's of as low as 5%. so a range of 35-60% i deem very good.

at 65/hour on your house your talking:
Mowing: \$19.20 Edging: \$6.40 Trimming: 6.40 Tree Trimming: \$6.40 Blowing: \$6.40

That comes out to 44.80 which i believe is very fair for a property that size.

All my times like I said are just rounded up to the .1 so .04 is really .1.

The thing to remember now though, is that this is you performing the service. You are generally working at a faster pace then your employees. And in order for this to be accurate, you need a series of runs. I plugged in the numbers in my program and this is what i got, like \$55 or so.

usually for things like shrub trimming I do two different types of prod rates. type 1 is a line of hedged, i determine the linear feet i can do per hour, the second is for spaced out ones, and that one is just based on a number or shrubs per hour. For walks and drives, i usually measure the total lenght of it and plug that in. I figure i can do just under two miles in an hour. Drives I just usually measure twice, once up and once back.

10. ### BrunoTLawnSite Senior MemberPosts: 741

As in other things, size matters, but it isn't everything.

I personally eyeball it based on having mowed a lot of lawns myself. That eyeball figure is derived inside my brain by basically boiling down all the elements that one would put in a formula.

If you do want to devise a formula, it would be based on a lot of things, some of which vary so wildly that a formula would be hard to come up with.

I'd consider factors such as:

-Lot size
-Discharge, mulch, or bag clippings?
-Lawn size (not the same as lot size, as a huge lot can have almost no lawn but require other services or a long walk from one grassy area to another)
-Slopes (hoofing up/downhill all day is harder than walking around on flat ground)
-Layout of lawn and number of turns required(mowing 5,000 ft of flat rectangle is different than 5,000 ft of ornate small strips and ovals)
-Proximity to other accounts (can it be done at one stop with an existing account, or is there a 15 min drive to your next account?)
-Frequency of mowing
-Health of lawn (thick lush growth takes longer to mow)
-Irrigation system? (again, it will likely have more grass to handle)
-Length of mowing season for type of grass. (more cuts you might be willing to charge a little less per cut)
-Is the property owned or rented? (renters will obviously be shorter term customers and maybe more likely to default)
-Other work done on site (some may want to charge a little less for mowing to get access to shrub/fert/other work, while others may not want that at all)
-Personality of customer (easygoing or potential PITA?)
-Expectations of customer (just hack it down or going for lawn of the month awards)
-Obstacles to trim around (you can mow a lot of lawn in the time it takes to walk around trimming around a few spindly trees randomly set in a lawn)
-Type of mulch and quality of edging (does it wash into the lawn every time it rains requiring you to clean up the mess?)
-Difficulty of trimming (durable or delicate obstacles)
-Gate Access vs your mower sizes
-Is a mower switch required on the job? (this might take as long as mowing a few thousand square feet of lawn on a ztr)
-Grass type (here, Bermuda is tougher to mow than Fescue and more technically demanding to get a nice appearance, for example. Other grass types or conditions can be delicate and require more care or smaller mowers)
-Can the lawn easily be mowed by a new hire or does it require someone with some experience?(who makes more money)
-Sidewalks (requires triple the edging)
-Amount of edging in total.
-Pet considerations (poop, toys in lawn to avoid, having to wait for dog to be put inside, etc)
-Special requirements such as unlocking gates, taking pets in, mowing only on specific days or specific times of day, gated entry to subdivisions which slow you down, etc.
-Parking considerations. (some roads do not have a place to turn around, some are so tight you can't back a trailer in the driveway to do so, cluster home lots may cause issues with blocking neighbors' drives, etc)
-Neighbor issues
-New vs established and trusted customer (more risk of non-payment or getting dropped suddenly with the former)
-How well does the lawn match your business niche', abilities and preferences vs your competition's?
-Can the lawn be easily done by the homeowner? Wide open lots that can be done by a resident sitting on a lawn tractor or tiny patches done by a 21" in a few minutes will bring less than lawns difficult to mow w/o pro equipment. (In my area Bermuda kills homeowners because it's too thick to mow with a cheapo mower and unless you mulch, which takes tons of power, too time consuming and difficult to bag. Discharging on it with homeowner gear looks terrible. So they pay a nice price to avoid all the hassle.
-Does the lot have a place to dump debris if bagging is required?

Obviously some factors you just can't include, but this is why I never bothered with a formula. Too many inputs to consider in the formula.