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at what point is it worth it?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by FrankenScagMachines, Dec 28, 2004.

  1. FrankenScagMachines

    FrankenScagMachines LawnSite Platinum Member
    from IN
    Posts: 4,739

    I guess this question goes to anyone who has "made it" by that I mean, worked from a struggling solo operator to full time LCO and got past the initial road blocks. At what point is it worth it? It seems like I get all the nice toys but never really clear a significant profit at the end of the year. I have a really nice business here, full legitimate, have all the goodies- two trucks two trailers a z, w/b, 21" and lots of nice top of the line 2 cycle/handheld stuff, leaf vac, snowblowers, plow, all the hand tools, shop tools and supplies, etc. Its a nice business, we maintained about 30 lawns a week last season and plan to double that this next year. Did lots of one time leaf removals and this winter are doing snow removal for many of our regular customers and a few one-timers. We have customers that just have us do the leaves or just the snow, and they come back every year. Our rates are fair, many might consider them high on some jobs. Most jobs you could find someone to do it considerably cheaper, even a legitimate LCO. I do not lowball just to get a job. If its an area I really want into, I will sometimes lower my price just to be even with other professional legit LCO's but never below their price. Its a you-get-what-you-pay-for deal with my company. All of my customers are very happy and rarely do i get complaints. I am 17, a senior in high school. I plan to go full time in '05 here next spring as i graduate. Will it all get better when i go full time? it seems like I am constantly under much stress trying to accomplish it all and make ends meet. Its like I am always having to buy more equipment to meet my customer's needs, and a good bit of the stuff is used and i do my own mechanic work (although i have great luck with used stuff) so i save money with those areas (save cost of new and do own work) and buyin this stuff to get the jobs done is great, but it seems to never end. Its always "one more thing and i'll be happy and everything will go great" but that never wants to happen. Things were simpler last year just a pickup, 12' trailer, w/b, trimmer, edger and blower.... I have good employees too. The one is especially good i never have to tell him how to do it or babysit him. Just tell him what i want done and let him have at it. I can go to other part of property or to another job a house or two away, or send him over there and not worry a thing about it. He's good. I wish he would stay with the business but I can only have him probably another year as he is a junior in high school and has plans for college. The other guys I have on my "on call" list for when i need extra help or a fill-in, they're alright too. I pay fair, $7-7.50 starting wage, and $8 for "experienced" help.

    So why am I having a hard time with it? Is it just that I have to buy the equipment for a full time LCO but only have part time income? Is there something else I'm missing? More than once since this past fall I have seriously thought of selling out... the whole enchilada, everything included, or just sell the main stuff and keep the w/b, one truck, small trailer and the older smaller 2 cycle stuff, and a few select customers and go from there, everything paid for that way, low overhead. But I don't know what else i would do after school so then i think i'd better keep what i have i worked two long hard years to get it all i better just hang on and keep going. This stuff will last a long time and will make me a lot of money as it already has. But at what point does all this hard work pay off? 2 years? 3, 4 or 5 years?

    :help: :help: :help:
  2. fga

    fga LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,449

    I guess it depends on what YOU mean by making it. if you set goals for yourself, like steps, it can be very satisfying at the end of the year, and better evry year.
    and you gotta keep your overhead down.. that's my prime #1 thought in making money. I don't buy something unless i have to. really have to, not cuz it looks good on my truck.this is going to be my 7th year full time. Have i made it.. by my standards no. BUT i have gotten bigger and better each year. just bought my first enclosed trailer. bought my biggest mower this year. added an additional blower..
    some go out and put themselves in the red all the time. if i bought all the equipment i ever wanted, i think i would make a profit sometime in the year 2030.
    making it depends on you business decesions and goals.
    alot of guys around here pop up around spring, buy 60,000 in equipment, trucks,... then are gone by june. everyone wants to be a millionaire :rolleyes:

    overall, set goals for yourself, and a budget for spending. As long as you growing each year, inevitably you will "make it".
  3. Norm Al

    Norm Al LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,227

    mowing lawns never totally pays off! when you make the transition from making money for laboring to creating something,,,,,it will then pay off!

    ALL the people who have ever made real money in the green industry have either totally left mowing or mowing has become the lead into other aspects and they just keep the mowing because it keeps feeding the other stuff!
  4. Tn Lawn Man

    Tn Lawn Man LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 479

    Ok, I will give you my opinion based on how I think your business is set up....so I might be really off base.

    First, it sounds like you are building equipment like crazy....that will eat away your profits fast...you have to be very disciplined when buying more equipment. Weigh what you need versus what you want.

    However, equipment is essential to building your business. All I am saying is that is where a "chunk" of your money might be going right now and that is not necessarily bad. It is better to build now while you don't "have" to have the income to survive rather than build later when you are competing with other bills like house payments etc...

    Also, be very careful when hiring help. This too can eat up your profits if not managed correctly. Employees can make you a lot of money but they can also suck you dry. Ask yourself a few questions. Do I NEED this employee or do I just like having extra help? Is there enough work and a tight enough route to keep the employee working consistantly or is there a lot of down time?

    Then of course there are other things to consider like having more accounts, tight routes etc....

    Hope this helps
  5. grass_cuttin_fool

    grass_cuttin_fool LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,503

    I have watched you on this site for a while now, you re invest money back in your company and are making improvements. I have bought alot of newer equipment the last 2 years but before that I hadnt and that equipment made me good money but was getting worn out.
    Im with Adam, alot of guys go in debt fast and try to get everything at 1 time and alot of them dont last long, I quess the payments and the intrest is more than some can bear.
    I dont know at what point it pays off, I try to make a living each year and keep the equipment in good enuff shape to preform the work so I dont have to buy new stuff so often. Last year I bought me a new walk behind , this year a new scag tiger cub, and just yesterday I bought a new 16 foot open trailer. next year Im hoping for a new Back pack blower to upgrade the stihl I have now.
    HAng in there and keep digging and when school is out and you have more time for more accounts or better accounts maybe the picture will be more clear of what you want
  6. Evan528

    Evan528 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,144

    Alot of good advice here. Id also like to chime in because I was in your situation several years ago. I operated this business throughout my entire time in high school also. You do really need to draw the line somewhere with equipment purchases if you really want to make a nice personal salary.
    I started at 9 years old with a craftsman push mower maintaining neighborhood lawns. Over the years I paid cash for every new machine I bought (some I needed, others I just wanted). Till I was about 16 I invested just about every dollar of profit back into the business so that I would have the proper equipment to operate full time at 18. After I bought my new truck at 16 I started only buying the nessesities and replacing low cost equpment (2 cycle equipment) when nessesary. From age 16-18 I was able to pay my self a nice enough salary to be able to put a pretty big chunk of money down on my first home 3 months after I graduated high school. Once you have a mortgage to pay for and a boatload of personal expenses every month, shiny new Ztrs arent quite as appealing as they used to be. I would now rather have a higher personal salary then buy a new machine im not even sure I need.

    I do think all those years of working just to pay for machines have paid of for me. I have a pretty large arsenal of machinery now in wich to operate my business with and dont owe a penny on any of it. I am by no means wealthy now...but I like to beleave a make an above average income and live pretty nicly.

    The only unfortunate thing you might discover is that when this business turns from a hobby to a source of revenue to support your self its not quite as fun as it used to be.
  7. launboy

    launboy LawnSite Senior Member
    from indiana
    Posts: 273

    For being 17 and a senior(i know age really doesn't mean anything) you have a lot of equipment, especially for 30 accounts. When you are out doing your 30 lawns a week with one of your pick ups and trailor, what is the other truck and trailor doing. To me it sounds like you have major equipment components just sitting on your drive way costing more money then they are actually bringing in. You say you have roughly 2 employees plus yourself, for 30 accounts that seems like a lot of man power for 30 accounts.
    Just because a customer wants services that require equipment that you don't have doesn't mean you have to go out and spend top dollar for the euipment. Rent it or pass the service on, it sucks but one thing i've learned from my expiernces and older lco's word of mouth is don't spread yourself thin. Focus on one thing and go to town with it. Then when that is accomplished SLOWELY move to the next service. It just sounds like you are spending more money than making it.
  8. naturescaretaker

    naturescaretaker LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 851

    When is it worth it? How do you define "worth it?" Is it when you are making enough money to pay your bills? Is it when you work for 20 years and retire? Is it when you have the freedom to do what you want to do? What is your time worth? Where do you want to be in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years and 20 years. What are your goals? Matrial things? Family? Education? What are your dreams and goals? Do you like what you are doing? Do you see yourself doing this is 5 years?

    If someone handed you $100K for your business, what would you do if you sold it? What makes you happy?

    What you are asking is something that only you can say.

    DUSTYCEDAR LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Posts: 5,137

    its not what u do its what u keep
    only u know what u make
    so do a biz plan and see
    just for fun lets say u work all year and make 50k
    then u pay all your bills for the biz 45k and u end up with 5k in the bank
    was it worth it?
    only u know the true cost to be in biz and the average lawn guy will not get rich fast lol
    but i like the freedom it gives me to do what i want when i want to for the most part.
    the other thing is u dont have to do all for all people stop buying stuff
    do a few things well and u will make money if u keep buying crap u will only make money to pay the crap off and never any for yourself
    there will always be something that u want or fell u need but dont buy it its the nature of landscaping bigger is not always better lol
    good luck in the new year
  10. Soupy

    Soupy LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,125

    Do you really need the employees? They can eat into profit real fast if they are not needed. Wages, WC insurance, Taxes etc.

    Have you ever heard the phrase "I work for my employee's"? That is when you actually make less then your employee. This is very common, and I have seen it many times. I was a shift manager at a restaurant that had 1.5 million put into it. I was the only management staff that also waited tables (I was basically just the head server with a few duties that got me listed as night manager) and I made more money then anyone associated with the restaurant.

    Now in my example it couldn't be helped, but A part time LCO can be run by one man.

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