customer says we are "all a bunch of dummies!"

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by bobbygedd, Feb 21, 2004.

  1. bobbygedd

    bobbygedd LawnSite Fanatic
    from NJ
    Posts: 10,178

    i been doing estimates. got a call yesterday from a prospect in a neighboring town. upscale area, but infested with guys doing great work, for below poverty level wages. i didn't get the job, but i did get the opportunity to meet a very, very nice, well spoken, respectable man. this guy, i'm telling you, was a real pleasure to talk to, i didn't want to leave. spent like half an hour just chatting about this and that, if he had any beer, i'd probly still be there. here was the property: corner lot, lots of trimming and edging, 10k of turf. i quoted $35 a week for mow service, $660 for fert program. he inquired about leaves. i told him i couldn't quote fall cleanup prices, on a property like that (lots of trees) at this time of year. he understood, but asked for a ballpark figure. i told him roughly $325 plus disposal(had to be hauled). he said the company last year, charged $225 for cleanup and disposal. they had 3 guys there, for 6 hrs, they cleaned the entire property and hauled it for $225. i laughed, and so did he. he said, i was much higher than the others. he explained he's been living there for 45 years, been through dozens of services, seen em all come and go. he said, "you know why you guys with your lawn services kill yourselves for nothing?" i said, "ummm, nope." he said , " BECAUSE YOU ARE ALL, A BUNCH OF STUPID, BRAINLESS, DUMMIES!!!!" he said he was, and still is in business for more than 50 years. and he has yet to meet a lawn guy that can run a business. he says finding a lawnman that is a true businessman, is like finding a needle in a haystack, but the "needle" still doesn't stand a chance, because his counterparts make sure he, and them will fail. he said his daughters husband ran a lawn service for 10 yrs. more like, it ran him. said he grossed a million a year, but spent more than that a year. he said after 10 years this kid was nearly beat to death from the work, and didn't have a nickle to his name. he hires "proffessional" services. they do a great job. then, they go under. and they do a great job, for alot cheaper than me. i have never had a client speak to me that way. he wasn't rude, or disrespectful, in fact, he was right to the point, and a real pleasure to talk to. all of you should have the chance to meet someone like him. definitely unique. i just had to share that with u guys.

    DUSTYCEDAR LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Posts: 5,137

    he is very true there r many guys out there working just to work they think because they have a $100 bucks in there pocket they r making money.
    the point here is know what it takes to make u money and stick to the price
    get as much as u can while u can because the day will come that u cant get any!:cry:
  3. PLI1

    PLI1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 254

    I have had a few customers act surprised over the years when they learned that I own my own house! There are more than a few people out there that think we are all poor idiots that live in cardboard boxes or in a ditch somewhere. I can see why when I see some other LCOs driving around in their Sanford and Sons rigs.
  4. Mudmower

    Mudmower LawnSite Member
    Posts: 102

    Bobby, I enjoy reading your post but this is the first time I have ever responded. After doing this business part time, I completely agree. Not that LCO are DUMMIES, but that most don't know how to run a business. I am no Donald Trump or Mike Dell, but lots of people are destined to fail before they even begin!!!!

    It has to do with price, and ease of entry. As has been pointed out countless times before, any one with a 21" craftsman is in business!!!!! They have no idea how to plan out (business plan) exactly HOW to make money. They figure as long as they are mowing, they are making money. The overhead in this business can be as low as gas money for the week, to someone who has a plan and realizes when you work for yourself, your overhead is your entire life (mortgage, insurance, kids, all living expenses).

    If the $20.00 guy stopped and really TRUTHFULLY looked at expenses verses money made, they would realize they are not covering basic living expenses. Now if this is part time, great. But full-time, it is suicide. The trap is that to many part timers CAN come in and lower the going rate in an area. This is not necessarily bad, because some folks are interested in price only. But then the full-time guy who may have a higher price, starts to get a little concerned and may drop his price. This is a natural reaction for MANY, MANY business people. It is hard to stick to your guns when you are loosing 1 or more accounts a week. Add to the mix the amount of illegals here in Texas, and a hole new element enters the fray. Many of the larger companies barely pay minimum wage, and I have HEARD of one here in the south Houston area who does not pay travel time. The crew leader keeps track of time spent mowing or blowing and that is how they get paid. Work a ten hour day and get paid for 7 to 8.

    It is a viscous cycle, and as you may have noticed Bob, the man you spoke with was very personable. He was easy to talk to and I will bet money, that was one of his greatest assets as a business man. That and knowing when to walk away from a deal. But I understand, it's hard to walk away from a job when the light bill and house note are due...........

    Just my perspective....Jim
  5. lawnman_scott

    lawnman_scott LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,547

    Yeah me too. I can see how they look at us though. I look down on most lawn guys i see driving around.
  6. leadarrows

    leadarrows LawnSite Senior Member
    from N/A
    Posts: 925

    So even if I can't afford a new truck and trailer yet I should get them anyway just so I don't have to drive my Sanford and son truck and trailer? I suppose sense I can't afford new stuff to start with I have no right to be in this business? I should just work for one of you guys I have no right to try and build my own business. I'M not worthy. Is that it? Stupid me and I thought it was the quality of my work and pricing so I make a profit that would lead me to the success that I am hoping for.
    So the fact that I am able to pay all my bills on time and have a home on five acres with five out buildings means nothing because I don't have a shiny new truck and trailer. What arrogance!!!!
  7. pcnservices

    pcnservices LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 614

    I wont go this far.

    But I agree that there are many guys coming into this lawn maintenance and lawn care industry thinking it is an easy way to make cash money and a cheap alternative to replace a good paying full time job with benefits and own your own business. In order to get a few clients on board and get started they lowball. A year or two down the line they realize their mistake, increase their service fee and loose a whole bunch of clients and they're out.

    Most of the guys here have some kind of post graduate degree in business admin, etc. and many others have years of expierence and knowledge and are very well skilled in business management. It's not only pushing a lawn mower that's going to make you successsful in this industry.

    Just read some of the threads started by new comers into this industry. There were one yesterday asking: "when does the mowing season start"? and "how much $$ will I make my 1st year"? Where are these guys's business tools? (income/expenditure, cashflow, action plan, etc.)

    I'm afraid to say, I dont have much hope for some of these guys. And I'm sure these are the type of lco's this prospect of Bobby were refferring to.

  8. rodfather

    rodfather LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 9,501


    Did this guy tell you what he did for a living btw?
  9. dkeisala

    dkeisala LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 911

    Well - isn't this an interesting topic. Sometimes those old guys know what they are talking about.

    I'm going into my 8th season and have had to fight and struggle to get where I am at. I've even lived in the garage I worked out of for a year. The only thing that has prevented me from going and getting a "real" job is sheer drive and determination. Working a business is far different than running a business and most of us are stuck doing both.

    Many lco's simply don't plan properly. I just bought a trailer from a guy for $3000 that he paid $4500 to have built a year ago only to find out his Toyota T100 won't pull the thing. He still owed his leasing company $3800 at the time I bought it. How stupid is that? His misfortune is my good fortune. And by the way, this guy is one of those that only pays his help for work time, not travel time. I was shocked to learn that 1) people actually ask workers to do this and 2) workers actually are willing to do it.

    A couple of weeks ago I bumped into a guy I graduated from high school with (20 years ago). We have both been in this business for the same amount of time. He is just now getting close to paying off his used 1985 F150 and pulling around the same tiny trailer he has always used. I've got two full sized trailers and just ordered my second truck after paying off my 1998 F250 last December. All this guy could tell me was how hard it was to make any money in this business and why he couldn't justify spending any more money to grow his business. Oh well, when his business finally tanks, maybe he will send his clients my way.

    I know another guy that got tired of working for one of the bigger lco's. Figured he could buy a few pieces of equipment, a truck and start making great money. He is struggling to this day. Every time I talk to him he is on some new "gimmick" to sell service. He is paying over 16% interest on a high-end mower that he has always hated and has never really met his needs. He provides every service from maintenance to installation all with just one employee. He is for too spread out and going in a dozen different directions. He has no focus.

    I could go on but the point is that these guys are smart, respectable, polite and good people. I'm no better than any of these guys. But the fact is, they work very hard but just don't have what it takes to run a business. Even many of the members on this site don't get it. They buy more truck than they need. They buy more mower than they need. They post pictures of new equipment like they are the proud fathers of a new infant. They don't use technology to their benefit. They figure a pen and paper works just as well as a computer and software, they don't.

    As I watch these guys and there businesses fall, I wish them well, gobble up there customers, buy their stuff from them for far less than they paid for it and go on my merry way, all the time thinking just how much I've learned and gained from watching them and their experiences.
  10. bobbygedd

    bobbygedd LawnSite Fanatic
    from NJ
    Posts: 10,178

    yes rod, he's a dentist. in fact, his office was right at his house. very nice man. in fact, even though i'm not getting the job, i wish he would call just to chat. in 30 minutes, this guy called me and "my entire generation" a bunch of brainless dummies, at least 5 times. but, we talked about so much in those 30 minutes, i really enjoyed the conversation

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