Did my ship just come in? Help please!

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Gr grass n Hi tides, Sep 13, 2003.

  1. Gr grass n Hi tides

    Gr grass n Hi tides LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,020

    Yesterday I got a call from an apartment complex property manager. I met with her and walked the site. First, let me say sorry for not posting pics I'll just have to describe the site for ya'll.

    The situation: property manager has been there two years & gone through four in-house property maintenance guys. Same old song and dance trying to find good help. She's sick of inconsistency and now she & the owner both want to contract out grounds keeping. She wants a bid, doesn't want to tell me what their budget is so I can work within it. They want service for the rest of this year and next year, for starters (If I get this job I realize I'll be in bidding wars with other LCOs during subsequent years).

    She told me their current grounds maintenance guy (solo), he works M-F, 9:00 - 5:00 with an hr. for lunch. It takes him two days to mow (don't know what he's cutting with) & forever to edge. She said by the time a week and a half goes by he's not done with with everything & can't keep the entire place looking nice at one time.

    The property: 25 buildings to edge around. There's sidewalk everywhere running the length of the huge parking lots and from the main walk up to the front of each apartment. Some trees also but not a lot of them. The trees for the most part are around the perimeter.

    The turf, there's mostly small (1K - 8K areas) in and around the buildings. Most of it I can get with the 48 wb hydro. There are some some small mounded areas right in front of the buildings, small strips really, that will have to be done with 21er so they don't get scalped. Then, there are a couple of very large open areas, I would imagine for future expansion purposes, that total probably 5 acres.

    I'm a solo operator & rely on just one other guy to help me when I need it. My limited equipment list includes 48 wb; 32 wb; 21 push.

    I have limited funds to expand. My rough plan is find another bigger mower (saw a Toro 52 wb hydro w/ sulky for $1,500 the other day) for the open areas, add two more blowers and two more trimmers, then use the temp agency for help and tackle this property with a crew of 5.

    My Questions:

    (1) What's your bid?
    (2) Can I get this property done in 1.5 - 2 days with a crew of 5 as described?

    Thanks in advance for input ya'll.
  2. yergus

    yergus LawnSite Member
    Posts: 146

    first off, you have commercial equipment, that will pick up considerable amount of time saved, you have one helper, the other man did not, that will save even more time, that is if your helper is worth his weight in salt. the whole affair should take about one full day possible a couple of hours the second day.
    the man doing the property before probably worked slow, and he probably took alot of breaks. i would bid it for 18 hours per man (36 hours total) and charge them that with the understanding that in case it took longer than you expected, the price may need renegotiating after the initial cut.

    DUSTYCEDAR LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Posts: 5,137

    what is it going to cost for all the help from a temp ageracy?
    i have goten help from a temp place once and they were unskilled to say the least and they did not want to weedwack it was a mess so if u can pull it off go 4 it but if it is a bigger headace than u need i would say pass
    i have found that places with in house mowing just hate to spend money that is why they do it themselves and as soon as they find someone cheaper u get the boot hope it works out well good luck
  4. Gr grass n Hi tides

    Gr grass n Hi tides LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,020

    Rates at the temp agency are $____ wage plus $4.00. So, I'm looking at $14 - $15 per employee in order to get help out there.
  5. Randy Scott

    Randy Scott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,915

    There are some quality issues on jobsites even with employees that you have full time and that do properties week after week. I certainly would not recommend using temporary help for a job like this that will affect your image as a business.

    Just because it may look like a good opportunity, it sounds like you really aren't prepared to tackle properties of this nature. What about equipment failure? Do you have back up? You have a very limited arsenal from what it sounds.

    As stated before, most likely, low bid will win. Are you prepared to make minimal profit with maximum headache? Then be replaced the followwing season because you were outbid by 1%?

    If you were a company that was large enough to tackle this property, I'd say go for it. The fact that you will have to jump through some hoops to get this job rolling and handled properly, you will be putting forth a lot of effort to most likely loose it to a cheaper guy the following season. Not always the case, but associations usually get bids every season and get together to discuss it. I don't know what it is, but you get a group of people together like this, and the only thing they agree on is "cheapest". If you met with these people one on one, you could probably sway them towards cheaper is not always better. Something about "the meetings" that make them cheap bast_ _ _ _!

    My personal thought to you, pass on it.
    Gr grass n Hi tides likes this.
  6. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Posts: 1,579

    Wish you had some pics but i can't see 2 guys taking more than a day ... depends on how much detail work they want .... id say go for it.
  7. yardman1

    yardman1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 458

    If you have a crew of five you should be finished well within a day, and a price I have no idea, do not know how much detail work is involved.
  8. steve122

    steve122 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 208

    my 2 cents-
    you can't grow if you don't stretch yourself once in a while. If you have the financial resources to upgrade your equipment and not get hurt if it doesn't't work out, go for it. You'll can always re-sell the equipment or keep it and look for work to put it too use.
    I would definitely stay away from the temp agencies, for all of the reason's already presented.
    I'm with most of the others, sounds like 2 guys for a long day or just a couple of hours the 2nd. Bid it high and remember, you never get hurt by the jobs you don't get, just the ones you underbid and get.
  9. In situations like this, where the owner (property manager) is willing to work with you, it might be a good idea to do a couple of test-cuts. Lets say you think you can do a property that large in two days, bid it for at least 150% of what you’d make mowing your other accounts in two days.

    Why not bid the same or less, since you’d be saving drive-time, etc.? Well, there is a HUGE risk you’d be taking here and Randy’s advice to pass is wise. For weekly service, two days worth of work is 40% of your capacity. Imagine what a breakdown or a long rainy spell could do to your schedule. If you get a helper, full-time or not, what happens (not if, but) when he doesn’t show? It could be disastrous for your quality if you depend on temporary labor. Same deal if you don’t have back-up machinery. Then, if you were to lose the account, imagine all the ramifications of trying to replace 40% of your capacity in mid-season. A good rule of thumb is never let any single customer have more than 20% of your capacity, but even that much is risky.

    Never the less, if you want to try it, bid 150-200% of your existing rate for however long you think it might take. Of course there’s a large learning curve on a property like this, so it would take at least 2 or 3 test-cuts to get a reasonable feel. Be sure that they understand you’re only doing a test-cuts and tell them the price could go way up or down. But everyone knows the price will only go up. They’re going to see how long it takes, so don’t get in any hurry, do a thorough job. Any shortcuts or time saving measures that you come across are solely for your benefit if you were to get the account at a later date.
  10. maple city

    maple city LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 305

    One thing that will save you time on this is a Little Wonder Edger. They are a little pricey, but cut down on time, and do a great job. Keeping the edging looking good makes a great impression, and in my opinion, sets us apart as professionals.

    I would try like heck to stay away from tems to help you. Some temps aren't the most reliable and hardest working employees. You may have a hard time getting them to do the quality of work you expect. Do you know any other small LCO's that may want to go in on this with you. Maybe work a deal where you are splitting the $$$ or something. Then you could share equipment and employees. Just a thought.

    Other thoughts...
    It does sound like the property mgr. may be cheap. Why are they calling you instead of the large LCO's that are probably advertised everywhere. Did the mgr. get your number out of the phone book? How many other LCO's are they "working with" on this bid right now?
    It sounds like a great oppertunity, but if you don't have the equipment and manpower, it may be out of your league at this time. Is this your first large bid? Bidding large props is a lot different from bidding a normal yard.
    Be VERY careful about the way you word your proposal. Make sure that you specify what tree and bush work you are or are not doing, and the frequency of cuts, edging, etc.
    I have a pretty professional proposal I just worked up for a Condo association. I made sure that every specific problem I could think of was mentioned in it before I submitted it. From excessive trash problems, to tree storm damage.
    Once you get into a deal like this, you have to be careful that you aren't sucked into doing all kinds of work that isn't in your contract.

    Good Luck, post some pics if you can get them.
    Gr grass n Hi tides likes this.

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