Does quality even matter?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Shaded Green, Jun 9, 2008.

  1. Shaded Green

    Shaded Green LawnSite Member
    Posts: 62

    OK guys. I know someone is going to jump down my throat.

    All Lazers are very bad for the lawns they cut. I, myself have a fleet which includes a 48", (3) 60"s, and a 72" ExMark Lazer Z. Oh, we just bought a new Ferris 48" WB and a 21" isn't worth loading (for us). So I get to see the damage first hand.

    I'm not going to get all technical on you, but between soil compaction and the ripping of grass blades, you get where I'm coming from. (I sharpen every blade every morning, they rip grass by lunch). Smaller (less efficient) mowers are more suited to the health of the majority of available lawns.

    What I mean is..... 80 - 90% of potential customers have never considered sharp mower blades, soil compaction, or anything else an experienced lawn technician should know. The simple fact is that the market demands efficiency much more than quality.

    I know everyone here wants to consider themselves the Picasso of striping and master of edging, but let's be real with ourselves here. We are forced to provide a mediocre service in order to survive and compete with the onslaught of newcomers.

    Of course, there are many customers who do care about the quality of the cut, but their numbers are minuscule compared to the knock it down crowd.

    So who is smarter.... really?

    By the way, I cut estates all day (2 man crew). They are all under 2 acres and we get $350 a pop. We do 2-5 a day. Includes weeding, watering, treatments, and pruning. ($350 only covers grass and weeding)
    Our other crew cuts 25 - 35 dumps per day and nets, on average, the same as us.
  2. lifetree

    lifetree LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,370

    I think we need to find what I refer to as a "happy medium" for the "volume lawn crowd" ... if you know what I mean !!
  3. JNyz

    JNyz LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,086

    I agree. When I bid a new lawn and ask what the problem was with the former contractor and they say mower damage I tell them straight up you will most likely see the same with us, we all use the same equipment. The turns do damage as well. To the average client they all look the same but to some there is a difference. I congratulate you on charging accordingly for quality service. I only have a few of those. I have ten thousand sq ft of grass as well as my neighbor. I sodded both at the same time and I fertilize both at the same time all year. I use a 48 and lazer ztr, he uses a 21 and his looks twice as good as mine. My wife always teases me why his looks so good. It all comes down to price and by pushing a little higher quality you can sometimes get slightly higher prices. Good luck and keep going after the high end client.
  4. jaybird24

    jaybird24 LawnSite Senior Member
    from midwest
    Posts: 623

    This is very true. Over the last five years we have started using our 20" on many more small lawns and the high quality lawns. Walk behinds aren't as bad, but compaction still exists.It takes time to build up customers who truly care about their lawn so we do our best to educate them. At least these huge mowers have come a long way in the quality of cut compared to ten years ago. It also keep us busy spring and fall aerating. You are right, the need to be efficient on a large property dictates the use of large mowers, near the house we like to use smaller ones to keep damage to a minimum in high visibility areas. This type of thinking is what has me considering Walker mowers, however I don't know if they would really be a solution either, from what I hear though the quality is better.
  5. JNyz

    JNyz LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,086

    It all comes down to how much you can net at the end of the day. If you can net more using a 48 and a 21 I would do it but I think it might be difficult. I need to make dollars in a highly competitive area so I charge on the higher end by selling on quality but I still see issues with ztr's. I do not think this will change. We work in an industry where everything else goes up everyday and landscape contracting prices go down.:hammerhead:
  6. gorknoids

    gorknoids LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 316

    JNyz pretty much nailed it. Equipment is the common denominator in the mainstream market. With very few exceptions (Don't ask me for an example, because coming up with one would be harder than carrying on a conversation with a lemming...) you aren't going to be able to make a living behind a 21". Big decks require fewer passes, and wide tires distribute the weight better than low-drag, skinny ones. The wider decks are more prone to scalping, so you can dial in an extra 1/2" in cut height, and change up your pattern every week to minimize compression ruts.
    As for dull blades, there's only so much a person can do.
  7. Shaded Green

    Shaded Green LawnSite Member
    Posts: 62

    Guys........ No one needs to defend themselves here. In fact, I applaud the efficient crew. I just feel that most who strive to provide excellent service eventually realize that there really isn't much demand for excellence. So we compromise. I mean, I'm beginning to wonder if I should even bother sharpening the other crew's blades more than once a week.
    All these people care about is how well we blow off.
  8. WHIPPLE5.7

    WHIPPLE5.7 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 958

    21"s work great for me because I can run my little trailer and stay much closer. Its really hard for me to make much on ZTR jobs anymore because they are farther away and require my big enclosed trailer whichs eats lots of that $4 per gallon fuel. As far as quality most of my jobs are 1/4 to 3/4 acre places. Some are the real nice ones that require extensive trimming and careful paths with the mowers and some are the quick in and out sloppy trimming or no trimming at all jobs. I tried phasing out the ones who wanted a discounted price for quick work but now I'm hurting for money I'm taking everything. Some people wait until the city warns them about their 20" tall grass and then they call me. I'll go in with a high power trimmer and do the initial blowdown and then mow it for about double or triple the normal rate.
  9. tacoma200

    tacoma200 LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,426

    Every part of the country is different. There are often different standards in different neighborhoods that are in close proximity. You seem to have some very upscale clients and I assure you that this is the exception in most of the country, you probably don't know how lucky you are to have a market that will bear those prices today. I guess you have to get a feel for each customer and neighborhood and go with your gut feeling on what is more important and find some happy middle ground. I know many area's of the North East and elsewhere that a perfectly maintained lawn and collection of clipping is standard. Come to the rural South where they just let them grow and never do any thing to lawns except cut them. No weed control, no fertilize, not soil samples, no edging, etc..... It's a very big country and very diverse. Do what it takes to make your customers happy! Dude they cut some lawns with tractors here. Not lawn tractors but tractors. Rich and poor alike don't seem to care.:)
  10. JNyz

    JNyz LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,086

    I love your last line. They don't care about rut that goes across 20 feet of their slope, just the grass left on their old cracked patio.

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