Getting more professional

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by NewbieOwner, May 20, 2002.

  1. NewbieOwner

    NewbieOwner LawnSite Member
    from Alberta
    Posts: 61

    Hey folks,

    Well, the seasons started really well. I finally quit my other job on friday, and now I'm doing landscape maintenance full time (and a good bit of tree pruning mixed in) Route is now full enough that I'm going to be working 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week!

    Again, thanks for everyones help earlier in the season as I was just getting going. Your help and support was greatly appreciated!

    I now have a dillemma which requires additional help. I've got the $ in the bank now, to either go buy some better equipment (Current equipment is a pair of MTD mowers, Poulan Pro straight shaft trimmer, and a weed eater handheld blower) Or replace my vehicle. (Oh, I did buy a 12' enclosed trailer 2 weeks ago) Its an old Jeep, gets the job done, but its REALLY hard on gas, not really ideal for its purpose, and it looks like s__t.

    I see great advantages to both, but funds don't allow for it. My route is almost 100% residential, all under 4000sq feet. I spend about 80% of my day mowing, the other 20% doing tree work (I LOVE BLACK KNOT!)

    Half my day I spend thinking, lets get a nice 32" Walker, some better push mowers, trimmers, and blower. The other half I spend thinking "Please get me through the day baby, if ya do I'll get you those new tires and lift you want"

    If I get the better equipment I can do more work, pay for a brand spanking new truck sooner, but that wont do if I don't have a way to get to the job... But a fancy new truck isn't really going to allow me to take more work, make more $ thus allowing me to buy better equipment... Catch 22...

    I did talk to the chev dealer about financing, but after my move and resulting financial difficulties (and owning my own buisness) they won't touch me with a 100' pole! Bank doesn't think much better of me (even though I've got over 10k$ in their institution).

    My wife (smart as she is) suggests a) buying a new 'used' pickup, or b) fixing the jeep up a bit. And buying some used landscaping equipment... Smart woman, but used equipment scares me, considering the 'local' dealers are at least 2 hours drive away...

    As always your help is greatly appreciated, thanks for taking the time to help me out!

  2. ProSeasons

    ProSeasons LawnSite Member
    Posts: 84

    If you cant get you OR your equipment TO a job site, You have failed at this, right? Shoot, a nice pick-up and a push mower, weed eater and you could still service a client or two. Heck a nice truck and a pair of scissors! You could own a 24 foot Haulmark with a 60 inch Lazer Z and two 48 inch WB's and all the trimmings but if you cant tow it to the job site, what are you going to do then? Throw a rope over your shoulder and pull it around? :D Let me introduce you to the benefits of a nice DIESEL pick-up truck. Mine gets 12 mpg towing in the city, 22 empty on the highway, the bed is your spare trailer, toss in a WB and a trimmer, edger, blower and gas can and your off! Plus, diesels offer ALL kinds of power, durability and longevity. 500,000 miles is not unusual. Ford, Dodge or Chevy, You can't go wrong! Seriously, it sounds as if your Jeep is in it's death throes. Don't leave your new business stranded at the side of the road. Brian.
  3. SLS

    SLS LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Mars
    Posts: 1,540

    I agree with ProGreen.

    I have a friend that was in the same situation...bought a lawncare biz that included a Dixie Chopper and Scag W/B's...and a shabby ol' van to tote em' around.

    He wound up spending more time on the side of the road (and explaining to customers why he was behind) than he did making moolah. :(

    Then he got a great deal on a new Chevy Silverado (?) that was a "no frills" package but did include a heavy-duty towing package with electric trailer breaks hookup.

    Now he is smiling all the way to the bank.

    The moral of this story?:

    Even the best Dixie Choppers and Redmax handhelds are useless if you can't get them to the worksite. :)

    Glad to see things are coming together for you since your move, NewbieOwner!
  4. Barkleymut

    Barkleymut LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,117

    I think this is why if you want to have a 1st class operation from the beginning you need a new truck and over $15K in startup cash to do really well in your first 5 years. Otherwise you will be spending as much time at your storage location as you do on your customers properties.
  5. MOW ED

    MOW ED LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,028

    If the mowers are still working and you are working 6 days a week, 10-12 hour days then I agree with the above and you should look for a work truck. You don't need a 1 ton 45K dually. Minimum is a Chev W/T or a bare bones Ford, I personally am not a Mopar man. The other requirement is that it has the capacity to do what you will be doing for the next 2-3 years, i.e. minimum 1/2 ton V-8 or diesel. Sixers are nice and cheap, they ride around nice when the trailer isn't attatched but you are yankin an enclosed trailer.
    I don't know your money situation but be creative with the bucks and with what you have. If you have a house, and you are confident that you are doing well in the business, use part of your house as equity. Put 25% or more down out of that 10K you have in the bank. Talk to your tax guy, I am sure Canada has different tax laws but if you are running a legit business then your payment, maintenance, mileage and gas may all be deductable.
    You are in the hardest time of the business. You need everything and you can't afford to have breakdowns. It is true that if you cant get to the property, you cant do the work. Its also true that if you get to the property and don't have the equipment you cant do the work. You have to figure out which one may let you down first. Good Luck
  6. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 738

    Quite the dilemma. I remember thinking I wanted a new(er) truck when I got into the business. I was using a station wagon to pull a 5 x 8' trailer when I was in high school. A mentor of sorts told me, it doesn't matter how you get to the job - as long as you get to it. It matters that you have the right equipment and you're giving your customer the best job possible. After all, when you pull away - your finished product stays behind. Who cares how you got there. The $300 a month I would have spent on a truck would not have made me any more money than I was currently making... but going from 21" mowers to a 36" did.

    But... you still need that truck to get there. The guys are right - without a horse - the wagon will never get there to do the work. If you are able to finance, look at your cash flow. If not, consider used. I'd agree with MOWED, you're at one of the toughest times for the business... estimate which is going to break down first... your truck or equipment.
  7. Brickman

    Brickman LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,249

    Yes you are between a rock and a hard place. My suggestion would be a used truck, and NEW equipment. Yes used would scare me too.
    In the US you could get a decent used 3/4 for $7000, or $8000 that might last you for several years, or maybe just one and then you could trade it in for a newer one. With all the work it sounds like you are getting you NEED to be able to get there, and do it. And as long as that is happening your $$$ will keep coming, and next thing you know you have the $ for equipment too.
  8. scott's turf

    scott's turf LawnSite Senior Member
    from NH
    Posts: 949

    Yes,used has saved me lots of money. It will cause some additional problems though. I bout a 92 F250 diesel a couple of years ago for $6k. Paid cash for it and have had to put in about $2k per year in repairs. Luckily it has not caused me to lose work because I was able to use my personal truck when the other was in the shop. Diesel repairs are not chep though. It has been in the shop for a total of about 6 days. 3 of those days were for a transmission rebuild. So $2k/year is quite a savings I feel. I think one could be easily paying $7k/year for a new truck. I keep my truck looking great. It has about 250,000 miles on it. I am told that it could esily get another 100,000. We only put around 10,000 per year so I will be good for awhile. I am very busy and I don't feel that having a used truck has cause me to look unprofessional and thus losing bids. Spend your money on equipment that will result in more work and less time.
  9. TGCummings

    TGCummings LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 773

    Well, if you're working 60 hours a week on the job you should have another $10K for equipment in no time, if you're charging professional rates. If not, consider revising your pricing policies to work less for more money and put less stress on current equipment (and body!).

    If you worry the vehicle will not make it, get another one. Try to upgrade to better 21" commercial mowers. At the size of lawns you're doing you won't be needing anything larger anytime soon (voice of experience).

    Pace it out. If you're charging what you should and working those hours you should be able to get the truck and mower one month. Better auxillary equipment (weedeater, edger, blower) the next month and, if you find you must have it, a 32" or 36" mower the next month.

    After that, you'll just have to find something else to spend all your extra money on. ;)
  10. NewbieOwner

    NewbieOwner LawnSite Member
    from Alberta
    Posts: 61

    Ok, better clarify a little,

    Jeep has yet to let me stranded at the side of the road, (5 minute fixit stops not included) But she's getting old for sure, and the extra abuse of towing a trailer around in town is starting to show.

    Todays Victoria day holiday here in Canada, and I'm out replacing the front axle u-joints, gotta pull the front driveshaft (ball in the center of the CV has fallen apart, makes a NASTY clunking anytime I'm driving) Probably spend this afternoon dealing with a leaking rear axle seal (lots of 90w in the passenger side brake drum) If I feel REALLY adventurous I'll tackle the upper alternator mount bolt (that 8" long one) that sheared flush to the head (Used a spring center pin to hold it to the mount for now)

    My MTD mowers are doing great, Nice cuts (now that i've replaced the blades) They've been almost 100% reliable (small water in gas issue earlier, leading to the purchase of the backup mower) Trimer starts every time, thats about all I can say thats good about it, balance is all wrong, my wrists hurt just thinking about it. But it gets the job done, and it starts every time. The weed eater blower is JUNK, 10-15 pulls to start, and then I often wonder if I couldn't just get on my hands and knees do a little huffing and puffing and do a better job!

    That said, I can also honestly say I'm making the equipment I have work well. My quality is by far the best in town, so I'm obviously making it work for me. Doesn't stop me from dreaming about self-propelled mowers, that sweet Echo SRM 2400, or that brand new Stihl BR400 I was running last year.

    I can just keep saving and replace as needed, but when I sit down and look at the numbers, most of the $ I used to pay off debts, and now the $ in the bank came from the pruning work I was doing. (breaks down roughly to 60% pruning, 40% lawn maintenance) Trees have started to green up, so a lot of that work is now missing (hedge trimming is soon to start though!) Having a tough time deciding, and budgeting... I've got a headache, I think I'll go work on the Jeep now :)

    [Edit] Forgot, no I don't own a house... So no equity to borrow from there. And as much as I'd like to spend a big % of my earnings on new equipment, I haven't figured out what I'll do through the winter, so I'm trying to put away enough to get through the winter and start up again next spring. Cuts back on the purchasing abilities somewhat...

    My prices ARE the highest in town. I'm a good 50-100% higher than any of my competitors (Might have to check again, they've raised theirs in the last month) My lowest cut is 45$ canadian (competitors are in the 20$ range)


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