Going Full-Time (good vs. bad)

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by lawnspecialties, May 14, 2007.

  1. lawnspecialties

    lawnspecialties LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,513

    For those who don't know me, I'm a full-time firefighter. We only work ten days a month (24 hr. shifts) so that leaves twenty days (minus Sundays) for my LCO. I've been an LCO since '99 and business gets better every year. This year, it's been working on my mind hard about the idea of going full-time LCO. But here are the pros and cons to this possibility.

    Pros:
    1: The revenue is strong enough to go full-time. Right now it would be a little tight but the business is constantly growing and going full-time will only enhance that.
    2: Reitterating #1, I have basically run out of daylight to do much more. I consider myself very efficient and productive but there are only so many hours in a day. Ten more days added to my month would be great.
    3: The fire dept. salary is OK, but nothing special and won't grow but so much. Face it, owning your own business gives someone a far better chance for achieving wealth.
    4: I really enjoy lawn maintenance and landscaping. Firefighting is a great job but I'd rather have dirty fingernails than sooty fingernails.:laugh:
    5: I really miss my family. Being gone on a 24 hour shift and then cutting grass all the next day means I'm gone 36 hours a lot.
    6: Finding new employees to work everyday with me while I train them is far easier than finding an employee who can work everyday I'm not at the fire station.


    Cons:
    1: No dedicated salary with vacation days and sick days paid.
    2: Benefits, benefits, benefits! Health insurance costs these days is off the map. My wife stays home with my two sons so everything is up to me.
    3: What if I get hurt? Who's going to run the equipment? My 13 and 6 year old sons?:confused:
    4: Retirement plan. Being a government employee means you're still one of the few employees in the country who actually gets a full retirement when you get those thirty years in.

    I guess I could go on and on regarding both sides of the issue. I know what I want to do but don't know what I should do. I'd really like to hear from others who've done this or considering it. Any other things I've not considered I'd love to hear them.

    As always, thanks for letting me rant. :)
     
  2. jbone

    jbone LawnSite Member
    Posts: 125

    consider what you would do during the winter, and be sure you can support yourself and the family during those months. I am considering the same thing and that is the only thing stopping me. I already plow winters but not enough to live off of.
     
  3. Lawnworks

    Lawnworks LawnSite Fanatic
    from usa
    Posts: 5,407

    I think the number one reason lco's fail is that they don't have enough capital. Before you go full time, I think you would want 20k in back-up cash and at least as much in your checking account as you bring in a month.

    You might want to consider trying to get everything paid off, before you go fulltime.... I know some might not agree w/ me... but you will sleep much better w/ everything paid off and money in the bank for a rainy day... I know I do.

    I actually injured myself when I was running my mowing crew. That really pushed me to delegate my work. Now I have employees that do it all... and I have run an extra guy on one of the crews in case somebody is sick.

    I know this is getting long... but what if you tried to hire some people to run your crew. I think that would be the ticket. You could keep your job as a firefighter, have stability, and really grow your business... when you get up to three crews... you might not be able to afford to be a firefighter and you will have to quit! Plus w/ the regular pay of a firefighter, you could afford to make the mistakes alot of us to from going from running a mowing crew to managing a crew. I know a paramedic around where I am that kept his fulltime job until his company was grossing 500k - 1 mil.
     
  4. lawnspecialties

    lawnspecialties LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,513

    Two excellent responses

    If I can make it through this season like I'm doing right now, I can surely make it through the winter months. That will allow me to continue paying quite a bit down on debt and set myself up far better next spring than right now. Getting through this summer is the "hurdle". I can't even fathom September and October reseeding time.:dizzy:

    I actually have two guys that run some of my commercial accounts on Fridays and Saturdays. They try hard and think I am "nice Bossman", but if I go full-time, I'll probably let them go. They just aren't "lawn care" oriented. Details, techniques, and other similar lawn maintenance skills are far lacking. But that's another topic. Again, if I do go full-time, it will allow me to really hire and train employees the way I want things done. If I thought I'd stay solo forever, I'd just keep things the way they are.

    Over 90% of my revenue is based on "year-round" contracts. While you guys are plowing snow, we're actually fertilizing fescue, doing soil samples, putting out pre-emergence in February, etc. down here in NC. Heck, I usually go through about one full tank of fuel in my Hustlers in January. That along with far less fuel expenses in the winter almost cancel each other out.
     
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Wow, I am so totally backwards in my views to yours...
    Please don't be offended, this is just how I see things, from what you said...

    Your Pros, my views:
    1. It gets a little harder every year, I find I either work myself to death for cheap, or I put down my foot and do only quality work for those who can afford it, or somewhere in between... Either way, it seems the income is about the same in the end, and it's a little worse every year.

    2. Until I stopped working too cheap, I always found myself short on time.
    > Raising your prices can fix this problem now, firefighting aside or not.

    3. Owning your own is not unlimited income. The potential may exist, but potential can easily be another word for wishful thinking, because there exists, in this world, no such thing as 'unlimited' income. Even winning the lottery is not unlimited, and in the end your income will only be around what you can make of it, don't let it fool you but DO set your sights high :)

    4. Good, we do agree somewhere.

    5. Ahhh I am single, skip :)

    6. Good help is hard to find, thou there always exists that dime a dozen average workers.
    > The difference between a good worker and the best isn't trivial, the best worker is worth at least double that of a good worker, some statistics point out the top echelon of workers puts out 10 times what the average does, not so much in quantity, but insofar as cost > revenue concerns.


    Cons:
    1: Your income can and will sustain you without those benefits.
    2: So long they take you to the hospital against your will, you are not responsible for the bill. All you have to do is be willing to suffer and die if things are that bad... Amazingly enough, they won't let you.
    > Way I see things, if it's God's will that I go, then I must go and I accept that. Whoever wants to stop this accepts responsibility.
    3: Pain makes me stronger, I have never missed a beat due to pain or injury.
    Sickness is another story, I'm a crying baby then, we take time off.
    4: With time, and once taxes get the best of your income, your accountant should be able to offer assistance with deferred income > retirement options.

    Hope I did not offend, just my take on things.
    Best of luck however you decide, respect.
     
  6. bahamamills

    bahamamills LawnSite Member
    Posts: 187

    I have many friends where I live in the fire depart and all like you have a side business of some sort. You know the pros and cons and you also mentioned you have two young children. So besides the killer con of health benefits you need to also look down the road at dance, proms, college etc. Nothing gets easier or cheaper unfortunately and while it stinks working for the man, its what makes the world go round.

    Some one else mentioned it but see if you can pocket the salary from the fire department for a year and see how that goes. You know if you get hurt on the job at the fire department you not only get cover health bills but you also get a check.

    Look into hiring a supervisor for the lawn business or find a young fireman not on your schedule and let him run your routes with you to provide some back up.

    Look you work for the Fire Dept. and its not real likely you will get laid off. You are fortunate to get the schedule which has allowed you the opportunity to do something you like and make a decent side income. Think hard before you risk either.

    Best of luck....
     
  7. lawnspecialties

    lawnspecialties LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,513

    Some excellent points there.:)
     
  8. lawnspecialties

    lawnspecialties LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,513

    I'm defintely not offended. In fact, I greatly appreciate the input. I'd rather conquer all the negatives instead of riding on the positives.

    Let me answer them as you did mine.

    Pros
    1 & 2: My pastor said the same thing. This year I've really gone up on my prices. Most landscape jobs have doubled in price but not cost. Sure, I've not gotten quite as many but I've been surprised how many I have gotten.
    3: I should have stated my feelings on this clearer. I certainly don't see myself as the Bill Gates of lawn care but a six figure income in the fire dept. is called Fire Chief. 500 other firefighters are vying for the same position one day. Being what I consider "wealthy" is far more achieveable with my own LCO.
    4: :)
    5: My wife and sons actually come out to help me at some large churches I maintain. It allows them time with "daddy" while they run the SuperZ's.:dancing:
    6: Whenever I do find that someone who can do what I expect, I will take care of him. I already pay these two guys more than they're worth with bonus plans in place as well. They make far more per hour with me than their full-time jobs.

    Cons
    1 & 2: I'm still doing some extensive research in this area.
    3: Exactly. I'll have blood all over me and often can't remember where I did it. But let me get sick.....:confused:
    4: SEP's, IRA's, Roth IRA's, etc. I'm definitely researching these as well.

    Keep the negatives coming. If I can beat all the negatives, the positives speak for themselves.:)
     
  9. redhummer96

    redhummer96 LawnSite Member
    from NC
    Posts: 2

    I was going to send you a PM but could not figure out where the PM option is to send you one. I was just wandering what part of Central NC you are in. I am in the Greensboro area and have been contemplating starting up a part time operation on a small basis. I would love to gain a little experience from someone with several years of knowledge like yourself. My current work schedule (usually around 65 to 70 hours a week in a office setting ) does not leave me a lot of time to venture out on my own to figure/practice/learn the items needed to be a LCO. I would love to volunter some of my time to work with someone like you to learn the business a little before I jump headfirst into something I know little about. Anybody here have any ideas as to how I might go about doing this? Just cold call a few local guys and see if they are interested?
     
  10. lawnspecialties

    lawnspecialties LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,513

    I work the Raleigh area (Raleigh, Cary, Garner, Wake Forest, Rolesville, Knightdale, Wendell, and Zebulon). You should see my fuel bills.:dizzy:

    Read, Read, Read. Lawnsite, publications, internet articles, and whatever else you can get your hands on. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service in your county for help and get your pesticide license. I started out with a HomeDepot Scott's lawn tractor pulled behind my '90 Ford Ranger with 180,000 miles in '99. Everything you see in my signature was aquired by my own efforts and God's guidance.

    Use your personal contacts to get residential accounts and maybe even some small commercial ones. Be aware that with most commercial accounts, they may require insurance.

    Did I mention Read, Read Read?

    It can get frustrating at times but I really enjoy it.

    By the way, you can't do PM's until you've posted a minimum number of times. Not sure how many but that helps keeps spammers out and weirdos frustrated.:laugh:
     

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