Growing the Business

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by burkcs, May 8, 2008.

  1. burkcs

    burkcs LawnSite Member
    Posts: 21

    I am looking to grow my business. This is my second season performing lawn maintenance and light landscaping. I have plenty of business in my area with a lot more potential.

    Bare with me for a moment.

    I am an Oracle DBA by day and Lawn Maintenance guy on the weekend. I have ten accounts that I mow, five accounts I fertilize, and three of them I have completely landscaped. I also love to spend a lot of time in my own yard. I spend a lot of time top dressing my lawn and reel mowing.

    My problem. I have a wife and three children that I do not get to see much anymore.

    My proposal. I would like to hire some people to perform the work while I run the other side of the business. My plan would be to bring additional business in including moving into other area's of landscaping like design, trees, shrubs, pine straw, lighting, walls, top dressing, and of course reel mowing. Really the sky is the limited.

    My question. What steps or precautions do you take to protect your equipment while in the hands of hired help? In other words, whats to prevent my hired help from running off with my equipment if I allow them to pick it up for the day to perform the work at hand. This is my biggest concern.

    I am not familiar with what insurance is available and if it covers just the employee's or the equipment too.

    If any of you guy's out there have a similar scenario, please provide me some detail on how you deal with handing your business over to hired help.

    Thanks for listening.
  2. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,403

    Good luck with that. It sure sounds easy on paper. But if you do it right you'll be spending as much or more time on it with employees and you could doing it part time yourself.

    There's a reason most people don't have full time jobs while also running a service industry businesses.

    I could run all the numbers here but I'll save time and just say that you won't make squat with just one crew of two guys unless you are a very lucky individual. And that crew will require you to field calls at all hours and make about 100 sales calls this spring to keep them busy enough to pay for themselves. Using employees( who aren't quite as conscientous as you and more likely to completely enrage your customers with their antics), your turnover rate could be 25% a year or more. So expect to keep advertising, answering the phone, and selling year round to replace the drops. So much for all that time with the family. And who's gonna maintain those machines? Your $10/hour heroes? If they were that on the ball they'd be out there making triple the money for themselves. What happens when one of your crack staff doesn't show up? You gonna take a vacation day on short notice to fill in for him?

    These future employees of yours aren't accountants or IT professionals. It's not like you just print out a route sheet and they do flawless work without supervision for 9 months then gladly become unemployed till you have enough work for them next spring. Unlike office professionals you're used to dealing with, it's not like they fear losing their fantastic $10/hour careers. So if a guy is hung over, he might just decide to sleep in and completely screw you with your customers. If you no-show accounts you WILL lose them. The employee turnover rate is sky high even at companies with much more to offer them in terms of pay, stability, benefits, and advancement potential. You lose one guy and you lose 50% of your production capacity. A full time LCO can work around that. With a full time job how are you gonna handle that?

    Do it yourself if you really enjoy the work. But trying to run it as a side business sounds easier than it is.
  3. mngrassguy

    mngrassguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,167

    If you think babysitting three little ones is a hand full, just wait until you have employees!!!

    It sounds like your "dabbling" in many different areas of lawn care. Ever hear the saying, "Jack of all trades, master of none?" Sounds like your heading in that direction. Pick a "nitch" and become great at it.

    You may want to think about "subbing out" work that isn't part of your "nitch" to increase sales. JMHO
  4. Ed Ryder

    Ed Ryder LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 541

    Brucec32 said it very well. The reality of what you are contemplating is going to be very difficult.

    This reminds me of one of my former customers. They ditched me because I only did mowing and offered no other services. (I didn't care - I had plenty of business.) They went with a large, well-established full service outfit. Initially their mowing/trimming/edging quality was near my level. One year later - they suck. I've got the property next door, so I see the quality of their workmanship. Their mowing was expnsive when I did it and I'm sure it's more now and what they are getting is not what they had. They must be disappointed. Work crews at even the best and biggest companies can have inconsistent work quality. That's one of the issues you would have to deal with.

    Brucec32's insight carries a lot of wisdom. Consider what he wrote carefully.
  5. Paulup

    Paulup LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 270

    Like the other guys said, you'd need 5 times more accounts then you have just to pay your help, and the headache of getting and keeping more accounts, billing, payroll, insurance, maintenance, etc will eat more time then your 10 lawns already do.

    Find a niche and stick with it. My niche happens to be cutting grass and speaking english, from what my customers tell me that is VERY hard to find in my area, and they pay me well for it.
  6. F3Nelson

    F3Nelson LawnSite Member
    Posts: 119

    I couldnt agree more, 10 accounts and you wanna hire help!?

    Look, bust your ass this year, work your day job, and the lawn thing. Spend the off season marketing/getting new customers.

    Figure up how many lawns @ what price will replace your income/benefits you currently have, and aim for that number.


    Ask me how I know
  7. Tharrell

    Tharrell LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,964

    Bruce said it very well. I can relate to your situation also.
    One option and I hesitated before I decided to post is---------partner.
    I know I'm going to be slammed hard for that one but, some partnerships can work. Tony
  8. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,923

    This is your primary concern. Forget about employees, others with your equipment, growing a business. What do you have if you work your two jobs (even just "managing" the one), but have compromised your responsibility to a wife and three children. Each one of them needs you, yes, YOU, not just extra money that might be earned from a lawncare business.

    Regard your family relationships as supreme, and the other matters will take care of themselves. Read the threads that speak about broken homes, divorces, troubled teens and children problems, and then wonder if a lawncare business was worth the effort.
  9. wintergreenlawn&landscape

    wintergreenlawn&landscape LawnSite Member
    from CT
    Posts: 175

    We had a kid that I was told would smoke pot and drive the mower over curbs with the deck engaged, giggling...Well I caught him one day. That was a long walk home for him. It was either a walk or a throttling. He chose to walk. I have worked alone ever since.
  10. andyslawncare

    andyslawncare LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 812

    you will always need to may as well do lawns full time if you're going to pay someone to do stuff.

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