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How to make leaf removals quicker and more profitable?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by smallstripesnc, Nov 21, 2012.

  1. Darryl G

    Darryl G LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 8,033

    I certainly respect your opinion on the matter but those are some pretty strong statements. You can't know what someone's market is like from where you sit or how productive they are...maybe they're a bargain at that rate. And on at least 75% of my accounts I neither vaccum nor haul away and the money I make is real. We all have different situations...what works for you in your area may not work for others.
  2. krzys555

    krzys555 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 109

    i have tried the marketing package that wayne offers but i was very disappointed. it was very general, 40 pages, single sided and all of it was double spaced large font. there was one or two points in there that made it okay. the cd that comes along with the packet had only a few pieces and most were very similar to each other

    i have not tried any other products nor do i plan i spending any money on his other products. i could be wrong, but i am not willing to waste money to find out it is a waste, especially if it is equal to the marketing package.
  3. BrunoT

    BrunoT LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 741

    You might want to look at other approaches to the problem.

    I blow beds into the lawn, mulch leaves on the lawn with one ZTR and if needed for a high end use another mower with a bagger to clean up any remnants. But it usually isn't necessary if you hit them at least every 2 weeks as they fall. As long as the grass variety there isn't cut really tall (you lose vaccum ability and mulching is less efficient above about 2.75") the right mower can do it surprisingly nicely. Trouble is many decent mowers suck at true leaf mulching (to a near powder that looks like kitchen herbs rather than large fragments) even if they discharge quite nicely.

    Others use the "grinding" technique of repeated passes discharging them to the center of the lawn to greatly reduce their volume and move them into a row, then they rake/gather them up and haul them off. A final pass may be needed to leave stripes and leave things neat.

    But for a 'cleanup' it sounds like your price is even too low to make a whole lot. To me that implies a lot of leaf buildup removed all at once. And for $80 with two men you'd better not be there much more than half an hour because you still have to factor in hauling and disposal time.

    The problem with having too little equipment is you're going to be less efficient. But the problem with too much is that your pricing and business volume has to support it. A pricey truck loader would help physically remove leaves, but would you do enough leaf jobs at $80 to make it pay? And you still have to get them to the loader, which is not practical 100% of the time due to terrain and obstacles.

    It makes me tired just remembering how hard tarping could be.

  4. Wayne's Lawn Service

    Wayne's Lawn Service LawnSite Member
    Posts: 184

    In his situation to simply have a flat rate of $80 for any size property in leaf removal may not be a good idea. As you know with your experience, pricing goes way past the size of the yard or property when it comes to leaf removal or leaf mulching. Having a square footage flat pricing structure for almost anything but leaves in my opinion may work. Example: Aeration, fert & weed, mowing, etc. Even then, certain levels of difficulties will apply and possibly change pricing. However, when you take an area that is full of trees, or has a few trees, or simply has blow over leaves from the neighbors, this can create a completely different situation when you do leaves.

    Just like you stated in your opinion, you probably do 75% without vacuuming or hauling away. Based on the leaf volume of each site, the best method of cleanup does change and you can make money doing it many ways.

    The contractor that I was responding to stated that they were blowing leaves into a pile, raking onto a tarp, and then putting them into the back of his truck, smashing them down the best they could, then hauling them to the dump. All that for $80 in anyone's market is not possible for a two man crew. Based on overhead such as truck, trailer, mowers, blowers, labor and drive time, $80.00 will not get it. To boot, he stated they were lucky to get two a day completed. That gets his daily gross receipts to $160. Let's ass/u/me they are working 7 hours a day for two men. Total labor hours for the day is 14 hours. $160 divided by 14 labor hours = $11.43 per labor hour to cover all costs and profit. Can't be done.

    I respect your opinion as well, but it that situation it is not possible to make any money for that price. That's what my post was directed toward.
  5. weeze

    weeze LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 8,886

    i guess it's different down here. i charge the same or a little more than a regular mowing and i just go over the leaves with the ztr mulching them up. i use G6 blades and side discharge and i only have to make a few extra passes to get all of the leaves to disappear.

    i do use the blower on smaller yards and just blow the leaves into the woods. most times here the flower beds are not in tip top shape and have pine straw or brown bark or whatever in them so you just leave the little amount of leaves in there and they become part of the mulch once they decompose. on a few you may blow them out a bit but most of them you don't.

    also when i do leaves here they aren't 2ft thick in the yard. i stop mowing at the end of october and then go 2 times in nov to cut the leaves up. by late nov or early dec all of the leaves have fallen. alot here don't even want leaf cleanup. they just leave them there to blow away on their own lol.
  6. Wayne's Lawn Service

    Wayne's Lawn Service LawnSite Member
    Posts: 184

    Sorry about your experience about our products. I am glad to hear that you picked up one or two points that you found helpful that made it okay. Our templates are similar with different service offerings so you don't have to copy and paste too much from your database. Our manuals are double spaced and in a 12 font size for easy reading. We did a lot of market research and that's what most people generally found as an easy read. From our end, single space and smaller font would mean a lot less paper and cost. So it is not done for any reason other than ease of reading.

    Feel free to contact us at 800-845-0499 and we will see what we need to do to make it right for you. Our goal is like yours with your clients. We will do what it takes to make sure you are happy or at least satisfied. We work with many contractors throughout North America and are concerned with any and all comments concerning our products.

    Thanks for the heads up and let us know what we need to do.
  7. Kelly's Landscaping

    Kelly's Landscaping LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,351

    I don't think the amount of the leaves is that big of an issue for us. Yes more leaves = more time normally. But moving 20 yards of leaves across a lawn doesn't really take more time for us than say moving 10-15 yards of leaves. The factors that kill us are the type of grass is it long and lush that stuff holds the leaves and crap and can slow your progress down to a crawl. Where short dormant grass can be blown off almost in a run. Is there a lot of sticks and nuts an acorns or is there a lot of bare ground which means you have loose dirt coming for the ride. All that eats the time then there are the beds I can do the front beds of a house with a few small shrubs in a couple of minutes but make them dense with multiple layers of plants iv actually seen them 40 feet deep. Then have them at mature sizes and growing into each other and that same front bed can take 2-4 guys hours to do. So its never been the bulk that costs the time its the other details to do. Which is why prices for clean ups for the same size lawns vary as much as they do.
  8. Wayne's Lawn Service

    Wayne's Lawn Service LawnSite Member
    Posts: 184

    Very well said Kelly's Landscaping. The variables on each job are the time-killers. They certainly change the game form yard to yard.
  9. Will P.C.

    Will P.C. LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 965

    This is similar to the local routes here. We have lots of new suburban construction (1-12/yrs) that get just enough leaves to make a mess, but can be done with a set of gator blades.
  10. Darryl G

    Darryl G LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 8,033

    Yeah, my bad...I noticed later that you said flat rate of $80. I was thinking hourly rate for some reason and not back to the original post. In light of that, I agree with you. Maybe I was in a bad mood or something, but it seemed to me like you were stating things strongly...the can't be done and the only way to do it type thing...again, sorry, my bad.

    Most of my accounts are 2+ acre lots with plenty of woods to lose leaves in, but even on the ones that I haul leaves I prefer to grind them with my mower which I haul in my low profile dump trailer for those accounts. I can fit a lot more leaves with them ground up with the mower and just don't like using a leaf loader...I have one and used it one season. To me it's just a lot of work to get the leaves to where I can vac them up and then I still have to vac them up, and even that is work. Bagging with the mower I don't even pick them up but briefly...park mower next to trailer ramp, take bags out of hopper, slide up ramp, slide across the trailer floor and dump. For me, being solo in the fall and not exactly being young anymore I find it less strenuous and more efficient overall...not that I don't have an account or 2 that would be nice to have the leaf loader on. I have a buddy I can call for that but haven't in the last couple of years.

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