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Leaf season in review and pricing

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by XC skier, Dec 9, 2013.

  1. XC skier

    XC skier LawnSite Member
    Posts: 208

    In reading many threads and postings regarding fall season pricing I would like to share our 2013 experience. I consider leaf season to be the last 6 weeks before we shut down for the winter. We visit most properties
    twice during the season, a few just once and only two are weekly. We had 87 unique customers and all of the properties get quite a few leaves so we blow exclusively- no mower vacs. Almost all live where there is municipal curbside pickup or have a place to put the leaves on site. It is myself and 2
    long-time employees. We use a Hurricane X3 main blower, two bp blowers and a proprietary leaf pusher. We haul a tarp less than 20 times all season (3 props that have a bridge and narrow gate). Our labor rate is $45 per
    man hour plus I charge for the leaf pusher and the X3 since I should benefit from the improved production that this equipment provides. The three of us generated $21,800 in sales from 370 production hours which = $59 per
    man hour. (We also offer a vacuum service but, I have separated that out for comparison purpses.) So our leaf pusher and X3 earn us about $14 extra per man hour. The median price per customer is $226 per season. The median man-hours per customer is 3.5 (note: the numbers don't add up due to the way the median is calculated). Now when I go to give a prospect an estimate for a one-time job I refer to the following: The median first time/ major cleanup (excluding vac removal) is $155 and a median of 2.46 man hours.
    I believe that it is very important for all professionals to mechanize and improve efficiency. Everyone seems to understand this when it comes to mowing but, I continue to be surprised at the primitive leaf procedure of most companies. The most efficient crew size is one. Each additional
    worker reduces efficiency. That fact is combined with safety and comfort as well as vehicle, equipment and routing considerations. I like 2 or 3 (perhaps more on large sites but, not all together). If you are pulling a tarp then you are in the dark ages and if you are pushing a 9 or 13 hp blower all day then you are in the middle ages. We have used a pusher since 1989 and we purchased the X3 this year and let me tell you that these two pieces of equipment will revolutionize your operation. I know the Hurricane is expensive and the payback period is much longer than for a mower but, once you've used one there is no going back.
    We should all be making good money at this time of year (within the confines of the market) and there is no need to give yourself away so start planning for next leaf season.
  2. caseysmowing

    caseysmowing LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,920

    100 percent agreed! My numbers are very similar to yours once you factor in that I'm PT and solo for the most part. Need/want a hurricane sometime in the future. Right now I do between 7-8k in leaves so I need to do a few more to justify the hurricane. Like you I rarely have to haul off leaves.
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  3. Dr. Cornwallis

    Dr. Cornwallis LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 847

    I'm in the dark ages when it comes to leaf removals but I'm wanting to get into the 21st century. I use a backpack blower, rake. I either put the leaves in bags and leave then by the street or I load them into the bed of my truck one garbage can at a time (not very efficient). What are some tools I can use to improve productivity? I think a truck loader is out of the question for now (unfortunately) however most of the yards I do are smaller.

    EDIT: would a Billy Goat F18 and a debris loader make for a good leaf cleanup rig?
  4. caseysmowing

    caseysmowing LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,920

    Hurricane makes a stand on blower/vac. Two for one deal! Not sure on the price but I would guess around 10k. Worth every penny when the alternative is rakes and bags.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  5. 32vld

    32vld LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,984

    I do not have the volume of business or the money to have a leaf loader and a box truck.

    Though where I work all the towns take away the bagged leaves from their homes for free.

    Having two BR 600's handle moving the leaves and cleaning out the beds.

    I use a Billy Goat Lawn vac as a portable mini leaf loader. The bag on the unit when full will fill one 55 gallon leaf bag. Beats bending over and filling all those bags by hand. I will admit not as fast as using a leaf loader and having a Truck Craft dump insert with the optional leaf box in a 8' pick up bed.

    I have found that with the equipment that I have a third person does not add much production.
  6. lawnkingforever

    lawnkingforever LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,280

    All of my accounts with leaves and even some without get weekly service through November. No big clean ups for me. The ones with leaves start seeing a surcharge on top of the weekly mowing charge starting first week in October. It is a plus for me and the customer. I make more money with the weekly billing for 8 weeks than I would by doing 1 or 2 clean ups. It also saves me the hassle of doing large leaf jobs which I hate. Also the customer has a cleaner looking yard since I am there weekly.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  7. KS_Grasscutter

    KS_Grasscutter LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,332

    I try to to do the same thing typically. This year I grew a little too fast, so when we started getting behind things fell apart on us. Now we've got snow on top of everything but should be able to roll again by Thursday. My goal is to get over most lawns 1 more time.

    Next year I plan to set up a leaf loader so we will be able to blow the lawns that get deep on us or use the mowers on weekly cleanups.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  8. lawnkingforever

    lawnkingforever LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,280

  9. recycledsole

    recycledsole LawnSite Gold Member
    from MD
    Posts: 3,233

    what a kind and useful thread. I underbid a lot of leaf jobs. Usually it looks like a small amount but then at the end there's a huge pile. First full year in business though :)
    How much is that X3 unit? I was warned to stay away from the 314 unit by the dealer because of the Subaru engine.
  10. gazoneyo

    gazoneyo LawnSite Member
    Posts: 51

    So, is this what you tell the prospective customer to give him/her an idea of price then charge by the hour or do do give them a specific price based on looking at their property?

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