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Major Pricing Help!! Not About Mulch

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Newcreation, Mar 13, 2005.

  1. Newcreation

    Newcreation LawnSite Member
    Posts: 5

    Hello everyone, this is my first thread so I wll give a brief history, as I think it may help with my question. Before I start I apologize for the length of this post, but my question is somewhat detailed and I want to make sure my thinking on this topic is correct. I am new to the Green Industry and just started our company about 7 months ago. I have been shocked at the rate of growth that a company can experience in this industry. In 7 months we have gone from 1 guy, a truck, and a z-turn mower, to a full property maintenance company, moving to 3 full crews, along with a snow plowing crew in the winter, a sales force, and a cutomer base that is growing out or controll. It has been a mojor learning experience
    Through all I have learned there still seems to be one topic that there is always some issues with. Estimating and bidding jobs. I hear people all the time say just go and see how long the job will take, find your hourly rate, mark up materials, and there you go. I Know I am probably going to get a lot of slack for this, but I absolutly hate this concept. I like knowing how long it will take me on average to mow a certian amount of sq feet, I like knowing exactly how much per plant of a certian size I will charge for trimming and so on. I have been able to calculate and come up with standard priceing formulas for alot of our services, but I am now trying to take that to the next step.
    Aside from this company I am also a computer programmer and have been working the last few months on creating a software for landscape company's to assist in estimating. The software has a form that takes about 15 min to feel out for every customer you go to do work for. This form covers every thing from square footage of lawn, mulched beds, drive, type of grass, type of mulch, # of types of plants, etc. When all that info is typed into the program it automatically fiqures pricing for EVERY service that a Lawn company would offer. From mowing, to bed creation, preasure washing, snow removal, mulching, and about 90 other services.
    This allows for a few different things. First of all the first time you visit a new customer, you fill out the form, and from then on you have an estimate on all work from then on out. When a customer calls and says they need you to come and give a price on mulch you have the bid before you even get to the house. Also it allows companys to now create a sales force. Before , if you wanted to have a sales crew, you needed a crew of peaple with a bit of lawn care knowledge. I can send any monkey out to fill out this form and bring it to me, to take to the customer. Some one let me know if anything I am saying here doesn't make sence.

    If anyone is intersted in helping with this I am basically looking for people to share with me any standardized pricing they have so I can get averages for the software programming. Any and all services you feel like helping with would be appreciated. From mowing, to snow, gutters, seeding, fert, EVERYTHING. If anyone finds a perticular interest in this development and really wants to offer some help, I do have alist of ALL the services I am trying to create types of formulas for.
    I really appreciate everyones time in reading through this and assisting. I think this could highly benifit all of us in the end.
  2. KCLandscape

    KCLandscape LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 526

    good luck, but I would be willing to take a try at your program.
  3. Bill Boroskey

    Bill Boroskey LawnSite Member
    from CT.
    Posts: 24

    I would be VERY interested in this software!!!!
  4. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    No offense, but I think your trying to reinvent the wheel. There are a lot of programs already on the market for estimating, BUT there are to many intangibles to just let a program figure it out. You need a person on the site to make sure that all is as should be. IE lady wants you to do some foundation planting and mulch the new beds, you have size of beds plants etc. but what if she just had xyz co rip out all the 50 yr old bushes that were there and now you have a tangle of broken roots to work through?
    Computers are great, but a man on the ground with some common sense and basic knowledge would be better. JMO

  5. Newcreation

    Newcreation LawnSite Member
    Posts: 5

    I agree with you on both of these points to an extent. There are a few programs I have found but are lacking in a few areas. First ease of opperation. Lawn Care company owners need a program that is easily used even for some one with minor pc knowledge. Second is the ability to make easy custom changes to bids, which is your second point. Very true there are lots of things that can come into play when bidding a job and the person doing the bidding needs to have some basic knowleds and some commen sence. But I have found that when you get to the point of bidding many many jobs a day even the tangibles you run into are repetitive and should be built into the program, as well as having the ability to easily add prices for those very unusual situations.
    Overall since we have started using our beta version of this software, we have highly decreased the time it takes to give an estimate, as well as the ease it now takes to train a new person on selling. I can focus on teaching what services need to be done for a customer and the proper way to do it, instead of teaching the pricing equations of every service to a new sales rep. A few other things this software does is things like automatically fiqure how many yards of mulch is needed based on sq fottage, estimated man hours a job should take, equipment needed and materials needed based on services choosen,cost of all materials needed and labor, gross profit and net profit on each bid, building of service package plans along with built in discounts for multiple services, discounts for yearly contracts, ability to add special discounts for any thing you desire, complete customazation of all data, tons of differnent types of data reports, etc
    Imagine the time you spend to fiqure all of this as well as the time it would take to get even a starting point for over 90 different services per customer. This software will do all of that in no more then 20 min after you step on the customers lawn
  6. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    It sounds like you have figured out a program that works well for you and maybe many more, but I'm old school, how can your program tell me the degree of a slope and the depth I need to bury my first course of block to make a retaining wall unless I have some one there thats actually looking at it taking measurements etc. Your program sounds like its geared more for the mowing maintenance side of the business than the landscape side. The calculations that I would need for the retaining wall example would have to many variables to put into a program. Do I need Geo Grid ? How much stone would be needed, water drainage lines, and of course is it an engineered project? And what about mowing hills? Your program would have to figure out the tipping degree of the mower and the degree of the slope to figure hrs. These are things that would take me longer to put into my computer than I can do in my head and with a calculator, experience counts :D thus the user name :p You may be on to something that will work for the masses, I just know there are somethings that man can do that no computer or its software can accomplish. And if your at the point that you are bidding so many jobs a day that it take a new program to handle the load, I would hire a person or two to take care of that situation, like I said I want someone there that can look at the project and know what it takes to get it done. I wish you the best of luck with your endeavor.
  7. Newcreation

    Newcreation LawnSite Member
    Posts: 5

    I would have to agree with you on the bigger landscape work. Your right, the software is definately more geared to regular lawn maintenance and services that are less involved then the major landscaping. Maybey I am wrong in assuming that there are alot of companies that are highly sucsessful by doing lawn maintanence and other services. That would be were i think this software would be a big help. I appreciate the view point and help!
  8. LawnsRUsInc.

    LawnsRUsInc. LawnSite Senior Member
    from midwest
    Posts: 916

    Mac i might be wrong but Newcreation's idea is for estimating not telling you how to build the wall. You should already know for the wall that it needs to have draintile behind it, or if it is taller than X feet tall you need to have geogrid behind it. Newcreations maybe you should have it with different levels of severity for the jobs no hills, lots of trees, no trees, lots of hills etc... I personally for estimating software am looking for somthing that can tell me the bottom line how much the job is going to cost me and how much its going to cost the customer so that way i know my profits to a T.

  9. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    I agree 100% but if I know the tangible items, the so called correct way of building it and I know my cost, which I do and think most co. do then its real easy to add the two items together figure and your profit margin and subtract them from the total price.That is your profit margin, and I can usually figure it while I'm at a job site , may not be correct to the penny but it's close enough to tell the customer. At that point I'm either in the game and can figure it out exactly or I'm out of the game and don't have to worry about it anymore. Newcreations might have the best software program out there BUT it still takes a man in the field to put in the numbers. There are to many intangible problems to not have a man in the field doing the estimating. JMO
  10. Newcreation

    Newcreation LawnSite Member
    Posts: 5

    I guess I need to point out that I am not trying to elimanate the man in the field. Also, your right the program is not to tell you how to mow a yard, or build a bed, but to do all the calculations and figure pricing instantly. Look at it from the point of view more of a maintenance co. We offer a large number of services. Over 80 when broke down. Everything from mowing, trim, fert, all other lawn care serv., landscaping, preasure washing, gutters, snow removal, fencing, decking, trimming, planting, etc. Instead of going out and pricing a customer on a lawncare package, then getting a call 3 mnth down the road and haveing to go back out and give a price for preasure washing, all the seriveces are fiqured from the get go. I just realized that 80 percent of our services all used a combination of about 30 differnt facts to fiqure the price. So you get those 30 facts at the begining and you have a price for all basic serivices. I dont have to touch a calc or do 80 different equations to come up with 1 major bid. My time, as well as my sales guys time, is way more valuable spent gaining new customer.
    Also, on the version we are using now, I have all my nursery pricing, mulch, materials, even est. man hours, and est. gas usuage for equipment being used, built in to the database. So when I give a bid, I know down to the labor charges and even price of the gas being used for the bid, what my total profit will be.

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