Maximizing Profits

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Tom-N-Texas, May 5, 2013.

  1. Tom-N-Texas

    Tom-N-Texas LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 370

    So I've been doing this nearly 20 years. My customer base has swelled over the past few years and now it's approaching 250...(70% weekly, 30% bi-weekly)....but I've done some things over the past few years that have really helped me make the most of each day, financially, physically, and emotionally. I realize that not everyone is in a position to do all of the following, but it might be something to think about as you go forward and grow, as they can make your life much easier by streamlining your operation:

    * I do not make appointments or give drive-by estimates. All estimates given are accomplished by viewing lot sizes on Googlemaps or Zillow, along with a detailed description by the customer. For shrub jobs I require a recent photo sent to my email. This saves an incredible amount of time/gas.

    * I do not do large corners or oversized lots if I cannot use my big matter the price. The extra time/exhaustion of me and/or my crew is never worth it....neither is the dread of doing it every week.

    * Go through your customer list at the beginning of each year and drop the worst accounts.... Nothing is more liberating and joyful than getting rid of a handful duds that you hate doing.

    * The longer I do this, the more I believe that mow-and-go is the way to go: full-service (aka regular upkeep of the shrubs/weeds in beds, etc) for me, is a much tougher way to make a living. Ugly lawns mowed in 5 minutes are always preferable to manicuring a lawn in the $500,000 neighborhood.

    * Maximize the profits of the customers who only tend to use you in the spring/summer months by raising their prices. If they balk, drop 'em.

    * I don't do striping or anything extra for free. I used to think bending over backwards and going the extra mile would pay off, but ultimately in the long run it does not. The lawn guy is always expendable and/or replaceable. All that free stuff will be forgotten as soon as the customer finds someone cheaper, moves out of state or gets laid off and starts mowing it himself.

    * Try to keep your initial estimates reasonable so your advertising will be successful. You can always raise prices later, but a posted low cost will attract the greatest number of phone calls.

    * an ugly, dirty truck is fine. The neighbor to my left is an attorney....the neighbor to my right is a top executive....I'm in the middle and drive in each night with an ugly truck -- yea, it's a bit embarrassing, but I bet I make more money than both of them combined. The point here is not how you look, but how much money you make. A nice, new truck requires constant cleaning and care and costs alot more too. Your customers don't care how you look -- they care about getting their lawn cut for a reasonable rate. I do believe, however, that uniforms are important.

    anyway....that's my list...please feel free to add on...I'm always on the lookout for ways to make the most of my time, make life easier and maximize my profits.
  2. ncnurseryman

    ncnurseryman LawnSite Member
    Posts: 121

    I totally agree about doing things for free. Its never really appreciated and its just more work for nothing. Good advice here. Now if I can find a way to reduce back pain from trimming.
  3. Kelly's Landscaping

    Kelly's Landscaping LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,353

    I agree with a lot of what you stated. I haven't calculated my % but we have 150 weekly and 35 biweekly as of last night. We added over a dozen just last week and its early only week 3 of mowing for some of our clients and less for others so those numbers will break 200 this year.

    The estimate part I break from you on for a few reasons one my closing rate is over 90% face to face so it makes no sense for us to play down one of our greatest strengths. Two I like to have some sort of connection with the client they tend to keep us for much longer periods and don't display the dumbfounded look when they see you on their lawns like your trespassing.

    We take corners and even some lawns that require small mowers to get inside but they are a very small % and they seldom are the thing of dread. There always seems to be others that assume that roll.

    We go through our list every year and fire a handful of trouble makers and its very liberating.

    I prefer mow and go as well there is far more money in it. Slaving to make someones wish list a reality who will likely complain isn't that profitable when I can do 2-4 mow an go at the same price or close to it each.

    Here the ones that use you just for mowing are a unappreciated benefit for many. I can not do over 60 spring clean ups or 100 fall clean ups yet I have nearly 200 lawn accounts and the reason is many don't ask for extras which allows us to handle a larger account list then we would other wise be able too.

    The free stuff is something we keep to a minimum but moving a trash can for someone or taking a few sticks isn't that big of a deal and it makes them happy. The real hits to time are not a few kind deeds but the customer that feels the need to talk for 30 mins when you show up out of the blue.

    I always give a good price and a fair price on the estimates with the same thought in mind I paid for the leads why waste them.

    The trucks we differ on I have been converted to liking new and the reason is reliability. I like the fact I haven't had any break downs or lost time to truck problems in the past 2 years since I took the plunge and bought new. Washing them every few weeks sometimes once a month isn't that big of a deal to us. My thinking is this the cost of new when you consider the depreciation and resale after 5-6 years works out to about 5k a year per truck. The cost to us on repairs of the older trucks we had was often more than that per truck per year. So we said to our selves why are we paying 7-8 k a year keeping this old junker on the road when we could be paying less than that and have the pleasure of driving something new.
  4. Tom-N-Texas

    Tom-N-Texas LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 370

    Yea I agree with your reasoning, however for me it's a time thing....I just simply do not have time to drive around and give estimates....I love meeting new clients and there's always time for that in the future, but the time/gas spent on each estimate is incredible....not to mention, even if I have the daylight to do it, it takes away from what little family time I have left. This spring alone (which admittedly been monstrous for me), I've probably had over 100 calls for estimates for various jobs ....had I driven out to each property I'd be batty by it is, I still have a high closing rate....probably approaching 90%...mostly because my prices are quite reasonable.
  5. Blades Lawn Maintenance

    Blades Lawn Maintenance LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Baton Rouge, La
    Posts: 1,233

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing
  6. Valk

    Valk LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,711

    Just seeking a bit of clarification...

    Are you saying you don't go back and forth (= striping) to save time? You're instead doing a concentric/racetrack style of mowing?
    Yes, this method does save time, but over several weeks 'can' result in rutting...unless I'm not reading enough into your methods...?

    How many crews and what "width-of-cut" mowing equip do you tend to use?

    I do appreciate your insights...thank you! :drinkup:
  7. Tom-N-Texas

    Tom-N-Texas LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 370

    first, I have two trucks that go all the time, but in the summer when things get really hairy with all the extra jobs then we split into three groups. Generally though 2 trucks (6 guys) can take care of everything (lawns/extra jobs) throughout the week. We do work long hours though.

    about the striping, I know alot of guys go out of their way to make their customers' lawns look like a baseball field with striping point is, and this may sound bad, but I'm simply not in this business for the purpose of seeing how nice I can make my customers' lawns. Don't get me wrong, I take pride in my work and there is absolutely an element of integrity in me that will not allow me to do a sloppy job........but I'm not trying to win any "yard of the month" awards for my customers. I just do my job, no more no less....if they're looking for a guy who picks up every stick that falls off the tree before he mows and then rolls up the hose into a nice little circle after we're done then I'm the wrong guy. My goal for each property is to get in and out in less than 10 minutes, preferably 5-7 mins. Most of my properties are generally small and my favorite ones are ugly w/lots of weeds. I don't like corner lots w/lots of sidewalks (too much edging/blowing) thus I usually price them quite high...subsequently I don't have many.

    I've got a toro 48 inch walkbehind, but I actually prefer using my cheap little John Deere tractor, which has a 42 inch cut...not only can we sit down and rest on it, but it gets in most of the gates. I love the crummy looking yards because my crew can generally put the big mowers on them and be done and outta there in 5 minutes. Manicured lawns generally require the 21 inch mowers and simply take more time...thus, I have very little patience for picky or high-demand customers who have pristine lawns; if I get more than one complaint in a short period of time I'll usually leave them a final bill, a sincere-sounding apology, and quietly move on.
  8. Joel D

    Joel D LawnSite Member
    Posts: 125

    I hope I can get to where I can turn down work and dump accounts one day. I have about 10 I would like to dump right now, but I need the money. Thanks for the advice.
  9. Tom-N-Texas

    Tom-N-Texas LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 370

    well you need to get a stream of calls coming in....I advertise both in my local yellow pages (fairly large display ad...$300/month) and with Google (appx $12/day) and I've been getting anywhere from 3-7 calls for new service every day. Many of the calls are out of my area so on average I land 1-2 new clients per day for regular mowing, which over the course of the year (or years) will really pay off....I also get calls for random jobs like shrubs, trimming trees, etc........granted, this is spring, so this rate of calls won't hold all year, but at least it might give you an idea of how much I'm spending and how the calls are coming in. I don't believe in flyers or mass mailings.....too expensive, too time-consuming and for me not terribly effective. If I was desperate I'd probably also flood Craigslist with ads or put out signs on the side of the road.
    Last edited: May 6, 2013
  10. herler

    herler LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,144

    Pride comes before the fall.

    Not that it makes any difference, it's going to happen, regardless.

    Might be a while yet, in your case, I see the signs starting where already people have forgotten how hard the last recession was but I can see it and you're moving along at some pretty break neck speeds there so just keep going, push it, hard, and when the bubble is fully built and it POPS, you will be among the free fallers.

    I can hear it now.

    Hopefully you won't be anywhere near any high rise windows at the time.
    Last edited: May 6, 2013

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