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Mowing programs... Your terms vs customer terms

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by grassmasterswilson, Nov 11, 2013.

  1. grassmasterswilson

    grassmasterswilson LawnSite Platinum Member
    from nc
    Posts: 4,548

    Jim and Dave .... I'm aiming to develop programs similar to yours.

    The more I think about it it seems you must have a good knowledgeable crew leader that can strive for the detail work. I find myself going back and walking properties to double check on the small things that get missed.

    I am finding a good crew leader with knowledge of knowing what is a weed, finding little things, and polite interactions is worth his weight in gold
  2. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,839

    You're welcome all. I have a passion for helping others who are still building their business. I guess mostly because I never had anyone to help me and wish I had. Anyway, I'm glad it helps some of you. That's what has alwyas kept me coming back to Lawnsite. That, plus I still learn a lot from several of the forums here too.
  3. Dr. Cornwallis

    Dr. Cornwallis LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 847

    Awesome post Jim, you have me second guessing things now. Let me ask you this, do you give discounts on things like leaf cleanups and what not during the off season when you aren't mowing as much or do you just not charge them at all? I figure if it takes me 20 minutes a visit to maintain yard "X" during the the growing season, during the off season when I'm only mowing every other week, that's 40 minutes of labor for the month vs 80 in the summer, so would you give them 40 minutes of labor towards a project such as leaf cleanup or or a landscape project?
  4. 205mx

    205mx LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,355

    It's not really going to work that way in this system.
    Basically it's a figuring (estimated) cost for a years worth of service. Divide by 12 = what we call "monthly maintanence fee" it includes all services that the check boxed at the beginning of our service arrangement with them. If it turns out you under bid, change it before the 12 month year is over starting for the next 12. If you do less work than what was paid for, do some extra things or put the money under your mattress. :)
    Posted via Mobile Device
  5. grassmasterswilson

    grassmasterswilson LawnSite Platinum Member
    from nc
    Posts: 4,548

    So an example of this would be

    March-September weekly mowing 34 week x $35 = 1190
    Oct-dec weekly leaf clean up 13 weeks x $45 = 585
    Jan-feb eow service 4 x 35 = 140

    Total -1915/12 months = 159

    Thanks pretty much the breakdown of our service through the year. We only have 2 months of slow time. Will leaves stop in mid dec? Maybe. Will grass not green up til April? Maybe. We just figure the average over our experience and predict the best.

    We have fescue that starts growing with feb fertilization and needs fall seeding. We also have warm season turf that might not green up til late march and have zero leaves. So it's all confusing here.

    So for my situation I may just do weekly service unless so some asked for eow. Then figure on 12 month, 9 month or 7 month contracts. This is the tough part about being in a transition zone and not a very high end area.

    What other type services do you offer in your packages? I've always offered weed control, pruning, and seeding/aerating as optional services which has worked great for. I may even just do weed control if that side continues to grow. wonder what I could do to get everybody under one roof? Doing the mowing and applications?
  6. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,839

    Well, we have 3 different programs and some of our programs include things like pruning, total leaf clean-up, etc. One of our packages only include lawn care (winter lawn care items would be like winter fertilizer, moss control, mowing and edging once a month if weather allows, insect control). But most people don't choose that lawn-care-only plan. Most people pick a more comprehensive plan. So we just shift from doing lawn work to stuff like pruning, raking leaves and the other light lawn care stuff I just described instead of mowing.

    No, we don't try to keep the hours the same during the winter months. They may get 25 minutes each week during the summer months and maybe 1 hour a week during the heavy leaf season but in the winter it may only be 20 minutes worth of service - every other week. I don't try to keep it to an even amount of hours all year. No need. There isn't as much to do in the winter. So that's all accounted for in the rates we charge.

    Some items we do in the winter are included. But other items like mulch, planting, aerating, or any other landscape work are not included. Those are all extras. We do offer about 15% off our labor rates during winter months - just to keep our workers busy.

    Hope that answers your questions
  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,839

    Yah, that's kind of how we figure the pricing. Except instead of $159, I'd probably make that $185.00 or $195 or something. Because at $159 we'd be basically losing money for many months. I try to price it so that we're at least making a little profit in the summer and a LOT of profit in the winter.

    As for what other services we offer, if that question was directed toward me, it depends on the package. We have 3 different tiers of packages.

    Bronze = Lawn mowing, edging, blowing hardscapes, lawn fertilizer, in-lawn weed control (dandilions, clover, etc.), limestone apps, moss control apps, insect control apps (which is rarely needed here if the lawn is healthy), and over-seeding if needed.

    Silver = All the above PLUS trimming perennials down at end of season, weeding planting beds, and raking leaves in entire landscape/hardscape in fall.

    Gold = All the above PLUS pruning of spring blooming plants in the spring (Rhodies, Azaleas, Camellias, Pieris, etc.) Hedge trimming throughout the year, and pruning of all other plants during the winter months.

    Those are basically the different services we offer. About 60% of our clients sign up for the Gold package. 30% go for Silver. And 10% or less go for the Bronze.

    When I say overseeding, we don't switch grass varieties halfway through the year like they do in some climates. So the "overseeding" we do is just to fill in bare spots if the dog peed in the grass or whatever. But if I lived in an area where we had to do big overseeding twice a year, I'd probably just include that in one of my top-tier packages. Then they could choose whether they wanted that included or not.
  8. m.mpm

    m.mpm LawnSite Member
    Posts: 3

    I too am considering making a change to all contract accounts for the 2014 year. I currently handle my commercial accounts that way and find it is much easier to handle, same service every week, same profit every month. I have been doing residential on an as needed basis and it seems that every ones opinion of when it's needed is different, not to mention the cheap skates that want to skip the edging or sweeping the walks to try to save a dollar, I am going to have a basic service that includes mowing, trimming, edging,& blowing off walkways, & if they want to cut corners to save money they will have to look else where. I would love to make some kind of year round contract, but here in MO there is not much to do from Dec-Feb. (usually) other than snow, when we get some.
  9. Exact Rototilling

    Exact Rototilling LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,362


    Thanks for your input. You made mention about a few clients canceling. In the late Fall or Winter then calling back in the Spring wanting to get back on the program.

    Do you have them sign a contract or agreement or is it just verbal? I have considered a cancellation/prorate clause that would basically be an early termination fee.

    The meat hook aspect of the term "contract" or "agreement" seems to really throw out red and yellow flag for the clients I have mentioned it to.

    How a package deal level 12 month plan is presented is most of the battle.

    Any input on this aspect...?

    Thanks Again!

    I hate to even mention it but I have considered even offering pet waste clean up to clinch 12 month full service accounts. I'd much rather hunt for dog poo than trim hedges or bushes any day. For my bundled growing season packages I have been including aeration "as needed" as a bonus since I'm not including pruning.
    Posted via Mobile Device
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2013
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,839

    We don't do any kind of signed contract. First, we don't have a real high percentage of customers trying to cancel in the winter. Less than 3%, I'd guess. So it's not a huge problem. For two, I find a signed contract to be more of a detriment (in terms of getting people to sign up in the first place) than a benefit. The general consensus with residential clients around my area seems to be that they don't like being locked into a contract. They want to continue hiring a company because they appreciate the service, not because they're forced to. And we use that as a selling point actually. It's printed right on our estimate forms, on our website and we mention it in person too: "There are NO CONTRACTS to sign. Our good work will warrant your continued patronage." That seems to be a working selling point for us.

    I've considered back-charging people when they cancel. But it's hardly worth my time. We have plenty of accounts. We still made decent money off them for the time they were with us anyway. As I said above somewhere, I price our accounts so that we at least make a little profit off them in the spring/summer. We just make a lot more profit in the winter in maintenance. So if they cancel, it's not a huge loss. Next year, we'll most likely just fill that slot with someone who doesn't cancel. And when they call back and try to get back on they'll start to understand that we really were serious about doing only year-round accounts.

    Some customers think their business is SOOOO important to us that they can dictate terms to us or basically force us to violate our own policies, just because we need their business. They don't realize that we have 300+ accounts just like them that are paying us all year and that we also do a few million in other kinds of landscape/hardscape work each year. So although I do value their account, they're not QUITE as important to us as they think they are. So when they call in the spring and we won't take them back, sometimes it's a rude awakening. They can hardly believe that we're really going to turn down their business. It's unfathomable to them, for some reason, that we could afford to turn down any business at all. "Especially in this economic environment", they'll say. Well, sorry to tell you. But we're not really hurting. Maybe you want to find someone who is, so you can push them around a little more. Hehe. I wouldn't ever say that. But they sort of get the message. :)

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