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My VERY unique situation

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by TPnTX, Sep 12, 2008.

  1. TPnTX

    TPnTX LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,776

    Before this year I was doing some mowing as well as installs and fences.

    This year my step-son joined me and we decided to start up a mowing route. I did most of the sales and as of Sept we have about 40 accounts residential and commercial.

    We've had a couple of different helpers and for the most part that has worked out pretty well. We just hired a guy a couple of months ago who is excellent and I'm hoping to be able to keep him for a long time.

    My step-son however has decided not to continue after this year. He'll be re-enlisting in the coast guard. I'm disappointed but I could tell he's not into it. Maybe July and August took it out of him.

    There is a local business directory which is must-do in this area. If you're not in it, people often ask why. So far I've gotten several calls and its current until next summer. I bought the ads before I knew I would loose my main guy.

    I intend to focus on high end residential and commercial. I'm looking into some other things but for now I should be able to keep things running with that.

    If I had been focused on sales this year my route would be full. I got distracted by a heavy work load from doing installs and really I was constantly trying to encourage him to do more(any) sales. I really had high hopes because it's so much easier for two people to accomplish things. My hopes dwindled however as the summer went along. I can't say I was expecting it but at the same time I wasn't too surprised when he told me he would be leaving in Feb.

    So....I'll probably start out next year in the truck with Jose. Get it up and running and as soon as possible replace me with another helper. These 40 account I have, only a handfull of them are small yards. The rest are large resi or commercial.

    My 1st concern is my residential contract arrangments. I just got a cancellation of a lady and I knew it was going to happen. I already know getting the balance out of this person is not going to happen. So her canceling this late in the season means that she has been getting her yard mowed cheap all year. I think she's got it down to a scam.

    So am I doing this right?
    Take 38 mows/bed maint, 4 ferts, 3 seasonal color, weed control.
    Add all that up, tax it and divide it into 12 monthly payments.

    Doing this in March for example you stand the risk of mowing through September or November and then a customer dropping you and you holding the balance.
    Again this just happened and I think she had intended this all along.

    On the up side you have cash flow through the off season with a reduced overhead. You couple that together with the fact that it helps sales by allowing the customer to budget for the year.

    I hate to do it but I guess I'll have to call around to other contractors to find what the norm is for contracts in this area.

    So for those of you who do contracts, is this how you do it. Im hoping I'm not crazy for doing it this way. I based it off how the commercial contracts work.
  2. I just spent my first full day yesterday without my son helping me. He had to take a factory job to get him thru the winter. I don't expect him back next spring.

    It's more seasonal here so I wouldn't do annual mowing contract in Ohio. All of the clients would pull the same scam that lady pulled on you. Even if I offered snow removal they'd try to scheme some way to skip paying for the months without work.

    I mow as needed and bill only for work performed. It seems to work the best for lawns 10 acres and larger.
    Their accounts payable departments whine about it because the price isn't fixed. Not my problem. If I could predict the weather I wouldn't have to mow lawns for a living. I'd go work for NOAA.
  3. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,899

    You just have to modify your contract to make it so if someone cancels before the contract has expired it will revert to a service by service bill and they will be responsible for the balance.

    You have to give them an out for shoddy service but you need to clearly define shoddy service so they can't weasel out of it. There is a local guy here who has a similar contract. I have not gone to it as I have not had the need. I even had one client I picked up last fall and they canceled in the spring so I actually made out on that one! Can you say Karma BabY.

    Our hours to service a home vary greatly from summer to winter but we do service homes year around. I did a bid yesterday and the summer hours were just over 10 hrs per visit and the winter hrs are 3 hrs per visit. The yearly avg is 6 (winter is only 3 months) so that's what The bid will be.

    Just run on over to Marty! and see what he does. :laugh:

    Ooops sorry Tx Haggerty will have to talk to Marty! maybe he can get bact to us.
  4. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,201

    When people that are on a 12 month contract drop after the mowing season finishes it isn't hard to get the balance. They always claim they didn't understand but ;the court don't take any of it. We go to a law firm that we use for our busninees in general and they handle it.l Usually after one letter from the firm they come wanting to settle. On the one that almost went to court the people had to pay the total bill plus the lawyer.
  5. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,923

    I know you were expecting your step-son to return for more work, but hat's off to him for his enlistment with the Coast Guard. You don't say his age, but his career path with the Coast Guard at this point may be the best thing for him.
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    How this situation is any different from any other every day thing escapes me :p

    Because if I had to do all the grunt work while the owner gets to drive around and
    sit in the air conditioning doing all the easy peasy chill stuff I would've lost interest, too.

    On that note, your step-son lasted a whole lot longer than I would have,
    I don't think I would've made it 3 days under those conditions, and that
    assumes I came back from lunch on the first day.

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,981

    I do flat rate billing, but offer a few different options. For example, the 8 month option had billing dates from 3/31-10/31. For any new customer, I don't allow them to go with 12 month billing. Once they finish the first season they may do so for the following year....but I run the 'contract' starting in January, so pretty much I've been paid already 3 times before I even do any work.

    Just structure things so you're ahead of the customer, and it'll all be fine. I find also, most customers like the flat rate billing, but don't really want to be billed 12 months. 8 or 10 months are the most popular.
  8. delphied

    delphied LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,067

    No kidding. Who in their right mind would want a relative to try to make a living in this limbo business of "who can go lowest on price"?
  9. Kennedy Landscaping

    Kennedy Landscaping LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,599

    Alot of guys say no contracts unless commercial account. I only have on commercial though so I'm not too big on contracts.
  10. Richard Martin

    Richard Martin LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 14,700

    You have to provide for this situation in your contracts. Here's a part from mine...

    If either party exercises their right to cancel this contract before July 31, 2009 then an audit of the account will be performed by Richard Martin. The audit will include all services performed by Richard Martin (at the prices outlined below) and all monies received for those services from Sally Smith. If the account is deemed to have a negative balance then Sally Smith agrees to make an immediate payment of the negative balance. If the account is deemed to have a positive balance then Richard Martin agrees to issue an immediate refund of the positive balance.

    Further down in my contract it outlines the individual prices for everything I do from cutting the grass to trimming the bushes (by the hour pricing). Just keep accurate records of everything you do at the property.

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