Need Advice: How downgrade services?

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by whoopassonthebluegrass, Jan 23, 2012.

  1. whoopassonthebluegrass

    whoopassonthebluegrass LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,214

    For several years now, I have sold an all-encompassing package that included the likes of:

    • 6 fertilizations
    • 5 weed applications
    • 2 pre-ems
    • 5 Round-Up sprays through concrete/gutters
    • 1 shrub/bush insect spray
    • Grub prevention/control

    I set myself apart from the low ballers and justified a higher price and an extra visit.

    The past 2 years, however, I have been decimated by billbugs. The first several years of doing this, I could just lay down preventative bifenthrin blanket-sprays, but no more. The past two seasons saw MAJOR outbreaks (80% of my lawns last year).

    As an obvious result, 2 things have happened:

    1. My profit margin tanked
    2. As soon as I see the first case each season, I'm sick with worry until September over how many more lawns will be infested.

    The cost of doing this made sense when I'd deluded myself into thinking that bifenthrin would be all it took to keep bugs at bay. (NOTE: I am well aware of my error, so please resist the urge to puff yourself up by putting me down.)

    So now I need to approach my clients with a solid, reasonable change-in-system that will allow me to quit offering this as a built-in service and be able to charge separately for it on an as-needed basis, using proper chemicals.

    I have a few thoughts, but would like some outside input as I formulate a gameplan. Thanks.
  2. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 12,233


    I do not understand. Do you mean you had to return and free respray many of your lawns at no extra cost? More than once? Why not include the insecticide and the weed control in the same tank? (During billbug season). Is your competition suffering from the same problem? Do competing companies charge extra for billbug control? If so, so should you.

    Ric can explain the major problems they have had due to chinchbug resistance in Florida. It may be a case of switching products and careful use of the available products, following guidelines for preventing insect resistance. Never using products of the same class twice in a row. Mode of action Group 3 only once per year.
    Col State suggests you should spray in spring (late May) to prevent the overwintering adults from laying eggs.

    Does this mean that the billbugs have developed resistance to Talstar?

    At times, you may wish to switch to a grub control that also controls billbugs--like Acelyprin.

    And maybe it is a timing thing--preventative is better. Once under the ground the larvae are safe, because the pyrithroids do not penetrate the soil--not much effect.

    Also you should try to interest your customers in overseeding with endophyte-enhanced perennial ryegrass--which the billbugs won't touch.

    Be sure you have them identified correctly--not fungus, not cinchbugs, nor European craneflies.
  3. turf hokie

    turf hokie LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,744


    The program you provide does not include surface feeding insects as far as I can tell, grubs-yes, shrub insects 1x-yes. billbugs should have been billable in my eyes.

    My first thougts would be to streamline, do away with the shrub spray, 1x treatment imo is not enough to justify doing it, unless you are extremely slow at the time of that application. Upsell that to be a 3 to 5 step program and make it worth your time.

    I hate spraying roundup for residentials, did away with it except in special circumstances several years ago. I dont feel I am on the property enough to keep up with bare ground treatments and always fielded more complaints on that service than all my others combined.

    Maybe swap the round up for a preventative bill bug service. I removed chinch bugs from my standard program years ago and now charge extra for it, most customers never noticed, but I did not sell my program as all inclusive even when I treated for chinch.

    what were your thoughts?
  4. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 9,064

    Billbugs are controllable with imidacloprid applied at the right time. I do not know what to tell you about curative treatment for the weevils that does not involve pyrethroids. I am not sure if Dylox applied as a high volume spray would work. Sevin definitely works, however usage of that material is restricted to "spot treatments" on residential lawns. Thanks a lot EPA. On the RoundUp: unless I include preemergent herbicides in a non planted area treatment, I can expect to have to spray RoundUp over 20 times per year. It becomes less costly to put in something that will control weeds for an extended period of time. Not to mention the added value to the client who does not have to watch weeds grow and die every month, all year long.
  5. Ric

    Ric LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 11,956



    I am not going to try and give advice on your insect problems in Tropical Utah. But what I am reading is a need to increase prices. This is never an easy job no matter what the reasons and you will lose a few customers on general principles.

    I am very much of a numbers person, therefore I always try and balance my decisions with numbers. Assuming as high as a 10% customer loss, Increase your price so you will still be at the same income level after the increase as before. You will in fact be making more money per customer but with fewer customers. Remember when running your numbers to account for 10% less materials and other associated costs also. You might be surprised by finding yourself in a better place.

  6. whoopassonthebluegrass

    whoopassonthebluegrass LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,214

    I appreciate the feedback thus far.


    As clarification, Riggle, yes. I blanket spray the lawns with Bifenthrin on the 3rd AND 4th treatments... and while I haven't had a single case of sod web worm in YEARS, it is clearly not penetrating down through our heavy thatch layers to the billbugs. Therefore, despite the blanket sprays, I am still having to run around and do additional treatments (obviously costing time, gas, expensive product - and hoping I can remedy the problem before the customer notices and is disappointed) to keep the promises I've made.

    As for my competition, this is an add-on service for all but one of them. I was trying to be unique by including it... but instead have learned the hard way why they don't.


    As for imidacloprid, it's lifespan is so short that I would have to apply twice (at max rate), if not 3x's. Because of our irrigation practices here, imidacloprid has an 8 week window - but takes 2 weeks to even translocate as needed - thus leaving a piddly 6 week window of effectiveness (which happens to be my time between treatments). Now, because billbugs are prevalent here from late spring through fall, I'd have to hit the lawns on round 2, round 3, and possibly even round 4.

    I know that generics have come down in price, but that's still a pretty penny compared to bifenthrin.


    Ric, you're right. My profit margins are too small for what I'm doing. The alternative to increasing prices, however, is to trim down services. This approach appeals to me for a few different reasons:

    1. I live in an extremely frugal (okay, CHEAP) market. I have been stagnant for 3 years (since economic collapse) because folks around here aren't willing to spend this much on lawn care.
    2. I'm sick of having to go over each yard numerous times before I'm done (fertilize, then blanket spray, then spot spray, then Round-Up, and then any insect spray that might be included or requested). It's not only inefficient, it also kills my momentum for the day.

    I would, obviously, love a ride-on machine. It would change everything - from my efficiency to my weariness. But I'm beyond broke and things ain't purty at present, so that's just not an option.

    I would kind of like to strip it back down to a regular, run-of-the-mill offering: 5 ferts and 2 weeds... everything else is still available, but it'll cost ya...

    I just don't know, though, how being like everyone else really helps me - I just find the simplicity of it extremely appealing...
  7. turf hokie

    turf hokie LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,744

    Dont strip it down that far, but close.

    Our package is 5 ferts, 2 pre-em, weed sprays as needed (including grassy weeds) and we just added grub prevention to our basic package. Reason being is that we had 3/4 of our base on grub and 1/4 not, so the route on round 3 got to be a pain and it was cheaper to just put everyone on it, I am charging for it, but not as much as I used to since imidacloprid prices are way down.

    I would go simple, dont worry about the program being the same as the rest, it is your service and results that will set you apart. Our programs a generally the same as everyone else but we actually do what we say we are, spray the weeds, put down the proper amount of fertilizer, soil test to see if changes are needed and then actually make those changes.

    You will find that the efficiency will make up for the lost revenue and you will also find that alot of customers will sign up for the extras.

    Doing 3,4,5 different services at one time seems like a good idea until as you said, you lose your flow because you need to keep going back to the truck for different product/equipment. I have tried that way as well, get friggin annoying because at the end of the day you only got 8 stops and 24 services done and dont feel like you accomplished anything and didnt bill as much as if you had just done 20 lawns.
  8. Ferris68

    Ferris68 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 44

    I would be honest with your customers. Change the program but let them know why you are doing it and how much better the results will be by doing so. People are willing to pay more to a person they trust. With the crazy weather the country has seen over the past few years most people will understand why you need to revamp the program.

    As for the program I would make a separate program for tree and shrub. Start with a dormant oil and then incorporate insect and disease throughout the year depending on the life cycles for your zone.

    Try spraying Acelepryn with your second fertilizer/pre-m/weed control application. You can charge for grub and an insect control with a single spray. The cost is much more than bifen/imidacloprid but its a offers season long control.

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