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Shrubs eat man hours

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, May 1, 2004.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    This lady comes out last week and asks if we trim shrubs. She wants to have her 10' photenias trimmed and asks how much.

    I say "My price for shrub & tree work is $.60 per man per minute. I run a two man crew and the photenias should take about 1.5 hours or so. That's the ballpark. It's an estimate and I've been way off before. An hour and a half will run you $108.00 plus sales tax."

    She says she had a guy do them last year for $50.

    I tell her that guys out of business by now charging that low of a price.

    She says, "Maybe. He was hispanic. I tried to trim them last fall and fell off my ladder and nearly fell into the street."

    I say, "Well, we don't compete very well with the mexicans. We carry $1m in liability insurance and we carry workmans comp insurance. That should be important to you with a dangerous job like this. If you hire an uninsured contractor to do this work and he gets hurt, what's your plan? Your homeowners insurance will deny the claim because you hired an uninsured contractor."

    She says, "Would you take a hundred?"

    I say "Fine."

    Then, this is where she really gets me. She says, "And can you trim these small shrubs on the corner too?" They were right next to the photenias on the corner and looked like they'd be no problem.

    God, I'm horrible at estimating time requirements on small shrubs. They look so easy. I figured 10 minutes or so. I say "Why not."

    To make a long story short, the entire job took a two man crew 2 hours and 16 minutes on sight. We grossed $22 per man hour while doing that work, with no allowance for drive time. The entire over run was due to those innocent looking small shrubs.

    I will never, ever quote a firm price on shrubs again. They either pay my price per minute, or they don't get done. Shrubs are just way too deceiving. It's not the time with the trimmer that eats the man hours. It's the clean up afterwords. Even with a chipper shredder. They just eat man hours alive. We use sheets and towels to catch clippings. We've done everything we can think of to reduce our times. Shrubs just eat man hours.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  2. lawnman_scott

    lawnman_scott LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 7,547

    Youre fairly new at it, after a while you will get a better handle on it. Just have to do it awhile, its harder to estimate than mowing.
  3. NickN

    NickN LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Alabama
    Posts: 1,010

    yep.I get the ,"It takes me all day to trim my shrubs.I hate doing it and I can't make the shrubs look nice".
    Then I give them a price."Oh!That's too much".........Have a nice day,I say.
    I gotta go give a landscaping presentation today.The only thing I have heard from this person is,"Are you reasonable?" and "Well,how much is it going to cost?"I know already that I'm wasting my time.SHould have charged for the design,but it's a lady that has a kid at the same school my daughter goes to.
    I gave her the price over the phone and there was a long pause.............
    Keep in mind,I'm not charging her for gathering materials,I'm giving her wholesale cost of plants, and no mark up on anything.Just a straight manhour price pluc materials.Worse thing is she's a business owner and HAS to know how much it takes to operate.
    Also wants a price for cleanup and mowing of a large commercial site that she owns.The guy that said he was going to do it hasn't shown up.About 8 acres with lots of trimming and such.She'll kill over if/when I price that job per week.
    I'm trying to keep a positive attitude and I assume everyone in business goes through this also.
  4. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    ++++Youre fairly new at it, after a while you will get a better handle on it. Just have to do it awhile, its harder to estimate than mowing.++++

    Exactly. But most of the people in this business are fairly new at it. If you're the only one not underestimating the work requirments, you're the one with the highest prices. It would be different if I could say "then do it yourself" and it could stick. But every homeowner knows all they have to do is stop the next crew of mexicans and they'll get a price they want.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  5. Mikes Lawn Landscape

    Mikes Lawn Landscape LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Posts: 458

    Do you really price jobs by the Minute and tell customers that ?
  6. specialtylc

    specialtylc LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,656

    I give a flat fee price for anything we do. Not by the hour or minute. Very rarely do I come out on the short end. I dont use tarps or anything under the bushes. We either rake it out or use a blower to clean out the beds. Just depends on the type of mulch in the beds.
  7. DennisF

    DennisF LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Florida
    Posts: 1,381

    I price shrubs per job. I make sure that the customer has indicated which shrubs are to be trimmed before the jobs begins. I estimate the number of hours it should take and multiply that by $40 (solo operator). If the customer says too much I say good-bye. Shrub trimming takes time to do it right and if the customer isn't willing to pay the price I leave and wish them well!
  8. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Posts: 8,745

    She must have known that those shrubs were pains
  9. crawdad

    crawdad LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,939

    That's the ticket!
    Shrubs are ....mmmm...artistic... ummm...creative...objective.........
    I don't know, can't pick out the right word...If you can't pay me to do them right, I don't want to do them.
  10. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Posts: 2,116

    ++++Do you really price jobs by the Minute and tell customers that ?++++

    Yes. I've had tremendous success with it so far. Most people are fine with it. I've gotten thousands of dollars worth of work under these terms so far this year. It's how I charge for leaves, shrubs, tree trimming and tree removal. It's also how I charge for miscellaneous stuff, like if a customer wants me to plant flowers they have already purchased or do other odd ball stuff like that. If they ever seem shocked, which so far, no one really has, I just explain that the rate is about what we gross when we're mowing the lawn.

    DFW Area Landscaper

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