Small Lawns

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Mikes Lawn Landscape, Aug 27, 2004.

  1. Mikes Lawn Landscape

    Mikes Lawn Landscape LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Posts: 458

    I have a dilema. About 90% of my lawns are 1/2 acre and up.
    The few small lawns we do are not profitable. (I'm talking 10,000 sq ft or less). It isn't my pricing or how long they take its unloading, loading and drive time. An example one lawn we do I get $30.00 for it takes 2 guys 10 minutes (Which for you seasoned pros is $90 per man hour) but if you factor in 10 minutes to and from this property and 5 minutes load and unload it becomes a break even account.

    Now the dilema:

    I know tighten the route get 4 lawns in a row and the profits will go up. But when I add a crew just for small lawns I will have to be able to do 75 $30 lawns a week to make a decent profit. So do I keep my pricing competitive and try and get 75 small lawns or do I jack up the price and take a lot longer to get to 75 lawns.

    Basically I would like to have a small lawn crew in place by the end of next season or the beginning of 2006.

    So for you guys who do small lawns any insights would be helpful.

    There are several good reasons why I want to do small lawns they would be in addition to my larger props not instead of.

  2. jphag

    jphag LawnSite Member
    Posts: 219

    I love small lawns but the trick is route density. This is the only way you can make money. I have one area I do where I can do 7 lawns in less than an hr with a 2 man crew. I charge $20 per lawn and don't bag the clippings. I would love to do these all day long if possible. Can you image what you could do in a 10 hr day.

  3. mbricker

    mbricker LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 505

    Mike, a few years ago when I usually had one man with me, and sometimes two--I ran the numbers on stand-alone jobs and found they just don't work out for a crew. Unless they are larger than my average job.

    Your numbers will not be exactly like mine (different markets and different rate acceptance)

    Any job paying less than about $32, I was making less than the man working for me. Any job up to about $48, I was still making less than if I did the job solo. Only made more money with a helper on jobs above $48. I also realized that two $25 jobs side-by-side were profitable with a helper. I did not have enough larger jobs, or groups of smaller jobs, to justify a helper. Started working solo again and have continued solo last 3 years.

    However, there are a few lco's in this area who have tried paying their help on a commission basis. Percentage of each job, sometimes with bonus for completion in shorter time than normal. That avoids paying for the windshield time. I was paying straight hourly, from when we left my place to when we pulled in at end of day.

    If you have good help and don't want to short them, and the small lawns are good customers you want to keep, you may end up having to settle for less in your pocket from those lawns.

    As far as building up groups of lawns to service with one stop, now is the time to visit the homeowners around the stand-alone lawns you currently service. Pick the lawns that do not look as if the current lco gives a rats-ass. Without specifically running down the competition, simply tell the homeowner you are expanding, would like to be considered for next season, and leave them with a card. Follow up with another visit by the end of October. Chances are you can get jobs this way without even taking them away from a competitor, since we see so many get into the biz and drop out after the first year.
  4. Mikes Lawn Landscape

    Mikes Lawn Landscape LawnSite Senior Member
    from Texas
    Posts: 458

    Thanks guys, mbricker thats the kind of input I'm looking for. I'm finding a similar situation the $30 lawns just ain't making the money yet. In order to make anything I have to price them at $45 which is fine but I still don't get the route density vs pricing them at $30 basically what I'm looking at is breaking even over a season on small props but I do need to figure out how to get the density.

    The property I mentioned, it really wouldn't matter what it was priced at it just isn't worth the hassle to drive over and service it and I don't see much potential in the neighborhood but again at some point I will need the smaller props so I gotta start planning now.
  5. bobbygedd

    bobbygedd LawnSite Fanatic
    from NJ
    Posts: 10,178

    my biggest profit makers are $20-$25 lawns. the smaller the lawn, the higher the profits. the key is maintaining minimum pricing, and pushing for add ons. i love doing fert programs for these tiny 1k properties. a whole program uses about $5 worth of material, and the price is around $150. the key here is keeping overhead low, i love it when i see a guy roll up with a huge enclosed trailer, $100 k worth of equipment, then cut the lawn for $15-$20.

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,981

    Yeah, I was gonna say what Bobby said in regards to setting a minimum price. Then anything smaller than your minimum becomes a nice money-maker. Keeping your lawns tight makes sense whether they be large or small, right now I only take new customers if they are neighbors of existing ones. Not enough time to drive all over anymore.

    PMLAWN LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,535

    You must be making a lot for your big lawns. Around here people have an idea of how much to cut the grass-- $30 to $35. the problem is that they don't care how big the lot is. people with a 1 acre lot feel the same as the guy with 6,000 feet. I find it a lot easier to sell the small lot and than I try to get a few within walking distance. the key is to drop the gate and do 3 or better.
    I do not run a Z on any of these as it would be silly and we carry a 48 and a 36 and 2 21s. 2 guys on the truck and the trim guy has about as much time as the mower guy so it works out well.
    I have the problem the other way as 2 guys at a property for 40 min. and the homeowner is crying over the $50. And I have a Z on that truck- Bigger truck-bigger trailer- bigger mower, Less $ per time. And the mow to trim ratio does not work as well so second man is running a 48 for just a few min. I like the small ones for the crew. I believe the secret is in the route planning and that can take a while to set up. Get your foot in the door and work the neighbors hard. When they see your work thay should come running. Good luck
  8. fcl01

    fcl01 LawnSite Member
    from OHIO
    Posts: 249

    most of the advice i had in mind has been said but i just want to applaude you guys on having a helpful and intelligent thread! they're getting scarce on this site
    keep up the good work!

  9. dlandscaping

    dlandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    from mass
    Posts: 835

    Wow all of my lawns are under 1/2 acre. I get $20 to cut 1k sq ft and its next to a 3k sq ft one for $25. Small lawns are profitable, and for crews designed for small lawns, you can be in and out of there with 2 people in under 15 minutes.
  10. Fishin LCO

    Fishin LCO LawnSite Member
    from NC
    Posts: 143

    Just remember more accounts of any size equals more add ons. You might not make a killer profit for mowing, but mulch, apps, irrigations, shrubs, etc can really bring you a good profit.

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