Solo Operators I Would Like To Hear About Your Business

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Martin Lawn, Sep 11, 2007.

  1. Martin Lawn

    Martin Lawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 18

    Hi folks, I have several questions for those of you that are solo operators or those of you that started as solo operators that I would like some insight into. I just recently started this year as a way to make some additonal income along with my full time job and I really enjoy the business. I was wondering for those of you that are full time LCO's working primarily by yourself how many accounts do you find yourself able to service working 40-60 hours per week?
    My reason for asking is that I currently work full time at a power plant and although the money and benefits are good I really don't enjoy going to work. Now I'm not looking to leave my job tomorrow but I've been considering a 3 year plan. Unfortunaltely there's only so many hours in a day so there's only so many clients I can take on part time, but if I could build up enough of a client base with good accounts I would consider leaving in the future. On average what is the average income of a solo operator if you don't mind sharing it with me (I know it's different geographically) who mainly services residential lawns and offers most of the upsells such as aeration, fall cleanups, tree trimming etc. Please let me know if your bottom line includes health insurance, a retirement account and all that good stuff.
    Currently I am mostly debt free except for the new chainsaw and pole saw I purchased the other day for 0% interest for 12 months, but other than that my 06 Dane 36" commercial wb, H&H 8 by 12 trailer, trimmers and blowers are paid for, my truck isn't but I don't consider that a business expense as I use it as much for personal use.
    Next year my goal is to pay cash for a lightly used ZTR, I'm thinking it shouldn't be to difficult as I don't currently take a payroll check. I guess I was just curious as to how many of you are making a good living just doing it on your own. Sorry for the longwinded post:laugh:
     
  2. deapee

    deapee LawnSite Member
    from pa
    Posts: 25

    Martin, there comes a time when it's just time to go and do it. I don't see the point in anyone telling you how much they made their first season going full time or how many customers they acquired. It's all relative to the amount of work you're willing to put in. If 10 people tell you that they quit their job, went full time and made nothing, would you give up the dream? If 10 people tell you that they quit their job, went full time and made $80k the first year, would your pursue it harder?

    Both are possible, and both are highly probable outcomes. If you're willing to put in the time acquiring the work, the work is there. If you're not, then you will fail.

    I've seen guys take it on full time, go all out and get $30k worth of equipment thinking the work would come in...and waiting all summer and end up selling everything in the fall and going back to work for someone else. Just the same, I've seen guys start it out small, build slowly, acquire little to no debt, and have 3 guys working 5-6 days a week by the end of the year. Your goals should be clear and well-thought-out, and you should not stop pursuing those goals until you get what you're after...or of course until you adapt. Always be willing and ready to adapt.
     
  3. Martin Lawn

    Martin Lawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 18

    Thanks for your reply, while I understand you will only get out what you put into it I was curious as to the kind of numbers a solo operator could see if everything went well. Obviously there are several factors to consider, but if everyone said I busted my butt and only made $30,000.00 the first few years I would second guess my decision of taking it on full time. If I was unmarried and had no kids or mortgage that would be one thing but with the responsibilities I have I have to be carefull when dreaming about a new career path:) I was just curious as to what kind of money a LCO could make with no employees when the business was managed properly with lots of hard work and dedication. Thanks again for your reply.
     
  4. JeffW0011

    JeffW0011 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 179

    Martin,
    I would be glad to tell you what I know and relate my experience to you. I would strongly caution you leaving a decent job with decent benefits until you really have a going propostion. Does your wife work? Does she have good benefits? I was fortunate to have a wife with a solid career and solid benefits that allowed me to pursue this. I know guys who have been doing this for years and are real successful with it and still say paying for all the insurance and what not for their family and self just kills them. Plus, you will definetly have a lag time of a few years before you can get where you need to be. Can you weather the storm financially?
     
  5. bohiaa

    bohiaa LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,220

    you may wanna hold off on the ZTR..

    you will have to target your customers.
    think about what type of customers you want.
    and what type and how many are in your area.
    a ZTR may NOT be for you.

    in my area there is NOT any 1/4 acer lots. there for I cut mainly acerage.
    my largest customer is 10 acers. yes 10 that's there front and back yard.
    it's an every 10 day'er..

    most of them are 2 to 5 acers.
    frome time to time I get calls about 1/4 acer lots and I have to trn them down simply because I have no 21" mower.

    there are several web sights that have averages of people, income, and proptery value and sizes. this may help you to target your customer better.

    Good Luck.
     
  6. Martin Lawn

    Martin Lawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 18


    All good points, my wife does work and makes good money but she is self employed so the benefits would be the real kicker. I haven't looked into insurance as of yet but I imagine I'm easily looking at around $800 per month for the family for less coverage than I already have and since I would like to retire someday I also have to consider a retirement account. Financially weathering the storm is something I need to start planning for now should I decide eventually to try doing this full time. Thanks for your input.
     
  7. Martin Lawn

    Martin Lawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 18

    Due to where I'm located in Omaha I have about 1500 homes within 2 miles of myself that range anywhere from $300,000 to 7 million and that is the target for my advertising next spring. Now I'm sure several have relationships with current LCO's but I figure it sure wouldn't hurt to try. The lot sizes range anywhere from 1/4 acre to upwards of 4-5acres so if I'm able to get enough of these accounts I would then consider a ZTR. No need for me to have a machine I really couldn't use, just thought it would really help production and open up some possibilities of bidding larger properties.
     
  8. bohiaa

    bohiaa LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,220

    Yes IT will.....

    I didn't get mine untill there was a need.....

    I was trying to lead your thinking towards target the customer... and it looks like I didn't need to do that. you chimed right back with a Great response and additude.... your already above the croud.......

    you will need to remember about insurance and such going into this business.
    all areas are diffrent, I'm sure you cauld get some quotes and do the math..

    good luck
     
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    It's more than just about the money to me, I pay myself a grand a month so it ain't get rich quick or slow for sure and I'm in my 6th year, but...

    The FREEDOM omg the freedom, absolutely no feeling hit me harder than this, you are 100% free to do as YOU please!
    When, what, how, where, all of that is entirely in your hands, every minute of every day you are teh man!

    - Wake up and go to work, or not. I probably work 6 months out of the year.
    > You bet I wake up at the crack of noon, get to my first yard by 2p, home by 7 and LOL.
    - Dump $100 in fuel in the truck and act like it's nothing.
    - CALL the dealer and ask if some $300 trimmer is in stock, if so could they have it ready in 20-30, then swing past swipe tha magic credit card and 5 minutes later have a brand new tool in hand, lalala.
    - Act like the town idiot and fail to care. Why? Why not?
    - Nobody to write you up or fire you, your job is as secure as you make it.
    - Your choices and decisions directly affect your income in real time, for once in your life when you do the right thing you reap the reward and now, nobody else slips in front of you and nobody else gets or takes the credit.
    - No corporate nonsense, however I'd like to add that today I finally SEE why some of it was necessary :laugh:
    - Still, you run it the way you deem fit, I never liked a lot of things in the real world, to this day I categorically refuse to do things everyone else is absolutely convinced of, for no other reason than I just don't like that.

    Now those are some of the things I like, don't get me started on the bad stuff.

    Good luck
     
  10. DGomez

    DGomez LawnSite Member
    Posts: 9

    how can you afford the internet or life in general making 6-8k a year????

    thanks
    Dan Gomez
     

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