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Too Expensive

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by TGCummings, Apr 26, 2002.

  1. TGCummings

    TGCummings LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 773

    Okay, I need to learn a lesson from this one I think. I know numbers mean nothing w/o seeing, and that rates vary everywhere, but any feedback here is appreciated.

    I started cutting for the local city sheriff candidate last month. This month he tells me I'm doing a wonderful job and asks if I would like to start doing a more full-service property management at his house. Of course I do, that's just my game, let me work up a quote.

    The lawn work is at $65/month for weekly service (don't make that an issue, I know you acreage people think that's ridiculous but that's high in my area for the size of lawn -- less than 1500 square feet -- and I make a good $45/hour rate on site and it's right along my route) so I needed to factor in a longer stay/stop and quarterly trimming of shrubs and bushes.

    I figured 4-6 hours of trimming every 3 months = $240 = $80/month.

    Weeding of all flower and rock beds (app. 10-15 minutes extra/stop) = $40/month.

    Upkeep of a long, narrow 600 square foot area of rock and dirt where wild grass will grow between an occaisonal palm tree and juniper bush (weedwacking/junk mowing app. 5-10 minutes extra time each stop) = $20/month.

    $65 + $80 + $40 + $20 = $205/month for a completely carefree property.

    So, we called him with his updated quote and were met with stunned disbelief. It's too expensive at more than $1500 more per year. Just stick to the mowing, he says, you're doing a great job.

    I'm frustrated. Perhaps I could have knocked 10% off for taking care of the entire property (bulk rate) but I get the feeling $185/month wasn't nearly what he had in mind either. After all, that's still nearly $1500 more per year...

    I guess it's just another instance of someone thinking that since I'm already there can't I do a bunch more for just a few more dollars?

    My guess is he's going to find someone operating a cheesy operation to trim his shrubs for less than half, pull the weeds himself, and let the rest grow over while I keep his lawn cut. I find this sort of thing all the time here.

    Is it just the area I live in that no one wants to pay a decent rate for full service landscape care, or am I just being completely unreasonable?

    Do you find this sort of thing common where you are??? :confused:
  2. 65hoss

    65hoss LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,360

    I guess I'm confused, such a small property and you have 4-6 hrs to trim bushes. Is there several hundred of them? That number just seems real high to me. But, I don't see the property.
  3. AielLandscaping

    AielLandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 302

    i'm probably closest to you in terms of property size and income levels... and i find this all the time... i would worry though if someone else starts doing the extra stuff for a cheaper price. while they may be working themselves out of business, your customer won't understand that. all they care about is the bottom line.. if they get their feet in, they might price you out all together
  4. TGCummings

    TGCummings LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 773

    It's not a small property, just a small amount of lawn on it. I estimated about a half day each stop. Possibly I could get the shrubs done in 2-3 hours (with cleanup and haul off) but I find the variation in shrub work to be greatest of all.

    What do you think, Hoss, too much for the shrubs? How about 3 hours @ $45/hour? That would've knocked $35 off the overall rate and brought it down to $170/month. More reasonable?
  5. TGCummings

    TGCummings LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 773

    I agree completely, which is why I'm trying to find a workable solution. I may not be able to head this one off now, but I'd like to nail down my pricing on these things to circumvent these sort of problems in the future. If I'm high on my rate, I just want to know so I can fix that. The one thing I know I can't do, at any rate, is compete with the kinds of guys in the area who'll cut and/or trim anything for $20/hour (or less).

    Going back to what I responded to right above, to Hoss, I wonder if I could even trim at that rate. I go after $60/hour for trimming shrubs, et. al., and I'll have to compromise time and rate in the above scenario. I could possibly trim for 3 hours @ $45/hour, but isn't it better to err on the side of making too much as opposed to too little?
  6. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,496

    65 / 4= $16.25. per mow. He probably figured that since you're working for free mowing, that you'd be more than happy to do the other stuff for free, too. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be harsh, but it's like this. You get $16.25 per cut. Out of which, it costed you how much to drive there, (include NOT just your driving time, but fuel, insurance, use of the vehicle-maintenance, and cost of the vehicle. O.k., now your there. Drop the gate on your trailer. Yes, you have money invested in this carriage to carry your equipment, = maintenance of it, AND you have to pay for a registration just to be able to have it on the road. O.k., now you have all your equipment, however, he didn't bring his lawn to YOU to service, YOU had to take your stuff to HIM. And no, don't justify it by saying, "Well, I was in the area, anyway." That is irrelevant. Now, you burn your fuel. depreciating your equipment, causing you (even a small portion) of service such as blade sharpening. Now, after your done, you figure your time, but also figure your driving time not just getting there, but driving aWAY from the place, as well. O.k., collect your $16.25, NOW, take about 30% of that away from yourself for taxes, Take some out for insurance, take some out to put back into the company, and give what's left over to yourself. Ok, now realize that the neighbor kid probably would have been paid the same, using the CUSTomers equipment. You could have made this much working for someone else, or better yet, could have made MORE working for yourSELF. Bottom line is, realize what it costs to get over there and get the job done. Again, sorry, I don't mean to come off as harsh. I just don't like to see people get taken advantage of.
  7. TGCummings

    TGCummings LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 773

    No problem, Runner, I get this all the time from folks who don't work in my market. Again, don't dwell on this because I've spent years perfecting my routes and rates considering the size of property and what I deal with in "competition" in my market. Again, my rates are 30-50% higher than what I deal with in "competition" and I make a solid rate (and living) with what I do. So, forget your market and your minimums and understand that I know what I'm doing, as far as lawn care, in mine.

    It's the rest of it that this question is about.
  8. Russo

    Russo LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 287

    Sound like it is HIS numbers that are scaring him, not yours. he probably just thought that it wouldn't cost that much. I would ask him "Do you have an amount budgeted for landscaping? Perhaps we can prioritize what services you want for that budget."

    You are just assuming that he will find someone else and pull his own weeds. That's a big guess. You may offer a deal, heck, it's not against the rules to negotiate. But don't stray from your professionalism. You know what it takes to make a fair profit and do the best job possible.

    Don't head for lowballersville because of HIS decision making process.

    I think you really know all of this and just got a little frustrated cause you want the job pretty bad. Am I wrong?
  9. AielLandscaping

    AielLandscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 302

    just a thought your trying to figure out something with so many variables that you know that someone is going to get the bad end of this deal right? what do you think about charging the customer an hourly rate? just let them know a high and low figure as to what you think it will take, then charge accordingly... if you give a fixed rate then either you make more then your desired rate, which is great for you but only if you don't lose the job, or you charge too little and end up resenting doing the job.

    if you do this though, you'll have to tell the customer your hourly rate, and you will be met with " your way too high.. i love the work you do, but come on thats too high " they always think that they are paying you directly and that what they pay you is pure profit.. you couldn't possibly have overhead... after all your " just a lawn guy " in their eyes... man we don't get enough respect...
  10. 65hoss

    65hoss LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,360

    I think the $45-$65 range per hour for shrubs is fine. Its not real equipment intensive, but very labor intensive. Could you spray out the beds to eliminate some of the weed pulling time? Especially the rock areas.

    Only you know what is involved in this property, don't short change yourself. If you know your costs and what you need to make on it, stick with it. Don't resort to lowball tactics to try to get the job. But, if you can figure a way to knock off some time and lower the bid price some you could try to still get the biz. If you attack it correctly he may think your really interested in making it work for him.

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