Weed control and shrub trimming is KILLING me!

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by ThreeWide, Sep 28, 2004.

  1. ThreeWide

    ThreeWide LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,116

    I work solo. Being in my first year of this biz, I sometimes take on accounts that have some risk involved. This one is a perfect example.

    A 12,000 sq ft lawn that I have no problem maintaining. Turf is my bread and butter. This client is picky and he is pleased with that aspect of it. This particular client requires that his service also take care of weeds in the non-turf areas as well as shrub trimming. He has a very large ornamental area and controlling the weeds has been an ongoing problem. I spray when possible, but sometimes hand pulling is the only resort. Bottom line is no matter how hard I work, the weed problem is never really resolved. Also, he is now saying that my shrub trimming is not meeting his requirements in terms of exact shape and size. Does this sound a bit excessive to you?

    He wants all of this done for a flat rate, which is my big problem. Most of us would prefer to give him flat rate for the turf, but weed stuff should be by the hour. That makes sense since weed work is very hard to predict.

    I gave him a flat rate for all of this and now I'm losing my rear because of the level of detail he wants. I underestimated the time required to deal with the non-turf work.

    Has anyone ever tried subbing out weed work like this? Obviously it is not my cup of tea. If I cannot find a way to sub that out at a reasonble cost, I may have to just drop him.

    What I've learned from this is that my bids will no longer touch anything beyond the perimeter of the turf. Working solo, my time is really too expensive to be competitive for that.
  2. GreenMonster

    GreenMonster LawnSite Silver Member
    from NH
    Posts: 2,702

    If I were forced to do something for a flat rate, where there are unknown's, I'd juice it up to make sure I'm covered. If you're going to do a flat rate, I think your agreement/contract should also have stipulations and boundries -- maybe more of an allowance. Weeding will occur every other week, shrubs trimmed x times per year, etc. Are you using pre-m in the oranamental beds?

    If he is asking for specific shape and sizes of his shrubs, he is asking for a premium service. If his standards are above industry standards, he should be charged above industry standards. If your trimming is up to standards, you shouldn't have to go beyond that -- espeically if these details were not discussed beforehand.

    Are you sure the lesson learned is to avoid bed maintenance? Maybe you can be profitable here by altering your rates in this area?
  3. Up North

    Up North LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MN
    Posts: 1,063

    Looks like a good learning experience. I too am in my first year, however just on the maintenence side. Not sure how you view it, but whatever you do don't look at this situation as a failure in any way. If anything, chalk it up to a learning experience. Some customers just can't be pleased, they will always complain about something. I have a Senior apartment complex that I mow, and I continually get compliments from everyone there except this one old lady. She complains to the mgr almost weekly about stuff, and in most cases it's something that has NOTHING to do with my service but she thinks it was me that slipped up. She is the type of person that will never be happy, and always thinks it's the other guys fault for something.

    Anyway, in your case, I'd just make sure the communication is there between you & your customer. If it is and he's still not happy, maybe it is time to move on and cut your losses now as it may continue as long as he's a customer. That's just my opinion, but maybe someone else here will have some good insight on how to handle the weed situation & pruning and save you a customer. Good luck!

  4. Tider6972

    Tider6972 LawnSite Senior Member
    from Alabama
    Posts: 649

    TurfUnlimited, your customer sounds like a demanding person...he also knows what he wants, and I'd bet he understands his standards are high, and that not everyone will be able to meet them. Most importantly, he knows he's going to have to pay for quality.

    I'm betting this guy has business sense. Talk to him, explain your problems just as you have to us. If you need to spend more time, tell him so. He'll understand. Tell him you will have to adjust your pricing to provide the level of service he demends. If you ar3e satifying him, or even making progress towards meeting his standards, I'm betting he will understand, work with you, and pay you.

    This is the kind of person I like to deal with. Lay it out for him, tell him what you need, and you'll find he'll pay you - or replace you if you can't meet his standards!
  5. DennisF

    DennisF LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Florida
    Posts: 1,381

    The fact that the customer wants to pay a flat rate for weeding and shrub trimming tells me that he is trying to get more than what he is paying for. If he is business savy then he knows that time is money and that he is getting a lot of your time and not paying much for it.

    I would approach him with the idea of hourly rates for trimming and weeding. If he refuses and insists on paying a flat rate for the work, I would walk away from the account. Sometimes you can convince people that your time is valuable and that you should be compensated at a reasonable hourly rate. Some people don't care about your time and just want the most out of you for the least amount of money. In other words cheapskates. There are plenty of them out there, and I try to avoid those people. They are not worth my time. JMO.
  6. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,206

    We handle weeds by charging customer for Snapshot 2 times per year. And we tell them that nut grass will be extra charge of $35 and it normally takes two sprayings. All other weeds we handle with roundup at no extra. Bush trimming is handled by initial trimming they pay per hour and we do any shape they want. From then on we trim bushes monthly and any new shaping is extra. All this is included in the contract. We learned this from our TG people. Many customers want you do everything or nothing..including fertilizing and weed control in lawn.
  7. Tom-N-Texas

    Tom-N-Texas LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 370

    After 15 years in the business I can safely say that weed-pulling almost NEVER pays.....and to a lesser extent shrub trimming as well. In fact, I can honestly say that few jobs that I do pay anything near what I make mowing lawns. That is why I am now almost exclusively a mowing-only company. Oh, I occasionally do other random jobs but ONLY at top dollar, and only for my best customers.

    You need to decide if this dude is worth the money. Sounds to me like he is out to get more than he paid for...but only you can make that call. Good luck, Tom
  8. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 11,062


    Here is how I handle this whe approached in such a mannor....

    "Mr. Picky, it seems to me that you just are not going to be satisfied by the level of service you are paying for. I think you would be much happier if you upgraded to the full maintenace contract. For $_______ you would get this, that and the other thing too, which would give you the end result you are looking for. How does that sound?"

    His response will tell you the truth about just what kind of guy he is. Trust me.

    If he's a good guy, he'll buy full maintenance or choose to accept the level of service he is paying for. If he thinks he's already paying for the level of service he's demanding he'll take his business elsewhere and put a good hurting on your competition. But if he's a lousy labor theif, oh boy will he sternly object... at which point you will immediately cut your losses, dump him and move on to something better.
  9. ThreeWide

    ThreeWide LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,116

    Good ideas from all of you thus far.

    I didn't point out that I started on this property 2 months ago. Before I took over, the weeds had gotten pretty bad to the point where it was overwhelming. The first thing we did was put down new mulch which covered up some of the ridiculous mess. I then applied a pre-emergent to help in the future.

    The challenge with this is that he has SO MANY things planted you cannot just spray the weeds. Ever tried to spray weeds amongst winter creeper? Not easy to do. Most of the weeds are actually grassy weeds like crabgrass, so the first frost will be welcomed by me. I could use a selective herb safe for the winter creeper, but it wouldn't cover everything.

    When you take on a new property, we all go through the initial pain stages as you start to get things under control. Eventually the amount of work required tails off. I'm being patient with this client, but the jury is still out.
  10. Coffeecraver

    Coffeecraver LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA.
    Posts: 793

    When you let the client dictate how you perform the task,and how you will charge for it. Then it can break your confidence in your own ability,and make you second guess yourself.This is not good for you.

    The flat price option should be based upon the number of hours that you think it will take. Then add a few for incidentials.

    This number of hours should not be disclosed to the client,just the total cost.
    But be sure that you can live with the hours you estimate.

    Don't forget to add in the PITA charge.

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