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What to do in the offseason (Nov-Mar)

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Zookem, Jul 2, 2008.

  1. Zookem

    Zookem LawnSite Member
    Posts: 12

    OK, I've been going back and forth on getting into the Lawn Care industry full time so I have to ask the most obvious question. I've posed this question many times to my wife, friends and family and it's the sticker, in my opinion, for the reason I have yet to dive head first into this business....


    I know there are many fringe jobs one can get once established like pruning, fertilizing, and the like but I just don't find those services feasible being a one man show with currently <20 accounts. And my wife suggested installing Christmas lights and decorations. Yikes! Plus I feel that there's just not the market for those here.
    I know that many are going to instinctively shout out, "SNOW PLOWING!" but I've already got a rebuttal for you! I have no interest in joining the "blade-on-the-front-of-my-4x4" crowd as, like I said previously, I'm a one man show. Residential accounts may be fine but the snowfall amounts in Central Illinois just aren't anything to get excited about unless you're a large snow removal company with many large commercial accounts. Being able to count on income from snow plowing would be very unpredictable.
    This site has been great for obtaining useful information since I first checked it out a few weeks back. Keep those ideas coming for me!
    Thanks a lot!
  2. JohnnyRoyale

    JohnnyRoyale LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 616

    Snow plowing is a great way to make money in the winter, but tough. I have been at it for 15 years and have had enough of the commitment and liabilties associated with it. I have also established myself enough to not need it anymore, and would rather spend time with my family, or take a long vacation instead. But for someone starting up, this isnt always the case, and you still have bills to pay and have to provide for your family, without your business expenses eating at your life's operating money.

    I'd suggest you work your butt off enough during the summer to afford to take the winter off. I dont know if thats possible doing only resi maintenance, but I know a handful of design/build guys that take off to their winter houses (Florida, Costa Rica, etc) during the winter months. Other guys I know will take on a few renovations for the winter. Others will work for me pushing snow-one of them is actually buying my plowing business. There's lots you can do to keep busy and make money, if you have the right and marketable skills.
  3. Zookem

    Zookem LawnSite Member
    Posts: 12

    Thanks JohnnyRoyale,
    The only issue I have with what you stated is that we don't get NEAR as much snow here as I'm sure you do in Ontario. Maybe 2-4 good-enough-to-be-considered-measurable snowfalls per year. I just don't consider that feasible for guaranteed work.
    I appreciate your insight and expecially the part about having the right and marketable skills. I believe I have them and it's just a matter of adding to the customer base over the next few years.
  4. JohnnyRoyale

    JohnnyRoyale LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 616

    You're right about us having more snow up here, but we only have a few (12-15) measurable (plowable) snowfalls, last year was an exception. We generally get more frequent small blasts (45-50 per year) which require lot salting, sidewalk deicing etc. That's seems to be enough to keep us busy throughout the winter, while getting ready for summer all over again.
    Now keep in mind, we only do commercial snow removal, no residential. But if your on a pay per push residential scenario, it can go either way, feast or famine. I like to go contract for the plowing, and all else extra. The guarantee I'm referring to is the fixed, base contracts over the course of the winter.
    If I could go back 15 years, I would have done something else besides snow in the winter, but overall, the snow business has been good to me, not without challenges and obstacles. I can see why your not too keen about getting into the snow game. Whatever you decide, keep it simple, and do something your passionate about. Try to minimize your purchase of equipment with wheel, motors, or expensive wear items. Trust me.
  5. mowerbrad

    mowerbrad LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,273

    If you can work alot during the mowing season you could be able to take the winter off. I work with our fire dept throughout the year so I kinda have something to do during the winter that earns me a little money
  6. lawnjocky

    lawnjocky LawnSite Member
    Posts: 184

    Where in central Illinois are you?
    I can tell you this much, your date range is off. You should be able to set up work from about March 1 through December 1. That leaves three bare month's with no work. I won't recommend snow plowing. If your just starting out it's a lot of money and headaches to get started. Also your life is not your own because you can't predict the weather and you will work when it snow's, not when you want to. As far as having money for the winter there's only three ways to do it.
    1. JohnnyRoyale has it right. Working a regular job is about 2200 hrs in a year. So you need to do 60, 70 or 80 hrs worth of billable work per week to hit that number. 2. Keep your cost's low and charge high prices so the profits will carry you through. 3. Do a combination of both. Most guys start with #1 then burn out, go broke or quit. The smart outfit's do #2 the rest tend to end up at #3 (including myself).
  7. fcs

    fcs LawnSite Member
    Posts: 2

    What do you think about the company name Grassy Azz?
  8. MowHouston.com

    MowHouston.com LawnSite Member
    Posts: 7

    You can order firewood from a wholesaler and sell that. I did it last year from my website, advertised in the paper and on google and did pretty well. Or if you have available trees in your area, get to collecting/splitting ASAP to process your own wood to the consumers.

    Also, you can try contacting REO (real estate owned) companies that deal with forclosures. They're always looking for people to take over their clean outs on houses that just got forclosed on. Haven't tried that yet, but have been told it pays alright.
  9. MileHigh

    MileHigh LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,466

    Plow Snow, winterize irrigation systems, fall leaf cleanouts, fall aeration, oh and did I metion PLOW SNOW.
  10. MileHigh

    MileHigh LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,466

    I love the snow! I can make over 2k in one good storm SUB-CONTRACTING. I pay my snow shovelers at least $30/hr shoveling, and $40 snow throwing, I just can't wait for the skid steer, atv, and V-Box salt spreader, Then I'll really rake it in. I always at least pull a grand every plowable event...after expenses and payout. And that's with a 7.5 plow and a snow thrower. Plus its a lot of fun.

    And when you plow snow...you become a weatherman, and are (most of the time)always prepared for the storms. Did I metion I love the snow, I can't make more money in less time doing anything else!...PERIOD

    It's really not expensive to get started at all, especially if you have the right truck. You can get a real nice used plow anywhere $900-$2000, and brand new ones are 4k-6k installed. I love the snow, why not make money with it...especially when it stops your other work.

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