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At a crossroad in my business...

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Bassman, Mar 23, 2003.

  1. Bassman

    Bassman LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 270

    I posted this same subject awhile back but need to make a decision. I like mowing, line trim and edging, (basic lawn care), but dislike full service accounts. The shrub trimming, raking, hauling & dumping clippings, weed control, etc. I like to get in and get out and keep moving. I'm a solo operator. I have several options.

    1. Hire an employee either outright or thru an employment agency which would cover the work comp. & liability issues. Either way, there is always the problem of employee turnover after the investment of time to train them on their work requirements.

    2. Sub-contract work I don't want to do.

    3. Slowly weed out full service accts. and gradually replace them with basic lawn care.

    My longer term goal is to run a crew or multiple crews. Handling the daily operations, maintenance of equip, quality control,(making sure equip. isn't abused-torn up), adding customers, billing, P.R., etc.

    First things first. I had a previous business where I had several employees. Big headache but the monetary rewards made it worth it. I got into this LCO to simplify my life, make a decent living and have as few hassles as possible. Now I'm about to go a different direction it seems. Any advice or opinions about any of the above would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
  2. Turfdude

    Turfdude LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,899


    I would think that most (myself included) would want the opposite. I prefer the full service accounts as they generally care more about their properties than mow & blow only. Sure there are some who enjoy the mulching, pruning, etc.. and just don't have the time to do the weekly thing.

    Some points to consider:
    1. What do you do in a drought and lawns go to 2 week or less schedule?
    2. How many weeks a year or cuts per year can you do?
    3. Will you need another job to supplement your income?

    With my full service accounts, I have plenty of work & sometimes more than I can comfortably handle.
  3. Bassman

    Bassman LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 270

    I've worked hard at getting the bulk of my accounts to be year round contracts. I do well thru the offseason. I carry app. 35 year round accts. that provide a reasonably profitable off season. 60-70 seasonal or as needed accts. I don't need another job to supplement my income. I gross probably 60K. My problem is I'm no spring chicken anymore, I'm 51, and just don't like the tedious work that full service requires. Maybe I'm alone in this regard. I just don't like it. But work is work. Maybe I'm getting lazy at my age. My point is I want to control my destiny so to speak. If you don't like working for the man, do something about it. If you don't like certain aspects of the lawn care/landscape maint. biz., do something about it. Thanks for your reply.
  4. jkkalbers

    jkkalbers LawnSite Member
    Messages: 144

    We are like you don't like the full service accounts and just do the mowing etc. We sub-contract all our services we don't provide. we'll never turn down a good account because we won't do something. We've been in business long enough that we have very reliable and good sub-contractors to take care of things. It may not work for everyone but it works for us.
  5. richard coffman

    richard coffman LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 341

    sounds like you need to exspand you company a bit, there is only so much a solo guy can do before he get's burn't out.I'd suggest to either bring on another guy to help take some of the load off(the work ya don't want to do). as mentioned before to hire on a subcontractor to do the work you don't, or even look into doing fertilizing and weed control for your business to give your company a little diversity. that way you can have another on bord, youre not loosing out on your own income, and you'de probably bring in some more useful accounts that you might like. just a few suggestions to releive the tension(we all have plenty of that).

  6. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,497

    If you're just doing mowing, you are doing the very least lucrative work with the lowest profit margin, and leaving alot of GOOD money on the table. Many guys do the mowing just as an "in" to get in and upsell the other services. That's basically what we do. Oh sure, we make money on the mowing, but there is aLOT more to make elsewhere.
  7. ilovethisgame

    ilovethisgame LawnSite Member
    Messages: 136

    I feel ya. Some days it can be a real PITA to handle all faccets on a job. On the other hand what is a nice lawn if everything around it looks unattented? I would also think if you are lowering the amount of service your price would also have to be lowered. W/ more accounts comes more chances of a PITA customer and more paper work. Good luck in whatever you chose.

  8. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,366

    I am on the other side of the ball. I am younger, have crews, but I hate cutting. The thing I find is that most people like dealing with one company for everything. I make most of my money on the "other" jobs. Design, construction, installs etc. is where the real money is. The only reason I cut is to provide the customer with true "full service".

    I understand that cutting is one of the easier tasks, and know that the other jobs require more effort, and are usually more physical. Not as a insult, but I would not want to be doing them at your age either. You could get help and have them to do the physical labor. The problem as you stated is more paying out.

    I would say to sub out any work that you do not want. I have alot of maintenance companies that call us often to do work for them. Just make sure you have a loyal and trusting relationship with the company. We have been asked by other LCO's customers if we would do their maintenance as well. Of course I turn it down, but someone not as loyal might not. Look around and talk so some companies, I am sure they will respect you and would understand and be more than willing to get some extra work for themselves. :cool:
  9. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    I'd love to hear how stuff like spreading mulch, hand weeding, hauling off clippings, planting, tending flower beds, picking up fallen sticks, chasing trash around the lawn, and other manual labor grunt work is more lucrative than mowing. I'm assuming your labor for these tasks is legal. Guys are billing out $50-$60/hour for mowing work. People don't mind paying this, since it takes them far longer to do it themselves than it takes us because of our experience. If I asked that rate for the various tedious low-skill lawn tasks required to do full service, I'd get almost no takers. There are companies here that deliver and spread pinestraw for $4.50/bale! I can't buy the stuff for much less than $2.75/bale. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to go sweat my rear end off with that dirty itchy stuff in the summer for $1.75/bale. Whoopie, I'd make a whopping $50 or so for the half day it'd kill to go pick up, deliver, and spread 30 bales at a typical home here. And, as a bonus, I'd be exhausted and my back would be killing me.

    This is very low paid work and requires low paid unskilled labor, unlike operating mowing equipment . I don't see how doing stuff(with a few exceptions) any day labor dufus can do is more lucrative than sticking to stuff that requires investment in training and expensive equipment. If you consider add-on's to be landscaping jobs, then that's different. But that is a whole different ballgame.

    I suspect that for residential work, a high percentage of "full service" is done by folks hiring either dubiously documented, off-the-books or (always illegal) day labor as help. Otherwise, based on my experience with costs and potential prices you can get, the margins are too thin. I'm not going to do that to make a living.

    Bassman, I'm the same as you. I hate that stoop labor tedious stuff. I also got out of the corporate grind specifically to avoid all the employee and other hassles some people urging growth are getting you into. Like I've said before...if you want to hire people, deal with their problems, fight for new customers, stress out, work 80 hour weeks, worry about getting paid on huge accounts, etc, there are much more lucrative fields to do that in than landscape maintenance, for heaven's sake. I sometimes go two months without having to field a phone call or have a "bad day". I'd gladly sit on a mower and do it myself to avoid having to deal with all the bs that comes with employees and growth.

    As far as a goal of hiring crews, not wanting to do full service does complicate that, since it's easier to get year-round accounts with full service than just mowing/leaves/etc. I actually don't want year round work in this. It'd get boring and I'd burn out. I have other things I do in the winter and on the side for that.

    I've seen some huge gross sales numbers in magazine stories on some companies, but the owners often show a net of not much more than a motivated guy who does as much work as you do alone. They're basically just churning money ...lots in....lots out...with a little left over. Everybody has their own style, but I'm not putting my financial future in the hands of some guys who make $10/hour or less, can't speak english, or just graduated high school. A guy married to a family friend of ours had one of these big outfits. The friend said the people he hired were scary and often came to their house to get paid, uninvited, after they were fired. He eventually went out of business. I just don't want that mess in my life.

    I know someone who has a high school diploma, was making $8/hour 6 years ago, and now makes nearly 6 figures working 35 hours/week in climate controlled comfort in an office, just because she works hard and is motivated. There are too many information age jobs out there that simply require a lot of patience for corporate BS and politics to do well, than to settle for less pay in worse conditions in this biz. If you add in stress, risk, hassles, and in many cases breaking the law to find reliable help...I don't see why some people want to be doing this at all. Maybe they lack the education to do something else.

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