Cost to run solo?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by grassbusterdesigns, Oct 14, 2013.

  1. grassbusterdesigns

    grassbusterdesigns LawnSite Member
    Messages: 37

    This is how I'm looking at it. To me, it's not all about finances anymore, having a big name, big equipment, and a lot of clientele. I hope none of you take me wrong, because even though I made the decision to go down, I'm not saying one is wrong and one is right. If you want my honest opinions, they both have their advantages, what works for one person, doesn't work for the next either. As far as finances, I feel like I've done my share and my part for enough years. My wife is netting plenty enough now, we don't have to worry about staying a float. My kids are grown and have moved on their way to college. Like I said, I think different strokes work for different folks. I just honestly feel like I would be happier and be able to enjoy life at this point by downsizing. As far as finances, my plan is to do exactly as you said. Keep the most profitable clients, pass on the rest to someone in need. We all have clients some on the low end, some that are on the extremely high end. You combine them, of course it takes employees and crews to keep them afloat. Everyone has to start somewhere and clients keep the business going each year. But when I can eliminate these (40%) of my lawns priced at $35.00 $40.00, and keep the most profitable residentials that have no issues paying for the high quality, that makes me able to eliminate the same % of employees that was needed to cover those cheaper lawns. Of course I'm going to keep the higher end and I feel like I'll have a lot less hanging over my shoulder day in and day out. I'll know exactly what I have ahead of me each day and I'll know that I got loyal high paying customers to help keep be a float. But like I said, at one time I was happier being a much larger company, but now I'm at the point where times have changed, enjoyments have changed, and my needs have changed. I know you guys understand where I'm coming from and I'm not trying to say running solo, running a two crew, or three crew is right or wrong in anyway. Their all right, but for me to be happy, I think that's what is right for me.
  2. Chilehead

    Chilehead LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Stockbridge, GA
    Messages: 1,968

    Upgrading to more productive equipment is the best stinkin' "labor force" you can have. If I go out to plant 50 3-gallon shrubs, it will take me 3-4 hours if I do it alone BY HAND (depending on soil condition). If I get a compact utility loader (i.e. Toro Dingo), I can cut that down to 90 minutes or less (with an auger bit), AND not get nearly as fatigued, not pay a wage, not pay into workman's comp, not have to worry about employee negligence (liability claims), etc. You can find full trailer kits--loader, augers, bucket, and trencher--used for $8K - $12K!! You could use it for 5 years every day and never pay another penny except for fuel/maintenance costs (which are squat compared to payroll).
    Same thing goes with mowers. If you use a walk-behind, get a quality sulky, or stand-on model mower. I don't own a walk-behind blower just yet, but will likely buy one very soon to take on some larger leaf cleanup jobs this year. A good one for $1000.00 will pay for itself dozens of times over because it will be equivalent to doing cleanups with a backpack blower and a grunt laborer. Think about it, for 2 weeks pay, I'll have a fall "employee" for the next dozen seasons or more.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2013
  3. 32vld

    32vld LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,983

    The problem is not bad employees.

    The problem is not being to large of a business.

    The problem is not having a large number of employees.

    Know what the problem is?

    Having a business built on bad customers.

    Willing to accept and carry bad customers to enable the company to grow.

    Letting low profit margin customers fill the schedule just to grow the schedule to justify buying another truck, trailer, and equipment and hire another crew.
  4. cooperthumb

    cooperthumb LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    I think being a solo/independent would be extremely difficult.
    wouldn't you be pidgeon holing yourself?
    Needling yourself down to the best and brightest customers
    People Die
    people move
    people lose their jobs
    And a moment on the employee side I see a fair share of people complaining that "guys showing up for a paycheck wont last" Maybe it should be if you don't take pride in your work you wont last.
    Or if your work ethic leaves a lot to be desired you wont last.
    I think your customer retention go hand in hand with employee retention
    I really enjoy having multiple crews I think every level in our industry has its on stress factors
  5. cpllawncare

    cpllawncare LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,659

    For me, I started out as a solo guy just mowing trying to cover some bills until I found another "JOB" what I discovered was I actually enjoy this line of work and decided to give it a shot full time. I'm now at the end of my fifth season and have since discovered that as I get older if I plan on continuing in this line of work I can't do it on my own forever, so I started diversifying, adding services and ramped up my marketing budget as much as possible. I've got five guys now and enough work to keep us going to at least the end of the year. I buy the best possible tools and equipt I can and try to make it as easy as possible on my guys, in turn they work as hard as possible and make me wayy more money than I could ever make being solo, and my back tells me thank you everyday.
  6. grassbusterdesigns

    grassbusterdesigns LawnSite Member
    Messages: 37

    I most definitely can understand your point of view. I see how the older you get, the more strain it is on our backs. I already made the decision to downsize this year. However, I'm not going all out, completely solo, but I guess you could say that. I decided to cut out the crews, make business and life simple for myself, and cut a good chunk of the lowest end of my customers, which are not priced low on the market, but they are my lowest paying customers. One of my team leaders will be staying with me full time and one of my rental property tenants does his own thing cutting lawns. (How convenient is that? I know, but I have a tenant that actually mows, blows, edges, trims, and fertilizes my rent property. :laugh: But anyway, I had a little talk with him and he likes extra cash and will always be on call for the long days whenever I need him around. I made it easy on myself, I'm in the process of selling a lot of my equipment to a buddy who's getting started up north for a discounted price. I went down to the dealership and got a quote on all new equipment this weekend and will be going to pick it up tomorrow. I decided I could help a long time buddy and in the process save me from any future troubles. I by far understand what you mean on working that ol' back. I was sitting in Church at a comedy show last night and going through it. I manage to keep on truckin though. Maybe my gym visits and long runs pay off. :laugh:

    Multiple crews always helps out with stress levels when it comes to running a route that "requires" multiple crews. But when you plan to downsize, downsize your routes, and your customers, the stress levels of needing multiple crews also goes down. The more customers I have, the more crews I need of course. However, when I plan on going down to 75-85 residentials and cutting to a handful of the top commercials, I don't need multiple crews. But I did come to realization after crunching numbers I wasn't going to get the job done without some help. So I will be keeping one of my crew leaders and always have someone on call ready to work. You mentioned people die, people lose their jobs, and heck if you're not careful in our line of work, you lose a contract. Lord, I pray that none of my customers do die, nor lose their job, but from a business perspective that's the least of my worries. I have plenty of high paying customers, many residentials that are paying $40. - $45. bucks a pop that two people can knock out in 15-20 minutes on the clock. I also have some residentials that I'm only getting $35. bucks that clock at 15-20 minutes, those will be the first ones to go. As far as losing work, that's the least of my concerns. I'll be happy to slow down, I've been running full throttle for a long haul. :laugh: Not to mention, if not enough work became an issue, I do live in the fastest growing city in the nation and one of my primary servicing zip codes is the second fastest growing zip code in the nation. More the enough to go around.

    My primary reason for downsizing was not because of workers, not because of stress, not because of time, more so because of personal gratification. I started off young in the business world while my wife was going through six more years of schooling. Now she's making the big bucks, not only making the big bucks, but she just recently opened a large SPA, or should I say WE. :laugh: However, I've gave a long haul at it, I would like to keep a my high paying customers, have a steady income, and enjoy life and live it as I want now and earn some personal gratification.

    Like I said, there's certainly nothing wrong with running ten crews, it's just my personal side that led me to the choice I made. One day you might feel the same way. Kind of like Michael Jordan, once a basketball player. He still enjoys the game, and now he's going more into the coaching world and staying around the game. He'll always have a love for basketball and will always be around it, but doesn't mean he'll always play the game hard full time.
  7. cpllawncare

    cpllawncare LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,659

    I'm not sure why all the STRESS from having crews, yea they are a pain sometimes but the good outweighs the bad many times over, unless your hiring numb nuts, been there done that as well LOL but if you create a decent environment for your guys they will generally hang with you.
  8. wildstarblazer

    wildstarblazer LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,051

    :clapping:I like this concept. Your equipment is your employee. Sure wish I had a dingo this week. Arms are dead after digging a hundred holes.
  9. Patriot Services

    Patriot Services LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,472

    Tools are great as long as you can keep it working and making money.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  10. grassbusterdesigns

    grassbusterdesigns LawnSite Member
    Messages: 37

    A lot my high end residentials are 500,000+ Sub Divisions, with large gates, many the 52" and 48" won't fit through the gates. The Exmark 30" was one of the best things money could buy in my eyes. With a combination of the 30" and the big-boys, you stand correct, tools are a mans best friend. Big tools make big money.

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