Decisions, decisions.... What to do with the company?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by BLLM87, Jul 2, 2019.

  1. BLLM87

    BLLM87 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 38

    Good morning everyone.

    This is going to be a long one, but I appreciate any feedback that anybody is willing to give if you can stick it out until the end.

    I've been a long time lurker here, and just decided to make an account a few weeks or so ago for whatever reason. Just a little back story to the main story....

    I'm in my late 20s. My father has owned a lawn company since before I was born. I started working with him when I was 12 when it was just us two and a few push mowers. He started growing the business in 2000, and he now has three M-F, 3-man lawn crews. I've pretty much been his right hand man since I can remember. Growing up, I've got to witness all of the problems that comes with the type of business and area that he (we) are in. I decided when I was in my late teens that he wanted me to take over the business, but I didn't want to because I see the headaches that he has. These days, I work 50-65 hours a week at a corporate job and have good benefits. After work, at least three days a week, I'm going down to his shop to repair equipment or work on small projects just to stay busy and help him out. I usually get Fridays and Saturdays off from my 9-5, and I will go out and help the crews get caught up (this year has been a PITA from the rain), or do mulch or other non-mowing jobs for supplemental income to me and to help him. It works out pretty "OK."

    It's been a pretty successful business even through the challenges. Now, he's going to be 60 in a few years, and he's burned out. He gave up irrigation and fertilization a long time ago, just because he couldn't find the help. This year is a tough one with trying to find help for lawn maintenance, let alone anything else that requires more skill and knowledge. The pay is on par with many (most?) of the similar sized operations around us, verified by employees that come and go, since he stays in good standing with a lot of them that have left as well.

    One of his friends works at a gravel pit. The pay is pretty good. My dad just put an application in yesterday for it. We are both really hoping that he gets it, especially me. He has been on blood pressure and anxiety medicine for 12+ years now. I'm 100% positive that this is what he needs in order to keep him in good health for years to come. Myself and many of our friends/family have feared for the worst for years now with him dealing with all of the stress. Everybody always says that it's his fault and that he's making it this difficult, and we both always laugh because none of them have any clue how difficult it is to find competent employees that are reliable and can do good work. I'm not making excuses, but he's spent hundreds of dollars on listings in different places for help this year, and have only gotten a few "greenhorns" out of the ads. I do know that if he wasn't burned out and actually had the energy to push ahead, he could really grow the business, but he doesn't want to and I can't say I blame him.

    We were both talking last night about what happens if he gets this job that he applied for last night. He currently rents about 8,000 sq. ft. of shop space, and aside from lawn/snow equpiment and trucks and trailers, it's loaded to the brim with tools/hoists/shop equipment and has plenty of spare parts for the vehicles and equipment.

    This next idea is either going to sound like the most ignorant idea, or a pretty smart one. We were talking about how awesome it would be to have somebody come in that actually had some "gusto" and ambition that could manage the place and possibly take it over eventually. None of his current employees have the knowledge or ambition to take this role. He has far too much "stuff" to try to sell it quickly for more than pennies on the dollar. He's had the business up for sale for 4+ years now, and has had a dozen people come and look at it. He's finally dropped the price WAY down, but has stopped actively looking for a buyer. His issue is that the customers are not on contracts, and we both get that. His other issue is that he does not own the building. We completely understand that there are two strikes against selling the company right there. To be honest, if somebody could come in that had at least a few people lined up ready to work, that would remedy a lot of the current employee issues.

    Obviously, what we DON'T want is for somebody to come in and run the place to the ground, or even start stealing. . If this did happen, obviously it wouldn't be my dad tossing him the keys and saying "good luck." The ideal case would be for him to train this guy on how he's running things and get him set up for success, and then eventually give him more freedom to make his own choices to improve the business. My dad would eventually like to get bought out and be done with the entire thing for health reasons and relationship reasons with his wife (my mom).

    What is everyone's thoughts on this? How would we even go about doing this, assuming it would even work? This could be a multi-million dollar operation in as short as one year if the right person gets in control or even (preferably) buys it and starts to do all of the services that he stopped doing years ago. He just doesn't have it in him anymore. I'm not looking for sympathy and I hopefully won't get any stupid comments from this, we are honestly looking for advice from people who have been in the same situation before or even have taken over a business. We want to get him out of this before it's too late.

    Have a good day everyone.
  2. Oxmow

    Oxmow LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,092

    You would have to show the prospective person the added value that they might get with coming to work for this business. Do you guys have SOP's in place for everything, or is it seat of the pants every day?

    Would they come in and see chaos and want to run?

    Would there be headaches from the get go?

    How many things are automated?

    3 trucks...generally about 375K a year?

    I'm in the build back up phase right now...Just got remarried and the wife has given me new inspiration to work my way out of a job in a few years! And by the way, the #1 thing that gets griped about on here and with every guy I know in this industry is employees. Especially when some cities are raising minimum wage to 15 an hour, that means you can get a menial job for more than most pay for laborers. This leaves you with few options usually.
    McFarland_Lawn_Care likes this.
  3. OP

    BLLM87 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 38

    I hear that. He has probably turned down 50+ lawns this year because all of the routes are full. If employees were plentiful, he could have easily started a 4th crew. I know all of this sounds like this is really a **** hole, but it's really the most basic operation ever, and that's where I think a lot of the issue is. Everything that my dad has ever done is very simplified (because he hates technology and change), and it wouldn't take much for somebody to learn the basics and improve from there. He does have rules, but there are a lot of them that he can't enforce the way that he'd want to because what is he going to do if he fires them? I have an uncle who comes down to visit every once in a while, and he, along with many other people (including my mom), always tell him, "Why don't you fire them all and hire all new employees? That's what I'd do." And his response is, "Well, can you cut 500+ lawns a week on your own until you can find 9 new guys?"

    I appreciate your response and input. I imagine the best answer to his solution is to have a giant company come in and buy his. I'm sure the large companies have great contacts and resources for hired help that we just don't have. Again, it all comes down to him being burnt out and how much effort he doesn't feel like putting in anymore. He's just been doing a little more than required to keep it afloat long enough to get out of it without losing everything completely, and unfortunately, he's not there yet.
  4. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,919

  5. OP

    BLLM87 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 38

    It's never good when this guy subscribes!

    Cam15, sjessen and Andrew H like this.
  6. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,919

    Hey now...I resemble that remark.

    I was hoping someone would chime in with some wisdom, I'm basically in the same boat.
  7. OP

    BLLM87 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 38

    I was just messin' with ya. I've been lurking here and Plowsite for a while, and I have always loved your ball-bustin' comments that you make to some of the questions asked or comments made. You've given me many chuckles over my time spent lurkin'.

    I didn't know that you were in the same boat. From my dad and I talking to a few different landscape/lawn business owners or former owners around us who have either sold out or bought out, the two most important things that a seller looks for is purchasing the building and buying into a company that has contracts. Unfortunately, my dad has neither.

    He actually started doing full time mechanic services about 4 years ago with his long-time friend who is Master ASE, in hopes to start building that business to slowly let go of the lawn side.. They went at it hard for a year and a half and made great money, but it was not growing as fast as his friend wanted it to, and his old boss offered him a very hefty sign on bonus to come back with a very high salary. That being said, my dads shop has 3 hoists, an exhaust bender, a/c machine, and a ton of other automotive tools. Between him and I, we usually do most of the major repairs ourselves, but neither of us have the time with our other engagements to hit that hard again and do it legitimately. Sorry, that was just a little side note.
  8. Mark Oomkes

    Mark Oomkes LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,919

    Well I do have contracts and the building could be sold with the house. But the rest is the same.

    Ps Glad you like them, not everyone appreciates my humor/point of view.
  9. Tara Ann

    Tara Ann LawnSite Senior Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 736

    Why don't you leave your job, and take over? You're young enough (with knowledge and skill to boot) to hit the ground running. Turn it into that multi-million dollar business you said it could be, and let your dad retire. Take the pay cut today. It sounds like the pay cut would only be temporary - an investment, really.

    That is what I would do if I were you. Wish you both all the best regardless! Hope your dad's health improves, and his stress dissipates quickly.
  10. OP

    BLLM87 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 38

    I have thought about this many times over again in the past 8 or so years, and I just can't bring myself to do it. I'm in a "comfortable" job now that pays well with great benefits and a pretty good 401k. At the end of the day, I go home with absolutely zero worries or thoughts of that day's work on my mind, and I love it. I can take vacation time off whenever I want and not have to worry about getting calls about petty issues, like he does now. As it is now, even though I'm not full time at his place, I'm constantly thinking about things I have to fix, what jobs are coming up that weekend, or who isn't going to show up on Friday/Saturday to screw both of us. Another one of my issues is that I absolutely cannot stand customer service, and that's a lot of the job of the owner. Even if you hire a secretary (such as he's done), you still have to talk ("deal with" is probably a better term in this case...) to the employees who never seem to understand what you explain to them, no matter how simple it is.

    When I was full time with him (up until early 2016), I thought about it even more, until I realized that most days I'd go home angry and go to work angry. Most of the people that worked for him and currently work for him have zero respect for people, let alone the equipment. Again, there SHOULD be set rules for this, but that leads us back to the whole "who's going to cut your lawns if you fire all of the employees" thing. A smart person would almost think that respect for people and other's property should be a common sense characteristic that everybody should have.

    I just think I'm over it as much as he is. Maybe if I didn't get into this business so early, I'd consider it more. But I've been along side him for the entire journey and I really don't want any part of it. I know for a FACT that my wife doesn't want me to have any part of it, and I can't say I blame her.

    This entire thing probably just seems like either me making excuses for me and/or him, or that I just wanted to cry to you guys. I assure you, that's not the case. I just figured I'd provide a some Tuesday entertainment for you guys and hopefully get some insight/info/suggestions to take back to him. I really do appreciate all of the comments so far. I was (and still am) expecting some harsh ones to come in, and I'm okay with that.
    Mark Stark, Tara Ann and Mark Oomkes like this.

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