Design/Build with Maintenance side?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by RwADesigner, Dec 17, 2002.

  1. RwADesigner

    RwADesigner LawnSite Member
    Messages: 107

    Hi all..

    Seasons Greetings

    This is just a question to the Design/Build or Landscape Installation companies that also provide a lawn maintenance service.

    How did you get started in Lawn Maintenance?

    Did you ever start out with just a couple small contracts or did you land a couple nice size ones?

    I guess i just want to know how you got started in this side of the industry. I am looking for tips on how i can expand my business.

    Thanks alot guys

    Have a great holiday!
  2. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    If you are established in design/build, you have a ready market in those that you are working on and those that you have done.

    My caution to you would be that if you are small and want to concentrate on design/build, you may want to think about it hard. There is a lot of equipment and overhead costs when you get it going. You will need reliable help that will need supervision. You will have a lot of clients that will need to be responded to as their needs dictate.

    It may start out a a mower and a couple of extra bucks. It will instantly turn into another pickup, $ 3,500 mower, $ 600 small mower, $ 350 string trimmer, $ 450 blower, $ 400 chainsaw, $ 350 shears, $ 1,500 trailer, ... and a place to keep it all. ...and then the phone rings and rings.

    There is nothing wrong with it, but it could consume you to the point where it keeps you from being able to do the design/build. That equipment will cost you the same if it goes out one day a week or six. You will need to make it go at least 4 if you want it to work for you and not against.

    Then there is the help. This is the worst part of managing because you can not control whether they quit or call in sick. Mowing is not the kind of job that many worry about losing. You will have to deal with it.

    Are you sold yet?
  3. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    Hmmm. There is equipment involved with lawn care, but it can't be more than what I've spent for a landscape crew. Skidsteer, trailer and little dump truck ($65K not including any tools) would likely be more than any lawncare crew assets.

    If it were me, I'm not sure I'd want to venture into lawncare. Several of the larger landscape firms here sold off the lawncare ops because the weren't worth the money for all the time put into them.

    I guess the thing I find unattractive is tremendously low margins (due in part to tremendously low barriers to entry). The kid down the street, the guy working thrid shift, the fireman that put out your kitchen fire, and all the other LCO's are your competition.

    For hardscapes, only hardscapers with some assets are our competition. It lends itself to being able to create cushier margins for yourself.

    If you had to go in a direction and aren't already doing hardscapes, I'd suggest that.
  4. SprinklerGuy

    SprinklerGuy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    No offense to the lawnguys meant here, my disclaimer!

    RWA, you know the excitement you get when someone you DON'T know calls and wants a quote, they are so excited to have found you and been referred to you. They are just beside themselves with excitement about their new "paradise" that you are going to build them. know how upset you get when someone you did a job for calls and wants you to come out because that "plant in the corner" doesn't look good. Even though you've been out there twice already to look at the darn plant and it is fine, just maybe slow growing right now because of the weather or some other thing. You know how you talk to your spouse about this client and how they just "don't get it!". How they are abusing their relationship with you. How you think they are just mad because they spent all this money and NOW they have to maintain a landscape???? What? It isn't self sufficient?

    Well now multiply that upset feeling by 1 million.

    Let's say you have 100 maintenance clients. A good number I think to be very profitable and to really be worth it you'd want the maint. side to be very profitable right?

    Now these 100 clients are all going to abuse the relationship they have with you. Some of them WEEKLY! Your guys missed a weed. Can YOU come out and see us? We see your guys, but we hardly see you, you are who we want out here. Some of them won't abuse you weekly but some will. All of them will abuse you at some point.

    Now, the phone rings and instead of excitement it is dread! You are not looking forward to these phone calls anymore because the VAST majority of them are calling to complain about something.

    That is why I don't get into it, because if the phone rings I want it to be someone calling who WANTS to spend their money or HAS to spend money on a leak or whatever, not because they HAVE ALREADY spent money and now they want to *****!

    Whew! My fingers very tired now! Good day!
  5. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Messages: 1,578

    Agla and Stonehenge are right on the money.

    We are a small design/build company ( small = under 3 million IMO ) 3 years ago we started maintenance.
    I feel you should concentrate on the landscaping part of it .. If you have your heart set on maintenance then find someone you can put COMPLETELY in charge ... from finding the work,bidding,etc etc. This should not take you away from the day to day of running your design/build.
    First year we went after commercial accounts and had about 4 days of cutting for one crew. Maintenance has grown to 2 crews now. To make it worthwhile we squeeze in small softscapes for them... 3k size .. before the maintenance division we would turn these jobs away... they have to do about 15k a month in small jobs.
    Couple other things to consider is that these crews won't make as much money as your landscapers and the over time is not available to them.
    Over all we find the maintenance division is worthwhile but it is a tough go to build it up.
  6. dan deutekom

    dan deutekom LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 424

    The margins are low in the maintenance side of the business. This is particularly true if you use hired crews to do the work. I would put my efforts into growing the design/build for all the reasons stated above. Also in my part of the world maintenance is a very short season. You would be very lucky to get in 20 mows in a good year. Season would be from mid May until mid October. I can do landscape construction from mid March until late December.
  7. RwADesigner

    RwADesigner LawnSite Member
    Messages: 107


    It is amazing how much information you get on this site.

    Thanks alot guys. I really had no idea about it being that difficult. But your post make alot of sense, guess it just took someone beating it in my head.LOL.

    We are a very new Design/Build company, we started mid this year. I have around 9 years of professional experience and education. I guess im trying to find money in too many buckets right now, since we are new.

    Building a Design/build company up from scratch hasnt really been that easy and I am trying to venture into sides of the market to fast too soon. I had all the experience in design(education + experience) and all the experience as foreman for other companies, but lacked the biggest of them all......OWNER experience. I was overwhelmed with how much there is to do, day to day, to run a business.

    I have seen that the hardest thing to do is to get your name out there. I know that this business can be very profitable, because i have seen the money raked in from other companies. I also enjoy the work and actually enjoy being the owner>LOL..go figure.

    Once the money starts coming in at a steady flow, maybe I will stop trying to dig in too many buckets.

    I see the pace of jobs coming in finally picking up.

    Did any of you guys start from scratch?
    How long did it take for you to start to see your business really take off?

    Thanks guys

    Seasons Greetings
  8. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    Well, I used to have this:[​IMG]
  9. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

  10. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    We're not big by any stretch, and this was really the first year that it felt like I was rolling the boulder downhill, not uphill, when it came to landing work (this was year 6).

    Employees? Well, I'm still pushing that boulder uphill. Gonna make some changes this off-season, however.

    Getting your name 'out there' takes time. Just keep doing good work. If you keep your head down and keep pushing, one day you'll notice "Hey, this isn't so hard anymore." You'll also discover that success begets success. The more you have, the more you tend to get. It's like bunnies.

    Work hard and push your limits, but be patient. Establish a credible body of work. Build a reputation. Market yourself and your business. There are no shortcuts or get rich quick schemes.

    Good luck to you!

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