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Yesterday I got a call from an apartment complex property manager. I met with her and walked the site. First, let me say sorry for not posting pics I'll just have to describe the site for ya'll.

The situation: property manager has been there two years & gone through four in-house property maintenance guys. Same old song and dance trying to find good help. She's sick of inconsistency and now she & the owner both want to contract out grounds keeping. She wants a bid, doesn't want to tell me what their budget is so I can work within it. They want service for the rest of this year and next year, for starters (If I get this job I realize I'll be in bidding wars with other LCOs during subsequent years).

She told me their current grounds maintenance guy (solo), he works M-F, 9:00 - 5:00 with an hr. for lunch. It takes him two days to mow (don't know what he's cutting with) & forever to edge. She said by the time a week and a half goes by he's not done with with everything & can't keep the entire place looking nice at one time.

The property: 25 buildings to edge around. There's sidewalk everywhere running the length of the huge parking lots and from the main walk up to the front of each apartment. Some trees also but not a lot of them. The trees for the most part are around the perimeter.

The turf, there's mostly small (1K - 8K areas) in and around the buildings. Most of it I can get with the 48 wb hydro. There are some some small mounded areas right in front of the buildings, small strips really, that will have to be done with 21er so they don't get scalped. Then, there are a couple of very large open areas, I would imagine for future expansion purposes, that total probably 5 acres.

I'm a solo operator & rely on just one other guy to help me when I need it. My limited equipment list includes 48 wb; 32 wb; 21 push.

I have limited funds to expand. My rough plan is find another bigger mower (saw a Toro 52 wb hydro w/ sulky for $1,500 the other day) for the open areas, add two more blowers and two more trimmers, then use the temp agency for help and tackle this property with a crew of 5.

My Questions:

(1) What's your bid?
(2) Can I get this property done in 1.5 - 2 days with a crew of 5 as described?

Thanks in advance for input ya'll.
 

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first off, you have commercial equipment, that will pick up considerable amount of time saved, you have one helper, the other man did not, that will save even more time, that is if your helper is worth his weight in salt. the whole affair should take about one full day possible a couple of hours the second day.
the man doing the property before probably worked slow, and he probably took alot of breaks. i would bid it for 18 hours per man (36 hours total) and charge them that with the understanding that in case it took longer than you expected, the price may need renegotiating after the initial cut.
 

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what is it going to cost for all the help from a temp ageracy?
i have goten help from a temp place once and they were unskilled to say the least and they did not want to weedwack it was a mess so if u can pull it off go 4 it but if it is a bigger headace than u need i would say pass
i have found that places with in house mowing just hate to spend money that is why they do it themselves and as soon as they find someone cheaper u get the boot hope it works out well good luck
 

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There are some quality issues on jobsites even with employees that you have full time and that do properties week after week. I certainly would not recommend using temporary help for a job like this that will affect your image as a business.

Just because it may look like a good opportunity, it sounds like you really aren't prepared to tackle properties of this nature. What about equipment failure? Do you have back up? You have a very limited arsenal from what it sounds.

As stated before, most likely, low bid will win. Are you prepared to make minimal profit with maximum headache? Then be replaced the followwing season because you were outbid by 1%?

If you were a company that was large enough to tackle this property, I'd say go for it. The fact that you will have to jump through some hoops to get this job rolling and handled properly, you will be putting forth a lot of effort to most likely loose it to a cheaper guy the following season. Not always the case, but associations usually get bids every season and get together to discuss it. I don't know what it is, but you get a group of people together like this, and the only thing they agree on is "cheapest". If you met with these people one on one, you could probably sway them towards cheaper is not always better. Something about "the meetings" that make them cheap bast_ _ _ _!

My personal thought to you, pass on it.
 

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Originally posted by Gr grass n Hi tides
(1) What's your bid?
(2) Can I get this property done in 1.5 - 2 days with a crew of 5 as described?

Thanks in advance for input ya'll.
If you have a crew of five you should be finished well within a day, and a price I have no idea, do not know how much detail work is involved.
 

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my 2 cents-
you can't grow if you don't stretch yourself once in a while. If you have the financial resources to upgrade your equipment and not get hurt if it doesn't't work out, go for it. You'll can always re-sell the equipment or keep it and look for work to put it too use.
I would definitely stay away from the temp agencies, for all of the reason's already presented.
I'm with most of the others, sounds like 2 guys for a long day or just a couple of hours the 2nd. Bid it high and remember, you never get hurt by the jobs you don't get, just the ones you underbid and get.
 

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In situations like this, where the owner (property manager) is willing to work with you, it might be a good idea to do a couple of test-cuts. Lets say you think you can do a property that large in two days, bid it for at least 150% of what you’d make mowing your other accounts in two days.

Why not bid the same or less, since you’d be saving drive-time, etc.? Well, there is a HUGE risk you’d be taking here and Randy’s advice to pass is wise. For weekly service, two days worth of work is 40% of your capacity. Imagine what a breakdown or a long rainy spell could do to your schedule. If you get a helper, full-time or not, what happens (not if, but) when he doesn’t show? It could be disastrous for your quality if you depend on temporary labor. Same deal if you don’t have back-up machinery. Then, if you were to lose the account, imagine all the ramifications of trying to replace 40% of your capacity in mid-season. A good rule of thumb is never let any single customer have more than 20% of your capacity, but even that much is risky.

Never the less, if you want to try it, bid 150-200% of your existing rate for however long you think it might take. Of course there’s a large learning curve on a property like this, so it would take at least 2 or 3 test-cuts to get a reasonable feel. Be sure that they understand you’re only doing a test-cuts and tell them the price could go way up or down. But everyone knows the price will only go up. They’re going to see how long it takes, so don’t get in any hurry, do a thorough job. Any shortcuts or time saving measures that you come across are solely for your benefit if you were to get the account at a later date.
 

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One thing that will save you time on this is a Little Wonder Edger. They are a little pricey, but cut down on time, and do a great job. Keeping the edging looking good makes a great impression, and in my opinion, sets us apart as professionals.

I would try like heck to stay away from tems to help you. Some temps aren't the most reliable and hardest working employees. You may have a hard time getting them to do the quality of work you expect. Do you know any other small LCO's that may want to go in on this with you. Maybe work a deal where you are splitting the $$$ or something. Then you could share equipment and employees. Just a thought.

Other thoughts...
It does sound like the property mgr. may be cheap. Why are they calling you instead of the large LCO's that are probably advertised everywhere. Did the mgr. get your number out of the phone book? How many other LCO's are they "working with" on this bid right now?
It sounds like a great oppertunity, but if you don't have the equipment and manpower, it may be out of your league at this time. Is this your first large bid? Bidding large props is a lot different from bidding a normal yard.
Be VERY careful about the way you word your proposal. Make sure that you specify what tree and bush work you are or are not doing, and the frequency of cuts, edging, etc.
I have a pretty professional proposal I just worked up for a Condo association. I made sure that every specific problem I could think of was mentioned in it before I submitted it. From excessive trash problems, to tree storm damage.
Once you get into a deal like this, you have to be careful that you aren't sucked into doing all kinds of work that isn't in your contract.

Good Luck, post some pics if you can get them.
 
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Some great words and perspective from all of you so far. Also some great ideas. I appreciate it. Thanks for taking the time to read through the lengthy post. Before I Get into any more thoughts/details, I'm going to get photos and post them here so everyone can see exactly what I'm seeing.

The property manager is out of town until Wednesday next week so I have a day or two to get this together, talk to a few more people and make a decision.

To answer a couple of questions: Yep this is my first big bid. I have no problem with getting paid well for residentials in my area, but I know this is definitely a different arena. The few commercial properties I do have are small (residential size).

Yep, she called me via my yellow page ad. From what I've seen in a few of the residential accounts I have landed via phone book it wouldn't surprise me if she contacted some other LCOs & never got a call back. I should have asked her that question & I will next time we speak. My ad is actually in a smaller version of the yellow pages here........ a bit more localized, which I liked because there are not as many LCOs advertising there and it strikes me as a bit more personalized.

All comments welcome!
 

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I think you have enough equipment now till the end of the season.

Go look the place over again tomorrow morning. Walk it again. Imagine the time you will need to be there, add some extra time, not alot but some. Figure your price accordingly.

You have a helper that you use time to time. Well how does he feel about steady work?

Although you will be spending a day or more there. You will have him for all the other stops that you do yourself. So what if it takes you 2 days.

And when you need an extra helper, get one that fits into the role that the other was in.

You do this it will allow for a little more expansion. Makes it a whole lot easier.

Get a signed contract for next year as soon as you can. When you do after you start next season then get a larger machine, don't do that just for one account.
 

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Sounds like a good oportunity if you can make it work for you.

The best advise I can give you is to try what I did with major success. What you need to do here is turn a 180 on this thing. Stand out and capitalize on the fact that they already want to change the way they get things done.

To do so you need to turn the negotiation table 180 and get yourself some sharp ideas and lanuage to use. This will set you aprt if you do it right. Use things the prospect can relate directly to. All the sudden things will change because they will see you as a huge resource, from which you can capitalize on, rather than just another lawn guy.

If you just show up with a bid and a smile on your face, you will just be seen as the lawn guy and you will certainly face what others have decribed here. As a matter of fact they will probably take your bid, use it as a "range finder" and seek other bids before even thinking of awarding you the job. Property managers throw jabs just like boxers, to find range when they are "thinking" of making a change.

PM me if you are interested in how to get this job, how to get more money for it than you are thinking of, plus extras on top of it, plus raises down the road, and how to choke out the competition now, plus following years.

Personally I'm not interested in posting this for public critics. I know how, I've done it, it works and I get paid for it and then some.
 

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You say that the propety is about 5 acres- 2 Guys can cut 5 acres in 2 hrs.- now I know you said its all cut up (different areas) So add more time- You should be able to cut in one day, or touch up the next

You said you want to hire 4 temps.- Take that money and buy a 60" mower
 

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Would it be feasible to ditch the 32" wb and apply that towards a 52" or 48" ZTR? That would be compact enough to do most of the areas where the 48" wb does, and fast enough for the wider areas to save time on vs. a wb.

I would try to use equipment to make up your productivity shortfall. A fast reliable versatile ZTR and a hydro wb and 21" mower for those areas that need them. If the budget's there, I'd even think about a stander to replace the wb if the terrain permits it. Check your gates. A 42" will fit through more of them and still mow wide areas ok.


The idea of hiring temps to do lawn maintenance gives me chills. Odds are you'll pay a lot and get little productive work and lots of mistakes that affect your image. The difference in a fast experienced worker and a newbie is two or three to one, honest.

Your current equipment is solid but not state of the art. Upgrade that and you might be able to do it without hiring anyone else. I didn't believe the value of top equipment until I finally got some. It makes a huge difference.
 

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Sometimes the best thing for your business is to walk away from a job. Growth is good, but it can also take you to bankruptcy.

Am I saying don't take it? No. Just think it over very carefully. You really need to know your numbers on this one. Your costs are of major importance on this situation.

Like the others, I don't see this taking you as long as you think. 5 guys will be overkill.

You and your help can probably handle this like you have it now as Glan said. Don't go out and get in debt expecting this to work out. It may not.

Just be careful.
 

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Some very valuable points here. Randy Scott is facing you with reality.
I have a ± $$ amount on the engine runtime of my mower. If it is $55 per hour engine running and it is going to take me 2 hours my fee wil be $110 per mow & trim. (in 2 hours you can cut a lot of grass with a 52" Z)
I have also bidded on the basis of $ per 1000 sq ft ie. ± $1 per 1000 sq ft around here is more or less industry average.
Which ever way you want to do it, you HAVE to know what the pricing infrastructure of your opposition is in order to bid competitively.
On properties like these the cheapest bid usually wins but NOT neccesarily. The quality of work and your references will also be a deciding factor.
Good Luck!!!
PC
 

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Another possibility would be to join forces with another solo operater you know (and trust) to partner this project. Construction companys do this all the time. You would have additional equipment and experienced help. You may not take all the profits, but you don't carry all the risk either. You can get another idea of time/pricing and let next year come as it may. If the arangement works out, you also may eliminate at least one competitor for the job next year. Just a thought.
 

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Did you ask how many units? When you come up with your bid price divide the cost by the number of units, the owner will. This will give you an idea on how the owner will see your bid. Also you didn't mention the job scope....IE Flowers, Pine Straw/Mulch, Hedges, Fert,Weed Control etc. Apartment complexes are sometimes more than they seem. The larger companies bid these properties on a scale (A B C D) A being the high-end complexes thus higher rent and higher per unit expense for maintenance.
But back to you question, 28 buildings 4 man crew 8 hours $1058 per cut for mow, trim and blow only. This type of service would be considered a D property. Hope this helped.
 
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