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ever miss-bid?

2262 Views 18 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  BSDeality
The other day i got a call from an elderly gentleman about getting his lawn mowed. His old lawnguy (15 years of service for them) was too irregular for him. The homeowner had a heart attack in the spring and he get's worked up if things don't happen at the same time on the same day every week and he says its bad for his heart.... so with the "old-man-had-a-heart-attack thing" in my mind i went to give the bid and told him $38/wk to cut the property which i thought was a little low, but i figured i'd do it for that price since he was an older guy with heart problems.

I went and cut it this morning after the rain had stopped cause it was getting pretty long. i mowed/trimmed/blew it and it ended up taking over 1hr 20 minutes to do. It did take a little extra time due to the length, wetness and me "learning" the property. Also with the way the house is positioned on the propert and the trees, walk and small garden, i mis-gauged exactly how large this property really is. My bid of $38 is drastically underbid and should be more like $60-70 for the effort i'm going to be putting into this thing.

Has anyone ever approached someone after the first cut and said something to the effect of "I mis-bid the property and I'll do it for the price i said today, but if you'd like me to keep servicing the property it'll be $new-rate" I'd like to keep him as a customer as i could use all the work i can get my hands on right now.
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just approach him and let him know...that is why when ever I bid something I make sure to tell them that the bid is an estimate, and it can change after the first mowing. We have a statement directly on our estimate sheets that says, "All estimates are not final, we reserve the right to modify the price. You will be notified before the next date of service whether an estimate price will change."
Sneak up behind him quietly, STOMP your foot real loud and yell BOOOO!

Just kidding - I am going through the same kind of problem right now, but it's an old lady who's a friend! I guess the only way out is tell him ASAP. The longer you let it go, the worse the problem gets, and the more he grows to expect you.
Have I ever mis-bid?!?!

Does a dog ever poop in the lawn?

I usually do one of two things if this happens.

One, if it isn't really off, and looks to be a good customer, I keep it the same for the first season and then raise it the next.

Two, if it is really low, I do something similar to tiedeman's post. I talk to the customer, explain what happened, and we come to some sort of an agreement. Worst case, I simply say we can't do it at that price, but will mow it a couple more times at the original price until they can find someone else if they don't want to use our service.
Have I ever mis-bid a lawn?

Yes, but never drastic enough to ever rebid the job. I would just finish the season and raise the price accordingly for the next season. It was your first time cutting so maybe you can speed it up a bit throughout the year.

$28/hr would barely cover my eployee and expenses.

When you are new in the business this is bound to happen occasionally.
Yeah, I've under bid years ago.

Never hesitated to right then and there knock on the door or call them and explain.

If it means only doing it that one time, fine.

You can only kick yourself in the butt so hard and so often :D
I've been bidding lawns for a few years now, but this one is just... well i can't believe i was SO far off. I'll have a chat with him next week. the $28/hr is well, well below my usual rate too, which is why i need to do something asap.
Thats why I get out the measuring wheel every time.
It helps me to be on target. I still get some things wrong but, anything to get me close.
The best way to handle it is be honest. Explain your mistake and whatever comes live with it.
Or just bite the big one and raise your rate next year.
Ok. I've read on several occassions that you've got to be grossing $40/man hour in order to make any money in this business.

I'm beginning to think that's more of a northern rate. Here in the DFW area, I'm grossing, at best $65/hr with a two man crew. And that's with very little drive time as all my stops are within 1.5 miles of one another from start to end. Perhaps I could have bid my jobs at maybe 15% more at most, which would get the hourly on my two man crew to $74. However, I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have as many customers if I were bidding that high.

Perhaps it's because we're closer to Mexico here in Texas. From what I understand, a Mexican working in Mexico earns about $8 to $10 per day. And I'm telling you, NOTHING in the way of outside labor would be getting done here in the Dallas/FW area were it not for Mexican labor, legal or illegal. Road construction, concrete work, landscape work, roofing, name it...if it's unskilled outdoor labor, there's a Mexican doing it in this area.

In fact, I'm just about the only white/caucasion guy I ever see on a lawn crew in my area. Most crews around here are 100% mexican/hispanic.

Anyone else here in the DFW area finding that the market won't bear $40/man hour?

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I have found that in most cases a two man crew is not as efficient as an individual. This adds up over the day. For instance, solo you may be able to gross $400 per day but a two man crew may only gross $600 per day. This is because of drive time and idle time at jobs.

i live in a rather unique area, my parent's moved here ~30 years ago into a little 2 bedroom house on some old farm land. They've done several additions and renovations in that time and the value of our house has skyrocketed. Now I've got over a dozen $1m+ houses within 1 mile of me. in fact, the most expensive house is just up the road a piece. 9k sqft house on 3 acres for $4.2M. Lot's a CEO's, exec's, VP's, pres, and other VIP's in the area. Land is getting scarce in this town, and people pay a premium to have a nice green lawn with them perfect stripes.

As for the labor force, it seems everyone and there mother is doing landscaping. when i was 16 and mowing lawns in highschool i was the only one. Now @ 20 i know 6 guys my age that are in the landscaping business. I see 10-20 different outfits every day. about a 75-25 hispanic-caucasion mix.

It's a little hard to get a read on the average wage around here. there are some guys that do quality work, have nice trucks, nice machines and they charge a professional rate. Then there are guys that run rust bucket trucks with half-assed mowers and equipment and underbid (IMO) the market. I dropped one customer a few weeks ago cause of no payment cause he couldn't see me makeing $100/wk to do his lawn. some hispanic guys came in and do it for $50 every 2 weeks. (after 2 weeks its pretty darn long and looks like crap.)

i think on avg, mowing goes for $45-80/hr around here. I talked with another landscaper that does paver installs (in high demand around here now) and he's charging $15-18/sq ft dependin on the pattern/material.

it's definitely a unique area, lots of big houses, properties, and plenty of people that don't like doing their own work and will gladly pay someone else (me) to do it for them. My business will definitely be staying in this area.
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Cost of living is a factor for the location.

How much does your help pay rent for a room?
What about if they have a car, Inusrance? Gas? repair costs?
What about the public transportation?
Gallon of milk?
Eggs and so on?

The guys that drive I help them with auto repairs at the station that we have an account. I buy them gas from time to time, definitely for the 3 day holiday weekends.

And yet for cutting. Cutting prices have stalled for several years. I am equal with my peers. And I heard from a woman behind the counter at one of my suppliers that there are still shmucks out there cutting weekly for $15 - $18. And these shmucks are usualy broken down on the road. Cutting late. Just about everything they possibly can to show everyone they are not profesionals.

I don't care. I know where I am in this business and where I am going. If I run over a few gypsy's that's OK with me :cool:
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I would continue to do the property for the same rate and also do a good job. There is always good potential that you may get other jobs on the property that will allow you to make up for the underbid.
And yet for cutting. Cutting prices have stalled for several years. I am equal with my peers. And I heard from a woman behind the counter at one of my suppliers that there are still schmucks out there cutting weekly for $15 - $18. And these schmucks are usually broken down on the road. Cutting late. Just about everything they possibly can to show everyone they are not professionals.
Wait a minute. lol I take issue with the charge that cutting late is a sign of a schmuck. lol
Some days I have to work until dark thirty and then some. I don't think that makes me unprofessional does it?
My apologies.........................

You have to see some of the outfits I am talking about. Like everything they own was resurected from the Junk Yard.

There are some start ups that do have a plan to be in the biz for the long haul and you can tell......................
No problem, I think I saw what you are talking about the other day.
It was a guy riding a moped with a push mower strapped to the tail light. It was a miracle that he didnt wreck. The mower was bouncing all over the place. The moped was swerving left then right what a sight. lol
If you saw me I'm sure you'd have a good laugh. I don't have a truck right now, and considered waiting untill I had another truck, but decided that this is really what I want to do, so I took the ancient '81 Olds that was wrecked (an SUV hit it from behind) and actually has the license plate wired on, and an aftermarket tail light on one side, and loaded my mower, trimmer, and blower in the trunk.

Well, so far it has worked for me. I have around 20 customers, which is 20 more customers than I had when I started, and 20 more customers than I would have had if I waited untill I had the money for the truck. At least I have something to show for my work, which I would not have if I had gone for a job at McDonald's, which is why I used what I had.

Hopefully, next year I will be able to report a more respectable setup for you. But maybe consider that not everyone you see who doesn't have a nice truck is a scrub. I don't feel that I underbid my work, on average. I've had 10 or more customers tell me they had somebody who charged less before. I've lost jobs because I would not go down on my price on several occaisions this year. And I have raised the price twice, on 2 larger lawns that I underbid. So far I have managed to keep both of the customers.

I generally average at least $25 an hour, and this is primarily with a used John Deere 21" mower, and a curved shaft Echo. I'm positive I could increase this to at least $40 an hour with better equipment. Additionally, I am located in San Antonio, close to the cheap labor source of Mexico, and one of the lowest income-per-capita locations, second only to El Paso, the last time I checked. So I don't see how I could be signifigantly underbidding. The irony is that maybe the people out there underbidding me have nicer vehicles. Just something to think about.
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just an update here.

i went and talked with the homeowner before cutting it. and explained how i mis judged the property when i bid. I told him i'd let him know the new price after i mowed it today. I used the "i wasn't familiar with the property" line and told him that i'd have a better feel for it after cutting it again.

so. i cut, trimmed, blew the drive and rang the doorbell and arrived at a price both of us were happy with. He's happy with the service and i'm going to be doing a metric butt-load of hedge trimming for him early next week.
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