Experienced owner/operators opinions

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Surferbum21, Nov 25, 2007.

  1. Surferbum21

    Surferbum21 LawnSite Senior Member
    from SW OKC
    Messages: 392

    I just want to warn you this could get long. I am just wanting a few opinions of you guys who have a lot of time in the business whether you are a one man crew or a huge 5 crew with 5 guys in each crew company.

    I was talking with a guy putting an irrigations system in my neighbors house. He has some huge commercial accounts here in oklahoma (i.e. hitachi plant). We got to talking and he said his best word of advice (I'm 24 with 9 years in the business and he's 40 with 25 years) is that he would rather keep his business to himself and a crew he oversees/goes out with. What do you guys think? of course he told me which I have always thought true that you always do it better yourself. You would think anyone could handle a weedeater or lawnmower but you would be amazed. I've hired some 18 and 19 year old college kids needing a summer job and they last a week, two week tops. Half the time its the heat, other times its getting up early. But for the most part I do 90% + of my work simply b/c having a kid work for me doesn't save me much time. Most of my yards are in groups of at least 2 or 3. I can edge, weedeat, mow one of two, and blow before my helper can finish mowing one. I am hoping to hire some hispanic workers this next year as they are some of the hardest working people you ever see.

    I've got more to ask but want to keep it in small chunks. Let me know your input. Thanks guys.
  2. LawnBoy89

    LawnBoy89 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 967

    When I dream of my ultimate landscaping company, I don't even WANT more then one crew that I can be on, maybe it's because I have trust or reliability issues I just want to always be overseeing whats going on.
  3. bblawncare

    bblawncare LawnSite Member
    Messages: 129

    I think that quality control goes out the window the more people you add-unless of course you have the uncanny ability to be able to select all the right people and put those people in all the right places-but come on, how many people can actually do that? (not intended to insult yours, or anyone else's abilities) And even more than that, the candidates for employment in our field are seldom "cream of the crop". To me, a small crew is managable, but the bigger they are, the less managable they become. Now with this said, I am a solo operator, but I hear the complaints all the time when a new customer calls me asking for service-I always ask 2 questions 1) do you currently have a lawn service? and 2) what is it that dissatisfies you with their service? The reply 9x out of 10 is "My current service has grown and changed too much. There are different workers here all the time (lack of employee retention), they break sprinklers, damage plants, don't blow or clean up as good as they used to", etc, etc.
  4. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,366

    I can hire more laborers than you could imagine. It's the ones with common sense that are hard to come across. Unless you can find and hire leaders, it is very stressful to run a sucessful business.
  5. mowerman90

    mowerman90 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,491

    I've been working solo since I started in 1989. At that time I was almost 40 yrs old. If I had been younger when I started I might have decided to grow the company with addl crews but for me solo worked. I didn't want all the headaches that went along with addl crews, i.e. retaining personnel, maintaining quality work, workers comp expense, etc. Plus, given the pool of workers we have to pick from here in FL, I think I made the right decision.
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Well see it's yin and yang, it's always the good and the bad, one or the other.

    You either get someone trustworthy, and they're inexperienced.
    Or you finally find someone who can run circles around you (they do exist) but they also have the knowledge on how to take advantage of you (and believe you me, how do you think I found out they had said knowledge). Yup, always like that, they're either slower than molasses but pretty decent guys, or they're super fast and seasoned veterans who can and will exploit any weakness.

    So in order to have employees you need both a training program and you have to close the loopholes, putty up your or your company's weaknesses, so to speak.

    My take on it would be if you stuck with the newer guys until they gain the experience is that eventually they'd start looking for loopholes, too. This might be the smoother way to start closing up those gaps, in some ways. In other ways it might be faster to hire someone that is seasoned and it's rough and tough but by the time it's said and done so are you (hopefully in a good way).

    I dare say either way it's going to cost you 3-4 thousand if you're solo, that's just a guess based on prior experience of my own...
    I do think it's a one time investment, once you're up to par you shouldn't have to go through this again, so it is a viable choice and the reason I decided it was as well to just buy a better machine and be done with it, but the choice is yours, one or the other.

    Hispanic workers might be better, not really sure.
  7. PearceLawn

    PearceLawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 290

    Solo for 10 years. Staying that way 'till I give it up.

    Worked with a few temp guys and that was more hassle than it was worth.

    My customers are happy. My equipment lasts forever and the money is good.

    If it ain't broke don't fix it!!:)
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Oh yeah, I'd guess an employee pre-screening program is in order as well.

    Let's see:
    - Pre-screen (This goes into play from their first call or visit inquiring about employment and throughout the application and interview process, to include up to 5 'starter' days (the first days) and some type of monitoring afterwards.
    - Training (ALL employees get trained, this would be an excellent thing to do in those first 5 days, you will want specific things set up for this and for them to do, specific yards cut out just for this and so on (heck what better reason to give some customers a discount {in which case you may want to clear it with the customer first} or just as well accept some sub-standard lots for the practice sessions {most of these customers won't mind if the rate reflects it}), then this is just the basics but it should include one of everything or some kind of something along the lines where they're just past green.
    - A set of rules, this is how WE do things, we don't care how everyone else does them.
    > Lead by example, but take the time to explain the rules, 100 times over if you must.
    > I'd guess this is why some co's have training videos and booklets and class room situations? :)

    And in that process you'll want to fine tune your own methods (where you close your loopholes, basically).

    Not trying to tell you what to do, just my perspective.
    Hope is help.
  9. jlouki01

    jlouki01 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 453

    You are only going to make so much money on your own if you are in the trenches daily.

    You have to pick one of two directions.

    1. Owner / Operator
    2. Business person

    In both scenarios you are the owner. In scenario one you are going to hit a peak where your hands can only do so much of the work. This scenario keeps you occupied doing the work and selling. Scenario one hits a brick wall when you have to start telling customers no you can't take them on because you can't grow. You can't grow because you are handling all aspects, accounting, daily work, selling, equip maint. you get the point.

    Scenario two:

    Business 101 says your goal is to become a profitable business? I guess you yourself have to decide how much profit you need. If you are like me you need to pay a mortgage, have children in school you need to make a living and provide your family with enough income to pay the bills and provide some leisure income.

    Now I am sure there are going to be a ton of people who are solo operator's who can pull this off. They are the exception rather then the norm.

    Most businesses that are legite business need employees to operate and grow.

    how many people have you ever met who single handed made their families income working alone. I am not saying you can't work for someone or a company and make a sizable living. I am just saying chances are slim you can do this on your own with a truck and a trailer:)

    Employees are a nessesary evil. Accept your fate and press on. The trick is to have your operation streamlined enough that when you do get a bad employee you can quickly take action to correct the situation.
  10. Frue

    Frue LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,472

    Great post!

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