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From lawn stripping to building

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by DVS Hardscaper, Aug 4, 2011.

  1. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,576

    Last week I passed a young man on the highway. He was driving his pick up truck pulling a trailer with some nice mowers on the trailer, not tied down. That urks me beyond belief when I see mowers not secured in transport. Looked like a guy that isn't afraid of working hard and sweating.

    And I thought to myself "he doesn't look like a business savy guy but it won't be long till he's meddling in patios and walls".

    We do mowing. We mow the lawns each week and go home. If we forgot to close a gate to a back yard, or you cut down aunt ruth's flowers, we'll get a phone call within hours of mowing the lawn. If no phone calls - then all is well and all potential liability is no longer.

    Same with Tree removal (which we don't do). You safely take the tree down, clean up, haul away subsequent debris, collect check, all your liability is no longer.

    But with hardscape construction - it could be 6 years (or longer) before you get a call, e-mail, or letter from a previous client stating "THERE'S A PROBLEM"!

    It could be a wall you constructed to hold up an asphalt driveway. The wall failed, you didn't do it right, used the wrong fill material. Now, not only do you have to re-build the wall....you also must repave the asphalt driveway.

    You just built a patio you're so proud of! Installed lights around the patio. But the lights were not installed in landscape beds, you placed them in the lawn!! (I saw pics of this scenerio on THIS FORUM, last week) Aunt Helen is visiting your client. And at 1:00 in the afternoon she Tripped over your light that you installed, and broke a hip. You come back from your daughter's wedding out of town to find a court summons on your front door.

    Rookies - if you wanna get into this work, you need to have a good understanding of liability, construction, ethics, psychology, business, and MOST importantly........WHEN TO SAY NO.

  2. 2brothersyardcare

    2brothersyardcare LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,116

    this makes since i walked away from a big construction job this spring of a like 40 foot tall wall at a commercial property said i dont want to be the one that messed up a 40 foot wall
  3. Raymond S.

    Raymond S. LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 996

    So are you saying liability, ethics, psychology, and business don't exist in maintenance? I think your misconception is that every jackhoo pulling a mower strives to one day do hardscaping. Believe it or not some people are content in just maintenance work. If done properly, there can be good money in it. It is recurring and like you said the liability generally goes away when you leave the property.
    I do agree with the point you're making (to a point) that there can be things in hardscape/install work that will bite you further down the road, that's obvious., but don't make the mistake of thinking that just because someone's mainstay is mowing for example, that they don't operate a business with the understanding of ethics, psychology, liability, and general business principles.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  4. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,576

    The beauty of reading text is you can have 6 different people reading that same thing, and all six can form completely different messages.

    I know owners of lawn companies, owners or installation companies, and owners of both lawn and landscape companies all over the United States.

    I know of an owner of a VERY successful lawn mowing company whom has a degree from Purdue University in Chemistry. Loves what he does and is a very very sharp businessman.

    I know of businesss owners that have no formal education, and are some of the sharpest people I've ever met.

    So, with that said, and with what you responded with - your conclusion is furthest from my mind.

    Fact of the matter is there are individuals that bite more than they can chew. You see it every day in whatever market you're in. You see these guys at the gas station in the mornings. You pass them on the road. There are individuals that own a 1 to 3 man mowing operation, they mow very good, but they don't have the business mindset. Again, these are people we all see in our daily travels. My guys know how to do everything. But if they had to do it as a business - they would not make it, they don't have the business mentality.

    As far as success in mowing grass. There is no doubt about that. I have two seperate people that live near me that own successful mowing operations. One of them is more outdoorsey and owns a nice chunk of land, with a nice all brick home that didn't come cheap. The other owns a rather LARGE home, the type of home that we contractors usually have as our clients building expensive things in their backyards. I know another mowing guy that has a company with 80 employees, he bought a 10,000 SF home, from a previous client of ours. So, my point is - I'm all too well aware of what potential a mowing operation can bring.

    Stacking block is easy. Selling and managing all forms of operations is a whole different animal. For some it comes naturally. For others, they may not realize it - but it's not their cup of tea.

    Hard to believe summer is coming to a close! Hope everyone's year is doing well.

    Last edited: Aug 9, 2011
  5. SVA_Concrete

    SVA_Concrete LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 467

    I think this is why Virginia requires a contractors license for lawn maintenance guys as well as any contract written over 1k.

    Not that I am a fan of bundles of laws, but it is nice to see general ed requirements written into the contractor laws prior to even sitting for a contractors exam.

    The municipalities around here are requiring a contractors license prior to issuing a business license.... that is catching a large number of people and I think will help in the long run.

    The Virginia system is designed to help keep businesses from biting more than they need to, i.e. must have 5 years to obtain a class A, and 2 years to obtain a class C.
  6. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    I get lawn guys all the time who tell me they should get into more landscaping stuff as there is more money there.

    I just laugh as I know the truth, and they just don't know what it takes to get all the details together to do landscaping projects.

    Sometimes I wished I just mowed...... At least the income would be steady and as long as it rains, there will always be grass to mow.

    HA DVS! My summer never finishes until the snow flies and the ground freezes. I've still got a long way to go.

  7. Raymond S.

    Raymond S. LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 996

    You're right, one can interpret whatever they want from a thread on a public forum. I think your point holds true with not just lawn guys turned landscapers, but also hilljacks turned lawn pros. Everybody with a mower is a property maintenance company. To cut grass is quite simple, which my guys can do. However, to actually conceive, establish, operate, and maintain a successful business is completely different. The guy down the street that just got laid off thinks by this time next year he'll be taking our customers with his 15 yr old Dixon 38 all because he's "just a little cheaper."

    It's funny, I used to worry about guys knowing too much about my routes and details of the customers, operations, etc. That was until I realized most guys that work or have worked for me wouldn't know where to begin if they DID want to try and steal my customers. I've had some that showed promise and actually hinted around to having aspirations to do their own thing, until I gave them a brief look at the costs and operations not seen by the everyday worker. They all think "if you did it I can do it!" I mean it's just mowing grass right?

    Funny story. There is a house on my route that I noticed earlier in the season. They had done some raised beds around the house. The block had laid there for about a month so I became curious. Well eventually it started to get put down. I figured a homeowner got a brain fart and decided to take on a project. The yard was flat but far from "grade." I noticed they spread several yards (30 by estimate) of limestone up and around the house, 4" thick or so. I thought, surely they're not laying on top of that. They proceeded to lay the block on top of the gravel making sure to get it right to the edge. You have grass, limestone ramping up to the bottom of the block, then 4 courses of unlevel crooked Belgard Weston wall block. The entire project is completely horrible even from an untrained eye of a non-hardscaper such as myself. So, fast forward a month and I'm getting block at John Deere Landscapes for my fire pit on our new patio. I settle on a block, Belgard Weston, and place the order. The manager says "oh I really like this color. XYZ landscape just did a whole raised bed project at his house about a month ago with this same color. It turned out awesome!" My jaw just about dropped. I said "by chance does he live over in Greenleaf off Bristol St?" Yep, you guessed it. This "landscape company" had been around all of a couple years and I've never known them to do anything other than mow. Now to top it off, the guy selling me block is telling me how "awesome" it looks!
    So, long story long, I get your point. And yes I can't believe it's August already. I actually talked about preseason salt prices the other day with a vendor. Not ready for that!
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