Getting started in Commercial Mowing

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Turf Tiger, Jun 10, 2008.

  1. Turf Tiger

    Turf Tiger LawnSite Member
    Messages: 32

    I have been mowing residential yards for the past year and like it but I dont get the money out of it I want. I really want to get into commercial mowing, but I dont know that much about the bidding process. I guess it would be little late this year to get started in commercial mowing. Would it be wise to go ahead and start hitting businesses for next year? Or when should I start? I want to get ahead of everyone else. Any words of advice or help would be great.
  2. Albery's Lawn & Tractor

    Albery's Lawn & Tractor LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,674

    For me commercial work isn't all that great. Everyone wants them so you have to bid low to even have a chance. Low bid almost always wins. We make much more per hour doing residential work.
  3. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,380

    Turf Tiger,

    IF you dont have expereince you can run yourself out of business quick.

    Forget abot "getting ahead of everyone else" you are going to, they have the lawns you want.

    You will also need much more insurance than most residential guys have (if they have insurance at all)

    If have doen commercial bidding for TruGreen, Brickman and Teufel
    (some of the largest commercial companies in the US)

    I can help you but I need to know your specific questions rather than run a seminar via email

    Tell me the sqaure footages, and I can tell you what machine you should be using how many guys on your crew and how much yo should charge.

    MOST municipal contracts (cities,athletic fields etc) are public knowledge what a contract went for, so another good idea is to find out what "X park is getting mowed for" and then compare it to a similar commercial job you are bidding and go with a similar number.

    That's how Ed LaFlamme got started.

    A couple of books you could look into reading:
    Seven Super Simple Secrets to Entrepenurial(sp) Success by Marty Grunder
    and anything Written by Ed LaFlamme.

    do a search on you will wind them

    They are both uber succesful commercial landscape maintenance contractors and reasonably good friends of mine.
  4. Turf Tiger

    Turf Tiger LawnSite Member
    Messages: 32

    Here are some of my questions and hopefully you can help. When do businesses start taking bids and if there is not a set time of the year how do I know and find out about when? If I am completly wrong on how this goes try to explain it to me? This is what I really want to do for a living so I will do what it takes. What is the best way to win bids and still make good money? How much insurance should I carry as a mower of commercial property?

    Some of the commercial property I am going to try to get is a brand new hospital. It wll be from 2 to 3 acres of mowing and trimming of the bushes and taking care of property. Another one is the church I go to it is 3 acres of mowing and will be taking care of the bushes. There are many other businesses I am going to try to get but I am wondering when the right time to approach the business and how to handle it.
  5. bohiaa

    bohiaa LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,220

    There's a ton in Commerical mowing. Dont listen to those guys.....

    you need at least 1 million you should be carring this anyway, Forget Walmart they want 2 mill, no biggie but every contract for walmart had already been awarded,,,,, everyone is just subs......

    Break down the areas as if they were houses, and look at them like that, except souble your price, MOST places have a contract already written for you, they will give it to ya.

    If you wjould like I have one from a managment co. that I do some of there appartments.

    we have one that's about 3 acers and there paying me 73,000.00 per year.
    were in Texas so it may be diffrent where your at... BUT we give 42 cuts a YEAR,

    I will have to dig out that contract and scan it, Email me and I will sent it to ya. It's a GREAT way to start your self one, it outlines What when and WHERE.... AND STICK TO IT.

    Most places around here accept bids in January and there only 1 year, NEVER SGIN A 2 or 3 year contract..... " ya never know waht the future holds.....

    Start looking around RIGHT NOW at some places that you want, Notice what other co's are doing wrong and document it, it's GREAT ammo,

    AND NO the low bidder does NOT always get the bid,,,,,
    People who tell ya that simply are misinformed, of have given up on life.....

    Good LUCK
  6. Turf Tiger

    Turf Tiger LawnSite Member
    Messages: 32

    Would I be out of place to go ahead and talk to the businesses I want for next year to let them know I am interested and let them know what I can offer that you other people arent doing. I figured that would catch their interest and show that I am more professonial than everyone else
  7. bohiaa

    bohiaa LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,220

    This is NOT True,,,,,,,,

    Like I stated earlyer, watch the proptery, and document things, walk right in and ask when do you accept bids for lawn mateance, and who do I send it too
  8. Turf Tiger

    Turf Tiger LawnSite Member
    Messages: 32

    You where very helpful. I couldnt find your email address and If you would send that to me. I would really like to see the contract that you have. Thanks alot
  9. Turf Tiger

    Turf Tiger LawnSite Member
    Messages: 32

    Also what is the cheapest but the best for the money full size mower. I have been looking at Scags. And they can kinda get very expensive.
  10. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,380

    Ok here we go;
    The "time of year" commercial contracts go down is "typically" february through march, for mowing and landscape maintenanc, be aware that commercial jobs want a whole package they dont hire one guy to cut grass, and someone else to fertilize an another to trim the shrubs ou need to do it all.
    Figure your time on a commercial property at .000048 per square foot. This will give you how long it will take to mow and trim a property, then guess at how much time to add for blowing off walks and such.
    Now try to fit on the LARGEST mower you can.
    You are NOT going to do commerical lawns with a 48" belt drive.
    3 acres of lawn @ 43,560 sq ft per acre will take you 6 hours with that belt drive I mentioned above.
    Now there are guys that "THINK" they can charge $40 an acre and "make" money. So you WILL get under bid. The key is supplying your customer with a "qualified bid".
    At 6 hours for $50 per hour you cut that grass and trim it for $300 (yep that's 100 per acre).
    NOW if you can afford it , get yourself a 61" turf tiger or dixie chopper or whatever it is you like. does that mean you charge less money?
    NOOOOOooo thats the mistake all these guys make!
    "I can do it faster so I charge less money, so i get more accounts!"
    sounds too good to be true because it is.
    IF you are going to start out with a big machine you definately need jobs, so give your clients a 20% discount ($240 for those three acres).
    But with that big machine (assuming it will fit everywhere) you are cutting and trimming those three acres is half the time, which means $240 divided by three is $80 per hour.
    Remember to figure in your blowing walks time as well, but DON't try to get $80 per hour for a guy with a blower, this is what will price you out of the market so figure your blowing separate and bill it out at say $36 per hour.

    They key is to charge your customer the nominal $40 per hour for the walk behind mower and then INVEST in equipment that will let you do the work faster & better.

    In 2001-2004 I was averaging $85 per hour from lawn cutting, I ran dixie choppers that went 15mph and I cut football fields in 9 minutes.
    It took me longer to unload and reload the machine on the trailer than it did the cut the grass.
    DO NOT go buy those TORO groundsmasters not matter what people say the WAM (wide area mowers) go too slow, turn too slow and down manuver well enough to compensate for the wide decks. 60 and 72 inch zero turn will out perform them and fit on the widest variety of properties.

    Next step get the contract.
    #1 DO not advertise, wasted money, commercial contracts dont look in the yellow pages or newspaper to call people for work. YOU go to them
    #2 have 1million in insurance (most commercials require this minimum)
    #3ask commerical property owners/managers to get on the "preferred bidders list" this way everytime thy send ou a bid you get an invite.
    #4 as you are starting late in the season look for jobs that are being maintained irregularly (i.e. not gettign cut at the same time every week) and look bad (it's likely they are susceptible to a new comer giving them a price).
    #5 alot of commerical properties will tell you "we have a contract with someone" most commerical contracts have a 30 day opt out clause meaning either party can end the contract within 30days with prior written notice, if you can save them money, heck why not? All you are doing is giving them a price.
    #6 If you get alot of resistance from theperson you are talking to ask if your are talking to the decision maker (i.e. "do you sign the contracts?") most of the time the answer is going to be no, you are likely just talking to an administrator. You want to talk to the jabba the hutt not the guy with the tentacles on his head and the nasty grill.
    #7 who needs premission to make a contract? Go ahead, measure the property, do the calculations write a proposal and walk in ready to get it signed! IT's only your time!
    No one can ask you not to measure the lawn at the hospital, it's a public building!
    #8 always submit your impromptu contract with a list (prefferably with dated picutres) outlining the deficencies of the property currently under the care of the competition and state how these things will be addressed under your care (i.e. snap a few shots of the clumps in the lawn, the wheelie marks where the guy turned to hard and the areas they missed with trimmers)

    and last but not least, never underestimate the value of growth regulator, apply it once every two months and trim your property once a month but charge for it every time, and bang! you made even more money.
    Always remember you are NOT charging for your time, your are charging for a finished product (a beautifully manicured lawn) HOW you get it done (and how long it takes) is your BUSINESS!! literally.

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