How do we make money push mowing

Hurryupelectric

LawnSite Silver Member
Location
Charleston
A comment on the cancellation thread got me really thinking. The gist of the question was “looks like a big yard to push mow, how do guys make money like that?”. And this question is something that has been floating around in my mind for a while, especially now that I have a small trailer and 30” commercial mower. Let’s rewind to last year.
Last year I pounded pavement and got a couple of accounts. I eagerly set out with a anemic Lawnboy mower in my cargo area and nothing else. It was tough mowing my lawn with this mower much less 2 or three in a day. Let’s say I was around $30hr. With some money coming in and my hustle gaining momentum I slid the card on a Honda Hrx217 and a $99 Ryobi weedwhacker. The Honda nearly doubled my productivity and as I got faster and better, I slowly rose to almost $60hr, out of my Toyota RAV4. By mid summer I was running a new Ryobi 40v powerhead with a complete set of attachments pieced together from Facebook marketplace with a rapid charger and 120w pure sine inverter under my seat. Fyi, I power through my whole day with the 40v and am completely satisfied with it. Also Home Depot offers a crazy 3year no questions warranty on the battery and powerhead, I can and will be using this at least on the battery at some point for sure.

Going into my second year, I bought a used Turfmaster, and I’ll have it repowered with the Kohler 224cc and hopefully be ripping through my bigger accounts. This should have me in the $70-80hr realm while still beating the bigger outfits by 10-20% and offering a great finished product. I don’t expect to have any help except maybe the occasional friend on a bigger job like cleanups. So here I am making twice as much as if I finish my 2yr electrical engineering associate, pushing a mower, by myself.
But, some people think it’s outrageous to be pushing yards especially kinda big ones. So I ask, is it that much better for you with a big setup, maybe 2, maybe you have 10 rigs and crews in your company. Here’s what makes me wonder.

•Crews, everyone is a potential, thief, equipment abuser, attendance issue, bad attitude, tax, payroll and quality headache.

•Equipment, the bigger the crew the more, equipment, trucks/trailers, logistics and overall liability out there where you have no idea what happens after they leave the shop in the morning.

•Customers, I will be filled up when I hit 40 clients a week. 10 a day X 4 days a week X $50 a yard average. 40 X ~$50 = $2,000 a week. After taxes it’ll be like 1,400-1,600 a week profit I think. Thats a lot of different personalities and expectations to be keeping track of. To grow bigger seems like an uphill battle. People talking about 100, 200, 300 yards a week, seems crazy.

•Rule of diminishing returns, It seams to me that all of that extra “company” doesn’t lead to that much more money per unit of effort/stress. On top of this, now you need an office with an office girl or two and probably a shop mechanic. The icing on the cake is that now that you’re making over 6 figures the tax bracket your personal income is in is getting outrageous. Am I wrong or does a solo operator making 70-80k a year who’s only dipping his toe into big taxes and not dealing with many moving parts make a lot of sense compared to a heavily taxed owner making 140k, maybe more, but has to have 10 times the company? Or am I way off the mark and there’s every reason to get big?
 
Last edited:

Cut n Strut

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
Midwest
A comment on the cancellation thread got me really thinking. The gist of the question was “looks like a big yard to push mow, how do guys make money like that?”. And this question is something that has been floating around in my mind for a while, especially now that I have a small trailer and 30” commercial mower. Let’s rewind to last year.
Last year I pounded pavement and got a couple of accounts. I eagerly set out with a anemic Lawnboy mower in my cargo area and nothing else. It was tough mowing my lawn with this mower much less 2 or three in a day. Let’s say I was around $30hr. With some money coming in and my hustle gaining momentum I slid the card on a Honda Hrx217 and a $99 Ryobi weedwhacker. The Honda nearly doubled my productivity and as I got faster and better, I slowly rose to almost $60hr, out of my Toyota RAV4. By mid summer I was running a new Ryobi 40v powerhead with a complete set of attachments pieced together from Facebook marketplace with a rapid charger and 120w pure sine inverter under my seat. Fyi, I power through my whole day with the 40v and am completely satisfied with it. Also Home Depot offers a crazy 3year no questions warranty on the battery and powerhead, I can and will be using this at least on the battery at some point for sure.

Going into my second year, I bought a used Turfmaster, and I’ll have it repowered with the Kohler 224cc and hopefully be ripping through my bigger accounts. This should have me in the $70-80hr realm while still beating the bigger outfits by 10-20% and offering a great finished product. I don’t expect to have any help except maybe the occasional friend on a bigger job like cleanups. So here I am making twice as much as if I finish my 2yr electrical engineering associate, pushing a mower, by myself.
But, some people think it’s outrageous to be pushing yards especially kinda big ones. So I ask, is it that much better for you with a big setup, maybe 2, maybe you have 10 rigs and crews in your company. Here’s what makes me wonder.

•Crews, everyone is a potential, thief, equipment abuser, attendance issue, bad attitude, tax, payroll and quality headache.

•Equipment, the bigger the crew the more, equipment, trucks/trailers, logistics and overall liability out there where you have no idea what happens after they leave the shop in the morning.

•Customers, I will be filled up when I hit 40 clients a week. 10 a day X 4 days a week X $50 a yard average. 40 X ~$50 = $2,000 a week. After taxes it’ll be like 1,400-1,600 a week profit I think. Thats a lot of different personalities and expectations to be keeping track of. To grow bigger seems like an uphill battle. People talking about 100, 200, 300 yards a week, seems crazy.

•Rule of diminishing returns, It seams to me that all of that extra “company” doesn’t lead to that much more money per unit of effort/stress. On top of this, now you need an office with an office girl or two and probably a shop mechanic. The icing on the cake is that now that you’re making over 6 figures the tax bracket your personal income is in is getting outrageous. Am I wrong or does a solo operator making 70-80k a year who’s only dipping his toe into big taxes and not dealing with many moving parts make a lot of sense compared to a heavily taxed owner making 140k, maybe more, but has to have 10 times the company? Or am I way off the mark and there’s every reason to get big?

What happens to the solo biz if they get hurt and can’t work?
 
OP
Hurryupelectric

Hurryupelectric

LawnSite Silver Member
Location
Charleston
What happens to the solo biz if they get hurt and can’t work?
Very good point, as things are currently, I can have my 12 ish yards a week covered by some friends in the business. When I’m servicing over 20 that won’t be realistic. Perhaps if I couldn’t work I could hire a crew temporarily, pay them well and hopefully maintain most/all accounts? Either way very helpful comment to consider.
 

Cut n Strut

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
Midwest
Very good point, as things are currently, I can have my 12 ish yards a week covered by some friends in the business. When I’m servicing over 20 that won’t be realistic. Perhaps if I couldn’t work I could hire a crew temporarily, pay them well and hopefully maintain most/all accounts? Either way very helpful comment to consider.


In any route based biz redundancy is your best friend. Back up mowers, trimmers, laborers, etc. Downtime = losing $. Being solo isn’t a bad thing, make sure to have “backups” that you can plug in when needed.
 
OP
Hurryupelectric

Hurryupelectric

LawnSite Silver Member
Location
Charleston
In any route based biz redundancy is your best friend. Back up mowers, trimmers, laborers, etc. Downtime = losing $. Being solo isn’t a bad thing, make sure to have “backups” that you can plug in when needed.
Now that I have a 21” and 30” if one breaks I can continue mowing even if slower than the 30”. I have a good bit of powerheads and attachments for something breaking or helpers. But I’m definitely going to need a plan for getting hurt. I’m already glad I took the time to write this long post.
 

Youngandfree

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
VA
Don't forget you've got drive time between accounts eating away at your $60-70/hr "revenue".

Get yourself a hydro 36" WB with Velky and you will double your production over that 30" pusher. I've got a 36" JD belt drive WB for small gates. A buddy I cut for I needed for his yard. After a few mows, I finally bought a velky for it. Compared to walking, it made a huge improvement, even using the same machine.

I don't worry about the personality of clients. I figure out if they seem cheap or not and if they will be difficult on first meeting. That determines if they become a client or not.

ETA: If you are making 6 figures as a solo, you need to have a different tax structure than running it on your personal tax return.
 

Cut n Strut

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
Midwest
Now that I have a 21” and 30” if one breaks I can continue mowing even if slower than the 30”. I have a good bit of powerheads and attachments for something breaking or helpers. But I’m definitely going to need a plan for getting hurt. I’m already glad I took the time to write this long post.

I run solo for the most part as well. Been searching for someone capable of being a crew lead for about 2 years now. I’m not in a hurry to expand into multiple crews so I’ve been going through a local staffing agency. Gotta pay a little more per hour but I don’t have to put the employee on my payroll. Most of the people working through the staffing agency aren’t going to be top tier employees but they might get you through in a pinch. I use them when the season is rocking, it’s more of an audition for me, gets me a little help and allows me to see their work ethic, personality, etc. before I put them on my payroll.
 
OP
Hurryupelectric

Hurryupelectric

LawnSite Silver Member
Location
Charleston
Don't forget you've got drive time between accounts eating away at your $60-70/hr "revenue".

Get yourself a hydro 36" WB with Velky and you will double your production over that 30" pusher. I've got a 36" JD belt drive WB for small gates. A buddy I cut for I needed for his yard. After a few mows, I finally bought a velky for it. Compared to walking, it made a huge improvement, even using the same machine.

I don't worry about the personality of clients. I figure out if they seem cheap or not and if they will be difficult on first meeting. That determines if they become a client or not.

ETA: If you are making 6 figures as a solo, you need to have a different tax structure than running it on your personal tax return.
At best I think 70k is obtainable, I enjoy a month off in the winter. I’m reluctant to use a “real” mower because they only side discharge without an additional mulch kit. I’m still needing to understand it’s ok to kick clippings all over the lawn.
 

Youngandfree

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
VA
At best I think 70k is obtainable, I enjoy a month off in the winter. I’m reluctant to use a “real” mower because they only side discharge without an additional mulch kit. I’m still needing to understand it’s ok to kick clippings all over the lawn.
That's a mental hurdle that will keep you from getting to 70k, so I'd work on that now.;)

Unless you are doing an HOA with perfectly groomed postage stamp yards, NO ONE mulches or bags in my area. All side discharge. The only time the mulch kit came out for me was October.

Either way, your accountant can get you on track of where is the point you need to become an employee so to speak of your own company. So you pay yourself a salary to keep from paying unnecessary taxes.
 

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