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How many of you are single owner/operators?

Discussion in 'Heavy Equipment & Pavement' started by YellowDogSVC, Nov 6, 2007.

  1. YellowDogSVC

    YellowDogSVC LawnSite Gold Member
    from TX
    Messages: 3,787

    I'm wondering how many of you make a good living as a single owner/operator?
    About 10 years ago I decided to try the land clearing business out as a sole operator. I have used other companies for trimming and have even used a few independent contractors for removals and trimming but I do almost everything by myself and have invested in good equipment and developed systems that allow me to make a living without the hassles of employees. On occasion I wish that I had some labor and have looked hard for someone that I can use but my schedule is odd given that a lot of what I do is me sitting in a machine. I have tried out a few operators but most don't know anything or are not willing to learn to do things gently and cleanly.
    I get beat up and I am sore quite a bit but if I want to take off, I can. I don't other than part days or rain outs or repair days but I am flexible like this. As I get older, however, I am thinking more about having people do the work while I sell or supervise but again, I haven't found the right people.

    What about the rest of you? If you are a single operator, tell us about your system. I'll post more about mine in a reply.
  2. bobcat_ron

    bobcat_ron LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,131

    I'm not allowed to hire anyone else due to WCB regulations (B*STARDS!!) but usually if a customer wants me to do the job, he wants me. So I hope cloning comes about in the next 5 years or so, 'cuz I'm not looking forward to getting screwed over.
  3. ksss

    ksss LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,151

    I try to run with two employees, however eitherway I am always on a machine of some sort. Finding the right employee is extremely difficult. The unemployment rate here is just over 1%. I have too much iron to run soley by myself although other than occasional help that is what I am doing right now. This Winter I plan to steal a quality number 1 guy. I found that with two operators both with CDL's I turn the most money. Even with the additional costs, when I can keep everything moving, I can stay on schedule easier and get more jobs done. Working soley by myself just wears me out. The key again is quality help.
  4. Bob Horrell

    Bob Horrell LawnSite Member
    Messages: 27

    I am a sole owner operator. I have a skidsteer, tractor, backhoe, and triaxle dump truck. I do many varied jobs and seem to always keep busy - even now when things in my area are slowing down. I think the key to keeping busy is to be versatile and do good work.
    A long time ago, I learned something I use in my business. WITB and WOTB. WITB is what we do every day - Working In The Business. WOTB is what we need to do to keep the business going - Working On The Business. Every year I spend significant time with WOTB thinking about what I can do to be better and gain more customers. A lot of the dirt working jobs aren't rocket science and you have a lot of idle brain time while just moving dirt, loading a truck, digging a ditch, etc. I try to use this time for WOTB. I have never advertised my business, yet keep busy. I started out with the attitude that if people didn't want to recommend me for my work then I would find something else to do. I return phone calls immediately, say what I am going to do and then do it, start a job and finish it, etc. This has worked for me.
    I will never have employees in California for two reasons - workmans comp ins. here is a killer, and I don't want to be chasing after problems my workers create and fixing broken equipment when I really like the operating part of the business. I work hard, but I like what I do and make a good living at it.
    I have formed good business relationships with others (vendors and others like me I sometimes join for larger jobs) and have some good guys I can refer jobs to that don't suit me or when I am just too busy.
    I specialize in finish grading and building horse arenas, but do many other jobs as well - one of my favorites is building motocross courses. I work for building contractors, landscapers, and homeowners. 90% of my jobs are within about 15 miles of were I live. When I started out, I took the difficult jobs that others didn't want to do. I felt that they made me a better operator.I still like to tackle the really challenging ones, it makes things more interesting and adds a lot of satisfaction when done.
    The bottom line is that I like playing in the dirt and being creative about it.
    My method may not be right for some people, but it works great for me. Everyone just had to find out what works for them and then put everything into it. There are a lot of different ways to make it in this business, and you never quit learning.
  5. YellowDogSVC

    YellowDogSVC LawnSite Gold Member
    from TX
    Messages: 3,787

    I tried cloning but ended up with 2 100lb. teenage girls and a 4 year old girl. Guess I didn't clone right.
  6. YellowDogSVC

    YellowDogSVC LawnSite Gold Member
    from TX
    Messages: 3,787

    Bob, you sound a lot like me.

    I have 2 Bobcat s300's k series, high flows (one just sold this week), a toolcat, 10yd dump, 2 flatbed trucks, Vermeer chipper with loader, tree shear, grapples, buckets, grader attachment, roller attachment and on and on not included saws, pole saws, ropes, welding machine. If I had only invested that money. LOL. I just don't have enough time to do all of it and work on my own ranch that mother nature keeps damaging. I have stacks of industry related magazines (dirt and trees) piled up, 2 websites to maintain, and just not enough time in the day because I like 8 hours of sleep. I am not complaining but someone else mentioned cloning... :) My wife is great, however. She makes calls in her down time at work and helps me there arranging service calls, calling people for me and returning some inquiries.
    I am lucky, too, that many of my jobs are within 30 mintues of the house. I just wish I had one or two guys who want to learn and are willing to put the hours in to pick up on what I have learned. I already had the learning curve and I am willing to share knowledge but at the same time, I am afraid someone would take that knowledge and try and go it alone. I can't tell you how much of a learning curve there is for all the different machines I have (and have become proficient at) but it's a long one as I'm sure you know.
    I've been thinking more and more about comfort. If I can stay as comfortable as possible in a machine, then I can keep doing this but I want to raise my revenues and that would mean bringing in some help. This line of work can bring me anywhere from $700-1500 day for clearing and chipping respectively and if I could combine those numbers I could pay the right person well and still have increased revenue...but not as much control (at least that's what I fear).
  7. YellowDogSVC

    YellowDogSVC LawnSite Gold Member
    from TX
    Messages: 3,787

    would love to see pics of the motocross trails.
  8. patpls

    patpls LawnSite Member
    from Mn
    Messages: 80

    Hey Bob, are you still running vts on your skid? Would you say they are helping you get things done quicker and easier than other tracks or wheels? Do you feel less beat up after a days work?
  9. RockSet N' Grade

    RockSet N' Grade LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,454

    I have one full time compadre. We mesh extremely well and have worked together for 3 plus years. We don't say much to each other during the day....don't need to.....we have learned to think alike from process to product. I feel most fortunate. I also have a part timer who runs equipment C+ to B-, but he brings his 10 wheeler so we have access to that. If he gets a call to do trucking, our deal is he takes off and does trucking. On the positive side, he is an ace mechanic and has been doing all my mechanic work at his hourly laborer rate. On larger jobs, I try to team up with other outfits and that has been satisfactory. I really enjoy getting out there and doing the work myself - especially the creative or difficult jobs. I have no ambition or aspirations of getting large, I like it just the way it sits. My take or general thinking from past experiences is that you can make it being a small business or by becoming a large business, but the risk is greatest in being a medium sized business. I ran a Painting Business and then at a different time, ran a Framing Company and had about 20-25 full timers on each of those separate ventures. My job description changed into management and I just don't like that. I then transitioned into real estate development and had a 10 plus full time crew.........all I did in the beginning of that, is trade money. When I got rid of all my employee's and developed a circle of good sub's the money poured in. So, I have been on both sides , and prefer at this point in my life to keep a small, well organized, high quality service. I enjoy, on the whole, the lifestyle and the work and if I had a choice to do something different..I would still choose exactly where I am and what I am doing. Lots of benefits to being a small operator........
  10. Bob Horrell

    Bob Horrell LawnSite Member
    Messages: 27

    YellowDogSCV, I don't have any current pics of motocross tracks I have built. I'll see if I can find any old ones. I raced for many years, am too old to race now, so I just build em. Still love the sport, though.
    patpls, I still have the VTS sytem and still love it. I just keep it on my S250 and use it when I need the special things it does best. I have my skiploader for the other things that might be hard on the tracks or they aren't especially suited for. They really work well for building the motocross tracks - can move a lot of dirt in a hurry and allow easy work on the steep jump slopes. I pretty much use the machine like a small dozer, except it can also carry dirt, not just push it. With a 4/in/one bucket it becomes a very versatile machine. Overall the VTS has performed flawlessly with absolutely no problems so far.

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