How to fail in the lawn business by someone who did it.

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by PROCUT1, Feb 18, 2009.

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  1. DoetschOutdoor

    DoetschOutdoor LawnSite Bronze Member
    from S. IL
    Messages: 1,818

    From just the lil information you posted, it sounds like your biz. is where I want mine to go. I know several lawn guys that are making very very good money doing about 100-125 resi/commercial mix with a very tight route. The owner/operator and one helper can clean up with that number of yards on a very tight route.
  2. I just get tired of everyone always crying on this site about lowballers, equipment cost to much, the 10 year old stole half my accounts, I can't make any money because my cost are too high, the economy is too bad, everyone with a mower can cut grass, half my competiters don't have a license or insurrance, the mexicans work for $5 dollars a yard, my workers stole my equipment or accounts, and the list gos on and on. Maybe the problem is, that people focus on why they cant succeed and don't seek solutions to make their business profitable. Let me add that ProCut is right about everything he said, I'm not trying to argue that hes not. But look at companys like etwman's EarthTurf&Wood. He is an inspiration to everyone that looks at his thread. He has found a way to be the best at what he does and make money. A few points that people need to know, if they don't allready know are: You don't need a $45,000 truck to pull a lawnmower. Yes Big 4500 diesel trucks have a place, but not just to pull lawnmowers around. I see it all the time. You can buy a good used truck for a fraction of the price of a new one. Buy a shop instead of renting one. Then you don't need to throw away money every month, but you actually have an asset to your name. Use Credit wisely, If your outgo excedes your income, then your upkeep will be your downfall. You can buy a good new ztr for a lot less than $10,000. Also, if you are new and have 10 lawns you don't need two new ztrs and a 20ft trailer. We have all seen that happen. How many people do we see on here with all brand new equipment for sale because they were stupid with credit and can't afford payments anymore? Also, like a lot of people are saying, it is more profitable to work solo. If you cant do good enough work, that people would rather have the neighbors kid cut the yard for $10 dollars, then maybe you should work on something. Also, people should give the kids a break, because half of us were at one time those kids mowing lawns with a 21" and a crappy weedeater. I could go on all day of the stupid things people do and wonder why they don't make money, but i said enough. I'm sorry if i pissed anyone off, I didn't mean too. I just wanted to get my 2 cents worth in. I know different things work for different people in differnt areas of the country. I don't like people whinning about how hard this business is, when the only real problem is that they don't know anything about business. Like I said, don't get pissed at me for what i said. You can make good money in this business, and if you can't, i'll see you are the drivethrough when i come by Mcdonalds.
  3. meicher806

    meicher806 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 385

    This has to be the best thread on here right now maybe even ever, I was expecting a lot of negitivity but the insite on here is amazing. We need more posts like this.

    I can and will say that i am currently 1 or 2 payments from going under, I can also say that there is work being done to right the problem. My problems were non existant untill I was in a accident, well actually 2. accident #1, In 2007 I was cutting a log at our shop, the saw jumped out of the log and into my foot. I was young dumb and cocky. I was doing everything right except for waring my safty gear. So that day I did everything wrong. This was the first time I had been injured on the job and could not work for about a month. Common sence should have kicked in and I should have gotten some sort of disability insurance to cover my butt if something happened again. But again i was young dumb and stupid, Thought that nothing like that would happen again I have learned to use my gear and be safe. So in the fall of 2008 I was involved in another accident, Im still not sure how it happened exactly I have some ideas of what went wrong, but im not 100% on it. Anyways I got my hand stuck in a log splitter between the log and the pusher. It squezzed off my pinki,ring,and middle finger at the first knuckle, my pointer finger at the second joint, and the tip of my thumb. To add insult to injury after I got my hand out of the splitter, I tripped over a garden hose and sprinkler that I had set where it didnt belong when I went over to the splitter to give some guidence to a new hire. 100% my fault I should have never set it there. Tore my right ACL and fractured my knee. When the first accident happened I was making enough money that it didnt really change much, I was only off my foot for about a month. With this second accident, that is a whole new story, I have learned a ton about everything I was doing wrong, and the few things I was doing right. For the summer of 2009 I was $1300 a month short to making all my bills. So far this winter Im about 500 a month short on covering my bills. After my second accident I had a choice to make, to sit on my butt and feel sorry for my self or get back out there and give it all, I choose the latter, Now understand that i am sitting here typing with 2 fingers on my left hand, I had to get rid of most of my equiptment to get equiptment that I could run, Some has been modified due to the fact that I cant handle the vibration comming through the equiptment.. This winter I had to let my helper go as I just can not afford him right now. I still have more equiptment that needs to be modified or replaced so that i can use them with out assistance. Last year I had 1 yes ONE day of mowing a week. Last spring I replaced 2 peices of equiptment with new equiptment A new loader with piolet controles and a new ZTR as I could no longer use my surfer. But I had some money in the bank, which is now all gone, Thankfully Summer is almost hear and this year Im up to 3 days of mowing already. So things are looking up, I do Have my father to thank for helping me get through this, with out him I would have gone under. It has been a real eye opener. I have a whole new look at things now. Example, the shop im renting is 2000 a month, it is up for sale right now, I was going to try to buy it, dad was going to make 1/2 the payments I would have made the other 1/2. our monthly payment would have been over 4000 a month. We are now set to close on a 10 acre forclosure and I will be able to have it payed off in 5 to 10 years. the old me would have gone after the 50 acre farm im on now and suffered every day for 30 years till it was paid off or worse till it was lost.

    Get some sort of insurance policy incase of the accident that will never happen to you.

    Sammy, you are right they should buy dodge :laugh: but seriously, I run a 2005 ram 3500 crew cab I like having the ability to tow what ever I may need too. I didnt buy a fully loaded one, and i bought it used. If my 97 chevy wouldnt have blowen up I would still be driving that truck. I can see why some guys want the 3500 with the diesel. most of the time during the summer I run my 92 chevy 1/2 ton because its paid for. I want my warranty to last as long as possable on my dodge. I just turned 60K on my dodge, im over 400K on my 92 chevy.
  4. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    Great reality checks and insight in the posts I'm following. Almost a spiritual awakening or cleansing for some. It's a good thing.

    Spoke with a friendly irrigation competitor yesterday and found out he and his partner bro-in-law are splitting. Large irrigation company for our area. The bro in law was cheating on the other owners sis to whom he was married. The offended bro in law decided he couldn't work there and wants out. So the bad boy now has to pay his wife AND his bro in law for what amounts to 3/4 of a large biz.

    The leaving partner tells me wants to look at other biz opportunties non green industry. The 2 have been going balls to the wall for the upper teens of years. When I suggested an ice cream stand he didn't laugh. He wants a biz where people want to come to him, there are no estimates, call backs, warranties, compalints about prices or policies, credit cards, receivables or other negative garbage we go through.

    So burn out and disablities are a reality as are other things beyond our control. It is imperitive that we structure our business so we run it, not it running us. Safety valves at work for contingencies, rest, relaxation, family and friends are important.

    A 2 or 3 man operation can help along with a sensible schedule. Working 10-11 hr days 4 days a week with prices a bit higher for your work can help with a mowing schedule. You have a safety day or 2 in the week, plus 1 or 2 helpers if some one is hurt, sick, needs time off. Or the extra days can be used for timely seasonal activities like mulch, flowers, shrub and bed maintenance, aeration, seed, lawn apps etc. Or you can take the kids and or the Mrs away for a weekend, or the mrs oput to lunch, movie or a nooner.

    Get an attitude and get a life back with safety and security.
  5. ALC-GregH

    ALC-GregH LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Messages: 7,051

    yeah if you want to work yourself to death. That's pretty much none stop mowing. Of course it's dependent on the size of the properties. Better hope the weather cooperates or you'll be really scrambling. But yeah, the money would be very good.
  6. DoetschOutdoor

    DoetschOutdoor LawnSite Bronze Member
    from S. IL
    Messages: 1,818

    Im only doing about 40-45 accounts and when it rains for 2 days, my blood pressure goes out the roof! When its raining I go talk to the guys with these larger businesses and they are calm and cool, knowing there really aint much ya can do about it except be ready to work when rain stops or slows. Im going to try and take the calm and collected approach this year.
    These guys with 100-125yards and owner and one helper, they work hard about 745 to 530 every weekday but whats hard work when you got 4 months to recover and push a little snow...
  7. lawnkingforever

    lawnkingforever LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,280

    Quick story. Went to look at a used mower off of Craigs List last month. I walked in the guys garage and there was enough equipment to outfit 2 or 3 crews. He had a newer Toro ZT, 2 WBs, 4 pushmowers and an assortment of handhelds. I knew he was an LCO and was thinking how many accounts this cat has. It turns out he has been in business about 2 years and has just 20 accounts. He said his now ex-partner bought most of this stuff, with the hope of landing some commercial work. Needless to say, that plan did not work and this guy is trying to sell off most of this stuff and do lawns part-time now.
  8. LwnmwrMan22

    LwnmwrMan22 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,373

    Here is the thread from August 2008 when I broke my foot....

    It's now March of 2010 and I am still feeling the effects of hiring two VERY VERY good employees.

    I crunched all of the numbers, and figured I could pay the guys each $17 / hour. Again, these were two top notch ANYONE would want to have working for them. One was 18 and just out of highschool, the other was laid off 1 week before I broke my foot.

    What I didn't really plan on was all of the issues. "Where'd the trimmer go?" "How did that 12" x 6" dent get in the tailgate?" "How did you bend the rear bumper pulling the trailer?" "What do you mean the truck is on its side?"

    It got to the point where I could no longer have employees working for me. They knew that money was going to be tight as wages were not in the business plan at that time, but after I broke my foot, I realized how nice it was to come home at 4-5 pm instead of 9-10 pm every night. Start at 8 am instead of rolling out of bed at 4:30 am.

    They knew I was paying them a VERY good wage for just cutting grass, because they were good guys and I wanted them to be able to live on the wage I was paying them. I even took out a $35k loan to pay wages for the 2008-2009 winter for them to help me triple my firewood sales.

    The bottom fell out of the firewood. Firewood in this area had been going for $350 - 400 a full cord, now it was down to $175. We started getting an influx of guys plowing for $40-45 / hour, 1/4 hour minimums.

    If I wouldn't have had to incur all of the "dumb" expenses, I could have struggled and gotten by. Even with those expenses, I kept the guys on for about 2-3 months longer than I should have.

    I got behind with payments and now I'm playing catchup. I'm not using any more credit either, so not only am I playing catchup, but all repairs, fuel, salt (winter work) I'm paying cash for.

    One other thing, when you start living check to check like I am, you can't have customers slow pay you out of nowhere, which is what's happening.

    Customers that I've had for 10+ years are now going 45-60 days on work that's already been done and invoiced. I have a good friend that's got about $10k outstanding yet from work done last summer.

    I'm slowly trying to get debt free. Next month I'll have both a mower and trailer paid off ($800 in payments gone) and then about every 4 months for the next 4 years I'll lose another $400 / month payment on average.

    It's a complete struggle right now.
  9. prn068

    prn068 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 20

    WOW, my story word for word, kind of touching actualy oyu dont realize it til your there...Thanks
  10. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    Don't let people get in to you. Your vendors cut you off, you cut off service when clients don't pay. We have become very diligent and have no problems. Statements go out every month. "Courtesy" phone calls are made weekly if we haven't received payment in 21 days from the day of the invoice.
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