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"I wish I would have stayed small ......."

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by cochino12, Dec 18, 2006.

  1. cochino12

    cochino12 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 319

    So I've spoken to several owners that got big here in the Denver (roughly 10+ crews) that say they would have stayed "small" (2-3 crews) as well as staying almost all maintenance and not focus on installs. Anybody else feel this way? Seems like there is more money in installs of all types. I realize this has been covered before but I am also curious if this attitude is a nation wide thing? Maybe the attitude here is worse because the season is so short? Is it a too big too fast thing?

    I got into this business because I was tired of the corporate world B.S. and love the idea that nobody but myself can dictate how much money as well as who I work for. I really enjoy what I do right now and would hate for this to become a "job", hopefully that make sense. Anyway just wanted some feedback from some of you guys. Sorry that was long winded and rambled a bit.

  2. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,497

    After you get to so many crews (usually beyond the 3-4 crew range), the profit margin of each crew goes down. From there it is all a numbers game of just doing quantities and making a little off each one. as far as doing the installs instead...That is because the fact that you can make more with a $15. shovel than what you can with a $10,000 mower...MUCH more. I know this sounds like an exaggeration, but it really isn't.
    Go plant a 24" shrub that retails for $39. You get it for $26. Now, you double the retail for delivery and planting. $26 out, and $78 in. That leaves you a $52 net. You went to get the shrub, but it was 15 minutes work once you got to the site. Now,...how many of these could you do in a day? You go to a place that is wanting to landscape, or re-landscape, that wants 20 of these (or similar) planted. You go one trip, fill your trailer, and you are set for the day Now, mind you, some trees may have an even higher margin, some may have a bit less. Anyway, you get two people digging, and you can do much more than 20 of these, as well. Now, how much fuel have you burned? How much in blades, belts, and wear and tear? How many separate invoicings? This is just a thought, but it holds so true.
  3. JJLandscapes

    JJLandscapes LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 682

    10+ crews is crazy... 2-3 crews is considred a very large company here.. Depends on your area but most here keep wont agree that you can make well into the 6 figures profit just doing maintenance with 1-2 crews doing maintenance. I happen to know a few that do it easily and thats not including installs

    How many houses do those 10 crew companies have im still in shock...

    10 crews here would equal 2500 houses around here 5k lots
  4. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    I like maintenance, simple, consistent, something you can take to the bank. I don't like the pressure of having to sell and produce X amount of volume to "crack the nut" each and every month. Yes you can make more but you can also loose more.

    As far as 10 plus crews that is not out of the ordinary out here but they are not all doing residential maintenance. A typical large diverse company here would have.
    1. 1-2 Masonry/Hardscape crews 2-3 guys each
    2. 1-2 commercial install crews 6-10 guys or more doing everything from irrigation,setting boulders to planting and lighting.
    3. 3-4 residential install crews 3-6 guys each
    4. 4+ commercial maintenance crews 3-6 guys each
    5. 1 residential maintenance crew 3-4 guys
    6. 2 service call guys to repair leaks lighting troubleshooting Etc.
    7. 1small improvement crew to do small improvement work for existing clients 2-3 guys.
    8. Possibly a tree trimming crew
    9. Possibly a spray tech and helper
    10. Companies this size also usually have their own nurseries
    11. I almost forgot the Tree and Native plant salvage crew 8-10 guys

    This site has taught me there is not much standard in this industry from one end of the country to the other.
  5. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,087

    Been what I consider 'big' in the contracting business myself.

    I've had as much as 16 separate crews in the field at one time.
    Lucky for me all of the crews were not my direct company employees.
    I would sub a lot and oversee... just couldn't imagine.

    Anyways, needless to say, it is a hair pulling experience. But when it comes right down to it, it's about being able to remain consistantly profitable, which can be hard.... and rather being at that level is a blessing or a curse all depends on recruiting the right people.... being able to LET GO.... and being able to step aside and play the sole role of being strictly an OWNER.

    When you have to be Owner, Operator, Manager, Project Planner, Businessman, Salesman, Director of Marketing, Accountant, Payroll Clerk, Secretary, Foreman, and Field Laboror.... well then it's a consuming, fast paced, rat race nightmare. It's a consuming list of duties that becomes an overwhelming job and becomes a way of life / lifestyle.

    It's hard to find and keep enough of the right people to fill the field workforce, the foremans for the crews, and all the other management staff to cover all of your inheirent duties.... and actually be able to walk away and let go with minimal effect on the business.

    I was doing it during a time of booming employment, and I was never able to find and keep enough of the right kind of people to do that. Heck it was all I could do to keep the field laboror positions filled, much less the rest.

    I got OUT!!!

    When I returned some years afterwards, I was content to be small.
    Needless to say, I still am, and I have no desire to change.
  6. MarcSmith

    MarcSmith LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,157

    When I worked for TGLC we had 4 area manger, one isntallatoin managerm and one irrigation manager. 15 maintenance crews, 5 irriigation crews, and 2-4 install crews debending on the time of year. It was about a 4-5 million dollar branch.... nothing but commercial work.
  7. LindblomRJ

    LindblomRJ LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,570

    Around here a crew is usually one guy, maybe a helper. A larger crew is 3 people. That is for landscaping jobs.

    Mowing. Just about everyone is a one man show. There are no real large companys.
  8. LawnBrother

    LawnBrother LawnSite Senior Member
    from SW Ohio
    Messages: 867

  9. nobagger

    nobagger LawnSite Gold Member
    from Pa
    Messages: 3,065

    Where I live, and like many other's have said 2-3 crews is a big or at least a bigger company. I love where we're at right now, myself and 3 employee's. The meat of our operation is mowing and several small to decent sized (2-4 day projects) installs. I have been wondering latley if we should have sold our 94 Ford that was basically brand new and kept it for another crew but after going back to remembering what a guy I know said (he owns a huge outfit where they go out of town to do landscapes) "don't ever get this big, its not worth it and if I could go back I would in a second". I'm kinda a control freak when it comes to lawn care and landscaping and my biggest fear would be loosing some control over my operation due to the fact that I cant be everywhere at once to over-see everything.
  10. AintNoFun

    AintNoFun LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,807

    Last year I had four maintenance crews with 3 to 4 guys on each crew, as well as an planting/seeding crew. That was probably one of my worst years in business. This year i downsized to just 2 maintenance crews and next year i'll be going down to one. Between going through labor, watching brand new equipment ruined, etc. Sure we grossed a lot of money and I had a decent pay check but I profited more money with less crews in the past.

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