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If you were in my situation

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by precisionlawnandlandscape, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. precisionlawnandlandscape

    precisionlawnandlandscape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    O.k. so here it is. I currently have a very good job. Good pay, good benefits great owner and co-workers. I am a designer/cnc programmer and i am the manager of the prototype department where i work. I work for one of the large Nascar cup teams (rather not say which one for now). I have good hours and a good work enviroment. Stress is the only negative and the state of the Nascar industry the last couple of years has been bad also. I had a part time LCO about 10 years ago (when i was working for a different Nascar team). I decided to sell the company when i moved to the team i currently am with.

    I have been thinking real hard the last 2 or 3 years about starting a business on the side for now with the intent of going full time eventually. I am trying to decide between a Lawn business or a machine shop. First about the lawn business. I live in a pretty low income area of Southwest V.A. to begin with. Not alot of places to work around here. I have a couple of larger cities within an hour of me but not sure how viable it would be with the travel (i do travel an hour and 15 minutes one way to work now however). There would not be many of the high dollar landscape projects around here. Maybe one or two here and there. There are alot of retired people from up north that have been moving here in the last 5 or 6 years or so and i think that is only going to increase. I am good friends with 2 of our county board members and they both say tourism and people moving here from outside the area are going to be the future of our area. My dad currently owns 4 businesses and he has said forever that there is no money in our area (although he does seem to do pretty good himself). I do have a wife and 3 kids that i have to support as well. My wife is a nurse and works full time so insurance is not a determining factor for me.

    As far as the machine shop goes i would prefer to come up with my own products and market them through magazines and the internet. I know i would have to take some job shop work to start with though. I have made alot of contacts through racing over the last 15 years though and this would come in handy with this endeavor. I could even get some work making parts for our race teams if i want to. The biggest thing with the machine shop is the start up costs. Were talking about $100,000 min. up to about $200,000 just to get started. People complain on here about the "low baller" only charging $30 an hour when he only has $10,000 of investment. Try competing against $40 an hour shop rates when you have a $100,000 investment. And you have to hire a highly skilled machinist at about $15-$20 an hour to charge $40 an hour. This is why you need to come up with your own products where you can charge a premium for the product and work to perfect the process to make a better hourly shop rate on the equipment. I would just like to here from some of you guys about what you think. If you have anymore questions feel free to ask away. Thanks for taking the time to read this long post.
  2. fl-landscapes

    fl-landscapes LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,542

    sure you want to leave that??????????
  3. mowerbrad

    mowerbrad LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,268

    I'm sure you know from your previous experience in the green industry, that there is plenty of stress involved. No matter what you do, you are going to have stress at some point. Owning your own business is tremendously stressful, especially if you decide to go full-time with it. As the owner you are going to have to be mindful of your equipment maintenance, bills to be paid, invoices to be sent out, collecting money, doing all your accounts, handling complaints, giving estimates, break-downs, etc...there is so much involved and so much stress to be had, that if stress is your concer...it'd not come back into the industry.

    Personally, from your post I get the feeling that you have a pretty good job and seem to be fairly happy with it. The decision to leave your current job and pursue a fulltime career in lawn care needs to be made solely by you. I don't want to tell you something only for you to make a mistake.

    I can't advise you at all on the machine shop, so you will need to weigh out the benefits of your options.

    I personally just couldn't leave a job that I enjoyed and that paid well with great benefits.
  4. SouthSide Cutter

    SouthSide Cutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,331

    I might start buying equipment for one or the other and just stay working. Until I had most of it paid for. Then would have to think long and hard before quitting a good job. I worked in power plants all my life. Retired at age 48 from one when we got bought by a company that didn't have supervision. Got a retirement was already mowing 30 some yards with my dad. Then took a second job with another power company and retired from them at age 55. So my deal is a lot different than most. I have income and ins from retirement. And I always tell people you have to have ins to retire because it takes a lot of money to buy it. I really hate to tell you one way or the other, and the old saying the grass is greener on the other side is until you get over there.
  5. precisionlawnandlandscape

    precisionlawnandlandscape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Thanks to the guys that have responded so far.

    As far as the stress goes, i'm definately not expecting a lower amount of stress in the green industry, just a different kind. Yes you are correct that owning a business has a tremendous amount of stress. Believe me i know first hand. Like i said earlier my dad owns 4 different ones. My dad has never worked for anyone but himself since graduating high school so i grew up around all of it my entire life. Alot of people don't realize that professonal racing is just like any other professional sport. When things aren't going good people get let go just to tell the sponsors that changes have been made for the future. I have seen ALOT of GREAT people fired just because they could. There is NO job security at all. If you loose a few customers to a lowballer you search for new ones. Imagine if you lost ALL of your customers in one day, that's what working for someone else and loosing your job is equal to. I have been very fortunate to keep my job with the same team for almost 11 years but always keep it in the back of my mind it could all be gone tomorrow. I definately would not just up and quit and jump into the LCO business. I would start small and have everything paid for before even thinking of quitting where i'm at now. This is a long term thought plan not just a spur of the moment thing. This is why i'm looking at opening my own machine shop as well. This could be done slowly and at my own pace.

    I worry about trying to get good people with the LCO deal, just from the fact of trying to find people that want to work outside. I know there are lots of people that say "I love what i do, and wouldn't think of doing anything else" but the reality is that alot of those people would jump at the chance to work in a climate controlled enviroment and make good money. If you want to spend time outside you can do it hunting, fishing and camping on the weekends instead of having to get those last 4 yards mowed before the rain sets in. I just think it might be easier to find good people to work if it's an indoor job. I did love the LCO business when i was in it before but i had another full time job paying most of the bills. The winter time would be tough and i wouldn't want to sacrifice my time with the family during the summer to mow 14 hours a day 6 days a week so i can get by during the winter. I wouldn't want to be a solo operation either. To be honest if you are solo your limiting your potential alot. There are only so many hours in a day that can be billed. In my opinion a real business (one that has potential to be sold upon retirement) has to have employees to show the numbers that are going to attract any type of potential buyers willing to pay any real money. Other wise your just selling some worn out equipment at market price and a few clients who may or may not even stay with the new owner(s). I have come across alot of people that the reason they own there own business (any type of business) is not because of the challenge of it or the passion for what they are doing, it's simply because they can't work for anyone else and/or they simply can't hold a job. Unfortunately one of the easier businesses they look at getting into is lawncare. This makes it more difficult for the ones that want to run there business as a legit operation and make real money. If you got fired from an $8 an hour factory job than mowing yards for $20 a cut (even if it takes an hour) doesn't sound too bad. There are alot of people out there that have made very good businesses out of lawncare but it would take a very good market i believe. Not sure if mine is that good or not.
  6. precisionlawnandlandscape

    precisionlawnandlandscape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    We'll so far since the last race of the year (Homestead) 2 weeks ago there have been 75 people let go from Richard Petty Motorsports (cutting from 4 teams to 2),
    60 people at Roush racing and 50 people at Penske racing. The racing industry looks worse everyday.
  7. GrayM

    GrayM LawnSite Member
    Messages: 84

    precisionlawnandlandscape, sorry I'm not trying to hijack your thread. I tried to send you a PM but I guess you don't have enough posts or something. What kind of equipment are you looking to buy for 100-200K? I looked into starting a machine shop, so I know the stuff ain't cheap, but dang. If I remember right it seems like you can pick up a used CNC mill and lathe for about $10,000 a piece plus tooling. Are you looking to buy all new or something?

    EDIT-ok, just looked. Apparently I was a little off on my pricing. Still curious what type of stuff you're looking at getting.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2010
  8. precisionlawnandlandscape

    precisionlawnandlandscape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Thanks for the response Gray. I would love to get Okuma machines (they are on the higher end of the scale) but know that i would have to settle for Haas, Daewoo or something along those lines starting out. I have used Okuma's for the last 10 years and they are the best by far. Here is a quick breakdown of start-up costs.

    Used Mill (5-8 years old or so) Haas VF2 or VF3, $30,000
    wired w/4th axis interface and a 4th axis rotary add approx $8,000

    Used Lathe (5-8 years old or so) Haas SL-20 w/live tooling $30,000

    Building (here's the big expense) wired for 3 phase power, which requires the perfect location or will cost a fortune to get run to your location. Could use phase converters to start. Concrete floors have to be thick enough to support the machines without settling and getting out of level (have seen this problem before). $30,000 min.

    Used saw $1,500

    Lathe tooling (holders, boring bars, turning tools, drills, inserts, bar puller, collets etc,) $5,000 min.
    Live tools for Lathe (used) $2,000 each

    Mill tooling (holders, collets, endmills, drills etc.) $5,000 min.

    Chick cnc vise w/a couple sets of soft jaws $1,500

    Chick sub-plate for mill (optional) $2,000

    Misc. (inspection equip, shop supplies, material racks, storage cabinets etc.) $3,000 min.

    1 seat of Cad/Cam software (Pro-e, mastercam, solid works etc.) $15,000

    Total (to get by cheap) $121,000, $139,000 w/sub-plate, rotary and 4 live tools
  9. GrayM

    GrayM LawnSite Member
    Messages: 84

    Awesome. Thanks for the list! I was thinking of job shopping mainly. Setting up a shop for one off prototyping and maybe limited production runs. But like you said I didn't want to invest 10's, of K's of $s and only be able to charge $40 an hour. That's just ridiculous. I'm starting up this spring. I'm investing about $10k, and I'll charge $50 an hour. When it comes time to expand and add on help It'll come a lot cheaper and easier than an experienced machinist too. Parts of manufacturing still appeal to me, but I think I'm gonna keep it a hobby.

    You know I've made it big when you walk into my home shop and see a bridgeport, 16x40 manual lathe, haas mini mill, and haas SL-10 lathe. All for personal use of course :drinkup: That would be some hobby shop!

    Goodluck with whatever you do!
  10. precisionlawnandlandscape

    precisionlawnandlandscape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Gray do you currently work in a manufacturing job? If so where do you work if you don't mind me asking? Do you do lawn care on the side or full time? How far do you guys think is to far to service accounts? I know you want to keep them as close as you possibly can, however if you had a full days worth of work lined up how far would you go. I don't have a good market where i live at (example 19,000 people in the entire county, no high paying places to work and 14% unemployment in the county). A new study just came out last week that said our county ranks LAST in the entire state of V.A. as far as average weekly pay. The average is around $450 a week. If i travel in any direction about 45min to an hour there are some bigger cities with housing developments etc. Is this too far even with an entire days worth of work?

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