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Is it time for a crew without me?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Apr 2, 2004.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,116

    Need advice. I hired a guy full time second week of March. When I hired him, I really planned on him having nothing to do for 20+ hours per week. My plan was to hang door hangers when we had no work and hopefully, by the end of the summer, we'd have a full schedule.

    Well, we have been going almost non-stop since I hired him. We've done a ton of non-recurring clean-ups. The schedule isn't full, but it's coming along. It's probably about half full.

    Here's the business decision: Should I hire another guy, a driver, and buy another truck? I would then spend my time supervising, concentrating more on interfacing with customers (upselling), hanging door hangers, cold calling commercial accounts and doing only the white collar aspects of the business. My business is finally to the point where I could do this and forecast break even cash flows.

    My employee has been on the clock an average of 46 hours per week for four weeks. I've been right there with him every step of the way, as we're a two man crew. But I'm also doing estimates (which takes a huge amoung of time), entering daily work in Quickbooks, entering daily expenses in Quickbooks, sending out new customer welcome letters, reconciling checking accounts...all the white collar aspects of the business...in my "spare" time. I've probably been working 60+ hours per week the last four weeks. Can't keep doing this til Thanksgiving. I've had zero time for life for the last month.

    So, now that I can forecast break even to positive cash flow for the remainder of the season, and get myself out of the sun, is it time for a second employee, a second truck, a second commercial auto policy and second mini-storage bill? If I do this, and the business doesn't continue to grow, I would have basically break even cash flows. I'm fairly certain that if I make the move from working in the business to working on the business, I could continue to grow. But I'm also scared that growth over the remainder of the season is going to be a lot tougher, too, now that 'spring fever' is getting ready to come to an end and most folks have their lawn company lined up for the season by now.

    If it were as simple as hiring a second guy for $11 per hour and doing this, I'd do it in a heart beat. But the extra capital for the truck is substantial, along with the extra commercial auto policy and the storage bill.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  2. tedk

    tedk LawnSite Member
    Messages: 100

    not to mention the additional IWIF bill.
  3. mbricker

    mbricker LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 505

    If you do this, the primary requirement is a crew leader you can trust to act and direct as you would. I wouldn't even consider putting someone in that position until I had seen how he works in a crew under my direction for at least a couple of months, then as acting crew leader with my oversight for another month at least. And I would never tell a new man I'm considering him for a promotion like that. But if a man who is putting in an application ASKS about advancement opportunity, that's a real good sign of potential. Overall, my feeling is, don't rush things.

    Keeping in mind of course that I'm not really one to talk here, since I got fed up with lazy dope smokin bozos, and now take only the work I can handle on my own.
  4. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    YES! You should!

    About 5 or 6 years ago I was in your exact same position and thinking the exact same thing. I took the plunge and never looked back. We've grown 30-40% per year ever since that year because I was able to free myself up and focus on growing the business. Last year we did over a half mill. $ in sales and I personally made more than I ever have in one year - all because of that decision I made 5 or 6 years ago. It was one of the best financial decisions I ever made. Not just for me, either. Because of that decision, and the business I've built, I've now created 9 FT jobs that are a major source of income for 9 families.
  5. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,116

    Jim. Thanks for the feed back. I always respect your advice.

    I'll continue to think it over while I'm in San Antonio for the Final Four this weekend.

    GO POKES!!!!

    DFW Area Landscaper
  6. scannon

    scannon LawnSite Member
    Messages: 23

    sting 'em jackets
  7. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,116


    I keep telling myself that I'll wait until I'm caught up and then I'll see how badly I need to hire a second employee and buy another truck. I keep thinking that eventually, my employee and I will be sitting around with no work for half the week, hanging door hangers.

    Here's my problem: Last year, the vast majority of my business came from mowing and weed/fert apps. If I forecast revenues based strictly on those numbers, a second employee is a break even gig and I make no meaningful profit, if any at all.

    I've been swamped for over a month solid. And I keep selling one time things, like tree pruning and bed clean ups, to existing customers. Right now, I'm pretty well booked solid for the next two weeks with regular maintenance and one time stuff. And I absolutely dread the thought of doing another estimate. When my phone rings, I'm actually hoping in the back of my mind that its not somebody wanting me to do an estimate. I just don't want to mess with them right now because I'm so busy.

    And that's the whole problem. That's what I, as the manager of the business, should be focused on...Getting more business.

    If I hire another guy, I think that would free me up to get more door hangers out. So far, my employee and I have only done door hangers for maybe a total of 7 hours this season. I actually ordered 20,000 full color glossy door hangers right before the season started and I figured I'd be out by now. But I've still got way over 19,000 left in inventory.

    Another thing that bothers me about getting bigger: As it is now, if it rains, I have enough work around my house that I don't have send my only employee home and ask him to check back with me at noon. I just have him paint or run the vaccuum or whatever. But I don't have enough household work for two employees. I hate the thought of telling employees to not plan anything for the entire day because I might want them to work, but if I can't work them, they get no pay. How do you handle rainy mornings?

    DFW Area Landscaper
  8. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    First of all, I think you'll find that once you're freed up to do more marketing, estimates, flyers, etc. you'll have plenty of business to pay for those to and yourself. You can totally determine how busy you are in this business, if you are freed up to do so. You can easily get enough business to keep them busy and still make a profit for yourself.

    Second, you should consider raising your prices. Not a lot. No need to be greedy. But with more demand (and you are obviously in more demand now, and would be in even MORE demand if you'd free yourself up to go build your company) should come higher prices. So your profitability, per account, per clean-up, per install, etc. should go UP! Because of the demand. Create LOTS of calls, bid them all a little higher, maybe land a little smaller percentage of them. But the ones you do land will be even more profitable.

    Third, your concern about keeping guys busy shouldn't be a concern. You get caught up in the same dang thing I did the first few years. You feel so obligated to your employees that you want to do anything to keep them busy - even if it's not productive and making you a profit. That isn't right. You shouldn't be paying people to do stuff just to "keep them busy" or to keep them at at least 40 hours. That's rediculous. And that kind of thinking will mess up your profitabilty and lower your own income. Trust me, I've been there. You have to concern yourself with you and your family first. Don't get in the habbit of paying people to do stuff that you wouldn't have paid them to do otherwise (that is, if it hadn't have rained).

    What do I do when it rains? You're kidding, right? This is Oregon. We BREATHE rain. We mow in the rain. We edge in the rain. We eat lunch outside in the rain. Rain is just part of our lifestyle. I know it's different where you are. Different soil. Different turf. Can't mow in the rain. I guess if that were me, I'd just send them home and quit feeling guilty about it. I don't think they care nearly as much as you think they do. They want money, of course. But they also don't like working in the rain and probably welcome a half-day here and there. That's the industry. They should get used to it.

    Finally, that huge growth curve can continue on and on if you plan it right. You are worried that your calls will eventually die and you won't be able to have enough business for both workers. I worried about that too. But my experience was just the opposite. When I freed myself up, I had made enough time for me to keep them both busy PLUS more work for myself or overtime for them. We've seen 30-40% grown every year since I started my business - largely because of my decision to step up and build a business rather than keep mowing.

    Best of luck. I think you'd enjoy it if you took the plunge. Good thing is that it's reversable if you decide later it isn't working. You can always let one guy go and go back to work if you want to. So there's really no downside to giving it a shot. That's what I figured when I did it.

    And if it REALLY goes well, you and I will be sitting on a tropical beach one day sippin' Pina Colodas talkin' about our guys sweatin and pushing mowers back home (Like John Gamba).
  9. wriken

    wriken LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,154

    I totally agree, I was getting burnt out, mowing all day, then all nite doing billing/estimates. Make sur its somebody you can trust,think like you, I lucked out and got a great one.
  10. Gene $immons

    Gene $immons LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,028

    This is a good thread.

    It took me 6 years to get out of my "comfort zone" and send the crew out without me. I worried about every little thing, but guess what? The crew went and did their job each day, and everything has worked out. They probably like it better that the boss man isn't around all the time anyway.

    Last year I presonally did less than 10 days of mowing. Being on the mow crew all of the time allows for little flexibility.

    Go for it man!

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