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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm listing all of the reasons why Lawn mowing may not be the most lucrative business for some people.

1. Your equipment. (It costs more than most service industry's)
a. Lawn mower can easily cost you 6k.
b. Truck 25k+

2. NO BENEFITS (we all know how expensive this is)

3. Gas prices ( your telling me $45.00 a lawn is enough to cover your expenses? yeah right).

4. Our business is hard work! get paid for what you deserve.

5. Employee turn over rate.. lets face it most people don't want to be in this business if you don't have to.

6. Customers are not easy to get and keep.
 

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Yep...but its the easiest business to get into...requires minimal skill....no education....and the competition is anyone who can push a mower....

The more skill or education a job takes the better the compensation.
 

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Lawn care folks have always got the poopoo end of the stick when it comes to service industry. Mainly because some young highschooler living with Mom and Dad, with no overhead, no family to feed, no intentions of having insurance or paying taxes, and no bills can make money at twenty bucks an hour with their Murray push mower. They dictate the industry.
 

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I like this industry/business. I hear your thoughts a lot from people I meet, so I'm going to try to stick up for it. This is just for lawn mowing so bear with me.

You say our equipment is expensive compared to other service industry's. What industy are you refering too? If your talking about plumbers they have a lot of tools and gizmos. Im sure a really good plumber would have just as much invested in equipment as us. Some of them also have to work up to being a Master Plumber and that can take like 5 plus years depending on the area before they can even have their own business. This does vary on areas but still. If your talking about house cleaning, than ya maybe they have us beat.

1. Your 6k lawn mower can be sold for at least 2k after three years. Maybe more maybe alittle less. I think thats pretty good. What truck did you buy for 25k? Your towing a 6k lawn mower and need a 25k truck? I think not. Dont get the leather seats, you dont need 4x4 for just lawn mowing, you dont need a 3/4 ton. A half ton is plenty if your only towing one or two mowers. I paid about 17k for a brand new 1/2 ton. Its worth like 8k now and still is the same thing the day I bought it. I would buy used next time.

. I think if you work on sales and work in decent areas you can get paid decent for your work. This requires that you have teeth, wear a polo when you first meet a customer, and have decent people skills. That alone can get you an extra $5-$10 a cut.

Gas prices-Get a tight route. Find a way to do it. Charge accordingly. Everyone is being hit by this. Every industry is affected by this.

Being self-employed has benefits. Your business pays your cell phone, your truck, your gas, your 3 bedroom in your house is tax deductible, your internet is deductible, you get discounted lawn care, your eligible for a a lot of different retirement plans such as SEPS and IRAs. You can also set your business up to treat you like an employee and give yourself all the benefits you want.

Employees I don't know much about. You can pay most $8 an hour. I guess if you can train them fast and well your made.

As far as customers-If you have flyer's, do what you say you will do, and don't burn bridges and decent at sales you can do pretty good. And what other industry doesn't share the same problem with customers?
 

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if these kids dictate the industry then you have a personal problem i think. i have NEVER lost an account to these kids. i have good customers that want a nicely cut, professionally maintained lawn. heck, if these kids that you speak of get one of my lawns it's b/c i give it to them.
 

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About the highschool kids mowing lawns- I mowed in highschool. I was pretty hardcore compared to anyone else that mowed lawns. I mowed maybe 20-30 lawns at the time. Maybe out of the 1200 guys that went there 3 other guys might of mowed more than 5 lawns a week.
 

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if these kids dictate the industry then you have a personal problem i think. i have NEVER lost an account to these kids. i have good customers that want a nicely cut, professionally maintained lawn. heck, if these kids that you speak of get one of my lawns it's b/c i give it to them.
Exactly!!!!!
 

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The secret to making dollars in this industry is specialize. The guy that just weedeats and blows, and does not mow, makes money. The guy that only does bed maintenance, makes money. the guy that only mows entire streets 25 bucks a lawn at a time, makes money. the guy that only mows gigantic properties with 11 foot wide mowers, makes money. the guy that only does commercail work makes money, the stump grinder guy makes money. the chemical lawn guy makes money. the lighting guy, the sprinkler guy, etc.

the guy who tries to do a little of everything, trims bushes, mows 30-50 lawns here and everywhere, all sizes, is forever needing 6 pieces of mowing equipment, and has 5 different hedge trimmers, etc. he is a generalist.

try to maximize one thing and maximize what you make PER MINUTE. then try to work as many minutes per day by marketing yourself as that type of business.
 

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if these kids dictate the industry then you have a personal problem i think. i have NEVER lost an account to these kids. i have good customers that want a nicely cut, professionally maintained lawn. heck, if these kids that you speak of get one of my lawns it's b/c i give it to them.
I agree with you. There are plenty of "low overhead" operations around here, as there always has been. They serve a purpose. They work for people that would never hire us, and that I would likely never work for.
 

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Hello all. I'm new to this site as a poster but I've been following the great info here for some time. I don't have a lawn business but I'm a commercial photographer working in the service area. I've been mowing 5 acres of my mother's property, dodging 100 trees and flower beds, hitting nearly buried stumps at 5 mph, and doing all this on two older Sears lawn tractors that break down every other time I mow. So I feel like a veteran and have found some useful tips on this forum.

If you think you have it bad with equipment costs then check out photography. Pro digital cameras start at about what a new Scag ZTR costs and that doesn't get you a single lens. A medium format digital back for a 6x4.5 camera can reach $30,000. That's no lens and no camera body. And what about a backup if on a shoot it breaks down? This has become a serious problem for Photogs. Then add the costs of a studio that isn't used that much because many shoots are on location, lights, stands, employees, other artists, props, also a vehicle that can haul something at least 10 ft. long and of course a stack of expensive software that goes with a multiprocessor workstation computer to process the images and which becomes worthless in 3 years along scanners, storage and a laptop for location. Add to that paying a rep., advertising and the fact that the US is losing manufacturing like a sinking ship loses rats.

Now comes the fun part. Doing a great job for a client only guarantees that they may let us bid on the next one day job. So each time we have to be very careful or some other guy will out bid us. And every Joe Blow with a digital camera can bid against us. There is also the problem that a serious photog will be insured but most fly-by-nights will not be and aren't required to. A hair stylist has to be licensed, same for a plumber, electrician but not a photographer. Yet a bad or inexperienced photog can cause some expensive damage. Have one screw-up the photos of your daughter's wedding and see how angry you become.

I try to get $150 and hour if I can -- sometimes more and sometimes less depending on what I'm doing. Now this sounds good but start subtracting the expenses and the fact that jobs don't happen every day -- maybe not every week and -- as I read here on a poll -- you are making $40-$60 an hour AFTER the expenses, I'd say you are doing better with A LOT less headache and stress. I can work through the winter but we have slow times of the year also -- like January or around ANY holiday week or special event. We get rained out too if the shoot is outside and requires nice weather.

To try and put this in perspective let's say that each time you mow you have to show pictures of your previous job, quote against 5 other people, have the client change the schedule of mowing three times, have the yard be twice the size you quoted, or have them cancel and not call back, then have to hire models at over $200 an hour to ride the mowers and a makeup artist to get rid of the bags under their eyes from last night's drunken party, then mow and have to spend an equal amount of time afterward making things look good because they didn't tell you about the 50 piles of Great Dane poo dotting the yard. When you're satisfied you mail a bill and then the owner pays you in 90 - 120 days if they pay at all.

Contracts? In 31 years I've never seen one. And if I would present one I wouldn't get a job.

So at age 60 I may start my own small mowing business because from where I sit it doesn't look so bad.
BC
 

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i can see why you couldnt make money driving a 25k truck and a 6k mower charging 45 a lawn thats why i can make money averaging 30 a lawn i have less than 6k in my whole setup f250, 16ft trailer and 32-48-61 wb ect but i still get under cut somtimes by the neighbor kid i lost a nice one this year it was 2 houses right next to each other and i was doing them for 27each and the kid put out a flyer for 20 i couldnt believe it cause these are not small lawns they were underbid at 27 but thats the way it works
 

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let take a look at other service industries....

tow truck driver. $$$$$$ to get into. dangerous work, talk about customer turnover. and liabilities...

Plumber- expensive truck, expensive schooling/apprenticeship, certifications out the wazoo,

Electrician- same a plumber

roofer- dangerous, need trash trucks/rolloff dumpsters

AC technician- $$$$ education

Benefits can be had with any job- I had subsidized heath care for my employee and vacation and holiday pay.

Every job has it +'s and -'s landscape has a low (125 push mower from wally world) barrier to entry.

its easy to make money in this industry since Americans can be lazy, but its also easy to loose money since Americans can be cheap.

and there are very few companies in which you can buy your equipment and start getting regular work. Ive been a home owner 15 years now, and Ive never had a plumber, electrician, or a roofer over once. I have have one AC guy do a new install. you ant to talk about customer turnover, they do one job and never see you again... Your entire business model in that regard is new clients. were as most lawncare companies customer retention is most important as well as new business to grow. We are in our customers face at their house sending them a bill possible 36 times each year. Its much easier to keep a customer and keep them happy than it is to get a new one...
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Yes, in fact maybe other industries do also have high expenses, but you must realize that those industry's have a lot more stability to them. Yes gas prices hurt every single industry, but with our equipment we use gas for EVERYTHING. Yes maybe 25k is a lot for a truck, but it's brand new 2008 and will last me well into the future.

As for photos... well why buy a 15k, 30k camera if you know that you are not go ing to get your money back? you need to make wise investments and buy a cheaper one. It's all business.
 

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As for photos... well why buy a 15k, 30k camera if you know that you are not go ing to get your money back? you need to make wise investments and buy a cheaper one. It's all business.
Very few professional photogs buy $30K digital backs, even the upper crust professionals. They just rent the backs for the jobs that need them and pass on the expense.
 

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I was glad to see this thread because I just had this conversation earlier today with another LCO at the parts dealer. I do know that equipment is expensive no matter what industry you are in. However, I can really only speak for my industry because it is what I know about. I see the numbers and they are not pretty.
Maybe we need to specialize like David said. The only problem with that is many customers like a company that can do it all, instead of having a different guy for mowing, irrigation, and chemicals, etc. True, you can save on equipment by specializing. And you could just use a 21" and save a ton of money, but you would make less money each day because you would not be able to get near the amount of work completed. So its a trade off.
And the kid down the street with a push mower does not concern me in the least. But, those kids are still a factor that keep prices lower in my opinion. Like already mentioned, mowing takes no special training. Plumbing, irrigation, electrical, construction contractors, etc...do require special training. The average person is not able to do it, so the people who can do the work are able to charge more.
However, this is not easy work especially in the middle of the summer, in the south. To me, when I add it all up, for the profit I make, its not really worth it. The only thing that keeps me going is the freedom of making my own decisions and being in control of my life.
I spent $850 in the past 2 days on 6 tires, a few mower parts, diesel, and regular fuel. I won't even consider the cost of equipment. Just assume it will all last forever. Just look at the other numbers....Fuel, insurance, employee costs, insurance, tax burden, blades, filters, other parts...Then consider the additional wear that is on your truck tires, brakes, etc. and your profits are down the tubes already. Also consider the time you spend not making any money. You know the travel time between jobs, the old lady that is always home and has to talk to you every week, the trip to get tires,the time spent giving estimates, oil changes, servicing equipment, time at the parts counter, time doing billing and scheduling....Well the list could go on. My minimum price needs to be like $75 to show up. Sure that one would go over well.
I feel like I work for minimum wage when it's all said and done. There has to be an easier way to earn minimum wage. :laugh:
 

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Yes many photogs rent those expensive backs IF they are available -- usually only in a few large cities.

But I pose this question: You can rent mowers too -- so why not rent one when you need it? The answer is that it would be too expensive if you used it a lot and it is a mistake to think that kind of expense can or will be absorbed by the client. And that is why a busy photog would not rent but would own the equipment. Leasing is a different matter and many things like mowers or digital camera backs can be leased for a few years then turned over for newer equipment.

If I was going to mow twice a year then renting a mower would make sense -- but I wouldn't think it would make good financial sense to rent even for once a week.
 

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BCPHOTO - welcome to the board. I too made my living in photography up until the last few years. Took my last wedding (well photo job, period) in April. I did mostly weddings and kids sports for about 25 years, most of it full time.

But like you said the expense, stress, the "parent digital competition", etc. was more than I wanted to keep doing, so a few years ago I decided to cut grass. I started with a couple account and it's grown each year. So much I dropped the photog biz. My wife thought I was nuts - but no more.
 
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