It's like everything is for sale

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Mow"N"Bud, Oct 28, 2006.

  1. Mow"N"Bud

    Mow"N"Bud LawnSite Member
    Messages: 138

    I just wanted to put a thought down of an observation I made today. Like most Saturdays I pick up a copy of the Carolina Bargain Trader, which is one of those books that people list cars, trucks, equipment etc that they are selling. In this weeks copy there is a very unusually high quantity of every type of ZTR and walk-behind mower, tractor, riding mower, commercial string trimmer, blower, lawn sweeper, and every type of item a person would need to run a lawn service. Some are at really awesome prices. I even picked up a few items today for use the rest of this season and next. Every item I called about, and or bought the original owners all, basically said the same thing, which is.

    They tried and failed at the lawn service business, or they felt it just wasn't for them. I realize running a lawn care business isn't for everyone, but I wish people would understand that it is a business. Because it is a business they need to understand there is the money involved to start up, insurance cost, business privilege license cost, accountant fees and all the rest. I hope that next year when a whole new batch starts up because they want to make a quick buck, they also buy good equipment and use it for one season then sell it for a song. I can always use another good piece of equipment.

    Just the rantings of a happy lawn care business owner. Yall have fun with the leaves this fall. I am.:)
  2. TNT LawnCare Inc.

    TNT LawnCare Inc. LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,157

    Yea its the same here,some people dont really understand this not an easy business. Its very hard work,especialy when the heat comes. :laugh:
  3. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,087

    The NC economy is just suffering so badly.

    And more folks than normal have started cutting grass... because most of these people who are suffering the most are common working folks that aren't afraid of work and can't find it. Either that or people trying to bridge the gap from being on "short time" or having to take a lower paying job.

    Trouble is, these folks are also just common employees. No clue about how to sucessfully run a profitable business and have enough profit to earn a living. This in turn not only hurts them, but hurts other existing businesses like mine and yours to an extent.

    More people are coming into a market that is getting smaller by the day... and at this time of year, these other guys are forced to face the cold hard truth that the money they have been making was going hand-to-mouth and that they were not making any money.... AND the good part for you... staring down a barren winter here at the end of season with no money to make it through.
  4. Mow"N"Bud

    Mow"N"Bud LawnSite Member
    Messages: 138

    UPDATE I'm not hartless, and I know the economy is rough hear. I have to deal with it every day, but when I started my Lawn Service, I didn't know all the answers either. As part of my start up cost I sat down with business owners, an accountant, an attorney, and people who had been in businesses before and got all the info I could before I mowed the first blade of grass. I'm sorry for the trouble people are having, but I can't pass up a good deal on awesome equipment.
  5. MMLawn

    MMLawn LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,569

    Yeah and actually it's that way every year at the end of the season. All these guys/gals get into this business because it can be easy to get into it. However staying in it and growing and being profitable year after year takes running a business, not just cutting grass and that is where they fail. Just go to the "Just Starting" forum and see all the guys starting or wanting to start. They all probably will start too, yet only 2-3 out of ten of them will make it through the first year and only one of those will still be in business in five years.
  6. Jay Ray

    Jay Ray LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,510

    Hard physically, hard mentally, hard financially the first year at least. But for most of the season you don't need a sauna after work.:laugh:
  7. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,087

    Do you realize how few people do that and how few of them are even able to suceed?

    Boy... I tell ya... the numbers are LOW-LOW-LOW. I know of one new startup here that did that and started out legit. He had a passion for the business to... and me trying to steer him in the right direction financially too.

    He made it 2 years and went out of business the spring of the 3rd.

    It sucked to hear that, being that the legit numbers here are so low. But I can't say I didn't try to tell him, and I can't say I didn't see it coming, and I can't say that I didn't do everything I could to help him and steer him in the right direction. But he didn't listen.

    He didn't listen to me and take any of my advice about the hard decisions you MUST make to stay in business. Ultimately, those things doomed him to failure.

    I think in a way that my own wife was doubting my business stance during his survival. He was covered up with work. No shortage there. He had big and small jobs, and a good core business, ect. He was grossing big bucks, had employees, had nice equipment (some more expensive than mine) ect... But none of these things meant anything.

    The simple fact is, his gross target rate per hour for his crew was half what I charge, and his 'actual' gross per hour was even less. He seemed more comfortable and content with that than he did my advice... even with an accountant doing his books.

    Truth is, I bailed him out by adopting a few accounts he had that he couldn't turn a profit on. No contracts, no nothing on the residentials. I took over at the same rate, did them in less man hours with less expense and turned good profit on jobs he couldn't break even on. After a few cuts I raised all their rates and put them on regular service agreements. A thing he was sure he couldn't do.

    Well, sometimes it's not about what you can or can't do... it's about what you MUST do, or else you are better off sitting at home. He just didn't do those things even though I stressed them.
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    That's the gist of it, the 9 out of 10 rule (or 1 out of 10).

    There's more to it than that, thou:

    I feel a lot of folks just don't KNOW LOL!
    What they see today is:
    A guy like me chillin' on a 60" Warrior cutting grass past dusk with it's headlights lit...
    A guy wielding a line trimmer like it's a toy, just so much fun in that...
    Something about grossing 200, 300, 400 and 500 / day, and a few (two actually) $2k weeks...
    Certain bank deposits as a result of the above (privacy acts LOL)...
    The looks of someone who ALWAYS gets paid! (well, I do, 99.7% of the time).
    Seeing me leave the house no earlier than 10am, back before dark most days...
    2 bmw's in the driveway, a shiny 3/4 ton truck...
    They start to thinking, if it's not easy, it sure pays GOOD!

    What they don't see is:
    The experience behind having cut 3 thousand lawns before today.
    The 4 times in 5 years I went over the handlebars of the Wb, the resulting broken ribs and second degree muffler burns, not to mention this bit of PAIN can't stop you from working. Lets not talk about PUSHING a dead wb up the trailer ramp.
    The many times in my 1st and 2nd year I worked for $15-$20 / hour, then $20-$25 / hour... The sloooow rise to $30 and $35, and to cut it short, yes, UP to $60 pmh today, but even now I don't always get that.
    The learning curve I went through to arrive at today's customer pre-screening methods (and today's 0.3% default bill rate).
    THOSE bank deposits (privacy act? there was no need to talk about that, I doubt it caught anyone's attention).
    The AGE of the vehicles is 15, 18, and 20 years respectively.
    The USED equipment I started with.
    The 2-3 years before that I worked my tail off to save 5 thousand dollars cash.
    And so on...

    In summary, they RUN out and get the biggest loan their credit can handle, buy a LOT of stuff NEW, and then wonder what happened...
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Wow, you summarized it in a nutshell there.
    You look here on this forum, do they listen? (LOL)
    I'm on another forum, has to do with money and profit, do they listen? (LOLx2)

    I, too, had the advice not so much of the professionals you did, but two business owners who had been doing this for many more years.
    But, did *I* listen? (fill in this blank)

    Yes, and no.
    - Some things I was not ready for, and I suspect your friend had this problem and it is the reason why most don't listen - We're just not ready for that, yet. One develops tactics in time, likely the latest tactics I developed this year wouldn't work for a new Lco.

    - Other things did not work for me, not even today. This has something to do with: What works for you may or may not work for someone else, conversely what works for them...

    - And then there were a few (perhaps a little more than a few) things that even today I felt were thrown in my direction for the explicit purpose to watch me suffer (and possibly fail). There were not that many things, and the amount of bad advice varies from source to source, but exist they did in the same way it exists on this forum... Otoh, I've learned to live with this, I myself am guilty of throwing a funny around, especially when the competition is stiff or I've had a rough day.

    However, I did at the very least put serious consideration into whatever I was told, and for the most part I benefited from it...
    But free advice it wasn't, one way or another, I paid the price.

    One such thing is: Run Solo for at LEAST 2 but really 4 years before even considering hiring employees.

    Still, it takes more than just wanting to run your own show.
    I think, in some ways you have to be past sick and tired of working for someone else, so to speak.

    Age helps, also.
  10. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,087

    Topsites (post #9),

    Well the trouble often is that new guys start out on the wrong foot... both financially and personal backbone wise.

    Many like this guy find themselves absolutely covered up with work. Almost overwhelmed. But they don't take advantage of this financially to raise prices and cut the losers... nor backbone wise in requiring service agreements, fixed billing, ect...

    Mostly this is because they don't know any better yet.
    Lots of money is coming in so they feel fine.

    But in the back of their mind they know they are missing the ball on some of their estimates. Lawns are taking longer than they thought, ect... and more new ones keep coming... and pretty soon they start hiring helpers. Due to fatigue, pressure, the heat they didn't expect, the jobs that take as long to trim as they do to mow... ect, ect... and they do hire based on the flawed logic that a 1 helper will cut hours in half/double product, 2 will.... and so on.

    But this doesn't happen. They find the new crew is not twice as fast like they thought, and they are paying employees as much to stand around waiting and to ride down the road, ect, as they are for work.

    Come the first winter and first trips to the accountant, they are floored with the reality that all that money that was coming in was not their personal paycheck and they are NOT doing as well as they think.

    So panic sets in and they go at it that much harder. Again with the failed logic of "more work = more profit" and most you just cannot snap out of it. The thought process they have the minute you stop talking is "I'm already not doing well, and I can't afford to take those risks. If I do that I'll loose customers and loose money, and if I follow his direction I won't be able to replace them either."

    And rather than getting stiffer personally and financially, they get more flexable.... and deeper in trouble as a result.

    I hated to see that, but knew it would happen if he didn't snap out of it. Not far out of the gate this season and he was through.

    It doesn't change the fact he is a great guy, nor the fact he was a hard worker. He had everythign right but the business logic.

    I would have loved to have bought out his operation "in-whole"... name, accounts, equipment... and kept him on and his best employee... and changed nothing on the public side, just adjusted the business on the private side.

    I would have been more than glad to pay both guys what their target earnings were. But the thing of it is that his operation just wouldn't support them. By the time I completed my adjustments, there wouldn't have been enough left to make a profitable solo route for just him.

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