Leaf cleanup idea

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by mowerbrad, Oct 18, 2010.

  1. Big Bad Bob

    Big Bad Bob LawnSite Bronze Member
    from zone 5
    Messages: 1,074

    Yes you do. And don't forget to figure in Murphy's Law into the pricing. Expect disaster till you either get it worked out or back out.
    A couple of guys have tried this plan around here and from what I'm told it's not the pantecea that it sounds like. What are you going to do when you suck something from the pile and jam or worse yet, break your loader. There goes your schedule. At least when you blow them into the pile you control what sticks, logs, rocks and pieces of metal that go into the pile.
    Personally I hate it when a customer calls and says, "I've already raked them into a pile for you so it should be easy.". I've found all kinds of things in those piles that has the customer saying, "How did that get in there?" or "You mean your machine wouldn't pick that carburetor up?"
    A little off the subject, it's like when you have a storm and you go to the customer's to clean up the limb damage and the customer has "helped" by piling the branches into a huge tangled mess that you have to dislodge with a chainsaw and then expects a discount for making it easier on you.
    Most customers haven't got a clue.
  2. yardguy28

    yardguy28 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,463

    what am i missing? what does the amount the check is written for and how many of them there are have to do with anything?

    in this business you collect checks written for all kinds of amounts and depending on how many clients you have depends on how many checks you receive. i have checks that range anywhere from $50 a month to hundreds of dollars a month.
  3. BrunoT

    BrunoT LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 741

    It's a matter of how much "management time" one wants to invest in earning $50. Which is easier? Invoicing one customer for $200 or four customers for $50? And it's easier to bill a recurring account each month than to set up a new one that is only generating $50. Sure, it takes just a few minutes, but that adds up. Maybe if one has crews in the field and is sitting semi-idle at the office anyway it'd be no big deal, I suppose.

    Or, if you don't want to invoice anyone, are you going to hope the customer left a check for $50 at the front door taped to the window for you, some guy they've never met before? You'll get sales resistance on that for sure. Maybe you could do credit cards, but even then some people don't want to give that out to just anyone.

    So you'll likely have to invoice them or waste time knocking on doors of people with jobs who often aren't there hoping to get paid. What happens if they don't have money waiting for you? Do you do the job or not? Do you double back later once the foulup is worked out? What happens if they don't pay the invoice? What happens if they say they left a check, that check gets cashed, and you don't get it? None of these happen regularly, but enough to be a hassle.

    The more you have to juggle, the less time you have to spend on productive income producing tasks. I've found that you spend a lot more time than you think anytime something out of the routine happens. It's worth it for a big job, but this isn't huge money. Then again, if one would otherwise be sitting idle and needs the money, it's better than nothing.
  4. knox gsl

    knox gsl LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,909

    This is my thought process on it as well, anytime you do a one off job there is a premium for the extra hassle. Most people know that the regular customer will get a break on this type of service compaired to seeing a sign and calling you. I also would make it a point to collect cash or check payment before starting the vacuum up, I wouldn't waste time riding around being a bill collector. If a customer ask why upfront just tell them it keeps the prices down not having to look for my money.
  5. yardguy28

    yardguy28 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,463


    one time jobs are worked into my route where they fit and are charged the exact same amount as a regular client is. only difference between one time jobs and regulars is i require 50% up front for one timers.
  6. mowerbrad

    mowerbrad LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,268

    Like I said guys this is still in the planning phase. There are lots of things that I will need to decide on and research...how will I do the billing?...what size trailer/loader?...what will my prices be?...is this service something consumers in my area will be interested in?...how much are people willing to pay for a service like this?...etc.

    Right now, I think that there really is money to be made offering this service to both consumers and fellow LCO's in my area. There are plenty of ways that I can bill these people without too much hassle. Obviously putting them into my computer may take a little bit, but I can think of ways to help with billing.

    And as far as "things" that may be in the leaf pile, I have no doubt that I may encounter stuff. But I think by being a vidulant operator I can minimize any foreign debris from getting sucked up. Obviously I can't see everything, but I can sure try to minimize it. Plus making sure that customers know to only put leaves in the piles, no sticks, rocks, wood, metal, etc. For the most part, I have had very good luck with customers following any direction I give them. So I think as long as I tell them what not to put in the pile and to only include LEAVES, I should for the most part have very little problems. But I'm not saying I won't have problems.
  7. LawnScapers of Dayton

    LawnScapers of Dayton LawnSite Silver Member
    Male, from Dayton, OH
    Messages: 2,572

    I started doing this this year, $60 for the first 30 minutes, $1 per minute after that..... my truck holds about 14 yards........so far so good....

    I have a free dump site and 2 cities that do not offer leaf pickup. Also the City of Dayton stopped leaf pick up this year.......although those folks don't want to pay more for the service I am finding out......
  8. Darryl G

    Darryl G Inactive
    Messages: 9,500

    I also do my regulars with my mower. I load just the Lazer into my 7 x 12 dump truck and then just dump the leaves in the front portion. A few years ago I went out and bought a leaf loader with the same idea as you, to start going after piles. My problem is that by the time I get done with my regulars it's already pretty late in the season and running the leaf vac setup really doesn't work well for me on them because I need my mower for the final mow. I also don't like having a box on my dump trailer because it makes hauling other stuff like brush difficult. For a solo op, I think a dump insert is a better route. That way you have the vac when needed and can still bring your mower(s) along. Another option is to put a box on the trailer with a hoop and tarp top so that it can be easily removed.

    Now are far as going after the one time piles...it' can be a royal pain. People tend to rake all the sticks and anything else that's on the lawn into the piles and what they call a pile is often a row of leaves 100 feet long at the curb or a big pile in the back yard that you can't get a truck/trailer combo to. It's rarely a matter of just pulling up and picking up a pile. The other problem is that often times the piles have been sitting a while and are wet/compacted and that makes a huge difference and/or the wind has spread them out over a large area. In many cases, it would have been easier and cheaper for them if I had just done the whole cleanup myself. Abouit the only good thing I found about going after curbside piles was that I could go out after dark to do them with some portable lighting (like 5 to 8pm) and bring in some extra income. Most people are fine with $100 minimum where I am. Oh, there is the occasional job where the customer made a nice, easily accessible pile for you with no sticks and you're in and out of there in 20 minutes, but my experience is that they're few and far between.

    I still may end up mounting the vac on my dump trailer, but if I do it will be at the end of the season. For the couple of accounts I have where a leaf vac is the best/most efficient way to do the job, I'll just sub out a friend of mine until then, like I've been doing the last few years, or just haul them out in bulk.
  9. punt66

    punt66 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 8,536

    I sold my vac setup. Its a waste of money. Hire it out for the few yards that you need it. Also, unless you get an 40hp plus vac it will take longer then you think to suck them up. I am glad to get rid of it. Its faster to vac it up with my mower and empty the bags in the truck.
  10. mowerbrad

    mowerbrad LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,268

    Are you finding any problems with doing this? Customers putting sticks and such in the piles? Even making it hard to get to piles in the backyards?

    One of the things that I was planning on doing is making the sides on the dump trailer easy to take off. That way I could easily use it without a leaf box on there.

    I still think that if I give the customer enough direction as what to do, things can go smoothly. I figure if I tell them to make ONE pile (not row) next to the driveway or street and only to put in leaves...I should have pretty good results. I'm sure I'd still run into some problems though, hopefully they'd be few and far between.

    But you do bring up some good points that I will have to think about.

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