managerial analysis of mowing crews

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by BradLewisLawnCare, Jun 12, 2012.

  1. BradLewisLawnCare

    BradLewisLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 279

    So i am doing an analysis of my mowing crews. both

    size to see what is more efficient (1 or 2 guys).


    pricing to see if I am pricing my lawns according to costs (or close enough)

    My hypothesis is that 1 man crews operate faster. I also hypothesize that the sq footage pricing method works very good for open spaces and very small lawns with a high enough y intercept (when x is the sq footage).

    That being said, how many times should i mow the grass before I start making conclusions. On 14 day lawns I will only get 14-16 samples and on weekly I'll get 30. on every 10 days I will get 18-30 up here. How big should my sample be to be significant or should I just use the whole years data?

    I realize that the more often the guys mow a yard the quicker they will be there per sq foot. so weekly mowing should cost a bit less than bi-weekly, but I am not quite there in my analysis. I have exactly 99 lawns on my analysis list (wish i had one more!!!:mad:)

    I plan to do as most guys say to do on this site. price my accounts according to production levels and work my price from costs instead of just assuming or using sq footage. I priced a couple properties this year on sq footage and one was at $160 and it costs me about $24 in labor to service while another was $87.50 and It costs $48 to service after 4 services. The first property I hate to lower the price and the last property I don't feel like keeping. So I will naturally increase the price of the second property when I finally determine what It costs me within a certain significance level.

    What do you all think?
  2. Kelly's Landscaping

    Kelly's Landscaping LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,631

    Does the increased speed and production on the one man crew off set the added costs. If you have one man per truck that means you need twice the trucks of 2 men crews you will need to insure them register them pay property tax on them and repair them plus fuel for both. Now if you use trailers that doubles too and don't forget the tire wear that adds up. Now your need extra equipment as each crew will want back ups so the rule 2 of everything still applies. So calculate all of that and figure if the few extra lawns you expect to get a day from solo crews is worth it.

    As for income per account generally the nicer the lawn the less your make off the cut because it does effect your times. You will find yourself reevaluating your accounts every off season we always seem to cut a few loose. It's always wise to cut your dead weight and concentrate on replacing that with better paying accounts.
  3. 32vld

    32vld LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,983

    I would look at a whole season of weekly, bi weekly and 10 days customers.

    Time of year has different growth rates. Fert apps effect things. Repetition gets mowing's times decreased.

    New customer this year. I mowed their lawn today. 10th mow this season. Fastest time yet but still working at my normal pace.

    Edging faster because stick edger has grooves established.
    Very little tree debris to blow because spring is past.

    Then what does August have in store, then Fall's impact.

    As to compare crew size. Well that is easy to fall into the mistake of comparing apples to anything but apples.

    Then even when comparing apples you have to compare Golden to Golden, not Rome, not Empire.

    2 men will do more work then 1. 4 more then 2.

    Will each crew have identical equipment?

    Identical lawns?

    The problem with crew size is when part of the crew works while the other part of the crew stands around and watches.

    As long as the whole crew keeps working at something the total time then they have to be just as efficient as a 1, 2, or 3 man crew and get the work done quicker.

    As crew size increases the problem is not the size but is the crew being well managed. Yes payroll increases so a smaller percentage is left over for profit.

    But without the extra crew the business owner has to turn away work which is the same as turning away profits.

    Do you want to be the businessman that does 40 hr work a week and get paid for 40 hr?

    Or be the businessman that does 40 hr a week, then hires employees to handle another 40 hr a week and get a percentage of what his employees earned added to his original 40 hr?

  4. BradLewisLawnCare

    BradLewisLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 279

    well here is the problem. As I am growing I am struggling to get the right people. All 5 guys I have hired to weed whack can't seem to get it right and my mower guy is spending more time stopping and yelling then mowing. This is a growing pain as of now. The funny thing is so far in the past 2 months it has taken longer to have a new guy help on jobs then if he wasn't around at all. Also, If I sent a 2 man crew out I have to pay 2 men to sit along for the ride for each account rather than one man each account. So higher fixed costs (mowers reg truck inspection) less variable (labor per account goes down). Right now I am running 2 trucks mowing. one with trailer and large mower and another with push no trailer and doing small accounts the turn can't get in. We are doing 70 lawns a week roughly (at least this week).
  5. BradLewisLawnCare

    BradLewisLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 279

    another update as to more information for analysis. We have 3 trucks (with ideas of truck #4 in a couple weeks). We have two trailers capable of holding a zero turn each. We have 2 48inch scags and a 50 inch toro. They are decent mowers. We have 3 push mowers 21 inch and 6 echo 225 weed wakers along with 3 hand blowers and a back pack blower. We run 2 mow crews and i personally run the landscape/hardscape/masonry crew. My younger brother is the office manager and he is working on this analysis as I oversee it. We have 2 ft guys from last year mowing so they are well trained. When together they can mow really well together. Alone they can beat the total man hours for the jobs together. That is the thing I am trying to measure in the analysis. The benefit to one man crews is the reduced labor in getting the crew to jobs and the reduced need for crew members to create and communicate a plan together. You do lose a combined effort in thinking though. good points on more need for equipment. at my stage or equipment level I could have equipment sit around or use it. so that is a bit less of a concern but does matter. Also, thought on using overtime rather than hiring a new guy.
  6. Kelly's Landscaping

    Kelly's Landscaping LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,631

    New guys are always hit or miss so I totally get how weak employees can make a 2 man crew look bad. But I think you ought to one figure out of your 2 good guys are at the level where they can train people yet. They may be able to do their jobs but that doesn't mean they can teach. Now if they are good enough to train employees then you need to talk with them about the new guys. If they say the guy has potential and is improving then giving the guy some time may be in order. But some guys have no business in this trade and if the guy can not do this and shows no signs that he ever will be able to then why keep him. You need skilled employees and dead ends must be identified and let go.

    It's one of the reasons I do not take on new employees in fall clean up season. Extra man power sounds great but if they are clueless they end up working against you and I can easily out perform 3-4 bad employes at the same time so why have em.
  7. dhardin53

    dhardin53 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 710

    2 points:

    1. - Kelly made my point, training. I don't want to sound harsh but some guys just don't naturally know or care if what they do is efficient or productive. Yes they (your employees) can say they have experience and for the most part do good work. But at what cost. Employee will usually pace themselves and do just what is expected no less and usually no more. You want to analyze your operation. I think you need to completely start over with a training program. (Some guys I have worked with I have finally had to tell them they mow like a girl to get them to change there ways.)

    2. Micro managing your pricing and cost analysis will take nothing but time away from just do it Or the " Geter Done" plane. If your lead worker/key men with the ability to see something that is taking to long to complete someone needs to have the authority to speak up and correct the problem. In short experience is the best teacher you can find. But to try to analyze it for days and weeks with a hope to find some short cuts and cost savings is a job for a office book keeper/accounted. A BOSS is the guy that knows what to do without thinking twice about it.

    In short "not all lawns are created equal" so don't expect to measure your square footage and hope to plug in a number and call it done. Maybe some business can do that but from my experience it will not prove to be a correct way to set ones price for said amount of work. For my operation I have only one concern, that is "How much time was I actually on the ground mowing" from truck stopped and unloaded to truck ready to role to the next job. If you was to clock and collect this alone you would in a few short months find out with my trained men and equipment just by walking any property and know how much to charge.

    All you can hope for is a average through out the day of (time spent) mowing and (income generated) for that time worked, Its a average not exact number for square feet mowed.
  8. BradLewisLawnCare

    BradLewisLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 279

    d hardin,

    very good points. the exact point of the thread is to get your opinion on crew size and to get your rough figure for how many times you think it takes to mow a lawn to get a statistically significant sample mean to base my pricing on.

    That being said, our training program consists of one half hour video from and then a test. once they pass, then I take them in the field to show them both how I do it and to help analyze themselves. That being said the two guys on my staff from last year started without ever touching a weed wacker. They are not in charge of training, planning your ww route or watching these guys to the extent that you might think. They do have to plan together who is doing what when and communicate, but they go in like a team. (lets not read into this too much as the point is what your personal experiences are not how to critique a tired author's poor wording). I agree that one bad guy can slow a good guy down, but I am working on a bigger picture of can one good guy spend less man hours per day to achieve the same revenue than 2 good guys would. My goal is to maximize profit.

    To be straight forward and get this thread back on track, It is not whether I am training my guys correctly or whether people "feel" like their way is best. It is to dive into numbers. Take our log sheets that are filled out every day and analyze them. Just a little more background. I have a Master's in Business Administration with concentrations in Finance, Financial Planning, Small Business and Entrepreneurship. I also have a minor in mathematics and was accepted to a PHD program for Economics. That being said, the whole point of my post was to determine if I am missing something in my analysis.

    Some very big points are being made along with my last years study being completely off. I had determined this fairly easily in 4 short weeks. Sq footage is important but this is a multivariate pricing structure and I am trying to develop the easiest and best way to come up with good hard numbers that produce consistent gross margins every job. Also, like insurance companies do and was suggested, I would like to know which jobs to charge more next year in hopes that they become closer to my mean. If my 5-10 worst jobs were to be priced accordingly, then I would increase my profit without doing anything and just analyzing the pricing and managing the time spent at each job.
  9. Kelly's Landscaping

    Kelly's Landscaping LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,631

    "I agree that one bad guy can slow a good guy down, but I am working on a bigger picture of can one good guy spend less man hours per day to achieve the same revenue than 2 good guys would. My goal is to maximize profit."

    I'll stay on this point and hope it wasn't poor wording that asked the question can one good guy spend less man hours per day to achieve the same revenue than 2 good guys would? The answer is no one good guy is not going to do in less time what 2 good guys can. One good guy is not going to do in the same time what 2 good guys can. He can out perform 2 bad guys and he may out perform one good guy who has a weak crewmen. But all things be equal if all of them are good workers then 2 will out work 1.

    I do want to comment on this too "if my 5-10 worst jobs were to be priced accordingly, then I would increase my profit" It sounds very reasonable. But here is where it comes apart when the jobs are priced so badly that you notice your getting screwed, then the amount they are off tends to be to bigger % than you could hope to raise it and have any hopes of keeping the client. If a lawn was 28 a cut and you felt it should be 30 that's not going to be a big issue to raise the price. But if that 28 dollar lawn should be a 35 or a 40 your never going to get the price before you get let go. Sure you can go up in increments but one your losing money in the mean time and two after the second or 3rd raise in a row they usually snap. Best advice is learn from that mistake and be a better estimator the next lawn bid.
  10. BradLewisLawnCare

    BradLewisLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 279

    Poor wording. More revenue per hour than 2 guys. So one good guy yields more revenue per man hour than two. Some
    Equipment is idle. But idle equipment depreciates less than equipment being used. More fixed investment, less variable. More room to grow. No miscommunications on the crew.

    As for prices I went from 70-95 and after they priced everyone else, they hired me at the new rate.
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