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Mowing Schedule/Capacity

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, May 8, 2004.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

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

    In a typical week, my employee and I spend 40 to 50% of our time mowing. So far this season, the rest of the time has been spent doing one time stuff, like bed clean ups, tree trimming, sod installs, etc. But now the one time stuff has dried up and I'm scared to death I'm not gonna make any money again this year.

    For the people who are actually making money in this business (I have a feelig not very many), what percentage of your man hours are spent mowing each week? What percentage of your man hours are spent doing non-recurring work, like shrub trimming, bed mulching, design installs, etc?

    And what percentage of your 50 hour work week is idle?

    This has been eating at me for a while now. If you fill your schedule or your crews' schedule with 40 to 50 hours worth of mowing work each week, how do you take care of additional requests, like shrubs, etc? From what I can see, you simply can't make money in this business if you're not working at full capacity, being that we get 3 months of no work each year.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  2. mtdman

    mtdman LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,143

    That my friend is the very question I have struggled with over the years. To fill up with mowing, or to leave extra time for the one time services?

    I don't offer a full load of extra services, especially those I don't like doing. I try to keep it to lawn maint and lawn related activities. I find that by around mid May much of the extra work begins to dry up and there's not as big demand for it. It was always my philosophy to stick with mowing as a primary, fill my time with that, and use any extra time to do extra work that may come along. And for the longest time it worked for me that way.

    But recently I've got more demand for services such as aeration, dethatching, seeding, etc. Those in particular are in demand in the spring and fall, not all season long. So I've got a lot of that kind of work early and late in the year. What to do in the middle? If I leave extra time for doing those services in the spring, by summer time I'm struggling to find extras and don't have enough work. If I book up on mowing and leave a little extra room for services, I might miss out on doing a lot of those extras in spring and fall. And most importantly, you gotta be able to make both the one time customers happy, get to them in a timely manner, but yet not cut in to your regular mowing hours and piss off the regulars.

    It's a tough question, especially for a solo operator like me who has occassional help. I'd like to do more of the extras and it has become a delicate balancing act.

    I know a fellow LCO that seems to get plenty of extra work all year round. He only does about 30 regular mowing customers a week, and fills the rest of his time doing extra stuff. He claims he makes more $$ that way. But I often see him doing things like cleaning windows, putting up fences, other odd stuff not strictly related to lawn care. That is definitely not for me.
  3. shorty7616

    shorty7616 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 230

    You honestly think alot of the guys on here aren't making money?
    I think that reading the opinions on here most guys ARE making money.

    Anyway, I try to fill my week with about 70% mowing, leaving the rest with maintenance, one timers.
  4. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Messages: 8,745

    probably 90% of my schedule for a week is mowing, the other is landscaping maintenance and installation

    The way that I fill up the week to make sure that I have the extra work is by first having the customers sign an agreement back in the fall from the previous year. That gives me an idea of all the services that I am going to be doing for the cusotmers.

    After that I know that I can fill the extra spots with other or new customers demands. Like for example, my schedule right now is full up to June 18th, because when people come to me for landscaping installation I tell them, ok we are booked up until this point, but we can fit you in after that. 80-90% of the time they say ok no problem. That is how I make sure to have a full schedule
  5. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    Not sure if I qualify as "making money" by your standards, but your problem was one of the advantages I found of weighting heavily towards mowing/scheduled maintenance. It's something you set up maybe once a year and forget about. If 50% of your workload is extras then you're never sure what you'll be doing from one week to the next. So you wind up with 70 hour work weeks and 25 hour weeks. Gets wasteful with an employee (overtime one week, paying for idle hours the next)

    It's a temperment thing. Some people don't mind waiting to see if they'll have work later. I personally can't stand it. I liked knowing that by April I was pretty much done selling and was set for the year.

    The way I see it, landscaping and maintenance are, despite the surface appearance, quite different businesses to be in. I have always observed that the worst lawn maintenance firms often were landscapers who took on maintenance thinking of it as a fill-in in between big landscape jobs. The maintenance would get short shrift when a big landscape project came along that demanded all their labor. Often companies that do both will create distinct seperate divisions within the company.

    And sometimes some pretty bad or maybe unprofitable landscape work is done by maintenance guys who add the odd install job on the side. They're not as practiced at either bidding it or doing the work itself as the guy who does it every day. And their staff and equipment might not be as optimized (do a sod job w/o a skid steer loader to move pallets around) Not to mention the fact that it's a crying shame to waste a skilled equipment operator having him lay sod that your competitor might be doing with $8/hour labor he just picked up that morning on a street corner. Your employee also might not appreciate the much harder work involved with landscaping. Conversely, a landscape guy who loves creating new landscapes might not like mowing work, which he finds boring.

    Small landscaping and sodding type jobs can be profitable, but you have to weigh that against the disruption to a maintenance schedule. It's nice to clear $1000 on an "extra", but if you wind up having $1,000 of idle time later because of it then it's of no benefit really. Mowing work is time-sensitive. It HAS to be done in a narrow window of time. Fill that block of time up one week during the mowing season and you have effectively eliminated it for the whole year if you want to keep regular work hours.

    I was able to stay flexible enough to work in shrubs, mulching beds, and a few cleanups (hate em) by working with Mother Nature's schedule. Basically, do everthing possible to get ahead of things when the grass wasn't growing as fast.

    If required, heavy shrub work (cutting back deeply and reshaping ) was done in the late fall/winter only, when mowing work was minimal, and, it happens that it is safest to do in terms of plant health.

    Light shrub touch up work was done as needed during the year, but since that is fairly predictable, that can be scheduled into your workload just like mowing. If you have 30 units of trimming to do and they need to be done approx. every 6 weeks, you have 5 units per week to schedule in. It's never perfect, but it can be worked out.

    Leaf cleanup is also fairly predictable. In my area, the warm season grasses would slow down enough by Oct that I had the extra time needed to handle the leaves on the lawns that had them.

    Mulching beds and basically ANYTHING that CAN be done in the Winter should be done then, or not at all. That means pruning low limbs, hardscaping, gutters, etc. If someone called and wanted a cleanup, their gutters cleaned, and pinestraw spread in late March...sorry, too late. I could have taken the job on, but meanwhile the phone is ringing with requests for maintenance and I can't go handle them because I am killing a day on a cleanup job and don't have time. Meanwhile, after the cleanup is done, I am still short on work for the rest of the year.

    Basically, if you take on anything you can't schedule in and forecast ahead of time, it should be profitable enough to make up for idle time you may have later.

    You hate to tell anybody "no", but I found that when I switched from nearly full service anything goes to a narrow niche' I made more money and enjoyed my work more.

    Now if you are able to find a source of acceptable temp labor to handle the extra workload you can take on more project type work. Some guys seem to juggle that better than others.

    I personally found that even small projects wound up causing me more wasted time and disruption than they were worth and only did that a few years before realizing it was not for me. I was jack of all trades, master of none.
  6. Camelot Gardens Uk

    Camelot Gardens Uk LawnSite Member
    Messages: 108

    I have the same problem this year more that others, I have filled up with mowing to capacity. Then some of my high end accounts have all asked for extra work. Also I have 4 scarifying jobs to do next week as well which is a bit late in the season for us usually we do it March & October, this was because I added "Lawn treatments applied" after mowing, trimming etc in my YP add this year.

    My letting agents have given me 14 "Garden Tidy" to do as well as fencing in a fish pond (Koi) 30x5. Last year I had staff on & off but this year I am trying to run solo so far anyway.
  7. DFW Area Landscaper

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

    ++++I found that when I switched from nearly full service anything goes to a narrow niche' I made more money++++

    That was my original goal. Mow, blow & go. It's a lot of work, but when I've got a full 10 hour day worth of mowing, I am never dissatisfied with the gross sales at the end of the day.

    On the other hand, I'm never dissappointed with the profit margins on miscellaneous stuff. I usually make more money per hour doing the one time stuff, but not always.

    Almost all of the landscapers I know in this area and in Oklahoma do everything. Landscape installs, mow lawns, trim shrubs, spread mulch. Whatever. And I've always wondered how they make any money given that with non-recurring work, they're always gonna face some down time now and then.

    My problem is my employee and I have been swamped up to this point, but now we're caught up with all the non-recurring work. Making revenue forecasts based on recurring work (mowing & fert) is not pretty. I'm optimistic that we'll be able to get good response from door hangers this time of year, but I know the very best time for them was 4 to 6 weeks ago.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  8. lawnman_scott

    lawnman_scott LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,547

    I completly agree with Bruce, it doenst make sence in the long run to do anything and everything. Unless you really need the work now, and have the time.
  9. Turfcutters Plus

    Turfcutters Plus LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 391

    95% mowing solo full time.70 accounts.50 are within 3 miles from my house.I make LOTS of money,could'nt be happier!40 hours a week,lot's of time for my hobbys.I'm off all winter long,except snowplowing(what little snow we get).Work smarter not harder!:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:
  10. dkeisala

    dkeisala LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 911

    Ditto - you have to narrow your focus and concentrate on what you are good at, set-up to do profitably and efficiently and those tasks that you really like to do - forget about the jobs/tasks that you hate to do or your not very good at.

    My most profitable customers are those annual maintenance clients that have been with me in excess of 1 season. I know exactly how much work I have scheduled and exactly how much money I'm making off of them. Regular maintenance accounts are far more predictable than waiting for the phone to ring with someone wanting you to weed their flowerbeds. However, you need to fill your time. Just be selective on the type of work you are taking on.

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