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Not getting in over my head

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by budman163, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. budman163

    budman163 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 18

    This is my first year as a part-timer. I got a late start and don't have as many accounts as I would like. I have 6 full time accounts for about $600/month, and a temp. account with a house that is for sale. I am still trying to grow my business and am financing the business out of my own pocket (gas, oil, etc.)

    I financed a new ZTR with payments of $145/month. I paid cash for other quality commercial equipment, some new, some slightly used but good as new. I have enough money saved up to make my payments for a year.

    I have been thinking about the upcoming fall and doing fall cleanups, but I don't have a bagger. I have decided not to spend the $2000 for a vacuum bagger so that I don't get in over my head, but I don't want to miss out on any opportunities for the lucrative fall cleanups.

    My questions are:

    1. What are your thoughts on my decision to hold off on more big purchases in order to not get in over my head?

    2. Any suggestions on efficiently doing fall cleanups without a bagger?

    I guess I want my cake and eat it too. If next season goes as I plan, I will buy a bagger before next fall.

    Your thoughts will be greatly appreciated.
  2. g21

    g21 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 326

    Smart thinking trying to stay out of debt. The first 5 years in Connecticut, believe it or not, we did not have baggers on our ZTRS. We were very selective on the accounts we took on and primeraly took on properties that had woodlines where we could blow the leaves back into the woods. For the properties we could not, we pruchased a large tailgate mounted vac and built a really nice leaf box on our big int'l truck with a 18' bed. so though we didn't have a bagger, we had a really great leaf pick-up system. It's hard to operate without one or the other. Make sure you have a good walkbehind blower and a way to get the leave out if you have to. I've seen some really well-done leaf boxes built of wood for a pickup if you have a dump hoist. good Luck!
  3. david shumaker

    david shumaker LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 721

    I don't have a bagger. When the leaves aren't thick, I mulch and blow leaves to the middle of the yard with the mower. I then rake the leaves and cut the middle of the yard.

    When leaves are thick, I blow them to the curb for city pick-up and then go over the yard with the mower.

    I don't take on jobs where hauling or a leaf loader is needed. Some leaf jobs can take a long time for what people are willing to pay.
  4. sdk1959

    sdk1959 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 909

    Charge about the same or a little more as you would for cutting the lawn depending on how difficult the property is. In my area, southeastern PA, it would be 2-3 times in October, 4 times in November, maybe once in December if needed.

    You blow or rake the leaves out of the beds, mulch the yard with your mower or ZTR. But it must be done on a regular schedule such as mentioned above or the blanket of leaves will become too thick and leave a blanket of mulched leaves that will look unsightly and may smother the grass before they decompose.

    The big selling points to offering this service is their lawn will look maintained during the entire fall season,the leaves in the beds are much easier to blow out if done on a regular schedule,the mulched leaves are good for their lawn, soil, and the customer is not paying for all that labor for collection and removal of the leaves if they wait till the end of the fall season for a "fall clean-up". Plus paying possible dump fees too.

    Customers who have many mature trees over 100' tall then waiting till the end of the season to have a fall clean-up is not too bright an idea. The job done then may take 20 man hours or more and the customer is given a $600.00- $800.00 estimate depending on what is charged per man hour. Sticker shock big time.

    You have to mention to your current customers and advertise for this service in early September BEFORE the leaves start falling or it will be too late.
  5. bohiaa

    bohiaa LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,220

    you will have to answer this Q your self...

    the Q is where do you want to be? how large or small do you want to be?

    what are your business plans?
  6. Scagmower48

    Scagmower48 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 430

    Since you only have six lawns, I would backpack and tarp the leaves to where ever you bring them. You could also buy an aluminum catcher for the side of the machine. I would not spend 2k yet until your business stablizes and you know this is what you want to do.
  7. budman163

    budman163 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 18

    I appreciate all the good advice. Keep it coming.
  8. hackitdown

    hackitdown LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,612

    Before I had a vac on a ZTR, I used blowers to make piles, then raked the piles onto tarps. I dragged them on the tarp to the trailer or the woods. After that I went over the lawn with a walk-behind mower with a regular metal bagger to clean up any leaves left behind.
  9. openbook

    openbook LawnSite Member
    Messages: 215

    Blow out the leaves in the beds, go around the yard with your z in circles mulching and blowing the leaves in a big pile, then drive around and around the leaf pile in circles mulching them up smaller and smaller. Rake up the pile and blow any other leaf pieces into the turf.
  10. openbook

    openbook LawnSite Member
    Messages: 215

    I only have a 21 mulching mower at home, what I do at home is cut the lawn mulching the leaves one time, then I put on the bagger and go over it again and collect the leaves. After that I compost the leaves into leaf mold, which is an awesome mulch, it looks great and keeps the weeds out of my vegetable garden.

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