Possible to accurately have per shrub prune price?

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by grassmasterswilson, Sep 20, 2012.

  1. Darryl G

    Darryl G Inactive
    Messages: 9,500

    Good post! One question though. Do you find that you have to educate your customers about the proper way to trim shrubs, rather than just shearing them with clippers?

    Most of the shrubs I tend to have always been sheared so that's what I stick with most of the time. But for those where I have an opportunity to prune them as they should be, I find that customers are so used to the sheared hedge-like look and them being either square or round, that they don't like the way they look pruned properly, such as bottom raised up a bit, thinned out, natural shape and left with some texture. Do you find that to be the case too? And if so, how do you handle it?
  2. lukemelo216

    lukemelo216 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from ...
    Messages: 1,267

    Not really. We do high end residential where people just want you to handle the work. As i said we dont go out and get a bunch of business thats just pruning. When we talk to our customers though we instruct them how we prune and show pictures of our pruning.

    We have run into customers where people just hacked the bushes down and ee go in and fix them. It takes time but you can. You have to go in and thin the bush out from the inside and within a year or two it fills out.
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  3. grassmasterswilson

    grassmasterswilson LawnSite Platinum Member
    from nc
    Messages: 4,985

    Good info guys. I'm trying to add a pruning program to become more full service. I already offer mowing, apps, and mulch. The obvious next step is to add pruning and possibly shrub insect treatments an fertilization.

    The hard part I feel I would have is describing what I would do. I'm sure I'll get the old man who expects everything to be freshly pruned all year long. I was originally trying to figure out a way to word it like 1-2 full pruninga a year and the. "As needed" in between to take care of dead and suckers.

    I'm not confident in how to estimate this. Since I haven't be asked to do a lot I usually give a hourly estimate with some room for error. Not sure how to handle the as needed jobs or how often I would need to trim.

    I may start off with 2 pruninga a year. One after spring blooms and 1 after fall blooms. I could trim evergreens on both visits. That way the customer and I both know hat to expect. Then as I become more familiar I can estimate with more confidence.

    Then again prunin. Isn't one of my favorite things to do so I may be better off not doing it or subbing it out to a local landscaping company.
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  4. Darryl G

    Darryl G Inactive
    Messages: 9,500

    Yeah, maybe spending some time up front and showing pictures would help :) I tend to find out after the fact that they don't like it and then have to do the explaining at that point.

    I had a call over the summer from a potential customer that had their shrubs pruned last year by another landscaper. I didn't see them at that point but from what I could see they were done picture perfect, but the customer hated them to the point they wanted them all ripped out. Had I done it, it would have looked much the same. I actually referred that one to my 18 year old son, since they had a lot of other stuff they wanted done that was more suitable for a kid...just someone to help with the stuff they couldn't manage themselves including some indoor work.
  5. lukemelo216

    lukemelo216 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from ...
    Messages: 1,267

    Maintaining a landscape (properly) is a skill and not just anyone can do it. Our guys get yearly training to ensure that they are always up to date in the industry.

    I would suggeat trying to learn how to do it and certainly not sub it out. If you get another landscaper into the account whats going to prevent the owner from going directly to them for everything.

    Show them and if its not worth it walk away. You cant be afraid to walk away from a job. Weve bid $100000+ projects that wece decided to walk from because they will be more hassle than good or they dont fit it with our way of doing business etc
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  6. Darryl G

    Darryl G Inactive
    Messages: 9,500

    Not sure if I confused you or you were just talking about subs in general rather than in response to my post.

    Last year they had another landscaper trim their shrubs. This year they called me. I had no prior involvement with them. I decided that the work they wanted done and the price they were willing to pay was more suitable for my son, who worked with me for a couple of summers, so had some experience. So I just referred it to him. I didn't need him this summer, deciding instead to train his brother. Besides he could make more money working on his own than with me.

    I do sub and sometimes refer work to a Master Gardener whom I've known for 20 years or so. She's good for the lighter labor and the tedious stuff I don't want to mess with....mostly flower beds.
  7. lukemelo216

    lukemelo216 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from ...
    Messages: 1,267

    I was referring to the post above you by grassmasterwilson.
  8. jequigle

    jequigle LawnSite Member
    Messages: 236

    This may be off topic of pricing but I live in a large development and the company that maintains it trims the hedges and blows it into the yard and than drops the deck to like 1.5" and mulches the trimmings so they don't have to haul off any clippings.. I feel that its not the proper way to do it..

    I charge by the hour for any hedge trim job and not by the bush.
  9. lukemelo216

    lukemelo216 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from ...
    Messages: 1,267

    That is certainly not the correct way of doing things. Prune, clean up with blowers and rakes and then turn over the mulch a little and it will be good.

    I have never ever been a fan of charging by the hour on anything. To me when you do that its like your telling the customer your are not 100% confident in your knowledge and abilities to complete the job. Review the job, determine your hourly rate accurately, and then determine how long it should take and give a price. IF you under estimate well thats unfortunate, but its part of business and you learn from it.
  10. BrunoT

    BrunoT LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 741

    The problem with any "per shrub" price, other than as a rule of thumb, is that shrubs vary in a lot of ways beyond size.

    How much growth is on them?

    How well shaped are they already?

    Are you leaving tiny cuttings on the ground or hauling off huge amounts?

    Is this shrub in a formal landscape setting or sitting beside a rental home?

    What obstructions are around them? Is there potential for damage? Are they in tight spots or on slopes where footing is difficult and it's more tiring?

    How "clean" does the customer want the mulch or lawn? Would they rather have a lower price or a pristine look?

    Can you rake/blow cuttings into lawn and mulch up or bag them?

    Do you have gates and fences to deal with when moving cuttings?

    Does your idea of "trimmed" match that of the customer? Do you touch them up only to find the customer expected them cut way back for the price of a touch-up? I've had shrub jobs that filled a truck and trailer, and others that didn't even require much pickup at all.

    Experience will help. Since my customers know and trust me and I work fast, I just charge $60/hr and nobody has ever had a problem. It could be harder to do that with new customers.

    One tip would be to charge a flat fee per month on a service agreement to keep them in shape. That way you might be able to beat an hourly rate and give them a set price. Over time, even if you did more work than expected at first, once they were in good shape you'd know exactly how long they take to do at appropriate intervals.

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