Shrub trimming, bed clean-ups, tree pruning

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Aug 22, 2007.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

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

    Need advice here bad.

    Right now, I've got a crew that goes back and forth between two trucks, the chemical truck and the clean-up truck. My workers are all paid on straight commission. This crew makes outstanding money driving the chemical truck. But, when they go to the clean-up truck, not only are they more fatigued at the end of the day, but they make crap money.

    Currently, I'm charging $36 per man-hour on the clean-up truck. Recently, I've added a $20 trip charge if the client won't sign up for automatic quarterly visits. If they'll sign up for automatic visits, it saves me the headache of a friggin' phone call every time. If they're automatic, my job is a LOT easier.

    One problem I really struggle with is simply supply/demand. I don't have enough supply for clean-ups. If I hire another driver to dedicate to the clean-up truck, and if I pay him straight commission, he'll earn crap pay.

    Should I reduce the commission on the chemical truck and pay a higher commission on the clean-up truck? Or just raise prices dramatically on the clean-up truck? We're already very expensive in most client's eyes at $36 per man-hour.

    Secondly, the other MAJOR problem I have is appointments. Clients call and want their shrubs trimmed immediately. If I tell them the queue is a month out, they won't place the order. I lose the sale. So I tell them we're about 10 days out on that. Then, they're calling in here 2 weeks later. I realize, adding supply will make most of these problems go away.

    But the appointments are also killing me. If a client is picky about their shrub trimming, they'll want to walk through the job with my foreman first. That means setting an appointment. The problem with appointments is, we can only set one a day, and it has to be the first stop of the day. Because we never know how long a job will take, we can't set an appointment for 1:00pm, for example. I'm not gonna ask my crew to load up all the equipment at a client's house, charging them for the labor to do it, drive all the way across town just to satisfy some paranoid home owner. The other problem with appointments is, if we blow it, and my driver's really good about not blowing them, but if we do, man do I get an earfull. Should I charge a premium for appointments? How much would the market bear for an appointment? $75 too much? I mean, I'm just about to the point of saying if your landscape is so complicated that you need a walk through before hand, just don't bother us.

    The other consideration is to just exit this business all together. The problem with that is, the high end clients, the ones who stay with you forever as long as you don't screw up, all want this service. I don't want them to call a competitor for shrub trimming because I may lose the lawn account.

  2. PHS

    PHS LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 724

    Digging this thread up from way back but I was bored and curious how many pages I would have to search to find a thread in this forum that didn't have 'mulch' or 'leaf' in the title :).

    From what it sounds like you're probably out of the business now...just kidding :), but I can see why you're frustrated. I prefer to pay hourly with bonuses for employees but if you want to do a commission-type thing I think adjusting the commission rate for the services so there isn't such a big discrepency is a good idea.

    Instead of the customer meeting with foreman, you meet with the customer and write a detailed work order for the foreman. If the customer is still concerned let them know you'll meet with the crew to explain the job when they get there. That's how I used to do it managing tree crews and it worked fine.

    Instead of all work being hourly, have you tried giving some bids instead? Sometimes they balk at $36/man hour portal to portal but $200 sounds perfectly reasonable. If you can get the work done in 4 man hours everyone's happy and you bumped up your rate considerably. It's a little bit more of a gamble but what the heck, if you only quote by the hour you're never going to make more than your hourly rate. So mix them up a little, on jobs where you're confident they can get it done in X time, give a bid, if not go hourly.

    On your scheduling, if you're doing work on demand you're going to have problems. You need to get the work on your schedule not theirs. When you meet them for the first time, set up a contract to trim the hedges 3x per year or whatever it is. That way you can plan ahead, tighten up your routes, and all the rest of it. If you're just going by 'whenever they call for service' it's just a loser all the way around for everyone involved.

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