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Shrubs are driving me nuts

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Feb 26, 2005.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

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

    This is by far the hardest part of the business for me to manage. Starting right about now, and continuing through the end of spring fever, EVERYONE wants their shrubs trimmed. The capital investment needed to trim shrubs is monumental next to lawn mowing. So I've got only one crew outfitted for shrubs. Not only that, I wouldn't dream of paying for workmans' comp if it weren't for shrubs. Chipper shredders, chain saws, articulating trimmers...those things are dangerous.

    If the demand for shrubs would come in consistently from homeowners over the 32 week season, it would be no problem. The problem is, homeowners only think about trimming the shrubs during spring fever. After that, there is very little demand for shrub work.

    So I leave Monday & Tuesday open for shrubs and other non-recurring work for one crew. This time of year, it isn't enough. Come mid-May, it'll be too much idle time.

    The other BEEYOTCH about shrubs is that very few new customers will agree to have us come out without an estimate. So a new customer calls and wants a price to mow the lawn and get on the weed control and fertilizer program. This is a fantastic opportunity. We can quote a price right over the phone for mowing and our fert program. But they also want a price to trim the friggin' shrubs. (And it amazes me how many people think our price to mow the lawn should inlcude shrub trimming for free!!!) We quote our hourly rate, but they want an estimate of how long it'll take. Well, I ABSOLUTELY REFUSE to drive out to a residential prospects home to give them a free estimate. I'll do it for an existing customer because I'm gonna get the business almost every time. I've tried that business model of driving out to do free estimates for prospects for two years and it doesn't work for me. You invest an hour of your time and a few gallons of gasoline and then they only sign up for service half the time because they've called a half dozen LCO's and done the same thing to them. If I pay an employee to go look at the estimates, it costs me money (on top of the advertising money I've already spent to get them to call in the first place).

    God I hate shrubs.

    If someone called you and wanted an estimate for shrub trimming, could you justify investing roughly $20 to pay an employee to drive out and do it, knowing you've only got a 50/50 chance of winning the business?

    DFW Area Landscaper
  2. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Messages: 4,891

    Ok So Dont Do It And Let Your Competition Drive Out There And Give The Estimate And Get The Work
  3. Mark McC

    Mark McC LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,565

    Why not offer shrub trimming only to existing customers?
  4. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Messages: 4,891

    Also Why Advertise If You Dont Want The Work?????????
  5. mtdman

    mtdman LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,143

    I thought you only worked in a 3 mile radius around your house and that there are only a few stop lights you even have to go through? How much time/money can it cost to drive in a 3 mile radius to do a shrub estimate?

    I don't like doing bush trimming either, so I don't advertise for it any more. I'll do it for existing customers, or even to get a good lawn account. If you don't like it, why do it? And if it's a necessity in order to get new work in the spring, then suck it up and deal with it.
  6. Likestomow

    Likestomow LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 997

    DFW - you really don't have to like doing shrubs if you have employees who will do the work. I think your problem is mainly with the estimates.

    I have no experience in your market, so my advice may not be the best, but I will give you my idea. I say go out on all calls for estimates and give them your price, but before doing that, figure out your bottom line. This is where you pay for costs and labor to do the job plus make some profit. You know how much an hour of labor will cost you, so add to it and let it be your rock bottom.

    If the prospect refuses your first estimate, then work on down to your lowest price. Why walk away from the job if you can make something? If your cost for two guys for one hour of labor is $40, I would think you surely could get at least $80. That would pay for your time and trouble, wouldn't it?
  7. DFW Area Landscaper

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


    I'm expanding the area dramatically. I've got 135,000 door hangers going out. Driving out to do shrub estimates isn't going to be the smart move for me. If I drive out to do a shrub estimate, I might miss calls. I do have a cell phone, but the point is, it doesn't make sense to drive to a house on what is usually less than $300 of gross revenue (not profit, but revenue) for a prospect who will only give us the job 50% of the time. If you roll a truck to a house, unless it's to settle a complaint, there needs to be revenue with that trip. My employee has to do the estimate because I need to be in the office to answer the phone. So estimates cost me money.

    I think what I'll try is this: Our price for the shrub crew is $36 per man hour if your on our regular mowing schedule. For customers who are not on the schedule for mowing, our price is $43 per man hour.

    If the prospect still insists they want a price for the shrubs, I'll explain that we only provide free estimates for customers who are on the mowing schedule. Otherwise, the only thing I can do is make them the first stop of the morning for our shrub crew and we can quote a price at that time. If they like it, fine, if not, we'll just move on to the next job. Justmowit does the shrub estimates this way and he says he has pretty good luck with it.

    Once they're on the mowing schedule, I'd say it's over 90% certainty we'll get the work. In fact, I've never had an existing mowing customer inquire about shrubs and not have us do the work. It's the people who are still undecided about an LCO that waste your time.

    DFW Area Landscaper
  8. Tom-N-Texas

    Tom-N-Texas LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 370

    Hey I'm in DFW too, and I also hate shrubs. I've felt this way for years. My main complaint is people just don't want to pay what its worth. Nowdays I only do shrubs for regular customers...unless its the dormant season...then I'll accept a few a jobs if they fit my criteria and they're not afraid to pay.
  9. Gene $immons

    Gene $immons LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,028

    For a one time job, we charge a minimum of $100.00 period. That will get them around an hour of work.

    Regular mowing customers get the best deals.
  10. Randy Scott

    Randy Scott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,915

    So technically you must not give any bids except over the phone. You mean you will not do an estimate unless you're guaranteed to get the work or make money from the customer. Or you think you are going to have a 100% close rate on bids?

    Your statement says you don't, or won't go to a house unless you make money from it. How's that working out for you? Or, you only service existing customers, remember everything about their property, and merely quote them over the phone.

    I'm just racking my brain here trying to figure out how one can stay in business, or get any business, while never giving an estimate unless you know it's guaranteed. I'm baffled as to how this works.

    I would suggest not letting those 135K of door-hangers go out if you aren't going to give an estimate unless the customer agrees to the price over the phone. In which, how the fuk will you know what to bid something at without seeing it.
    Or do you want the customer to hire you over the phone for a minimum charge, agree to whatever the price will be upon you arriving and estimating it, and of course, taking their credit card number.

    Oh, and this GIANT issue you have with never leaving the house because you will miss a call, which shouldn't matter because you don't want to go give anyone an estimate anyways, isn't going to ruin your business. Amazingly enough, a person can have an answering machine, voice-mail, call forwarding, or, if you're in dire straits, you can afford-ably hire an answering service to take calls. I'm certainly no role model business, but there isn't always someone here to answer our calls. Amazingly though, my business is growing. We add employees every season, have controlled, quality growth, and can still turn some work away. I'm quite certain people have called and when nobody answered the phone, have never called back, yet we're still here and still growing every season at MY pace.

    If these practices don't work for you, either you need to relocate because you live in the fricken' twilight zone, or it's you.

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