So here's my story.....

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by jrodgers, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. jrodgers

    jrodgers LawnSite Member
    Messages: 227

    Ok where do I start. I have been on this site for many years and it has been a good "go to" when I need to know something or get different opinions on certain things. I try to contribute what i can but with business, kids, household and my fishing addition it's hard to sit on the computer (not knocking anyone who does). Hence my only 170 posts in 12yrs or so. Soooo here's my story and I'm just looking to see if there is anyone in a similar situation.

    I have been in business for many years. I have never really gotten any bigger over the years (my choice). I have had around 100 customers (+\-) for most of the years I have been in business, 90% of which have been high end full service residential. Not to toot my own horn but I am very good at servicing these properties and charge accordingly for my work. I am very hands-on (I fall into the thread by Sean "standing in the way of your......very nicely) and run a very tight ship for my customers and have never had to look for work (no advertising, all word of mouth). My philosophy was I go a little high on the estimate and if I get it I have a good paying customer if not i already have enough work, because I never wanted to get that big. This worked for me for many years.
    Fast forward to two seasons ago when this lovely economy started to take its toll. I was giving estimates and not getting to many back and also started to lose a couple of existing customers. Then I lost my main guy who has been with me a long time (it was kind of time anyway) and had a rough time replacing him. Then I lost one of my main accounts , probably 15-20% of my business to a large co. who is always more expensive.
    I know one of my problems is good employees. It is hard to get individuals to work because I am always on the job and there is not much time to screw around, as opposed to many of the companies around here that just deal with the fact that guys are going to slack off if they are not there to babysit. I know I am stuck in my ways and it is hard to change, hence the saying "can't teach an old dog". So I am trying to figure out how to change myself. I know some will say "well just change with the times" but I'm having trouble lowering my prices just to get the work. The hard part is that I know I can still make descent money charging less because I have very little overhead. I just am not into it like I used to be. I do not have any education after high school and have no business training (not that I think that is a too big of a deal).
    Now I know what I have to change but sometimes I just don't have the energy to implement what I know I have to do. There has to be other companies out there that are in this same boat and was just wondering how they might have changed or what they might have done to figure this out. I really don't have any other business to get into and I'm tired of killing my self (just had to have double hernia surgery) trying to run this show. Some of this I'm sure is winter blues:laugh: but just wanted to see some of the responses I would get from posting this. Thanks for reading and have a great day!
  2. Landrus2

    Landrus2 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,905

    I actually read all your post . Its probably mid life crisis.:confused:

    THORNTON SERVICES LLC LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 427

    I have my business organized similar to the way you do , and help is very difficult to get , the business gets so saturated with a large ammount of companies and it becomes hard to make yours stand out. Im not for shure your price is the problem. Get some new shirts with a new logo , make up a flyer offering something for new customers , try to keep your business positive , I remember a couple years ago I didn't have help for a while and one of my big customers was talking to me and I was complaining to them about help etc and they usually only aproached me when they wanted something and it was time to get the headges trimmed so I figured that was it but they never asked and of course I was busy going solo so I didn't ask , the next week I showed up to cut the grass and there was 3 mexican guys trimming the headges , I thought I was fired , but i mowed the lawn and when I took the bill to the office I asked the owner why he hired them this year when I did it last year and thought that was part of my work to do. He acted surprised and said he didn't want to make it hard on me and thought that I was to busy to do it and these guys stopped in and said they would do it for $30 an hour and haul away the clippings ( thats $10 hour each person) so he had them do it , thats way less than what I was charging him , but it wasn't the money , so sorry for the long story but point is sometimes we create a false image because of things going on in our business I don't know if this is similar to whats happening to you or not , but hope it gets better and always stay positive , at least on site. maybe this will help.
  4. jrodgers

    jrodgers LawnSite Member
    Messages: 227

    Ughhhhh........Am I that old already:dizzy:. Very good possibility though.
  5. jrodgers

    jrodgers LawnSite Member
    Messages: 227

    I agree with the positive outlook aspect. My wife, who is very into Feng Shui says I need to stay positive, which I try my best to do. I can also relate to the Mexican story. Thanks for the input.
  6. Groomer

    Groomer LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,549

    I'm probably very close to how you describe yourself-always ran 1 truck and trailer and serviced around 100 clients most seasons. Usually 2 part-time guys to help out in peak season. The local economy here really tanked and is still tanked, in reality. I still have a core group of great clients-but they are slowly disappearing, and the next generation on the horizon is of a different breed. With real estate values so low, the once affluent neighborhoods have taken on a different character, and properties I once cut but changed hands are now mown with Joe homeowner's john deere. Couple that with all the out-of-work part timers with a minivan and a craftsman knocking on doors and you see where your marketshare goes. I try to remain as positive as I can and count my blessings. It does seem that even when you know you've done your best, external forces beyond our control can put you in a funk. Hey, you'll feel better when the grass stars greening up!
  7. Triton37

    Triton37 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 24

    I really need to be careful how I say this so let me first start by asking, can you make the same amount of profit per job as you used to 2 years ago especially when gas prices will rise above $5 per gallon? What do you have to change to make that same profit happen? We're starring at inflation right around the corner and this will cause your costs to climb. Are you going to just be in a race to the bottom or are you going to consider serving your high end clients that still love you in a totally different way? If you can't find a way to make what you did 2 years ago then what's the point of still doing lawns? Consider services your clients will hire you for such as... Pool service, window cleaning, gutter cleaning and general handyman work. Hire those $10 per hour guys to do these basic chores and multi-task on site. Instead of mowing for $90 an hour (drive time included at a profit of $15 per hour after expenses), consider a 2 man crew producing $150 per hour with less expenses and sell in tight neighborhoods going door to door so you can target a $50 per hr+ profit. You're ultimately the one responsible for making your money work for you. If you're not growing, you're not re-investing it back into your business. This is a people business and no matter what the economy does people who do great work will succeed! It sounds like you are doing great work already. Use your reputation to generate more $/hr or increase profits by squeezing more out of the mowing expenses. You can squeeze a dry orange all day long though and get nothing. Whatever you decide measure your work in $/hr and know that result every day from every truck. Doing this will open your eyes to new solutions and problems that you may have been missing.
  8. groundeffects

    groundeffects LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    Since it is still winter and not much going on check out the book "Who moved my cheese". Short read, but makes you think about things differently. May or may not help you out everyone should read it, employees and all.
  9. jrodgers

    jrodgers LawnSite Member
    Messages: 227

    So after I read this I Googled "Who Moved My Cheese" and came across a 12 min or so video on YouTube.

    It was the short version I guess but I found it very enlightening and I Get it! Thanks for steering me to it. Also appreciate the other responses. Some good ideas and insight.
  10. groundeffects

    groundeffects LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    Glad to help.

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