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Solo operaters: is it worth hiring a helper?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by earthandturf, Feb 15, 2005.

  1. earthandturf

    earthandturf LawnSite Member
    Messages: 57

    I've been solo ever since I started in this business 5 years ago. I'm now considering hiring a helper because of the amount of work I currently have to turn away. I'd like some input from people who have been down this road, I'd have to by more equipment, pay workman's comp, payroll taxes, etc. How much can I really add to my bottom line? Is it worth it?
  2. MacPhersonlawn

    MacPhersonlawn LawnSite Member
    Messages: 170

    I started last year by myself but it got to much for me (all the work) and I kept getting new customers. Hired someone to help part time. Found that I could increase my performance 40% or more with a helper. After Expenses I think I got a little over 30% increase in income with help. And most important, I was not exhausted at the end of the day. I'm not 25 any more!
  3. Eddie B

    Eddie B LawnSite Senior Member
    from gone
    Messages: 859

    The guy I hired last year was the biggest waste of time. I had 3 lawns finished and he was still trimming the first. I make more money on my own.
  4. Five Diamond Lawns

    Five Diamond Lawns LawnSite Member
    Messages: 197

    Yes, get a full time helper. Absolutely!!!!
    It's one of the most profitable moves you can make in this industry. Never again as your company grows will you be able to effect your bottom line so easily.
    The mistake some people make is how to best utilize that extra person. No one here can tell you that, they can only tell you what worked for them. Take that and try using the helper every way possible until you find what works best in your system.

    Good luck!
  5. Jason Rose

    Jason Rose LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,858

    I tried hireing a helper, a good friend of mine, last summer. I have always mostly worked solo unless I was in a jam and then I have a couple guys I could call that could help me for a half day or whatever to get caught up. It always was such a mess... I am not a boss, nor do I really like to tell people how to do things. But as soon as I hired my friend I was doing both. I just know through years of practice what is (what I feel) to be the most effecient way to do things, wether it's trimming, mowing, dumping the grass, even getting out of the truck and dropping the gate. I think it's all in the employee... My friend just did not want to do anything the way I asked him to do it and honestly would do thigs the exact opposite half the time. so much so, I'd ask him to start mowing in the front and I'd go to the back and I'll be darned if I look up and there he is in the backyard with me mowing and going over stuff I just mowed.

    About 1/3 of the time we could actually finish a lawn in almost half the time it would take me by myself. never can be really half but it should be close... But way too many times I found myself doing waaaay more than half of the mowing even though after telling him daily to SLOW DOWN he still would go as fast as the machine would drive with no reguard to how well it was cutting. Plus being solo I was getting done around 5:00 most days, having a helper I was getting done 2 or 3 hours earlier some days. well now what do I do?? I just paid him so I can be bored in the afternoon... If i could have picked up another 20 or so lawns in the middle of the summer when I hired him it would have kept the schedule full and justified paying him, but that's not likely going to happen... I only paid him for a few weeks, never got into work comp and withholding, thankfully. I finally had to fire him so he would stop showing up at my house in the mornings, then when I gave him his last check, where I paid him for lunch breaks and the hours he "worked" he accused me of shorting him about 4 hours and didn't speak to me for a week.

    Moral is, never hire friends! As for a helper, I would love to have one, just need to find someone that is more motoivated than me that wants to do good work.
  6. Five Diamond Lawns

    Five Diamond Lawns LawnSite Member
    Messages: 197

    The way I started using my first helper was to teach him one thing - Mowing - Then when we pulled up to a job it was his job to unload the truck gas everything up we were going to need then start mowing the largest lawn (front or back) While he was doing that I would start edging everything. Then I would get the other mower that was gassed and sitting on the smallest lawn with a tarp to dump grass on and mow. Lastly as I blew the property he would load everything in the trailer and get all the tarps of grass into the truck. That's the basic plan that worked for me obviously different properties were different but you get the idea.
    Also the first year I went through about 4 before I found a good helper and he's still with me, and he has a helper now :p
  7. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Messages: 8,745

    yes and no it is worth to hire on a helpher. My biggest thing that I hated about help was the hassle of dealing with them. Mostly schedules, showing up on time, etc.
  8. earthandturf

    earthandturf LawnSite Member
    Messages: 57

    I guess that's one of my biggest worries, taking on more work and then hoping the person I hire will show up and actually be helpful, without wasting time. I worry about being stuck with twice the work I can handle if my helper doesn't work out. Right now I have a teriffic reputation and I would hate to ruin that.
  9. packerbacker

    packerbacker LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,433

    Im solo and i have often wondered the same thing. I think the time to hire someone has more to do with money then to much work.

    You need to be able to live comfortably before you start paying someone out your pocket. I wouldnt do it yet. I still have close to 1.5 days of free time to add new customers.
  10. meets1

    meets1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,855

    I have numerous helpers throughout the summer season. My question is when do you hire a full time employee? And what do your guys think is a fair wage for that employee? I am looking at salary.

    We offer snow removal, we do all major repairs/maint. on all equipment, trucks, trailers, etc that one could keep busy a few hours out of the day.

    As far as helpers go - do you want the responsiblitiy that helpers come with? I hate being a glorified babysitter but I have found the ones that ask the most questions, do a great job slowly at first and then proceed on there own - some of the best guys on the summer crews. I hate to loss them after 4- 8 years being with us.

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