Solo Operators-What's the best way to lower operating costs?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by smitty's lawncare, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,933

    There is lots of good advice in this thread for solos.

    For me, the most important is to be productive and efficient. This means having the right equipment at hand, ready to go every day. PM work is important, and is done off-work hours. Last season, I think I lost only one working hour because of an equipment problem. Organize tools and equipment for easy access, trying to have everything you need for a quick repair, including some basic repair parts (e.g. belts, zipties, wire, tape).

    Pack a lunch, use the minimum time to eat, and then keep going. No breaks. Water in coolers. Tailgating works well, with a stadium seat. Or, the ZTR seat, under a shade tells makes a quick, good lunch spot. Never drive to a special place to lunch. Never stop at a store when on the route for food. Sometimes, stop at a hardware store, or dealer, if on the route, for supplies and parts, but most are ordered online, delivered to the door.

    Work steady, set goals for time, complete the jobs when on-site eliminating road time to return to finish. Layout larger block of time for jobs requiring the entire time for the job, such as bush trimming, leaf cleanup, etc. Be prepared for some late evening work to finish, keep schedule. Take social commitments off the schedule, April 1 to Thanksgiving.

    Keep chit-chat to a minimum, but make a point of speaking to a customer every time the opportunity arises, even if a simple "hello." Keep the relationships strong, and let the customer know you are interested in them as people.

    Make infrequent, but necessary trips to the bank (2X/month). Do not keep checks long after receipt. Use QB or other software to minimize the time required to keep records, and do all the admin work at a time when you cannot be out working. Keep all records up to date EVERY night, work, receipts, banking, etc.
  2. dhardin53

    dhardin53 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 710

    Love most all the input to the topic, but the debt issue kind of gets me confused. Their is good debt and bad debt being a solo operator there is lot of bad debt potential. I don't disagree one needs to know how to work with debt and has it place in business . But a solo operator with a mowing season like we had last year would have went under if there debt was to high. The drought cut almost 50% of the mowing season. So I made almost half the income last year. Right now I own no one anything I am debt free. I have time to fix my own equipment, repair and keep my chrome rims polished on my Edide Baure trickster with 120 000 miles looking like new. I buy used equipment of some type most every year to stay current, And pay cash for it. But this is my operation, I DO NOT EVER TELL ANYONE HOW TO RUN THERE BUSNESS. It is what makes free enterprise work. Some succeed and some fail. All I try to do is give advice and hope to save some heart ace when possible. You have free will do as you please. In no way can one understand the differences in geographic, economical differences, and regional influences in running a business across this country.

    But to have debt for the sake of having debt and let every mowers salesmen convince you your doing the right thing to stay in debt is just putting your money in there pocket. True it can be a great peace of mine, But so is the balance in my check book right now even after last years drought.
  3. weeze

    weeze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,501

    i did buy a 54" john deere z920a ztr for $7900 and a backpack blower for $500 my first year in business. all i had was a john deere gt275 48" residential riding mower and it was way too slow since i had gained some yards that were 3 acres and 2 acres in size.

    i had some money saved from my previous job though and i paid half of the mower amount upfront and financed the rest for 3 years with 0% interest. payments were about $175 a month and i have now paid it off in only 2 years.

    so i went into about $4000 of debt but it was interest free. my mower is just now at 300hrs so it's paid off and still basically a brand new mower with that few hrs on it. i hope it will last me 10 more years. i'll see how it goes. i'll be trying to save money along the way. i've purchased a trimmer/edger in cash with no debt. the small things it's easy but mowers are expensive. it's hard to save up $10k to buy a ztr but maybe in 10 years time i can do that or at least save most of it and finance the rest with no interest.

    i don't like buying used equipment because most people don't take care of things very well. you just never know how often they changed the oil and whatever. i take care of my stuff maticulously from the start.

    the same thing goes for a truck. my toyota truck i still owe about $8k on and it's around 32k miles so it's still basically brand new as well. hopefully it will last 10-15years after i pay it off.

    the key to saving money is not having payments. :laugh: hopefully i should have a good 10 year span with no truck or mower payments of any kind and i can save alot of money up during that time to be prepared for the next purchase down the road.
  4. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 19,013

    I worked 4 days this week, Im still suffering from working tuesday chapped lips and wind burned face.

    THought next week would be slow but today 2 regulars said come and picked up 1 small job, and have a couple of regulars that I will just show up and do.

    Hopefully thing s will bust wide open week after next.
  5. weeze

    weeze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,501

    yeah i've got at least 5 planned to mow next week. i picked up a new customer today from an estimate. gonna cut theirs monday if it's not raining.

    i don't know if i've gotten a little sunburn or windburn or both. :laugh:

    this is a crazy spring for sure. i'm ready to get going. early spring is the worst part of the year to me. just the getting everything organized and getting everyone on the same page and getting everyone started. once i get going everything is easy. it's the starting each year that annoys me the most since everyone seems to wanna start at different times. i'm getting to the point where i'm gonna have to stop working with people so much. so many want you to skip a week here or there or whatever. i just wish they would all stay on schedule all of the time.

    some had me mow a few weeks ago but then they wanna skip several weeks and then probably start up normally in the 2nd week of april. others just wanna try to wait until the 2nd week of april to get the first cut. i wish they all wanted to start at the same time. :laugh:

    i still have a few that need to tell me when to start. i've already contacted them but as of now it's still "up in the air". that's the part i hate.
  6. MTenterprises

    MTenterprises LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 326

    Put an electric push mower in the back of a Prius? :)
  7. weeze

    weeze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,501

    i bet that would work great in places like california. you could advertise as being "green".

    use battery powered everything. mower, trimmer, hedge trimmers, blowers, etc.
  8. Valk

    Valk LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,711

    ...and make a mint while inherently doing a crappy job.
  9. weeze

    weeze LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,501

    exactly!!! that is the key to success in this business.
  10. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 19,013

    When I had my business in So. California everything was cut with a 21" mower. I saw a feller with a honda car one of those things thats real tiny, he had a trailer to and towed his equiptment. He had a real good business.

    Just to add another point about debt. Ill never figure out why a "in debt" or a debtor operation make payments on a truck and equiptment thinks that a debt free operator cant hold enought cash to finirish his needs.

    Whats the difference if you make 1000$ per month in payments, or budjet 1000$ in cash.

    Debt is dumb........Cash is King

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