Thinking about making a change?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by mowjoeman, Aug 28, 2004.

  1. mowjoeman

    mowjoeman LawnSite Member
    Messages: 61

    Recently I was working on one of my acc'ts, when the home owner asked me if I would have a minute after I was done to talk with him. I of course said I did and what he asked me sticks with me almost every day and it's driving me crazy, so here's what he said, He said, Can I ask you why your wasting your time with residentials? I was suspicious right away and thought , ok whats he selling? but he was serious and went on to tell me that 20 yrs earlier, he was doing the same exsact thing as I was cutting grass and one day his father in law said to him you'll never make it unless you get yourself some big accounts, which drove him crazy untiil he started to chase condo's and Garden Apt complexes and commercial acct's and 12 yrs later decided to give it up when he told me that he had made enough money? whats enough anyway? But I can tell you that he's about 10 yrs older than I am and I'm 47 and he's always out playing on his offshore Proline with two Monster twin engines off the back or traveling. My question is can anyone tell me why I shouldn't be thinking of making a switch to commercial work? except for the obvious, like equipment, is there anyone out there that had something happen to them that they wish they could have avoided going into the commercial end of the business? The Growth here in central west Florida is booming ! Lots and Lots of commercial work I would Bet! and thats just what I see in my daily travels around a small portion of this county! I also Know that they would require Bonding and Insurance, but is there anything else that is important that anyone can share? Thanks In advance. Joe

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981

    I guess a lot of guys view commercials as the "Holy Grail" of mowing. Its all what you make of it, what you want to get out of it. My old boss is doing quite well with his 95% residential/5% commercial mix. Bought an $800,000 house with it. Added about $200,000 worth of in-ground pool/free-standing, 3 story garage (yes, it has a basement, ground level and upstairs.) The question really amounts to, what are you trying to accomplish? A nice comfortable life? Early retirement? Personally, I'm not trying to become the next Donald Trump, although that would be nice if it happened that way.

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981

    BTW, an $800,000 in this area is probably equivalent to $400k in most parts of the country. But still, that's good.
  4. CuttingCrew

    CuttingCrew LawnSite Member
    Messages: 193

    I’ve been wrestling with the same questions for the last few months. This is my first full year really trying to make a go of it and I’m finding that doing it legitimately, with insurance, taxes, etc., I have to be very selective of the accounts I take. I’m 100% residential and just a few accounts a day that were not bid properly can turn a profitable day into break even or loosing day. Especially if you have a piece of equipment breakdown or unexpected weather conditions. My partner seems to think adding more accounts will solve this problem but the truth is it will only compound it unless they are choice accounts. I’m starting to see that the best route is a split of residential/commercial or completely commercial. My only concern with that is if you loose one big commercial account at the wrong time in business growth, it could crush a small company. Because of that I will keep my best residential customers till I have a very solid commercial base.

    Just my two cents worth.

  5. drsogr

    drsogr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,275

    This sounds like the DFW sindrom to me! The grass is always greener on the other side. Why don't you guys drum up some commercial work, and add a little at a time and see if it becomes more profitable for you or not?! Wouldn't hurt to try. Start by getting some commercial accounts and weeding out your bad residential.
  6. mowjoeman

    mowjoeman LawnSite Member
    Messages: 61

    Hey Hoolie - I say Go For It! when I was in my 20's I felt that way, when I was in my thirties I said there's still a chance? when I hit my 40's I said what ever will be will be? Thank You God ! now nearing the 50 yr mark, It's not probable that i'll be rubbing elbows with the Trumpster? but in the country anything is Possible! and if I have a good 15 yrs left I'm still gonna try! thanks for the reply - Cutting Crew - I hear you loud and clear! and since this is a whole new set of rules I think you have to set it up as so! meaning that from what i've read and heard ETC. there are contracts so if there not happy you will know far in advance, or should? so that you can rebound God willing. I think keeping a balance of some good residentials can pull you through the hard commercial surprises? Until the Base you speak of is accomplished. Thanks Joe - Drsogr - at 47 I think I got that pretty much out of my system my wife and family cured that! But this is the last leg of the Journey for me and being careful is part of it. I have made alot of mistakes and I really don't want to make anymore , but isn't that a part of it? I know I'll always be able to grab enough residentials to keep food on the table, but I was hoping for just a little extree, so maybe I could help the kids out and take that west coast vacation i've always wanted? It's pretty appealing you have to admit, instead of cutting 200 properties, I can go to just two or three? and the monetary rewards are better? so nothing ventured nothing gained. If it wasn't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all! But I no from exprience this much, If you want something bad enough? you'll have it. I was just hoping someone could give me a heads up on something newbies going into commercial work would generally could use? Thanks all , A Toast! May we Triumph!!!
  7. mastercare

    mastercare LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 289

    My thoughts are this:

    When you go with Resis, you have many customers, most of whom will be loyal, assuming you do good work. They won't even ask others for quotes...if you keep them happy. They'll be your bread and butter year after year. On the commercials: they're always trying to save costs, especially when a new property manager comes in, you're almost guaranteed to be in competition every year (that is, without LONG term contracts).

    I believe that you're better off with resis. Keep them happy, slowly raise their prices, and prove that they don't need anyone else working for them. As long as you're priced profittably, you'll do fine. Sure, you could buy more equipment, pay more man hours, and get those bigger checks...but couldn't you do the same with resis by getting more acocunts? There's plenty of grass out there, and if you were to lose 4-5 accounts,,,,,no big deal. You'll pick up more than that just driving around in a season.

    Good way to start on the commercial is to pick up small properties, which are about the same as a large resi lawn. As you get more and more, start moving to bigger properties. Much better to grow your company when you have a solid income base, that isn't hinging on a few big accounts.
  8. mbricker

    mbricker LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 505

    Dan J, Mastercare, is talking about a situation similar to my area:

    Your commercial accounts, especially the larger ones, are likely to get rebid yearly even if you are doing an exemplary job. And if you have based a large part of your time/income on one commercial that you lose to a lowballer, well, it hurts!

    Instead of thinking LARGE accounts, I started focusing on many small accounts in a neighborhood. One stop, one unload, sweep around a group of 5 with the trimmer, then mow ALL of them, then hoist the backpack blower to my shoulders just ONE time to finish the bunch. This is certainly not an original idea. But think of my savings in windshield time, truck fuel, compared to the competitor who drives into the neighborhood for one lawn, then hits the road again to the next subdivision where he again cares for ONE lawn.

    As for loyalty, well, the residentials stick with you if you are doing reasonably good work, although it may be laziness in some cases rather than loyalty.

    HOWEVER, Mowerjoe, every market is different. What works in my area may not work where you are. And vice versa.
  9. mowjoeman

    mowjoeman LawnSite Member
    Messages: 61

    Mastercare and mbricker - Hey thankyou for your time, It is something that you really want to take time to think carefully on thats for sure huh? but I will grow the business as you suggested. one day at a time. Many Thanks , please don't hesitate to post again if you think of anything else. I may be over doing it a bit as far as work on the residentials and I have to look back at them and say dam! that looks Good! but my opinion from anothers will differ as far as what we both feel is a good job? what I can brag about is that everyone I started with are still with me going into the fourth season and it was because of me if they aren't. I have decided to ask the chosen few I thought would be able to afford it, if they would go monthly ? thus insuring the company a pay check through out the slow months and to my surprise I am starting 2 this coming season and have 3 others already, so I really need to think about this and grow the business and be smart about it. But in west central Florida it can be very transient as you never can tell who will be with you out of the new customers that sign up? but like you mentioned one or two leave and another 4 or 5 come aboard. Got to love it! as far as getting involved in commercial work, I think i'm going to think about how to word a contract so that it's fair to all of us and I can avoid the power trippers and new prop Managers, being one myself when I first was married15 yrs ago ! I beleive it wasn't in vain as I have some insight into the managerial aspects this can include? like I said, wording and working out the contract with this in mind may just work out very well and be the saving grace when sh-- wants to hit the fan? Thanks again.
  10. CJ GreenScapes

    CJ GreenScapes LawnSite Member
    from AL
    Messages: 249

    mowjoeman, I think you are on the right track. I have not pursued commercials, but they have come my way none the less. I am about 50/50 right now and I feel that as I grow, I want my percentages to stay the same.

    I will add one thing to consider - the economy. When times are hard, the residentials will be the first to drop you. Most of my commercial accounts depend on a well-kept lawn, while it is just a luxury to my res's.

    Good luck to ya and happy mowing!

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