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This could go bad. help!

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by racer56, Apr 20, 2007.

  1. racer56

    racer56 LawnSite Senior Member
    from Kansas
    Messages: 285

    I was asked to design a landscape plan to go into my mowing customers lawn. The plan would be estimated out in phases and installed in phases. We spent several hours with the customer to find what she likes and dislikes and started bouncing a few ideas off her to see a rough plan in my head. We came back with what I felt looked very nice and fit the budget of the 1st phase they had talked about. A few weeks went by and a ton of phone calls and trips back out to the customers house and finally got the job. By the time I got the job the free dump, due to storm clean up was over and already lost 180.00 right off the bat but that is just the start. She told us she had a few other ideas and wanted to change the plan some. Of course I said fine the plan was just to get the customer thinking once they could see it on paper anyway. Of course I find out now she shopped my plan and her changes all over town to find a better price. Everyone thinks I'm nuts for charging so little but I hadn't priced the (small) changes of course.
    We went from 3 yards of dirt to 12 yards and was del. wrong time(customer to handle getting it to site on my time line) the dirt got rained on big time before we could get over to cover it so now 12 yards of mud. 3- 7 gallon trees turned into 2" trees 4 total. 6 2 gallon shrubs turned into 23 2-5 gallon shrubs and 1 completely extra bed and making the rest a ton bigger.
    I fell like we are headed for tough times as I didn't even see the plan she drew until I had removed 3 cypress covered up the mud(dirt) and wondered why so much dirt. I thinki they whitheld the drawing they wanted to use until I got started so not to talk money til I got started. I have spent the better part of 2 weeks on this even working in the rain as she was pushing hard to be done.
    They are a good mowing account but feel like I'm getting ready to mow all year for free if I don't step the bid up a ton. Due to the unplanned extra time this job has taken I lost a nice 1800.00 clean up/ landscape job and a few smaller ones I had planned to do in this time but couldn't start them until I got this done. We will finish this job in the morning and have really been stressing over what to do for the bill. The plan she had us do is not really anything what we designed for her and agreed upon for the bid. What to do? I can't scan the drawing in for all to see but what would most charge to move 12 yards of mud and plant everything listed plus several trips to town for extra stuff they forgot, cutting in several beds and around 7 yards of mulch. Part of the problem is they wanted to buy everything and go get it. I think they really just wanted to not have me make any money on materials but I could be wrong. Any thoughts?
  2. mverick

    mverick LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 307

    You screwed up.

    When she changed the plan. You should have looked it over.

    If they ordered the dirt and you looked over the plan and it was completely different you were in the drivers seat. Take the job or walk off and leave the dirt. They'd have been OK with changing the price.

    Going up to them after the job is done and wanting more money isn't the right time to ask. Although, I'd do it. I'd hand them a bill for the extra time and materials over what they charged and since they ordered the materials the wrong day I'd charge them for the extra labor for that and all my drive time. Hand them the bill. They look at you like you're an idiot and tell them you changed the plans and that's why it's different. The plan was larger.

    When someone wants to change a plan I always tell them it will cost more. It's not a problem to change but if it involves more of my time it cost's more.

    Also, I don't give someone my drawn out plan till I have the job. I tell them what I will do and the cost. Showing them. But, I don't give them the paper to go shop it around. They want my design idea's they pay me.

    Run it like a business and charge like one. If ya undercut yourself you see what happens. I alway's overcharge my bids by 10 to 15 percent. So, I'm covered.

    They didn't want you ordering the dirt or plants so they could change them afterwards and you wouldn't know.

    You might be out of luck.
  3. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,112

    Yes, as you see I have many thoughts. This is what you do. Tomorrow before continuing any work, you re-estimate your new labor charges and present it to them, triple or quadruple it. They know it has to cost more you don't have to explain crap to them. More work costs more money.
    Simply tell her that
    of course when she made changes, bought much more material than originally planned, and added planting beds, she increased significantly your time and labor involved in utilizing that material and performing the additional work.

    They did not order the soil to be delivered on the right day, it got wet, they have to pay for that, double for double the work moving it wet.
    Get approval before you do one more lick of work there. In writing!
    I hope you have not done most of the work already, if you have you could be screwed bigtime on this. Get it done and get your significantly increased check from her and run.
    If she gives you any trouble, then insist, keep cool, stay calm, do not get angry or upset. Keep repeating the things I have said above. You have done the work without making sure the client realized just how much it is going to cost her to have more done. Right now she has the upper hand, can simply play dumb and refuse to pay you what you should get and only pay you what you agreed upon at first. Nothing you can do about it either.
    You have to play this carefully to win. Good luck and remember what I have told you for the future

  4. Big M LawnnSnow

    Big M LawnnSnow LawnSite Member
    Messages: 217

    I know your not doing this job without a contract are you?
    And I AGREE with Sheshovel "NEVER take a job where a client wants to handle buying and ordering the materials themselves".
    I would submit a bill today for what they owe and stop everything until a contract is signed with a deposit on the following work at the NEW price.
    If that is unacceptable to them walk away with your work completed check and move on before you lose more time and money.
  5. racer56

    racer56 LawnSite Senior Member
    from Kansas
    Messages: 285

    The contract called for me to do the plan I layed out. I didn't even know we had any changes that added up to any big deal until the dirt arived and I had already spent 4-5 hours with her and her husband planning. I was not imtimadated as I've been a sales manager as a full time job for years. Talking to people is not a problem and neither is holding gross. Having said that I feel due to the "drunk in a truck" outfits here it is hard to run like a real business as that isn't the way folks here are used to things going. We finished the job this morning and she asked about the bill right after so she knows it is going to be alot more. I told her I hadn't had a chance to add up what all the extra work and changes will cost extra but told her I would be fair. That word "fair" is used alot, right before someone gets out the stick and crams it home:hammerhead: . I told her I would just send the bill with the mowing for the month after the first. She didn't really like doing that I could tell as she was very interested in having the bill right now. She might be thinking a higher number than I am but looks around 3000.00 without going over our log book that has all the start and end times for sure.
    Tough thing going full time this year is most lco's around here either collect welfare, disability or are retired and "do it to get outside". Hard to run with these guys. I constantly fight these other guys. We are kind of considering moving back to the Overland Park, Kansas area to get back in the money. Equipment costs the same, fuel, good help, trucks. Really the only difference is I work for 25% of what we did up in K.C. area and have to fool around driving all over for dead beat estimates that go up in smoke to the 20 dollar an hour guys. I would hate to see someone get hurt but just once I would like to see one of these dirt bag loc's with no insurance need it big time and have an example made of them in the community as well as court.

    What would any of you charge for this work?
  6. Shawns Lawns

    Shawns Lawns LawnSite Senior Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 638

    I agree with She Shovel :waving: :waving:
  7. General Landscaping

    General Landscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 801

    Any variance in the plan results in a "change order"; signed by the customer.
    It's like an estimate, just for the charges resulting from the change.
    When the job is done, add the original total + change orders.
  8. racer56

    racer56 LawnSite Senior Member
    from Kansas
    Messages: 285

    You guys must be in an area that has lco's that operate like some sort of a real company. Not around here. Everyone likes things nice and easy. Very very hard to get anything at all in writing. I would say you would go broke trying to do so but I did indead have an estimate that was approved. What I would like to hear is some prices in a ballpark knowing size and number just to put in ground the move 12 yards of dirt by hand around a front yard area.
    I understand it's a very rough number but surely you know how much you charge to put 4 2" trees in the ground that the customer bought and had taken to the site.
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    In short, I am the owner and I do work per my specifications only, thus I decide how, when, or what.
    As soon as the customer decides to control this area I'm gone, and I mean I go Poof that instant, one red flag ok but no more.
    There are a few cases when a customer just so happens to want it done exactly the way I would normally do it anyhow, I find this situation amusing but only to the point where it involves as much leg and paper work as the labor fees cover.

    The long of it:
    Independent contractors perform compensated work for businesses and individuals, but they are not considered to be employees. The independent contractor relationship is usually created and based on an oral or written arrangement between the business and the contractor. If the agreement is in writing, it may provide specific standards defining the quality of the work in question (or the results thereof), and establish the pay rate for that work. Independent contractors have more freedom over their work and the ability to contract with a range of businesses, but they do not receive many of the legal protections that employees do.

    Rights & Duties of Independent Contractors

    As an independent contractor, the "hiring" company is not your employers, but your customer. Independent contractors have the right to decide when, where, and how a given project should be completed. If you are an independent contractor, the businesses hiring you are not entitled to direct your work. Generally speaking, your customer specifies only the desired outcome of your work, but you have the freedom to determine how to achieve that outcome.

    While clients cannot directly oversee the work, that does not mean independent contractors have free rein on all aspects of the relationship. Independent contractors must complete their assigned projects on time and according to the specifications set forth in the independent contractor agreement.

    Anyhow, sounds to me like you might have a failure to reach an agreement, or perhaps a breach of contract?
  10. racer56

    racer56 LawnSite Senior Member
    from Kansas
    Messages: 285

    Well to me the contract(approved estimate in writing) never really got started but I had so much time into dealing with them already I couldn't pack it up. When I was told I had the go ahead on the estimamte I provided her I assumed we had the job of installing that plan. Talking about I didn't do this or should have done that is hot air:dizzy: . The job is done looking for answers to my price question and how it should be handled at this late point. I tried several times to talk money but everytime I talked she kept adding to the job. I felt like I was spending so much time I finanlly just her the original estimate and hid from her until I finally heard an ok back from her on that. It got to where I hated to go mow her yard as that would take an extra hour after done talking about the landscape ideas.
    I guess they get what the get as I tried to talk money several times and it didn't seem to be a big deal. When they at least looked to have been trying to take advatage of me I'm still trying to be fair as I want to keep everyone happy if I can. They are well educated folks so I guess surely they can do simple math as far as 12 yards of mud spread is at least 4 times the price of 3 yards of dry dirt spread. 2" trees cost more to put in the ground than 7 gallon ones do. I guess most don't seem to understand when she had to have me make 7 unplanned trips to town for stuff they said they would have for me each trip just kills me for the windshield time and they kind of stop counting time of the property when not working in the yard.

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