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Wanting to start this season in Oklahoma

beargins

LawnSite Member
Location
Oklahoma
First off, I am in Oklahoma City.

I'm new to this industry and I would like to work part time 3 days per week, maybe an hour here or there the other days. I've already written my business plan. I have read the posts regarding insurance, overhead, marketing etc, and all in all some of the advice is encouraging and some of the advice is frightening. I want to join this industry part time to make some extra money this spring, summer and fall. I currently work 2 jobs, one full time well paying day job, that is 10 hours per day, 4 days per week, which I sit at a desk all day, the other is a part time evening job, which is about 3-5 hours per evening and I drive a bob tail. So all in all my work is not too stressful physically although I am IT in my day job and it can be mentally stressful sometimes.

Note: I have read many of the threads already in regards to beginning, but confirmation (and wise counsel) always helps.

Honestly, currently I don't have any equipment, I've been pricing commercial mowers on Craigslists, and also some state surplus sales, and I have found reasonably priced 21 inch self propellers, as well as some decent walk behind 36+" mowers, I am thinking this setup would be best, and the most cost effective for my first season. I want to target residential accounts, as well as intercity vacant lots (if they arent all taken!)

My vehicle of choice will be a ford ranger, I've read that its possible to use the 4 cylinder 5 speeds for a small 5x10 trailer, and some light equipment.

I have been in contact with SCORE business advisers and I am planning to schedule an appointment to discuss my business plan with them.

I want to keep my initial startup cost under 3000$, considering the fact that my truck can be also used as a daily commuter to my primary job, I can take that as a loss because right about now I am in the market for something cheap that will replace my current honda civic.

Should I register as a sole proprietor, or LLC?
Insurance, from your experience what are the rates?

What percentage of your gross goes towards insurance, licensing, and taxes?

Most important, could this be profitable? I'm not saying I want to be rich overnight, I don't mind working hard, I hope to make $13,000+ this season if possible, minus operating fees (which I will try to keep to a bare minimum).

Also, would you recommend any non ZTR riding mowers for a beginner? They seem affordable, but would that speed up mowing versus a nice sized walk behind? What brands/models are NO NO's?

Any advice would be nice. Fellow Okies, I'd definitely like to hear your advice. I should add, I am 23 years old, in good physical standing(praise God), and very motivated to make extra money.
 

360ci

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
Kitchener, ON
I think you won't have much time to yourself if you want to make $13K or more in your first season. Still, it can be possible with very little sleep. My first season nine years ago I managed 16 small residential accounts and made good money at it, but with school at the time it was a overkill. A lot of guys here work shifts (3-4 days/wk for long hours) and then run a lawn biz on the side with great success.

You'll have to start on the low side, to build a customer base, and once that is done, you can grow. I recommend buying the larger equipment only as you grow, to save on expenses. If you want to take the hit and buy the heavy stuff up front, that's fine, but you won't see much profit your first year.

For now, register the business as a sole proprietor. Once you get more clients, especially on the commercial side if you plan to go that route and work steady hours, an LLC is a good change.

There are a lot of topics on gross and net profit. This varies GREATLY only because some operate different machines, trucks, trailers, etc. As an example, most of my lawn customers are in the $25-40/lawn a week range. I have some apartment buildings that I look after on a bi-weekly basis for $90 every two weeks. You have to look at what your machines cost you to operate over the course of an hour, and go by that. On average, I charge about $60-70/hr on my own. If I outsource help the price goes up to $85-100/hr range but I can do twice as much work in an hour. My mowers both consume around 1L of fuel an hour under steady operation. My trimmers are 4 stroke, and my blower is 2 stroke. I'll go through about a gallon of fuel a week for the trimmers, and about a gallon of fuel a month for the blowers. If I did all the work myself, after fuel costs, truck maintenance and fuel (estimated at standard rate of $0.45/mile without trailer). Insurance at $1050 a year (yours will vary depending on area and coverage), workmans comp at say $300 a year, and before taxes with an average of 190 working hours during the season (8hr/week). $60x190 is around $11,400. However, I average 2 lawns an hour on my own so it's actually closer to around $10.5K. Take away insurance, comp, and operating costs of approx $6.75/hr including truck mileage between clients that's about $1200, minus ins, comp brings my total down to around $8K. Out of that comes taxes as well and since it's below 10K, I don't pay much on it, mostly my own contributions to CPP (Canada pension plan), EI (employment insurance). All told it works out to around 15%, so my net profit is a rather low, but reasonable $6800. Total deductions including payouts works out to around 30-35%, which is normal, for Ontario at least.

If you want to 'make' $13K, you'd have to gross close to $20K. Which in your available time frame, you'll either have to rip off rich people or corporations to make that much. Not to say it's not possible, but I also try to work around bad weather as well, since it makes a mess out of my equipment!

I plan to double this year, from 8 hours a week up to 16. I'm pressed for time as it is. My wife currently works part time evenings, and I work full time days so we don't need a babysitter.

Getting a ZTR all depends on the type of clients you want to go after. In Canada, nothing 'new' or remotely new is cheap. A decent ZTR for commercial work is still in the $8-10K range, and a new one is closer to $15K. A walk behind can be had for around $4-5K new, and used ones are hard to find in decent shape.

I've never heard of SCORE, but then again I used to own two service stations. The money was great, but what good is it when I don't have time to spend it. I was lucky to spend 2-3 nights a week in my own bed. If you go down to your local business center (generally in or around city hall), they'll be able to point you in the right direction. Not necessarily to give you advice, but to steer you into what you want, and keep you legal in doing so.

The Rangers with the 5 speed are nice. Be cautious though of your maximum tow rating. A 5x10 landscaper would be about half the max allowable at 800lbs. A ZTR would probably be at least 750lbs depending on size and options. I'd stick with a walk behind as they're well under 500lbs. Most are in the 350-450lb range, again, depending on size and options. You mentioned "light equipment", which to me is a blower, trimmer, and a push lawn mower for instance. If you have the auto, you'd be able to tow over 2K. You can obviously tow more than the maximum, but be warned though, as you'll more than likely burn through a clutch much more quickly.

Don't forget, stress at the job as an IT person isn't worth it. At least with a computer, server, or whatever you're working on can be turned OFF! Keeping your job is another story, should you do that! Then again, pulling out the cords from the wall could also be considered an accident if you disable any security cameras. Stress in the workplace isn't worth it.
 

rjh4758

LawnSite Member
I would just go with sole proprietor but you definately need insurance. I have State Farm because I have them for everything else. They may not be the cheapest but other agents did not really seem to interested when I talked to them. I pay $850 a year for $2 Million liability.

You should buy the best equiptment you can afford. Commercial is really the only way to go. Home owner stuff will not last long but if it is all you have to start it will work but set money a side to replace it when it fails, because it will.

With your budget of $3k it will be tight buying a good walkbehind, 21' mower, trimmer, blower and trailer. I would personally get a much bigger trailer than a 5X10 you can often get 16' trailers used for near the same money as the 10'. But towing with a Ranger the smaller trailer may be a better option.
 
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beargins

LawnSite Member
Location
Oklahoma
Thanks for the replies, I want to keep it simple for now, with as least overhead as possible, so I think a ranger and a 5x10 will better suit my needs, also I found a craigslist ad with this mower: http://oklahomacity.craigslist.org/grd/1613487992.html , I'm not going to buy anything just yet though because I need to research quite abit more before getting everything, hopefully by april I will be ready to start doing residents. Would that mower be sufficient?
 

360ci

LawnSite Bronze Member
Location
Kitchener, ON
That walk behind will do the job. You have a couple months to check around, so there's no rush on buying the first mower out of three or four you see, that you like. That Deere on Craigslist has no mulch capability, which is liked in some residential areas. I do bag the occasional back yard only because a couple of my clients have pools. It keeps blowing grass to a minimum, especially on windy days. At least that Deere in the link you posted looks to be fairly light weight. I'd guess about 350-375lbs with full fuel. You'll find that with a walk behind, you'll have more room on the trailer if you had bought a ZTR instead! 6-7 feet versus 8-9 feet adds up fast, especially on smaller trailers. At least with the Ranger, you can get some milk crates or create your own box, to hold gas cans and smaller tools in the back of the truck.

Check out http://oklahomacity.kijiji.com/ as well. Once the spring starts, I'm sure you'll find more mowers for sale, at decent prices.
 
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