We are all Low-Ballers!

Discussion in 'Florida Lawn Care Forum' started by Frank's Lawn Care, Feb 4, 2011.

  1. Frank's Lawn Care

    Frank's Lawn Care LawnSite Member
    from fla
    Messages: 109

    If you think about it, as i read more and more post on here. The guys that cut before us most likely charged more for the same yard. And we come along over the years and bid lower and lower to get that same account. Speaking for myself. I am new and building a customer base for a good future in this business. I was told to bid by a company owner i met with 3 crews to bid at$60 hr. My previous job i made $20hr/$40k yr. So i bid $50-$60 an hour, which i think is fair. The problem is most of the guys doing lawns here want to charge $75-$100 an hour. This making me a low-baller.
    What's your opinion on this? Is it just me or are alot of us in the same boat? If i low-ball you, and then some one low-balls me. Me being the low-baller. What does that make the last guy?
    I've learned alot this year,and by the grace of God i made it though the winter. NEWBIES SAVE FOR THE WINTER! Thats the hardest part about this business,the 4-5 months with little or no pay. I love what i do and next winter will be a vacation next to this one. And hopefully i can get some new equipment this year too.
    What kind of equipment did you start out with.lol I pull a 5x8 trailer with racks with my car. Have a troybilt edge with all the attachments. A cheap pro trimmer i bought on ebay for $23 shipping included.lol And a 1997 jd stx38 13hp kolher. Before summer a cable guy asked me if i want to buy a 2000 toro wb for $350. yep! It's worth $700. It cuts great,but the rider was easier being 45 and it got to 100+ this summer.This year hope to buy a commercial rider 42" that will cut all my accounts. ONLY BUY COMMERCIAL OR IT BRAKES DOWN EVERY COUPLE WEEKS! Later buying a truck. The car doesn't cut the grass, most people want the help my business so i can buy a truck. They have told me this alot.Everything is paid for. And my gas is only $70+ a week for car,and equipment. No payments.And i kind of like all the space to put tools and things. Well thats my story, any comments?
  2. zturncutter

    zturncutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,308

    Low baller is an overused term. Know your expenses and cost of doing business, budget for replacement/upgrade of equipment and add in a profit margin you are happy with. Educate yourself at every opportunity so you can make extra money by providing more services to the same customers and do not worry about what others are charging or what they consider a low baller.
  3. stickleylawncare

    stickleylawncare LawnSite Member
    Messages: 169

    I agree with you 100%.

    Some people have a higher overhead or costs just based on their own size or situation. For us, its just me, my girlfriend, and a close friend for big jobs when we need him. Our vehicles are all paid for, our house is paid off, and we bought all of our equipment in full as we could afford it.(No Credit cards, No Loans) We have very little overhead or monthly costs.

    We also live in a smaller neighborhood with a lot of elderly couples and charge less than normal. We mow one yard for free in exchange for fresh pig when he hunts. Cant underbid us on that one! :clapping:
  4. Frank's Lawn Care

    Frank's Lawn Care LawnSite Member
    from fla
    Messages: 109

    We all work for food. lol.. I have one guy that has a hunting camp just for himself in ga. He gives boiled peanuts,oranges and real nice to talk to. And i'm a talker. Thats why i love it when ppl are at work,not home. blah blah blah! My problem is i do a good job at anything i do. But i'm lazy to learn more. Guess i need to read up on alot. Like this site. I've read so much already. It's helping me read others comments and how they do business. Already made changes because of what i've read on here. i am licensed but dont have insurance. Thats a must have soon too.
    great job with no debt!
  5. Keith

    Keith LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,979

    Well, I've been in this business longer than I like to admit. When I give someone a price on maintenance, I am seldom lower than the last guy. Matter of fact, I don't remember when I took a job by beating a competitor's price. The hire me to do what the other guy couldn't for the lower price.

    That said, $75-100 an hour is not the norm. Here anyway. The typical lawn that, say, takes me alone 35-45 minutes to maintain during the growing season is not paying me $225-300 per month. These typically pay $125-150. Of course I could do them faster, but taking pride in my work is what allows me to take jobs from guys who were cheaper. And you make up for it in the winter when you are spending about 1/3 of the time on the property.

    Which leads me to my next point. You are making the exact mistake I made in 1986. Never, ever tell a person that you will take care of their property for $xx dollars per cut. You are going to get the worst of the worst. The people who will cut your throat for a buck. If you don't do it by the month, you are losing out. The winter is meant to be gravy after working your ass off for 9 months. Not a time to starve. You have a very slim chance of converting a "by-the-cut" customer into a monthly one.
  6. Frank's Lawn Care

    Frank's Lawn Care LawnSite Member
    from fla
    Messages: 109

    Our rates per yard are spot on. My only problem is 95% of my account totally stop service in the winter. Alot are biweekly, and few are weekly. In the nicer subdivisions most use the same crews and won't change. Getting them will take awhile. The only winter yards i do are ones with trees and leaves. I'm looking at some subs with massive leaves on the ground now but none of them are biting.lol They would make great winter account for Me. 100's of homes with leaves everywhere. No one is cleaning them. $150k-$200k homes.I'm about to flier them for lawn care too, not just leaf pickup. You're right, Yearly is the way to go. But i lot half of them this my first yr as soon as it got cold.
  7. Landscape Poet

    Landscape Poet LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,638

    This is one of many expenses you MUST have. What would happen to your profitability if you hit someone's kid with a rock from your mower? How about it your trailer came lose on the highway and killed a family?

    Welcome to Lawnsite. Make sure to take what you read here with a grain of salt. There are lots of folks that will tell you they are making a fortune mowing lawns for so much a month, but they do not carry insurance, licenses and most likely do not even pay taxes. How much will have they made after Uncle Sam gets a hold of them? Those that operate like this are not running a business but rather going out and gambling that they will not have a accident, uncle sam will not notice that they did not pay taxes.

    A couple things I would like to advice you guys on.

    As zturn already told you your cost. Know what the cost of not only gas is, what insurance cost, what cost you have in advertising, know what cut uncle sam is going to want to take and plan for it, know that even though your equipment might be paid for now, it will break down and repair bills will come in. Know that that same equipment will some day be in a state it will not be able to be repaired - plan for that day. Know that you will have to replace the tires on that trailer some day, same for the vehicle pulling it and tires are not going down in price the last few times I checked.

    The low balling will work to get you into the market that is for sure. It will not keep you there though. Pretty soon you will have maxed out your productivity but you will still be trying to get more because your net income is not where you still need it to be. Your quality will start to suffer because of the increased need for productivity. With the lose of quality will come the loss of customers.

    I am not trying to lecture you or tell you that you are doing anything wrong. I am trying to make sure you and anyone else reads this thread really understand the true cost of just pulling your equipment out in the morning. If you or others fail to know this, you will of course will not be sustainable in this business. Not only will you have failed, but because of your cost bringing the market average down, you will have made others fail too,

    In closing think about this. Why is it that a lawn can still be cut for the same price it was 25 years ago? Has the price of petroleum based products like gas, rubber etc gone up? What has the price of a Z turn mower done in the last decade? How about insurance, has it gotten cheaper? Has your cost of living gone down? I am guessing your answer to most of the questions I have asked indicate that the price has gone up on those items. All items tied to our industry. Then the question I ask is why can you still get your lawn mowed for the same price as you could 25 years ago?

    Know your true cost of doing business, if you can still beat me on price then, great, can you beat me on quaility? If you can then you are running a better business and deserve every piece of the market share you get. If you can not but continue to operate in a manner which you charge a lower price than I do, then you are in fact the low baller.

    Sorry in advance if I rambled on or if parts do not make sense, but it is late.
  8. Frank's Lawn Care

    Frank's Lawn Care LawnSite Member
    from fla
    Messages: 109

    I see what your saying about making the same in the winter. Yes i charge the same. I have 50-60 accounts and most are biweekly. I was doing 32 a week but near end of summer cut loss some to 25 one week,32 next. all in 4 days with wb.That brings a question. I need a sulky for a toro 13hp gear drive 36". will it pull a two sulky ok? It's strong,not slipping even on hills that you can barely walkup. I have it adjusted great. i found a cheap one on ebay $110 plus shipping.new
  9. Frank's Lawn Care

    Frank's Lawn Care LawnSite Member
    from fla
    Messages: 109

    It all made perfect since. Your right, at first i was doing what ever i had to do. My changes this year include accurate pricing. This site Has helped. I had to stay out of the nicer subs because of the lack of equipment to do the jobs right and fast. I have alot of smaller account . i love the smaller yards for far money. I have accounting software but i'm on good at accounting and such. But, like you said i need to be and will be. I don't have all the numbers but based on what i did last year. My expenses should be around $2000 a month not including saving for new trucks and equipment. If i can get to $5000 gross during cutting months, and save i should be fine. Not too far away now.
    Yes some i underbid, and some i let go because of it. Most are a fair deal, start of season i might loss some because of a $10 increase. It is business. It seems like the ones i brake my back on. They are the ones that screw me.lol i'm too nice, business first.
  10. stickleylawncare

    stickleylawncare LawnSite Member
    Messages: 169

    Michael Geist Yard Works has a really good post and hopefully a lot of what he said is in the "New Guys Forum" as well.

    First this was a job to pay for college.
    We are into year 2 1/2 now. We started with literally our own yard mower, and a mower from our first customer. Ive always saved money since my first job before High School. It has been a great habit that has helped us for those "rainy days" When our home mowers finally crapped out and we had picked up several more yards, we were able to buy an Exmark 36" and go from there.

    We spent last year slowly upgrading our Home Depot Echo stuff into Stihl, one piece at time. We are buy no means going to be rich, thats for sure. But it has allowed us to have a relaxed schedule for school, pay the bills, and not have to deal with a "boss"

    This will be our first year we can afford to do real advertising with door hangers and mailed out fliers. So far all of our business has been from word of mouth and happy customers to their friends and family. Honestly, it seems that most of our new customers are people tired of the true "low ballers" who are destroying their lawns, not communicating with them, or are just generally unpleasant.

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