What should I do?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by PTP, Jul 19, 2005.

  1. PTP

    PTP LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tulsa
    Messages: 1,397

    Those of you who have been following my "I did it" thread know the situation pretty well. Here is a brief summary for the rest of you.

    Last year, I decided to take my business to the next level. I restructured everything and ended up signing up 190 new customers this year. We currently mow 120 or so lawns per week when you factor in the biweekly accounts and all of that. This is done with 1 crew at about a 40 hour week. I myself stay in the office.

    Here is my dilemma. Where do I go from here?

    Option #1. Grow the business and stay in the office.

    Option #2. Keep the business the same size and go back into the field.

    The reason that this is even a question is because employees are generally unreliable and becuase of the money that I can make in the field.

    I was able to make things work this year but it was not without its struggles. I had to fire a couple of people and 4 people that I hired didn't even bother to show up for their first day of work. Now things are going smoothly but in 1 month my foreman will quit and I will finish off the season in his place.

    I can probably make things work again next year but there will be a little bit of uncertainty with the employees.

    I crunched some numbers and I know what I can net next year if I am in the field. The low end is 70K and the high end is 115K. This is the number after employee wages and business expenses. It is really tempting.

    So I am left with the option of a complex life with little physical labor and solving various problems or a simple life with lots of hard work. The money would be about the same for next year. I would perhaps make a little more if I was in the field.

    Any thoughts on this? I can accomplish either of these.
  2. Sean Adams

    Sean Adams LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,597

    A Pickle... a lot would depend on outside factors for me - age, health, if you have a family, etc... I think if this is a business you intend to grow old with and someday turn over to someone or sell at retirement age bite the bullet, look hard for reliable people, treat them well, compensate them and focus your energy on growing, managing and promoting your business. Worst case scenario is if you run short on labor you have someone in the bullpen with experience who you can rely on no matter what - you!
  3. HighGrass

    HighGrass LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Z5 MA
    Messages: 1,237

    I am no expert when it comes to management of a lawn care company (I'm currently solo) but I have had management experiance.

    This is my thought. If you really need someone in the office, I would rather you hire an office manager and you get back in the field. If your territory is compact or tight, you could easily over-see more than one crew. Still not as much labor yet you're right there watching and directing. I would concentrate on hiring decent crew chiefs and then stay in the shadows and over see the crews.

    If you have an office, the office manager (this could be someone who could also do the books) could oversee some of the phone traffic, filtering the "I'll have him get back to you" type stuff while still being able to coordinate with some of the new jobs or problems with current customers.

    I think being in the field and having a office manager allows you to grow as much as YOU can oversee.
  4. Precision

    Precision LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,995

    Sean is a smart guy.

    The problem with you being in the field is you no longer have the premier go to guy in the bullpen. I know I can out work, out hustle and outthink any of my employees. It is just a fact. So I try to keep myself in reserve for when dramas occur.

    My suggestion is do the same ad blitz that you did this year for next year and get a second crew running and be very willing to pay well for people who are not ********. I would start that now by looking for a new foreman to take over when the current guy quits.

    If you stay in the field you will never grow. He who doesn't grow (in one way or another) is actually shrinking.
  5. PTP

    PTP LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tulsa
    Messages: 1,397

    Thanks for the response. I am 27, in good health, and have a baby girl on the way.

    I have no idea what I want to do in 20 years. My wife and I are also into real estate. We have a small apartment building and intend to get more. I want to keep working for the rest of my life. I don't ever want to retire. But I also don't want to have to work. I want to work when I want and where I want.

    Yes, I can rely on me. But even I cannot do the work of 2 crews. I guess that is why I am at this crossroads. If I have employee problems with both crews at once, then there is no way that I can hold things together. But if I want to grow, then adding more crews is the only way.

    As far as compensating, my helpers make about $12 per hour and the foreman does better than $15. This is high for the area. High wages are not the cure-all for employees that I hoped that they would be.
  6. bobbygedd

    bobbygedd LawnSite Fanatic
    from NJ
    Messages: 10,178

    I want to keep working for the rest of my life- why would anyone say this?
  7. J Hisch

    J Hisch LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 952

    Your exactly right high wages doesn't make someone better. I have found they either have it or they don't. It doesn't matter if you pay them 7 or 14 per hr. if they have the work ethic then it doesn't matter what you pay them. However, Yes it is great to work in the field and save and put more in your pocket at the end of the day. But follow Seans advise, you need to get to the point of being a bull pen man, you will have a hard time growing if you cant tend to customers, and cant sell and promote.
  8. PTP

    PTP LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tulsa
    Messages: 1,397

    Thank you for all of your replies. I really appreciate them.

    I guess I need to take some of my own advice from the other thread and start solving problems again.

    I guess if it were easy, everyone would do it.
  9. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,940

    I work solo, and am much smaller in the business. So, my question may be dumb, but I'll ask anyway. The issue was eluded to in on the posts.

    What tasks are you doing in the office? From what you have said, it sounds like your heart is the field work. Could the tasks in the office be done by somebody more easily trained, and reliable, than the tasks in the field? By seeking somebody for the office tasks, your potential pool of candidates is much larger (e.g. many more people are skilled in administration, and are able to do desk work, than those who are able, and willing, to do the harder physical labor in the field).

    If you have two crews, and are in the field most of the time, you can have better control of the day-to-day in the field, and doing the things that may be nearer to your heart than the admin tasks in the office. These are issues that only you can address.

    Like I said earlier, maybe my thoughts are meaningless since I have not run crews and do not understand many of the ramifications of the business model.
  10. lawnguyland

    lawnguyland LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,108

    I was in the same general situation at one poine several years ago- I had well over 100 accts and 3 guys (all friends/people who knew people). Once they all grew into 'real jobs' and college, etc. I said to myself 'forget hiring some random strangers' and then decided to go solo. I tailored the route to my liking by condensing, getting rid of PITAs, requiring full service and now do about 75/week solo and love it. Lots more money, lots more hard work. Lots less stress. Lots to do. Lots lots lots. I may or may not always be solo, but I like it now. I may sell some day, I may change fields, I may expand exponentially like some recursive virus. Who knows? If I break a bone or something it will be down to the corner for some amigos for me. As you know, both ways (crews and solo) have benefits and disadvantages. I've been quite happy solo for the last few years. Lots of mental freedom!
    Plus, you get to pick and choose your customers if you are good.

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