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Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by BRET, Jul 10, 2000.

  1. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,399

    Part of your problem/situation is that you of course have to send 3 guys to do the job, not yourself. First of all, they won't produce like an owner-operator will, so they won't bring $70/hour, of course. Second, sometimes a 3 man crew is less efficient, since a lot of time is spent waiting on others to finish a task, BS'ing, etc. Try experimenting with crew size.

    I charge a fixed price, of course but it works out to $52-60/hour for my time on-site, sometimes more on jobs I bid well or when homes are grouped together on a street. But I work alone, am super experienced, efficient, waste no time, work fast, don't take breaks on site, and don't mess around. No way you'll get that type of productivity out of a guy making $10/hour. He simply has no incentive to work like that. I use a lazer Z hp 48" mower, so that's worth more than a guy with a walk behind, too. I can edge precisely at a fast walking pace with just a string trimmer, while some guys have to have a stick edger, which means they have to make one pass trimming, and stop and grab another tool and make another pass to edge. I can blow a drive at a brisk walking pace most of the time. I see a lot of lawn techs standing still with a blower, waving it around. Molasass! Ability and know-how counts in terms of your billing potential, even at something as seemingly simple as mowing lawns. The old guy who used to cut my parents' lawn took 1 1/2 hours and didnt' even edge the drive. I can do it better and edgeit too in about 45 minutes. The key is how productive you are, not how long you're there.

    I've found that, based on my casual observations over the years, a two man crew of "employees" , unsupervised, will produce roughly what a one man owner-operator will in a given period of time. It depends on the type of job, of course. I timed one crew unloading their trailer before starting a job. 5 minutes before a mower was touching grass! That's .25 man hours for zero production. Hard to average $60/hour with that level of productivity.

    If they could only clone owners, we'd all make more money.
  2. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,399

    I think you guys with employees, given the caliber I'm hearing about out there, are the bravest men on earth. I don't see how you do it. I'd have ulcers. I got into this biz to avoid the ulcers I had from the corporate world. One where I could toss better salaries and benefits at workers and they still weren't all that hot.

    I chuckled at the line , something like "I have 3 or 4 crews, depending on who shows up that week". LOL. Scary.

    My biggest risk not having employees is my getting hurt. But we have a two income family and would be fine till I found something else to do.
  3. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,399

    Matthew made a good final point. Be SELECTIVE in what type of jobs you take on. Make sure your equipment and personnel mix is a good match for it. Use ZTR's? then why take on a bunch of apts. with tiny islands of grass and no open spaces, but lots of trim work and blowing? I know not every big operator can afford to be picky, with overhead to meet, but you have to consider what your goals are. If it's to have a big company, there are certainly more glamourous and profitable businesses than this one. Why kill yourself 70 hours a week to make $80,000 if you can get by on a 40 hour week and $60,000?

    Example: I only take on Tall Fescue customers (longer growing season, easy to mow, mows faster, less edging, no bagging, hides flaws so no complaints), avoid lawns that require push mowing with a 21" mower (I make more sitting on my arse on a rider than I can produce huffing it behind a walk mower). I minimize the amount of "manual labor" done by not advertising shrub and cleanup type work. I want to be paid for what my equipment can do (high $$$), not what my aging back can do (low $$$). I figure if you spend your day stooping in beds picking weeds, you can be replaced by a 12 y/o or someone who lives in a 2 br apt. with 12 of his compadres, for similarly low wages. Stick to what pays best. For me, it's mowing. Mowing is also much easier physically.
  4. HOMER

    HOMER LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,180

    I haven't found an apartment complex yet worth my time and energy. I stay away from real estate companies and property managers for that very reason ----------cheap, cheaper and, cheapest!

    The only way to make money in this business is to get really big or stay very small. I chose the latter, I'm not in a big market and my cost of living isn't that high either.

    When I started out I was paying 4 workers and not getting jack done. I can do the trimming and let my wife mow and get as much or more done than we did paying out that money.

    16 years in a factory as a supervisor tells me that adding more people to the problem is usually the most inefficient way to solve it. You'll waste more man hours than if you would take a step back and look at your operation.

    I'm not making any where near the money you are each month but I got a feeling I get to keep more and do it with a lot less headache.

    If tree work is better money then cut way back on your mowing operation, get rid of half your people and start thinking about the owner more. You can't be all things to all people.

    Making 30 a month and spending 28 on expenses? Not for me thank you.
  5. Bunton Guy

    Bunton Guy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,412

    I generally can get for commercial 85 per man per hour.
  6. DLS1

    DLS1 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,618

    Sure is alot of confusion why some can make $70 an hour and others are making $30 hour. The only way to compare from my viewpoint is break it done to the basic level of comparison which to me would by

    1. sq ft of yard, 2. do you trim and blow? 3. size of mower and brand 4. how long it takes to cut the yard. 5. how many are servicing the yard for the amount of time to get it done and any other questions you can think of to break it done to the basic level. That way a guy cutting the same yard with a 21" can see if he bought that 48" Lazer he could make the same amount of money per hour due to the time savings.

    Someone can make $70 an hour by mowing 2 yards side by side with a lazer and charge $35 per yard and that may be the only time they make $70 an hour and the rest of time make average $35 an hour due to drive time,etc. And what about factoring in money you need to set aside maybe $5 - $10 per yard for a reserve fund to pay equipment repairs and replace old equipment, insurance,etc.

    Also how does someone make over $80 a hour commercial when from reading this forum it seems commercial is more competitive than doing residential lawns. Are you mowing a relatives site so their is no competition?

    So lets compare apples to apples and then you may find out your not doing as bad as you thought moneywise for what your gross per sq ft is. The difference could all be in how you manage the business end of the business (i.e. various insurance,equipment purchases, labor cost if you hire help,etc.).
  7. CSRA Landscaping

    CSRA Landscaping LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,232

    I average about $50-$60/hr and I'm 80% commercial, 20% residential. I work alone and I use a Scag Tiger Cub, 48" Advantage deck, and a Scag SW36 walkbehind, 36" Advantage deck, Stihl power equipment, and when the mood strikes me or I need it, a Little Wonder parking lot blower, 8HP B&S engine. I knew 0% of my customers before I started.
  8. LawnSmith

    LawnSmith LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 389

    you bascially summed up a whole lot with that one paragraph. i was planning on replying with something similar but you beat me to it. good job!
  9. LawnSmith

    LawnSmith LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 389

    i chuckled when i read this. man o man.
  10. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,399

    What's your point lawnsmith? Mine was that I make a lot more money doing Fescue lawns here than I did doing Bermuda and taking on all comers just for volume.

    I own a newer home on 2 acres in Atlanta, drive a new Toyota Tundra, not a beater. My family car is a '98 BMW 540i sport 6 speed that's paid for, max out contributions to my retirement accounts each year, have money in the bank, $150,000 of equity in my home, and am headed to the beach in August to shop for a vacation property. So maybe being more selective works a little better for me than it does for you, eh?

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