Why they say to stay solo...

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by 205mx, Mar 31, 2013.

  1. Armsden&Son

    Armsden&Son LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,358

    Well said for sure.... And hey there Bassman.... Isn't that the great thing about the industry in general though? I am one of the guys that you described(fire in the belly) for sure. Currently a single op but just keeping my head down and being patient, observing, watching, waiting, learning, all while honing my craft and learning new things. I absolutely have plans to expand but here I am solo for now... And here you are, solo in the green industry, after many years of obviously not being solo(you said you ran businesses) It's just great that there can be that endless variety of people and backgrounds in our industry. Let me ask you a question.... Knowing what you now know about the landscaping industry, when you were younger and running other businesses would have gotten into the industry then? In other words, being a "business man," Do you think that there is profitability in our industry?
  2. TFLE

    TFLE LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 294

    I will say that the current business I have I bought from my dad about 6 years ago. When we worked together we ran a Landscape/Excavating crew and a lawn crew. At the height was about 5 employees including him and I. He found if difficult to make the jump to expand because the next jump was a BIG jump and in order to justify serious expansion it required adding 3 employees instead of just one and major capital purchases, and our luck with employees was less than stellar (good workers sometimes just high turnover) and he just didn't trust running a third crew (mowing) to anyone else, especially when that meant adding at least 30k in equipment. I guess you just take the leap one day and don't look back. Sink or swim and if you sink well I guess you can load up one of the mowers the bank didn't take on the back of a truck and start over... but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
  3. 205mx

    205mx LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,393

    Thank you.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  4. Landscraper1

    Landscraper1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Southeastern Ma.
    Messages: 753

    Well said and sooooo True!!!!:clapping:
  5. ralph02813

    ralph02813 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Charlestown, RI
    Messages: 1,041

    could not agree more, I gave up several customer this year to concentrate on the really great ones.
  6. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    This is a topic we've discussed at great length over the 14 years I've been on this forum.

    It comes down what you want to do and how much reward you're willing to work for. There are big trade-offs either way.

    With a Solo Op. - you are limited on how much money you will make. One person can only do so much work. Some people are happy and comfortable at that limit. I found that threshold to be too low for me to live on comfortably and provide the things I wanted to provide for my kids, wife, family, lifestyle. But there are many who are totally happy with the lifestyle they are able to provide on a solo op. income. To each his own.

    Another big disadvantage of being solo is you're probably never going to be able to sell your company for very much when it comes time to retire. You're not really building a company that is worth much. You just have a nice job.

    The biggest disadvantage to staying solo forever, IMO, is the risk. YOU are the only thing keeping the business alive - keeping it running from day to day. So if you ever break a leg, end up with major back problems, come down with cancer or some other debilitating disease, your company is either going to take a major hit or you're going to be out of business. You have no other workers in your company to keep it running.

    The advantages of a Solo Op are obvious. No employees. No worker's comp. No employment taxes. No big shop to rent. Very little equipment. Not much overhead. You can keep your prices low/affordable.

    Now if you want to build the business and become a larger company, there are advantages and disadvantages to that as well. We're in our 17th year now and I now have 32 workers, 16 trucks, a big shop, a ton of overhead, and doing $2.5Mil a year in sales. I just explain this because a lot of the guys on Lawnsite don't know me or our company well. I'm just saying this part of the business (building it up) is something I know quite a bit about.

    The advantage is I've been able to provide myself with a lot higher income than I ever would have been able to as a solo op. My kids get to go to a private school, the wife doesn't have to work outside the home, we live in a little nicer home and community than most people do, etc. Plus we get some nice incentive trips every year or two from various manufacturers and distributors. Hawaii, Bahamas, Cruises, Mexico, Costa Rica, etc - Some nicer perks that you can only get if your company does a lot of volume.

    I guess there are other advantages like not having to do the physical work anymore. Less stress on my body. But at the same time, inactivity takes its own toll on your health too. The ability to set my own hours, put other people in charge when I leave for a vacation, and do all sorts of landscape design/hardscape/outdoor living sort of work with our teams (that I could never do on my own if I was solo - at least not on a timely matter) is also nice.

    But there are plenty of downsides to having a larger business as well. We've been growing at a rate of 25%-45% the last 3 years in a row and at this growth rate you use up almost all of your profit in providing for that growth. More trucks, more trailers, more equipment, more workers, bigger shop, etc. So that's one big disadvantage.

    Then there's the constant headaches that having employees creates. Even if you have really good, strong, hardworking crews like we do, there are always issues. Guys who don't get along with one another, someone who isn't pulling their weight and has to be let go, doing tons of interviews when it's time to hire new guys, accommodating day-off requests, and a hundred other problems that come up regularly. It seems like every week we're dealing with some sort of issue with at least one employee.

    There is a lot more risk with employees too. They could damage someone or something with your equipment or vehicles. It's easy to not account for all of the overhead that employees create and get behind on tax bills, insurance bills, etc. if you're not careful. All sorts of risk due to increased expenses that employees create.

    Most of these challenges you figure out how to over time. Our biggest challenge is controlling overtime. We've had to implement some pretty strict rules lately in regards to overtime because it's been siphoning our profits.

    One nice thing I like about having a larger company is the security it provides. If you have a company with 32 employees and the economy goes into a huge recession or even worse (depression) at least there's a good chance the company and your income survives. If the sh|t really hit the fan, I may have to lay off 75% of my workers, but I'll still have an income and revenue stream. My company may shrink by 75%, but my income wouldn't. But if a solo op. goes through the same thing, they're going to be hit a lot harder.

    Anyway, it's a tough go either way. This isn't an easy business to be in. Especially if you live in an area that is very seasonal. There are always lots of challenges either way you go. I applaud anyone who's created a nice stable long-term business in this industry. Because it's very difficult to do so.
  7. Greg78

    Greg78 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,010

    Great post as always Jim!!!
  8. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 19,649


    I still prefer to be solo, I have some rental properties which are a headach enought for me.
  9. mkwl

    mkwl LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,700

    I had been solo for several years in high school, college, and part of last year. Now I have 2 fulltime employees- we are able to get a LOT more done now- I'm able to continue to grow my business and not be unable to function after a day at work... I'm still in the field every day but able to run the business now as opposed to being the entire business. Do employees bring headaches? Absolutely- but for me at least, I want to see my business grow- only way to do that is to hire employees.... good ones! :usflag:
  10. dirtyoldman1

    dirtyoldman1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    How do you guys with multiple crews handle turning down work? Do you still go out and give estimates for all the calls that come in, or do you pick and choose? I am selling more work than I can handle. Does anyone have a system for sorting the good jobs from the bad?

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