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Would you move to FL?

Discussion in 'Florida Lawn Care Forum' started by noble1, Jan 8, 2014.

  1. noble1

    noble1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 22

    I am currently a solo LCO in Colorado and doing quite well for finishing only my second year in business. I am to the point that a helper (at a minimum) is needed, or possibly a two man crew, so I can focus more on making a business work instead of being a laborer. I am a full service business, from mowing to full property re-designs/installs. The thing is, I am not sure I want to sit nearly idle for 4-5mos per year with these winters. Too cold for anything to grow, but not enough snow to make buying a plow even worth it. I've been lucky with some off-season rock and hardscape work this season, but most forget about the outside until May.

    I run a "jack of all trades" landscape business, but may specialize in either maintenance or construction/installs, to better the efficiency of my future company. At this point, I feel like a chicken with my head cut off, running all over town mowing on Thursday and Friday, and doing install work and estimates the rest of the week. I know there is benefit to having both. The mowing brings in steady money, and the construction brings in the big money. But my concern is that each side of my services may be suffering, due to the commitment to the other side.

    I am going back to school, to obtain a construction management degree, and was thinking of making a move after I get my degree.

    I have seen conflicting info on Florida. Some are saying its tough making $15/yard mowing, yet others say its "LCO paradise."

    The going minimum rate for a residential account is $25/mow in CO, and about half of mine are increased to $35-45 depending on size. I am not sure if I can imagine making only $15/yard, after $25 being the norm. I know that is the going rate, and I am not trying to be degrading or belittling. I am just saying mentally that may be hard to wrap my head around.

    So my questions are:

    Are there any other out-of-state guys who have moved to FL, and love it?

    Can you make a good living ONLY mowing in FL? Like living in $250K+ homes in good neighborhoods?

    Any of you focus more on the construction side of the industry (installs), and how is that side of the business in FL? Good labor rates? How competitive?

    How is the industry since '08? I know the home building industry was crushed. Are you LCO's feeling that, with losing customers due to foreclosures?

    Can anyone give me an idea of where they were in their second year in FL? How many accounts?

    I know some don't like to talk labor rates and profits, but is anyone willing to tell me their true take home income? Not revenue numbers.

    Any input would be much appreciated. I would just like a clear view of the state of the industry, before I close up shop here and gamble on getting something similar going in FL.

    Thanks for your time.
  2. i can tell you a lot will have to do with what part of Fl you move to. East coast is loaded with wealthy people and some places on west coast. Imo a mow only company is going to be tough. yes, some places go for 15/cut but they are tiny cookie cutter lots that you visit only 2x in the winter. since 08 things have been way better but imo that is for the people that weathered the storm and put thier time in. keep in mind the weather. it is hot and humid for AT LEAST 6 months per year here. the winter is our "break" time where temps are supposed to be nice but this one has been warm and humid. that is what i can think of off the top of my head.
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  3. easy-lift guy

    easy-lift guy LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,372

    You are diversified and I believe you would and could fair better than most who move to Florida for a better life. Most of the post on this site from Florida are from areas where the number of LCO'S far exceed the number of jobs available.
    Depending on which part of the state you would want to relocate to could prove more challenging. I moved here from the NE in 1971 so the changes in this state and various means of earning a living have changed several times during this period of time.

    Answers to your questions:

    1. I did and I am happy.

    2. No. Law if diminishing returns kick in pretty quick while your overall cost to run a business increase and your net profit either stays the same or decreases slowly. Mainly due to competition, which usually does not last very long.

    3. When I started out in 1981 I offered full service maintenance which included design, install, maintenance of all accounts served. This approach kept me busy year round and I was able to grow steady and keep my customer base at around 60 accounts. 40 were year round with the balance seasonal and one off.

    4. The industry,state has changed several times since 1971. Some parts of the state has faired better than others and due to the influx of labor mainly seasonal and not legal, IMO the industry has suffered and the state as well. Since the job market has improved south of the border most of the seasonal workers have left my part of the state for some where else. I believe this has stabilized the local labor force somewhat which has helped full time residences.

    5. My second year in business saw a 20% increase in business! however at the time I was a one man show. If there was something I could not do I did not kid myself and pretend that I could. My sub contractors would and generally did meet my needs for assistance.

    6. My labor rates when I first started was $20.00 per hour. At present mainly because I am not really a LCO due to my manufacturing and sales of my products my labor rate is just under$ 50.00 per hour.
    Your cost of living will be far less than that of CO much less the balance of the country. You can work year round if you choose and earn a fair living and more. It really depends how far you choose to go and your over all plans for your work life.

    I hope this information has helped. You may PM me with any other specific questions you may have.

    easy-lift guy
  4. noble1

    noble1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 22

    Thanks FLGardener. Seems I have read endless posts about fly by nights and immigrants lowballing to the point of wiping out real profits. I think those guys might have been gulf coasters. You mentioned the east coast. I know there doesn't seem to be a large population hub between jacksonville and the ftlauderdale/miami area, so I assume you are referring to miami? How far north can I go and still get a large population with disposable income? I spent 12yrs in Los Angeles (not in the LCO industry) and not sure I want a metro area like that again. Being in the miami area, is there a large problem with immigrants snatching up accts with ridiculous prices? I knew quite a few coworkers that had illegal operations doing their lawns for $15-25/week, which is poverty level wages by Los Angeles standards (huge cost of living). Also, I am aware of the heat/humidity issue. I can imagine it sucking pretty horribly (lived in GA and central FL for a few years, but again not LCO), but I have never been in heat so bad it physically hurts. Working in the winter is bad. Skin on hands drying out to the point that it cracks and bleeds and takes weeks to heal, along with hands and feet so cold they physically hurt to the point of being nearly unbearable. Since you said not much of a chance of mow only business, what about install only? That is the focus of my degree, and I prefer that type of work.
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  5. fl-landscapes

    fl-landscapes LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,542

    Fl Gardner is north of Miami and in an affluent area. Cost of living would be high. I'm in Charlotte county and prices here have been driven way down since the housing bubble. I refuse to work for slave wages so I stick to my guns and bend over backwards to be the best service provider a customer has ever had. I do pretty well, can't complain. But if I were to do it over Sarasota would be the place I would set up shop. More disposable income and not as expensive to live as most places on the east coast. I came from the Boston area 11 years ago by the way. I think the Sarasota market would give you a great starting point, I'm sure there are other areas as well this is just my opinion.

  6. easy-lift guy

    easy-lift guy LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,372

    Agreed, I am based out of Venice.
    easy-lift guy
  7. Ric

    Ric LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,969


    Bottom Line:::: If you are successful where you are, you should be successful where you go. If you are unhappy where you are, you will be unhappy where you go. You are who you are.

    Big problem with Low ballers here in Florida, is the Northern Losers who come to Florida to sponge off Grandma. They Roll out Grandpa's Crapsman and charge $ 15.00 a cut. They are gone when Grandpa's Crapman breaks down.

    How ever is an other post I told about TLC and $ 15.00 cuts. TLC will cut 30 lawn on the same street by himself before Noon. Up Scale, Down Scale or working class it doesn't mater. Do your home work and design a business plan that will work in your area. My business is now playing both ends of the market. My working class income is a nice add on to my base L&O income. However in my case I believe I will never be able to drop L&O completely which I would Love.

  8. unkownfl

    unkownfl LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,837

    You would probably do better using your degree and working for someone building homes or buildings as a super working towards a GC license etc. The problem with mowing is just about anyone can start up. Don't get me wrong its hard work and you get what you put into it out of it usually. However, it really doesn't require a skill set and the pricing is always going to be driven by that. Unless you find a nitch, and put in your time, or just go for tons of volume and hope you can find decent help down here which isn't likely. Building is picked up big time here homes are flying up everywhere again. There is a whole generation starting to retire and home pricing has been inching up steadily. I'm work directly with the the housing industry now and travel the whole east coast of FL and live in west CFL so I see the bigger picture. I know the treasure coast down to broward is building homes like no tomorrow and so is SWFL.
  9. noble1

    noble1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 22

    Thanks for the input. We have been looking at swfl due to the affordability of homes there. Basically everything from tampa metro area to naples. Anyone have any input on the ft myers/cape coral area? That is initially where we looked. Seems I have read quite a bit of negativity about the area, so unsure now.
    I do realize the ease of entry into mowing (skills set and finacial) and have seen it myself. Thats why I have found the install side of the business more profitable, being that home owners are scared to try it themselves and many who can mow don't have the skills to cover cnstruction ops.
    My initial thought was to move over to construction management for a commerical builder. I then realized how much the schooling is going to effect my current landscape operations, and began thinking more of a big scale construction/install landscaping operation as a final goal after obtaining my degree, and still making the move to FL.
    There are guys here who specialize in strictly maintenance and others who strictly do design/install. Kind of sounds like running a mix of services is needed to operate in FL successfully.
    As for mowing, what's the standard equipment out there? Here, most residential guys don't do more than a 36 wb or stander, due to small lawn sizes and gates. Seems like a lot of "brag sheets" out there consist of good size ztr's. Are there not many homes with 36" gates for the back lawn?
    Also, how about DOT issues? I saw that you are not commercial until 26001 lbs. So there is zero regulation on landscape rigs? Here in CO, they set their commercial limit at 10001 lbs and if you are over 14k you are required to stop fo random roadside inspections they set up at temporary "ports of entry.
    Sorry if throwing too much out there, but just truly want to understand FL from guys actually in the field. Thanks again.
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  10. fl-landscapes

    fl-landscapes LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,542

    Like I said sarasota. That fits your geographic preference in sw Florida and is much better than fort Myers as far as crime goes. I have a cdl and a 33gvw truck, I've been stopped one time. DOT seems to focus on bigger rigs. Don't act dumb and stay off the radar and you won't even be noticed as a landscaper. I would not want to START a maintenance or install company in Charlotte county right now. Sarasota different story. Guys who were established before the crap hit the fan and weren't complete idiots have made it through the storm but the start ups come and go every month here. Charlotte county may be building a couple more new houses recently but the local economy isn't great and has one of the higher unemployment rates in the state still.


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