“I’m new to the industry. How do I learn to price lawn mowing jobs so that I can win bids and be profitable?”
Pricing is really difficult. When I got started in the business I didn’t have the faintest idea how to price commercial or residential. I was clueless. I remember the challenge and the difficulty. I remember struggling to figure it out.
This video explains why using the right lawn care equipment can maximize your potential and bring in more profit.
This morning as you think about your business, are you putting the right equipment on the right properties? When you bid the job, are you bidding it taking into account the right production costs because you’re using the correct equipment? Are you selling work that’s bigger than you should be doing right now because you don’t have the appropriate equipment?
Is the cool lawn mower a friend recommended, the best mower for my lawn care business?
When I was at GIE in Louisville, Kentucky, I was reminded that you really don’t want to buy the cool lawn mower. What I mean by that is, walking through GIE, I’m reminded how many different brands there are and how many manufacturers there are selling walk-behinds and riders. There are Skagg and Toro and Exmark and those are just my local brands.
Learn how custom truck beds cut non-billable hours making you a more profitable lawn care company.
If you’re not using custom trucks and custom truck beds, it’s worth considering it, especially over the winter season. Optimizing your fleet to give your team in the field the opportunity to be as efficient as possible is smart business.
Labor is your number one expense. The more you can drive that down, the more money you make. It’s way cheaper to invest in better equipment, better trucks, better truck beds, than it is to invest in more and more people.
Here are several pictures from GIE of custom truck beds. I think you want to get trailers out of your business as much as you can. Like I said, you want to drive that non-billable time out of your business. The way you do it is by giving your guys a perfect set-up to work with by minimizing load and unload time and by making sure they can find all their tools.
This last picture here is from Tony Bass’s company where they sell custom trucks. I don’t know what they cost and I’m not endorsing them. I’ve never actually even met Tony but I’ve heard great things about him. He is completely on to something with the custom truck beds in all different forms. They could be open truck beds. They can be on the back of Ford Rangers. They could be on the back of F-150s. I have several different types of them.
Custom truck beds work. You should look at it in your business, whether you work with somebody like him or you figure out how to do it yourself. There’s a lot of wisdom in this approach. There’s efficiency in getting trailers out of your business as much as you can.
Charging Higher Prices Benefits Your Clients… The Video Above Explains Why.
The question is, “How much do I charge a lawn care client? I don’t want to overcharge or undercharge for landscape services.”
The main point I want to make about this topic is that you absolutely don’t want to be the low-priced company.
When you are the low-price solution provider, you can’t hire the best employees, have the best trucks and equipment, or spend the most money on marketing to out-market everybody else. You can’t afford to do all those things that ultimately make you a much better company at customer service. If you can’t afford the best employees because you don’t charge enough, then you don’t really have a good business. Great employees make your life easy.
Your strategy should be to be one of the higher-priced providers in your market. Not because you’re gouging your clients, but so that you can deliver incredible service to your clients. Most clients expect very little out of a lawn care business. If you can deliver anything better than the norm, you have the chance to wow them. You have the chance to get a lot of referrals and really grow your business.
Strategically, go in with the goal to be an average- to high-priced service provider. Start out average to learn the business. Get in the marketplace and study your competition. Use your competition as your guideline for quoting and for pricing. Use those same prices with your clients. Then study your own business. Learn your own business so you know how to price effectively.
If you have no knowledge whatsoever about pricing, there’s really no magic formula that says charge $55 per man-hour and this is what you do to figure out exactly how many hours there are going to be on the job. It’s all a learning experience. It’s about getting burned a couple of times and then never making those mistakes again. It’s about asking clients what they paid previously. It’s about price shopping your competition. It’s about having your friends ask the competition to come out and do an estimate at their home so that you can learn what they would charge. It’s about doing whatever you’ve got to do to figure out how to price.
Again, no magic solution, you just have to get out there and see what others are charging. Go on their websites and look around. You’ll start to build a feel. If you’re starting out first in residential, it’s really easy to figure out pricing.
Commercial, that’s a whole different deal and is a lot more difficult. That’s why I generally don’t recommend somebody that is just starting out in the lawn care industry to begin on the commercial side until you’ve got your feet wet. You have to understand the relationship of time to square footage, time to man production, time to equipment size, and then task the right equipment and the right size to the right property and the right area on the property. You also have to make sure you have the right guys working on the right task at each property. It’s a whole different game.
I recommend starting out in residential where it’s easy to figure out what your competition’s charging. Then go into the market and charge the average to get your feet wet. Learn the business for yourself. Then before you know it your pricing questions all go away.
If that doesn’t help, please ask another question and I’ll be happy to clarify again.
Learn the difference between variable costs (direct costs) and fixed costs in your lawn care & landscape business.
A lot of times if you do a Google search, or if you went to college and you studied accounting, a lot of the examples are based on manufacturing. They’re manufacturing examples or they’re the production of some product. It can become confusing.
There’s a lot of interchangeable terms.
Variable cost is a term that’s used frequently. More common, in the landscape industry, is the use of direct cost. I like to talk in terms of direct cost instead of variable cost. You will also hear, and you can watch my video on this, the term “fixed overhead”.
I’m going to go into a little bit of an explanation here. Let me first talk in terms of direct cost because we’re going to use that term instead of variable cost. Direct cost is a cost that varies based on production. As an example, if you win a design build job, you will incur some extra costs to complete that job. You may need to hire some contractors, rent a dumpster or a Ditch Witch, pay out a sales commission, or incur material costs such as plants. Those are direct costs.
Had you not won that design build job, you would never have incurred the material cost, the permits or the rentals. Therefore, it’s a cost that, again, is only incurred when you win the work and when you perform the work. If you’re looking at your profit and loss statement, these direct costs, are going to appear under your revenue at the top of your report in the cost of goods sold section.
What you do is, look at your revenue generated for whatever time period your P&L is looking at. You subtract out of that revenue, your sales revenue, your cost of goods sold. This is your direct cost. That leaves you with your gross profit margin. Your direct costs are going to be one of your biggest expenses inside your lawn care business because your business is so labor intensive. Or, if you’re in the design builder construction side of the industry, materials are going to be a huge cost to your business which falls under direct costs which is part of cost of goods sold.
Again, direct costs and variable costs are often used interchangeably when you’re reading accounting books or performing Google searches. Within the lawn care industry, the more common term is “direct cost”. Generally, what most people do is they take all of the other costs and they put them under “fixed overhead” or “indirect costs”.
There really are some other variable costs in the business that, oftentimes, will get lumped into fixed overhead or indirect costs, but are truly variable. You have to figure out what the standard is for your business, what the standard is for this industry. I would recommend following the standard for this industry.
Let me give you an example of what I’m referring to. You could have what might be considered a variable cost by some, for example, website hosting or maybe marketing. Some consider marketing a variable cost because if things aren’t going well, you could shut off all of your marketing. You could stop running pay-per-click ads or sending out direct mail pieces. Those costs are somewhat variable.
It’s far easier to stop those types of marketing costs than it is to exit out of a three-year lease or to stop paying for truck insurance. Those are fixed costs. Marketing is an example of a variable cost. However, what you’ll see oftentimes, is that a lot of companies will look at their marketing expenditure for a period of time. They will put it into the indirect cost section on their P&L.
What they do is, they take gross profit margin. Remember that’s your direct cost subtracted from your revenue. That gives you your gross profit margin. From that, they subtract their fixed overhead and indirect costs. Oftentimes, you’ll see marketing or advertising as one of those costs that get subtracted out. I wanted to make the point that as you’re reading and as you’re thinking through what is a fixed cost versus a direct cost versus a variable cost, marketing is a great example of a cost that will fluctuate. Therefore, it is somewhat of a variable cost.
For example, you might have website hosting, as I am showing here. That’s a marketing cost. You can’t really turn off your website and shut it all down. A lot of times, that’s obviously a fixed overhead or an indirect cost, whereas pay-per-click, where you’re paying for clicks in Google, you could shut that down by pausing your campaign in an instant. That is more of a variable cost.
The takeaway is that you need to sit down with your accountant and pay attention to what’s done in the industry to figure out if, even though there’s some variability in that cost, as in my example of pay-per-click, it might make sense to follow industry norms or the recommendation of your accountant. You might also hear the terms sometimes called “general and administrative costs.”
Those are some things to think about. Universally in our industry, you will hear “direct cost”. Direct costs are directly tied to the job. If you do not perform the job, the costs are not incurred. If you perform the job, the costs are incurred. That’s why they go into your cost of goods sold section on your profit and loss statement.
In your lawn care business you’ll have two types of overhead. You’ll have fixed overhead and variable overhead. I have a separate video that explains variable overhead.
Fixed costs make up fixed overhead. An example of fixed cost would be rent, insurance, admin salaries, office expense, depreciation, utilities, and the cost of your estimators.
The characteristic of a fixed cost is, it’s one that doesn’t change very much and it’s not affected by activity. Whether you perform a lot of work this week or you perform very little work this week, your fixed costs, or fixed overhead does not fluctuate. It remains fairly constant and it is fairly easy to predict.
You want to be very slow to add these fixed overhead costs because, if there’s a decline in your business, it’s hard to get rid of these costs. If you go out and you sign a three year lease on an office space, it’s a fixed cost. You know every month your office is going to cost you $1,000 a month. If your business takes a significant decline, it’s very difficult to get out of that three year lease and eliminate that $1,000 a month expense.
Insurance on your office building is an example of a fixed cost because the insurance cannot be eliminated without eliminating the lease. Therefore, that insurance cost doesn’t go away until the lease itself goes away.
Admin salaries are fixed. Yes, you could let those individuals go but, generally to keep your business operating and running, you have to keep your admin team. Therefore your admin salaries are considered to be typically allocated in your fixed overhead numbers.
Watch the video about variable overhead and also watch the video about an elementary way to calculate fixed overhead within your business.