How Do I Price Lawn Care Services?

The question is, how do I price a yard? I am going to give you a really fast answer on how you price a yard and this will apply to the maintenance side of both residential and commercial lawns.

Let us just break it down as simple as possible. First know the turf size. You must find the gross square footage of the entire property, then measure the turf square footage. I will give you an example. Let us say you are maintaining a property that is a 20,000 square foot lot but the turf is 5,000 square feet. That means there are a lot of flower beds or has a lot of concrete. It takes time for your workers to walk from the front of the property to the back and it takes time for your staff to blow off all the concrete areas. It takes time to clean up and weed eat the grass that grows up in the cracks of the sidewalks and the concrete areas. That all still takes a lot of time. So, even though the turf is only 5,000 square feet, it is still a larger property. There is time associated with that.

Next, you need to know the relationship of time to money. And, you need to know the relationship of square footage to production speed. I get that when you are starting out, you do not know all of that. I would study the market and comparison shop. I would also have friends and family hire your competitors to find out what they charge. You can start there as you begin to learn your numbers. Then, you can begin to price so that you get the profit margin you want.

To understand your numbers, you have to measure all of your properties and track your production times. How long does it take your crew to mow it? Are you making money? Once you start to understand the relationship between production time and square footage, you start to learn how to price so that you can simply measure a lawn and know exactly what you need to charge.

An easy way to measure a lawn is by using Google Earth Pro. You can also go out and measure it with a wheel or use tax records. We then price lawn mowing, and even fertilization, by per thousand square feet.

When it gets into trimming bushes, we still eyeball a lot of stuff. I hate to admit it because even as big as we are now, we are still having our estimators look at it and eyeball it. That is not really the right way to be doing it. We are trying to move towards a system where you literally know the time it takes to trim the different bush types based on the different sizes. The estimator will simply count the different bushes, at different sizes and shapes and measure the linear square footage, and plug the numbers into a spreadsheet to calculate the time. Then, it will multiply that times your billable man hours.

When you are bidding commercial properties, you need to make sure that you put the most optimal piece of equipment on each part of the property. For example, for the large areas, how big of a rider of zero radius could you get on there? You do not want to mow the big areas with the push mower because you will never be competitive. You want the best equipment on each segment of the property. Then, know your production speed on the different types of equipment. Once you know that, you can measure your properties, apply a time to it, and then apply the man hour rate that you need to achieve your profitability.

You want to move to a systematized approach where you can hire somebody that costs you less to go out to do the counts, do the measurements, and then a computer program puts the whole thing together and spits out a bid. A lot of work is involved in getting to this point. You have to do a lot of measurements and a lot of testing. You have to have multiple personnel trim the same things and mow the same areas so that you can get your timed averages. But, this is how you become efficient and prevent costly mistakes.

In the beginning, you have to start out simple. Begin by looking at how the market is pricing, but only use it as a benchmark to learn from. Then, gain some experience and learn your numbers.

Buying Lawn Mowers At Wholesale Prices

Question:
Where can I buy lawn mowers at wholesale prices?

Answer:
Even if we were buying 100 mowers at one time we would negotiate a deal with the vendors in our local market.

Every December we test the market to see if the price we are paying for equipment and supplies is still extremely competitive (we buy most of the equipment and supplies we anticipate needing for the upcoming year in December for tax reasons).
Over the years we have spent a lot of time looking around for the very best prices. The prices we can negotiate in the local market are generally as good as any we can find.

Note: If you want maximum negotiating power buy all of your lawn care equipment at once.

Even if we were able to slightly beat the local vendors we normally buy mowers, line trimmers, stick edges, trailers, truck beds, etc from by buying out of state or 100 miles away — we would continue to purchase from the local vendors we have relationships with.

I firmly believe that if we take care of our vendors and send them a lot of business they will take care of us in a hurry when we need very fast service. (Or need them to help us find a new employee.)
If not, we will find another local vendor next year when we make a very large equipment purchase.

We try to be very loyal to our vendors as long as they are good to us and remain very competitive on price.

Quick (random) How To Start A Lawn Care Business Tips

1) Figure out your business name.

2) Register your business name with GoDaddy.com.

3) If you can afford it – register your business as an S Corp or LLC from day one. Budget $300 to $400 if you use a service like LegalZoom.com.

4) The same is true for your trademark. If funds are tight I would at least file the LLC or S Corp and hold on the Trademark.

5) If you register a different LLC or S Corp entity name than the name you plan to call your business you must file a DBA (use LegalZoom.com).

6) If you can’t afford to form an LLC or S Corp register for an assumed name certificate at the county courthouse. You can use your social security number. As soon as you can afford it… file to become an LLC or S Corp.

7) Setup your business bank accounts from day one. They are nearly free. This is very important. First file as an S Corp or LLC or Sole Proprietor or Partnership (Assumed Name Certificate at the courthouse) and then visit the bank and setup your business bank accounts.

8) If offered, take the credit card the bank offers with your business account but do not use it. File it away only to be used for emergencies. Debt (too many high monthly payments) runs more small business owners out of business than you would expect).

9) If you are starting your business with a partner consider a Buy Sell Agreement.

10) File for a sales tax permit. (you can generally do this online in your local city)

11) Look for a great inexpensive software tool that has the potential to run all facets of your business as you grow. Obviously we recommend Service Autopilot (http://www.LawnServiceSoftware.com). Regardless of which solution you ultimately chose this is critical.

12) If you are just getting started and you are not using Service Autopilot consider buying QuickBooks day one and getting your business off to the right start financially. By the way, at http://www.lawnservicesoftware.com/ you can get free software that when you’re small will allow you to delay the purchase of QuickBooks – it will do everything you need for now.

13) Create a simple file folder structure in a small two drawer file cabinet and keep all of your paperwork and files organized. If you wait until the end of the year to record your financial records in QuickBooks and organize your bank statements and paperwork you will be miserable come tax time. This is one of the easiest ways to minimize costly tax mistakes.

14) At year end clear all of your file folders from the file cabinet and put them in a box. Start all of your file folders fresh for the new tax year. Label the box. This will help keep all of your important paper work organized by tax year.Once again, if you are not using Service Autopilot consider setting up QuickBooks so you can use their built in credit card charging functionality. Service Autopilot automates the process for you but if you are not a Service Autopilot user QuickBooks has a fairly easy to use manual process. Accepting and charging your clients credit cards is a great way to speed up your businesses cash flow and get paid fast and on time.