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Let the games begin, the lowballers cracks are starting to show

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by NPMinc, Dec 15, 2010.

  1. Recently in my area I have seen alot of small operations or "one man wonder" outfits advertising on craigslist etc that they are looking for subs to work for them. It makes me laugh. First off many that I am aware of are what you could consider lowballers or guys that don't have a clue how to properly bid a job and are way underpriced to begin with so how can one expect to make any kind of reasonable wages subbing for them. Makes me think that they took on any work that was offered to them for whatever the first number that was thrown at them, just to have accounts and now after just 2 salt applications for the season realize they are in way over their heads. I have also received several calls from some of the customers themselves already, so I have been busy and will be all week doing new estimates. These are not just residentials either they have started to creep into some of the mid size and larger commercials. I know many of them call themselves "landscape companies" (meaning they have one truck and mower and go around during the summer doing cheap residentials), so they probably think that this will get them in the door for mow jobs, not realizing that when they don't deliver this winter they can forget about gaining that account as a customer, not to mention getting a bad rep. I also personally know of a few who purposely go out and get more or bigger jobs than they can handle so they can have the power trip of seeming like a "big dog" by having guys subbing for them. What both of these groups fail to realize is that anyone who will work for the cheap wages they offer probably isnt someone with the most reliable equipment, work ethic etc, and that the job not being done right or not at all will make them look bad, not to mention the liability and potential for breach of contract suits they take on for the maybe $20 they will get after paying the sub. Let the games begin and I am looking forward to the money I will make by picking up these guys slack when my phone starts ringing off the hook during the first good storm. I love going to these jobs personally to do them, its a great way for me to start a relationship with a new customer and show them how a "real" business operates. Has lead me to alot of very profitable deals over the years.
     
  2. milkie62

    milkie62 Senior Member
    from Troy,NY
    Messages: 231

    I agree that some guys buy a truck and plow and think they will make money.I have been a 1 man show for 20 yrs now,no contracts,and only do residentials.I only make peanuts compared to some guys on this site but feel I fill a niche.I charge a minimum of $25 but that is a short condo type drive way.I have not advertised since 1989(my first year) and still have some of my first customers.I have a regular job that pays very well.Plowing and snowblowing pays for my toys.My son has been working with me along with his friend for the last 3 yrs.We snow blow between 65 and 70 driveways.1 long drive is plowed along with 2 parking lots.I pay my 2 helpers up until this yr $25/hr.This yr I will be paying them half of what they take in for me since they both have trucks now.They are very dependable and hard workers.Both are eagle scouts.Would never consider paying anything less now since I never have to check on their work.We always get thank you cards with payment.Other contractors make an attempt to get our customers away but they just fade away.I have been in the same 110 townhouse development since 1990.I do not consider grossing $125-$210/hr lo balling with a $2000 snowblower.I may considered a peanut operator but am efficient and am happy with my savings account at the end of the season.
     
  3. MahonLawnCare

    MahonLawnCare Senior Member
    from Ohio
    Messages: 851

    NPM-agree 100%..around here I deal with that way more in the landscape end as even the big companies are lowballing to match the hacks and it's creeping into snow...usually the hacks hang themselves during the first big event
     
  4. snoway63

    snoway63 Senior Member
    Messages: 344

    Not all one man shows are lowballers, Ive been a one man show for 15 yrs and have all my original customers, and never take on to much, but then there are those like you said that want or think they can get rich by one winter, Ive seen way to many of those ads on craigs list also, they wont last more then one winter if they low ball so I dont worry about them Have a good winter everyone
     
  5. I agree 110% that not all one man shows are lowballers or hacks. There are very good ones that treat it like the business that it is and do great work. Then there are the ones like I described who having no understanding of the snow business works and thinking there is a pot of gold in snow removal go out and acquire every account they possibly can for whatever money is offered, without signing an adequate contract or having adequate equipment/resources. They see the say $35 for a job that takes 15 mins or $150 for a 2 hour job and look at that price as though its pure cash in their pocket profit. That is untill one of the following happens: the first snow comes and they realize that they have way to many accounts and then the mad customers start calling/dropping them, something breaks and they need to repair it, or a big enough snow comes and the limited equipment they have isnt capable of doing the job. I have often seen guys litterally paying out of their own pocket for someone to to bail them out out on jobs they cant get to or to come with a SS, loader etc and pile or haul away snow (good for me thats often me lol). Last year one guy told me just paying me for the stacking and subsequent hauling on ONE job cost him more than the total amount he had in contracted profit all season on ALL his jobs. Have also seen a few taken to court for breach of contract suits by commercial customers they screwed. Luckily they are usually gone after part of or one season, but unfortunately there are 10 more popping up the next year. LOL and on a side note when I was out salting earlier this week I saw one of these "landscape and snow removal companies" with their late 80's early 90"s F150 with a handpainted sign and with a rusted POS 7'6'' meyer on it sitting in a church lot while the 2 guys were using small scotts lawn push spreaders to salt the approx 50000 sq ft lot. God help them when it actually snows and you bet I will be keeping a close watch on that lot to see if I can jump in and "help" them.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2010
  6. Matson Snow

    Matson Snow PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,985

    There are Three companys in this area that are the Biggest Lowballers.......Brickman...USM... and a third that is Very Large that will remain Name less......So, the biggest pressure from Low prices is not from the one Truck operation...It is from the Big Players....They have drivin pricing to New low levels........So, Lets not lay all the blame on the Little guy.....The Big guys have done Way more Damage.....:help:
     
  7. PowersTree

    PowersTree Senior Member
    Messages: 586

    I personally am higher than most of the big outfits around here. Want my personal service, your gonna pay for it. Want a cheap price, call the company with 50 migrant workers.
     
  8. Holland

    Holland Senior Member
    Messages: 605

    Just last week the owner of a large plowing company in town here has the right idea. He said, "There's enough of this sh!t out here for all of us". Lighten up and enjoy the season!
     
  9. shooterm

    shooterm Senior Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 260

    Its funny since last saturdays 18" event we've been pulling non-stop stacking in the day time for local contractors. We've made alot of money this year just catering to the one truck shows. Personally I think personal plow trucks are idiot machines that should be used as a sander/lane clearers. Best part is I push back the piles and they just lazily put them right back. I guess I'm old school but if I said/agreed'd to plowing a commercial lot and couldn't handle it, I would be embarassed. Its alright though I have 96 hours since last Saturday and stimulating the economy best I can tonight ussmileyflag.
     
  10. trqjnky

    trqjnky Senior Member
    Messages: 620

    no there is not enough of this shi+ for all of us. its all mine.. stay away...
     
  11. shooterm, I agree with ya about most everything, however wouldnt go so far as to call personal plow trucks idiot machines, however what happens is many guys get themselves into alot of trouble by bidding lots that obviously arent within their capabilities should anything of a "real" snow occur. I too greatly enjoy taking their money cleaning up their "mistake".

    Holland I also agree that there is enough work out there, however with all the lowballing idiots around the customers for alot of the available work dont wanna pay "professional" rates for services. Also as I mentioned these idiots are starting to creep into the mid to larger size commercial jobs, and there are only so many of them to go around and they have been my "bread and butter" the last couple seasons.
     
  12. clark lawn

    clark lawn PlowSite.com Addict
    from NE ohio
    Messages: 1,233

    we got the big dog in town bidding lots so cheap that he cant do them himself, he hires subs on the condition they get paid every 30 days after the first sixty. meaning they get paid for the first 30 days after 60 and then every 30 from then on. we what happens is come day 60 he either doesnt pay or gives them some but not all. half stick around because he has in the agreement if they quit they dont get payed for anything and the other half he replaces. he promises them the world and people always fall for it without doing their homework.
     
  13. toby4492

    toby4492 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,513

    I agree 110%. It's really sad that so many can't see the forest through the trees like you. :salute:

    In tough times everyone needs to focus on what they do well and how to improve their efficiencies. If the one man operations are the biggest threat to your snow business maybe it's time to get out of the game.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2010
  14. Lawn Rover

    Lawn Rover Inactive
    Messages: 90

    Here, here!!
     
  15. MattR

    MattR Senior Member
    Messages: 218

    But on the other side of it, they were getting the job done regardless of their equipment. Not everybody is rich or excellent credit to start a business with to buy all the fancy looking rigs. I started last year with a rusty 1989 Dodge Power Ram, and a rusty 7'6" Western plow that I do not think has a speck of red paint on it anymore. You would probably call my plow rig a "POS" as well, yet it gets the job done and best of all, it paid for itself plenty of times already. And do not get the wrong idea, not yelling or mad in any way, just adding that judging a business by it's equipment alone is not wise most of the time. We all start someplace. Even with my rusty truck and plow, I am gaining customers from other plow guys that have better looking (no rust on truck or plow) equipment than I do. Fancy looking equipment is nothing when compared to great customer service and I am sure we can all agree on that. Looks are not everything, otherwise ugly women would NEVER get married...lol.

    Matt
     
  16. Flawless440

    Flawless440 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,543

    Big Time, Plaza Props.
     
  17. JTVLandscaping

    JTVLandscaping Senior Member
    Messages: 860

    Everyone starts somewhere...is my ultimate goal to be a big dog, yeah, it's gotta be. That's the American dream they say. Right now however, all I got is my 99 Chevy, a plow and the used spreader I bought. It's all paid for though. Bad credit due to medical bills will prevent me from buying anything nicer so I gotta do what I can with what I got. I've took on jobs that seemed like a good idea at the time but turned out not to be...but I powered through it, I may not have been so efficient or profitable but I got it done whatever it took. Two minor events in this year and I already have my doubts on a new account, but its alot different now. I've never done a contract before, never done taxes on it before...I got tired of getting laid off and being on unemployment so I made this business legit for myself and its time to take a real shot at it. If I'm a lowballer, I don't mean to be, I learned pricing from making mistakes of bidding too low or years where I lost every bid I submitted by being too high, I'm a self taught businessman. The plowing and salting...I've come to learn that's the easy part
     
  18. Mike N

    Mike N Senior Member
    Messages: 148

    Big +1 to this.

    I've seen guys with a tackle box full of tools that could fix anything, and guys with the biggest Snap On box that couldn't fix a sandwich.
     
  19. tazzplow1

    tazzplow1 Junior Member
    Messages: 8

    I have to comment on couple of things. Have to agree that there way too many Lowballers out there from your one man plow to your USM,BRICKMANS,VALLEY CREST.......ETC. And yes peolpe on Craiglist are your typical hackers looking to pay you $25hr to sub from them.Happen coulpe fo times last year peolpe would call to ask for help but once you talk to them you realize you might get paid by July if you are lucky. Have to also comment on the POS that where talked about on this post I have two trucks both are from the 90's with Meyers 8' plows but you know what they are paid for so if I have to plow for less I am still making more money than the person with the new and best equipment because at the end of the month you still have a payment to be made and if you don't pay on time your credit gets worst but Hey you can look at the brand New truck and watch me drive by with my old trucks and I will be smiling knowing that everything I have is paid for.:mechanic:
     
  20. Many of you seem to be missing my point. It is not about the equipment itself. When I reffered to that operations "equipment" --that being the POS truck/plow and also using push spreaders you seemed to miss that I mentioned that was was to service an approx 50000 sq ft lot. I am well aware you need to start small and gain a foothold in the business before growing your business and may not have the best equipment. My point being, thats exactly it, START SMALL, dont take on accounts bigger than you can handle with your equipment and resources available. If you attempt these bigger jobs and end up not being able to handle them due to breakdown, too much snow etc, not only will you lose more money trying to CYA, you have also smeared your business name in the process, and last time I checked thats not good for business growth! Also if you underbid these jobs just to get a foothold on them or for the hope of future landscape business etc, and therefore dont make a decent profit, how does that benefit your business at all? And finally why take on accounts for the sake of having them and then hope and pray you can find someone to sub them for the low rate you can afford to pay? Once again work not getting done or done shoddily is very bad for your business name and therefore your growth. It all boils down to looking REALISTICALLY at the equipment and resources you have (not at the dollar signs you dream to make) and not taking jobs above and beyond what you can realistically handle given the worse conditions that may occur.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2010