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Business Growth Advice

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by gardnerll, Nov 6, 2014.

  1. gardnerll

    gardnerll Junior Member
    Messages: 27

    Hi all I just wanted to get some advice on the growth of my business or perhaps what you might recommend to someone in my situation.

    For the last 3 years I have been steadily growing my lawn care business it was not until last season that I finally branched out into snowplowing. I have a large apartment complex that asked me about snowplowing so I quoted them for plowing and walkway clearing. I figured this would be a good oppourtunity to get into this line of work with a large account rather than a bunch of small driveways. I put together a contract for them as a seasonal pay for everything ice melt, walkway clearing and snowplowing. As you might know it was the worst year I could have ever picked to get into this type of work. I made 85 trips for walkways and 39 trips for plowing and 10 return trips for parking spaces. It was about twice the amount of snow in our area than a typical year. Bottom line I lost money I didn't bid High enough and the unlimited trips killed me.

    This year I made changes to the contract and picked up two more of my large commercial mowing properties for snowplowing( another apartment complex and a big manufacturing plant). I have about 4.5 hours of work by myself including travel between locations. With this in mind I did turn down several driveways in the opposite direction of my commercial accounts. I just got a call today from a property management company I used to work for that had a large senior community they were looking to get a price for plowing on. I turned this down because it is about 40 mins from my house and 30 mins from my nearest plowing location.

    My question is should I have just taken everything that came my way over the summer? I do not have another employee and I have not made any friends (competition) in my business that I would trust to sub out jobs too.
    I also cant afford a newer/more reliable truck than I have now. I would like some thoughts on how you guys grew your business did you take everything that came along and figured out the employee and equipment additions when you had the work, or do you get the employee first and then get the work?
    I take my business seriously I want to grow I feel like I am in a good area of upstate NY to be in this type of work I see other lawn/plow company's around me doing well. Just looking for any advice that could help. Thanks
  2. cdmckane

    cdmckane Member
    Messages: 39

    Where in Upstate are you? I'm in the Finger Lakes, near Ithaca. I'm a 1-man operation, so I like to keep my route tight. I don't advertise or accept jobs outside of where I already plow. I utilize CL a lot and target my ads to areas that I can pick up jobs between jobs I already have. It's worked well for me so far. I'm not growing as fast as I'd like, but I'm also not taking jobs that require a significant deviation from my current route.
  3. gardnerll

    gardnerll Junior Member
    Messages: 27

    I am in the southern Monroe County northern Livingston area, thanks for the response I think what you said is what I am looking for, taking on the jobs that require that deviation is that how businesses get big? The way I see it in order to do that and cover a large area you need help. Help is expensive. I don't seem to be making more than I need, financially its enough to get by but the thought of adding someone for a few accounts and hopefully pick up several more before the winter to keep that second person busy, it seems daunting. Not to mention, trucks, insurance and the unpredictability of weather.
  4. Jguck25

    Jguck25 Senior Member
    Messages: 594

    I think you need to evaluate how much you are chraging. And seasonals are a little bit of a gamble some times but it evens out after a while. Try to get a multi year contract and also mix in some per push places
  5. gardnerll

    gardnerll Junior Member
    Messages: 27

    This is good advice thank you, I did make sure this season I arranged for seasonal and per trip. At what point do I hire I feel like I am stretched as it is for the amount of work I have to do but I don't have enough to justify hiring someone and everything that goes with that (Insurance, comp, hr. wage etc.)
  6. allagashpm

    allagashpm Senior Member
    Messages: 797

    When I started I took everything I could get. I had a 6 thousand dollar plow to pay for. In hindsight I probably should have advertised more in my main area I service for mowing and not spread myself so thin. I did a parking lot 45 minutes away from my service area. Once you add drive time during a storm, and plowing the lot, it was almost 3 hours. Think of how many driveways i could have done in that time. You also risk driving more and getting in a accident...people suck at driving. Then your whole day is shot. I think you are smart to grow slow. Then as you get another truck bid on those properties and others around them and you have a new service area for that one truck. This year my route is way tighter and itshould be way more profitable. You don't gt paid for driving just when the blade is on the ground
  7. jerpa

    jerpa Member
    Messages: 92

    I second working on a tight route as a 1 man show. I service 11 locations. 7 of them are within a 2 mile radius. I drive about 25 minutes in traffic, 15 at night, to get to the other 3 and the last one is on the way to these. The 2 furthest points are 35 minutes away in traffic, 20 at night. Some don't pay that well but overall it makes for a very nice hourly rate. It also helps if I get a call since I'm rarely more than 20 minutes away.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2014
  8. snowplower1

    snowplower1 Senior Member
    Messages: 966

    I don't have too much experience with how to grow when starting out as a one man but about hiring an employee, i would recommend that you get enough work where you can plow and have someone shovel for you. sounds like you have some large properties so i assume it takes a long time to shovel them (assuming) so if you add one or two more you probably would only have time to plow all of it thus you have someone shovel for you. The other reason i recommend that way is because paying someone to shovel is a lot less than paying someone to plow but i would stretch your route as much as you can until you absolutely have to hire someone because once you start having workers, you will have a lot more expenses.
  9. gardnerll

    gardnerll Junior Member
    Messages: 27

    This is probably the best option for my situation, I have been looking into hiring someone as an on call helper through an employment agency. The employment agency covers there workers comp and all there payroll stuff they pay the person and then they send a bill to you.
    I don't have any experience with this so I am not sure how reliable someone will be? I guess that goes for anybody you hire though.

    Also, I am dealing with 2 apartment complexes and 1 large commercial manufacturing facility, I'm sure I can find something for my helper to shovel there. :)
  10. SnowRemoval1

    SnowRemoval1 Junior Member
    from Chicago
    Messages: 16

    I do by plow inch amounts and it works out very well. People like the fact that they are only paying for when it snows. 2-5" inches = base price, 5-8" = base price. If they ask why it stops at 8", I say we add reasonable prices afterwards and may be $10 more per push because of the higher amounts and longer I am on the job site. Forget the contract and try this for a year.
  11. Fairland

    Fairland Junior Member
    from Toronto
    Messages: 4

    - There should be a limit to the amount of salt included in a contract. After max limit is applied, bill per tone/application.

    - Use a cut of the your net to buy your own growth. Or.... Credit and sub contractors... Good luck with that!
  12. Chineau

    Chineau Senior Member
    Messages: 447

    Answer this for your self, am I setting out to create self employment in my own business or a business that has one or more employees. Some people make enough on their own and that is as much as they want others like me are working to make it a year round affair snow,lawns and other property services that require more than one person. Each employee you add has a cost you need to know the numbers around doing that and then factor that into your cost per hour. Plan and manage your growth or it will manage you.