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Starting next year! Questions!

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by lrwilson27, Mar 3, 2014.

  1. lrwilson27

    lrwilson27 Junior Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 8

    I live in Iowa and am starting a lawn/garden/snow business to pay for my college. If business goes well, I could make it my career. I live at home and am close to college. I only go for a few hours per day. My dad is a farmer and does not work in the winter. So i have the time and help if i need it.

    I have grown up using tons of equipment and already have everything to start my business except my plow. I have worked very hard for everything that i have. I have many questions about this business. I do know how it works. I worked for a lawn landscape and snow company. I did lawns in the warmer months and shoveled in the winter. I do know how to run a plow, i have run a bucket tractor for many years and have run a plow minimally.

    I would like to know how to gain clients commercial and residential. I would like to know what kind of plow is best. Brand wise. I am leaning towards the v plow to get started. I do have a mechanical background and can fix nearly anything put in front of me, so i can maintenance my equipment. I have a 2000 f250 powerstroke 7.3 long box but am wanting to buy a gas silverado 2500 short bed for plowing. I do not know how to approach potential customers. I can bid a property. I will be basing my bidding on roughly 100/hr. What should my minimum be? 20? How much extra should i charge for sidewalks since ill have to blow or shovel? What should i charge for ice melt? Would underbidding my competitor (not who i worked for, we live in different towns) be bad of me? Is a city with a population of 2500 to small to try and start a business in? What should i state in my contract? Do you make residential and commercial sign the same contract? How long should i await payment?

    I am trying to start an honest business and make an honest wage. Any negative comments will be ignored. I will accept all advice and help i can get. This is an amazing website and i have already learned a lot of valuable information from many people. I would like to thank the people that have helped me so far and anyone who helps me in the future in advance! Have a good day.
  2. ScubaSteve728

    ScubaSteve728 Senior Member
    Messages: 499

    I am in college as well and I'm on spring break right now and bored as hell.
    If i were you i would stick with the ford with the diesel and the solid front axle and tons of power if you were to get a plow for it.
    How much snow do you get a year?
    I would stay away from driveways and sub out to someone so you can learn the ropes then jump into the business maybe find someone who's truck you can use and plow for them.
    Another thing you could do is were you is try to get a pusher or blade for a tractor and try to sub out for someone for the first few years You could make some good money. I get 65 an hour with my 8 foot blade on my f250. You could also make over 100 dollars an hour I bet if you found someone who would let you plow a lot for them and leave the tractor on the lot for the winter.
  3. lrwilson27

    lrwilson27 Junior Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 8

    This year we are at 60 inches so far. Having a blade of the front of the tractor is out of the question. It's my dad's and we have a 12 ft snowblower on the back for our personal property. I have been working for a lawn and snow business for the past few years so I know a little about it. I just want to take the next step!
  4. javaboy

    javaboy Junior Member
    from Alaska
    Messages: 24

    I would take lots of business classes. Running a business is a lot different then running equipment.

    As far as how much to charge I think this is how I would do it. I would figure out what it would cost you. Fuel, truck, insurance, maintenance are all expenses. Then I would add in what you want to be paid (your wages) and you should have your minimum price.

    With that minimum price you can adjust it a bit higher for you can grow the business or work on the minimum until you build enough clients then you can adjust that price up to grow the business. But you should never charge less otherwise you'll drive your business into the ground. Ideally you would be paid hourly but thats not a option a lot of times in this industry.

    If you need to bid on a seasonal contract you would figure out how long it would take per event and then figure out how many average events. This is a form of gambling. You can win or loose depending on the snow year. Depending on your area you might be able to charge more because it could be seen as a bigger risk (if it snows a lot). Of course it might be a year that it doesn't snow and you win.

    Or if you charge per push just figure out how long it takes and multiply that by your hourly rate.

    As far as salt goes it is a expense. Make sure that is included. If you estimate something taking 200 LBS of salt per event then you need to make sure that is included.

    As far as shoveling - I feel like I am repeating myself but you need to figure out what it costs to shovel. Snowblower, shovel plus your time. So if it costs $15 a hour to buy and run the snow blower and a average shoveler wage is $15 then you need to be at least charging $30 a hour.

    If you can't look at a property and tell how long it is going to take you might want to work as a sub. When doing that pay attention to how long it takes you.

    Make sure you have a contract. If you are a good writer you could write the contract yourself and then buy a couple of hours of time with a lawyer to review and edit it.

    If your not very good at that aspect then just hire it out.
  5. lrwilson27

    lrwilson27 Junior Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 8

    Well I need to figure out what it costs me to run my truck per hour. I plan on only starting off with residentials and just subbing for people. I want to let my business grow itself but I want to start out with good equipment so I don't have to replace it later on. As for running the business, there are 4 business owners in my family and all of them will help me with all of my questions. I have resources and don't want to kill my business by growing to large to fast. I'm not trying to get rich quick. Just set something up for the future and not to graduate college 100k in debt. I will be drawing up a contract and contacting my friend who is a lawyer. I can look at a property and have a good estimate on what it will run them. For my first year or few I will be charging my the push. Gotta see how it goes first. I have a small start up cost. Worst case scenario I'm out roughly 10k which is nothing if you look at it in the long run.
  6. javaboy

    javaboy Junior Member
    from Alaska
    Messages: 24

    Part of the point I was trying to drive home is that the truck and equipment that you already have is a expense. I think where a lot of people get into trouble is when they think that because they already have the truck they can do stuff cheaper. Then they break down and need to replace the truck and the income isn't higher then the out going expenses and they slowly drive into the ground.

    I am sure with business owners and a farm you understand what I am saying.

    As for trying to get clients I am not sure how it is done on your area. But here we just stick out signs with our phone number on it.

    I found out that a lot of residential want to control when they are plowed. I have never had seasonal contracts. During a storm I post on craigslist and then go and park in a high traffic neighbor hood area with a big sign that says available now.

    It worked for me. Normally people that stop buy the truck and have me plow would know a few more people and I would stay pretty busy.
  7. lrwilson27

    lrwilson27 Junior Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 8

    Excellent points. I agree with everything you say! My trucks in good shape and I know how to work on it so I'm not worried if it breaks down or not. I would have to use a tractor in that case! I appreciate your advice!
  8. Triton2286

    Triton2286 Senior Member
    Messages: 653

    Well if your truck broke down and you had to use the tractor are you legally allowed to put it on the roads where you are or have something you can tow it with whenever you want?
  9. lrwilson27

    lrwilson27 Junior Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 8

    It's completely legal to drive. There's only one highway within 30 miles of me with a minimum speed limit.
  10. Get out now, the money is not that great, you got a better shot at making money in the oil fields of Pennsylvania
  11. shoeman68

    shoeman68 Member
    Messages: 67

    Where are you located in Iowa? I'd be happy to help with any advise you need, but Iowa and Boston are two different worlds. I've been doing snow for 23 years.
  12. Chineau

    Chineau Senior Member
    Messages: 447

    You have stated a couple of times you can fix stuff this is all well and good however when it is snow time it is show time you will be stressing to plow, plow, plow.
  13. lrwilson27

    lrwilson27 Junior Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 8

    Thanks everyone for all the help and advice. I do have back up plans. And plan to start small next year and let my business grow itself.
  14. Chineau

    Chineau Senior Member
    Messages: 447

    Good luck to you, invest in your operation have fun be safe.
  15. Diesel Dan

    Diesel Dan Senior Member
    Messages: 219

    Start small.

    Learn about elements of business.

    Understand the numbers.


    Learn tax implications.


    I'm in business for myself for the first year. I have a Disregarded entity LLC and sub contract for a Landscape / Snow company. I grew up and still work on a large crop farm myself, so equipment operation and repair is like breathing to me.

    Running a business however, is a learning process. Listen to the old timers on here, they know what they are talking about.