A school lawn care bid gone bad.

It seems pretty simple enough to say, don’t start mowing until you get an agreement in place. This especially holds true for large commercial jobs. But you would be amazed at how many times lawn care businesses will start mowing first and then ask questions later. As you sit there reading this, you may think this would never happen to you, but if someone were to dangle the prospect of big money for a large mowing job, you too might find yourself in the same position. After reading this story from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, I hope you will forever in the future handle such situations in a different way.

One lawn care business owner wrote “Ok, so we have a school district in my area that was looking for bids. I NEVER would have even THOUGHT about attempting to bid on such a large job. However, I share some work with another lawn care business owner in my area. We’re kinda associates I guess you could say. If he has jobs he thinks are too small for him he bumps them my way and if I come across something too big for my blood I bump it his way.

So, here was the situation. A landscape company in the area contacted myself and this associate of mine in regards to mowing this school district’s property. My first words were, ‘do you think you and I can handle something this large?’ My associate says ‘Yeah we got this if they decide to hire us.’ So, I figured if he has faith so do I. WELL…….

We started mowing last wed. before a FINAL agreement was signed between us and this landscape company. We got started because after a little talk, they made it sound like we had an agreement on what OUR cost would be and we were afraid of losing the bid if we didn’t get started right away. I told the landscape company that we needed to figure out a $ figure before my partner and I were knee deep in this work. ‘Yeah, yeah, not a problem’ they told me, as they also agreed on at least $30/hour per machine.

Alright no big deal right? WRONG, after speaking with the school administrator, as well as this landscape company I found out there were three other bids for the mowing/trimming alone. There are 78 acres to be mowed and trimmed for these schools including athletic fields and basic school yard grounds. The other three bids given for this job were for $57,000 , $53,000, and $33,000 .

So what did the landscape company tell the school WE would do it for? $10,000! WHAT? That’s $5,000 per machine for 7 months of mowing. Remember that is 78 acres with only 2 mowers! If my calculations are correct, it would take us 28 hours per week roughly to handle this one customer alone!

That would mean, I would BARELY cover expenses for the season. I wouldn’t make a dime from this job, as well as clog up the better half of three days per week working for a chump change job.

After processing all this information in my head and making a few phone calls, I got to the point that we are still getting paid for the time we already put in, however, we’re NOT signing a contract for $10,000 for the season, that’s nuts!

Lesson learned here is I don’t care what pie in the sky dream anyone wants to sell me in the future, it’s all got to work out on paper first before I even show up to the job site. So at the end of the day, the only good option in this situation is that the school board has a contract with the other landscape company and not me. I am sure they will find some other broke start up company willing to do anything to break even. I am not looking to simply break even, I need a certain level of profit in every job I do.¬† So I am gonna pass on any further work with this job and be prepared when the contract comes up again next year to place a reasonable bid on it myself.”

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