Finding that sweet spot of equipment size that is perfect for your lawn care company.

No matter what size your lawn care business is, there is an ideal size and selection of equipment that will maximize your profitability. Having equipment that is too small or slow will limit your ability to finish a job within a reasonable period of time needed to make a profit. Having equipment that is too large will eat up profits in it’s purchase and operational costs. So where is this sweet spot of ideal equipment size? How do you find it? That is the question brought up on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

One lawn care business owner wrote “when I first got into deck staining I charged according to what I found to be the market price and not how long it took me to do something. Why?

  1. My equipment was inferior. I knew I would get faster after I could get the right equipment purchased.
  2. My skills were inferior. My first deck job took me 5 hours to clean and prep. WAAAY too long. Now that deck would take me less than an hour.

I tell you this because it applies to lawn care as well. If you are new and taking on jobs where your estimate comes out a lot higher than your competition, you might be using the wrong size equipment to do the job. You can’t take on a large lawn with a small 21″ push mower and expect the customer to pay you for all your inefficiencies. Instead you need to look at a yard and say it should take me this long to cut based on having the proper equipment. Bidding this way will get you more customers, faster and then you can upgrade your equipment and the cuts will go faster.

Charging more because you have inferior equipment will not help you grow and obtain customers. With inferior equipment, you either need to take on smaller jobs or absorb the costs of the extra time it will take you to perform. Yes your time is valuable but can you survive on just a few customers? When I got starter, I figured it as my time was cheap to me and I wanted a large number of customers to get me to the next level.

So with my thinking for example…..

  • If I had only 2 clients @ $40 a mow = $80 a week. At that rate, it might be a year before I could upgrade my equipment.
  • With 10 clients @ $30 a mow = $300 a week. A few months at this level and you can now buy a good used machine and a trailer. Now you are moving faster and can add more clients and do it all over again. Only faster this time.

With this strategy, you are only out your time and you are charging what the current market is.

I guess what I am trying to say is that charging more because you have residential instead of commercial equipment and it takes you longer to mow is not the way to go. Charge what your current market is.

Make a plan and then work the plan.

There is a point though where you can really go beyond your needs. For instance in my case I used a 4 gallon per minute pressure washer. I could buy a 20 GPM machine but then I would have to haul a water tank. An average home is only able to put out about 5 gallons per minute so going over that is a waste of money unless you also do commercial flat work.

Just like your mowers, it does not make sense to buy a 52″ mower if you are only doing 5,000 square foot lawns. but you don’t want to be mowing an acre with a 21″ push mower either. Not to mention being able to get through fences.

I would say that if the equipment will cut your time by 25% or more then plan to upgrade. But don’t just count the mowing time. You need to know how long it takes you to load and unload and cleanup afterward. Say it cuts 25% off your time to mow but adds time to the cleanup then it is not worth it.

The reason I say 25% is that if you are doing $4,000 per month, 25% of that is $1,000 per month or $12,000 per year. Brand new top of the line zero turn mower (just guessing at the price) is around $6,000. After purchase, that is a 100% ROI for the year! You get the added $1,000 per month by adding clients because you can mow 25% faster now.

Now lets look at a 10% improvement. That is $400 per month for a yearly total of $4,800. You have not even paid for the new $6,000 mower with this change after 1 year.

You can look at this 2 ways.

  1. What happens if for some stupid reason the mower gets stolen, breaks, wears out etc. on the first scenario? You will have replacement money in 6 months. Leave out the insurance argument, you are on your own.
  2. The chances of the mower lasting 6 months are excellent. They drop fast after a year in a commercial setting. Remember in scenario 1 you have replacement money and can buy gas for the tank. Scenario 2 you will have to go back to a used mower.

If you are so busy that you need to upgrade at the lower % then you might be better off adding a crew. Then you would more than double your cutting capacity thus it would pay for the equipment faster.

I DON’T do credit so I upgrade all with cash. It is more stable that way.”

Order the book “The Lawn Care Business Can Get Dirty, Ugly, And Mean.: Stories Of Survival And Success To Get You Through The Rough Times” today.

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Check out the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum for great prices on new and used lawn care equipment:

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success