As with any service you perform while running your lawn care business, you will need to figure out your operating costs to know how much you should be charging for your services. Installing patios is no different. Here is a great discussion on the topic from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, where one member is interested in knowing how to price a patio installation job.
He wrote “I have a lawn care customer that is interested in having me install a 15′ x 25′ patio area underneath a deck. I will probably be using 6″ x 10″ granite pavers and will have to raise the grade a couple of inches most likely with ledge pack base and then using stone dust to fill in the pavers. What is an average per square price including materials and labor? I am really at a loss for figuring the price of this.
A second landscaper responded “First of All, DON”T EVER PRICE BY THE SQUARE FOOT!!!!!!!! That just shows that you have NO idea on the actual costs of your business. Don’t be lazy like all the other contractors who DO charge by the square foot. It shows that they really don’t take the time to educate THEMSELVES on the actual costs of their business.
Do your own homework. Contact at least two different suppliers on all your materials. Figure out the cost of your truck, tools, labor, materials etc. Find the local companies in your area that do patios for about 70% of their total business. You don’t need to know their prices, as your costs will differ from their’s. What you do want is to educate yourself on the process of building them. Offer to work for free on a few projects with them.
This will make them happy, because you are no longer just the ‘lowballer’ or ‘chuck in a truck’ who wants to do patios! Ask for help on how to figure out the TRUE costs of your vehicles, tools, materials, everything!! This way, when you have an opportunity to bid on these projects, it won’t matter what anybody else is charging. You will know what YOU need to charge. Also, if you know the costs of everything but the other companies overhead and stuff, if you see the lowball bid, you can educate your customer, which makes you look better.
You don’t have to expose your ‘profit’ but you can honestly look a homeowner in the face and validate YOUR costs. Don’t be the everlasting problem in our industry of guys who have NO IDEA of what they should charge or what they are doing.
Most NEW guys mess up on everything. Why? Because of the last reasons I gave. They HEAR stories of what other guys are charging and don’t take the time to REALLY KNOW their costs. Too many guys want to jump into hardscapes from cutting lawns, which they have only been doing for 6 months. They don’t know their cost for cutting the lawns, they only heard what other people were charging for that too!
Here’s the thing, our problem in this industry is not JUST the lowballer, it’s the CUSTOMER!! That’s right! What!? You ask?
When the lowballers start throwing out $35 to $40 a ‘cut’ or ‘visit’ how else do you think or what else do you thing the customer is going to compare it to? Like a guy said in an earlier discussion, a lady was trying to talk him off $5 on the service BECAUSE ‘the other guy’ who USE to mow it, was at that rate. Good for the guy who turned it down! I would love to take that guy to dinner! Now, if you can HONESTLY make money and deliver a quality service at those lower rates, AND THINK you are a company, you need to re-evaluate. I am not saying this to be mean, just trying to wake you up to the realities of it.
Just think, if we all had prices within a very small percentage of each other, what would the sell really come down to? It would level the playing field. The customers would see the guys who have the truck he takes care of. Now, you don’t need the debt of duramax diesels or big trailers or even brand new mowers. But if you want to be a duck, you gotta walk like one and more importantly, talk like one. Then the customers would look at your estimate, then the other 4 they probably got, and if 3 of the 4 were within 5% of each other, do you think the lowballer has a shot? He doesn’t!!! I know from experience. He who does the best work would get the job.
Once you have met that customer, and given the proposal and started that relationship, DON”T STOP CALLING!!!! Don’t give up on them until they tell you to!! Stop gossiping that it’s ‘the freaking lowballers taking all the business!’ Know YOUR business, not others.
Another thing to keep in mind is just because you take a 2 day training class at the local supply shop to get the ICPI level 1 certificate DOES NOT MEAN YOU KNOW PAVERS!!!! You want the best advice ever? Of course you do!
The best things I ever did….
1. I sat down one day with my accountant for about 4 hours to review my operation and I almost threw up when I TRULY KNEW THE COST OF MY BUSINESS!!
2. I stuck to my guns on my prices!!!!
When a homeowner is trying to rob you of your hard earned money, say NO!! Too many guys give in because they figure, ‘a little is better than nothing’ NO!!! A little is worse than nothing!!!!!! Trust me guys, you will not go wrong when you do this!!
If you are educating the customer throughout the whole process, how in the world do you think they will rest easy when they have estimates ALL OVER THE PLACE?
I know when I give a customer a proposal, it’s tight and it’s accurate. I know at exactly what point it COST me to do a job. I know when to say no, and warn the customer about the credibility and accountability of an abnormally low bid.
Now, I have done enough of this type of work, that I can play a little more than others on the pricing, one day you can too! But to get there, you have to pay your dues first! Don’t think you can crawl in the ring with the big boys on the first day of school.
You will appreciate your knowledge and hard work twice as much. It makes you passionate to where the customers see that, and that is what they want. They will pay more when they feel comfortable and trusting with the guy who is PASSIONATE about the job. Why do you think the big companies are hurting now? They FINALLY got punched in the gut by the ‘Quality Not Quantity’ rule.”
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