Passing on a large lawn care bid.

Most lawn care business owners tend to think you need to take every bid that comes your way. The truth of it though is sometimes you need to know when to say no. Sometimes scaling up to take on a larger bid can throw off the delicate balance you have created in your business. More employees, more trucks, more mowers. All of these things that will be needed for larger commercial lawn care jobs need to be managed. A business owner only has so much time in a day and can’t manage everything. So some elect to stay at a certain size they are comfortable with. Have you reached that point? Or are you still looking to grow? Let’s look at how one lawn care business owner handled this situation he discussed on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

He wrote “I had a few messages on my phone today that I listened to on the way home after a long day. One shocked me, it was the school board from my town wanting a quote on lawn care. I was thinking this was strange as it should have to go for tender but the man sounded pretty agitated with the current provider. I know this lawn care company well as I have taken a few of their accounts. As much as it hurts, I am going to have to pass on this job though. I know the company that does this job uses 4 trucks, three WAM’s and a pile of ZTR and push mowers. Adding another 16 employees to perform this job doesn’t interest me. My company is already putting me in a situation where I have become an office manager, which I don’t like and won’t do. I have been thinking for a while now that I may need to downsize.

Money is not the issue in this case nor is getting equipment. Prepayment is not an option with government contracts. The problem is that it’s a massive account. I currently have a staff of 17 and do not want to even be this large, you wouldn’t believe the amount paper work that is involved!”

I am sure many lawn care business owners will wrestle with this issue as they grow. Do you think there is any rule of thumb as to when to go with a job and when to pass?

I am sure there is money in this job that would certainly make most jump all over it, but there seems to be a downside to having to scale up so quickly.

How can you hold yourself back when presented with something that might be outside your businesses comfort zone?

“Yes there is money in the job. The school district is willing to sign a five year contract, subject to a performance clause in the contract which is fine by me.

We are already as big or bigger than I want to be. I am flattered they called me and we spoke twice today. They seem pretty intent on my taking over but I am honestly not interested. It might be next year but I have to find someone to manage the business as I would rather be out working. I hate being in the office. This isn’t why I started my business.

I handle a situation like this by being very straight forward. This year I have 159 landscaping projects, 196 lawn spraying clients and close to 90 lawn mowing jobs. I simply do not want to expand any further at this time.”

Do you think it ever hurts customer relations when you turn work down and possibly say you are just too swamped right now and you can’t take on anything more?

Is there a bad way this could be handled and should be avoided?

“Yes and no. Many understand and they really appreciate your honesty. Some don’t understand and wonder why you just don’t expand further.

This business was supposed to be a fun retirement hobby business for me. I wanted to work with my son and perhaps employ a few of his friends, however, the company took on a life of it’s own and it’s been desperately difficult for me to manage. I receive 4 to 11 inquiries a day, every day that in itself is a full time job.

I think the worst way to handle this is to take on the work without having the ability to do it. I have been in business long enough to know when to put the brakes on or something will blow up.”

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