Paying a lawn care employee per yard?

There are all sorts of methods you can use to figure out how to pay a lawn care employee. You might pay them by the hour, which is probably the most used method. You can pay them a % of what you make on a job. You can pay them per job. In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, we look at that last method in a little more detail. If you decide to pay an employee per job, you may want to consider some of these pros and cons.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I pay my guy $4.00 per lawn mowed. He understands it is well over minimum wage and is temporary until we obtain more lawns and a third person.

He has a lot of motivation, but he is inefficient at his job. I prefer to pay based on the merit system as I can train him to be the best and then it is up to him to do it. The difficult part for me is how I correct his mistakes without upsetting him.

I’ll admit, I do tend to get frustrated with him on his technique - using a leaf blower takes 2 minutes, not 10! The trimmer is used on the grass that the other machines can’t cut. Don’t just walk around and trim air, spend your time wisely! I don’t remember how difficult everything was for me starting out, I think I was one of those people who quickly got the idea of what to do on the spot.

Anyway, $4 per lawn x 4 cuts/month = $16 x total number of clients. It works well for the both of us as we are both working less hours than we would at any other job and he is making more money with me.

If I can hit my goal of 200 lawns with 800 total visits per month, he could make $3,200/month and finish at 2-3pm every day. Though, I will probably give his pay a cap before that.

I feel a two man crew should be able to manage 30 lawns per day. To do this, you have to be focused on your mowing strategy.

Know your lawns

  1. Mow the perimeter of the lawn first, this is done to leave space for you and your lawn mower to turn around efficiently and to also make sure that you won’t leave grass tufts behind when you are doing your 180 degree turns.
  2. Mow lengthwise. If you don’t mow lengthwise, you are wasting a lot of time. Think of a rectangle, mowing one way takes less 180 degree turns than the other.

For the straightest and best looking lines, use curbs in the front of the house as your guide and slowly work towards the house, or use the driveway edge (depends on the property). If you do not have a decent guide, make a lengthwise pass down the center of the property and use that line/stripe as your guide.

When possible, split your lawns in half and do the side opposite to the exit first. This is so that you are working towards the exit of the property and will avoid ruining your stripes.

Always mow hills across, never up and down. You will save energy and have more control of your machine.

Always trim from the top point of a hill and side to side, never start at the bottom. It’s all about control energy saving!

Trim with your left hand towards the edge/obstacle if you are right handed. In other words, always go left (if you are right handed).

Create an efficient routine.

When you pull up to a lawn, it’s always good to know what you are going to do before you get out of the truck.

  1. MOW
  2. TRIM
  3. BLOW

The trimmer is used to cut grass in areas the mower can’t, so it’s obvious that it should be done after mowing. However, if you know the lawn well, trimming can be done first. You may waste time if you find out you have to go start up the trimmer a second time because you may have missed a spot of grass to cut.

Using the blower is the tool to cleanup a mess, it would be last considering the mower/trimmer leave a lot of debris around. This is pretty straightforward.

Using the blower takes more skill than you think, it takes a lot of newcomers months to get it right to be efficient. An average lawn would need the driveway, street, poolside, windows, and gardens blown out to blow the grass back onto the lawn, or piled up to be bagged.

Newbies will be seen walking back and forth with a blower, because they have yet to understand the physics of the machine. An example; imagine a bunch of grass clippings all around a garage door. No one would think that aiming the blower directly towards the garage door would bounce the air off the garage door and blow the clippings behind you. Simple.

With the proper motivation and an efficient mowing routine, a two man lawn crew can mow more lawns than you may initially think possible.”

A second lawn care business owner said “do you guys really do that many jobs? I’m lucky if we do 10 a day. That would be roughly $800 a month for full time worker if I paid him $4 a lawn.

I can see the 4.5 yards an hour only if the houses were close together and involve simple mowing. We did 4 houses and a front entrance to a neighborhood today in 1.5 hours. These yards are also maintained every week and had two mowers running then both got on edging, line trimming, blowing etc. Also, they really are not big yards at all.

Surely the 40 lawns per day is a long term goal as I noticed you would cap the pay by then. Maybe consider reducing it to $3 per yard ($120 per day) and say that’s the bulk rate discount.

I would love to have a two man crew doing 40 lawns per day, However, there are only a few large developments where there would be enough houses with small enough yards to make it possible to do by 2 or pm. These properties would only take 10 minutes for two guys each, 6 lawns per hour, (3 lawns per labor hour) would be feasible while not loading and unloading constantly. We have lowered our minimum mowing price to as low as $30 for a lot with no fencing hoping to really break out in these neighborhoods.

I guess it depends on a lot of variables but this gives me a fresh way at looking at how to pay lawn care employees.”

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