When does it make sense to utilize a 4 or 5 man lawn care crew to perform your lawn care maintenance? It’s a very good question to consider as your lawn care business grows and you are looking to improve efficiency. Depending on the way you have your routes set up, a 4 or 5 man crew may make better sense than a 2 or 3 man crew. Let’s look into a discussion on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum about this topic.
One lawn care business owner wrote “We do a lot of lawn care work in a retirement community. The lots are small (6,000 sq ft total). What I learned from working on such sized properties is that you have to compartmentalize the tasks. Whether for mowing or for fertilizing. For mowing, we use one man on the front lawns with a 48″ mulching walk behind. We have another doing the side yards, and a third on a rider doing the back yards. We have 2 men weedwacking and one with a blower. We use mulching mowers alot because they eliminate lawn clipping collection.
So, that’s a 6 man crew mowing 200 lawns per day for about $8 per cut. We also fertilize 200 lawns per day with 4 men, again by compartmentalizing. This way, when there is a system failure, you know who did the task and who is falling behind.
What I have learned through trial and error is if you used a smaller lawn mowing crew, it would take 2 or 3 days to finish the tasks. The goal is to finish as efficiently as possible and then to move on to the next site.
As far as analysis, I know who is doing poorly by 11 am that day. When there is a problem with an employee lagging behind, sometimes we change tasks for that person, or sometimes there are just simply conditions beyond their control. Usually it works out because the person who has to go back and help out a slow worker will ‘motivate’ him to move faster. People generally don’t like to have to do someone else’s work after they finished their own.
One of my lawn care crews has a 4 door diesel dually, another has a 4 door international rack body.
I think a larger crew makes sense when you only go to one or 2 stops per day. On projects such as retirement communities, I try to schedule the large to the same property or area for an entire day. I have other larger commercial properties that are so large, it takes the crew 5 full days to mow and service it.
When you have to make many stops per day, a 2 or 3 man crew makes more sense. What you need to keep in mind is the cost of overhead per man. When you use smaller crews, the vehicle costs per man obviously increase, because there are less men to spread the costs across. But on the flip side, the more employees you have per truck, the higher the costs are going to be for their combined travel time.
Another potential down side to having a larger crew is that you have some guys that may slack while others are working. So, to keep this in check, you need to have a supervisor with such a sized crew. When you have a 2 man crew, there is more of a natural balance of the work load (nobody is going to do more work than the other guy on the crew).
Regarding the truck costs for the crews, you have to buy a truck, trailer, equipment, insurances, fuel, etc., for each crew member. Let’s say you spend $24,000 for the equipment and truck with a 4 year life span, that works out to be $6,000 per year. Also assume that insurance and fuel is $8000 per year. That works out to be $14,000 per year per each truck in the field. Now take the $14K and divide by 2 men ($7,000 per man/year )and divide by 3 men(about $4,650 per man/year. What you now have to determine is if you are going to make up the difference of $2,350 per man in windsheild time savings. You have to run the numbers.
Windshield time can kill you. That is why it is so important to develop a pricing structure that rewards customers who are next door or across the street from each other. The closer they are, the less travel time I will have between stops. When I am saving $ on windshield time, I want to share some of those savings with the customer by reducing the cost per cut by a dollar or two. That can also work as their reward for referrals, although I will offer additional incentives for referrals.
If you go to a 3 man crew that works efficiently and fairly amongst themselves, it should be the most efficient crew a smaller lawn care business will need as far as overhead expenses go. Also, you save on capital expenses because you share the truck and equipment purchase costs over 3 men, not 2.
So keep all this in mind when you are considering the optimal size for your lawn care crews. A lot of variables come into play when choosing a crew size, but once you sit down and consider the different variables, you will find a size that will work the best and most efficiently for your lawn care business.”
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