What I learned from my Oleander removal bid.

Taking on new jobs can be so tempting, especially when you are new to the business, but you have to be smart in the jobs you decide to work on. Some jobs will make you quite a bit of profit, while others will be money losers. As we will see from this discussion on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, you make the most money bidding on jobs you are proficient at and the least in jobs you aren’t prepared for.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I’ve been asked to bid on removing 6 oleanders. However I don’t know how long it will take to dig them up with hand tools. They are about eight feet tall. I guess I am going to find out though because I submitted a guesstimate and the customer accepted.

After spending quite a bit of time, I learned a lot on this bid. It took about 2.5 hours each including cutting off branches, digging, and hauling. That makes it 18 man hours total! I also mowed after the job was done to tidy things up. The customers knew I grossly underbid the job. They were nice folks and paid me extra. Thankfully!

What I learned is that it’s hard to do things when you are poor. I couldn’t pull them out with the truck due to no access. I don’t have a chainsaw and no one I know has one, so that meant I had to saw by hand. I couldn’t get a big metal pry bar which would have been very helpful. I could have used one of those that are 6′ long , and about 15 pounds or so because they cost too much. In the end I was able to borrow a reciprocating saw to cut the branches off.

I also used a mattock, shovel, wood splitting maul, axe (courtesy of the customer) and a rope. With 104 degree heat the first day, 90-something the second. It was a long job.

I found that digging mostly with the mattock close to the base did the best to find roots. Then I would break them with the mattock, or cut them with the mattock’s pick or the axe. I tied a rope to two oleander stumps, the one I was digging and one next to it and pulled in the middle of the rope. That gave me leverage, similarly to why clothe line poles bend inward. That helped pop them out after I cut enough roots.

I think given my current financial and tool situation, I have to learn to turn down some jobs because I don’t have the tools to do them. This would have been one of those jobs to turn down.

So I learned:

  • Use the right tools for the job. Invest in getting them when you can.
  • Turn down jobs you can’t do well or don’t have tools for.
  • Think. Use the tools and resources you have.
  • Take more breaks to cool off when it is hot. You can’t think when overheated.
  • I underestimated the time and difficulty of the job due to lack of experience and need to correct that in the future.

Ultimately, I’d say, don’t take jobs you aren’t prepared to do. I could have made a lot more money just mowing lawns those couple of days.”

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