When is a large lawn care job out of your league?

A man’s got to know his limitations. So said Clint Eastwood in the movie Magnum Force. Sure there are plenty of lawn care jobs out there of all shapes and sizes, but when are you bidding beyond your capacity to perform the job or even bid it accurately? As we will see in this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, the answer may be when you are guessing at more variables than you are confident about.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I am new to estimating lawn care mowing jobs and I wish I could provide more details but hopefully based on what I have someone can give me a very rough estimate.

I am looking to bid on a large area, the exact size is unknown but I think it is roughly 7 acres in total. All I have to go on is what the member of the home owner’s association has told me. He said it currently takes a lawn crew of 4,¬† two days to maintain. How many hours per day is unknown, possibly 9? I also asked what the current lawn care company charges but was told they couldn’t divulge that information.

The area that is maintained by the HOA has 4 large retention ponds and two subdivision entrances. These ponds stay dry most of the time and drain quickly. I have walked the property, and found it to be easily accessible. Based on what I have seen at a glance, the crew maintaining the property now does appear to be set up to handle an area this large as they are equipped with 1~52″ or 60″ ZTR, 1~42″ or 36″ walk-behind and all of the necessary hand held equipment.

So from all I have heard and seen, I know the size of the landscaping crew, the time to cut, and the equipment used. From that I’m hoping to deduce a rough idea on how much to estimate this mowing job.

There seems to be plenty of work to be done, not just mowing but edging,
trimming… lots of stuff and also taking care of the two entrances. I’ve never
cut on a mower that size before so this job is kinda out of my league.”

A second lawn care business owner said “I have to ask why is it taking the current lawn care company so long to perform this job? It is possible, either you were given misinformation or the current company doesn’t know what they are doing. We have one private subdivision we perform property maintenance for which they have 7 homes on 8.4 acres.

That job takes a four man staff, five hours to complete. To perform it, we utilize two 48″ ZTRs, one push and two trimmers. The push mowing takes about an hour then he/she switches to trimming. They have a system down as one of the mowers finishes an hour early and then blows. They all finish in about 5 hours. I actually pay them for 8 hours each as that is the figure I used to estimate the job.

Here is the catch though in how I estimate and run my lawn care business. If there is one complaint the crew loses any time bonus and are only paid for the time on site and not paid to go back and finish anything missed. It has only happened once and they realized there is a fine line to balance between speed and quality. I do this will all my mowing accounts and it really seems to minimize issues.”

A third lawn care business owner said “I service a HOA with about 7 acres of mowing that has ponds, pavilions, lots of fencing, berms, pine trees to mow around etc. It takes a crew with three guys who each use a 52″ stand on mower about 3 hours for the entire account.

When you are going from mowing smaller residential properties to bidding on larger home owner associations and commercial jobs, you have to scale up a lot of variables in order to do it successfully. You absolutely need the right lawn care equipment to make any money on the job, provided you bid it properly.

The bill for that client is $540.00 per visit.

So maybe, this job you are bidding now is just a little out of your league. It’s ok if it is. Better to scale up slower and make money all along the way than it is to lose it all on one large poorly bid commercial job.”

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