You may want it, but does your lawn care business need it?

We can all create a list of items we would like to buy for our business. Maybe it’s a new mower, a truck, a trailer. Whatever it is, before you buy it, you need to ask yourself, do you need it? If you end the business year scratching your head wondering where all your profits went, you might want to reconsider how you spend your money.

A member of the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum owner wrote about his decision to purchase a dump trailer. What he learned from it was a great lesson in buying what you need versus want. He wrote “I recently read an AMAZING article where the author talked about a successful friend of his and this friend’s secret to successes.

I’m paraphrasing, but basically he said ‘keep track of what works and what doesn’t and learn from it.’ What philosophies or ways do you have that repeatedly lead to victories? What habits do you repeat that seem to get in your way, time after time? I had a pretty good example recently with a piece of equipment I recently purchased and I wanted to share the story with you. This ‘mistake’ cost me around $1,200. Some of it was wasted time and some a bruised ego. So I want to at least get the pleasure of writing about it and maybe saving someone else the trouble!

Year after year, I’ve been putting off buying a dump trailer for my lawn care business. My reasoning was simple:

1. they’re 4 times more expensive than the $1,000 - $2,000 single and double axle landscape trailers we use now.

2. They’re heavy and have more “parts” and will be more expensive to register, inspect and maintain, and most importantly, the part that ties the other 2 together, we only dump an estimated 30-40 loads per year (and this is being generous, it could very well be half that.) Often times, we have a couple wheelbarrow loads, or a full load of brush that will easily slide off a regular trailer anyway.

But I ultimately decided to go for it and I bought a $5,800 dump trailer to replace my $900 single axle 12′ landscape trailer which I’d been using for 4 years and not put a DIME into except 1 tire. I sold the trailer for $700 to boot, meaning it only cost me $200 to use it over 5 years! \

So I went ahead and bought it. My reasoning was the following;

1. I don’t need any large equipment purchases this year, and I’ve budgeted 10k for purchases, so now I can have the dump trailer which will make life easier with those early spring cleanups as well as our larger jobs where we have to haul away large amounts of dirt and sod.

2. Where I didn’t have had a dump trailer in the past, I probably would now be able to use this trailer for a lot of things I haven’t even thought of. Maybe taking on some deliveries, hauling more loam, etc.

Now do you see a difference between the logic of NOT getting the trailer and GETTING the trailer? I do! The logic of not getting it is clear, concise, and very little vagueness or uncertainty. I know how often I would use it, and therefore, the expense is not justified. Simple, clear, concise. The logic in getting it is a different story. Kind of muddy, isn’t it? I ‘might’ do a couple of things I didn’t’ before. Like what? How often? When I re read it, it actually looks like a different person made the first decision than the second.

Also, I didn’t do much research as to what I’d need to do D.O.T. wise with the higher weight limit, etc. but soon found out. I had to INSPECT the trailer, first of all, because it was over a certain weight limit ($70) - I had to boost the weight rating of BOTH trucks (we use both trucks to haul the trailer at different times) which cost $200 give or take. The insurance was $60 per year which wasn’t too much over the $30 a year for the old one, dollar wise. I spent at least 3 hours getting the shop to get the brakes working right (bad plug) and used WAY more gas than the old trailer.

So that being said, so what? Did you get use of it? Did it make your job easier? Not really. I used it to dump 6 loads in the Spring, then I had to haul it around empty every day just to haul a ladder and wheel barrow because they wouldn’t QUITE fit into my truck bed. So I have made arrangements to sell it. I put it in the local classifieds for $1,000 less than I bought it for. I now will get a USED 10-12 foot trailer with ramp OR tilt bed even. Single axle, enough to haul a yard of loam, but nothing more.

I’m praying and trusting that this error in judgment helps me avoid more in the future and you too! I think the key is putting the ego aside and allowing yourself the “pain” of your “dumb moves” so you can analyze them and not repeat them. Here’s what I learned from this process.

1. Trust myself. When I have a good clear reason for doing or not doing something, stick with it. When tempted to go the other way, revisit that logic.

2. Don’t spend money just because you’ve budgeted to do so. Save it until you really need something.”

That was really insightful! It makes me think about “iron addiction.” How we all want to buy more and more equipment. Maybe this is just a guy thing and we all very much enjoy playing in the sandbox with toys. Small toys when we are little, but as we grow, our desire for larger and larger toys grows as well.

Do you think this dump trailer purchase falls into that category? Are you still glad you bought it to try it out and see how it fit into your toolbox?

Is it possible that you could have found more services to offer that would have utilized the dump trailer better but ultimately that wasn’t a direction you wanted to go?

Sometimes I wonder if such purchases can actually help us grow because it then gives us a new tool to experiment with that we didn’t have to experiment with previously.

“With this particular purchase, it was more of a luxury purchase when it comes down to it. My employee and I were both dreading another Spring cleanup season pulling tarps full of leaves, sticks and sod off our trailer. But all in all I am glad that I had the experience. I got the following benefits and lessons:

1. I got one more 2 x 4 in the head that says “hey, trust yourself!” - I knew my logic was sound for NOT getting it, but I got it anyway. So this lesson stung enough so that hopefully it will stick when a BIGGER choice comes along! (like my recent thoughts about investing in rental real estate!!)

2. I got to test out the benefits of the dump trailer for the future.

3. I got a valuable lesson to share with others. Not so much the specific issue, but more the lesson of self trust and listening to good logic!”

Have you purchased something that you felt you shouldn’t but did anyway and then later regret it? Tell us your story at the Gopher Lawn care Business Forum.

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The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
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