LawnSite.com forum members discuss the profitability of offering mowing services to your clients.

Question:

BeastMowed: After three and a half years of working 60 to 70 hours a week trying to grow and pinching every penny, I have discovered there is one key to success in the lawn care/landscaping business: Don’t mow yards! Cutting grass is not profitable. Yes, of course, there will be people who kill it cutting grass, but generally speaking, unless you have a one in 1,000 contract or have 20 trucks mowing at once, it just isn’t worth it. I have worked incredibly hard to grow from nothing to over 100 weekly cuts and there just isn’t anything left over. Fuel, equipment and employees destroy profit. Solo operations I could see making a profit, but anyone with more than two trucks running is going to have a hard time making any real money. Yes, we make a “profit” after all expenses including my salary, but it is nowhere near worth the trouble. It’s just discouraging more than anything. Landscaping, irrigation, hardscapes, design work is where it’s at. Cutting grass is not skilled labor and the pay reflexes it. I will wake up tomorrow and go cut another 18 to 20, but my mindset has changed.

Answers:

easy-lift guy: If you’re particularly not wanting to offer mowing for your customers, can you make up the lost revenue with your other divisions and drop mowing all together? The reason being that many companies on this site offer full service to one degree or another year-round. You may have reached a saturation point with your mowing accounts and although you’re generating an income from this division, you read like you would rather not be bothered by this part of the business? One suggestion: give yourself a break and stop working seven days a week. I have seen the effects of this working schedule and over time you will only wear out your mind and body that much faster.

Your help chooses to not work seven days a week for a reason, follow their lead and make the time for yourself before you’re completely burned out, finished.

georgialawn88: I can agree there are much more than profitable things out there other then cutting. Plus, it’s not year-round. I’m glad I found my niche.

tintkang: I agree to an extent, however, I only do this part time. I am solo as well. I have a full-time job and do this to supplement income. Plus I like it. I started with a few landscaping jobs, and although it was a lump sum of cash, it wasn’t worth as much to me as mowing is. I can unload a mower, get it done, get paid and leave in no time. A huge bed and mulch job took me forever, and the hourly rate was not as good as it is mowing, at least for me. Granted, I don’t do any landscape stuff besides mulch/weeding/edging beds, but as a solo guy, I think mowing/blowing is where it’s at.

Triple L: Nobody can make money with a four-man crew; delete one person and try a three-man crew and everyone just steps it up a little. Better yet, pay more but have a two-man super good crew, then you’ll be seeing worthwhile money. If not, explain why you must have a four-man crew.

DUSTYCEDAR: Only keep the mowing customers that get extra work done! You can make a lot more with a lot less.

Woddy82986: As with a lot of other service-based industries, it can be profitable if you allow it to be. I’m solo at the moment, but I have seen firsthand the mistakes and sound moves that a large operation makes that decide profitability. For me, lawn mowing is profitable. For you, lawn mowing is profitable. You made that statement yourself. You just aren’t happy with the size of the margin. If lawn mowing couldn’t be profitable, nobody would do it. I suppose it’s all in how you handle it. Lawn mowing opens the door to a ton of other services to offer your clients. The very first thing that comes to mind is fertilization/weed control. Around here, many potential clients aren’t going to hire a company who strictly deals with fert/chems. They want a company that will maintain all aspects of their turf. Think of lawn mowing as a gateway drug to other services. Basically, though, there is profit to be made in simply mowing without add-on services. You just have to set things up correctly. Just like anything else, if you don’t keep the fat trimmed you eventually run into a problem.

Triple L: High-margin landscape jobs are also hard to come by, and aren’t reliable day in and day out. Lawns make so much money. One day you can make a small mint on a landscape job then it might be a week before another one comes by and might not be profitable if you quote slightly wrong or have too many rain days or other uncontrollable forces. Don’t forget about all the driving around quoting and doing designs and you might be lucky if you land one-quarter of the stuff you quote. All in all, lawns are very reliable and often times at the end of the week more profitable when you look at the capital expenses of skid steers and all the equipment.

“In Your Own Words” is contributed from the lawn care and landscape forum at http://www.LawnSite.com, which was named one of 10 Great Media Sites by Media Business magazine, and has been chosen as a winner of the Most Engaged Media Brands for 2010 by min, a firm that tracks the media industry. Visit them, and join in the discussions.