Mid-winter is the time to start thinking and planning for spring fertilizer services. Getting equipment ready is one thing, but making sure enough employees are hired, trained and ready to get on their routes can be another challenge. This LawnSite member is looking for experience and opinions for how many technicians to have on staff for his business.
johnnyflyboy: I am an owner/operator of a lawn fertilizing business. We currently treat about 600 lawns of varying sizes, totaling about 6.3 million square feet. I have one full-time technician as well as myself. I take up the slack and handle complaints and sales. I would like to add another technician and move to more of an administrative role. We manage to get the work done, but some days are harder than others. I’ve been doing this for 24 years and started as a one-man show.
My fear is if I hire another tech, there will be times in the season when there’s not enough work. I guess my question is, how many techs per square feet do you guys run? Is there a formula? I like to take good care of the people who work for me, including $17 or $20 per hour plus benefits. Last season we grossed about $330,000.
Sadly, my full-time tech of many seasons suddenly passed away this winter. I have managed to hire an experienced replacement, but really never want to be in this position again. Losing my friend and employee was devastating. If it happened mid-season I’d have really been screwed.
jc1: Have two techs and start to be an owner instead of an operator.
RigglePLC: I think you are right. Plenty of time needed for sales activity and troubleshooting on your part. One technician can handle about 3,500,000 square feet, around 100,000 to 130,000 square feet per day. But this depends on how big the lawns are – on average – and how far apart they are. This applies if your truck travels less than 60 miles per day.
The square foot per man also depends on how many applications per year. Do you apply five weeks apart? Or four or six? What type of equipment do you use? Ride-on equipment? Do you go over the lawn with fertilizer followed by weed control? Is there any use of backpack sprayers?
greenmasterswilson: You’ve got a tech in place now. Why not figure his production and cost of operating and crunch some numbers? Maybe double it and see if there is enough profit left for your take?
Nunyabisnes: Why don’t you figure out what your average cost is for the tech to do the work and pay him commission on the work he does, rather than hourly. A good tech should be able to make upwards of $30 per hour with the right equipment this way. He would have to understand that service calls are not paid, so do the service properly the first time and then he won’t have service calls.
realist: We used to have a tech per 250 homes; we always over staffed. Better customer service, able to charge a premium. You can just be the owner and quality control.
Scagtastic: We treat roughly between 14 and 15 million square feet. For the most part, we get along pretty well with three technicians. I haven’t treated a lawn in the last three years or so. Leaning toward putting another one on; if they get caught up I just have them go out and run a mowing route. We do five rounds, plus core aeration, slit seeding, tree treatments and gypsum applications, so really there is very little slack time for them. Getting out of the field will allow you to really ramp up the workload through the sales and marketing efforts.