At R.B. Stout Inc. in Bath, Ohio, they do not just sell landscape services, they sell an entire “look.” They want the properties they maintain to look complete and beautiful, and according to Jerry Kusar, the owner of R.B. Stout, the look would not be the total package without exceptional mulching work.
“A mulched property is much easier to maintain, and it looks good. We sell a ‘look,’ so mulching is important for us to accomplish this,” Kusar says.
R.B. Stout has successfully integrated mulching into its list of services. Mulching is a service that can bring in extra revenue, create a lot of repeat customers and give a great amount of credibility to a lawn care company. If carried out properly, a mulching service can be a wise thing to add to your company’s repertoire. Mulching, however, takes a large amount of manpower and time to become a consistent, reliable service to offer.
Here, three landscape companies share how they maintain a successful mulching service while still carrying out the rest of the services they offer.
R.B. Stout: Utilize strategies to extend your mulching season for as long as possible.
This year R.B. Stout is celebrating its 60th year in business. The company has garnered a great reputation for their mulching work, and that is because they have figured out a system that works for them. Kusar says a strong partnership with a dependable supplier has made all the difference in running an efficient mulching service.
“We have a good mulch supplier that can deliver top-quality material. You need a supplier who can do that. Mulch blower trucks cost anywhere from $165,000 to $300,000, depending on the capacity. You also need CDL drivers to operate the trucks. So it is a big capital investment,” Kusar explains. “When you get to our size, you need to have the trucks to keep up with the demand. We would risk losing maintenance accounts if we could not offer mulching services.”
Along with partnering with a good supplier, R.B. Stout has been mulching long enough to know how to structure its company calendar around the service. R.B. Stout has also changed the material it uses so it can extend the mulching season even longer.
“Customers pretty much want all the mulch down by the end of June,” Kusar says. “The best time for us is early in the year before we start mowing. We use all dyed material now so our mulch holds color all season, which is a selling point for us.”
While R.B. Stout has devised a solid formula for mulching, even they cannot avoid certain industry pitfalls. Overall, employee numbers make it difficult for any company to meet client demand for mulching. Unfortunately, no technology can really replace two solid hands.
“We have a severe labor shortage in our industry,” he says. “It would be nice to have 10 crews working during the week, but that is not going to happen. Mulching is physical labor that requires two hands, and there is no phone app to change that.”
R.B. Stout may face labor shortages like the rest of the industry, but they have developed a strong enough mulching plan that the company and its clients both profit from the service.
“We generate between $600,000 to $800,000 in mulching services each season. It is a steady and growing service,” Kusar explains. “Mulching can be profitable if you know your costs and your estimates are accurate. In a perfect world, the price of an installed yard of mulch would be $70. We are averaging $50, so we cover overhead and break about even. We do save money in the long run as it is much easier to maintain a mulched property and keep the look we are after.”
Read more: Reduce Manpower To Boost Mulch Profits
D&D Mulch and Landscape: Manufacture your own mulch for exceptional results.
D&D Mulch and Landscape Inc.’s clients certainly expect superior mulching from the company. D&D, operating out of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, has a very specialized approach to mulching that makes them stand out in the industry, according to company president Paul Doherty. Doherty explains that having in-house mulch has made it much easier to integrate mulching into its service offerings.
“It was easier for us because we manufacture our own bark mulch used by our own landscape division. We generally do not use bark blowers, installing all our products by hand. This leads to a superior look,” Doherty says.
D&D has figured out its strategy when it comes to product as well as its strategy for pricing. Doherty and D&D have adjusted their pricing structure according to what clients seem to be requesting most. “Most homeowners these days are looking for a ‘per cubic yard’ cost of mulch installation. You must first determine the quantity of product and then adjust the price accordingly,” Doherty explains.
Like R.B. Stout, D&D has also faced the issue of labor shortages. To counteract that problem, “D&D has established two to three set crews [to handle mulching] because other crews are too busy with other tasks to have enough time for the manual labor mulching requires,” Doherty says.
R.B. Stout and D&D have another challenge in common as well: overlapping client demand. “The biggest challenge with this service is timing. Most clients will generally call and want service the same week; having enough manpower is crucial to complete the job within the client’s timeframe,” Doherty explains.
Randall Landscaping: Use tools and processes that will increase efficiency.
Tommy Randall says his company, Randall Landscaping in Salem, New Hampshire, could not survive without mulching.
Luckily, adding a mulching service to his company offerings was not too difficult. He had the truck; he just needed a wheelbarrow and some hand tools. It was a smart choice to invest in those tools because mulching has been smooth sailing for the East Coast company. In fact, mulching clients seem to come to them.
“I don’t think there are any challenges of selling this service because it is basically an add-on service for everyone to their maintenance contract. And who doesn’t like the look of fresh mulch after the winter? It’s a pretty easy sell because the mulch will really spruce up any property,” Randall explains.” For commercial and condo clients, mulch is always included in their contracts, and most of our residential maintenance clients ask us to install mulch for them every year, without even having to try to sell it to them.”
Read more: Mulch Service Solutions
Each season Randall installs over 1,500 yards of mulch. The biggest challenge Randall ever faced when it came to mulching was figuring out pricing. For both the customer and the company’s sake, it is important to be very accurate when it comes to pricing. Being off on pricing can either eat up revenue or anger a customer.
Randall explains how he navigates pricing.
“I price it mostly per yard installed, with any edging/bed prep being additional. If it is a time-consuming job with a lot of plant material and flowers to contend with, I may price it per man-hour, but 98 percent of the time it is more profitable to bill per yard installed,” he says.
Randall almost always finds it more profitable to bill per yard installed, but he does suggest taking into account other factors when pricing a job.
For example, certain qualities of the outdoor layout may decrease productivity. In general, for Randall, mulching success is mainly based on the efficiency of the service he offers.
Read more: 6 Best Practices for Mulching the Right Way
“We can crank through a lot of mulch per hour; sometimes homeowners are amazed at the productivity. With having the bark blower, we can get the job done in half the time as someone else, and our pricing will probably be similar. Each job is different though, so you need to take that into account,” Randall says.
“On one job you can have wide open beds, and on another have beds loaded with plant material, perennials and annuals. You want to price that one higher because of the time spent trying to work around the obstacles and being careful not to damage anything.”
While mulching was a natural addition to his company’s services, Randall admits it is only a profitable option if the business invests in the right products to make it a success. While certain machines can be expensive, they often increase productivity, which, in turn, increases the return on investment.
“I find that mulching can be profitable, but only with good production,” Randall says. “That is why I invested in the bark blower, so the guys can get twice as much done in a day versus using wheelbarrows. There is the added cost of fuel and maintenance on the machine, but I think it’s worth it to be able to increase the productivity. Not to mention it is much easier on the guys physically.”
Read more: Like a Boss: A Smarter Mulching Operation