Taking 'Mow & blow' to another level

I've been offered a new contract from our contractors, its 175 gardens - every 3 weeks the grass is to be cut and strimmed, hedges cut in june & october and a spray at the start. Money wise it isnt great - £7 per garden, in order for me to maintain my standard rate of £350 per day we will need to hammer around 60 gardens per day!!

Money, total per cut is £1225 which is subject to CIS so really £980 per cut to my business.

The set up I was thinking was me and my two other workers. Using the caged transit crewcab for the cuttings and towing a small single axle trailer to carry the two mowers.

The gardens are spread over 3 towns and none are really next to each other, it would be turn up, mow and blow, averaging around 7 gardens per hour including a min or two to drive between them, average size garden is semi detatched size with some terraced houses with access paths round the back.

Has any one got anything similar to this Is 7 per hour do-able? On my domestic runs, I can do 20 gardens per day, standard is high though and we spend around 30 mins per garden with the 3 of us.

Any advice is great :) 

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  • No advice but I really don't think 7 gardens per hour is possible. That's a shockingly low rate also. surely it would be better to cut 10 or so gardens at £30-40 per lawn per day than 60 a day!
  • PRO

    I would investigate your costs first;

    - what's total mileage of the round (plot google maps and it'll tell you diesel costs)?

    - what's likely machine fuel & blades costs over a day/week?

    - do you have fall back machinery or ability to repair 'on the road' ?

    - are gardens guarenteed clear of obstacles ?

    - what happens if weather prohibts a day's mowing (how would it impact the contract and existing clients) ?

    - green waste costs ?

    - what happened to the previous contractors - did they manage it or did they give up ?

    - what's your internal break even charge rate ?

    - finally, apart for the wear & tear on the equipment, consider the impact on the guys (phyiscally & mentally) in various weather conditions.

    Just a few of the issues I'd be pondering....

    I believe it would not be an achievable contract at those prices.....

  • 7 gardens in an hour sounds impossible with travelling time..... also very uneconomic with 3 people when I would have thought one person would be best and then allow longer for each garden.

  • PRO

    To be fair I have seen large housing estates asking and getting these types of prices. There is one very large social housing site around Basingstoke asking these prices and similar number of properties (700 units over three sites). 

    On these sites they are mainly front gardens only, limited strimming, edging up twice a year but mainly once. Mulching permitted when conditions are right. 

    With a well trained and motivated team yes it is do-able and you make your money on hedge works and other one off requests such as mowing rear lawns for disabled tenants, weed spraying etc.

    The bad point is if staff go sick then it impacts your ability to deliver.  Mowers will take a hammering.  You will not be delivering the normal quality of service so be prepared that your company name may be associated with this. Also don’t under estimate the amount of junk and other debris that you will find  on the lawns.

    To be honest, this type of operation is more suitable for those companies that are happy to dash in and out with very unskilled operators. For the normal gardening company I would suggest looking to take on a few more top end price domestic clients and achieve the same income rates for a lot less stress and effort. However if this is what floats your boat then don’t dismiss it outright but know your costs and have the correct equipment and allow for a few call backs as you will get complaints.

  • PRO

    60 gardens a day with a three man squad bouncing about all over the place, unloading, loading refuelling etc etc not a chance in acheiving that......ever. 3weeks of growth to cut, my god your gona get ripped up for you know what taking this contract on. Walk away at the rates they are offering. £7 a garden you will not make money on this, this is bankruptcy waiting to happen. The over all value of the contract may well look enticing but broken down in to costs v value then its loss loss loss all the way. 

    Approx 10 -11 cuts a season is around 1750 1800 cuts plus doing the hedges twice a year, for around £12500 payment, your costs are going to well over that. Obviously this is H A work and I can guarentee you there will be very few clean, obstacle free garden on this round.

    I would beg the question as has Gary, why is the contract up, has the previous company gave it up as a bad idea, speaking from experience of watching one of my Facilities Management customers try to take on a similar contract, a £1 million + contract with the grass work valued at £20 -30k, they crashed and burned before even getting half way through the season and lost fortunes on it.

    These contracts are completely nuts, I would walk away while you can.

    • When I used to work for the council, we used to pay contractors about £8 a garden to just cut the grass in OAP gardens.   One man used to go round in a van and would do 4-5 gardens in an hour including the odd cup of tea. No one was going to get rich doing that but after overheads, it still worked out a good hourly rate for unskilled work.

    • PRO

      As all above have said
      I looked at these over the past few years, and even went so far as to site visit some gardens...

      They're typically social housing tennents, so basically the contract is self selecting for the worst sort of customer - Bins not put out, rubish in gardens.... For some reason dog crap on most lawns... terrible access, litter everywhere.....

      The housing assoc I looked at wanted £5 per lawn, any size upto 100sqm... and had alot of lawns close to that, so totally stupid pricing. I put a bid in for £10 a cut and they said nope. It went to another company for £7.50 a cut in the end as no one would take what they wanted to pay, but these gentleman walked off the contact 2 months in as they kept calling him back - he mowed round dog muck etc and obviously the tennants complained - wanted the poo picking, litter picking etc.
      Not worth the hassle unless you set up a new company on the side to service these deals, and have a thick thick skin, and do not be afraid to say sure, but ask for £10 a cut. Otherwise its a waste.

      The other question you have to ask - why are so many HA's outsourcing the work now.... Because its crap, staff dont stick around, tennants leave a mess to clear up...... costing them too much

  • Looking at the figures;

    Total after CIS is taken off - £980

    Costs - wages, fuel, etc £215 per day, £645

    Profit - £335.

    It doesent really add up to me at £7 per garden. 

    I've just sent an email letting the CM know about my costings and would need to be £10 per garden for it to be worthwhile.

    Another note, I know they are struggling to get anyone to do it, so the rate may go up

    Thanks for the advice guys

    • PRO
      I have 4 all next door to each other and my neighbours that I do on a Saturday morning £5 each it's takes about 45mins between them. Only for them though as I think it's good to keep the neighbours happy.
      If they are all very small then maybe £7 is doable but they would have to be near as well. I think the killer would be that grass disposal. It seems a big commitment for not enough money to me, let us know how you get on good luck in getting the price up:)
  • I've spoken to the contracts manager and they have agreed to put it up to £8.50 per garden which is do'able I think, works out as almost £400 per day if I manage up to 60 gardens per day.

    The next issue is its going to constantly clash with all my other 2 weekly cycle contracts I'll need to look at the options on how to cope with this, work longer hours, weekend work or put a small van on the road to cope with the work.....

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