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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am looking to start a commercial property maintenance division in my company. I want to start with monthly landscaping services and offer painting, roofing, TI, asphalt, parking lot striping, etc.
I already offer most of these services in the residential market but want to move to commercial, such as apartment buildings, retail malls, industrial parks, etc.

Do any of you currently do this kind of maintenance and how do I break through their corporate barrier and get to the decision makers? How did you do your marketing?

Thanks
Brian :thumbsup:
 

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Do you want to compete by offering a lower bid than the company currently maintaining these accounts or do you want to compete by offering better service at the same or higher price?
 

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Hi Brian;

I did quite a bit of work in window repair with property managers around Toronto. One of the interesting things i discovered was that city hall maintained a public list of all condominium corporations in the city. This list recorded who the property manager was for every condo.

That list made my marketing really easy because I could visit the complex and then call them already with a list of prices based on the type of windows and doors at the property.

These same lists may well be available in the states as well. If not through city hall then through the chamber of commerce. I'm sure the process would not be too much different for your marketing your landscaping/ maintenance business.
 

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Ditto on talking to the manager. I got a 32 residence gated community this way. Talked to the president of the homeowners association and told him I'd maintain every lawn there for $55 a week and do the playground for free if he got all 32 owners to sign up. Each lawn is between 6,000 and 8,000 sq. ft. The playground/park is 9,500sq. ft. It's a real money maker because I can knock the whole thing out in 6 to 7 hours w/ my ZTR and 32 inch walk behind. I mow, edge, and blow the grass clippings off the sidewalks and driveways.

Every month I send him the bill for $7,040 and he pays me with an HOA check. Now he bills the residents $75/week for my services. So he collects $9,600 every month. The $2,560 difference goes into his pocket. Over a six month mowing contract that nets him an extra $15,360. Chances are slim to none that I'd ever lose this mowing contract. He handles all the little BS that comes with working a neighborhood like that too.

He does the same thing with the overseeding in the fall, the aeration in the spring, the fertilization, etc. He always tacks on a little extra for himself. Last season he put a cool $25K in his pocket. That's a decent size kickback and it keeps him happy. He doesn't even entertain other landscapers. He's very happy with the work I do and with what he makes off of it. When I have to do a landscape project there's a permit/approval process that costs $500 to apply for. This goes in the boards treasury. My projects are always approved the first time and my work is never held up with "violations" to the covenants rules.

Commercial work is a game. Who do you know and how can you scratch their back so they scratch yours?
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Ditto on talking to the manager. I got a 32 residence gated community this way. Talked to the president of the homeowners association and told him I'd maintain every lawn there for $55 a week and do the playground for free if he got all 32 owners to sign up. Each lawn is between 6,000 and 8,000 sq. ft. The playground/park is 9,500sq. ft. It's a real money maker because I can knock the whole thing out in 6 to 7 hours w/ my ZTR and 32 inch walk behind. I mow, edge, and blow the grass clippings off the sidewalks and driveways.

Every month I send him the bill for $7,040 and he pays me with an HOA check. Now he bills the residents $75/week for my services. So he collects $9,600 every month. The $2,560 difference goes into his pocket. Over a six month mowing contract that nets him an extra $15,360. Chances are slim to none that I'd ever lose this mowing contract. He handles all the little BS that comes with working a neighborhood like that too.

He does the same thing with the overseeding in the fall, the aeration in the spring, the fertilization, etc. He always tacks on a little extra for himself. Last season he put a cool $25K in his pocket. That's a decent size kickback and it keeps him happy. He doesn't even entertain other landscapers. He's very happy with the work I do and with what he makes off of it. When I have to do a landscape project there's a permit/approval process that costs $500 to apply for. This goes in the boards treasury. My projects are always approved the first time and my work is never held up with "violations" to the covenants rules.

Commercial work is a game. Who do you know and how can you scratch their back so they scratch yours?
Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!!! Thanks for you openness to how the system works. This is my goal by the end of the summer!!! Monthly contracts is where it's AT!

Could you offer any insight to what your overhead and expenses are? I'm sure its not all profit free and clear.
 

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Well I don't have to move my truck but once the whole damn day. Figure $35 in gas to get from my house to there and back towing the trailer.

The power equipment burns about $40 in fuel and oil (for the 2 stroke stuff) in a day.

All my power equipment is Husqvarna. The ZTR ran me $15,000 and will be good for 5 or 6 seasons. I use it on other accounts as well.

The walk behind cost $5,000 and will last 3 seasons, it's my workhorse. I put a ton of hours on it a year.

Handhelds, probably another $3,000 in weedeaters and edgers. A weedeater lasts about 2 years before it's shot.

5 pound spool of weedeater string a week of maintenance. Figure an edger blade or 2 every week as well.

Count on either destroying or wearing out a mower blade on either the ZTR or one of the walk behinds every 2 weeks. You can only sharpen them so many times, or a rock takes em out.

Wear and tear on the pick up and the trailer.

Landscape trailer costs $3,000 and lasts 2 years before it's done. Welds start breaking and it just falls apart.

Plus I only work 5 to 7 months a year, so I have to make enough to live for 12 months.

It's an expensive business.
 

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Just had another thought, Orange County CA is a fairly densely populated area. I'll give you the ideal business model for a mowing route in a densely populated area. Unfortunately it doesn't work up here in northern Idaho. We're pretty spread out, lots of farms and big country homes. Too much driving to be this productive.

In an area where the average lawn size is under 10,000 sq. ft. you can have a dedicated mowing business that will make you a decent living. Figure about a 60/40 split between residential and commercial mowing.

The ideal is 25 lawns a day on a tight mowing route. That's 25 customers within 6 to 10 square miles, with lawns under 10,000 sq ft. What to charge depends on your area but I'd say $45/week for mowing, edging, weedeating the perimeter, and blowing the grass clippings off the sidewalks and driveway. This route can be done by 1 person with the proper equipment.

That being:
A ZTR w/ a minimum of 52 inch deck width. Most folks have larger front yards than back yards and a good size ZTR will knock out a front yard real quick.

A hydraulic walk behind with a maximum deck width of 32 inches. This will fit through most standard gates to cut the backyard.

A high quality 21 inch w/ mulching deck. This will cut the tight spots.

At least 2 commercial quality string trimmers w/ bump heads. String trimmers are always breaking at the most inopportune time.

1 quality edger. If this goes down you can edge with a string trimmer.

A high velocity backpack blower.

Spare blades, string, oil, fuel, and tools.

Hand tools. Shovel, rake, broom, etc.

Now ideally you want 125 customers broken down into 5 distinct routes that are close to each other and follow a logical sequence. For example if it rains on Monday you'll want to be able to spread those 25 customers over Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday without adding excessive driving.

If you do 125 customers a week at $45 a pop you can gross $5,625 a week.

You'll stay busy and if it rains for more than 2 days a week you lost that week. You'll have to push those lawns to the following week and eat the lost income.

That's about the maximum for a solo operator to do in a densely populated area. If you decide to go this route, and do nothing but lawns, you can increase your productivity by buying a dedicated lawn truck as opposed to towing a lawn trailer.

Below is a picture of a beavertail lawnbody. These are commonly fitted to trucks with a 10,000 to 19,500 pound GVWR. However they are available for trucks as small as a Ford Ranger if you can get away with a truck that small.

Hope this helps.
 

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You could look into the Apartment Association of Orange County.

You can also grab an apartment locating magazine; these are usually available free at the entrances of various stores. Spend a day or two driving around and introducing yourself. At the least you could mail your company information to their property managers.

Also, look into BOMA and IFMA. You can get some good connections in these groups, especially with some of the larger property management companies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Just had another thought, Orange County CA is a fairly densely populated area. I'll give you the ideal business model for a mowing route in a densely populated area. Unfortunately it doesn't work up here in northern Idaho. We're pretty spread out, lots of farms and big country homes. Too much driving to be this productive.

In an area where the average lawn size is under 10,000 sq. ft. you can have a dedicated mowing business that will make you a decent living. Figure about a 60/40 split between residential and commercial mowing.

The ideal is 25 lawns a day on a tight mowing route. That's 25 customers within 6 to 10 square miles, with lawns under 10,000 sq ft. What to charge depends on your area but I'd say $45/week for mowing, edging, weedeating the perimeter, and blowing the grass clippings off the sidewalks and driveway. This route can be done by 1 person with the proper equipment.

That being:
A ZTR w/ a minimum of 52 inch deck width. Most folks have larger front yards than back yards and a good size ZTR will knock out a front yard real quick.

A hydraulic walk behind with a maximum deck width of 32 inches. This will fit through most standard gates to cut the backyard.

A high quality 21 inch w/ mulching deck. This will cut the tight spots.

At least 2 commercial quality string trimmers w/ bump heads. String trimmers are always breaking at the most inopportune time.

1 quality edger. If this goes down you can edge with a string trimmer.

A high velocity backpack blower.

Spare blades, string, oil, fuel, and tools.

Hand tools. Shovel, rake, broom, etc.

Now ideally you want 125 customers broken down into 5 distinct routes that are close to each other and follow a logical sequence. For example if it rains on Monday you'll want to be able to spread those 25 customers over Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday without adding excessive driving.

If you do 125 customers a week at $45 a pop you can gross $5,625 a week.

You'll stay busy and if it rains for more than 2 days a week you lost that week. You'll have to push those lawns to the following week and eat the lost income.

That's about the maximum for a solo operator to do in a densely populated area. If you decide to go this route, and do nothing but lawns, you can increase your productivity by buying a dedicated lawn truck as opposed to towing a lawn trailer.

Below is a picture of a beavertail lawnbody. These are commonly fitted to trucks with a 10,000 to 19,500 pound GVWR. However they are available for trucks as small as a Ford Ranger if you can get away with a truck that small.

Hope this helps.
Hey Bob,

All good ideas but with a few adjustments. The average lawn size around here is 2000 sq ft. including the back yard. Also, the going rate for residential lawn service is between $50 per MONTH, for a "mow and go" crew, or as much as $75 - $85 per month for really detailed crew. I have friends that pay $125 per month, but they live on a quarter acre lot.
I myself have a gardener for $70 per month and they are pretty much a "mow and go" but they will pull weeds and trim shrubs once a month, or when ever I ask them to.

And not to sound racist, but you will rarely see a white guy cutting grass around here. Mostly Mexican guys that speak very little English.

So taking into account the yard sizes and average $$ rate, now what do you think of residential? That is why I was pursuing the commercial angle.

Any thoughts?
 

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My thoughts are that prices in your area are way, way, way low. Probably due to the influx of foreign labor. At those rates, assuming you have all the appropriate insurances and a contractors registration, you're working to eat. Plain and simple.

The commercial accounts I have are because I maintain the owners/managers lawn at his/her house. Those are the good accounts to have.

Commercial mowing is primarily cost driven. To get the contract you generally have to be the cheapest one bidding.

With market prices being that depressed I can't realistically see how you can operate a sustainable, profitable business. In northern Idaho we don't have the "Mexican Problem" driving down the cost of labor. The lowest I've seen is "Any Lawn $10" but that guy didn't last. Realistically it's $30 a week on up depending on the quality of the landscaper doing the work. The going rate for a laborer on a lawn crew is $15/hour.

Best I can suggest is find a niche. Greenspaces inside office buildings are a growing trend. As more and more people spend their working lives in office buildings the trend is to have greenspaces indoors. Basically indoor landscaping. Savio makes excellent water features that can be readily adapted to indoor use. I'd also suggest looking into planters. Granite, marble, and cast concrete are very popular. Find plants that do well indoors. If a company has a color theme (like a logo) you could be very successful in having plants, rocks, and planters that carry this theme through.

Of course these indoor landscapes require monthly maintenance just like any other landscape project.

Numerous landscaping magazines have published studies over the years proving that indoor landscaping increases employee productivity and a companies standing in their particular market. You can use that as a selling point.
 

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The Good Old Boy Network!

Just join there association is by far the easier way to go. We belong to CAI which is Condominium Association Institute. They are nationwide and a fantastic group to belong to. Just join in the area you would like to work.

We have built a great business with this group and when you get in to the good old boy network you will get all of the work as long as you make it happen with no problems. Just always make the manager look good.:thumbup:
 
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