A lot of lawn maintenance companies start out as just one or two guys with a lawn mower and a desire to set their own hours. Although you can begin a landscaping company with a more concrete business plan (and many people do), it’s not uncommon for businesses to start out small and grow much larger as demand increases.
This kind of growth is exciting, but it also means you’ll have a lot more paperwork and maintenance to do. That’s why we suggest tracking hours mowed from the very start. It doesn’t matter whether you have two clients or two hundred—this kind of smart record-keeping will help you with billing, lawn mower maintenance, legal settlements, and more.
Hours and Billing
The reason most landscape companies keep track of hours is for billing and invoice purposes. Some companies charge their clients by the hour, which means you need to know exactly how long your team spent at the work site. Other companies bill at a flat rate, but only know what to pay their own employees based on the hours they put in.
By keeping careful logs that include time spent on maintenance, loading and unloading equipment, drive times, lawn care, and regular breaks, your whole company can run on a tighter schedule. You’ll make better business decisions when you have data to base them on. Additionally, a log of times and places worked will be helpful in case of disputed payroll or complaints about work.
Methods for keeping these kinds of records depend on your business style. While you can opt for keeping paper logs or designing your own spreadsheet, more and more companies are choosing automated GPS systems and apps that allow remote employees to log their activities from their smartphones.
Preventative Mower Maintenance
We all know that mowers need regular maintenance and tune-ups the same way a car does, but not everyone remembers that total hours of run time and heavy usage impacts longevity of your equipment. Unless you keep exact records of when, where, and how long each mower was used, chances are you’re greatly underestimating the usage it undergoes.
Although these estimates vary depending on the make and model of the mowers you use, most maintenance schedules follow these general guidelines.
Oil and Oil Filters: Most mowers need an oil change every 50 to 100 hours. Filter replacement can be done less frequently, at about every 100-150 hours.
Air Filters: Because large amounts of dust, dirt, grass, and other debris are kicked up when a mower is in use, air filters need to be replaced fairly often. Depending on the type of air filter, this may need to be done as often as every 25 hours, or as infrequently as every 100 hours.
Spark Plugs: Most mower manufacturers recommend new spark plugs every 100 hours of use.
Blade Sharpening/Replacement: Mower blades take some of the biggest hits when it comes to commercial lawn care, with sharpening and/or replacements required every 8 to 20 hours. For those who perform lawn care full time, this may mean daily maintenance.
With all of these varying maintenance schedules, tracking hours mowed will help you keep on top of whether your machines need just an oil change, or a couple of different types of maintenance. Since proper maintenance is key to keeping mowers running, the benefits to your business will outweigh any hassles.
These logs also let you know when your mower might be approaching the end of its warranty or when it’s time to purchase new equipment. This can be a great help as you budget for the new equipment, since you’ll have a firm idea of what your average cost per hour is—and what you can spend to improve that outcome even more.