Help Starting A Small Business

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by MikePowers321, Jan 29, 2015.

  1. KevinS

    KevinS Well-Known Member

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    We use day rates for customers like the golf courses we work for a week at a time. The boss says go out and do what ever they ask (within reason of course)but they hire us a week at time so we don't haggle with them $/day x however many days. It helps them budget to
     
  2. guymayor

    guymayor Well-Known Member

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    Use phone app Skitch to show clients what pruning you plan. Also Invoice2go lets you email estimates from your phone. These shortcuts can get to clients in real time, save note-taking time, and facts falling thru cracks, and free up your evenings.

    WC not needed if <3 employees in NC. What's the requirement in NY?

    IRS has a list of criteria for sub vs. employee. I use this closely and have had many helpers who are subs or day laborers but no employees.
     
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  3. marlinspiker

    marlinspiker Well-Known Member

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    Invoice 2 go is nice but Jobber is much more feature rich and not that much more money.
    .
     
  4. LandonPainter

    LandonPainter Active Member

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    My wife and I designed a bid sheet, printed it and laminated it. Then when I do a bid I fill it out with a dry erase marker and take a photo of the bid with my phone using the scanner pro app. I email it and everyone has a digital copy. Then I erase the physical bid and I'm ready to go again. I definately recommend going paperless if possible. No file cabinets, it's quick and easy to reference past bids. Thank for starting this post Mike. Lots of good info coming in. I started my own business a year ago. So far so good although a lot of my income comes from contract work. Im excited for you. Good luck!
     
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  5. marlinspiker

    marlinspiker Well-Known Member

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    That process seams more tedious then using paper dude.
     
  6. treehumper

    treehumper Well-Known Member

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    While it's not legally needed it's a matter of doing what is best for both those who work with you and those that depend on you. It's insurance after all!
     
  7. james mauldin

    james mauldin Active Member

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    I had a 50 yr. old ground man twist his ankle on a perimeter cleanup, worked for me 7 years, between surgery and therapy May 2013 til the insurance company determined he wasn't recovering fast enough for their plans and payed him off in Dec. 2014. $180k between payout, surgery, rehab, weekly paycheck and everything else. With comp will cost my company about $6k. Michigan's law is a company has to have comp if the employees aren't family but I wouldn't work without it either way.
    Also if you hand the paper estimate to the customer on site and they agree to it, then when the guy going door to door with his dad's pickup and trailer doing removals with a ladder and Poulan chainsaw asks if they need work they'll tell him they are contracted instead of letting him in their yard to crush the neighbor's house
     
  8. Reed2179

    Reed2179 Active Member

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    Lots of incredible advise here. TH’s comment about being a businessman instead of (or in addition to) an Arborist is the one that jumps out to me. I got the advise that for every hour you spend working in your biz you should spend working on your biz. That balance is key. One thing I’d add- like insurance, backups. Of your entire system. These cloud based software’s concern me, it just isn’t that farfetched that this could go away or experience some downtime. Have a contingency plan, what happens if you get hurt? Once you hit a point where you are very dependent on one employee- Key man insurance. Once you are very dependent on a piece of equipment- Lost time insurance. Never used the first but did we ever use the second, really saved us.
     
  9. Mangoes

    Mangoes Well-Known Member

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    Before I pulled the trigger with our current solutionI played around with this: https://www.joistapp.com/
    and this: http://www.mpengo.com/mpengoquotes.php
    and this: https://www.invoice2go.com/
    and this: http://www.servicem8.com/
    and this: http://www.invoiceasap.com/
    and this: http://ifield.com/products/ifield/
    and this: http://www.salesnow.com/
    and this: http://mhelpdesk.com/
    and this: https://www.worketc.com/

    There is no reason to use NCR forms anymore.
     
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  10. KevinS

    KevinS Well-Known Member

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    How often do you guys do employee performance evaluations?
     
  11. Mangoes

    Mangoes Well-Known Member

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    3 mo probation period
    annually thereafter
     
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  12. Ravenswoodtree

    Ravenswoodtree New Member

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    Hi Guys,

    Figured I would check in here regarding starting up a tree business. So you're a climber and want to go out on your own. Before starting out, I had about a dozen years of non full time climbing under my belt with an associates degree in arboriculture. What some full time guys working for a good company could learn in well under five years. What I found out first was just since I could quickly climb trees, it didn't mean that I could run a business climbing trees. They are different college majors afterall. Business vs Arboriculture. I think some guys quickly forge into opening up a tree business because they can climb. That's what I did. In hindsight, putting a lot more energy early on into business development would have gone a long long way. In the interest of not being redundant from the great posts before, I wanted to share some ideas from my experience of two years owning a tree company full time. A couple things I overlooked were appropriate legal protection, marketing, business development, and determining what skills you are good at and which ones you aren't. We got sued last year for a bit of money, client had me remove a tree, it wasn't hers it turned out after we removed it. Pricing pricing pricing. Getting a real grip on expenses has remained a challenge for me. I had a large string of employees last season. I found time and again the travel time was killing me, and it sounds like it should be a no brainer, but building all those overhead costs into your pricing is important. By the end of the year you'll know.

    I work with a contract attorney, bookkeeper, payroll company, web designer, graphic design/printing company, mechanics(and more mechanics) and an accountant.

    I think it's important to know your desired client base well, and sculpt your business as if you are that desired client. Who would you want to see roll up on your property if you are a highly educated conservative millionaire? How skilled should your staff be? A cheap ground guy with his shirt off swearing his ass off, or a knowledgeable, highly trained(subsequently highly paid) ground guy that can talk with the client as appropriately as with the owner himself. Both have a important role in the industry.

    Putting the time into the office work is hard, but critical. I probably spend 20 office hours a week or more, in addition to at least 30 to 40 hours in the field.

    Sorry for the poorly organized post, kinda of stream of consciousness writing.

    It's been fun as hell running a business, but there are the headaches. Take it slow and grow as the business grows.

    Going into year three, I'm buying a third used dump truck, still have just one 12" chipper, with hopes to get a second, larger chipper this season, and just got a dingo with an oscillating grapple for this season. Most important piece of "equipment" is good employees. The business doesn't exist otherwise. Find those guys, and treat them well as you would want to be treated.

    With regards,

    Chris Wood
     
  13. MikePowers321

    MikePowers321 Well-Known Member

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    Great post Chris. Thank you.
     
  14. NickfromWI

    NickfromWI Well-Known Member

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    Do yourself a favor and DONT do that.


    love
    nick
     
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  15. Windrunner

    Windrunner New Member

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    Hi, my first post. This is my 7th year in business and a had slow and steady growth. I have loved it, it has had many challenges but the blessings have outweighed them 10:1. I've had to change my identity as I grew. I have friends who have run a single crew there whole lives, but my aspirations are a little bigger and I think 2-3 crews is where I will land. Finally getting to a place where I've got some breathing room and not working 6 days a week. The hard work has paid off.

    I've tried to be a pay as you go type of guy so have only took on loans for one piece of equipment at a time.

    I've tried to hire employees who I enjoyed being around, treated them with respect and paid them as much as I can afford. I try not to work them into the ground and keep safety as our focus as we do the best tree work we can with our current knowledge. I try to keep in mind long term success for myself and my employees, so we all benefit from this work. For me it is a work of love, for trees and people. We focus on tree pruning and preservation, but also are prepared to remove a tree when it's time has come to move on.

    I've had a few great contract climbers that I have partnered with to do difficult removals or to help train my crew in new or complicated rigging techniques( I see a few of these guys as tree gods, but they are human). They have taught me a lot and help me grow my business in a positive way.

    With clients I'm honest and to the point; I don't try to sell work that doesn't need to be done. Coming from a lower middle class family I don't like to waste people's money on task that aren't necessary for safety or preserving tree health or property.

    I started with 3 part carbon copy and may still be using them in another 20 years, I like the simplicity of the system; I give the customer a copy, we do the work and bill off the second copy and the third copy is for my records and making sure payment comes through.

    Two tips for business are be honest and on time which will lead you to much success. Also value yourself and time and be rewarded by charging at least the median or higher of what tree work goes for in your area., I feel I'm worth every cent I make and one of my employees has pushed me to up our prices as we grew which means abundance for all; that being said I still give elderly and those who can't afford us a discount when I can.

    I've seen lots of guys grow there business with doing PHC but with a background in wildlife biology and organic farming I have a hard time justifying most of the treatments, based on there detrimental effects on people and animals that we share the earth with. Honestly I think most of the stuff getting sprayed is snake oil. A year ago I spoke with an elder in our city who spent a good chunk of his life selling PHC for a large company in town and he said he wouldn't recommend doing in sprays at all, I was surprised since he even said he couldn't justify dormant sprays on fruit trees. So I haven't chosen to grow my business in this direction.

    Here is my breakdown with equipment.
    Year 1: my Nissan frontier and a trailer( unloaded with pull fork)
    Year 2: added a 600xl chipper to pull behind the nissan or my employees car
    Year 3: bought a chip truck 1999 gmc 6500 topkick, amazing storage boxes, no longer needing to slash brush in trailer :)
    Year 4: got a second chip truck f450 2001 and a 2007 9" bandit chipper(from a guy here on buzz) worst purchase ever, the damn Italian engine overheated every week, tried everything to fix with no avail. Wish I'd gotten that info in advance the chipper sucked the debris into the radiator and clogged it, tried powering washing, replacing and finally put a new engine on it and it still had the same problem( wish bandit and the guy I bought it from would have been upfront on the design flaw)
    Year 5:bought a 12" bandit 150xp first chipper that increased effiency, it's a work horse with a John Deere engine, I think 114hp
    Year 6:traded in 9" bandit( told them about Poor design of radiator) to Vermeer on a bc1000 drum chipper(love it). Picked up a small overly used chip truck it's a 1999 f350 and pulls the 6" chipper great for small pruning jobs
    Year 7: bought a bucket 2007 60' gmc7500.(past years I was lucky to be able to cooperate with another tree company) cooperation can be good for all.

    I try to take good care of my equipment and by the best I can with the money I have, I don't buy until I feel the business is chomping at the bit for it. I think I have everything I need at this point with a bucket, 3 chippers and 3 chipntrucks and I hold on to the trailer just in case a chipper goes down and we want to go back to slashing brush and pull forking it out. I do wonder about the mini loaders that the east coast guys have, out here our yards are so small and I couldn't see driving a big piece of equipment on them, but maybe I'm missing something.

    I appreciate all the tips I've read on here, so hope this helps add to the collective knowledge that helps us all create our dreams here on earth. Thanks
    Peace, Chad
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2015
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  16. JontreeHI

    JontreeHI Well-Known Member

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    That was so weird, I was reading this and thinking holy smokes this sounds just like chad!
    Hi boss!
     
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  17. tuttle

    tuttle Active Member

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    Reduce your overheads, there are so many ways to do this, biggest variable is the customer.
    Lowering costs is money in your pocket.
     
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  18. treehumper

    treehumper Well-Known Member

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    One caveat to tuttle's post. Don't become overly focused on costs and reducing them. This often leads to doing things that seem to be saving money. While they may save hard cash too often there is the opportunity cost that gets lost. Learn how to do a cost benefit analysis.
     
  19. tuttle

    tuttle Active Member

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    Well one I used to do, was cut 6 to 8 tidy logs, and stack them close the roadside, and write 'free logs' on the side, 20mins later I would have people turning up.....my first line was ' those are taken, but there is plenty back here....and can you take some small stuff for kindling? Please '.
    Worked every time, and I finished the jobs, and drove off in my small van.
     
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  20. MikePowers321

    MikePowers321 Well-Known Member

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    Here's my little set up thus far... discolored, for sure...but efficient

    DSC00376 (640x480).jpg DSC00371 (640x480).jpg DSC00373 (640x480).jpg DSC00375 (640x480).jpg
     
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