What was it realistically like your first couple years?

climbingmonkey24

Well-Known Member
Location
United States
For those of you out there who are self-employed, what was it like when you first started? Before all the big equipment, etc.? Or did some of you even choose to stay small instead of expanding?

Like me for instance, I’m still at the point I do all my work by climbing. I haul brush away with a hydraulic dump trailer (which is more than enough I can fit a lot of brush in there). But I am ambitious and eager to expand. I’m not really looking towards a bucket or chipper for my next investment but instead a spider lift. I can do more with it.

Realistically, did some of you guys start out with the big equipment right away or did you start out with maybe a pickup, etc. climbing everything, maybe even subcontracting and slowly and gradually worked your way up over a period of years? How long did it take?

There really is a psychological aspect here. You see companies with the huge equipment and you want to compete with them, but it has to happen over a period of time by working up to that point (in most cases usually). It just doesn’t happen overnight as a newer business. It can be discouraging at times. Anybody relate here?
 

CanadianStan

Well-Known Member
For those of you out there who are self-employed, what was it like when you first started? Before all the big equipment, etc.? Or did some of you even choose to stay small instead of expanding?

Like me for instance, I’m still at the point I do all my work by climbing. I haul brush away with a hydraulic dump trailer (which is more than enough I can fit a lot of brush in there). But I am ambitious and eager to expand. I’m not really looking towards a bucket or chipper for my next investment but instead a spider lift. I can do more with it.

Realistically, did some of you guys start out with the big equipment right away or did you start out with maybe a pickup, etc. climbing everything, maybe even subcontracting and slowly and gradually worked your way up over a period of years? How long did it take?

There really is a psychological aspect here. You see companies with the huge equipment and you want to compete with them, but it has to happen over a period of time by working up to that point (in most cases usually). It just doesn’t happen overnight as a newer business. It can be discouraging at times. Anybody relate here?

Talk directly to those companies whose business model you think would fit well with you

I know guys who have fleets of 10+ trucks, and guys who are happily cruising along with 2 pickups / chip bodies and little 6" chippers. At the end of the day there isnt that big of a difference in profit on the day to day. A lot more headaches with big equipment, Moree employees, more maintenance, upkeep, etc

The one time where the big toys pays big is when a storm / other natural disaster hits. Then you cash big time

TLDR "Grow or Die" is one model, "Keep it small and keep it all" is another. Lots of pros and cons to both, in terms of mental burden and financial commitment / freedom
 

VenasNursery

Well-Known Member
Location
Michigan
I only invest in my own business,Team, and Family

If you don’t believe in your self
Nobody will either

I love new equipment and spending money

but I spend more time with my Team than I do with my family
:love:
 

colb

Well-Known Member
Location
Florida
Try to be intelligently disruptive. Can you specialize in reduction pruning, narrow access stump grinding, or phc? These markets are duds if you do not have the disposition to market them, or if the client base isn't there. There is always a way in that does not involve consensus.
 

Jzack605

Well-Known Member
Location
Long island
Definitely following this, as I have many of the same questions as I continue to weigh the options of remaining employed by a larger company or going on my own. Also with the consideration of adding a dump trailer in the next year for side work. There's so much I want to do that the company I'm at right now doesn't even consider.

Interesting decision going with a spider lift over a chipper; but without a chip truck it makes sense.

For me the first investment will likely be a chip truck and chipper, followed by a mini skid and then look at aerial lifts; be it a spider lift or bucket truck.
 

Z'sTrees

Well-Known Member
Location
NW NC
I like the "stay small and keep it all" motto. Especially right now. Everything is paid for. Truck, chipper, mini, etc. Our market sucks for a few months in the winter and right now everyone's market sucks. I sleep like a baby in February. I can't imagine having payments on everything right now, several guys depending on me, etc etc.
I've done everything from load brush into a pickup, to work for companies that had log trucks, big chip trucks, lots of iron. Feeding the beast is not my thing but to me there's a happy median of equipment that works for you and you working for equipment.
We're really efficient as a 3 man crew, I am on every job (which I prefer and enjoy). I can be really competitive on smaller jobs and can sub extra help on the Biggins without having all that "stuff" that needs maintenance year round. To each their own, but this works really well for me.
 

climbingmonkey24

Well-Known Member
Location
United States
Definitely following this, as I have many of the same questions as I continue to weigh the options of remaining employed by a larger company or going on my own. Also with the consideration of adding a dump trailer in the next year for side work. There's so much I want to do that the company I'm at right now doesn't even consider.

Interesting decision going with a spider lift over a chipper; but without a chip truck it makes sense.

For me the first investment will likely be a chip truck and chipper, followed by a mini skid and then look at aerial lifts; be it a spider lift or bucket truck.

The dump trailer was the best first investment for equipment I made for my business. Sure it may take a little more time loading etc. than feeding into chipper, but the key is cutting the brush and logs up when it’s in the trailer. We pile the brush in and then use the big saw and cut it all up, and my ground guy keeps feeding more brush into the trailer as I cut it up. We work simultaneously. You can fit way more than you actually think when you cut it up inside the trailer properly. Mine is not as big as some of the ones out there but I built sides for it and we’ve done large jobs and fit everything in no problem. A couple weeks ago we pruned 8 trees and fit everything in with room to spare. Last week we did a land clearing job with multiple smaller trees removed and bushes and vines and fit a lot of stuff in. Only had to dump twice. But more often than not for the work I do we don’t have to make any dump runs during the job.

Of course a chipper is faster. But when you’re just starting out the price difference could be significant. That was the reason I decided to start with dump trailer versus the chipper.

And my thought behind the spider lift over chipper is because I know that the dump trailer works for my operation and is less cost, what I don’t have is a bucket for jobs that I need one for. I can always upgrade to a bigger dump trailer and or chipper down the road if I want.
 

arborandearth

Well-Known Member
Location
Chico
The question is, what do you value? In the first 2 years, I was all about scaling the business, thinking I needed to buy huge equipment, and exponential growth.

However, I've changed that thinking over the last year for many reasons.

1. I read "Company of One" by Paul Jarvis
2. I had a son and value my family time
3. Crunched the numbers and realized I'm just as profitable Small vs. Big
4. Shortage of Quality labor in a market I cant compete against - FEMA and Utility crews are paying and poaching workers for $60 an hour, 60 hour work weeks, and full benefits for Butte County Fire cleanup.
5. I've developed a stellar reputation and niche market where I don't even need to advertise and am still busy during the virus shutdown.

Instead, I work toward my values:
1. Profitability
2. Quality
3. Safety
3. Family & Crew

I buy one piece of equipment, pay it off, then purchase the next. I still dont have a chipper, chip truck, or lift. That will come in time. In two years however, I have all the climbing, rigging, saws, 2 heavy duty trucks, a dump trailer, a mini with a bunch of attachments and 4 months of business cash on hand to weather a storm. If a job requires more equipment, I build it in with profitability. If they pass on the price, no sweat because I'm booked out 4 months.

I will buy an aerial lift, small chipper, and small chip truck. But in time when it makes sense.

My suggestion is to drill down on what you really want, Company of One might shed some light on if staying small is right for you
 

climbingmonkey24

Well-Known Member
Location
United States
I like the "stay small and keep it all" motto. Especially right now. Everything is paid for. Truck, chipper, mini, etc. Our market sucks for a few months in the winter and right now everyone's market sucks. I sleep like a baby in February. I can't imagine having payments on everything right now, several guys depending on me, etc etc.
I've done everything from load brush into a pickup, to work for companies that had log trucks, big chip trucks, lots of iron. Feeding the beast is not my thing but to me there's a happy median of equipment that works for you and you working for equipment.
We're really efficient as a 3 man crew, I am on every job (which I prefer and enjoy). I can be really competitive on smaller jobs and can sub extra help on the Biggins without having all that "stuff" that needs maintenance year round. To each their own, but this works really well for me.

Sounds like you’re doing good. Is your truck a chip truck or a bucket? If not a bucket do you do everything by climbing?

One thing at a time. Not looking to get tied up in a bunch of stuff all at once and be over my head. That’s why I started with the dump, now I’m considering what I think I would get the most use out of and what would bring the most value to my business for down the road.
 

climbingmonkey24

Well-Known Member
Location
United States
The question is, what do you value? In the first 2 years, I was all about scaling the business, thinking I needed to buy huge equipment, and exponential growth.

However, I've changed that thinking over the last year for many reasons.

1. I read "Company of One" by Paul Jarvis
2. I had a son and value my family time
3. Crunched the numbers and realized I'm just as profitable Small vs. Big
4. Shortage of Quality labor in a market I cant compete against - FEMA and Utility crews are paying and poaching workers for $60 an hour, 60 hour work weeks, and full benefits for Butte County Fire cleanup.
5. I've developed a stellar reputation and niche market where I don't even need to advertise and am still busy during the virus shutdown.

Instead, I work toward my values:
1. Profitability
2. Quality
3. Safety
3. Family & Crew

I buy one piece of equipment, pay it off, then purchase the next. I still dont have a chipper, chip truck, or lift. That will come in time. In two years however, I have all the climbing, rigging, saws, 2 heavy duty trucks, a dump trailer, a mini with a bunch of attachments and 4 months of business cash on hand to weather a storm. If a job requires more equipment, I build it in with profitability. If they pass on the price, no sweat because I'm booked out 4 months.

I will buy an aerial lift, small chipper, and small chip truck. But in time when it makes sense.

My suggestion is to drill down on what you really want, Company of One might shed some light on if staying small is right for you

I will definitely check that out, sounds interesting.

Now you mention it, one of my focuses I would like to be is getting more work without the advertising. More organic calls, referals, etc. You mentioned that, and that’s something that I think is a good goal and I was actually discussing this with someone earlier today.
 

Z'sTrees

Well-Known Member
Location
NW NC
Sounds like you’re doing good. Is your truck a chip truck or a bucket? If not a bucket do you do everything by climbing?

One thing at a time. Not looking to get tied up in a bunch of stuff all at once and be over my head. That’s why I started with the dump, now I’m considering what I think I would get the most use out of and what would bring the most value to my business for down the road.
Small 4x4 chip truck with tool boxes. No bucket. Don't want one. Not the right tool for my area. Got a guy I can sub or pass the bucket only jobs on to
 

arborandearth

Well-Known Member
Location
Chico
I will definitely check that out, sounds interesting.

Now you mention it, one of my focuses I would like to be is getting more work without the advertising. More organic calls, referals, etc. You mentioned that, and that’s something that I think is a good goal and it’s something I was actually discussing with someone earlier today.
How I did it was volunteered for our local master Gardener program. They put me through extensive and high-quality training. Once we are trained, we provide educational classes for pruning, planting, soil amending, irrigation, etc.

We also have a demonstration garden where I loan my time and equipment to help with the installation of new gardens. As a result the 100 or so volunteers, mostly retired professionals with good income, hire me. In addition, they give my name and number out. Also, the lead arborist for the city loves me and gives out my info when a tree isnt the cities responsibility.

Another way I do it is buy the crew at the local saw shops beer and pizza every couple of months!
 

Serf Life

Well-Known Member
Location
Maine Island
I will definitely check that out, sounds interesting.

Now you mention it, one of my focuses I would like to be is getting more work without the advertising. More organic calls, referals, etc. You mentioned that, and that’s something that I think is a good goal and I was actually discussing this with someone earlier today.
That’s how I decided to grow and no regrets. If work doesn’t come in and referrals are few than how sustainable will business be with only advertising? I think 2-5 yrs depending on many factors to get solid work.
Regret not getting better trucks and equipment with financing earlier on. Running the numbers I found that over 3 yrs I had repair costs which would have mostly paid off a loan on much younger and reliable gear, with higher resale.
 

Reach

Well-Known Member
Location
Atglen, PA
I started out years ago with an old pickup and an open landscape trailer. Hauled a lot of brush on that thing, stacked on, thrown off. Rented a chipper and chipped into it for larger projects, and shoveled the chips off. Upgraded the pickup, then bought a landscape body dump as well; chipped into it with a tarp on top, then had a roof built for it that I could lift off by hand, in three pieces. Slowly worked up, now we have five trucks, and our goal is to add one a year for the next few years.

We are climber based, although we do run a Biljax X-Boom lift sometimes, when climbing won’t work. Next truck will be a bucket though, as we are getting into a lot of work that could be more quickly done that way.

We are a company with a fast-growth business plan; this is my third company, the first two were landscape companies, but I got tired of dealing with 200+ customers a week complaining about the same things, and ran out of challenges in landscaping, so took the tree care side of one of the companies and spun it off into what I have now, and dumped the rest a couple years ago.

As stated above, decide what you think is best for you, big or small, and run with it. Consider buying a dump truck though, perhaps before your lift - it’s hard to tow a lift and a dump trailer at the same time, but a dump truck can pull the lift, or something else. And you can always build up the sides and chip into just about any dump truck. A dump trailer is not nearly as versatile. They do haul loaders and logs around well though.
 

erwin

Active Member
Location
st. louis
i have a little 6" vermeer and a home made box on my F350 diesel dump since I started. That setup worked well for me for over 10 years. now i sold that set and got a F550 with a 14' box, a bandit 6" as my work horse and 250 as backup or big jobs. added a mini skid, vermeer ctx100. Bought a bucket truck a few years ago. only used it maybe once every month or more, nice to have but don't get much use because it's a lot easier for for to climb up there get it done than lug the big truck around. That's why I was intrigued when I saw the original poster going after a spider lift over chipper mini skid.

I also have a nice 14' dump trailer. I love it, but not used much as well since I have people getting firewood. guess everyone runs his business differently. ERwin
 

Edi

Member
Location
Illinois
I start with a ford focus and my tools in the trunk and back seat offering just pruning and tree removal with out hauling anything away and not grinding stumps, at the firs I just want to do small trees it was good but I can't keep turning away big trees forever.
You will find out on the way what fits better for you.
Kept saying to my self no more equipment... Just acquired new lift couple months ago :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:
 
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CanadianStan

Well-Known Member
i have a little 6" vermeer and a home made box on my F350 diesel dump since I started. That setup worked well for me for over 10 years. now i sold that set and got a F550 with a 14' box, a bandit 6" as my work horse and 250 as backup or big jobs. added a mini skid, vermeer ctx100. Bought a bucket truck a few years ago. only used it maybe once every month or more, nice to have but don't get much use because it's a lot easier for for to climb up there get it done than lug the big truck around. That's why I was intrigued when I saw the original poster going after a spider lift over chipper mini skid.

I also have a nice 14' dump trailer. I love it, but not used much as well since I have people getting firewood. guess everyone runs his business differently. ERwin

Everyones trees, landscapes and land layout is different.
 

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