Choosing the right equipment makes all the difference
For a landscape contractor, the best way to increase profitability is to reduce labor-time investments.
While limiting employment is an option, doing so can lead to an overall reduction in revenue. Another option is investing in timesaving equipment, which can help reduce labor without constricting revenue streams.
Chris Shipp, owner of Shipp Shape Lawn Service in Sylvester, Ga., says the latter is the better option.
“With the right equipment, you can increase productivity without adding to your workforce,” he says. “That provides opportunities to offer more or better services, which creates long-term revenue sources that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.”
In order to keep his business operating at peak capacity without stretching resources too thin, Shipp relies on the productivity and versatility of his fleet of Grasshopper mowers. The fleet is exclusively diesel, a mixture of MidMount™ and FrontMount™ models and implements: three 321D, two 322D, three 721D, one 722D, one 928D, an AERA-vator™ and a rotary broom.
“From a fleet owner perspective, our Grasshoppers are essential,” he says. “They don’t require much maintenance or fuel. So we’re able to control downtime and costs effectively.”
Chris with his Grasshopper 928D and AERA-vator™ at work.
Shipp says Grasshopper MaxTorque™ diesels are designed for durability, reliability and serviceability. All regular maintenance, and most complex repairs, can be done in-house, which saves him valuable time and resources. The diesels also use half the fuel as gas mowers, reducing costs further.
To Shipp, it made more sense to spend a little more up-front to purchase diesel mowers in order to realize the fuel savings over time: compared to using all gasoline mowers, the company saves roughly 1.25 gallons of fuel per hour per machine with diesel, which translates to more than $13,000 in fuel savings every year.
Purchasing fuel in bulk instead of at retail also saves costs up-front, and his crews save time by filling up each morning on-site as opposed to wasting time filling up at a retail pump. With the intrinsic benefits of diesel fuel combined with the longevity of the MaxTorque™ diesel engines, the Grasshoppers have paid for themselves.
“We’ve purchased 13 Grasshoppers since 1994 and only retired three of them in that time,” he says. “That says something right there about their quality and durability. And with the fuel costs we save each year…over 15 years, that’s a big sum.”
The MaxTorque™ diesels also provide the power Shipp and his crews need to face the rigors of everyday mowing. Varying conditions, undulating terrain and job-site obstacles aren’t a challenge.
“The diesel engines deliver more consistent power, regardless of what type of grass or terrain you’re mowing. They make quick work of it, too,” he says. “Not only that, but with well-sharpened blades, we always leave a great cut, which is essential for all of our clients.”
Shipp’s client base is made up of municipal, commercial and residential properties, each of which requires attention to detail Shipp is pleased to satisfy.
“The residential customers we serve have higher-end properties. They take pride in their landscapes,” he says. “The Grasshoppers make it easy to meet each of their specific needs and wants with the highest level of quality.”
Most of the commercial properties Shipp maintains expect the same level of quality, too. Automotive dealerships, especially, are some of his most demanding properties.
“There is a level of trust and commitment they want to communicate in the way the properties look to visitors,” he says. “What makes it more complicated is the number of small intricate areas we have to manicure, in addition to obstacles like fences, displays, signs, sidewalks and curbs.”
The rotary broom has proven to be extremely useful for maintaining those properties as well as municipal properties.
“We have miles of sidewalks we mow along for the city, and the rotary broom is perfect for clearing them after we’re done,” he says. “We used to use backpack blowers, but the broom decreased labor and time to complete. What used to take three weeks with the blowers now only takes a week with the broom.”
Shipp says with the fast mowing, minimal maintenance and timesaving implements he gets from Grasshopper, he has been able to diversify his services, such as irrigation, landscape installation and chemical application, creating additional revenue streams without increasing overhead.
“Grasshopper has helped us increase our productivity, which means we increase profitability, too.”