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Thread: opportunity knocks

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
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    upstate NY zone 4
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    40

    opportunity knocks

    I have been reading the posts on this forum for some time now and have gained much information on many subjects. I am currently in my second year of a five year plan to establish a small home based nursery business. Things are going pretty well, I have my greenhouse nearly completed, tree seeds are in stratification, some are planted and doing well. I have some garden beds completed, the list goes on and on. An opportunity presented itself to me recently and I have been giving it serious thought. The business develepoment agencey in a nearby town has expressed a need for someone to tend the plantings/containers in the business district. not only does this include summer work but in winter time requires snow removal. Now I'm not a big fan of snow but in looking at it as a chance to "get my foot in the door" I can deal with the winter. My question is, has anyone in this forum taken on this line of work? What are the pitfalls? Since I can only envision the plus side of doing great work and getting dozens of referrals I thought some objective feedback would be helpful

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Center Point, TX
    Posts
    256

    Sounds Like a Plan

    Mike,

    I would make sure of several things:

    1. Clear definition of what they want done

    2. A budget

    3. Clear contract for your services that they have to live up to, about the financial as well as your requirements.

    Gary J
    Gary J
    Center Point, TX
    Hill Country Texas Master Gardener
    USDA Zone 7B
    AHS Heat Zone 8

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    upstate NY zone 4
    Posts
    40
    Gary;


    Those were the first three questions I asked. I will be looking at the job this Sunday so I can start to put together a maintenance plan for the client. I do have experience in costing out work so I can get through the "stubby pencil" stuff OK

    Thanks,
    Mike

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Newport, RI/Richmond, RI
    Posts
    70
    What are you doing in upstate NY, if you don't like snow?!? I know a couple people who have done this type of thing. On the plus side, it is good, honest work which can pay pretty well. You get to work with your hands, get fresh air, and meet lots of influential people. On the minus side, snow removal can be hard, back-breaking work at odd hours (usually pre-dawn). You need to have the right equipment to make the job easy, and even then, you have to drive in the snow which can be dangerous if you have rear-wheel drive. You may not have a normal day in the summer either. Work hours would be dawn to 10 and 3 to dusk. In the neither-here-nor-there column, you should decide how big you want your business to get. There is plenty of work to do out there, and once you have the equipment, you want to maximize its use. Every hour of down time is time your losing money to capital expenses. Obviously, there is a critical threshold where you have more work than you can handle, but not enough to hire someone else to help you. Many times, even if you want to hire someone, there isn't anyone available. In addition, when you do hire someone, you need to train them, and hope they stay long enough to be productive. It sounds like you have a head for business, which is good. You have set goals and have a schedule. Now all you have to decide is, "Do you want to do this work?" If the answer is yes, I say go for it. You can always do it for a year, and decide if you want to continue at that point.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    upstate NY zone 4
    Posts
    40
    Thanks very much for your feedback. And to answer your question; I really don't know what the heck I'm still doing up here playing in the snow! I was born and raised in this area and I guess I have never gotten over the beauty of the changing seasons. Mother nature flirts with you long enough to suck you in then sends you a snow shovel and hat. As far as the tools go I think I have that covered pretty well, a nice snow blower, a reliable truck I think I could survive a winter or two more to get the referrals I need. I know what you mean about growing the business. My current boss will take any customer any time schedule be hanged. I prefer the other method; you know , proper schedule, good planning, that sort of thing. I think that no matter what business you are in you must control your schedule and backlog! It dosen't matter the product it all boils down to customer satisfaction! and nothing ticks off customers more than poor planning. Not doing what you said you could do! it's a killer!!! (I'm off my soapbox now) The bottom line is, I think I have a pretty good handle on customer service issues and how to handle them, I just need more feedback on the hidden problemsOnce again Your reply is most encouraging.

    thanks,
    Mike.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Posts
    598

    More questions than answers

    m-yerina,

    You failed to mention if this proposition is as an employee or as a contractor for these services.

    As an employee you shouldn't need any of your own equipment, so then the only question is, is the pay commensurate with the amount of work and/or responsibility.

    On the other hand, if it is as a contractor, there are many other questions. To start with just a few:

    How much of your time is going to be required to maintain the plantings during the summer, and can you make that much time in your full time job and your start-up business competition?

    What happens if the increase the number and diversity of plantings do you have pay flexibility with their expansion?

    If there is a serious drought, or other problems requiring extended periods of your time with the plants, will your present job, or business suffer?

    Does the proposed contract include supplies to be furnished by you or them?

    Are you "on call" when someone vandalizes or accidentally damages some of the plantings? Who replaces the containers and/or plants? Are you liable in any way for replacement of plants that die?

    In the winter, how much snow will you be required to remove, how big of an area? You mentioned a snow blower, is that all the equipment you need, or will you be required to dispose of the snow? During heavy parts of the winter, will you be able to keep up with the job? Does your contract impose any penalty on you, if you fail to perform for any reason? What happens if you must be absent for a period?

    I have a friend here in my town that furnishes and maintains potted plants in several businesses, malls, and office complexes. She is completely responsible for furnishing and maintaining all the plants and containers for a monthly fee. She runs a greenhouse where she grows new plants and nurses back to health plants that have been out for a time with reduced light and/or other abuse. She does really well financially and has several employees, or associates that help her. They do everything that is needed.

    From you initial description, it sounds like a good opportunity for you to begin a migration into a different field, one that you like, and to work on your own. Just be careful that you do not jeopardize your dream of independent grower.

    My very best wishes.
    Tom W
    Aching Back Farm

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    upstate NY zone 4
    Posts
    40
    Tom;

    Thanks for the reply. The Job is a contract, the first thing I plan to do is look at the area to see what is involved. I do not plan on leaving my present job for this contract bid. and the questions you pose are good ones. some I thought of and some I wouldn't have thought of. As far as I can tell I would only have to clear sidewalks. I will question that one though, it seems the city crews get involved in the snow removal process so it may not be too bad. If I am required to supply the plantings, that may be a good thing. with my greenhouse nearing completion I would have the capability to produce several hundred seedlings. First things first, on Sunday I will look at the job and cost it out, If my feeling is I can handle a second job I will submit the bid. I do not want to jepordize my current employment, but on the other hand I'm no stranger to hard work.


    Thanks again,
    Mike

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    upstate NY zone 4
    Posts
    40
    For those of you that are following the saga I would like to update you on my progress.
    I have recently seen the jobsite and determined two things, I can manage the plantings quite nicely and I cant manage the snow removal.
    Miraculously the downtown association realizes the scope of the project and has decided that maybe the snow removal should be a seperate contract. (ok good idea) I have submitted a request for proposal for bedding plants and maintenance for 2003 to the group. Hopefully I will have my opportunity.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    upstate NY zone 4
    Posts
    40
    Chapter 8,

    I met with the head of the business association today, presented my proposal for container maintenance and I must say it was well recieved. I expect to hear from the board next week. The labor, materials and schedule were all agreed upon, so all that remains is for the association to give me the go-ahead to start work. Additionaly they have some very exciting spring projects in the pipeline awating approval. If those garden projects pass muster I will be very busy indeed. This was a very exciting experience for me. For years I have planned and cost analyzed for others and it was fun, but nothing beats seeing your very own project through to approval and then doing it. This is so cool!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Zone 9a - Gulf Coast
    Posts
    9,934

    That's Wonderful!

    Hi, Mike!

    That is absolutely marvelous! It sounds like you have opened yourself up to a whole new world of opportunity.

    I am so very proud for you!

    Keep us informed as to how it goes...


    It is truly exciting NEWS!
    Ann B.
    Zone 9a
    Gulf Coast


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Western Michigan near Muskegon
    Posts
    1,462

    Good Job!

    Mike,
    Greetings from West Mich.! Congratulations!
    I wish you the best.
    Happy Growing,
    Vicki in West. Mich.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2002
    Location
    upstate NY zone 4
    Posts
    40
    Thank you very much Vicki. It's getting pretty quiet around here as winter sets in. Surprise,surprise! Our October was one of the coldest on record and November is starting out pretty much the same way. (1 to 3 predicted for tomorrow) I may take the committee up on the snow removal portion of the contract, but not until my broken foot heals (2 more weeks Yeah!!!) I plan on spending the winter putting together mailings to solicit container garden customers, (something I dreamed up while I was watching the plaster harden on my foot cast.) I am also planning on putting together a "how to " on my greenhouse. It is totally solar heated and so far it is holding its own in this winter weather.
    Come on Spring!!!!
    Mike

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