When he was first starting out, Chase Prewitt imagined having a fleet with all of the newest equipment on the market. With just two mowers and a walk-behind spreader, Prewitt thought that he would know he “made it” when he had all of the latest technology.
Now, after 17 years in business at Prewitt’s Lawn Care in Athens, Ohio, he says he’s knows he’s made it and doesn’t need a bunch of different vehicles to get the job done.
“At first, when I was younger, I wanted to build a big business, but we’re making a comfortable living and I can treat my guys well. And I’ve learned that less is more when it comes to equipment,” he says.
Prewitt has a couple of walk-behind mowers and the standard handheld equipment like blowers, trimmers and edgers, but he says his stand-on mowers are the real workhorses of his fleet.
“If I can reduce the amount of equipment my guys are using, going back and switching out and walking the property again, it’s really a time-saver,” he says.
The $550,000 business offers lawn maintenance, spring and fall cleanup and some basic landscape services like pruning and planting. The mostly residential company employs 10 people during the busy season.
Tom Hertz, owner of Innovative Landscaping in Artesia, New Mexico, first got interested in mower attachments when he was shopping for canopies for his ride-on mowers.
“There’s no way you can send a crew out without them in the heat,” he says. “I was looking at my options and realized there’s another whole world of stuff to play with.”
The right tools for the season.
During the height of the mowing season, Prewitt’s mulching attachment helps support the company’s eco-friendly image. The company uses battery-powered handheld equipment and low-input fertilizers. To help keep grass healthy, the mowers at Prewitt’s Lawn Care are all outfitted with a mulching kit that returns clippings back to the soil.
The company used to use backpack blowers, which required crews to mow, and then follow up by walking the property with blowers. Prewitt says the mulching attachments have eliminated the blowers and cut down on service time.
For Hertz, power rakes and aerators are key in late spring and early summer. His crews use a power rake when the weather forecast looks like it will be favorable to reduce the amount of stress they put on the turf.
“We used to dethatch and aerate in the fall before overseeding, but we found out that we were doing it too late,” Hertz says. “You want to break out the power rakes or dethatchers when the grass still has time to recover and come back strong before going dormant.”
When properties need aeration, they offer the service at the same time. The company then follows up with pre-emergent herbicide and fertilizer application to encourage healthy growth throughout the season.
In the fall, both companies use baggers to handle leaf cleanup. Hertz sells the service as an add-on, offering several packages, depending on the property owner’s preference. Prewitt includes the service in his maintenance packages, but also offers a premium package for residents who want more frequent visits.
“I was looking at my options and realized there’s another whole world of stuff to play with.” Tom Hertz, owner, Innovative Landscaping
“Some people only need a few visits, while others with bigger properties or tons of trees might need us to stop by and make a pass more often,” he says.
Prewitt will allow customers to pay per visit, or set up a contract for the whole season. He says he prefers the contracts since the income is more predictable, but the pay-per-visit program is so popular that he can’t get rid of it.
Get the right fit.
Service, size and quality are all considerations when thinking about adding attachments to a fleet. Also consider what equipment you already have, Hertz says.
“If you have a bunch of backpack blowers, you could consider getting rid of those and using the blower attachment instead,” he says. “Obviously that’s something to think about. Don’t assume that just because you have all of these blowers in your shop that you have to keep them. Eventually, if you phase them out, you’ll recoup the cost.”
Attachments may increase the size of your mowers, Prewitt says. With some attachments, mowers don’t have the same clearance. To avoid accidents, he reminds his crews that they have to be conscious of the change. Prewitt is also careful with inspections and maintenance when he’s using attachments since his crews only have one of each attachment for each mower. If an attachment goes down, there’s no easy swap, and when the mowers are down, he’s losing money.
Hertz keeps several spare attachments at his headquarters but tries to avoid breakdowns since his customers’ properties are up to 45 minutes away. “That drive time would kill productivity for the day,” he says.
If a breakdown occurs, he’ll have the crew move onto the next stop and get to work. When the replacement attachment shows up, the crew will return to finish up work they were unable to do. “It’s not ideal, but it keeps the guys moving,” Hertz says.