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View Full Version : Greetings from Bristol, England


skennard
10-22-2009, 09:41 AM
Hi all, I know I'm a long way from most of you but I came across this site while looking for inspiration for my marketing and sales planning for next year...

I run Steve's Garden Services www.stevesgardenservices.biz (http://www.stevesgardenservices.biz) in Bristol and started in May 2009 after being out of work for a number of months due to the economic climate. I carry out grass cutting, hedge cutting and general maintenance and have had a fairly good first year. The hardest thing has been getting my head round estimating jobs. Some I've done well on and a few have been a complete nightmare so any guidance on estimating would be gratefully received.
Marketing has been another challenge and am still looking for ideas on marketing that is cost effective and works. Currently I advertise in a few local magazines, use Google Adwords and drop my business card door to door.
Anyone got any ideas on what products or services that are good to offer between now and March that might see me through the British Winter?
Look forward to being part of the forum.
Steve

StartALawnCareBusiness
10-22-2009, 07:39 PM
Hi Steve:

I see you have visited my website and I believe my associate has already answered your email.

I did not realize that you are from Bristol. I have been to your area of the country a few times. Most notably; the Cotswalds to visit friends. That is such a beautiful area of England, you are lucky.

My first visit to Bristol was just after college during a summer of backpacking. I hitchhiked from Bristol to Liverpool on an excursion. I was standing out on the motorway with my thumb out. A policeman stopped to tell me I couldn't be there. When I told him my story, he kindly gave me a ride to the nearest services area. A lorry driver then gave me a ride to within 2 blocks of my Grandmother's house in Liverpool.

Very fond memories of Bristol.

Funnily enough, I just got back from a very quick trip to the Wirral to visit my Aunt and cousins last week.

Back in the U.S. now.

Ask all the questions you want...I'll try to help where I can.

Keith

Start A Lawn Care Business (http://www.StartALawnCareBusiness.com)



Hi all, I know I'm a long way from most of you but I came across this site while looking for inspiration for my marketing and sales planning for next year...

I run Steve's Garden Services www.stevesgardenservices.biz (http://www.stevesgardenservices.biz) in Bristol and started in May 2009 after being out of work for a number of months due to the economic climate. I carry out grass cutting, hedge cutting and general maintenance and have had a fairly good first year. The hardest thing has been getting my head round estimating jobs. Some I've done well on and a few have been a complete nightmare so any guidance on estimating would be gratefully received.
Marketing has been another challenge and am still looking for ideas on marketing that is cost effective and works. Currently I advertise in a few local magazines, use Google Adwords and drop my business card door to door.
Anyone got any ideas on what products or services that are good to offer between now and March that might see me through the British Winter?
Look forward to being part of the forum.
Steve

arthur712
10-22-2009, 08:47 PM
Welcome to The Forum Steve!

Great to have you on the forum, Please bring more members from the UK.

I have notice a good amount of my buyers from the UK the last couple of months. I had a couple of them from Bristol, So you may see Our Vehicle Card Holder out there.

Check out our Drawing for free stuff!
(If you win I will only charge $5 US for shipping)

http://www.gopherforum.com/showthread.php?t=10007

Good Luck!

Steve
10-23-2009, 02:30 AM
Hi Steve,

Welcome to our forum!

The hardest thing has been getting my head round estimating jobs.

Have you played around with the online lawn care business estimators (http://www.gopherforum.com/showthread.php?t=7898) yet? I think they might help.

Some I've done well on and a few have been a complete nightmare so any guidance on estimating would be gratefully received.

Can you give us a little insight into your estimating procedures? Which kind of jobs have you found worked well so far and which kinds had become nightmares and why so? What happened with those jobs?

Marketing has been another challenge and am still looking for ideas on marketing that is cost effective and works.

Are you a member of any local social organizations that you can hand out business cards too? Do your friends, family and neighbors all know you are now in business? Have you given them a few extra business cards they can hand out to their contacts as well?

Anyone got any ideas on what products or services that are good to offer between now and March that might see me through the British Winter?

How big of a business is outdoor holiday decorations in your area? What about small handyman types of jobs in and around the house? If you are handy you could offer them.

Also are you asking your current customers if they need anything to help winterize their homes? Are there any projects they have put on the back burner and just haven't gotten to yet? You might be surprised what they need help with!

skennard
10-23-2009, 06:04 AM
Hi Steve,

Welcome to our forum!



Have you played around with the online lawn care business estimators (http://www.gopherforum.com/showthread.php?t=7898) yet? I think they might help.
Thanks for the welcome, as a matter of fact I did start looking at the estimators yesterday and bought the multi deal yesterday which you have kindly sent me and I can't wait to start experimenting with them.

Can you give us a little insight into your estimating procedures? Which kind of jobs have you found worked well so far and which kinds had become nightmares and why so? What happened with those jobs?

I only started my business in May so didn't really have any guidance for estimating. I turn up at a potenetial customer premises have a look at what needs to be done and go with a gut instinct and see if I get a yes no or maybe. I have so far avoided charging an hourly rate but rather look at a whole job and give a punt.
The one that has caused me most problems was my 1st commercial job for clearing weeds out of a communal bed and laying weed fabric and mulch and low maintenance plants.
I measured the site got the material estimates from my trade suppliers and considered my time and sent of the proposal good to go. I got the job bought the materials and booked the date in for the job. The weeds and soil turned out to be real beasts to sort out so had to hire a rotavator to tear it all up which cost an extra 45. I then had to go get the bark chippings as the minimum order was 3 bags at a silly price and going and collecting was about 15 cheaper each bag plus I thought I only needed 2 bags... So I had to go get a 3rd bag and of course I hadn't factored in the extra hour to go and get each bag, doh! Anyway the job to nearly 2 days instead of my estimate of about a day and a bit. So with the materials cost and 30.00 minimum dumping fee the council impose I just about earnt 70.00 from the the job for working nearly 2 days to complete it. The only reason I managed this was beacuse I got nearly 50% off the plants at trade. My profit should have been at least 250. Effectively if I ignored the plant prices I had done this job for free... The housing association was pleased with my work and they put a testimonial on my web site and maybe I'll get some more work from them in future which I will make sure I price accurately. This is why I need to get my pricing sorted.



Are you a member of any local social organizations that you can hand out business cards too? Do your friends, family and neighbors all know you are now in business? Have you given them a few extra business cards they can hand out to their contacts as well?

Not at the moment but I am looking at the local Business Link organisation, there are others but their fees are prohibitive for me at the moment. I also went along to a BNI meeting the other month and I'm still not sure what to make of them as found them a bit clique and were more financial investment types who thought they were the muts nuts. Also think the joining price of 900 is a bit of a joke!



How big of a business is outdoor holiday decorations in your area? What about small handyman types of jobs in and around the house? If you are handy you could offer them.
Am looking into this but want to try and develop my core business of garden maintenance at the moment.

Also are you asking your current customers if they need anything to help winterize their homes? Are there any projects they have put on the back burner and just haven't gotten to yet? You might be surprised what they need help with!

No I hadn't thought of that, how do you mean winterise as ther are special companies that do insultation and the like here in the UK

Hi Steve:

[QUOTE]I see you have visited my website and I believe my associate has already answered your email.


Yes I bought your program yesterday and am looking forward to receiving it and learning the tricks of the trade :) At least I'll be prepared for next years grass cutting season.

I did not realize that you are from Bristol. I have been to your area of the country a few times. Most notably; the Cotswalds to visit friends. That is such a beautiful area of England, you are lucky.


Yes England is great when it's nice weather but most of the time it's a bit hit and miss...

My first visit to Bristol was just after college during a summer of backpacking. I hitchhiked from Bristol to Liverpool on an excursion. I was standing out on the motorway with my thumb out. A policeman stopped to tell me I couldn't be there. When I told him my story, he kindly gave me a ride to the nearest services area. A lorry driver then gave me a ride to within 2 blocks of my Grandmother's house in Liverpool.

Very fond memories of Bristol.

Funnily enough, I just got back from a very quick trip to the Wirral to visit my Aunt and cousins last week.

Back in the U.S. now.

Ask all the questions you want...I'll try to help where I can.

Keith

Start A Lawn Care Business (http://www.StartALawnCareBusiness.com)

Steve
10-24-2009, 04:14 AM
Not at the moment but I am looking at the local Business Link organisation, there are others but their fees are prohibitive for me at the moment. I also went along to a BNI meeting the other month and I'm still not sure what to make of them as found them a bit clique and were more financial investment types who thought they were the muts nuts. Also think the joining price of 900 is a bit of a joke!

You hit on a topic that drives me nuts. We may have a few differences in our business organizations but here there is a Chamber of Commerce. I think they charge hundreds of dollars to join even when you are just getting started.

I was looking around at different chamber of commerce group websites to see how much they charge and I couldn't find one that offered a price until you filled out a form that included the number of employees you have. You know when they hide the price, it's going to be high.

I finally found the U.S. Chamber of Commerce site (https://www.uschamber.com/join/chambers/join1.htm) and the cost for the basic membership is $300!!!

It's ludicrous. This is why I think these groups fail. They need to make the group free for new members for 1 or 2 years if you are a start up. They need to open the doors and welcome the new entrepreneurs and get them started. Get them networking and help them succeed.

Very few start ups are going to see the value in spending hundreds of dollars to join and when they do join, they don't find the group full of other start up business owners.

Ideally I think you want to join a group and feel like these are my brothers in arms. We are all united in this goal of ours to see if we can make this work. We want to be around others who are experiencing ups and downs so we can feel we relate to them. Then we can share our own ups and downs with them and not feel out of place.

Ultimately I think it's this kind of frustration that leads to forums such as this one. Where there is no fee to join and you can read and learn or simply vent.

It's a shame too because the chamber of commerce turns its back on those it should be welcoming and ultimately makes itself irrelevant.

What's your view on this?

skennard
10-25-2009, 11:18 AM
You hit on a topic that drives me nuts. We may have a few differences in our business organizations but here there is a Chamber of Commerce. I think they charge hundreds of dollars to join even when you are just getting started.

I was looking around at different chamber of commerce group websites to see how much they charge and I couldn't find one that offered a price until you filled out a form that included the number of employees you have. You know when they hide the price, it's going to be high.

I finally found the U.S. Chamber of Commerce site (https://www.uschamber.com/join/chambers/join1.htm) and the cost for the basic membership is $300!!!

It's ludicrous. This is why I think these groups fail. They need to make the group free for new members for 1 or 2 years if you are a start up. They need to open the doors and welcome the new entrepreneurs and get them started. Get them networking and help them succeed.

Very few start ups are going to see the value in spending hundreds of dollars to join and when they do join, they don't find the group full of other start up business owners.

Ideally I think you want to join a group and feel like these are my brothers in arms. We are all united in this goal of ours to see if we can make this work. We want to be around others who are experiencing ups and downs so we can feel we relate to them. Then we can share our own ups and downs with them and not feel out of place.

Ultimately I think it's this kind of frustration that leads to forums such as this one. Where there is no fee to join and you can read and learn or simply vent.

It's a shame too because the chamber of commerce turns its back on those it should be welcoming and ultimately makes itself irrelevant.

What's your view on this?

Yes it drives me nuts as well and the worse thing is that the small businesses like myself which often need the most help to start with cannot afford to access it. As I mentioned the local Business Link organization here in the UK are government backed which might be seen as a good thing but others not so great. For example the British government have spent a fortune to get the UK on line for submitting Tax returns, company submissions and the like and I found when I logged onto the Business Link site for the 1st time I had to answer a load of questions and use my Government Gateway ID and was immediately met with have you filed on line, have you done this etc, etc before I event got the part of the site about local business in my area. I had a look around and there was a lot of information there but as you can imagine a lot of it was government sponsored or provided this or that organization out of the kindness of there heart (yeah right I'm sure the government sanitized the article or you could be sure the company would offer you a special deal that you probably can't afford.) Sorry to be cynical but there seems to be very little genuine help to small businesses which is why forums like this are so popular as they deal with the real world.

I've just looked up the Bristol Chamber of Commerce website and had to fill in a contact form before they would show me the pricing and it turns out to be 303.65 (thats nearly
$500) for a sole trader which is a lot for a new business, they seem to offer a load of benefits but I'd need to know some members who are already getting benefit out of membership before I would be tempted to sign up.

There is also the Federation of Small Business which claim to be about everything small business and there membership starts at 200. I remember contacting them earlier on this year and I got a call back but went to my answer phone, from some posh lady asking me to call back. So I did about lunchtime but it went straight to their answer phone so expect I called them when they were having tea and biscuits or something and I left a message. Six months later I got another call from the same lady asking me to call back which I did and same story, never actually got to speak to someone. So in summary the FSB is either a one woman band who like her regular breaks or quite frankly they don't really give a toss about the small businesses they claim to support. Anyway I'd better stop here else I could go on ranting for ages about small business support in the UK and just pray that forums like this keep up the good work and hopefully get some other members from Britain joining...

I believe there are other organizations but I expect they are much the same as I've found so far but I am open to be shown different.

Steve
10-26-2009, 03:32 AM
I am with you on all that.

I would say finding customers now, comes down to meeting people and talking to people. The more people you talk to while you are out and about during your day providing services, the better. It may be slowly at first but it will grow if you keep up with it.

Keep us posted on how everything goes.