View Full Version : Mow only vs. a Full Service

05-24-2006, 01:49 PM
What do you think is a better thing to offer to customers and to yourself? A mow only company that does just strictly mowing, or a full service company that does landscaping maintenance, installations, etc.

Give me your thoughts and opinions on the matter

05-24-2006, 02:57 PM
One side of me says try to do one thing really well and be known for that. However, with mowing it is really tough because you are competing with others who can have no overhead.
This then leads me to my second thought. Offer full service because it takes more skill and know how to do this. Also possibly licenses. This weeds out competitors and allows you to charge more thus making a better profit on your hours.
From all the success stories I have read in the green industry, most all of them are full service.

05-24-2006, 05:37 PM
Would you think thought that just mowing would be less of a hassle because all you have to worry about is getting the mowing done compared to, "trimming the shrubs" or "planting a new tree"?

05-24-2006, 05:59 PM
Absolutely but then what is the downside?

05-24-2006, 06:03 PM
downside is mowing probably is the lowest income producing service. The lowest profit margin.

It is the most weather dependent than any other of the services as well.

05-24-2006, 06:32 PM
What about this?

What if a lawn mowing company only serviced in a 2 mile radius. Then they are cutting down travel cuts, and only servicing one area. They would save on gas, and overhead. All they have to worry about is really mowers, trimmers, blowers, and edger. Nothing else. They don't have to worry about dethatchers, aerators, hedge trimmers, etc. I think that it could be a hit.

05-24-2006, 06:59 PM
It is a great idea. The only thing I would be concerned with, is the concept viable? Could it work? No one knows until it's tried.

So then my next thought is how do you go about implementing it to try it out? What do you have to do?

05-24-2006, 09:07 PM
The reason that I am just thinking about it is because there are a lot of people that "need" their lawn to be mowed. By not offering any other service you can just concentrate on that one service, and not only be great at it, but provide it at a descent affordable price. Also in my opinion it is a more reliable income compared to other services.

05-24-2006, 10:40 PM
I think it depends on many things. Whats your market like? Whats your competition like?

I've been putting alot of thought into where I want to go with the business lately and thinking of this area. The are is mostly elderly people (I had a link to a site that showed stats of the area), then we have alot of professionals. Doctors/medical professionals, attorneys, office workers. But theres also alot of middle class workers, that's what this area is mainly for jobs. I think the average income here is around $35-40K a year.

So when friends tell me I have to get rid of mowing and just specialize I tell them it's not possible. This area just can't support a landscape/hardscape only business. You have to diversify yourself here to be able to bring in revenue from all ends. Good example is a pond store, they're making it happen because residential people go to them and LCO's go to them to buy all supplies too, they also install but travel up to 4 hours away to do installs. If they did installs just here, it wouldn't work.

Next is your competition. Like I've said before about the application side, you (Troy) have it made because you only have a couple real companies to deal with. I on the other hand have 5 (and growing) BIG companies to deal with, so it wouldn't be worth it for me to try and go full bore application work.

After looking at this area and what I'm currently bringing in on residential lots, I'm starting to think commercial or large area residential mowing is the ticket. The large area companies are tight knit guys, a friend is one and theres only 5 or 6 of them in the tri-county area. They're more professional then the companies that go for smaller jobs.

05-25-2006, 08:48 PM
ok, onto another topic off from this, would it be better to concentrate on all mowing (lots of mowing accounts), or only have a few (lets say 20-30) full maintenance accounts, and not take on anymore, just maintain those. Then you don't have to worry about advertising or trying to get new customers. You are only set at those ones, and nothing else

05-26-2006, 10:03 AM
I'd rather go full service properties.

If you want to go just mowing and have a ton of customers a few problems come to mind. If it rains, your backed up and you lose revenue. You have alot more office work/billing work to keep up with. Overall costs would be higher I would think due to running around so much.

I've got friends that are doing both ways that your saying. Both are solo operations, one has 80 accounts that he gets done weekly, he's out 7 days a week all day, he doesn't do anything else just mows thats it. Another friend has 40 weekly accounts but trys to do mostly everything else and mowin is just a 3 day thing to bring constant money in, he banks on upsales and one time landscape/hardscape jobs. Both make about the same, one works his butt off the other works 5 days a week only. Both bring in about the same earnings.

05-26-2006, 10:57 AM
That is some interesting info about those guys. I can understand that the schedule would be very tight and you would work like crazy, but I would think that you would make more money off from just strictly mowing than anything else

05-26-2006, 10:58 AM
Let me say that more correctly:

I would think that you would make more consistant money off from mowing compared to other services

05-26-2006, 05:00 PM
The perfect split for me if I were to stay solo would be to have 4 days of mowing. Be it big commercial accounts or residential accounts. Then set yourself up with the other 2 days for other work (landscaping, hardscapes, pondscapes whatever). This way if it rains one week, you have 3 days to catch up, or if your on schedule you have 2-3 days for other work.

That's how the business was where I used to work, and it worked really well. I liked that split and thats how it is this year, just 3 days of mowing and whatever landscape work I do get in I schedule for the other 3 days of the week.

05-26-2006, 07:02 PM
Well, what I am currently thinking about doing is this:

Have just a lawn maintenance and pesiticde company. That way both areas are covered in case the other one does or doesn't take off good. Then I don't have to worry about any landscaping maintenance such as pruning shrubs, planting flowers, etc. I can just concentrate strictly on two things. I feel that it would make me schedule easier too since I know exactly what I have to get done.

05-26-2006, 07:03 PM
Since I downsized 3 years ago I keep on reinventing the business over and over again to something that would be perfect. Yes, I want it to be perfect. I would have never imagined that 3 years ago, when I had two crews, that I would be working by myself now and wondering the "right" direction to take the business

Howard Roark
05-27-2006, 08:53 PM
I currently have an only mowing operation, and it's worked out very well for me. My travel time is very low and the routes are tight, with a two man crew averaging about 25-28 lawns per day. This works great in my area, however if I tried this where I grew up in Connecticut, I wouldn't have a chance. It definitely depends on the market you're in, as well as what rules you set forth to the customer.

I've had absolutely no complaints this year, and most people are on credit card billing. I attribute this to "choosing my customers" rather than them choosing me.

05-27-2006, 10:58 PM
Howard, good to see you here. I've talked to you in the past via ********, you've got a great business and should have a ton to contribute to this board too!

05-28-2006, 08:35 PM
please talk more about it, I am very interested in what you have to say about it

Howard Roark
05-28-2006, 10:36 PM
Hi guys,

I'm not sure why it took me this long to discover Gopher had a discussion board, but I'm glad I did. The other sites tend to lack the out of the box thinking and winning attitude that I have lived by for years, so I ended up here. It's nice to see an intelligent forum with success for all in mind, and I truly enjoy all the posts by the Gopher staff in reference to other's ideas and their success. There's something to learn from everyone. Hopefully I can bring more people over for some great discussions.

As for what's going on with me this year, I started back part time this year as I had landed over the winter what appeared to be a golden opportunity job and tried to make both that and my business work. Long story short, I just can't seem to work for anyone else! *http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif So back full time as of late April, however most of my customers were landed in May and June of last year so it's good timing.

My business is only mow and go and has been for two years now. I only use postcard advertising hand delivered door to door to gain my customers. We run 21" toro prolines, no trailers, two trimmers and 1 blower. Basically everything is paid for, and with 22 lawns or more per day it's going well. My next step is getting out of the truck and starting another crew. I have learned a great deal from my first year doing this, mostly:

Keep it simple! I decided to narrow my business down and focus on the 5 main things that I needed to focus on and the rest would take care of itself. ( I got this from reading someone's post somewhere regarding if you focus on the most important 20% of your business, you will succeed. If you know which book this is please let me know as I don't have all the details, I just decided to use the theory. I really would like to read this book!! Thanks!)
Anyway, the 5 for me were extremely simple:

1) Find a cost effective way to distribute postcards. I always without fail generate 1.2 - 1.8 % landed job rate from my cards. So basically it's a sure bet if 5000 go out, I'll always get 60 customers or more.

2) Do quality work! Sounds like a no brainer, but in fact my * *major competition now here in the Austin market in fact has a huge turn-over of customers from year to year. Although my business method involves somewhat of a revolving door scenerio, retention is a key priority now for me. This DOES NOT mean I stray from my guidelines of service however. It's about a win-win situation with your customer.

3) Strive for automation. I've had almost 80% of new customers sign up online without ever talking to them. *There's nothing better than coming home to 15 e-mails of people signing up for service with their credit card ready to go.

4) Answer phones and return emails promptly! While missing calls can possibly cost you a job, make sure your voice mail directs them to #3, your website to sign up. Always leave them with YOU in mind. I currently do not have a phone person, although it's coming up on that very soon. However, with the proper voice mail greeting you can have people signing up anyway. (Provided you convince them with your website)

5) Maintain the equipment. Again, a no brainer, but honestly I was running low on things to make my biz successful while putting it together over the winter so this came to mind for the #5 slot. There's nothing worse than trying to start a trimmer on lawn #15 and it not starting with 8 more to go.

I should also say that I pay my help extremely well also, and I only work with people I respect and admire. I am not doing this soley for income, but for personal satisfaction and achievement as well. Therefore, although I do watch P & L and numbers carefully, I would much rather create a successful work environment for everyone in which we all can grow. This has always paid off for me in the long run, as it's universal law and cannot fail.

If anyone has any other questions feel free to ask away. It's great to see you guys and I look forward to spending more time on this forum.

Best wishes! *http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif


05-28-2006, 10:56 PM
I've said it before Howard, I wish I could get the response you do with advertising! I remember talking to you last spring and you had just landed a bunch of accounts, every time I read something from you it's a big moral booster.

I'm considering actually being more of a mow and go company, but not as much as you guys in Texas. Around here the accounts are alittle bit bigger so it's hard to get 20 accounts a day done, most we ever pulled off was 16/17 with 2 48" walkbehinds no sulkies though. I've thought it over many times and the key for effiecency for me would be a flatbed on a full size truck with a 60" or 52" w/b and a 36" w/b, basicly a larger version of what you do.

I just bought a 56" exmark and I'm having a ton of troubles with it, and I'm actually seeing that it's slower then my 48" w/b was on residentials. The only place it's fast is on the few commercials I have, it cuts time in half there. If I can get the company to "buy it back" I'm thinking of going with just a 60" hydro w/b and a good sulkie, this would bump productivity back up for me and still be gentle on me (belt drives are a bear).

This week I'm going to be going wild with flyers again, I still have about 3000 left. I'm going to be getting more made have to do with the heat and convincing people it's easier for them just to sign up a professional company that's reliable. I hope I can get the results (or even 50%) like you do!

Howard Roark
05-28-2006, 11:28 PM
Hi KC,

My response to my advertising is very good, and I'm grateful. I do live in an area with tremendous growth and opportunity. However, do you know I came across a landscaper last week at a gas station who told me he was jealous of my rig and he only had 25 customers, but thought that was pretty good. He then asked me how many I had, and when I told him he nearly flipped! Now what is the difference between this guy and me? He had been in the business 4 years, and it's only my 2nd year. We also charged the same rates, in the same great area of major expansion and jobs.

So what are the successful guys in your area doing that you're not? Or what are they not doing that you could that would work?

If they key to efficiency would be a flat bed truck, and you've done the research to determine this, then do it! Just go for it.
If you realize that a 48" is more profitable than the bigger mower I say drop it down, or go higher!. Running the numbers over and over again always has seemed to work for me. I'm a calculator nut, in fact a friend of mine from my last real job told me I get as much pleasure from a calculator as a kid does from a video game. *

How are you getting your postcards out on properties that large? Direct mail? *I'm considering a direct mail route next year, but I do like the door to door as they at least have to hold it in their hand for 20 seconds on the way to the trash.

As for printing of new cards I did see a good deal at overnightprints.com with a sale they're having on postcards. I don't know anyone who has used them yet, but I may try them.

Keep me posted!

05-28-2006, 11:52 PM
In town the properties aren't really that big, my property is 4000sq ft of turf only. And almost all neighborhoods that I service have mail boxes at the street and I have talked with the post master and was told inserting flyers in the paperbox part is legal. So that's how I've been getting them out.

As far as what the competition is doing and what I'm not or what they're not, I'm more professional and they aren't. I don't know if I project too much of a professional image and it scares people or what, but I see all these guys in beat up trucks, with junk mowers doing a horrible job but they have work. Today for example, it was 90 degree's here (hot for me in Ohio! Probably nothing for you though) I thought about going with a sleeveless grey shirt that looks just like my company t-shirts just no sleeves, and I decided against it, I paid for it in the heat. There's no other companies around here that are small or still have mowing crews that use uniforms like me, or wash equipment once a week to keep a clean image. The only guys that do are the big companies or high dollar landscape companies.

It's like I laughed on here before, a friend mows part time because he's retired, all he had was a stenciled sign in the back of his truck for a month last year, after that word of mouth took over and he has a 7 day route now! I've put tons of money into advertising and looking professional and I still have 2 days of mowing only. I've tried everything from cheap flyers to moderately nice 2 color flyers. Gopher made me really nice full color doorhangers and I haven't got all of them out yet but they will all be out this week so we'll see if the really nice flyers get it.

05-30-2006, 12:51 PM
Quote[/b] ]3) Strive for automation. I've had almost 80% of new customers sign up online without ever talking to them. There's nothing better than coming home to 15 e-mails of people signing up for service with their credit card ready to go.

Hi Howard,

Thanks for joining http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif is there any chance we could see your website? I'd love to check it out.