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dhawk
11-19-2009, 08:18 PM
Hi everybody,

New here and just found the site while surfing.

I'm new in this business.
This is the second business I have had.

My first business was embroidery, graphics, and screenprint.
I finally gave up on it due to lack of time (was still working full time for a large corporate company), low profit margins, and high overhead.

I bought a small existing LC biz with a few accounts, and have just been building from there.

Unplanned, this ended up being my families sole source of income.
errr..... that was a little stressful since I only started with ten accounts.

I have to say, I am much happier being out of Corporate America.

My friends thought I had lost my mind when I told them I was going to do lawn care. Four months later, all they can say is how much more content I seem.

Steve
11-19-2009, 09:30 PM
Welcome to our forum!

What first got you interested in starting an embroidery business? What did you like and dislike about it?

dhawk
11-19-2009, 10:44 PM
I got started because my wife wanted a small home embroidery machine.

Next thing I know, I am digitizing (creating graphic designs and then putting them into something similar to cad design that the embroidery machine can read).

Then I start a forum about embroidery, get about 5K members wanting designs, and the next thing I know, I am sitting in a brick and mortar shop with a commercial embroidery machine, a screen print press, digital garment press, conveyors, etc.

Likes:
:p Embroidery is interesting - taking someones logo, turning it into a stitched hat or shirt is simply cool to see and do
- If you like computers/graphic art, you get to do a LOT of it for embroidery/screenprint
- Customers are usually good/loyal customers - once they see your work, or you create their design, they are not going anywhere (if you did a good job - sound familiar in another type of business?)
- No dirt and weed/grass clippings everywhere you look and on everything you own


Dislikes:
- Lots of competition doing work for practically free in my area
- High overhead - shop rent, 30K embroidery machine, expensive software, high electricity consumption because of all the electric heaters, conveyors, product cost (shirts, pants, football uniforms, etc), 25K screenprint and garment printers, etc..and on and on and on and on
- VERY strict deadlnes and high pressure - just imagine - sometimes you would get a call on Friday - I need 24 Jerseys done by tomorrow

I prefer lawn care now that I am actually able to focus on it full time. What a difference when you are not juggling a "day" job.

fldodger
11-20-2009, 06:53 AM
welcome to the forum, I am also Florida, Where in the southwest are you from.

dhawk
11-20-2009, 08:27 AM
welcome to the forum, I am also Florida, Where in the southwest are you from.

Thanks for the greeting.
I am in Cape Coral.

arthur712
11-20-2009, 10:17 AM
East coast west coast!!! Florida!

I am here in Cocoa Beach.

Welcome to the Forum!

I need embroidery work. Do you have a web site?

Thanks!

Steve
11-20-2009, 01:52 PM
Lots of competition doing work for practically free in my area

Isn't this fascinating!? For all the new members who think there is only heavy competition in lawn care, there probably was just as much in the embroidery field.

What was your view on how to compete with other embroidery businesses (potentially run out of a garage with little overhead)? How did you feel was the best way to beat them?

Getting into lawn care now, can you carry those skills your learned and that strategy with you?

dhawk
11-20-2009, 05:50 PM
East coast west coast!!! Florida!

I am here in Cocoa Beach.

Welcome to the Forum!

I need embroidery work. Do you have a web site?

Thanks!

I don't do embroidery anymore. (sorry)
I closed that shop and went to lawn care.

dhawk
11-20-2009, 06:20 PM
Isn't this fascinating!? For all the new members who think there is only heavy competition in lawn care, there probably was just as much in the embroidery field.

What was your view on how to compete with other embroidery businesses (potentially run out of a garage with little overhead)? How did you feel was the best way to beat them?

Getting into lawn care now, can you carry those skills your learned and that strategy with you?

In my area, there is just as much competition in lawn care as there was with embroidery. Heck, you see an LCO rig at every stop light here in Cape Coral.

What does amaze me is how fast this business can grow - way, way, way, much easier than embroidery (IMOHO). The relativley low overhead with this business compared to the embroidery is just topping on the cake.

I used to cringe when I got a large embroidery order - 1000 polo shirts might set you back 4 or 5K - each time you get the order. I don't cringe when I get a lawn account.

There was no real difference in the two businesses as far as my strategy to deal with heavy competition - keep prices fair, do great work, network, network, network. Have a web presence, of course. SEO optomizing to get good search results for your key words.

I have teamed up with a lawn and shrub treatment guy that has more horticulture knowledge than myself. I consult with him on any new lawns I acquire. He tells me issues that I might miss - lawn being overwatered, fungus, etc. I follow his advice and strive to make my lawns the best on on the block.

I give him business by getting him the fert and insecticide contract, and now he is starting to return the favor by sending me accounts.

As far as carrying experience from the first business - yes - I learned a lot of what NOT to do.

I also leaned a lot of things to do which I try to apply to this business.

It was easier going to this biz because I already had gone through a start up, so I knew what to expect somewhat.

I already knew how to go about licensing and insurance, creating my website, and the other things you need for start up.

I also knew to start with a few customers - that was WAY important, because it leads to other things.

Steve
11-21-2009, 10:44 AM
As far as carrying experience from the first business - yes - I learned a lot of what NOT to do.

Sometimes knowing what NOT to do can be more important than knowing what to do.

Can you share with us a few of your thoughts that new business owners should not do?

dhawk
11-21-2009, 07:05 PM
Sometimes knowing what NOT to do can be more important than knowing what to do.

Can you share with us a few of your thoughts that new business owners should not do?


Dont's - that could be a whole thread in itself, it it isn't already..
Some of this is Lawn Related, some of it goes for any type business

1. Don't ever give up. There will be times that you will want to.

2. Don't spread yourself too thin. One person can only do so much. This was a hard one for me to learn. I tried to run a business and mantain a full time job - that was a disaster in the second year when the biz really started cranking and I did not have the infrastructure in place to support it. I ended up in the hospital from the stress and lack of sleep.

3. Don't scalp a lawn - EVER

4. Don't be afraid to price it where it is worth doing the job. I have a tendancy to underestimat the time to do a job.

5. If you are new, find a commrade to help you with areas that you are not strong in.

My wife is an accountant, so I am lucky in that regard. I am ok at sales, web design, and search engine optomization, so I do that. I have a biz relationship with a pest control person who helps me diagnose whats wrong with a lawn. My whole mission is to have healthy, happy lawns. It is not as easy as I originally thought.

6. Don't be afraid to venture out into areas that are outside your comfort realm.

7. Don't ever forget how important your customers are - golden rule in my book

8. Don't start without proper licensing.

9. Don't work for free. Profit is not a bad word.

10. Don't forget to check if the lawn is wet.

11. Don't wait too long if you suspect something is wrong with a lawn.

12. Don't let overhead get out of control. The more it cost to run the biz, the less profit. You have to find the balance - you still have to have good equipment and proper maintenance

13. Don't expect someone elses methods to work for you. You need to develop your own style, communication, scheduling, customer interaction, estimating, everything.

Steve
11-22-2009, 01:57 AM
You hit on a lot of great points here. I especially thought this one stood out.

2. Don't spread yourself too thin. One person can only do so much. This was a hard one for me to learn. I tried to run a business and mantain a full time job - that was a disaster in the second year when the biz really started cranking and I did not have the infrastructure in place to support it. I ended up in the hospital from the stress and lack of sleep.

I think a lot of forum readers find themselves in this situation.

What advice would you suggest to remedy this if another finds themselves in the same spot?

dhawk
11-22-2009, 05:55 AM
You hit on a lot of great points here. I especially thought this one stood out.



I think a lot of forum readers find themselves in this situation.

What advice would you suggest to remedy this if another finds themselves in the same spot?

Well - my remedy was getting laid off. It is amazing how you will step out and go for it when there is no other option and your family depends on you.

Not my suggestion for anyone else.

When I got the pink slip from my comfy six digit white collar job, I knew what I was going to do. It was the first time I was ever able to devote myself 100% to one of my businesses. Gads, what a difference it makes.

The economy here in Southwest Florida is really bad, and I did not even waste one day looking for a job. I had already been looking at existing businesses (less then 15 customers) for sale, so I made the jump, bought it, and ran with it.

Being able to devote all of my time to it is key. In three months time (and going into dry season) I have managed to doubled the revenue.

I'm really not worried any more about IF the biz is viable - I just have to survive this first dry season. By next rainy season, I will be fine - I just have to come up with an expansion plan to handle the business I am going to have by then.

I had to spread out and do a lot of different things to keep it growing during the slow time - I started doing home watch and foreclosure clean ups. I am looking into offering pool services. The more of a one stop shop I am, the more my customers seem to like it.

I guess if I had to make one suggestion, it would be to save as much money as you can before you jump ship on your day job. But you MUST jump ship eventually, or you will kill yourself trying to keep up with both.

At a minimum, 6 months or a years worth of salary set back to get you by as you grow the biz (of course, the amount of money you will need depends on a lot of variables).

But - it can be done the hard way (no cushion set back), but it is really, really scary. I still worry about making the bills each month. ( I am also so much happier now, it is amazing)

If you are personable and half way decent at sales, you will be amazed at how quickly it will grow when you don't have a "real job" getting in the way.

My other suggestion - make sure that you are cut out to run your own biz, or have support in your weak areas.

If you are not comfortable pitching your service to anyone and everyone you bump into, you are going to have problems. I pitch everywhere I go - stores, restaraunts, you name it.

Network - there are many opportunities to network and get referrals in the process.

Be smart about your networking. I pick tree trimmers, pest control companies, and pool services. They have customers that might not be happy with their current lawn service. If someone is scalping lawns and not letting the customer know about a grub infestation, I will eventually get that account.

I wonder if everyone turns into advisors to their customers like I do.......

Steve
11-22-2009, 12:36 PM
Very fascinating!

The economy here in Southwest Florida is really bad, and I did not even waste one day looking for a job. I had already been looking at existing businesses (less then 15 customers) for sale, so I made the jump, bought it, and ran with it.

How important do you feel it was to purchase an existing business versus start one from scratch? Do you feel this should be done to at least get the momentum going quickly? Or do you wish you had just started from scratch?

Also, do you have any advice or things to look out for when purchasing an existing lawn care business?

dhawk
11-22-2009, 06:26 PM
Very fascinating!

How important do you feel it was to purchase an existing business versus start one from scratch? Do you feel this should be done to at least get the momentum going quickly? Or do you wish you had just started from scratch?

Also, do you have any advice or things to look out for when purchasing an existing lawn care business?

I'm glad I bought with a few accounts.
It quickened the learning curve and gave me exposure.

When buying an existing:
1) Make sure most of the accounts will transfer.
2)Expect some clients to not transfer to you.
3)Try to meet some of the clients, and check the yards out that you will be doing. It will also clue you in if there was something wrong with the service prior to you purchasing it.
4)There might be some unhappy customers that you will have to win over
5)Of course, make sure the equipment is good. Under warranty is even better.

Steve
11-22-2009, 06:56 PM
1) Make sure most of the accounts will transfer.

How does one go about doing this?

Also, did you ever ask the previous owner why they were selling? Was that important for you to know?

Did you have some kind of non-compete contract so the owner couldn't restart a new business and take back the customers?

Did you take over any employees?

How did the customers who were sold, take to you?

dhawk
11-23-2009, 04:59 AM
How does one go about doing this?

Also, did you ever ask the previous owner why they were selling? Was that important for you to know?

Did you have some kind of non-compete contract so the owner couldn't restart a new business and take back the customers?

Did you take over any employees?

How did the customers who were sold, take to you?

I met with as many customers as I could before the sale.
I also ran the business for a month before we sent out letters announcing the sale.

The previous owner had some medical problems that forced the sale.
I did not do a no compete - actually he still refers customers to me. If it had been any other scenario, I probably would have done a no compete.

Did I take any employees - no. He only used a couple people part time. I wanted to run it by myself, along with my wife, starting out, just to make sure that my customers were happy.

How did the customers take to me? I only lost one customer, who was about to cancel their service anyways. The rest of them have been fine with the change.