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biodale
01-26-2010, 10:12 PM
Hello. Glad I found this forum. It has been interesting and informative to read the postings. While I have blown out sprinkler systems (winterizing) for 8 years, I am just starting to mowing this year.
Equipment: John Deere GS-30 (36") to get through gates, John Deere JX 75, Yardman walk behind edger, Stihl fs90R, Stihl fs110, and Echo hand held blower, 14 ft. single axle trailer, and diesel dodge pickup. I make my own biodiesel to save on fuel cost.

I expected to do mostly residential, but am finding a lot of commercial. Lets see how the year goes. I'll let you guys know.
Sincerely,

Steve
01-26-2010, 10:45 PM
Hi and welcome to our forum!

You got a lot going on over there!

What made you decide to get into lawn care from offering irrigation services?

And I would love to hear more on how you make your own bio diesel! Do you have any pictures of how you do it?

biodale
01-28-2010, 12:48 AM
My original intentions with the sprinkler blowouts was to do about 150 - 200 a year (working just weekends) and make an easy $5000. I got into it because I thought they charged too much and the work was easy!!

Now I have over 600 clients. By the way the first 4 or 5 are fun. But working from daylight to after dark 7 days a week for a month gets to be work. My clients kept asking for additional services. Especially sprinkler repair.
With a full time job, I didn't have time and energy for all I was asked to do. I tried to find others I felt I could recommend to my clients but was unsuccessful. I got a job landscaping two houses for a contractor to help him out of a bind (the new owner was moving in and his landscaper went to Mexico) and made $1500 profit in a week.

Then I lost my job and was unemployed. I said I wanted something I wouldn't get fired again. So I started my own lawn care business. I have about $4000 invested in equipment (other than truck). I made that from blowing sprinklers out. So no money out of my pocket to start up.

I am in the process of contacting my clients from sprinkler blowouts to see if I can mow their lawns. I have also subcontracted with a local herbicide and pesticide applicator to mow lawns for his clients. This has worked out very well for the both of us. Today I got a $90/week mowing job from his lead.

My biodiesel shed is closed for the winter, but I will soon be starting it up. When I do, I will post some pictures.

Sorry for the long post.

Steve
01-28-2010, 01:59 AM
My original intentions with the sprinkler blowouts was to do about 150 - 200 a year (working just weekends) and make an easy $5000. I got into it because I thought they charged too much and the work was easy!!

Now I have over 600 clients. By the way the first 4 or 5 are fun. But working from daylight to after dark 7 days a week for a month gets to be work. My clients kept asking for additional services. Especially sprinkler repair.

Do you also handle sprinkler repairs?

I would figure with those two things alone you could be super busy!

Now I have over 600 clients.

That's an amazing amount of clients! What kinds of things did you do to promote yourself?

biodale
01-28-2010, 11:50 PM
I use signs.
Strategically placed signs. Most competitors signs are placed in the bar ditch and weeds at busy street corners. That is a mistake for two major reasons. 1) People from all over see the sign. That means you will be traveling all over the city. Using lots of gas and not getting much work done. Twenty minutes spent driving makes no money and it is time that could have been used to service one more customer. 2) Drivers are watching the road and other cars at busy intersections. They are not reading the sign and taking down a number.

I place my signs on the side road leading into a development I want to target. I find a homeowner who will let me place my sign in a conspicuous place in his yard. I winterize his system at no charge. Everyone driving into the development sees my sign surrounded by a manicured sea of lawn. Many people who call think I live there and they want to do business with a neighbor. I get many customers all living close together. Sometimes I spend 2 or 3 days in one development. It might take me a week to drive 20 miles. All that time many waste driving to the next appointment I use to service more customers and make more money.

I also work hard to keep the customers I have. In my view, the best customer is the one I have. So I keep the customers I have and grow a bit every year. I do lose customers to relocation, etc. But I call them every year and they grow to expect me. One customer said three competitors had knocked on his door but he waited for me. I have even had competitors say they were me to get a client's business away from me.

I have been doing this for eight years. It takes time to develop a loyal clientele.

Steve
01-29-2010, 07:34 PM
That is brilliant!

Was there a certain year in your business's development that you really started to see more customers sign up?

A lot of first year lawn care businesses that read this forum tend to want a ton of customers in their first year and it just doesn't seem to happen that way. As you said, it takes time, but I am sure others are wonder how much time? How long until they get a sizable amount?

Also, I love the yard sign idea, but what about when you are on site? Do you get many new customers that walk up as you are working? Do you have truck signs or trailer signs? Do you wear a uniform? What is your view on that?

I also work hard to keep the customers I have.
What kinds of things should a lawn care business owner be doing to work at keeping the customers they have?

gibson
01-31-2010, 10:41 AM
I have been in and out of the business for 16 years. What I mean is that I built a pertty strong company and sold out to one of my employees. I am a full time firefighter so I am lucky to have some spare time on my hands to mow a few yards. I have a daughter that will be starting college soon and I am just looking for some good marketing tips and this site seems to have a lot of what I'm looking for. So thank you to everyone who has posted and will post in the future and I hope I may be able to help some of you good people out with some good info.

MikeO
01-31-2010, 11:55 AM
how do you winterize the sprinkler system?

Steve
01-31-2010, 10:28 PM
I have been in and out of the business for 16 years. What I mean is that I built a pertty strong company and sold out to one of my employees. I am a full time firefighter so I am lucky to have some spare time on my hands to mow a few yards. I have a daughter that will be starting college soon and I am just looking for some good marketing tips and this site seems to have a lot of what I'm looking for. So thank you to everyone who has posted and will post in the future and I hope I may be able to help some of you good people out with some good info.

Could you make another post about this in a new thread and tell us about some of the marketing ideas you used in the past that you liked or didnt like? I bet that would help kick the discussion off.

biodale
01-31-2010, 11:03 PM
Where I am from it freezes down a foot or so in the winter. When I winterize a system I isolate the system from city or irrigation water and using an air compressor empty the lines of water. Its big business in the fall as each system has to have it done or risk broken water pipes in the spring. I also do sprinkler repair so I can make money either way.

best_business
02-03-2010, 06:03 PM
Sounds like a great addition to anyone's service line. Could you be so kind to tell us how you price your service (i.e. how much per job) and based upon what criteria? I would be interested in adding this to our service as about 60% of homeowners in our service area have a sprinkler system, but they are using their installer for this service. Not sure how to go about a good pricing structure to gain their business. And do you also do start-ups in the spring and summer for the same clients and if so, how do you charge for this service? How do you charge for any repairs requested?

fireeater911
02-03-2010, 07:00 PM
Newbie here, off duty fireman who has been doing lawns (commerical and residential) off and on for 16 years. Have my applicator license 3A thinking about going the SPCB route (not getting any younger). Question, what is the most dummy proof and cheaper but quality route of fertilizing? Tank sprayers, hose RTU (using my hoses and customers water), granulars, etc. Any ideas would be appreciated. Back in the biz because kids in college. Toro 21, 36, Hus 21,21, Echo back pack, Echo stick, Echo weed eater. Mostly 2500-4000 feet yard here in Dallas area of Texas. Thanks in advance for the comments gents.

Steve
02-03-2010, 11:30 PM
Welcome to both of you!

There are a bunch of questions here that haven't been answered yet so let me try and jump on them.

As far as the irrigation questions go, unless someone wants to jump in here further, check out my blog on different irrigation topics http://lawnchat.com/index.php?s=irrigation

As far as
Question, what is the most dummy proof and cheaper but quality route of fertilizing? Tank sprayers, hose RTU (using my hoses and customers water), granulars, etc. Any ideas would be appreciated.

There are a bunch of discussions on here about organic fertilization. Especially posts made by Steve (ststout). He knows his stuff on this.

Do a search at the top for his screen name and for organic fertilization. There will be a lot of stuff popping up.

biodale
02-04-2010, 12:09 PM
I don't know anything about spraying. I subcontract that out.

I will comment about pricing for sprinkler winterization. It is a service that everyone in a cold climate needs. Even if they mow their own lawn, not many have an air compressor to do the job properly. It is about 6 weeks from the time the irrigation company turns the water off to the time it freezes. Here that is from Oct. 15 to to the end of of November. During that time I gross about $20,000.

I use a 185 cfm sullair compressor with a industrial 4 cylinder John Deere diesel. I have a regulator on it adjusted to 40 psi. That way I don't blow the heads off sprinklers if there is a water hammer. Unregulated air (125psi) will blow the heads off the sprinkler and send the internals into outer space.

Marketing is very easy. Remember it is a service that your customers need. It is not an optional service in a cold weather climate. Just offer it to your mowing customers as an end of season service. When starting out I walked an area (always target your areas) and handed out flyers. I charge about $36 a blowout. I charge more for larger yards. Since each valve must be blown out separately, the more valves the longer it takes. So about $36 for 6 or 7 valves. For 10 or 12 valves I charge about $50. I figure my cost is in driving to location and having the compressor sit for 11 months out of the year. There is fuel for both the pickup and the compressor. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes. I guarantee my work so if I blow out a sprinkler head or there is winter damage in the spring, I repair it for free. Most of the call outs in the spring are for customer related issues (customer made an error) and so I get the repair business. The few times it has been my error, I repair it and it is great advertising. They tell their neighbors how honest I am and how I stand behind my work and I get more business from it.

When I started out I undercut the competitions price. I know this is controversial. However I felt I had to do something to get new customers to give me a try. Then I raise prices a little bit each year. Now I am on par with most others.

To keep customers from year to year, I keep a list with phone numbers and emails. I then contact the customers each year.

Scheduling is always a headache. You need to be able to go down a street picking up the customers in order. Just take customers that will leave a gate open so you can get to the hook up. I leave a bill on the door. If you have to come back and meet the customer on his schedule you won't make money on that blowout. I will make a special trip for new customers in an area I am targeting because the will put him in my schedule the following year.

I hope this helps.

Steve
02-04-2010, 11:35 PM
To keep customers from year to year, I keep a list with phone numbers and emails. I then contact the customers each year.

At what point during the year do you call them or email them to get them to sign up for next year's service?

Most of the call outs in the spring are for customer related issues (customer made an error) and so I get the repair business.

What issues do you see occurring most that customers have caused?

The few times it has been my error, I repair it and it is great advertising.

What kinds of problems have you run into while doing this that you are careful of now?