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View Full Version : It may be time for a hard choice


jasonw
09-02-2010, 01:19 PM
Business has fallen off 100% but the cost to do business has gone up. I found myself yesterday taking money from my personal checking account to keep the business afloat for a little longer. I have been on the phone non stop trying to entertain different advertising, the local phone book wants 1200 per year for a 1/4 page add, that's 1,200 that the business dose not have. My regular advertising has produced 0 calls as of late. It may just be time to count losses and move on with life. Any suggestions for a last ditch effort to survive? Spending a ton of money is out because I worry the more of my personal money I sink into it the more I will lose so I am kinda screwed.

Steve
09-02-2010, 02:12 PM
Being that you had customers in the past, I would figure that would be a benefit. Could you contact them and let them know you are back in business?

What was the best marketing method that worked in the past in your area? Could you repeat that process?

jasonw
09-02-2010, 02:34 PM
Being that you had customers in the past, I would figure that would be a benefit. Could you contact them and let them know you are back in business?

What was the best marketing method that worked in the past in your area? Could you repeat that process?

Steve I have done all I can with past clients. Got some back didn't get others but what I did get back has not been covering the bills. I do have the big county contract but am under the understanding it could take up to 6 months to finally get a government check issued so I can not count on that to pay the bills although I am pushing them to pay me. As far as advertising I never stopped or changed what has worked in the past really. I went from barely being able to keep up with calls for new service one day to none the next day and its been flat lined ever sence. In 3 months I got 3 calls, did 2 estimates and never heard back, missed the 3rd call and returned it, left a message and never got a call back.

JP Landscaping
09-03-2010, 12:00 AM
If you don't have work then you should have time. On a low budget, going door to door with your business cards is the best idea I can think of. Start advertising fall clean ups, aerating, power raking, etc.

good luck

jasonw
09-03-2010, 12:03 PM
I am working out going door to door with fliers the problem is the money is gone. Until I get some checks "Who knows how long that will take" the business has $25 to its name meaning the fliers will come out of my pocket. My wife and I set a rule a while back that we will keep the business going so long as it pays for itself. We dont care if it pays us but just want it to pay for itself. Last month I got hit with licensing renewals, Postal renewals and everything all at once that depleted the business accounts. I was not worried because I was counting on my county check to come in but to my surprise they sent the invoice back to me and I-9ed me. Now they have there paperwork and the invoice back but that was 3 days ago and I h ave yet to hear if we are good to go. As far as airating and power raking I dont have the equipment for that. I have a hand held airator which is good for small lawns like mine but most of the lawns in my area are 1/4- 1/2 acer and the cost to do that by hand would be such that noone would want to pay that much. As far as the power raking Thats simple. I dont have a power rake. Now I am worried that if I start funding the business myself the market will not improve and I will just be flushing my money down the drain and not only have a broke business but be broke myself. The last time I funded it myself I did it in the way of a personal loan or investment payable back to me in monthly installments with interest. That way I was sure I would get my personal money back but I lost thousands of dollars when tax time came around and the IRS said it was illegal for me to loan my business money. So this time if it costs me 40K to keep the business going another 4 months and things dont improve I can kiss my 40K good bye.

Steve
09-03-2010, 01:15 PM
Reflecting back on all this, what do you think happened? What do you think made you want to get out of the business and then get back in? Is their an underlying issue that still hasnt been resolved and is that making it difficult now or do you feel none of this has anything to do with it?

jasonw
09-03-2010, 01:49 PM
Reflecting back on all this, what do you think happened? What do you think made you want to get out of the business and then get back in? Is their an underlying issue that still hasnt been resolved and is that making it difficult now or do you feel none of this has anything to do with it?

Steve. I have though a lot about that very question. I have come up with the answer that a ****ty week just pushed me over the edge. First a client was a few months past do and I was to get all my money that day. On the property before that I ran over and cut in half a very expensive hose. NOTE I did this hundreds of times and the hose was never a problem as I cut the grass so high and the hose is a hefty one. That took a months wages from that job to replace. Then I move onto the next job and didn't get paid so I said that's it. I have fixed that problem in that now weather it will be a problem or not I roll up there hose every time. As far as non paying clients if your bill is not paid you dont get the work done. I dont care if you are one day past do, pay your bill and I will show up. Past do for 2 weeks and you come off the schedule and the collection letters start getting sent out. I use to play Mr nice guy and let people get away with being a month late but not anymore unless we set up an agreement to pay per month rather than per week. Basicaly I have 2 kinds of job the ones that grow the business and the ones that support the business. The ones that grow the business are the $20K+ jobs that pay for a new tractor or truck or whatever, and the ones that support the business are the regular scheduled maintenance jobs. The ones that grow the business and get me all the neat new toys help because those neat new toys go towards the smaller jobs that support the business in the way of providing new services. The big jobs have not slowed down but are to few and far between to support the business. The regular scheduled jobs have just about stopped coming in. Basically I think I made a big mistake in that I grew the business far faster than it could support itself and in one fail swoop it imploded in on itself. This became painfully clear when all these renewals and fees came up they just sucked everything out of the bank. I about blew my gasket when I was informed I was operating 2 months after some licenses had expired. I through a **** fit on why I was not informed and lucky for me they waived late fees and application fees and told me just to pay for the renewal and all is good, other wise I would have been unlicensed and out of business last week. Now I am depressed because I have just enough gas in the truck and in cans to get to my next regular job and thank god they called and said they had a check waiting for me. If you remember even when I took my extended break the bank accounts were always overflowing, cash flow has never been a problem and I have never had to pinch pennies and try to figure out finances like I have in the past few days, very stressful indeed. That being said getting a check next week is NOT a saving grace as in one hour it will be gone do to operating expenses. The bottom line is we grew very fast then new calls for service in one day just stopped all together. In three months I have had only 3 calls and didn't get any of the contracts so the only way out in my mind is to greatly reduce the business back to a self sustaining level but I have no idea how to do that. We were just in the middle of a very exciting expansion and were getting rave reviews and had a lot of good prospects and now I am worried by not only putting said expansion on indefinite hold but also by reducing everything ells to the aforementioned self sustaining size I fear it will make us look very bad. Its like a catch 22.

jasonw
09-03-2010, 02:04 PM
You know what. Maybe my problem is an overanylitical one. Everything is paid for and after all I DO have enough resources to get to the next job which is more than we can all say in this economy so may I just need to sit down and shut up and deal with it as it comes. My wife and I had a meeting yesterday and agreed we will go on a month to month situation with funding the companies needs. The only thing I should need is advertising costs as they will need to be paid by Monday and I dont get my check until Wednesday so we will need to fund the next months of advertising and then hopefully before its do for October business picks up.

One problem I have faced for 2 years are our winter services, its getting to that time of year when calls normally slow down for summer services the problem is I really dont have any winter services. I have no equipment really to offer such services and with cash flow what it is I doubt the accounts will be at a level to buy the equipment before winter sets in so it looks like it will be another dismal 0ff season for us.

Steve
09-04-2010, 12:15 PM
You hit on a lot of great points that I think effect many who read the forum.

When you said

Basically I think I made a big mistake in that I grew the business far faster than it could support itself and in one fail swoop it imploded in on itself.

we talk about this from time to time, but can you tell us how building a business too fast can effect it? Everyone tends to think that you should build your business as fast as you can, but how do you feel it effected the implosion?

What do you feel is a business implosion?

Also what do you feel would be the best way to turn it all around, now that you have gotten all this thought out?

MountainViewGreenskeeper
09-04-2010, 01:10 PM
we talk about this from time to time, but can you tell us how building a business too fast can effect it? Everyone tends to think that you should build your business as fast as you can, but how do you feel it effected the implosion?

I do have a question on this cause I have this idea as well but I am catious about it. Is there a right way to expand or is it just steady growth?

jasonw
09-04-2010, 01:27 PM
You hit on a lot of great points that I think effect many who read the forum.

When you said



we talk about this from time to time, but can you tell us how building a business too fast can effect it? Everyone tends to think that you should build your business as fast as you can, but how do you feel it effected the implosion?

What do you feel is a business implosion?

Also what do you feel would be the best way to turn it all around, now that you have gotten all this thought out?

Its a hard one to explain Steve but for example lets say you are expanding which is what we were working on when all hell broke loose. You are dumping a lot of time and money into an expansion and before you know it its getting bigger and bigger but your management skills have not evolved as fast as the business itself has, it ends up being mismanaged and the workload grows faster than the bank accounts do to the aforementioned mismanagement and before you know it you dont have the money to put gas in the lawn mower. It all comes down to poor management, you pay so much attention to new business you lose sight on what got you here in the first place, you stop mixing up adds and catering to the small fish in order to go after the big fish and before you know it the small fish are gone and the big fish stop biting. Now your $200 per month in expenses are $20K per month and your done. Thankfully for me I CAN afford to carry the failing business but to what end? I worry it may be to late. We are working day and night now to try to pick up the peaces and get things back to a manageable level. How are we doing that? I have no idea, we are shooting blanks, pissing in the wind and grabbing for every idea we can. I honestly think we will live through this but unfortunately its going to take some outside funding in the way of my checkbook to do so. I just have no idea how much this will cost us nor do I know how long it will take. As for now we are putting expansion on indefinite hold and rebaiting our hooks to go after those small reliable fish and not so much the big ones. We are reorganizing and will revert back to the business that cares about the people and has tea with the clients and not meetings with the corporate leaders. Dont get me wrong I will still go after the big jobs I will just be a lot more careful on how I do it in the future. And never ever ever forget who got me here and that is the fixed income retirees with small lawns and Cadillac in the garage.

@MountainViewGreenskeeper

Dont ever get in a hurry to chase the mighty buck. We grew and grew and grew and now the high school kids doing $5 lawns are making more than me. Keep it steady and never forget your roots. Never underestimate what losing a $30 lawn can cost you. Always treat every client like they are your only and no matter how busy you get always listen to there war stories. Thats the best advice I can think of to stay out of the problems we are going through now.

Steve
09-04-2010, 05:12 PM
This is really nailing the problem down further.

before you know it its getting bigger and bigger but your management skills have not evolved as fast as the business itself has

As you reflect, what in the management end of things do you feel was lacking? Was it so much the management skills were lacking or was it there was less time available to spend on managing? Or maybe was it both?

And never ever ever forget who got me here and that is the fixed income retirees with small lawns and Cadillac in the garage.

I think this is a huge insight. It seems like it is quite possible to say, such customers are the lifeblood of a lawn care business. If not all of them, I would think most of them.

Why do you think such customers are so easily overlooked? Why is it that customers who are so important tend to be pushed aside for others?

you stop mixing up adds and catering to the small fish in order to go after the big fish

Can you tell me what you meant by 'you stop mixing up adds'?

MountainViewGreenskeeper
09-04-2010, 09:57 PM
I think this is a huge insight. It seems like it is quite possible to say, such customers are the lifeblood of a lawn care business. If not all of them, I would think most of them.

Why do you think such customers are so easily overlooked? Why is it that customers who are so important tend to be pushed aside for others?

ATM I couldnt see over looking them. Maybe I am bidding the properties wrong but I find the smaller yards I make the most money on. They really are the life blood of my business at least.

jasonw
09-05-2010, 02:33 AM
This is really nailing the problem down further.



As you reflect, what in the management end of things do you feel was lacking? Was it so much the management skills were lacking or was it there was less time available to spend on managing? Or maybe was it both?



I think this is a huge insight. It seems like it is quite possible to say, such customers are the lifeblood of a lawn care business. If not all of them, I would think most of them.

Why do you think such customers are so easily overlooked? Why is it that customers who are so important tend to be pushed aside for others?



Can you tell me what you meant by 'you stop mixing up adds'?

As far as management Steve I was getting the ideology that I was to big to fail. As I said the bank was overflowing with money and no matter how much I spent it just kept coming in. That was more than likely my biggest mistake.

As far as over looking small lawn jobs and customers, what can I say? A $30 lawn job is very easy to overlook when you are negotiating a $30K job. I am sure every one of us can relate to this.

By mixing up adds I meant I would always be rotating adds, changing and messaging them for what ever worked best for that time of year or area. I pretty much stopped doing that and just ran a small generalized add.

Steve
09-05-2010, 12:20 PM
I was getting the ideology that I was to big to fail. As I said the bank was overflowing with money and no matter how much I spent it just kept coming in. That was more than likely my biggest mistake.


It seems like this could be a big issue for many lawn care business owners. Especially when you are looking at cash flow.

You can think you are doing really well but if you don't take into account your expenses, what appears to be positive cash flow can ultimately really be negative cash flow.

This really can come to light when you have a slow down in work, where the income decreases but the expenses stay the same.

Expenses can be a stealth killer of businesses, particularly in slow economic times.

jasonw
09-05-2010, 12:53 PM
It seems like this could be a big issue for many lawn care business owners. Especially when you are looking at cash flow.

You can think you are doing really well but if you don't take into account your expenses, what appears to be positive cash flow can ultimately really be negative cash flow.

This really can come to light when you have a slow down in work, where the income decreases but the expenses stay the same.

Expenses can be a stealth killer of businesses, particularly in slow economic times.

Thats exactly how it works Steve, then you have those expenses like licenses that come out of the blue. I had no idea mine were expiring, they are annual expenses so you dont think about them until they hit you. When you deal with the slow down, operating expenses and then hit with these annual expenses you would be amazed at how fast the money can get sucked away from you.

Steve
09-06-2010, 02:40 AM
What is your view on how those reading this discussion should handle such a situation? How do they know if they are just one step away from a disaster, even if the financial picture seems quite rosy at the moment?

jasonw
09-06-2010, 01:56 PM
What is your view on how those reading this discussion should handle such a situation? How do they know if they are just one step away from a disaster, even if the financial picture seems quite rosy at the moment?

Steve. I would love to answer that question but I wont. I worry if I answer it people may use my idea to get out just the same situation and because I am shooting in the dark and have no idea how to get out of it I would hate for my idea to be the demise of someone ellses business. If and when we find a cure that works I will post what we had to doi

djmadmattr
09-09-2010, 01:38 AM
I had a lady the other day call and tell me her lawn service charges her 50 dollars to mow it bi-weekly and she was looking for someone new. They had started at 25 and just kept going up and up. There lawn takes me 30 min to do so i charge 25. 50 dollars an hour is good enough for me. :D please don't tell me this is lowballing. customers are not ATM's! Listen to there stories when you can and be that friendly helpful lawn guy and you will go far! I currently don't want anything but small lawns the smaller the better. All about that price point. A big lawn that takes you 2 hours to do no one could see paying you 100 bucks. But four small lawns next to each other done in the same amount of time and these people will adore you 25 dollars is a bargain!:D

jasonw
09-10-2010, 12:00 PM
I agree with you. I have one I charge $50 for but its a half acre lawn and takes me about 1.5 hours to mow and edge. I could get it done a lot faster but they just seeded a hillside and its riddled with rocks so I must go in 1st gear only and watch for rocks. I would normally charge about $52.50 for this as I shoot for $35 per hour but I have never raised my prices with her. I hate people that come in low just to get a job then the quality of work goes down while there price goes up.

Yard Elements
09-11-2010, 07:53 PM
First, I find it hard to believe your bank was overflowing, since now you are limited on your funds. I think you might have thought you had more money than you really did. Not trying to be a jerk just saying.


If you really want to get your business back on track I would start by reading a multitude of business books,

1. Marketing, Marketing on a Budget Gurrella Marketing ETC.

2.Budgeting

3.Management

4. Any other business book you can get you hands on.


I would suggest door to door, dress professional, Dickie's -Nice Shirt ETC.

Make a monthly budget and don't just buy stuff because you "think" you need it.

I weigh my priority all the time. And only spend a certain amount of money on expansion each month. Also keeping six month worth of expenses and enough for my license and bond renewal.

Also Marketing dollars are not even effective if not focused properly. Stop advertising in the phone book and get more online classifieds etc.

Vinyl on the truck is much better money spent then a yellow page ad.

If and when you get your money flowing again get some business books and read as much as you can. I hope this helps good luck. !

jasonw
09-13-2010, 01:46 PM
Ok I am not making excuses here but I can just about counter everything in your reply. Dont get me wrong I greatly appreciate your reply however. My accounts were overflowing. I dont have a company do my finances. Every day I sit in the office and enter expenses and invoices into the computer myself so I always know whats going on with the cash flow every day. Things got more expensive and income didn't go up so the cash just started disappearing. As far as reading. Trust me I have. I own several books on starting and managing a business. I never really read to many of them but since things have gone down hill they have been getting a lot of use.

As far as advertising I have paid for door to door fliers to be put out and got 0 results, The advertising on my truck has produced 0 results, the advertising online has produced 0 results. The only business I have ever gotten was from my add in the local buy and sell paper. That runs me about $45 per month for the text add and for the past few months has produced 0 results. Starting this week I am going to a business card size image add that I am told produces better results than text adds, the problem is now the cost is $106 per month so if it doesn't produce results fairly fast I am not sure how long I will want to carry that cost in my personal check book.

I do agree I spent more on equipment that I needed to. I would always say if I needed something I would just buy it. A good example is the county job I have been doing. To provided all the equipment but I like using my own stuff. I didn't have to but I went out and got what I needed. Maybe I should have used theirs as they have to pay for the gas, maintenance and all.

From here I still dont know where to go. I just got off the phone with the person with the paper who designed my add and thankfully they are letting my go on a biweekly deal "normally its a 3 month contract" They understand my fear of losing more money though and said we will run it for 2 weeks then check back in to see how things are going. I think maybe that's a good determining factor for weather I continue this or not. If in 2 weeks I still have not even one call then I count my losses and run. If however I do get new business, at least enough to cover the add then maybe I can keep it up for a bit. My fear is just not making money. I started this in June of 2009 and as of today still have not taken any money home. All the money I made went right back into the business accounts. If that's how its going to continue to be there is no point in going any further, after all I got into this to make money and leave my day job but 15 months later I am still working my day job and all I have to show for my business efforts is some nice fancy lawn care equipment.

Steve
09-13-2010, 03:06 PM
I do agree I spent more on equipment that I needed to. I would always say if I needed something I would just buy it. A good example is the county job I have been doing. To provided all the equipment but I like using my own stuff. I didn't have to but I went out and got what I needed. Maybe I should have used theirs as they have to pay for the gas, maintenance and all.

I don't want to breeze over this because it could be a big issue.

What equipment did you buy for this job and how much could you have saved if you would have used theirs?

Yard Elements
09-14-2010, 08:36 PM
[QUOTE=jasonw;76627]

As far as advertising I have paid for door to door fliers to be put out and got 0 results, The advertising on my truck has produced 0 results, the advertising online has produced 0 results. "



I would not pay for someone else to put out fliers at this point, the best approach to that is to do it yourself with business cards and just tell them you work in the area. Knock on their door. I have got lots of jobs this way politicians do the same thing.

What does the ads on your truck look like. I remember you posting a picture with some small letters and a number. For about $70 you can go to a fast signs and get a vinyl sign large enough to draw some attention. Signs on the truck that look nice ad to marketing also as you look "professional"

I would post nice HTML ads learn to code HTML and post some nice ads, you think about updating your web page with the same info as well since you already pay for hosting. Just some thoughts.

Oh yeah, don't BUY business books, I have read tons and tons of business and selling/marketing books for free I even listen to them as I drive on my routes there is this little known place called the library.

If you do the things I advised you to do you'll get some business.

Knock doors all day if you don't have any work. Offer to weed planting beds, mow lawns, trim Hedges ETC.

I hope I was helpful! Good luck.

Buck's Landscaping
09-14-2010, 10:47 PM
In doing your advertising I would consider trying your own company uniform. If other ways have not worked in the past try something new. The uniform shows you take pride in your business and you take effort in furthering your business. Also in bidding an hour and a half job for 50 bucks is way under what you could possibly get. I would suggest writing down everything you do, from cranking your truck to turning off the mower to leave what all did you use. You just need once all is said and done you need to profit something. Your doing quality workget rewarded for it.

Good luck with everything

jasonw
09-15-2010, 02:21 PM
I don't want to breeze over this because it could be a big issue.

What equipment did you buy for this job and how much could you have saved if you would have used theirs?

Steve as of now I am not that bad off with this current job, just a couple few hundred bucks. They even want e to take a county truck home so they cover the gas and everything. I just dont like using other peoples things so I use my own truck and equipment.

jasonw
09-15-2010, 02:28 PM
[QUOTE=jasonw;76627]

As far as advertising I have paid for door to door fliers to be put out and got 0 results, The advertising on my truck has produced 0 results, the advertising online has produced 0 results. "



I would not pay for someone else to put out fliers at this point, the best approach to that is to do it yourself with business cards and just tell them you work in the area. Knock on their door. I have got lots of jobs this way politicians do the same thing.

What does the ads on your truck look like. I remember you posting a picture with some small letters and a number. For about $70 you can go to a fast signs and get a vinyl sign large enough to draw some attention. Signs on the truck that look nice ad to marketing also as you look "professional"

I would post nice HTML ads learn to code HTML and post some nice ads, you think about updating your web page with the same info as well since you already pay for hosting. Just some thoughts.

Oh yeah, don't BUY business books, I have read tons and tons of business and selling/marketing books for free I even listen to them as I drive on my routes there is this little known place called the library.

If you do the things I advised you to do you'll get some business.

Knock doors all day if you don't have any work. Offer to weed planting beds, mow lawns, trim Hedges ETC.

I hope I was helpful! Good luck.

Thanks for the comments, they are getting my brain working. I thought the same thing about the lettering on my truck so I had it replaced with 4" lettering. This was fairly costly as when we took the old lettering off the paint came off to so I had to repaint my tailgate and doors. I only paid to have fliers delivered because I am far to busy to do it and it was an employee I paid to do it so I know he knew our business however he was lazy and has since been fired so maybe he was not the best option, he probably just put the fliers in the trash then turned in his time saying it took all day. Your library recommendation is a good one but a day late and dollar short with me. When I started my first business in 2006 I purchased a plethora of books, the good thing is I own them all so can reference them any time. Going door to door personally is a very hard thing for me to do, you see this property maintenance thing is only on venture for me, I have 2 others I work on as well as a day job so after my 20 hour 7 days a week work day is done I am left with little option but to hire someone to get some work done for me. I know I need to start freeing up more time but when I look at the big picture even though this has made me more money to day than the others at the current time my other venture are showing much more promise than this which is why this one is the first to be considered for the chopping block.

jasonw
09-15-2010, 02:33 PM
In doing your advertising I would consider trying your own company uniform. If other ways have not worked in the past try something new. The uniform shows you take pride in your business and you take effort in furthering your business. Also in bidding an hour and a half job for 50 bucks is way under what you could possibly get. I would suggest writing down everything you do, from cranking your truck to turning off the mower to leave what all did you use. You just need once all is said and done you need to profit something. Your doing quality workget rewarded for it.

Good luck with everything

Thanks a uniform may be a good idea but maybe a better idea once I determine weather this is a losing battle or if we will be able to pull out of the slump. To date I have used a dress code but it mainly consists of jeans and a button up khaki shirt. Today my new advertisement came out, the bad news is its costing me 3 times more for this as apposed to the last one but its bigger and brighter and I am told by the advertiser it will produce great results. The thing I worry about it it has been out for 5.5 hours now and the phone has yet to ring once so my OCD kicks in and I worry that now I am tossing out over a hundred a month is advertising costs instead of $40 like I was before. I did decide to run it for 2 weeks and if it produces 0 results then no more.