PDA

View Full Version : Hello from johnslawns in Toronto Canada


johnslawns
09-29-2010, 05:50 PM
Hi everybody, what a great board. I am just starting this business and need all the help I can get ! I am pleased to meet everybody

What's my bio? I spent 20 years in the high tech industry in sales; of which 12 years were in IT recruitment; of which ten of those years were self employed as an independent recruiter. BUT..... the bottom has fallen out of that market, all the IT jobs have been outsourced to India, all the customers have signed agreements with preferred suppliers, and you can't get a client anymore. So I regrettably was forced out of that business, me and ten thousand other independent guys.

When things got tough, to make ends meet I took a forklift license and spent six years in warehousing, where I lifted my ten million pounds (by hand !) filling customer orders, doing shipping and receiving. Repetitive strain injury in my shoulder and back injury has ended that career for me.

So while I recuperated this summer, to pick up the slack I started doing sharpening of lawnmower blades, hand tools, knives and scissors. People began to ask me to mow their lawn, trim their hedge, prune their tree. Before I knew it, I had a number of customers. People were actually phoning me asking me to do things for them. What a refreshing change from the recruiting industry ! Real customers, wanting to pay me money!

So I decided to get serious about this business, learn how the pros do it and what they charge. Doing my google research I found this site, and it gives me just what I need to know.

So, I look forward to learning from the real pros, and to turning this sideline into a real business, that maybe I can sell one day!

Pleased to meet you.

Best,

John P.

http://www.johnslawns.ca

Steve
09-30-2010, 03:43 AM
Hi John,

Welcome to our forum!

In the past we talked a little about business owners getting started with blade sharpening.

Why did you choose to start up with that service? What did you like or dislike about performing that service?

Do you have any advice to new start ups considering getting into that specialty?

johnslawns
09-30-2010, 08:10 AM
Hi John,

Welcome to our forum!

In the past we talked a little about business owners getting started with blade sharpening.

Why did you choose to start up with that service? What did you like or dislike about performing that service?

Do you have any advice to new start ups considering getting into that specialty?


Hello Steve, thanks for the post. I began with sharpening because I could not get my lawnmower blade sharpened. I phoned several machine shops in town who refused to do it; and lawnmower businesses were too busy. They wanted me to bring the blade to them, leave it for a day or two til they got around to doing it, then pick it up making a second trip, and pay them sky high prices for the privilege. I found out that places were charging from $20 to $40 plus taxes to sharpen a blade.

I knew there was a better way. If I had the problem, then everybody who owns a lawnmower had the same problem trying to get their blade sharpened.

I have many years of experience working with my hands, including grinding and sharpening skills. So I bought myself a brand new grinder and sharpened my own blade.

Not content to stop at that, and disappointed with the treatment I got from the shops, I then printed up several hundred flyers and distributed them around my neighborhood. Very soon people began stopping by asking me to sharpen all kinds of things because they too had need and could not get their sharpening done. And I charged everybody very reasonable prices.

Originally i just wanted to pay for my grinder and make some beer money on the side while my shoulder healed up, and sharpening was easy to do, requires no heavy labor, and you can make some decent money in just a few minutes, part time.

From the flyer, people called to ask me to mow their lawn, trim their hedge, prune their tree. So I decided to expand what I offered, then realized I had better come up with pricing for it. I didn't want to under-charge and end up working for peanuts. So that caused me to search the 'net for info and I found this site.

I will attach a word document of my flyer if anybody wants to see it. I went around door to door, dropped it off at seven hundred homes in my immediate neighborhood, over a period of about ten days. For the next distribution, I will add a Special Offer of some kind, a coupon, or a free mowing with contract or something. I expect to increase my prices for yard work once I learn more about the going rates for stuff.

I also created the website and submitted it to Google, and so far have received a handful of calls from that.

As for startups getting into sharpening, I would say, get a very good grinder (I paid eighty bucks for my Ryobi at Home Depot) with large wheels; a diamond axe file, and a diamond knife sharpener for fine work. Then, PRACTICE ! Sharpen everything you can in your house til you get a good feel for it. Read up on sharpening on the internet - google How to Sharpen...(x)Stay away from fancy work like saws, or expensive knives with serrated edges, or anything with teeth. A light easy touch at the start will do it. And make lots of sparks so your customers are impressed with how difficult it is and will pay you lots ! Wear hearing protection, safety glasses, and gloves so that you don't accidentally grind your finger, they don't sharpen well.

Best,

JP

Steve
09-30-2010, 10:58 PM
John, that is fantastic!

As you move forwards, will you continue with the sharpening services along with your lawn care service or are you gonna stop the sharpening services?

The sharpening seems like a great way to meet new potential lawn care customers.

Have many of the business skills you learned from the sharpening business, translated well into the lawn care business?

johnslawns
10-01-2010, 10:03 AM
John, that is fantastic!

As you move forwards, will you continue with the sharpening services along with your lawn care service or are you gonna stop the sharpening services?

The sharpening seems like a great way to meet new potential lawn care customers.

Have many of the business skills you learned from the sharpening business, translated well into the lawn care business?

Hi again, yes I intend to continue with the sharpening services, it takes little time, you can do it in your off-hours, and you can make quick pocket money with zero expense. In addition to the flyers, I made a small sign I place on the front lawn so people know I do sharpening and where I live. Neighbors have started saying, Oh, you're the Sharpening Guy. So I thought, that's pretty catchy, so I bought the domain and put up a quick website just to have the name
http://www.thesharpeningguy.ca

Then I cross referenced that to my main website
http://www.johnslawns.ca

The sharpening customers all live nearby and have lawns and yards too, so you are right it is a great way to meet people, do something simple for them and build trust. Then they know you and will ask you to do other things.

There is a lawn care business in my area already, the guy has six push mowers, he told me paid almost $250 each time he needs all six blades sharpened. That is a lot of money. He could easily buy a grinder and do his own blades, saving himself maybe a thousand a month if he sharpens once a week. That would be like giving yourself a thousand dollar a month raise because it stays in your pocket. If the season is eight months long, that is eight thousand dollars a year that stays in your pocket. I think every guy that does lawn care should sharpen his own blades if they are not doing so already, it's not that hard. From there, they can offer a sharpening service to others. I think the two services go hand in hand.

Right from the start I created a simple form, asking people to rate my services and write down a few simple words I could use as a testimonial on my website. You can read them there. I give one to everybody I do any work for. Not everybody will return it, in fact most won't, but a few will and that gives you great testimonials you can then include on everything. I put them in a binder that I can then show people if they want to see. I have attached a copy of my form if anybody wants to see it.

I would recommend to everybody, if you are not asking for testimonials, start asking. Get them. Ask your best customers to rate your service, they will respond.

When people bring me a blade to sharpen, it is usually still on the mower, they bring in the whole thing. This gives me a great chance to look it over and suggest maintenance for it. Most mowers are dirty, they never get an oil change, they have wobbly wheels and loose handles, they have old sparkplugs and desperately need service. Now this is stuff most every guy can fix, you don't have to be a mechanic to change oil and sparkplug, clean the air filter, tighten bolts, and wash'n'wax. I use a power washer.

So I offer a bundle - Lawnmower Maintenance. Right now I charge $40 plus spark plug cost but I expect to raise that price for next year. Details are on my website under Services and Pricing. This can be done at the end of the season when lawn mowing ends, to get people's mowers ready for next year and generate some extra cash. And when you meet people you get to tell them about your other services.

I take off the blade, clean it, sharpen it, and replace it. Then I give the customer that little bit extra - I sweep the grass off their mower, maybe tighten the handle, look at their spark plug or something so they feel they got that extra value and are happy. As to business skills, the most important thing is to leave a happy customer, the rest will follow. They will come back to you and tell their friends.

Steve
10-01-2010, 10:17 PM
Oh that is very interesting. So far from your survey, has any customers told you anything that surprised you or stood out?

Have you gotten any comments that helped you change the way you do things?

Or is it possible, simply offering this to the customer, lets them know you care about their view of your work? Maybe that alone helps customer relations?

johnslawns
10-02-2010, 08:46 AM
Oh that is very interesting. So far from your survey, has any customers told you anything that surprised you or stood out?

Have you gotten any comments that helped you change the way you do things?

Or is it possible, simply offering this to the customer, lets them know you care about their view of your work? Maybe that alone helps customer relations?

I have only just started doing this, so I only have a handful of written testimonials but thankfully people said they are Very Happy with my service and wrote nice comments. I published all of them on my website. It's interesting that people will not necessarily tell you what they think of your service, but they will write it down. The feedback so far just tells me to keep on doing what I'm doing, there has been nothing negative to date.

When I give people a form after I complete their work, they are pleasantly surprised that I would ask, and care about their opinion. Yes, I would say it definitely helps customer relations, it shows you care and that they can talk to you. The main thing is, don't be afraid to ask, and the form allows the customer to fill it out at their convenience, they don't feel any pressure.

I just ask them to "Let me know how I did" and would they please fill out the form for me. For that matter, the form could be mailed or dropped off, it is not something you have to do in person but I believe asking them in person is better.

Best,
JP

Steve
10-03-2010, 03:37 AM
That is a very good point. Did you do this at all for your sharpening business? Or do you feel it wasn't necessary?

tomslawncare
10-25-2010, 09:49 PM
Hey John,

is it just me, or have you not actually made websites yet? Both of your links just go to godaddy.com and state the domain is parked there?

I found your thread interesting and commend you for the adventures you have taken. I too came from the technology field as a support technician in computers and network. spent 5 years contracted into Ontario Hydro servicing their plants and offices till the twin towers came down, then we all went down. I had a different totally un-related business going (still do actually) with employees throughout Toronto and now am working on building a lawn care business in Durham. So your words are encouraging and appreciated. I wish you continued good luck!