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NewInIllinois2011
11-08-2010, 02:44 PM
First let me thank the person responsible for creating this forum and any and all administrators and members who keep it running!

My name is Kevin and I have set the goal of beginning a lawn care business for the 2011 mowing season. One advantage that I have is that I recently inherited about $20,000 which I hope will me get started if I keep a tight budget. (i still need a truck/trailer and all equiptment). I may have additional out of pocket expenses but of course I hope to keep them to a minimum.

I plan to be a one man show for as long as neccessary. I have worked in the service industry for 20 years doing everything from tree climbing to landscapie/hardscape and of course lawn maintenance. I am also a certified pesticide applicator.

I guess for now I will go explore the forums. Will post when I find threads and posts that seem especially relevant to the questions I have. But basically I'm wondering....
What would your advice be as far as spending more in which directions? ex: get the best mower and sacrifice by getting an older truck/trailer if money is running low. Maybe you might recommend I get the best advertising (yellow pages?) above all else? Stuff like that. Thanks in advance

The Cleaning Doctor
11-08-2010, 03:14 PM
Welcome and congrats on deciding to take that first step.

My thoughts on equipment are

Truck - Used 30-40k is way too much to spend when you can get a great truck for less than 8k

Mower - It's up to you. You can find some great deals on mowers with low hours.

Trailer - Used will do fine. Some elbow grease and paint and it will look new again.

Save most of your money for advertising and other expenses. I would say that if you are frugal and take your time, you can get completely set up for under 10k. Winter is here and those that can not make it through the winter will be selling off equipment.

Steve
11-08-2010, 07:59 PM
Hi Kevin,

Welcome to our forum!

With all of your experience offering many services, have you figured out which services you would like to offer? Will you be focusing mainly on lawn care or do you want to apply pesticides? Maybe even offer tree work?

In the past with the other companies you have worked with, what kinds of marketing did they do that worked in your area? Was this something that you kept an eye on or talked to the owners about?

I bet the more you think about it, the more will pop up in your mind as far as what you have seen that has worked for others.

NewInIllinois2011
11-10-2010, 12:41 PM
Welcome and congrats on deciding to take that first step.

My thoughts on equipment are

Truck - Used 30-40k is way too much to spend when you can get a great truck for less than 8k

Mower - It's up to you. You can find some great deals on mowers with low hours.

Trailer - Used will do fine. Some elbow grease and paint and it will look new again.

Save most of your money for advertising and other expenses. I would say that if you are frugal and take your time, you can get completely set up for under 10k. Winter is here and those that can not make it through the winter will be selling off equipment.Thanks for the advice! getting set up for $10,000 would be nice!!

Do you recommend that I only shop for "commercial" grade used mowers? As opposed to a homeowner model like the Toro Timecutter with 200 hours on it for a fraction of the price? I was thinking it might be wise to pick up a cheap backup for emergencies/breakdowns. Probably a non zero turn like an older riding tractor or an older walk behind, maybe 42", whatever the best one is that I can find for around $500-$600 just in case my main mower breaks down and has to go in the shop for a week or two so I dont lose accounts when the mowing starts to get backed up.

NewInIllinois2011
11-10-2010, 01:28 PM
Hi Kevin,

Welcome to our forum!

With all of your experience offering many services, have you figured out which services you would like to offer? Will you be focusing mainly on lawn care or do you want to apply pesticides? Maybe even offer tree work?

In the past with the other companies you have worked with, what kinds of marketing did they do that worked in your area? Was this something that you kept an eye on or talked to the owners about?

I bet the more you think about it, the more will pop up in your mind as far as what you have seen that has worked for others.Thanks for the reply! I don't plan on advertising as a tree service, mainly because I dont want to get inundated with tree jobs and also because the startup would probably take considerably more cash than lawncare and also because I would need employess right away...all things that prevent it. I will keep my eyes open at customers homes for simple tree jobs such as removing dead branches, "hangers", corrective pruning and offer those services on a case by case basis. As for the pesticides, I do not have a dealers license so that limits what I can do by law. I have a commercial applicators license (turf and ornamentals) and plan to offer to apply over the counter pesticides and fertilizers. But yes in general I plan to focus primarily on lawn care although until the business grows and the number of mowing accounts reaches a level that keeps me working every day I certainly will welcome most any requests including landscape/hardscape, fence installation etc...

As far as advertising, the tree service that I worked for was small but well established (20 years) and ran by 1 of only 2 "Board Certified Master Arborists" in the entire state of Iowa. In this community of nearly a half million people he had no problem keeping us busy year round just based on repeat clients and word of mouth (and of course drive by new clients). As for lawn care and landscaping advertising experience, everyone I worked for was in the yellow pages. Funny the way it worked, the bigger the company the smaller the ad was what I noticed. One guy I worked for had only been in business 1 season (I joined him mid summer in season 1). He had a half page ad and although his physical appearance was an eysore he had alot of accounts! Not to sound judgemental but it seems that common sense would lead one to believe that if you have tattoos on your neck, face and covering your forearms and wore 3 inch leather and studded bracelets that your appearance might hinder you when it comes to selling yourself but he was successful! He had top of the line eXmark equiptment and advertising so I think that speaks for itself. He told me that his original investment in the company came via a $35,000 loan. Not many have those resources including myself. He also had a cargo van with nice wraparound graphics and a nice logo.

One of the problems of doing business in this community is that it may be close to becoming "saturated". Im sure you are familiar with this term but for those who don't, it means that there are already enough lawn care companies as the community can sustain. A quick check of the newest phone book shows 143 businesses under lawn maintenace. Granted at least 30 of these companies are not mowing AT ALL but are just listed there because the yellow pages gave them a buy one category get one free deal, such as a tree service or landcaper. Even if there are only 100 of those 143 companies who offer mowing ther are probably another 50 (at least) who arent in this phone book. Using 200 as the number of lawn Care companies in the area and using the accurate population of 400,000 people you get 2,000 people per company....sounds saturated to me and sounds like I have to be better than them if I want to make it!!! And remember 2,000 people doesnt mean 2,000 households...probably more like 700 households per company. I guess you could equate that to being the only lawncare company in a town of 2,000 people.
Still another problem is that we have at least 4 different phone books that come out each year. Then of course there is the economy....alot to think about.
As I said before I think I have a couple things that will give me a "leg up" on the competition which is cash on hand for startup (as opposed to having a loan to repay) and of course my experience. Also, not that I am going to win any beauty contests, I sure as hell dont have any tattoos on my face and I have a good repoire with people in general. I have some experience with giving estimates as I was the foreman of the tree crew and bidding jobs was one of my duties. I do have some work to do in learning to bid lawn care though because I have no idea what other people are charging. I sure don't want to be the cheapest guy in town but I also dont want to bid myself out of jobs either.
Thats it for now...thanks again for the advice and also thanks for hosting this forum! It's a huge help for people like me who are maybe feeling a bit overwhelmed with getting started in the business.

xpertlawnman
11-10-2010, 05:06 PM
A used trailer and a low mile used truck will be fine. A 6X12 single axle trailer should fit all of your gear. Do not buy anything smaller or you be very limited with the equipment you can put on it. Do not buy a residential ZT. If the budget does not allow for commercial ZT, then buy a commercial WB. There are many good deals on used ones now. Stick to a commercial grade weedeater and blower. Echo is a good brand and won't break the bank. A high end residential pushmower should hold up. Snapper,Toro, or Honda are decent brands. A cheap edger should get you through for awhile, with minimal use. Avoid a tractor as a backup mower if possible. If you can find one of those residential 33" WBs that could be an option for a back up. It could also be used for fenced in yards where your bigger mower won't fit. Again, with light use and nobody abusing it, that mower will hold up for a season or two. Good luck.

Steve
11-11-2010, 01:13 AM
I have some experience with giving estimates as I was the foreman of the tree crew and bidding jobs was one of my duties.

With the experience you have bidding tree work, where do you feel most newer business that bid tree work get it wrong?

Do you think there are 5 or so lessons every business performing tree work should follow when bidding in order to maximize their profit potential? If so, what would they be?