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Gls
03-06-2011, 06:29 PM
Hello,
I am in my 20's and have decided to start my own landscape company. I grew up on a wholesale nursery, went to college and now can't find a good job. The past two years I have been helping two individuals with their lawn maintenance companies. Well, long story short; with 30 years in the business between the two of them, they have no clue as to what they are doing. Sure they have nice equipment and can mow, edge and blow but their overall lack of knowledge of the horticultural industry really shocked me. You don't use hedge trimmers or a chainsaw on everything... And that's the start of it. But this is about me.

Now I'm to the point that with my knowledge and work ethic, as well as frustration toward them, has basically forced me to start my own landscape company. I have access to a vehicle and trailer a few days a week until I build the clientel to buy my own. Thank god for family. Also my dad has 35 years in turfgrass management and landscape design with a wholesale nursery as a side business(though it more like a second full time job but that's why he had me, so he says)

I know plenty of potential clients through church, family and 20+ years of people skills and I am extreamly confident in my work. I guess it comes from being micro managed by a pro since I was 5 on the nursery. So I've decided this is my future!

I have purchased:
A Stihl br600(only bc had a $400 leaf cleanup)
a srm2100 trimmer I prob. Need to clean carb or just worn out
Hc150 hegde trimmerand rebuilt the carb
Name reservation and LLC
Business cards

I have access to:
All hand tool- rakes, shovels, hand pruners, loppers, ect.
chainsaw
4x6 gator w/ hydro dump
Old small yynmar diesel w/ pto and 3point

Still want/need:
A few self prop. mowers cheap home/commercial use but my uncle is friends with a retired gentleman who rebuilds them. Said he give me a great deal on a few.
Echo 225i trimmer
Back up blower
Eventually a 36" walkbehind

I am waiting to market myself outside of close friends and family until I get everything (besides walkbehind) but they themselves are already providing steady work on the weekends. I need the hourly m-f gig until I build my clientel. I plan on going part time soon.

I am going to scour the forums to try to learn how to bid maintenance work in the meantime. And keep my eye out for all the knowledgable advice I can find. As i do need to refresh myself on real landscape work as well. Thanks for any and all imput in advance and hopefully in no time I myself can bring some knowledge to the forums. Believe it or not I tried to keep it short but I am passionate about the industry and my future.

Steve
03-06-2011, 10:20 PM
Welcome to our forum!

You have a lot of great things going on there!

Gls
03-07-2011, 12:40 PM
Steve, is there a general thread about this where others can contribute and more people might see it? Otherwise I may start a new thread tonight with a supporting title in this forum.

Steve
03-07-2011, 11:02 PM
I am sure others are reading and will jump in when they have something to offer.

Feel free to make other posts as well.


How are you planning on creating a synergy with your family nursery?

Also has your family been able to instill upon you some business lessons that you feel other new business owners tend to be unaware of?

I'd love to hear your insight into this and what they should be doing instead.

Even lessons you learned from your friends on how not to run a business, I'd love to hear as well.

Gls
03-09-2011, 12:36 AM
Love what you do! If you love it it is not work.

Know and understand the terms: business ethics and opportunity cost.

Set realistic goals and do everything possible to achieve them.

Learn from your mistakes. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Saying that, everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance, but not in business. There are many people in line just waiting to take your place if you let them.

Know what your doing. If you don't, you have no business doing it. Saying that, you can never know everything about anything.

Professionalism is a must in everything you do, from the time you clock in until you clock out. If you own the company your always "clocked in" and look the part.

If you are working, WORK. Give it 110%. You can only lead by example.

If your not progressing your regressing. That doesn't mean you have to be continuosly expanding.

Don't overextend yourself - know your limit.

Teach, don't preach.

You only get one first impression. Make it count.

Don't undervalue your work - my biggest problem. Maybe because I love it, been doing it so long, I'm more efficient, or just want the business. Its getting better as I see what kind of work others are doing.

Keep your word.

Get to know your employees and check over all their work, it's your reputation on the line.

Write everything down, organization is key to operating smooth.

The customer is always right. well almost always.


Admit when your wrong and try to make up for it through actions.

Actions speak volumes over words. I've herd more bull shi+ than I care to recall.

... All of are what I consider common sense.

I'm sure I left plenty off but those are the basics. Sorry I didn't get these up last night. Attended a 3 hour confirmation after I got off at 7.
As you can see I don't always, but try to apply these principles in business, as well as life

Gls
03-09-2011, 12:52 AM
On doing business within the family, that's a slippery slope. Honestly I will try to use them when I can and design around a lot of what we have because it's what I know; but, they are just another business in the end and i am a customer. Sure I will probably get a better deal but I need to be and remain grateful for that. I can't carry business over into personal life though they are so intertwined. We try to treat everyone as "family" just not with all the benefits.

I plan to treat clients, whom are family or friends, the same way. Give them a +-10% discount or so and explain if they want to discontinue services, there are no hard feeling. And I have the right to do the same.

I will screen these people as potential clients like I do any other. But I already know their personality/character. I try to associate with good/fair people but there will inevitable be problems. I will deal with them as they come.

Simpkins
03-09-2011, 05:26 AM
Welcome to the forums GLS. There are some great people here that are more than willing to help you out. I learned a lot here when I had my lawn care company. It sounds like you are on the right track. My main problem I had to overcome was buying the latest and greatest toy. It's sometimes hard to limit yourself to strictly what you need but is crucial especially when just starting out.

As far as picking up more clients... There are some very free or low cost ways to do this. My favorite was door hangers. I always got about a 3% response rate. (so every 100 I hung, I'd get at least 3 inquiries) This was a great ROI because I made my own and had almost nothing in them.

If you ever get stuck on something, just ask. You'll soon see that there are some very knowledgeable people around.

Gls
03-09-2011, 12:18 PM
Thank you for the positive feedback. I feel as if I've been around the board for a few months, not days. Maybe because I've absorbed months worth of info already... Thank you.

Simpkins,
I would like to here what you think on my equipment selections above. What are the basics, IYO (in your opinion)? Also, how would you balance this, while coming off "professional", if you had to do it over again?

And... I live in a metro area with plenty of competition. Many-most of the neighborhoods have no soliciting signs at the enterences, at least the ones I want to market myself in. have you had this problem? I think door hangers/mailbox flyers are great but unfortunately I'm limited to where I can use them.

Side-note:
Steve, I love the forums. Do you call it a forum or board for future reference? It's very similar to my favorite board, VN. You do a great job; you may start to rival VN for my time, at least until football season draws near. :D

The Cleaning Doctor
03-09-2011, 01:49 PM
Welcome

Well for one the no solicitation does not mean that you can not put a yard sign out for a couple of days or even a week in a client's lawn.

See if you can get into a HOA meeting to pitch your business or maybe even offer to pay for their newsletter printing for them letting you place an ad in the newsletter. You might even want to network with a couple of other trades and you all go in together and split the cost of the newsletter.

If not offer to maintain the common areas for ad space in the newsletter.

Get a web site online as that is your cheapest form of advertisement.

Check out Queensboro.com for logo shirts.

gotprint.net seems to have the lowest printing prices and good quality for fliers and such.

Read as much on business operations as you can.

Good to keep the family life and business separate. You have to eat Thanksgiving dinner with them.

You have a very good support structure in place though with your family, don't be afraid to ask their opinions on large decisions. They may see something that you overlook because they are on the outside. You may miss a cost that you are unaware of and that can destroy a business.

Be careful of over analyzing things, I know of a growing company that has not done a web site because he is still analyzing if he needs it. It has been 2 years. LOL

Above all else KNOW your numbers intimately. In the end, knowing what your costs are going to be determines your pricing.

For instance you start out really low because you want the work, you forgot to account for wages for your time. Well that may be fine for a 1 man operation but when the need comes to hire someone, you can't afford it. Rule of thumb is add 40% to whatever the hourly rate is to come close to the actual cost. So if you pay $10 per hour, they are actually costing you $14 per hour.

So out of that lawn cut you have to pay your worker, business insurance, vehicle insurance, marketing, taxes etc. So this has to go into your costs. Say you budget 10% for marketing, this means that on a $35 mow you subtract $3.50 then you take out 1 hour for labor -$14.00 (I used 1 hour as 1/2 hour x 2 men) Now subtract fuel for the truck and equipment. It is hard to figure out the numbers so you want to use percentages. Like 10% for marketing, 40% for labor, 10% for repairs, 10% maintenance, 20% overhead(indirect costs like your salary if not mowing) 10% profit. these numbers are an example only so take it with a grain of salt.

If you were to do 10 lawns per day with the numbers I gave you above, that $350 day now looks like $175 and you are not done subtracting yet because you have to still take out the fuel, maintenance, repairs,(vehicle and equipment) book keeping, licensing and anything else that costs your business money.

Most people that get into business do not have a clue as to the actual cost of doing business. This is where you family can help you sort out the numbers. Make an appointment to sit down with your dad and go over the numbers. Don't do it at the dinner table, have his full attention.

Good luck and welcome to the forum/board/forum board/bbs... what ever you want to call it.LOL

Simpkins
03-09-2011, 03:17 PM
Thank you for the positive feedback. I feel as if I've been around the board for a few months, not days. Maybe because I've absorbed months worth of info already... Thank you.

Simpkins,
I would like to here what you think on my equipment selections above. What are the basics, IYO (in your opinion)? Also, how would you balance this, while coming off "professional", if you had to do it over again?

And... I live in a metro area with plenty of competition. Many-most of the neighborhoods have no soliciting signs at the enterences, at least the ones I want to market myself in. have you had this problem? I think door hangers/mailbox flyers are great but unfortunately I'm limited to where I can use them.

Side-note:
Steve, I love the forums. Do you call it a forum or board for future reference? It's very similar to my favorite board, VN. Do you have any other mods, or are you a one man show? Either way, you do a great job; you may start to rival VN for my time, at least until football season draws near. :D

As far as thoughts on equipment and the "basics"....... Sounds like you have what you'll need. I'd say go out and do some work, if you realize you need something particular, buy it but only then. I 'started' before I purchased anything. I had a storage unit that I'd roll to in my jeep (no trailer because I didn't "need" it yet) with my pushmower, weedeater, and a broom. haha After a few weeks of working my guts out and gaining a significant number of clients I was able to justify a few purchases with my wife ;)

I bought a zero turn, a better weed eater, another push mower, and a trailer. I remember this one old man had a one time job for me (he called on one of my door hangers). His driveway drain needed cleaning out. It was pretty deep so I couldn't reach in and scoop anything out. The only way I knew to do it was with a leaf blower. It was only about a 10 minute ($20) job. I didn't have a leaf blower yet. I ran to this rental store a few blocks from him and payed $17.00 to rent this leaf blower for 20 minutes. lol

I obviously didn't make any money on that job. I bought a leaf blower the next morning. I didn't want to look like a chump by not having simple equipment to do the job so I rented it until I bought it. I done quite a bit of work for the gentleman that year. He had a guy that mowed his lawn on a regular basis and had done so for several years. The guy actually showed up one time while I was trimming some hedges. He had a pick up with a push mower in the back of it.

I had told the old man that I wasn't trying to step on anyone's toes but if his guy took a vacation, or whatever that I could fill in til he returned. I think he appreciated that approach and would call me every couple weeks or so to do some odd job. (Trim this bush, trim that bush, clean drain, pick up these branches the storm blew down) I honestly think this was a case of him seeing a young guy out here trying to make it and he wanted to help out. It was always small jobs that he didn't want to pay much for but he always tipped me $20 extra each time I was there.

I get off track easy. lol

When it comes to no soliciting signs, I always ignore them. I feel as if those are put there for people coming through trying to sell something people don't need. I don't use any high pressure sells tactics. I feel as if the signs don't apply to me. Not once has anyone ever been rude or pointed out their sign.

Steve
03-10-2011, 02:43 AM
My main problem I had to overcome was buying the latest and greatest toy. It's sometimes hard to limit yourself to strictly what you need but is crucial especially when just starting out.

This is very interesting. What do you feel you bought early on that you didn't need to? How would you have done things differently looking back on it all now?

Also, what do you do now to limit yourself to buying only what you need?

Simpkins
03-10-2011, 03:23 AM
This is very interesting. What do you feel you bought early on that you didn't need to? How would you have done things differently looking back on it all now?

Also, what do you do now to limit yourself to buying only what you need?


I needed what I bought but I could have went a little cheaper and/or bought used.

What do I do now? I'm not in lawn care now, I have a 9-5 and build web sites on the side. There is some nice software I'm thinking of purchasing but this is a little different since web design is more of a hobby for me than a business.

Steve
03-10-2011, 11:23 PM
I needed what I bought but I could have went a little cheaper and/or bought used.

When you think about purchasing equipment, or software, or anything to improve your business, do you find you have a mental test for it? What I mean by that is, do you think to yourself, this new item must make it's money back and then some within X period of time or it's not going to be a wise purchase?