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ChrisLeon
07-08-2011, 01:05 AM
Hey guys,

So I have been in business for almost 3 months and its ok thus far; but, of course business can always be better. I currently only have four clients but it works for me cause it bring in some cash flow and I can manage them fairly easy and I have colected every time. I have been operating this by myself and see that its too slow, with all the things I got going on there's only a limited time to market, cut lawns and do everything, ya know? Here is my question: How are you guys operating the business? Meaning, How are you getting clients? Are you marketing yourself monthly? are you paying others to do it for you? If someone wouldnt mind sharing with me their operation on how the business runs in detail I would greatly appreciate it.

This all came about when I was eating at McDonald's today. You notice the operation of the business is like a well oiled machine or factory line. I noticed my operation is purely me just going out flyering, closing the deal, doing the cuts. I would like to run my operation more smoothly and actually BUILD a business with employees.

I appreciate your help guys.

Christopher Leon
College Kid Lawn Care
"We study your lawn so you dont have to"

Steve
07-08-2011, 09:24 PM
Hi Chris,

The stage you are at right now can be really trying for a new business owner. There is a time when you get started until the point where word of mouth starts to kick in that you really have to struggle to attract new customers.

Are you out there marketing everyday? Not necessarily flyering everyday, but meeting people, handing out business cards, wearing your company t-shirt, driving around with a sign on your truck. Are you marketing to your friends and family? Are they helping you market through their friends and family too?

What would be some of your ideals? Where would you like your business to be?

Fisher
07-08-2011, 09:44 PM
Three months, and four clients. How, and how long did it take you to get those four. Do you remember what you were doing to get them and why you stopped? I didn't pay anyone in the beginning and I don't do it now to advertise for me. Well, I have done paid advertising. Door to door meeting people, word of mouth, vehicle signage, and craigslist is pretty much it for us.

jrod14
07-09-2011, 12:22 AM
A quick way to gain clients is to charge cheap...i know its lowballing...well not really if you do it for the same price. say $25...do you have insurance? probably not yet...the insurance guys will get mad cuz your lowballing but its all business...nothing personal. make flyers and put them out for $25 a cut with free fertilizing. yeah i know...fertilizing free!! yes! it makes the grass grow more therefore you will get your money back easily. Plus....its shows that you have more to offer to your clients than the other guy. save for the best equipment. Alot of companies stay with crappy equipment because they dont want to dish out the money but they end up dishing it all out on repairs. i would say start with business cards (really good ones) get pricing for weekly and bi-wkly cuts...make flyers and put out 200 in a neigborhood. then go to another neighborhood and put out another 200. put ads in craigslist also.

I offer free fertilizing 95% of the time. i do not do contracts with residentials because people get turned off by contracts, service agreement and anything like that...at least here in my city. Leave that for the commercial clients. you will win some and you will lose more. dont worry about it. Once you learn to brush the losses off...you will win alot more. I use to stress the hell out if i was behind schedule, lost a client or whatever. No more....it all works out in the end as long as your true to your word on whatever you tell your customers. Thats the most important thing i can tell you. Keep your word and you will be respected as an owner, boss, person, etc. The first year is your learning year. make alot of mistakes but learn from them.

Fisher
07-09-2011, 09:21 PM
Jrod is right on the charge cheap, as soon as school let out for summer I lost two customers and another LCO lost 2 customers to the same kid in the same neighborhood that uses his mower to get around. First week out of school he had 4 yards to do and I believe he was making $110 between them.

His work leaves a little to be desired to though, it also seems he received work from those with less landscaping to manage. Another customer admitted he was tempted to go with the kid because the price was cheap, but all he did was mow and a poor job at trimming and he was worried who might would be able to replace the pear trees if the boy killed them.

Steve
07-10-2011, 09:46 PM
I offer free fertilizing 95% of the time.

How often throughout the year do you fertilize the lawns?

Have you figured what % that eats into profits?

monoshock
07-11-2011, 05:35 PM
You may want to check with real-estate companies to see if you can get vacant houses or foreclosures. Thatís what I do to get new jobs. The only problem is if the house sells youíll loose the job most of the time. :)

jrod14
07-12-2011, 11:36 PM
How often throughout the year do you fertilize the lawns?

Have you figured what % that eats into profits?

4X's a year for weekly and 2X's yearly for bi-weekly. It is a very small percentage. I hardly even notice it to tell you the truth. I use all Scott's products too.

ChrisLeon
07-13-2011, 08:14 PM
I really appreciate everyone taking time out of their day and helping by responding with your experiences and expertise. Honestly, I havent been out there every day flyering or marketing. I have been kind of sitting back, and I recognize that. I got to get my butt out there!
I have not seen any marketing come through for a couple months where I live from any business. It is like all the businesses that do lawn care knew who gets lawn care and they got all their clientele for the season. Should I still be marketing every month with flyers in July and the upcoming months still? Even though the grass is hardly growing? We havent had much rain this summer so the grass is taking its sweet time.
Also, this is my mistake and I forgot to be specific when I made the first post on this discussion, but in respect to everyone else's lawn care operations, are you paying other people to cut your lawns? or are you cutting your own lawns? a little of both? I understand that everyone may have different clientele bases, but I would really like my business to flourish in terms of hiring employees to cut the lawns and I round up the accounts to give to my guys while earning a percent off the top for organizing? Thats where I want my business to be eventually. It might be a little too late considering there is like only 3 months left of mowing, roughly? What do you guys think? I believe this type of operation is obtainable, but is it viable for this type of business? Thanks for the help guys! This site really helps keep me being a beginner to building a business and lawn care as well. Much respect and luck to everyone!

Christopher

hounddog
07-14-2011, 11:15 AM
I really appreciate everyone taking time out of their day and helping by responding with your experiences and expertise. Honestly, I havent been out there every day flyering or marketing. I have been kind of sitting back, and I recognize that. I got to get my butt out there!
I have not seen any marketing come through for a couple months where I live from any business. It is like all the businesses that do lawn care knew who gets lawn care and they got all their clientele for the season. Should I still be marketing every month with flyers in July and the upcoming months still? Even though the grass is hardly growing? We havent had much rain this summer so the grass is taking its sweet time.
Also, this is my mistake and I forgot to be specific when I made the first post on this discussion, but in respect to everyone else's lawn care operations, are you paying other people to cut your lawns? or are you cutting your own lawns? a little of both? I understand that everyone may have different clientele bases, but I would really like my business to flourish in terms of hiring employees to cut the lawns and I round up the accounts to give to my guys while earning a percent off the top for organizing? Thats where I want my business to be eventually. It might be a little too late considering there is like only 3 months left of mowing, roughly? What do you guys think? I believe this type of operation is obtainable, but is it viable for this type of business? Thanks for the help guys! This site really helps keep me being a beginner to building a business and lawn care as well. Much respect and luck to everyone!

Christopher
mostly i cut my own but if i can't i have a guy that comes and cuts my 2 acres for $35 i do all the trimming still

CHEESE2009
07-14-2011, 05:16 PM
If you rush, you will only make mistakes.

When starting out, don't expect to have a solid route for awhile.


I noticed that you are wondering how some lawn companies seem to know who to advertise to, etc. Basically, those are re-occurring clients from earlier seasons. We all start small, and usually keep the same clients for years.

When I first started out, it was hard enough to fill at least one day up with work. Eventually it will come, it will feel slow but as soon as you get those calls things become hectic and so fast paced you'll be turning your phone off!

The best idea is to fish other clients out of your current clients. Ask if they have family/friends and give them a little incentive for helping you grow.

I have one client who's given me 5 clients, it's amazing!

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As for where you stand today, compared to others;

Find out what your competition is charging, charge the same or a tad lower to gain interest from homeowners. Low-balling isn't always a bad thing, it's one of the best ways to build your business from the starting line, the time you have minimal expenses. Sure it can piss people off, but that is their problem - not yours!

A mix between low-balling and fishing for clients out of current clients should start you off nicely.

Eventually as you grow, you can up your price and it wont matter if you lose the clients who didn't want to pay the new price - However, this should be a slow process. Don't up your price for every single client.

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Once you've done the above, you'll be the one upset at the new guy who's low-balling, haha! Fortunately, if you are good at your job your clients will be with you forever.

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The basic package a client should receive;
Mowing, trimming, & blowing of debris.

You can offer just mowing, but your lawns will never look as good as those that have been trimmed.

You can mow and trim a property, but if you don't have a blower to tidy the place up before you leave - the client will think you are too messy compared to others, as the cleanup is crucial!

********

You don't know anything. If a client asks you to do something, you may feel obliged to tell them you can do it, but you will be getting yourself into hours of trouble. What you know is "Maintaining Lawns"! Let the client hire someone else to do the extras.

I may sound crazy, but the truth is: STICK TO ONE SERVICE, and only advertise other services when you have someone else on your team.

I get calls to do everything, which interferes with my basic lawn service, and my clients become upset when my answer to help them is "No". Basically, don't set yourself up to be a person who can't do what he advertises, even when starting and having all the time in the world.

You may feel that any job is good at the time, but when the clients flood in - you will have NO time to spare, and that is not good! When you are small, you CAN do everything, but the problem is your clients will soon realize how less "able" you've become. Again, only do other jobs until you have someone to rely on by your side a.k.a an assistant.

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I also find that with the time you spend doing odd jobs, means the less grass you are doing. Grass is your gravy $$$. You might make $800 trimming a hedge one time, which would be more than you make cutting a lawn for a year - but the point is to have stability and consistency with what you are doing. Money isn't worth stress <**- best advice ever.


Note: You can still do odd jobs, just don't flood yourself with them. Tell the client up front that you may not be able to do this "additional job" all the time so that they don't expect so much from you, especially once you get bigger and have no time.

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Your attitude always needs to be in check.

My problem is that I take every matter personally, because I run a very personable business. It was my mistake to give a damn about my clients.

Go in without depending on any single client. If they feel that your business depends on them, they will wreck you. Keep chit chat to a minimum, and never turn off your equipment if they have something to say - this way they know to quiet themselves so you can get back to work and not waste gas. (this does backfire a lot). Always wear headphones, it supports this method.


Another problem I have, is that I have gotten too friendly with clients, that they feel "special" and deserve the best treatment. This means, mowing before their scheduled date or "can you just remove that bush, it takes 2 seconds" <** requests like that will always happen and don't expect any $$$.

If you say "No, sorry I'll have to charge you" they will take offence. They feel as if "I thought we were cool, but you wont do this for me?" - you want to avoid that!

No client is your friend, or should be spoken to on such a level. Every single one of my clients chit chats with me. My smallest lawn takes the most time out of my day, because the client doesn't leave me alone. Because I was friendly from the start, changing my attitude at this time would be noticed and my client would be offended. I am stuck with this problem until the client dies, or if I ignore her calls next year when the season is starting. **- I will have to lose a client because I had gotten too friendly, if I was colder - this client would be valuable!


ALSO, you are not your clients friends - because if there is every a payment issue - you have to play two roles which don't work well together.
1. I am your friend
2. I am the guy who wants his damn money

^ You will feel too guilty to ask for your own money if you have a good bond with a client. The key is to never make this bond! Then you realize how your client is taking advantage of you, which means you will soon turn into a cold business machine, which is what you need to become.


I have gotten into shouting matches with clients because of similar situations. You go out of your way to show them respect and interest, then you have to put up with their negligence which is a very difficult situation. This business puts food on your plate, and helps your family. When they don't play by the rules, they are starving you - you don't need that crap!

Steve
07-15-2011, 09:26 PM
You don't know anything. If a client asks you to do something, you may feel obliged to tell them you can do it, but you will be getting yourself into hours of trouble. What you know is "Maintaining Lawns"! Let the client hire someone else to do the extras.

Did you ever find yourself getting into trouble taking on extra jobs you didn't know how to do but figured you would learn on site?

CHEESE2009
07-17-2011, 02:46 AM
Did you ever find yourself getting into trouble taking on extra jobs you didn't know how to do but figured you would learn on site?


Anything to do with digging, you will screw yourself over - typically if it's not something you plan on doing all the time and is a job you thought was simple from the start.

When you dig, it's not just dirt. You might get a job 75% completed, then come across a large stone that you have no way of moving. The entire job would become a waste of time. Renting equipment to move the rock would cost you more than what you charged the client. <- Worst case scenario.




The problem is, when your clients always think you have spare time to help around. Once that gets in their heads (earlier stage of business) - they will never get it OUT of their heads. So when you become really busy, they will be very dissatisfied with you by not giving them the same level of treatment as previously.

Example: You used to be on their property for 5 hours, next year you'll only be able to be on their property for 20 minutes.

The customer will see this as a lack of quality, even if it's not. They've seen the best, and now they see less. Make sense?


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If every time you called a contractor to do a job, and he says yes I'm available - wouldn't you be happy?

How would you feel if you called him a year later and his answer was, "I don't have the time at the moment"

it's negative