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rmccutchan
10-10-2011, 10:48 AM
...from Indiana.

I have thought of doing a lawn care business for a LOT of years, and in an effort to put my son through college, we decided to start a basic lawn care business next spring. If all goes well, we can ramp up the services to chemical applications, etc.... , and continue until retirement or ?????

Hopefully I can glean some information from this site, and at the same time, contribute something back. I have a lot of years in maintaining equipment, so I may have a little insight into that aspect.

Right now, all I have is an old White lawn tractor that may, or may not, run (needs carb rebuilt, etc....) and a Yard Machines push mower. Plans are to acquire a used commercial mower over the winter, probably a walk behind.

I always appreciate advice and and happy to give it back.

Bob

Ryan's Lawn Care
10-10-2011, 04:18 PM
hunt around on craigslist for equipment and as your things brake try to upgrade to commercial equipment that what i have been doing for a while. Be firm on your prices and don't let people screw with you. I don't feel like you will have this problem though I believe I did mainly because I started my lawn service when i was so young I guess people thought a kid shouldn't have been making as much as I was.


And a walk behind is a great idea i got one about a month ago and have cut my time down so much!!

rmccutchan
10-10-2011, 06:19 PM
Thanks!

Here is my first contribution to the forum:

You are absolutely correct on pricing. I tried to start another kind of business several years ago tried to "give people breaks" on prices to try to get my name out. That is ABSOLUTELY the wrong approach. When I tried to bring prices up, people did a back flip. They heard I was cheap and that is why they called me. So, then I was stuck in a price range and could not gain income

My plan is to set a minimum, something like $xx / 1,000 sq. ft. or per 1/4 acre, or whatever, and add to that price if the property is difficult, ie: lots of trees or hills, etc......, and then stick to the price and walk away if the potential customer wants to pay less. Maybe offer a coupon or 1 free cutting for signing a contract.

Steve
10-11-2011, 05:06 PM
Welcome to our forum!

What kind of business were you previously involved with?

If you could do it over, would you do anything else different with it?

rmccutchan
10-12-2011, 06:46 AM
Hi Steve

I had a photography business, but business principals apply to EVERY business.

What I would do different:

1. Set prices, and STICK TO THEM! I was doing work for small prices to try to get my name out. Big mistake. You can't raise your prices later. Maybe give a small discount after a certain amount of time, but generally keep to your price structure.

2. Don't throw good money after bad. I tried to do ALL of my own printing. I should have let a printing company do the printing while I was out drumming up more business.

3. Manage my time better and don't spend time on needless work. If the camera shutter (or mower blades) are not moving, no money is being made. Maybe let a professional do your books or whatever so you can be out working.

4. Business is: %80 business and %20 product

5. Listen to others who have been there before you!! Don't try to re-invent the wheel. Don't think "I will do it this way and show those people they don't know what they are talking about". It NEVER works that way. People generally love to give advice.......listen to them.

I am no expert, but these are some of the bruises I got my first time around.

Hope it helps!

Steve
10-12-2011, 04:23 PM
4. Business is: %80 business and %20 product

Very interesting. Can you tell me more what you mean by this and how it could apply to lawn care?

rmccutchan
10-13-2011, 01:12 PM
Hi Steve

From what I can gather, it is all about management. Management of time, money, and resources.

So, a person can do an excellent job at yard care, or anything for that matter:

Marketing/Sales: So........how do you get the phone to ring? Each year, a plan needs to be made on how to get the word out to potential customers, etc. Then, how are you going to pay for the advertising and marketing? A plan needs to be made on how much to spend on marketing. Meanwhile, some research needs to be done to find out what the market is like in your area and what are customers looking for. Some companies hire people to do nothing but sell their products or services.

Time management: The phone is starting to ring and you are signing contracts. Now, you need to figure out how to manage time in such a way that you can efficiently do the work without backtracking and wasting time driving to jobs. Maybe you have a few employees. You need to manage their time, hire and fire as necessary.

Also, someone needs to field the phone calls when they come in. This can be a full time job for if you are busy.

A lot of small business owners tell me that they spend a LOT of time trying to get money from customers. I just spoke to someone who had to travel 4 hours to pick up a big check from a university ($38,000) ..........and it was 3 months over due!! In 3 months, he probably spent 50-75 hours trying to get his money. That's 50-75 hours he could have spent drumming up new business.


Record Keeping: So you have the work and you are getting busy. Are you keeping records daily? Do you know what things you are doing that are costing too much money, and what things are making you money? Are you keeping mileage logs and logging your expenses for tax time? By the way......did you spend much time researching you contract to make sure it is solid? Do you have employees? You need to make sure all their taxes and insurance stuff is taken care of.


Money management This one could go on for a while. Once the money starts coming in, what do you do with it? How much do you save, how much do you re-invest in the business, how much do you pay yourself, etc.... It has to be budgeted so that you have money for repairs and new equipment when the need arises. Do you do your own repairs or hire a shop to do them for you? (this falls under time management also) Do you sharpen your own blades, or do you have Herb's Sharpening Shop (a real business where I live) do the work for you. Do you invest in the new mower or keep fixing the one you have. (a budget study needs to be done on that one)

Do you put down chemicals? There are a lot of regulations and paperwork for that type of work.

Notice I haven't said ANYTHING yet about cutting grass or removing snow.

The point is, this stuff all takes a lot of time and effort and a sharp pencil. If you go out and mow grass for a day, how much time and effort does it take to manage that day? Is the day over when you park the truck in the barn at night?

These are just a few of the high points that I did not listen to when I started my first business. The list could go on for a while.

Thanks for listening.

Bob

Steve
10-14-2011, 05:33 PM
A lot of small business owners tell me that they spend a LOT of time trying to get money from customers. I just spoke to someone who had to travel 4 hours to pick up a big check from a university ($38,000) ..........and it was 3 months over due!! In 3 months, he probably spent 50-75 hours trying to get his money. That's 50-75 hours he could have spent drumming up new business.

This is an issue that seems to effect a lot of small business owners. Do you feel there is anything that can be done to improve upon this? Or is it always going to be a crap shoot to find whether or not the customer is going to pay on time, after the fact?

rmccutchan
10-15-2011, 02:59 PM
Well, it seems to be a crap shoot. Crap is the appropriate term :) I hope somebody has some insight to this one because I hate chasing money.

When I photographed weddings, the bill had to be paid before the wedding, which is pretty standard for that business. Not all businesses can operate that way, though.

In construction, often times companies required 10% down, and so much as the job progressed. I suppose one could require payment or at least a partial payment, before the work started. Then, you just don't show up until some type of payment is made first. I don't know how this industry works yet, but that could be an option.

Charles P
10-15-2011, 06:38 PM
The best way is to buy used equipment to start, this lowers your over head. Post your business on bulletin boards in locations such as the post office, hardware stores, senior services etc. If you need graphic services for your bulletin board AD I will help you at no charge. When I was in the landscaping business, I would fertilize the lawns at no charge. The reason I did this was it insured a healthy lawn and also helped it grow. Your customers will want you to take charge of their lawn care, they will want your advice on how often it needs cut, how often to water etc. So study your customers lawns, know their needs and they will never leave you.
My email is: www.charlesp@therazorblade.com
Charles P.



...from Indiana.

I have thought of doing a lawn care business for a LOT of years, and in an effort to put my son through college, we decided to start a basic lawn care business next spring. If all goes well, we can ramp up the services to chemical applications, etc.... , and continue until retirement or ?????

Hopefully I can glean some information from this site, and at the same time, contribute something back. I have a lot of years in maintaining equipment, so I may have a little insight into that aspect.

Right now, all I have is an old White lawn tractor that may, or may not, run (needs carb rebuilt, etc....) and a Yard Machines push mower. Plans are to acquire a used commercial mower over the winter, probably a walk behind.

I always appreciate advice and and happy to give it back.

Bob

Charles P
10-15-2011, 06:42 PM
The best way is to buy used equipment to start, this lowers your over head. Post your business on bulletin boards in locations such as the post office, hardware stores, senior services etc. If you need graphic services for your bulletin board AD I will help you at no charge. When I was in the landscaping business, I would fertilize the lawns at no charge. The reason I did this was it insured a healthy lawn and also helped it grow. Your customers will want you to take charge of their lawn care, they will want your advice on how often it needs cut, how often to water etc. So study your customers lawns, know their needs and they will never leave you.
My email is: www.charlesp@therazorblade.com
Charles P.

I always billed my customers once a month, this lowers the paperwork. I also put in comments or ideas for lawn care so they were better informed customers. Also look at hotel/motel locations, I have done a lot of business with them.

Charles P.

Charles P
10-15-2011, 06:55 PM
Advertising is great once your up and running, the budget for marketing should be 2% to 5% 5% would be on the high side. Word of mouth is the best way to grow fast, still rated #1 for marketing.
Time management, the best way to reduce windshield time is to schedule all jobs in one location per day.

Steve
10-17-2011, 03:42 PM
When I was in the landscaping business, I would fertilize the lawns at no charge. The reason I did this was it insured a healthy lawn and also helped it grow.

That is a very interesting idea. Did you have to charge more to cover your fertilizer expenses to do this?

How much extra do you feel you spent on fertilizer per year on customer's lawns?

Also, did you advertise this so the customer knew they were getting an additional freebie?

Charles P
10-19-2011, 02:51 PM
We started this company after seeing several issues that were not being addressed. I am sure we all have ideas that could improve the industry as a whole, things that the manufacturer ignore.
We looked at areas that have issues, look for a solution, gain input from end users and put the pieces together. If any one has an idea that they would like to see if it has a market and needs help let me know. On our staff for example is: Jennine, retired VP for Gannett/USA TODAY and is considered the best in marketing/advertising in the country, Ken Savage, Owner of a WEB developing company, Mike Fountain, PHD Computer Science. Our staff would like to help anyone who would like to improve the industry. I am excited, I will be delivering the blades to Boughtners Lawn care next week myself, I enjoy meeting people and getting their input. I wanted our company to be like an open forum so that the end users could drive the product, I cant think of any company that opens itself up to others. This lends itself to better products because its made by the people who use it and not a designer/engineer behind a computer. How many times have you said to yourself: I would add more room in the engine compartment so its easy to work on, or I would do it this way. Egineers forget about the end user when they develope the products. AGAIN if you have an idea please feel free to contact us and we will give you all the help and support we have.

Charles

Steve
10-19-2011, 04:38 PM
Charles,

Over the years, we have had a few entrepreneurs on here who were making either tools or after market parts to improve on an idea. From my memory, each one of them ended up failing when it came to the manufacturing of the product. They tried to have it outsourced and manufactured in other countries and things fell apart from there.

If I can offer any advice as you push forwards, it is to make sure you don't farm out the product manufacturing and let the quality of the product decline while doing so.

I would also take as much advantage of the forum and the open communication you have with people on here as possible. I would get the blades out to as many people as possible to get that initial buzz going. From there, once people use the product and like the product, they will talk about it to others.

Put together promotions. Have giveaways. Get members involved in promoting your product and reward them with one of your products.