View Full Version : You MUST read (for new business owners)

06-09-2012, 12:15 PM
I had written an example of how someone could set themselves up for failure. Enjoy!


When you first started your lawn maintenance company, you probably took any job that came your way. Regardless of how minimal the payoff was, you were proud to have been hired. You believed that obtaining any client meant success.

This false feeling of success had driven you into a trap. Your schedule is finally booked and yet you are now feeling: exhausted, stressed, anxious, and even guilty. You have too much work for yourself, but not enough money to hire a helper. This doesn't make sense to you.

You are beginning to think that you will need to obtain more clients, but you've now become too discouraged to even bother. The thought of how happy your clients are with you is the only thing that keeps you going. You take pride in the idea of being liked by your clients, and that makes you feel as though you are doing the right thing.

Over time, you finally begin to realize that you aren't achieving anything. You started your company in order to make good money, but now it feels as though you would be better off working for someone else. You have even let the quality of your work slip because you felt the passion to provide quality slip away.

You start to question yourself, “where did I go wrong?”.

The truth...

You have a lot of work, because you are cheap.
You have no money, because you are cheap.
Your clients only like you, because you are cheap.
Your willingness to provide quality work has vanished, because you are cheap.

Once you figure this out, you realize that you are going to have to start fresh. You are going to have to confront your clients and let them know that your price has gone up, and this time, they wont even bother hiring you again.

You have most likely wasted a season or more waiting for this business related life lesson to come out of hiding, but at least you now know what needs to be done.

When running your business you now know the following...

1. You are a business man, not a savior.
2. It is not a loss if you are too expensive for some people.
3. Most favors will now cost your clients extra, you are not a charity – and you need to eat!
4. You choose to avoid offering service for those who will burden you with guilt or cause you any amount of stress. You really don't need them!
5. You call the shots, not your clients.

You now have good paying customers, and more time to provide quality work for them. The passion for what you do has come back, and you are feeling a lot more confident. You are FINALLY getting what you deserve. It takes a little bit longer to obtain clients, but it's WORTH THE WAIT!!!

06-09-2012, 12:44 PM
You make very good points. I rather work one day a week and make $500 profit then burn myself out working everyday for $1000 profit.

When I look at my gross numbers from year 1 and 2. The business grew about 25% but my profit was 50% higher. I also worked less year 2 and had more help.

It wasnt hard to figure out I was getting better jobs at better prices. I turn down as much work as I take now. Some dont understand that but you know a **** job when you see it.

06-10-2012, 09:18 AM
I used to work construction (and still do if the moneys right) and we always had a saying when trying to get a new job.

You can pick two of the following: Fast, Cheap, or Quality

You can have Fast and Cheap but you won't get Quality!

You can have Cheap and Quality but you won't get if Fast!

You can have Fast and Quality but it won't be Cheap!

I think this kind of pertains to Lawn Care too.

06-10-2012, 11:14 AM

I figured this out in my first season. (last year)
I saw that my schedule was filled with low-paying jobs and that if I were to make more money, I'd need to work longer hours, or drop the low-pays and replace them with better jobs.

That process has begun this year. I haven't dropped anyone yet, but any of the slots that have opened due to a client moving, or things of that nature have been "reserved" for jobs that pay more. I've passed on a lot of crappy properties this season. Sure, I could use the money, but it does me no good to lock myself into a commitment where I'm "mowing angry" because I (a) hate the property, or (b) know I could be making more elsewhere.
I've also successfully added clients that DO pay more. It takes longer, but it's SO much nicer to know you are being paid what you are worth.

Some of the problems related to getting "stuck" with low-pay jobs when starting out is dictated by the equipment you use. I started with a 21" push mower and there is a threshold that you hit when you realize you can't make ANY profit by taking on a lawn that eats up too much of your time.
You can get $40 for a lawn that takes you 45 minutes to an hour to cut and someone with better equipment can get that same lawn finished in 15-20 minutes and still get paid the $40. There are only so many hours in a day and your equipment dictates how much you can do and what types of lawns you can take on.

I've added a 36" walk behind this year.
It hasn't improved my time as much as I had hoped, but this is partially due to the fact that my lawns are better suited for push mowing. Hilly, uneven, obstacle-ridden... you need to take on properties that allow you to work efficiently with the equipment you use.

06-10-2012, 05:19 PM
I did the sme thing, but as I got more better jobs, I dropped poor jobs. Now have about 20 customers, make just under 2K a week. Work about 30 hrs a week unless I get caught up in the yak yak with customer

06-10-2012, 06:37 PM
I can totally understand if someone fills up their work week with minimal paying customers, some people have no choice but to become desperate, but the consequences for doing so can hurt your morale.

I have to constantly argue with my guy, as we have a lot more free time this year due to only accepting high paying customers - and he would like to fill up our time with low paying customers just for 'more money'... sad.

For some strange reason, he had forgotten how he felt when we were completely booked with work and hardly made anything in return, and now he's whining to go down the same path?!?!

I say, "Be patient, we are basically re-starting and already doing extremely well, why do you want to ruin that? Why would you want to waste an entire hour on a lawn full of hills and obstacles for peanuts, only to complain to me about it to me when it gets hot outside? Just be patient, and we will find an easier property that pays more."

Working with someone can become very annoying, note that this person is not a partner, he is an employee with concerns and believes he knows best when he doesn't. I'm not entirely sure why I put up with it, but I do want him to feel apart of this company, and for his voice to be heard.

For example, we missed our Friday lawns due to rain (weekend too). I really want to do our Friday lawns on Monday, before we actually even touch our Monday lawns.

Why? Because our Mondays are low paying, and they will not receive the same price next year, meaning there is a good chance that we will lose them - aka temporary clients vs permanent high paying clients. Also, our Friday lawns may risk 2 weeks without service as this week is full of rain, and I do not want to lose our GOOD clients.

Yet, my guy wants to throw a hissy fit and believes Mondays should be done first. He just doesn't understand the financial aspect of my decision.

I will not sacrifice golden clients for slums, regardless of what my website says, "no client has priority over another", high paying clients come first, they have to - there is no choice!

06-11-2012, 02:56 PM
Your schedule is finally booked and yet you are now feeling: exhausted, stressed, anxious, and even guilty.

Scott, can you tell us a little about how the guilty feeling plays in here? What causes that guilt and how does one get past it?

06-11-2012, 04:55 PM
Scott, can you tell us a little about how the guilty feeling plays in here? What causes that guilt and how does one get past it?

Great question!

Personally, I am the type of person who wont tolerate anything unless it's completely subtle, and clients can be very subtle when it comes to making us go out of our way for them.

Here are some mock examples;

Client a: "You are doing a lovely job, but may I ask for you to mow the lawn again just a little bit shorter? Please, if it's not too much trouble for you? I would really appreciate it. Would you like some water?" :)

Response: "Sure, not a problem" - you basically have no choice. :mad:


Client b: "I'm not too happy about your service. I had left a pile of branches that I figured you would remove for me, but you never did. Please come and take them."

Responce: "I'm sorry but removing branches is not what we do. If you would like for us to take the branches, I'm going to have to charge you $80." ;)


As you can see, when a client makes a negative assumption/attack, you are able to retaliate with ease by reestablishing your pride and defending yourself. It'll come naturally.

Unfortunately, a lot of clients play the 'good character/client a' more often, and you can find yourself getting stuck doing additional work for nothing all season long. Eventually it will take its toll on you. You provide the additional work only because the client was just so sweet about the situation and you would feel guilty if you had said, "No" or requested payment. This nice client is actually the worst client imaginable, because you can't justify firing him/her, and that's what needs to be done unless you figure out a safe way to charge them more!

There are times where you can even tell these clients you must get paid, but in practice, it's never just that easy. Keep your guard up!!!!

06-12-2012, 12:20 PM
Does that feeling change over time or does the way you handle these situations change over time as you have been running your business longer?

06-12-2012, 01:09 PM
Does that feeling change over time or does the way you handle these situations change over time as you have been running your business longer?

It never changes. There will always be an odd job that you would love to refuse doing, but the risk of losing the client is all we can think about.

We have to keep a steady relationship with a client, we can't get out of unfortunate situations like this if we really can't justify it.

Let's say you spent an hour maintaining a lawn, and you have everything loaded up and strapped down. Imagine if the very nice client comes out as you are about to leave and says, "Sorry to bother you, can you take just 2 seconds to trim the weeds in my garden, I'm having a get together with my family this weekend".

While we're standing there, all we can think is "GOD DAMMIT!" - we really just want to move on, but no, we must do the job.

The reason we hate sparing even a second of our time, is because we do scheduled work, and we need that feeling of progress throughout the day and HATE interruptions.

How many of you regret taking a lunch break? All of us. All we think about is, "I hope I'm able to finish all my lawns for the day, I just wasted 30 minutes and now I put myself behind"

or even, "I would have been finished by now if I didn't have to trim out that garden".

06-13-2012, 11:58 AM
How do you think this might change as you have more employees and you are not onsite when this goes on?

06-13-2012, 01:36 PM
How do you think this might change as you have more employees and you are not onsite when this goes on?

I believe it will help my guys out a lot when it comes to avoiding crap jobs as they can say, "My boss says no, because we have too much to do" and I would never have to be confronted and that'll be the end of it.

Though, I don't believe being interrupted to just chat will ever be solved.

03-17-2014, 09:04 PM
I dont agree to a job unless it pays at least $1 an hour, I agreed to do some weed removal for a guy that was my customer weekly for lawn mowing fo $10an hour and I asked him if their was any plants that may look like weeds but were plants he didn't want me to pull he said no and I ended up pulling some expensive rare exotic plant and I lost that customer 3-4 years ago and I had a hard time getting him to pay for his last month of lawn mowing if I spent the time mowing lawns instead I would have been $1,000 ahead not to mention the amount of money I lost when I lost the customer at that point because I only had 3-4 customers at that time.

03-18-2014, 02:38 PM
I dont agree to a job unless it pays at least $1 an hour, I agreed to do some weed removal for a guy that was my customer weekly for lawn mowing fo $10an hour

Did you really mean $1 an hour?

03-18-2014, 04:01 PM
Did you really mean $1 an hour?

No I dont know why I typed hour it should have read $1 per minute, $1 an hour wouldn't pay for the gas alone. good thing I didn't make that error on a newspaper ad.