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yourscape
01-11-2013, 08:05 AM
The recap of my first year:

First off, I just moved here from out of state not knowing anyone, never really doing this type of service beside my own yard and helping neighbors out. I was able to go out and purchase new equipment which was a piece of mind for me since I did not want to tackle the repairs and maintenance at first.

Starting out I was very anxious and felt overwhelmed with everything going on from learning the business concepts then gaining customers. This was one of my biggest challenges to overcome. I started out with my advertisements of door hangers, Craigslist, local mailing paper and tear off signs. The calls started to come in and felt I need to provide a rate that would still allow me to make a profit but be able to gain customers. I did not want to be a lowballer since I knew it would only hurt me in the long run if I wanted to retain any of my new customers.

To start the season I had 8 customers ranging from $30 to $50 per cut. During this I started to realize I did alright with the bidding minus 1-2 of them. Retention was good, there was only one customer that I did not go back after the first cut. This customer and I mutually agreed to go our different way because after the first cut she was expect a lot more than the original estimate and I told her we need to adjust prices if she want me to continue the service that way.

During the season there became different challenges from dealing with weather (no rain) other little issues that come up. I was able to land about 10-15 different side job doing mulch, hedges, gutters and boarder work which helped a lot. Theses side job are what get you ahead and where the better profits are. Your maintenance jobs are the ones that pay for your expenses (truck, insurance, advertising, maintenance and building capital for equipment) that is how I am looking at it. I was able to pick up a couple more customers from word of mouth and people seeing my work at other properties. Cheep advice, when you are out working everyone is watching you from neighbors to potential customers driving, look professional and treat other properties as it was your own. When school started back it was interesting because I pick up another 3-4 customers due to their old company was becoming unreliable. I ended up with 16 clients and 4-5 occasional customers.

Advise and things I have learned:

- Find a good software program for invoicing right away. I do use Gopher software.
- Understand some customers and you will have a personality conflict, try to work it out.
- Some customers are almost impossible to please unless you spend hours at their house
- Some customers donít understand that you are not there only customer
- Billing, remember there invoice is your pay check and customers donít understand that
- Customers donít understand that there price has to cover maintenance, drive time, and company expenses to.
- Keep you grounds or you will start to be walked all over buy a picky customer.
- Have your company information and phone number on you truck/trailer.
- Positive: There are customers out there that treat you like gold and appreciate every effort you make.
- Keep reading this blog and many others there is a lot of useful information on here.

I have enjoyed my first year in service and looking forward to many more. I know there will be many more challenges to come and will take one at a time.

Feel from to add your experiences and suggestion to challenges you have encountered.

phouse65
01-11-2013, 09:42 AM
I have recently moved here to Ohio from Connecticut. I was wondering what part of Ohio? It is always good to know another company in case you need some help. Sounds like you had a great year and learned a lot. Keep it up.

yourscape
01-11-2013, 10:02 AM
I have recently moved here to Ohio from Connecticut. I was wondering what part of Ohio? It is always good to know another company in case you need some help. Sounds like you had a great year and learned a lot. Keep it up.

I am west of Cleveland, in Elyria.

Is there a soil difference from where you moved? That has been a challenge for me.

Steve
01-11-2013, 03:36 PM
That is some great insight!

Looking back on the year, would you have changed anything or liked to have done anything differently if you could do it over?

What will you do differently this new year compared to last year?

Cheeze Wiz
01-11-2013, 09:50 PM
Awesome post Congratulation on a successful first year.

phouse65
01-13-2013, 11:10 AM
The soil seems to be a bit clayish

yourscape
01-13-2013, 09:21 PM
That is some great insight!

Looking back on the year, would you have changed anything or liked to have done anything differently if you could do it over?

What will you do differently this new year compared to last year?

Over all i was pretty happy but at the end of the year it seemed like customers didn't want to pay. I did end up getting paid from everyone but I felt like crap hounding them down.

Next year I am going to push for prepay or credit card payment to try to eliminate some of troubles I had.

The other thing I want to change is to focus more on commercial customers then residential.

thom
01-14-2013, 02:22 PM
Over all i was pretty happy but at the end of the year it seemed like customers didn't want to pay. I did end up getting paid from everyone but I felt like crap hounding them down.

Next year I am going to push for prepay or credit card payment to try to eliminate some of troubles I had.

The other thing I want to change is to focus more on commercial customers then residential.

What excuses did your customers use to avoid paying you?

Steve
01-14-2013, 03:01 PM
The other thing I want to change is to focus more on commercial customers then residential

Also, what is your view on why you want to go in this direction?

yourscape
01-14-2013, 03:42 PM
What excuses did your customers use to avoid paying you?

The only excuse I have received is that I total forgot along with an apology, but that is after 2 invoices and a couple of phone calls.

yourscape
01-14-2013, 03:46 PM
Also, what is your view on why you want to go in this direction?

It will give me more flexibility with scheduling conflicts. Beside doing lawn care I also manage a couple of rental properties so flexibility is a nice thing to have. I caught myself throwing out partial days last year. If I were to have more commercial accounts I would be able to fill more of those days with hedge trimming and other misc duties that would be part of there package.

Steve
01-15-2013, 12:36 PM
That is very interesting!

As you go into the new season, do you feel you will focus your marketing on one method over others or will you use multiple marketing methods?

yourscape
01-15-2013, 02:12 PM
That is very interesting!

As you go into the new season, do you feel you will focus your marketing on one method over others or will you use multiple marketing methods?

As far a marketing goes I am going to start off with the same approach as I did last year. But as of now I want to cut back on paid advertizing early mid season.

I feel my approach will be a lot stronger stronger this year than last. I did gain a lot of experience with dealing with the customers I won and didn't win last year. Along with that I understand my equipment a whole lot better so bidding will be a little more accurate.

Steve
01-16-2013, 01:23 PM
I did gain a lot of experience with dealing with the customers I won and didn't win last year.

For the newer startups that may not understand this, can you tell us a little about how that experience helps improve placing and winning bids?

yourscape
01-16-2013, 07:06 PM
For the newer startups that may not understand this, can you tell us a little about how that experience helps improve placing and winning bids?

When I was biding last year I was more then less looking at lot sizes and edging amount. The things I forgot was areas where my rider would not fit or go and would have to either weed wack it or bring out the push mower.

Location was a hard part starting out because I was not sure where my foot print would be. So I treated every customer as I would have 1 or 2 accounts by them. I didn't end up losing I just came close to breaking even on 1 of them since it was a 30 mile round trip to one of the properties.

thom
01-17-2013, 07:40 AM
When I was biding last year I was more then less looking at lot sizes and edging amount. The things I forgot was areas where my rider would not fit or go and would have to either weed wack it or bring out the push mower.

Location was a hard part starting out because I was not sure where my foot print would be. So I treated every customer as I would have 1 or 2 accounts by them. I didn't end up losing I just came close to breaking even on 1 of them since it was a 30 mile round trip to one of the properties.

How many quotes did you do last year, that you did not get?

yourscape
01-17-2013, 07:50 AM
How many quotes did you do last year, that you did not get?

I would guess off hand I landed about 75%. I had 3-4 bids were higher than there last contractor. I won them because either there last contractor was unreliable or went out of business. They told me they were getting a good deal but was wilingl to pay more for a reliable contractor. They all turned out to be great customers. I was a bit nervous but it went well and was extremely happy with my service.

thom
01-17-2013, 10:33 AM
I would guess off hand I landed about 75%. I had 3-4 bids were higher than there last contractor. I won them because either there last contractor was unreliable or went out of business. They told me they were getting a good deal but was wilingl to pay more for a reliable contractor. They all turned out to be great customers. I was a bit nervous but it went well and was extremely happy with my service.

Which advertising method has worked best for you?

yourscape
01-17-2013, 12:10 PM
Which advertising method has worked best for you?

To start out I advertized by door hanger (about 300), Craigslist, add in our rural paper and tear offs.

The winner was the news paper then craigslist, tear offs, and last door hangers. As the season went on I received some from my trailer.

This year I am only advertizing in the paper until the middle of the season due to me trying to cut back on advertizing expenses. I feel like I have accomplished enough jobs to keep me busy until I decided to bring a employee on board. These type of advertisement bring in mainly residential customers and this year I am trying to focus more on commercial customers to have more of a mix.

CHEESE2009
01-18-2013, 11:14 AM
Yourscape, you are going through exactly what I went through and are learning the exact same things I learned in that exact order lol.

Your third year is going to be magical, I promise.

This year, you will switch to getting pre-paid (excellent); however, there will be some current clients who will be upset about this and not welcome the change.

You'll also probably let some current clients from last year pay the "old way" and not bother them to pay in advance.... it's a trap, get them to pay in advance too.. Just having 1-5 clients who pay differently will stress you out guaranteed.

-

1st year: awesome, exciting, scary... not even sure whether to be mad or glad this early on lol..

2nd year: angry, anxiety, no respect from clients... Fired 35% of my clients...

3rd year: Magic. Kept my good clients, got more good clients, all of them paying in advance. (post-dated checks, and contracts!).

Now, I keep the ball in my side of the court with confidence when dealing with clients.



Still losing hair though, might wanna skip year 2 and gun for year 3 if I was you.

LawnBoy0311
01-22-2013, 11:02 AM
Cheese, how many accounts did you lose when you switched to prepay or pay in advance? I'm going to be doing that for this year.


Last year I did great. But around the end of the year I got a lot of aeration jobs and had to fire my helper. Then some customers were VERY slow at paying....had to send out a few nasty letters. It stressed me the hell out and I kept telling myself I'd have to change some things.

John Lawson
02-04-2013, 12:13 PM
I am west of Cleveland, in Elyria.

I was born in Elyria. It's a great place to be from... :)

PR-Fect
02-13-2013, 05:10 PM
Yourscape, congrat's on the the first year.It sounds like you have allot invested in your bussiness so far. Do not forget to invest in yourself. Take a hort. class at your local tec school or university extension. Get industry certified.Become profesional. Good luck in your next year.

yourscape
02-14-2013, 07:37 AM
I was born in Elyria. It's a great place to be from... :)

So far it has been good, the people are a lot different here.

yourscape
02-14-2013, 07:40 AM
Yourscape, congrat's on the the first year.It sounds like you have allot invested in your bussiness so far. Do not forget to invest in yourself. Take a hort. class at your local tec school or university extension. Get industry certified.Become profesional. Good luck in your next year.

I have been reading a lot of books this winter. I am on the bubble on going to get my fertilizer license, just not sure if it will be worth it since according to Ohio there is a lot of extra expenses with insurance that I am not sure i would be able to profit from this.

Thanks for the Luck and same to you!!

supermason50
02-18-2013, 11:57 AM
Yourscape**Congrats on year 1. At the begining of EVERY YEAR, dump 20% of your WORST customers. The remaining 80% you keep will make you 100% more efficient. It took me 3 years to learn this.

Steve
02-18-2013, 02:16 PM
At the begining of EVERY YEAR, dump 20% of your WORST customers. The remaining 80% you keep will make you 100% more efficient. It took me 3 years to learn this.

What was the moment when you decided to go this way? Also, how do you figure which are the worst 20%? And whats the best way to dump them nicely?

yourscape
02-18-2013, 09:25 PM
Yourscape**Congrats on year 1. At the begining of EVERY YEAR, dump 20% of your WORST customers. The remaining 80% you keep will make you 100% more efficient. It took me 3 years to learn this.

I totally understand what you mean on this one. I have 2 customers that are dragging me down with the season just right around the corner. I am actually send out a letter tonight to one of them.

I have realized that there are 2 types of customers out there. 1's that want the service and appreciate you and don't have a problem paying you what you are worth, and 1's that need the service for one reason or another and want you to feel bad for charging them and if they could suck you dry for every penny your other customers are paying you.:mad:

Thanks I needed this post!!!!!!!

Steve
02-19-2013, 12:47 PM
I have 2 customers that are dragging me down with the season just right around the corner.

What do these customers do that make them the worst of your group?