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smallstripeslawncare
02-19-2013, 07:50 PM
I'm located in Charlotte, NC and have been in business two years now. The competition is getting worse every year. I constantly see mini vans pulling walk behinds with signs saying "$20 lawn service", etc...So I know they're all lawn care business's and I even see tons that are probably lawn business's but just don't have a sign on their vehicle.

After talking to a few guys I've ran into filling up at the gas station I can clearly see the reasons so many people start up a lawn care business. Its a relatively low cost business to start. A used walk behind, trimmer, blower and even use the wifes SUV to haul it all is pretty easy on the wallet. Getting a DBA doesn't run that high and its overall a simple business to start.

With gas prices on the rise and the crazy amount of competition how can I compete?

SECTLANDSCAPING
02-19-2013, 08:35 PM
These types come and go. As soon as the equipment starts to break or theres a drought, blizzard, to weed them out.

You just have to be firm with your price and service. Youll win some and you lose some. I get calls for services that Im told Im twice as high other but came highly recommended.

The blizzard we just had I was charging people 4xs my normal price and only 3 out of 25 said no. A few months before I only closed about a 1/4 of my quotes for driveways. The storm was to big for the hacks. They shut off their phones and went to sleep, leaving their customers stuck in their homes.

Theres people on here all the time that brag about 20,30,40 customers when they just started but since their charging $20-$25 a cut. I end up making more with less. Its easier on my equipment and I always invest back into the business.

It happens with every service. I have people around here doing 3 yards of mulch for $180. I lose these quotes but get 15 yards for $1800 all day. They dont have the equipment or even the money for materials. I just quoted a 120 yard mulch install. Theres only a handful people in this area that have the capital and equipment to pull that off.

You just have to separate yourself from the rest.

smallstripeslawncare
02-19-2013, 09:43 PM
It would seem that they come and go but it also seems tons more are popping up. Last year I marketed heavily and was at $25 a cut for anything less than 1/2 acre. The majority of the lawns in my area aren't even close to 1/2 acre so in my opinion its profitable to get $25 for a 20 minute lawn.

This year I'm at $30 a cut (1/2 acre or under) and even with staying firm at that price it seems I'm not getting no where near the amount of calls/emails as I was last year. I already have 10 at $25 from last year and 5 at $30 and one at $35 from last season that have already confirmed for this season.

I need a goal of 50 lawns to make ends meet and be able to support my family. This is with the current lawns at their prices and the lawns I need at $30 a cut. Last year I didn't get a lot of calls until the season had already started and the spring growth has kicked in but I still got plenty of calls/emails from people in February and this year I haven't gotten many at all.

Fuel prices will be a big hit in the wallet this season especially if the prices keep climbing.

JeffK26
02-19-2013, 09:51 PM
The types you're talking about are not competition. They're competing with themselves. They're one broken window from going under, one car or mower breakdown from shutting up shop, one heatwave from sitting in the AC and thinking about going to work for someone else and one drought from not bringing in money and having to close down.

It's a waste of time to think about these guys. The types of clients these guys are picking up are the ones you don't want anyway, they're shopping on price, they don't care if the guy misses the grass around a gutter, they don't care the guy uses the mower to shove open a gate, or puts the trimmer up to the house and tears the siding, marks up the wooden fence. they don't care about their property and don't want to mow it.

Focus on the people that want quality. The people that notice not one blade is missed, notice there is no damage to their property from a mower or a trimmer.

SECTLANDSCAPING
02-19-2013, 10:01 PM
Thats why I say target 20 $50 lawns. Its a lot easier to do then 40 $25 lawns. If your advertising on price. You already lost. Go after the big upscale houses that have acres. I rather cut one yard for $200 then 5 for $40 each.

This is why I have a $35 min. I would rather not get the calls for all the little yards in the first place. If they dont even have grass, how can I up sell mulch, plowing, pressure washing?

smallstripeslawncare
02-19-2013, 10:02 PM
You do have a valid point but how to target these clients is the hard part. Of course door hangars and fliers. I do a lot of advertisement on craigslist and I'm not sure if many high end residential clients dont even check craigslist.

In my area it seems like a lot of high end clients go with big company's probably for the reasons you've stated above. I do have quite a few out of the 16 lawns I currently have that are high end and do care about their property. Surprisingly the ones that are the best clients are the ones that have nice lawns (because they'll spend the money) and want me to stripe it perfectly, edge everything the correct way, and want me to cut the grass the right height for the grass type. I dropped a lot of accounts at the beginning of last year because they simply wanted bi-weekly service only and we all know during the spring it will get super high and on top of it all they wanted me to cut it to the dirt. I'll argue that it will invite weeds, damage the plant, and will look horrible and just isn't the right height for the grass type. I don't even mention about the strain on my equipment.

LawnBoy0311
02-20-2013, 06:48 AM
I ran into this same problem. I saw TONS of these guys driving around at the start of last year. I remember seeing them and waving to them, some would stop and talk for a little while. The end of the year....they were gone. Like the other guys say, their biggest competition is themselves.

I stuck with my cost and it worked out for me. Granted I've haven't been on my own for too long, and I'm only a part timer, my tactics worked great for me. I noticed a whole bunch were using push mowers with a crew of 2 to 3 guys. I went after properties that were a bit bigger....ones I know they couldn't do.

It was also mid summer when the weather here gets very humid. Thats when I got a few more phone calls...all of them saying "My lawn guy stopped showing up".

I know it can be frustrating, and hopefully it will all work out. Theres no reason to try and undercut them, but offer something they can't do. Or go after properties too big for them. Side projects are the big ticket item, more $$ with less equipment.

smallstripeslawncare
02-20-2013, 11:02 AM
I love when I see people selling their whole rig on craigslist after the season starts and it gets a little warm outside. It did seem I got the most calls around the beginning of April last year. Most guys started March 1st so I'm guessing I got the calls because people weren't showing up and went out of business or because some people wait until last minute to get a lawn care service when the HOA starts to send notice's about the lawn being too high.

I did see a lot of guys with push mowers and 4 guys packed in a pick up truck and some even riding in the back with the mowers. I just don't see how they can charge $20 a cut and all of them actually get paid.

I'm hoping things will pick up for me this year. I definitely won't go out bidding lawns for $15-$20.

BelleCityLawn1
02-20-2013, 11:17 AM
These little guys drive me crazy. I am located between Milwaukee and Chicago. They come from everywhere advertising $10-$20 cuts. I have come up with ways to get around them. I only advertise on yards too big to mow with a push mower which is what most of them use. Craigslist is amazing for advertising but most of the people are too cheap, however, I have picked up some very good accounts through Craigslist. The best way to advertise is to do quality work. I picked up a supper small rental property for like $30 a mow last year. The property manager contacted me and thanked more for doing such a wonderful job with snow/lawn maintenance and for my on time billing and such. Through that one house I have picked up another 5 houses for different property managers in the area that heard of my good work and they keep coming! Just do good work, keep advertising, and you will be rewarded.


Thank you,
Tim Oezer
Belle City Lawn Care, LLC

smallstripeslawncare
02-20-2013, 11:51 AM
I'm not going to lie I'm a solo business and plan to stay that way because I like doing it all myself and I like being able to provide the best quality of work possible. I do have much better equipment than the guys that are just starting out. 1996 Cummins 12v ram2500, gravely pro turn 152, gravely 36in hydro wb, etc...All commercial equipment because I learned my lesson with trying to use residential grade stuff last year.

The majority of lawns in my immediate area are less than 15,000 sq ft and that's probably why I see tons of guys with walk behinds and push mowers. I don't do contracts because it seems a lot of people in my area are scared to even sign one because of the guys who are unreliable and just do a horrible job and then they're stuck with them. Plus its easier on me not to offer contracts. I do flat rate pricing which really worked last year so people know what to expect to pay when they contact me. Any lawns under 1/2 acre (most are 15,000 sq ft or under) $30. Which isn't really low balling when most are small and don't take long but I have gotten burned on one or two that were right at 1/2 acre which I know $30 is too low.

Surprising I love lawn care and love working outside but I do have a family to support.

BelleCityLawn1
02-20-2013, 12:43 PM
smallstripeslawncare,

I only have one route so I am always on the job site to make sure everything is kept up. Next year I am going to have one of my guys take a route (you really have to earn my trust to take a route). Anyways I do flat rate per yard. So if I price it out at $35 a mow and there are 4 weeks in the month I mow on the customer knows it will total $140 before they even get the bill. Yes, some people do get scared of by having to sign a contract. A lot of these people will go to someone who does not require a contract and find out that they are unreliable and come running back to sign one. I would have an optional contract so if customers want they can feel locked in. Just a thought. Hope this helps!

Thank you,
Tim Oezer
Belle City Lawn Care, LLC

fieroboi
02-20-2013, 06:20 PM
Notice the ECHO in this thread. I really can't add anything new here. This is something you will see every year. Since I've been in business, there are always three or four new guys out in the area. 90% of the time, by mid season, they are out of business.

Stick to your guns and hold your price. Clients that shop are usually not worth the time. Your lowest priced clients will be the ones that are constantly complaining.

Have faith in yourself, the service you offer and be willing to do the small little extras that add value to your service. You will stand out among the other guys and will end the year off with your head above water and held high.

Lloyd
Blue's Yard FX
Camrose, AB

Cashin H&P
02-20-2013, 06:27 PM
I agree, these guys are not the competitio. Just keep doing wht your doing and you will grow.

smallstripeslawncare
02-20-2013, 09:48 PM
smallstripeslawncare,

I only have one route so I am always on the job site to make sure everything is kept up. Next year I am going to have one of my guys take a route (you really have to earn my trust to take a route). Anyways I do flat rate per yard. So if I price it out at $35 a mow and there are 4 weeks in the month I mow on the customer knows it will total $140 before they even get the bill. Yes, some people do get scared of by having to sign a contract. A lot of these people will go to someone who does not require a contract and find out that they are unreliable and come running back to sign one. I would have an optional contract so if customers want they can feel locked in. Just a thought. Hope this helps!

Thank you,
Tim Oezer
Belle City Lawn Care, LLC

I'm glad that I'm not the only other lawn care company that offers flat rate pricing. The 16 accounts I currently have all love me for the quality work I do and actually being reliable. I actually had one lady who was referred to me late in the season because her current lawn company was really messing up her lawn. They would always cut way short, edging was about four inches from the grass to the pavement (I personally think if the gap is bigger than size .95 trimmer line it looks bad).

I could easily lower my price to $20 but I just think thats too cheap with the quality of work I do and actually being reliable.

BelleCityLawn1
02-20-2013, 10:00 PM
smallstripeslawncare,

One of my friends who is in his 60's who has been in the business for pretty much forever does it by the minute. He is always asking me how I gain so many new customers so fast. People in today's world seem to need to know exactly how much their bill is before they receive it. Flat rate also helps a ton for billing! I just landed an account for the same reason as the lady you described. She is a neighbor of one of my accounts and noticed how her lawn guy (super big company) would come and tear up her lawn and do it extremely fast seeming to not care. She called me because her neighbors lawn never looks that way. Good work will always be rewarded!

Thank you,
Tim Oezer
Belle City Lawn Care, LLC

stevef1201
02-21-2013, 08:30 AM
it is my experience that the FBN (Fly By Night) guys out there will take all the crappy lawns, low pay, don't care, etc, and leave the good lawns to us that know what we are doing,and are equipped to do the job right. I love these guys. I get a call for a crappy yard, I bid high (hoping I don't get it) and let the FBN guy do the work. Several Times I have gotten call backs because the FBN guy quit showing up, and then my rate seems good to the customer.

stevef1201
02-21-2013, 08:36 AM
smallstripeslawncare,

One of my friends who is in his 60's who has been in the business for pretty much forever does it by the minute. He is always asking me how I gain so many new customers so fast. People in today's world seem to need to know exactly how much their bill is before they receive it. Flat rate also helps a ton for billing! I just landed an account for the same reason as the lady you described. She is a neighbor of one of my accounts and noticed how her lawn guy (super big company) would come and tear up her lawn and do it extremely fast seeming to not care. She called me because her neighbors lawn never looks that way. Good work will always be rewarded!

Thank you,
Tim Oezer
Belle City Lawn Care, LLC

I don't even give qoutes by the cut. I give a qoute for the monthly rate, and ask if they want seasonal or year round. Seasonal is 34 cuts March 1 to October 31, and year round is 40 services. Now I do live in central Florida, so lawn care is a 12 month deal. I use a contract, which spells out exactly what the customer can expect and how much it costs. They love it, they know each month what the bill is going to be, and what expectations they should have on look.

smallstripeslawncare
02-21-2013, 10:50 AM
I dream of living in Florida so I can cut year round. Plus I'm a surfer at heart so being near the coast would be amazing.

Giving a monthly price is actually a good idea. I invoice at the end of each month and that just seems like a good idea. All my lawns are weekly and I actually do not even take bi-weekly or one time cuts. Some say I'm crazy but I have a friend who does lawn care in my area and he turned me onto the idea. Some people want their lawn cut weekly and the ones that want bi-weekly or once a month just don't care about their lawn anyways. So it works out but does turn a lot of the craigslist jobs away.

BelleCityLawn1
02-21-2013, 11:24 AM
I wish I could cut all year! The monthly set price is actually a good idea. The best thing to do with the cheaper jobs is to bid them normally. Make everything looks professional as usual and let the FBN screw themselves over. I have landed several jobs just because I "spelled all my words correctly and showed exactly what services were needed and how much they cost." It can be a funny market out there!

Thank you,
Tim Oezer
Belle City Lawn Care, LLC

LawnBoy0311
02-21-2013, 11:33 AM
Steve does cut year round....but go ahead Steve....tell us where you lived before.

Florida would be nice, I have a buddy who's the Gm of trugreen down there. He deals a whole bunch with guys like us.

smallstripeslawncare
02-22-2013, 10:19 AM
I wish I could cut all year! The monthly set price is actually a good idea. The best thing to do with the cheaper jobs is to bid them normally. Make everything looks professional as usual and let the FBN screw themselves over. I have landed several jobs just because I "spelled all my words correctly and showed exactly what services were needed and how much they cost." It can be a funny market out there!

Thank you,
Tim Oezer
Belle City Lawn Care, LLC

I'm not sure all the guys popping up are FBN guys. A lot of them have wright standers, ztr's, and commercial walk behinds and signs on their SUV's, small trucks, etc...I'm just hoping that they don't care about lawn care and do a bad job so the customers eventually figure out that they should go with someone like us that care and enjoy lawn care.

Caskey Lawns & Landscapes
02-22-2013, 11:22 AM
I'm not sure all the guys popping up are FBN guys. A lot of them have wright standers, ztr's, and commercial walk behinds and signs on their SUV's, small trucks, etc...I'm just hoping that they don't care about lawn care and do a bad job so the customers eventually figure out that they should go with someone like us that care and enjoy lawn care.

Keep a watch on craigslist and you will see them trying to sell the eguipment come july because they are way over their heads in debt..lol...

Happens every year....Some idiot will go out and spend thousands of dollars getting the best of everything and soon reality smacks him square in the face :eek:......

Do a good job and the good customers will find you :cool:

LawnBoy0311
02-22-2013, 11:46 AM
Keep a watch on craigslist and you will see them trying to sell the eguipment come july because they are way over their heads in debt..lol...

Happens every year....Some idiot will go out and spend thousands of dollars getting the best of everything and soon reality smacks him square in the face :eek:......

Do a good job and the good customers will find you :cool:

That reminds me of a guy posting ALL of his close to BRAND NEW equipment for sale. I wish I lived closer and had the money and I would have done it! Brand new Kubota ZTR, trimmers, blowers, trailer, walk behind....at the very end of the ad he said he had to get out of the business.

smallstripeslawncare
02-22-2013, 02:50 PM
That is true. I've seen a lot of guys selling off whole rigs on craigslist before. Usually they all say they're getting out of the lawn business. I do see some that have 5 of the same mower and say they're selling because they've upgraded or got a newer model now them are probably bigger business's that really are upgrading.

Thanks for helping me keep me head up! Its really discouraging riding around seeing tons of lawn guys and knowing that the area is getting flooded with lawn care guys. Hopefully by keeping my quality high and once the season starts some of the neighbors will get on board if they see me out mowing and the FBN guys will disappear.

I notice you always say do good work well of course lawn care isn't brain surgery but the things I always make sure to do is have perfect stripes and I cut different directions each week. I never blow the clippings into the beds, make sure no ruts or turn marks, blades sharp, decks always leveled correctly, and I always cut the right height for the grass type. Edging I always make sure to have perfect edge and not have a gap bigger than .95 trimmer line. I always blow the clippings out of the edge, blow off the road in front of the property and blow it back into the lawn not in the road like I see lots of guys doing. I always blow off the sides of the house if there's no hedges or anything and any playsets and stuff I blow off the slides, etc...Would you say this is keeping quality up? I know the FBN guys and even some of the big companys with crews don't do half of the stuff I do.

wandfsmall
02-22-2013, 04:25 PM
Lawn care is a cheap business to start but it takes a lot of business know how to make living wage. I have seen the guys that start with $500 worth of equipment and those start with $100,000 or even more in equipment. It seems you have to both keep your bills low by starting with what you have as well as be intelligent enough to know when to upgrade your equipment so you can improve your profit margins. And you have to be willing to work hard, and buy smart to keep the quality and business image to keep and get more customers.

paramountlawn
02-23-2013, 07:16 AM
After working in the industry for 5 years now, I have seen many come and go. One of the major aspects I've noticed and I now put into practice even being a single operator, is how you dress. I understand that it gets hot and humid, but put a shirt on. lol. I've seen to many FBN people working with no shirts and pants hanging off their butts. This is a major turn off for clients. I have lost one client because of this. Former helper wearing a shirt that looked like it was used to pick up an oil spill, pants hanging down, and wearing sandals. I did not get to see it till after the employee came back to the house to drop off equipment.

From that day my helpers only dress the part. If they dont, they are gone.

Caskey Lawns & Landscapes
02-23-2013, 08:05 AM
That is true. I've seen a lot of guys selling off whole rigs on craigslist before. Usually they all say they're getting out of the lawn business. I do see some that have 5 of the same mower and say they're selling because they've upgraded or got a newer model now them are probably bigger business's that really are upgrading.

Thanks for helping me keep me head up! Its really discouraging riding around seeing tons of lawn guys and knowing that the area is getting flooded with lawn care guys. Hopefully by keeping my quality high and once the season starts some of the neighbors will get on board if they see me out mowing and the FBN guys will disappear.

I notice you always say do good work well of course lawn care isn't brain surgery but the things I always make sure to do is have perfect stripes and I cut different directions each week. I never blow the clippings into the beds, make sure no ruts or turn marks, blades sharp, decks always leveled correctly, and I always cut the right height for the grass type. Edging I always make sure to have perfect edge and not have a gap bigger than .95 trimmer line. I always blow the clippings out of the edge, blow off the road in front of the property and blow it back into the lawn not in the road like I see lots of guys doing. I always blow off the sides of the house if there's no hedges or anything and any playsets and stuff I blow off the slides, etc...Would you say this is keeping quality up? I know the FBN guys and even some of the big companys with crews don't do half of the stuff I do.

Your right....Lawn mowing is not brain surgery :eek

What I have found over the years is that customers will notice the little things that you do for them that maybe not connected to your business...

Some things like...On garbage collection day...put the garbage cans back in place for them, if the news paper is in the driveway...Put it on the porch...Many guys want to get in and get out as quickly as possible so they would never think of these little things, but seriously :rolleyes: how long did that little extra cost you:confused: maybe 2 minutes :cool:

Good luck this year...I wish you the best.....

jsslawncare
02-23-2013, 08:06 AM
I'm located in Charlotte, NC and have been in business two years now. The competition is getting worse every year. I constantly see mini vans pulling walk behinds with signs saying "$20 lawn service", etc...So I know they're all lawn care business's and I even see tons that are probably lawn business's but just don't have a sign on their vehicle.

After talking to a few guys I've ran into filling up at the gas station I can clearly see the reasons so many people start up a lawn care business. Its a relatively low cost business to start. A used walk behind, trimmer, blower and even use the wifes SUV to haul it all is pretty easy on the wallet. Getting a DBA doesn't run that high and its overall a simple business to start.

With gas prices on the rise and the crazy amount of competition how can I compete?


Just do good work at fair pricing. You will see fewer and fewer as it gets hotter. They have few customer's, not enough for pay plus fuel. I see it year after year.

smallstripeslawncare
02-23-2013, 10:34 AM
I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees the tons of lawn guys popping up. Your right about dressing halfway decently. Usually my clients aren't home because they're at work but I do see their neighbors home every now and then and I'm sure they'd happily tell my client if I was shirtless and looked like a bum with a mower lol.

My father is a machine operator in a factory and he says half of the guys he works with do lawn care either before work (He works second shift so in the AM) or on the weekends. I'm sure some of the guys I'm seeing are doing the same. I don't work weekends and most of my clients say they pay me to cut the lawn so they never have to see or hear a mower and they like it that way so I'm sure they wouldn't hire a guy who only cuts on the weekends.

I have a lot invested in my business and the thing is I actually love what I do. From loading up the truck to laying down beautiful stripes to edging and trimming etc...I don't love the running over dog do do though. I guess thats why I'm solo because I can't stand someone else doing it besides me lol plus having employee's is a headache in my opinion. But the point is so many do lawn care because its an easy business to get into but the majority don't even like it or care about lawn care and really don't know what their doing.

jasonw
02-28-2013, 08:10 AM
This is a very interesting topic. Over the past 2 season I have gotten little to NO calls. I always wandered if people were tightening up because of the economy and just doing it themselves or maybe there is a truck of people out there doing it for half the price. I may never know but I do know it is nearly March and I am getting ready for my day job, No lawn care scheduled or planned for this year.

smallstripeslawncare
02-28-2013, 08:18 AM
I'm definitely questioning if all of these guys are really the FBN type. It seems that there's more and more popping up. For example every neighborhood I've tried to market in is flooded with flyers and door hangars. To the point I can't fit my flyer in the paper box because of all the other lawn care flyers. Maybe I'm targeting the wrong neighborhoods but some are small and not really known about or even super wealthy.

I do a lot of craigslist advertising and this time last year I had tons of calls off craigslist and this year its so bad that there's half a page of posts since 12:00AM to 8:00AM and thats insane that people would be up all night posting ads. Some are tree services but most are lawn care services.

Your right a lot of people are out there doing it half the price. I was cutting a customers property the other day and he had a flier hanging on his mailbox saying $20 for complete lawn service. I cut his lawn for $30.

aduttonater
03-04-2013, 11:18 PM
smallstripeslawncare,

I only have one route so I am always on the job site to make sure everything is kept up. Next year I am going to have one of my guys take a route (you really have to earn my trust to take a route). Anyways I do flat rate per yard. So if I price it out at $35 a mow and there are 4 weeks in the month I mow on the customer knows it will total $140 before they even get the bill. Yes, some people do get scared of by having to sign a contract. A lot of these people will go to someone who does not require a contract and find out that they are unreliable and come running back to sign one. I would have an optional contract so if customers want they can feel locked in. Just a thought. Hope this helps!

Thank you,
Tim Oezer
Belle City Lawn Care, LLC
\
Thanks for sharing. I've found that when you get a client to sign a contract, you don't want to address it as that. What you want to do is call it a "Customer Service Agreement". People tend to find this much more friendly.