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yardworksinc
04-21-2008, 01:32 AM
Good morning everyone! I have spent a large portion of the last 48 rainy hours digging through this goldmine. My wife an I decided it was finally time to get the business started. We talked about doing it before because I enjoy the work and Im good at it. I am also great with people which will give me an edge over the competition. Not to say other companies do not offer the same personal service but I know not all companies can find a way to connect with their customers on a personal level.

Business began mid April.
We borrowed my mothers Toro 22" self propelled, mulcing/bagging/spitting out the side mower, a shovel, 2 rakes and a few clear lawn bags in exchange for taking care of her lawn which I do anyways! We had a 100' extension cord and a 15'(ish) electric weedwacker. I will be using my Van for now. A 95 ford Aerostar with the middle seat removed to make room for the mover.

I just purchased a sears craftsman 16" electric hedge trimmer for $5. It has some years and use on it but it is sharp and running strong. I also found a seller on craigslist that was offering a 15" gas powered weedwacker. $35 It is single line using a 40:1 fuel:oil mixture. It is LIKE NEW. Pictures soon! He purchased it in a LOT of demos and is unloading the extra equipment. I must have responded to his post about 15 minutesafter he put it up there.

We have an extra phone line. My wife looked at the phone dialing pad and made several different variations of words and suggested we change the number to one of them. I called each number and the were all taken. I knew of another exchange that My cellular company used and came up with 757-4EZ-CARE as an available number. When I called the number it indicated it was not in service. I jumped on the chance to call the phone company and request the specific number. They informed me it is not a practice to provide a requested number but the rep looked and said she had NEVER seen anyone call where the number was actually available. Thats why I did my homework!

Monday night we copied a black and white flyer 500 times an cut it in half to make 1000 at .05 each. I later found that Kinkos will offer them at .02 each. I'm glad I didn't make 10,000 copies!
Tuesday morning I began putting the flyers on the doors to those in my neighborhood of townhouses. After 30 minutes I made aloop back to my residence an went inside to grab a drink. I heard a strange vibration an realized the company phone was ringing.

Ok, so it was the firt call ever and it wsa from out of the area so I said.".... Hello?" Within moments I realized it was a potential client. I offered a bid over the phone as I was familiar with the yard sizes of the townhomes. $10.00. I knew it was low but I wanted to get my first client and get the yard and him advertising for me. I told him I could cut it the same day but it would take me few hours to complete a job in another section of town then come back with equipment and *I actually needed to go get all the equipment from My moms place and pickup a coil of weedwhacker string. I knew the one I had was going to run out soon. I had planned to knock out my moms lawn but I timed it wrong. I made sure I could return to his location and get him cut at the time I told him I would be there.

So I hit walmart for the string at 8 bucks and didnt wince. Once I got to my van the phone rings again. Hot dog another one! I was in business mode and answered in a professional warm manner. Another bid over the phone accepted. I started thinking. hmm. I should look at these jobs a bit more closely before I throw out a number. Well, one more yard to make the business look good! 20.00 I offered and he took it happily.

Back to job one
oops!!! http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/sad.gif *I charged 10.00 for a poorly maintained ( LONG GRASS) and hard to access backyard. I Gave him full service; Cut, edge, cleanup and bag the clippings. He questioned me on the price and I knew it was low but I wanted to make this yard and client advertise for me. Before I was finished with the job he indicated he needed to leave and handed me payment for the next 5 weeks and stated he would return in June to pay me again. Hotdog. Ok theres 10 bucks. It's 10 the hard way but I'm going to make this yard sell my services. *

I moved from his lawn to the next, giving a courtesy call to job 2 to inform him I was en route. He was tickled pink and told me to cut his yard for the rest of the year bi-weekly. I will be suggesting that we change it to weekly so his yard looks good. I had not even done the job yet and he signed up for the duration. Hot dog!! *http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif *or dancing banana whatever!

When I was cleaning up job 3 I was approached by the neighbor who asked for a price to cleanup the weed in her back yard. She said "hurry so I can pay you as I need to go to work" It is a small yard and I offered 10 to just go in and wack everything then bag it up. She looked at me funny and gave me 15.

Ok so I'm obviously underbidding right? Yeah, I know! I id not get her number so I left her a note on the back of a flyer the next day to make sure she was satisfied with the services and called the other customers to make sure they were happy. So far so good though I have not heard back from customer 3.

I put out a few flyers the next day to cover the rest of the neighborhood and went on to my personal errands. No more calls but I did get a 2.1% response on the flyers.

The following ay I went out to my moms finally and canvased theareawith flyers for a few hours then did her lawn. Halfway through I recieved an estimate request. Decent sized lawn withtons of pine needles in the backyard that needed to be removed. No grass in the back. Gutters were overflowing with needles and debris. The front did not need any serious cleanup at all. Just a cut and edge so I quoted 120 for the initial cleanup. She has a husbandwho works out of town. He was to be home for the weekend and she would letme know their decision.

Friday I canvas another area with113 flyers. These are bigger lawns and nicer houses. A client dries up to my van, just as my wife pulls off because I needed to get a coat hanger to get the keys off my seat that I locked in.. OOPS! He had not seen the flyer yet but knew I washanding outflyers and asked what I offered. He was interested since he would be heading out of town for 2 months. I followed him to his place and did an estimate. I decided I would try for 25 an hour. I estimated the lawn to take about 2 hours. The edging was kept so there would be virtually nothing to do there. Ok so 50 bucks. He asked for a senior discount. I gave him 10% so there we are at $45 for the job. Now I know the price I am shooting for is low. I am working with a self propelled mower and plan to get a rider soon so I want to look at these jobs as though I am using a rider and charging 45 an hour. That may still be low but I want to get feel them out as I go. From reading the forums it is low. I dont have a vehicle payment to deal with right now though!

We clicked real nicely. I built rapport immediately and he indicated if he likes my work he will refer 2 neighbors that need the work done. Then we discuss hedges. He wants his red tipped bushes trimmed. Ok, NO CLUE how long that will take so I just spouted out 20 bucks. Then he adds more bushes. He says he wants ALOT taken off them and know they will ook bad to start but they grow like wildfire. There are 3 bushes next to a shed at about 8 feet that he wants down to about 4.5. For some reason it did not occur to me to change the estimate. I will be calling him tomorrow to do so. I'm not sure it would be wise but I know I will be working at least 2 hours to get them done. I figure ill ask for 40.. still knowing that is low but also knowing he will be refering me to some neighbors. This guy has an immaculate lawn an he is choosing me over his Commercial mowing neighbor. He needs it cut on wed or thurday not Sunday when the other guy is done with al his commercial work. He wants people to drive by the weekend and see a fresh cut lawn not a forest.

He is a bit particluar about how to cut the front yard. Certain height about 4.5-5 inches. Also diagonal one week and perpendicular to the house the next week. He also is not ok with a riding lawn mower in the front but the back is ok. He is getting a bargain and I am getting an already immaculate lawn to advertise with.

It will be cut this week after the rain passes on wed or thursday. I know ill be spending extra time making it look just right and I think with him it will be worth it. He ued to work in the industry as well. I think I will pick his brain a bit while I work with him.

Friday night another call comes in. It's out by my moms in the same area as the 120 bid. I take a look at it the next morning and offer 50 for the initial cleanup and 35 a week. There is nothing special to do to his lawn. He says he would expect to pay more for the backyard the way it is and have it just left to rot but I assured him already that I bag up the waste. Now I am really getting a feel for it. I dont have my bid high enough but I am getting there! Once I get a rider I wont take but 30-45 minutes to knock it out. I took a tip from a friend that ran a copany before and suggested using week killer on the perimeter and against the back of the house. It cuts my labor and doesnt have to be done often. They accepted.

I called the customer that I quoted 120 to follow up on my way to the next job saturday morning. No answer so I left a message.

WEll this one took longer than expected. I did not notice the lawn had RUN OVER the front curb due to drainage. I had to dig it out witha hoe. It will be easy to maintain but took about 3 hours to get the whole job done. I did have to mow one strip then move just half a strip on the back yard. Took a while due to the length of grass. I might be spending 1-1.5 hours on it in the future.

Lessons learned. No blind estimates! EVER! My first two jobs were mostly cleanup. The weeds/grass were too long to make it look good but I think it will get corrected in the next 1-2 mowings.

RING! Ok so halfway through the cleanup for 50 I get a call from my estimate. Husband wants to meet and discuss. I told him what he would be getting. And I kept looking at the high roof thinking. Darn, I need to rent a ladder or walk the roof. It's a 7/12 so it wont be too bad. I'll rig up a hoe to clean it from the roof so I can keep my balance and just go up on the backside from the deck.

He accepted my proposal and we went on to discuss future work. 40 a week to cut. He has some plants to remoe from a flower bed later and wants to get some flowers in it. HEhano clue what to put int here but he will be using a BLUE yes thats right BLUE mulch. It's dyed. He will be doing that part himself but wants me to plan the flowers. HELP!!

Also, on my prior meeting with the wife, I noticed the kids and pointed out that once I remove the pine needles shewill jsut be working with dirt. She can seed or I can seed but it will bea mudbath for a bit. Turns out the have a birthday party they want to have in the backyard june 15th. The want me to seed it. I told them I need to price the seed first and figure out labor. I will be over seeding the front as well. He said he does not want deep green grass. Well, here in Va he is goign to need a sun and shade blend to get it to grow under the 6 pine trees. I start the work April 28th. Cutting will be a breeze since the back has nothing until the seed comes in. I need to forma quote fast since they want to grow grass in full in 6 weeks. Hopefully this can happen.

I think I underbid the gutters and maybe the cleanup. Right now I am just trying to get some revenue. I dont have a full schedule so jobs that take a while arent going to keep me from meetingmy obligations. This is a trial for me to get my pricing where it needs to be.

I think it has come around good so far. My response to flyers hs dropped to 1.8 % but gotten 4 weekly customers and 1 bi-weekly. I have put out just 357 flyers so far.

Ok wow. I know that was a bit long winded but I love to share my experiences. This forum has been incredible! We will be getting the gopher software within a month. Quickbooks will be the first program though. My wife is familiar with it. I see that you can import A/R to quickbooksfrom gppher so I sold her on thegopher software. I want to use it since it is designed for this!

Looking forward to a great year, sharing my experiences as I grow, and reading everyones tips and other experiences. I will upload our flyer and equipment pictures soon.

Aaron and Nicole

Steve
04-21-2008, 07:18 AM
Well hello Aaron and Nicole,

WOW What a story. You by far get the award for greatest introduction to date! Nice job!

I am looking forwards to your pics and seeing your flyer!

UniversityLandscapers
04-21-2008, 09:05 AM
Haha...wow. You really got things going fast. That old guy knows his stuff; from what I've read, you should always change the mowing direction weekly since it allows the grass to grow better. I usually use three directions, front/back, side/side, then diagonal.

Also, I would recommend to the pine tree people that the pine needles + shade are going to lead to a lot of moss, so you could sell them on a spring/fall application of lime to their lawn to keep the moss away. You could make yourself look fancy by doing a pH test at the beginning to determine how acidic their soil is already.

yardworksinc
04-24-2008, 12:16 AM
So, I precalled my customers Tuesday night and let one know that if I am to mow his lawn bi-weekly its gonna get ugly. I pushed to do it weekly but he declined soI informed him the extra work for cutting a high lawn will increase the price. Went from 20 to 30 bi-weekly. He indicated he will contact me should he need it to change to weekly. That brings me to a point where I can make a profit from his lawn and not feel like I am cheap labor. Live and learn right!

On to the gentleman with the redtipped bushes that I felt I severely underbid at $20. I let him know I had been re-evaluating the job and would like to gets his acceptance on a higher rate. Turns out he cut me off in mid-sentence and says, "yeah, I know you underbid, I'll take care of you. I wasn;t going to let you do that to yourself." I took care of his manicured lawn today. He, his wife, and I chatted a bit and I got to know just what he expects for his manicured lawn and the hedges. I find out that he used to work in the industry for 18 years so I picked his brain a bit.

I noticed he had a gate to the rear lawn but it was blocked with wood. I inquired and he confirmed it does open. Great, I said. When I pickup a rider I can get thru to knock out the rear lawn and cut this time down a bit. He informed me that a neighbor was selling one up the road. I had seen it and had to shy from the price. He asked how much. 300 was the response and he asked what I knew about it. I told him, NOTHING! I dont have the capital so I wont jump on it. This man offered to pay me up front for 3 weeks (so I learned he was going to pay me 100/week not 45) so that I could get the mower and get things rolling. He took off for a bit and when he came back he reported that the transmission was bad so don't grab it up. I was so stoked that he was offering to do this to get me rolling.

His wife shared that she will be putting my name out there and refering me to friends all over. He told me to keep being upfront with people that my wife and I just started business and are feeling things out. I don't try to BS anyone. I speak knowledgable on what I have researched or tell them I dont know but I can find out how to do what they would like. etc etc. Right now, I have the time to talk to folks and be personable. When I no longer find that I have that time available I will know it is time to hire help. I want ot keep that personal level of interaction with my clients so that it's not just business but a genuine relationship.

Of course, there will be the guy that wants to be cheap and let his lawn overgrow for 2 weeks during the growing season. I mentioned that job to my shrud and big lawn guy and he suggested to whack it low so it's not such a pain on the return trips. He said the bi-weekly folks are great. They don't want manicured lawns. Just get in, cut it low and get out. I'll do so but I want to continue providing a high quality product until I know just the amount of time it will take to do that size lawn ALL THE WAY. When that time hits, I will get to cutting low, pulling out the blower to cleanup and get out of dodge as fast as I can while still giving a good clean cut.

Steve
04-24-2008, 03:20 AM
Quote[/b] ] if I am to mow his lawn bi-weekly its gonna get ugly. I pushed to do it weekly but he declined soI informed him the extra work for cutting a high lawn will increase the price. Went from 20 to 30 bi-weekly. He indicated he will contact me should he need it to change to weekly. That brings me to a point where I can make a profit from his lawn and not feel like I am cheap labor. Live and learn right!

I have noticed a lot of lawn care business owners won't cut a lawn every two weeks. It has to be weekly or they won't do it at all.

musician/lawnman
04-24-2008, 08:08 AM
If you are going to cut bi-weekly in the summer charge them for it. I charge it as a cut & a half. So a $30 lawn becomes $45 bi-weekly. It takes nearly twice as long, more gas, & it's harder on the belts & blades too. If you alow them to save nearly 50% on lawn care expenses they will never shift over to weekly & have it done right. There is a reason most operators won't do this (actually several).
1) can't make any money.
2) these are usually the same customers that don't pay or are very slow to pay.
3) it's abusing the equipment, even though most of us run commercial gear that can take it, it will last longer if you don't abuse it.
4) The lawn will never bring you any referals because they look bad almost all the time, By the time you get there after 2 weeks it looks like ####, then there's hay left when your done so it looks crappy after too. Or you spend extra time, everytime to keep cleaning it up.
Charge a cut & a half. It will cover the added expenses & they might then figure for the lousy 25% they save they'd rather have the place look good & ask you to do it weekly.

Along the same lines.... when I get a call for an overgrown lawn I bid it pretty high. example: If the lawn looks like I would normally charge say $25 & it appears to have 2 months worth of summer growth on it.... well thats approx 8 weeks that they should have spent $25/week = $200 so $125-$150 to knock it back down is not unreasonable. These lawns beat up your equipment, wear you out too, Dull your blades to #### (my blades run almost $40 bucks a set) & you'll probably hit something you couldn't see in there & ruin em' anyway. Which brings me to another point.... I have a disclaimer in my estimate stating If the lawn is so tall that objects like sprinkler heads, landscape lighting, well pipes etc. are not clearly visible, we are not responsible for damage to such items (or anything they may hit when they come flying out). Cover your butt! Your gonna hit this stuff. I explain we try not too & we aren't asking for a license to be careless but you can't avoid what you can't see.

Sorry to run on & on.

yardworksinc
04-24-2008, 10:46 PM
Hey, great info! I did increase the price 50% and he became a bit hesitant but stayed with the bi-weekly. I will get a form/service contract and add that verbage about the high grass and potential damage. It can certainly happen and I don't need someone that doesnt want to take care of their lawn trying to have me pay to repair their stuff that is buried in their lawn!

Thanks for the feedback!

UniversityLandscapers
04-24-2008, 11:23 PM
I usually don't end up charging a lot more for bi-weekly, since most of the time, those people don't really water their lawns at all or ever use fertilizer. By the time June hits, and it stops raining the lawn barely grows at all. If I get the "I haven't cut my lawn yet this year" call, I just tell people straight up that I'm going to charge them by the hour, and it might take a while. Usually they've called out of desperation to get it cut, so they're not terribly concerned with what they're going to pay.

musician/lawnman
04-24-2008, 11:28 PM
Quote[/b] (yardworksinc @ April 24 2008,11:46)]Hey, great info! I did increase the price 50% and he became a bit hesitant but stayed with the bi-weekly. I will get a form/service contract and add that verbage about the high grass and potential damage. It can certainly happen and I don't need someone that doesnt want to take care of their lawn trying to have me pay to repair their stuff that is buried in their lawn!

Thanks for the feedback!
Glad I could help you.

Dave,

I'm in the tropics.... It rains from late may/june through October-november here. I have to charge more for it.

All Aspects Landscaping
04-25-2008, 05:31 AM
http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/offtopic.gif

that was the longest post Ive ever read... or attempted to read... gotta go to work now... and Im only halfway thru their first post...

Steve
04-25-2008, 11:35 AM
Pete Serrano wrote me to add to this post. He said "Your question about bi week or weekly lawns. I charge more for bi weekly since now i have to mow a higher lawn. Lets say I charge $55 for a weekly lawn I will charge 110 bi weekly to still make money on the cut."

musician/lawnman
04-25-2008, 02:45 PM
That's great Pete, If you can get double go ahead I guess, But then why don't they just have you do it every week for $55 ?

yardworksinc
04-25-2008, 09:35 PM
Theres nothing wrong with giving it a shot. Worse thing that happens is they quit right? So you can get rid of the headache if they quit. Make a chunk weekly or take less time and make the same abount bi-weekly.

I'm good with a 50-75% increase over the weekly rate to get them doing it bi-weekly.

Andrew's Lawn Care
04-28-2008, 06:39 PM
WOW is all I have to say about all this because I opend up my eyes to see the bigger picture in how to do it right when you have weekly verses a bi-weekly. I never thought about it like you all have posted in wear and tear and more time etc... I am now goin to start trying it and see what happens with my new approach.
Thanks a lot guys (seriously) http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/yourock.gif

musician/lawnman
04-28-2008, 07:36 PM
No problem Andrew. That's what this forum is for man.