View Full Version : Start-up Advice...
06-05-2007, 06:25 PM
Hey Guy's, Looking for some solid advice. Here is the deal. I Have been working towards my goal of owning my own LCO for some years. I have a steady government job in the evenings and live in a house with roomates who own a very sucessful tree service!
Its June and my thoughts initially were to begin next season with incorporation and the whole nine yards, while aquiring the needed equipment up til' then.
I have a 1995 Jeep Cherokee, paid for. I have a 6x12 landscape trailer, paid for. I have a Honda 21 in top of the line mower, paid for and I have a Stihl Commercial backpack blower, and two Kawasaki Trimmers. All bought at pawn shops in very good condition! ( gotta be smart!)
MY question begins: I have a roomate that is anxiously awaiting me to get flyers so he can get me some clients "right now". I have no commercial mower, but with the prospect of having clients this summer, does it matter if I pull up with my limited rig and have to use my 21 in residential?
My Jeep is green, no graphics and other than a few dents is good. I live in an upper middle class plantation of a few thousand houses or more, so does it make sense to plug along this late in the season and possibly recoup the expenses I already have incured and start strong next season?
I am hungary to get out there and have clients. I am just scared of the unknown really. I hope to have a first class operation eventually with uniforms, ad's in the paper and web site the whole nine yards.
So long as I do outstanding work, should it matter much what I use to mow the grass if it is profitable?
Any input would be great, Thanks!
06-05-2007, 07:20 PM
Brian here is my take. Get started now. Do everything you can to get started now. Roll with you got and make it better as you go.
Will some customers care if you have a big mower or not? I don't think so. There are thousands upon thousands of lawn care companies that got their start walking their mowers from house to house. You have a car and a trailer so you are ahead of the game. Get your flyers out today and start mowing tomorrow.
My only concern with the small mower is that it will take you more time to mow, but as you get the customers you can always scale up as needed.
Don't wait to have a first class operation. These things don't just happen from the start. They are created over time.
Put together your flyer, show us what you are thinking about doing with it and get business cards made. We will give you our feedback. Then start your name out there!
You know what I think would be awesome. If you contacted Make A Wish Foundation and asked them if there are any kids in your area that always wanted to be taken up in a plane and flown around. Then do this and promote the heck out of it with your local media and plug Pilot Lawn Care as well. Do something good for the community. Reach out to a veteran in your area and help them fix up their yard. If you do anything like this I will personally help you come up with press release material to help you push your business further.
Now get started! http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
06-05-2007, 07:47 PM
I am continually amazed by the encouragement and help I recieve from great people on this site!
Who am I talking with and arent you guys based in Michigan or atleast AMW graphics is right?
My home town is Livonia,Michigan!
Just had My Mother give me the " i wish you would have gone to college" talk again today. Although she did recant that "yes, infact I have always had a strong work ethic and a great knack for keeping up with chores and lawns igrowing up, she still doubted me.
I told her that I am positive that witht he drive and motivation I have, I will one day prove her wrong and that just because I may have a college degree dosent mean sucess in anything.
My father is a realestate Attorney in Ann Arbor. Infact he is very well known in his field. Yet, he gets bogged down at the office and years to be out on the golf ourse or something with the family instead. He is sucessful to him. He is a hard worker and proven all around great guy!
I have a definition of sucess that says I wont be truly happy until I satisfy my quest's, not what others vision for me. I have served six years in the Air Force, I have achiecved great goals of becoming a pilot and have Solo Hiked 50 -70 mile portions of the Appalacian trail at times.
Thanks for the suppot and for the encouragement and for everyone who shares the American dream. There are too many people who have "settled" on sucess rather than chased thier own definition. Those who have sought and found thier own version of sucess often are memorialized as visionarys and people who lived life to the fullest. They often paid great sacrafice for thier choices they made. Some divorced, some were lonely, some were laughed at ETC....the taste of achieving that long awaited dream come true is PRICELESS! http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/thankyou.gif
06-05-2007, 08:35 PM
Yes Tony from AMW is located in Michigan. So are a bunch of our other members. We are in Jersey.
Quote[/b] ]Just had My Mother give me the " i wish you would have gone to college" talk again today. Although she did recant that "yes, infact I have always had a strong work ethic and a great knack for keeping up with chores and lawns igrowing up, she still doubted me.
I think so often when you are dreaming of starting a business or when you are new to the entrepreneur world, you think of things as can I make it? I don't know. Maybe I have what it takes and maybe I don't.
But ask those who have been in business for years and they will tell you there is no magical quality some people have and others don't. It's simply a matter of do you have a drive and passion to make it work. If you do then you will find your way through the obstacles that present themselves and you will grow.
The fact you have a roommate who is already servicing the same customer base you want to, gives you such an advantage over the average person just starting up. You should be co-marketing with him. Have his tree business on one side of a flyer and your lawn care business on the other. Get his customer list and have him send out a letter introducing your lawn company and have him recommend you. Give the customer some type of trial incentive and you will be up and running.
Quote[/b] ]My father is a realestate Attorney in Ann Arbor. Infact he is very well known in his field. Yet, he gets bogged down at the office and years to be out on the golf ourse or something with the family instead.
This is another great resource! It also reminds me of the book the E-Myth. How it tells you to work on your business and not in your business. Many business owners get so wrapped up in the day to day they are never able to break free.
As you grow, you really need to work on your business so you can develop a staff and procedures to allow you to delegate tasks to free up your time for future strategic planning.
What are your next steps and when are you going to do them?
06-05-2007, 10:57 PM
Just had a queston pop up what do you think?
I was thinking because my jeep is still being tweaked out (IE removing dents, replacing bumper and needs an altenator and a lack of trailer hitch at the moment)
Would it be unsightly weird to hook my 2003 Pt Cruiser up to my 6x12 LCO trailer? After all it has the towing capacity just barely, it is newer and looks better for the moment!
06-06-2007, 08:22 AM
I think whatever you use is fine. This is your bootstrap startup phase. It wouldn't matter if you had your mower in the trunk of your car.
I know of million dollar lawn care operations now who got their start by having their mother drive them to their different lawn jobs.
So whatever you have to do to get rolling is fine. The best part of it is you are aquiring no further debt. The less debt you have, the better your chances are of business survival.
When will you be getting your flyers out? http://www.gophergraphics.com/forum/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
06-06-2007, 12:12 PM
Hey, do you mind if I relate your question to an experience that happened to me this past weekend?
I went on a fairly serious mountain bike ride of 120 miles with a couple of friends. I wasn't too worried about finishing but this was my longest ride to date and I was a bit apprehensive.
We used GPS to make sure we didn't lose our way and had basic tools to fix flats etc.
At mile 70, my friend tagged me hard in the rear wheel and warped it horribly. The thought of giving up the ride didn't even cross our minds as we jumped on the wheel a few times to "straighten" it out as much as possible. Also, I had to remove the rear brakes (dangerous) so the tire wouldn't consistently rub.
It wobbled like crazy but I rode that bike the last 50 miles like that. Other people unrelated to our group on the trail laughed at me until they realized that they just got passed by a guy with a crazy wobbling wheel.
We finished the ride and had a blast.
So, here's what I'm saying to you: GET OUT THERE AND DO IT. Don't worry that you don't have the best equipment (or that you might have a wobbly wheel). Don't worry that the guy with $40,000 of top of the line equipment might laugh at you. Follow your dreams and don't be deterred.
Best of luck to you:
06-06-2007, 06:23 PM
Thanks guys and thank You kieth.
The encouragement is Awesome! I will be sure to post and let everyone know of my progress, hurdles and achievments.
I remember wanting so badly to learn to fly. I was dedicated, washing lanes on the weeknds for a chance to experience what I felt was pure adventure and freedom in a whole new world. I learned and soaked every ounce of info I could. It was almost six years before I had the oportunitty to become a pilot.
I learned in an ugly duckling of sorts, it had faded orange 1973 paint and oil streaked sided. It looked like ####. When I finally recieved permission to Solo and took it too the international Airport and parked among the multi million dollar jets, I believe I was the only one looking back studying the moment and proud as could be.
I recently repainted that old bird, myself. It is seen on my other posts in the graphic design discussion.
I understand all too well your encouraging principal's!
06-06-2007, 06:42 PM
Will your roommate be working with you a lot to help you get going?
06-06-2007, 08:20 PM
Yes and No.
I live in the "Arborscape house", we call it. Everyone is related some way to the company. I currently dont work there, but stop by and am part of the scene often. My roomate Jhon is a killer sales person. He alone averages around 10-12K a week in sales. His specialty is jusr plain old door knocking. He get leads from our office, but maily follows the crew and will introduce himself to the neighborhood all day.
He will be working on my behalf on Saturdays in our huge complex of upper middle class neighborhoods in Crowfield Plantation, Goose Creek, SC.
He also got the thumbs up to go ahead and pitch my operation while working for Arborscape as long as we arent in competition in services we provide. I plan to pay Jhon $50.00 per signed customer up to 40 customers this summer. I am not sure how to compensate him in the future, if he is so valuable in sales, without making him a partner.
My roomate David, who owns Arborscape is busy growing his company. He has given me a lot of leads and even gave me a copy of a local area LCO contract to review and edit to make my own. He based his fert contracts from the same contract. Other than that he is busy being the "man". He meets with a business consultant regulary and his silent partner.
He said that if he gets involved he wants atleast 50% of the operation. I am not so sure It is worth it, coinsidering I believe that I can achieve equal or greater sucess on my own in time, just as he did. The tree company had near $92,000 in sales last month alone. Thier biggest month yet I believe.
So I am kinda alone, yet have somewhat of a learning curve ahead, but have some safety lines attached if needed. Thats how I look at it.
06-07-2007, 12:42 PM
You have great contacts and just knowing these people I think will be very beneficial. At this point I wouldn't give up any ownership. That has a tendency to muddle things. Plus it sounds like these people already have their plate full and how much energy would they really be able to focus on your business.
06-07-2007, 06:53 PM
Quote[/b] ]The tree company had near $92,000 in sales last month alone. Thier biggest month yet I believe.
What do you think got this company to the size they are today? Also what do you think are the biggest hurdles they face at this point?
06-07-2007, 07:05 PM
Number one the owner met a great business contact along the way that pumped capital investment of around 180K and got the company running on some basic sound principals.
They incorporated as an LLC, they created a leasing company and bought new trucks and equipment and they hired a business/tax consultant to review internal processes.
They have invested in good people, they have an excellent full time sales/marketing director who has achieved great sucess in getting the name recognized as charlestons #1 rated tree service.
They really came up from starting in a beat up truck and some saws and rope!
Thier story in not something you find everyday where an investor will come in and plunk down money and mentor you.
one thing that he does have is a lot of drive and determination, that the single most important thing he has carried with him, besides being blessed by God. He is a faithful tither and recognized his debit owed to God by giving of ten percent of his income to his church.
06-07-2007, 07:11 PM
I think it is pretty amazing.
How did he ever find such an investor? Was it a family member? I bet a lot of small businesses would love to find someone like that to take them to the next level.
Is the investor really business savy? Sometimes money is good but knowing how to spend it is even better. Sound business advise is so important.
Have you considered talking to this investor yourself to have him help you?
07-18-2007, 07:46 PM
What a great read this topic is. The ownership thing... I agree, it's yours.
But I wanted to comment. The bike story, awesome. The encouragement, awesome. I have several LCO's around me here, quite a few actually but that doesn't scare me. But I have had some apprehension of using my MTD lawn mower. I too am concerned about image. I could pull off buying a 42" John Deere ZTR from Lowes/Home Depot but I would have to put it on my card. That is a crazy 23% interest. I also don't have a trailer yet.
I have everything else. The truck, plow, push mower, trimmer, blower & tons of hand tools and such. Heck I even own an auger if someone needed a tree planted or a fence installed.
My brother has a LCO in Florida and rides a Husky, it's not the ZTR or hand controls but it is nicer than mine and a lot more expensive. But after reading this I think I feel a lot better about my MTD.
Thanks to all you guys that make this such an awesome site. I am definitely going to buy the DVD, books and software.
07-18-2007, 08:16 PM
Quote[/b] ]But I have had some apprehension of using my MTD lawn mower. I too am concerned about image. I could pull off buying a 42" John Deere ZTR from Lowes/Home Depot but I would have to put it on my card.
When you talk about your apprehension, what do you feel is the issue? Will the customer not want your service because you have an MTD mower? Or is it an apprehension of what other lawn care operators in the area will say about you? Or is it something else?
07-18-2007, 08:48 PM
I think the home owner is the issue really. But you know what? I think if I hired someone and they mowed my lawn with the old school manual push mower but it looked good, I wouldn't care.
My brother said 1/2 his residents have gated back yards and he has to mow by pushing anyway.
07-18-2007, 09:07 PM
Quote[/b] (Big Lebowski @ July 18 2007,9:48)]I think the home owner is the issue really. But you know what? I think if I hired someone and they mowed my lawn with the old school manual push mower but it looked good, I wouldn't care.
My brother said 1/2 his residents have gated back yards and he has to mow by pushing anyway.
I see what you are saying. I think you are always better off getting started today with what you have and improving on it as you go.
You could also take the view point if your equipment doesn't look too expensive, then maybe you won't charge too much. Sometimes being frugal and conservative is attractive to customers.
07-18-2007, 09:25 PM
I started with a Craftsman push mower I bought at the flea market, along with a $20 hand held blower from a local engine shop (or a CRAPSman as he called it). I had no trouble getting accounts with these and used them for the first year I was in business, until they CRAPPED out on me. Its not about selling your equipment, it's about selling your service and work ethic.
07-18-2007, 09:28 PM
Thank you littles for posting. Can you tell me if you ever received any negative comments or reactions from your customers when you had that equipment?
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