View Full Version : Newbie In "the Villages" Florida

10-03-2008, 04:23 PM
Just bought a lawn care business about 2 months ago with 52 accounts. Things are going great and there doesnt seem to be a shortage of work if you look for it. Although the pricing schedule is pretty low down here in Florida(i'm from NJ)**the grass does grass 12 months out of the year and no winter down time. Well anyway, jsut wanted to say HI and have thoroughly enjoyed this site so far. ALso I have downloaded the Gopher invoicing software and have been trying that out....almost time to register it:cool:

I have a ferris 44" rider
Troy Bilt/honda engine push mower 21"
Echo Trimmer
Echo Blower
Echo edger
Stihl Edger
lots of misc. tools

Have to say I love the Ferris mower with the independent suspension!!!:D

10-03-2008, 04:45 PM
Hi Oxford,

Welcome to our forum!

Can you tell us a little about why you chose to get into the lawn care business? Also what was your view on purchasing an already operation business versus starting one from scratch?

What did you think of the process of purchasing it and would you have any advice for others looking to do that?

10-04-2008, 09:41 PM
We recently moved to Florida from New Jersey where I owned a gas station/auto repair business. We were very busy and pretty much burned myself out and was hating life. 12 to 14 hrs. a day, no end in sight to the headaches, so we sold and moved to Florida, a new section called the Villages. The rate people are moving in here is unbelievable and there is approximately 25-30 square miles of green grass, house on hose communities, where grass grows 12 months a year, and the population and housing is booming which means more grass.
After speaking with local business owners and other people in the know, I decided the money was in any type of home maintenance service. WELL I WAS RIGHT!
I decided to purchase an existing business because I already have business experience and know what it takes to be succesful, I did not need the time to grow slowly and stay in control. Also the guy I was referred to had very new equipment, and the customers were all bunched together real nicely so not a lot of travel time. He got too big to fast, was an individual with no business experience and lost control of it, so he opted for the easy way out..to sell cheaply. It was a money maker right away.
I am still growing and do not advertise. I like referrals from existing customers. I have been getting about 1-2 new account a week and have just about all I want. I work alone, dont want employees again, employees are expensive. The number of lawns I would have to take on just to cover the employee is not worth it to me. I have always been a firm believer if you price right and work honestly, the money is there. remember this... jst because you are bigger doesn't mean you are making more money..just more headaches.
I have also found good money to be in the "extras" of this business. Hedge trimming, fertilizing, roundup spraying garden areas and irrigation system maintenance. Every house here has an irrigation system, and they all need work. either adjustment to the heads or the sprinkler surround donuts need to be dug up and reset...its all money money$$$$. You just have to look for it. AGain, stay honest, look your customer in the eye and explain the work needed, they will do it, maybe not right away, but hey all seem to come around within a short time.
One great thing I did do was keep wednesdays open... this gives a recovery day from rain or a day to do an "add-on" job for customers in a very timely manner. I do the same with saturdays, I work 1/2 day with lawns as needed, but that leaves time for extras or lawn mowing down time recovery also if needed....if not I go home and relax and have a nice weekend..I DONT WORK SUNDAYS :)
I could keep going forever typing but...but this was a great decision, buy and existing business and start making money right away. Then let the business buy equipment as you feel you need.

10-05-2008, 02:03 AM
That is really interesting! How did you figure out how to price the jobs and all the add ons? Do you have any advice as how to go about doing that?

10-05-2008, 08:09 AM
I go with the idea I want to get $25.00 per hour for my labor on any odd jobs. As far as materials such as fertilizers, sprinkler hardware I try to keep a 30% markup (to cover my time and gas money). If im not sure of how long a job will take, I just add an extra hour or two on, and then if I get done quicker, I charge less and look like a hero.
Its simple ...dont be greedy....the greedy become the needy

10-05-2008, 06:20 PM
What advice do you have for other new lawn care business owners when they are looking to figure out how to price the average lawn mowing job?

Also what suggestions do you have on how best to upsell to the customer other services?

10-05-2008, 08:57 PM
My only advice is for a new guy to remember that you are going to make mistakes. You are going to underprice some jobs...you are going to tear up some spots on a lawn, the trimmer is going to get away from you and leave a big half moon dead spot near someones side of house. It happens, what you need to do is figure how to rectify those stuations. I totally spaced one time and cut my first pass on a lawn way too low, I mean to the thatch, looked horrible. I was lucky...told the customer what happened, went back with some fertilizer with iron in it to quick green, asked him to set irrigation to heavy watering, and a week later we were all good. BE HONEST and dont penalize the customer for your mistakes. I think im going to start new thread for guys to post their biggest mistakes, we probably all have a lot in common.
As far as upselling a job I see that needs to be done, i learned one great trick that always seems to work. Dont act like you are trying to sell a job. Get a hold of the customer and show them what you see that needs attention. Tell them what could happen if it doesnt get fixed. Give them some breathing space by saying something to the effect that ... "it doesnt need to be done right away, but you should attend to it in the near future. When you are ready let me know and we'll figure out the best course of action. " THIS ALWAYS WORKS. It makes them feel as if you are not trying to sell them the work for your gain, just looking out for their best interest. I'd say 80% of the time you have that job before you leave their property because you didnt try rushing or pressuring the customer, they feel comfortable in your approach. and 15% of the time you'll get the job within a couple weeks, the other 5% oh well you cant win them all :rolleyes:
Just be honest and dont try to force or pressure something on a customer. And fess up to your mistakes, they will maybe not like what you did, but at least they know you are fixing your mistake...and grass always grows back.

10-06-2008, 05:15 PM
I As far as materials such as fertilizers, sprinkler hardware I try to keep a 30% markup

Welcome to Florida.. Just to let you know.. You MUST have a license to put down fertilizer. Or the customer can supply you with it and a spreader, But you cant charge anything. Dont get caught it's a $500 fine.

The grass will also slow down in the next month to mowing only bi-weekly on St.Aug grass. Bahia you can get by mowing 1 time a month.

10-06-2008, 06:20 PM
Thanks for the warning. I knew about the license needed to spray roundup but I didnt think about the fertilizer. How and who catches the offenders? Havent heard any of these stories yet. Yeah I havent done anything like fertilizing or spraying roundup ;) but is it the same license or are there differemt types or endorsements for different products. I planned on going for the roundupp license when the grass cutting slowed, but now I guess I need to look into others also. Thanks again for the warning.


10-06-2008, 06:35 PM
I talked to a Scotts guy last year and he told me about it..
Mostly its the a$$hole neghbors or 1 of the fert guys that catches you. The roudup thing I dont think is too serious. I spray roudup all the time, even when the reg fert guys are around. Instead of droppin the ball on me, they usually give tips when I ask them something. So I really dont worry about the roudup thing.
Fert license isnt cheap. Last I heard you need so many years experience with a company before you can even apply. Then its like $500 or $1500 for the classes and test.
To me it isnt worth it. Just sub it all out.
Where exactly in Fla are you?

10-06-2008, 08:51 PM
The town I live in is called Oxford. All of my accounts are in whats called "The Villages" which is 1/2 mile away. The Villages is a 55+ community that is at least 25 square miles and still growing. Lots of people and lots of grass. We are about 20 mins. south of Ocala... Have you heard of ar been to the Villages at all...not a bad place to check out for a day.

10-07-2008, 07:49 AM
No.. Ive never heard of it..

10-13-2008, 05:25 PM
In Kansas the Department of Agriculture regulates chemical application. There is a D.O.A. Cop that goes around looking for violators, stopping crews, and checking licenses. I haven't ran into him yet, but I've heard hes a real prick. My uncle manages a competitor here in Wichita. His boss told him when they were having down time to grab the backpack sprayer and hit the weeds growing up in conrcete, beds etc. He followed his orders and ended up getting the company a $2500 fine for spraying roundup with short sleeves on during a 105 degree day. OUCH. My advice is to be careful. I roundup cracks in pavement and weeds in beds. However, I keep a small handheld sprayer in the cab of the truck where its out of sight. I also try to keep spraying to before 8a.m. and after 5p.m. and weekends. (When this prick is most likely not working). As far as the pricing of mowing goes. Try to set minimum prices. I won't mow anything for less than $35. Also, set a price for labor on non-mowing jobs. Mine is $45 per man hour. For smaller jobs break that down to minutes. That is 75 cents a minute for each employee on the job. Recently a lady came to me wanting her lot mowed. It's not big at all, maybe a 15 minute mow, trim, edge, and blow with 2 guys. I explained to her that although her property was small, in order for me to maintain a profitable business I had to maintain a minimum charge of $35. She totally understood and we have had a happy customer ever since

10-13-2008, 10:29 PM
I guess the Spraying licenses will vary state to state, but I know here in California it is easy to get a lic. All you need to do is buy the study book, and drive to Sacramento (the capital) and take the test. The test only costs around $100. There is a difference in an "Applicators License", and an "Applicators Certificate". The difference here being that and applicators license allows people to sell spraying as a service and can sell spraying only services (and is a MUCH bigger test, and price), but an applicators certificate is for lawn care operators who want to be able to spray roundup and fertilizers as necessary to maintain the customers properties only (incidental they call it).

Our city has a couple people on duty at all times to drive around and watch landscapers to catch them applying anything without the license. The fines here is over $1000. And you cant even have the product in your vehicle or trailer, they have been known to take a peek through peoples windows too.

So I guess here in CA. it is worth it to just go get the Cert. and not have to worry about it (which I haven't done yet). So do a thorough check on everything before you decide NOT to get the lic.