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Lester
10-29-2008, 03:51 AM
Hey Everyone,
This looks like a good source for industry information. I'm glad I joined.
I have already used some of the free templates that are available on this site and they have been very useful.
A little background info on me I guess is appropriate.
I've been in the Landscape Design, Installation, and maintenance business since 04'. I started out with a 1987 Mustang and a lawnmower hangin' out of the trunk, and a 2 piece weedeater w/ attachments in the backseat. Heaven help me when I had to take a wheelbarrow to a jobsite! I had to completely disassemble it to get in the car ( after removing the passenger seat ) and then reassemble it when I got to jobsite. CRAZY ! But people still hired me??

Anyway,
I kept my full-time job and did landscaping on the weekends. I did mostly Designing, then finally was able to buy a pick-up and start doing more and larger installs. The Ranger was too small but I kept at it until I could afford an F-150. I worked out of the back of it for awhile until I could afford a trailer. Then my brother came along to join the business and we started to gain more maintenance customers. Then last month I got laid off of my regular job, now I'm doing this full-time.

What else?

Education: 2yr. Certificate - Turfgrass Management - Univ. of Ga. ,
Diploma - Landscape Design - School of Landscape Design - Athens, Ga.
Commercial RUP Applicators License - State of Fl.
GCSAA Member
6 yrs. Assistant Golf Course Superintendent
4 yrs. Heavy Equipment Operator
4 yrs. HDD Site Foreman


I guess that's about it.

I look forward to the interaction here. I think there is alot of useful information that can be had from those of you who have been in the business for awhile.

Thanks,
Les Hubbell
Living Art Landscapes of Ormond LLC
Holly Hill, Fla.

http://www.livingartlawns.com

I used a template from this site to create my Company Website and just got it on the net earlier this morning.
comments and suggestions are absolutely welcome!

Steve
10-29-2008, 04:22 AM
What a great post! Welcome Lester.

I started out with a 1987 Mustang and a lawnmower hangin' out of the trunk, and a 2 piece weedeater w/ attachments in the backseat. Heaven help me when I had to take a wheelbarrow to a jobsite! I had to completely disassemble it to get in the car ( after removing the passenger seat ) and then reassemble it when I got to jobsite. CRAZY ! But people still hired me??

Are there any pictures of this? I'd love to see them! This is very inspirational and it shows you don't need to go out and spend big money to get started.

What kinds of things have you been doing to attract new customers? What have you found that has worked and what have you found that hasn't?

Lester
10-29-2008, 05:28 AM
Hi Steve,
No, I don't have any pictures of the old Mustang w/ tools loaded, but the memory will be forever burned in my brain, and actually I think it has shaped my sense of how important it is to do the best possible job for the customer with whatever tools you have available at the time. I think most customers recognize your efforts in their behalf and are willing to let some things ( like appearances ) slide. But it also forced me to strive toward getting better and proper equipment as quickly as possible, just to save myself the embarrassment of having to ask the homeowner to borrow a couple of wrenches and a screwdriver to put my wheelbarrow back together at the jobsite because I forgot and left mine laying in the driveway at home. ( really happened. ) The same homeowner also let me use his personal golf cart to move a palm tree across his yard to replant.!

As far as what has worked or hasn't in gaining new customers:

1. Leaving flyers on cars at Home Depot - hasn't worked
2. Leaving flyers at business's on Sunday, when they are closed - no
3. Direct contact with business's when they are open - not so much
4. Newspaper ads in the local paper alongside the other bazillion lawncare companys out there doing the same thing - nope ( and I'm $40.00 poorer )
5. E-mailing local Real Estate Agents with Company info - a waste of time
6. Providing Excellent service and going the extra mile for existing customers and getting referrals from them - JACKPOT !
( it's a slow process, but it's effective )

Well that's all for now,
I've got to send a batch e-mail out to my aforementioned existing customers concerning the new company .com
Speaking of which.... did you take a look and what do you think? How can I attract potential customers to my website?

I contacted a company called Service Magic that claims to send leads directly to contractors for a price. It seemed like a good idea, but then I read some poor reviews on the net....mostly from the end consumer about poor quality work. Have you heard of them?
Anyway gotta go...

Later,
Les

Steve
10-29-2008, 08:21 AM
Speaking of which.... did you take a look and what do you think? How can I attract potential customers to my website?
Excellent job on the website!

As far as attracting people to your site, you gotta read this post (http://www.gopherforum.com/showthread.php?goto=newpost&t=7696). Matt has done amazing things to bring people to his site. Check out his search engine results.

I contacted a company called Service Magic that claims to send leads directly to contractors for a price. It seemed like a good idea, but then I read some poor reviews on the net....mostly from the end consumer about poor quality work. Have you heard of them?

Yea and a few of the forum members that have used the site found it to be a very good way to attract clients. The one thing that may play a factor in it is how saturated your area is on that site with lawn care businesses. If there aren't many, then you are set.

I'd say try it out and see how you like it. Keep us posted if you find it helpful as well.

What kinds of services will you be offering this fall and winter besides lawn service?

XtreemGreen
10-29-2008, 09:57 AM
Service magic is good for what it is. bottom line is, it all depends how many other LCO's are in your same area listed with them. Then it all depends on how much money you want to give them to get the leads first($100 to start). After you get the lead, its a $10 lead charge(may have changed). A friend of mine used it and did ok with it. He did not re-new the service after the year was up.

Lester
10-29-2008, 02:37 PM
Thanks for the comments Steve,
I just opened it in Internet Explorer for the first time and I'm disappointed to find that it doesn't display the same as when I built it using the Firefox browser to verify. I don't know what I can do about it though. I'll just have to live with it till I can build one from scratch that renders consistently using different browsers.

Anyway,

As far as winter services go....
I try to sell whatever I can and charge an hourly fee.
cleaning gutters
irrigation system maintenance and alterations
repair gates and fences
clean-up services to our "Basic" service customers
Fall fertilizer apps.
Mulch installation and misc. services to our Snowbirds
Pressure-washing the summer mold from walkways and driveways
Fall tree trimming ( Crepe Myrtles mostly)
Sod installation in bare spots and damaged areas
We even helped an elderly couple on our route move furniture the other day.

I know we're probably not the stereotypical Lawncare Company.
I only have a 2 man crew, sometimes 3, very rarely are we in and out of a property in less than 45 minutes to an hour. Most of our customers are "Standard" service customers, meaning - they get the full treatment every week which includes: mow,edge,blow,trim,prune,weed removal and whatever 'other' tasks they have on their list, which we charge $17.50 hourly for. We do some " customer appreciation " type work as well, especially for our " Standard Service" customers.
Our "Standard Service" minimum is $125.00 monthly Residential
Our "Basic Service" minimum is $80.00 monthly Residential
We try to tailor a plan around the individual customer wants and needs.

And then of course we have Design and Installation to do year-round. We just finished one last Friday and we're starting a good-sized install tomorrow. Sometime in the next 2 months we'll be doing a Refurb. Design and Install in Gainsville for a 3 acre 2 unit Condominium Complex. That should get us through the Winter and then we'll go from there.

Thanks Extreme,
That sounds very similar to what the salesperson pitched to me. A one-time fee, then xxx # of dollars per lead. What I don't like about the concept is:

I would be charged for the leads automatically without having any opportunity to evaluate them at all, and either accept or reject them. I don't like paying for something sight unseen. Know what I mean?

Well I've rambled enough....thanks for the bent ear.
see ya'll later
Les

Steve
10-29-2008, 02:56 PM
we charge $17.50 hourly for. We do some " customer appreciation " type work as well, especially for our " Standard Service" customers.
Our "Standard Service" minimum is $125.00 monthly Residential
Our "Basic Service" minimum is $80.00 monthly Residential
We try to tailor a plan around the individual customer wants and needs.

Very fascinating! A lot of new lawn care business owners or soon to be business owners read these posts and I was wondering if you had advice for them as to how to come up with an hourly rate. Also how to come up with different packages as you have and then figure out the price for those packages.

How do you feel your prices compare with others in your area and how important should that be?

I also noticed you didn't include outdoor holiday decorations in your list. What is your view on offering that service?

Lester
11-01-2008, 03:10 AM
Well...
We've loosely based our prices on what we think we are worth per hour at a regular day job, and calculated an average completion time per job site, per customer, then adjusted slightly to compete with other companies. But we have had to remain flexible, and take into consideration that sometimes it's worth working for $12.50 hr. than 00.00 hr. ,and the potential for selling future *extra* services to that $12.50 hr. customer, and selling regular and *extra*services to his friends and neighbors, provides at least the opportunity for Company growth.

And as far as creating Service packages:

I consider it just good salesmanship. I learned along time ago while selling retail products, that, if you can provide a potential customer with well defined choices that will satisfy his needs, then the only thing left to close the sale is for him to decide which of your products he will purchase, not if he will purchase your products.
Does that make any sense?

The catch is:
You have to be able to listen closely to what a potential customer is saying and genuinely try to help him solve his problem. I think thats where product knowledge and experience in whatever business endeavor you are involved in is so important.
As an example:
Your potential customer shows you where areas of his yard are yellow and dying. If you misidentify the problem and tell him to *up* the watering time on his irrigation when its really a bug or disease problem, then you havent done him any service at all, and in a few weeks when the problem persists, you will have to explain why your solution didnt work, and suggest some other remedy (that may not work). Your credibility as a lawn care professional will suffer and you may potentially lose him as a customer. Or, you wont be cosidered to perform any tasks beyond just mowin' the grass.
I personally dont want to be known only as "that guy that mows grass".
Making any sense yet?

Anyway,
Hope that answers your question.

later,

Steve
11-01-2008, 04:41 AM
But we have had to remain flexible, and take into consideration that sometimes it's worth working for $12.50 hr. than 00.00 hr. ,and the potential for selling future *extra* services to that $12.50 hr. customer, and selling regular and *extra*services to his friends and neighbors, provides at least the opportunity for Company growth.

This is very true and I am glad you pointed it out. Being flexible when you get started is very important.

You have so much knowledge and positive energy about your business, do you ever wonder now why you didn't jump on this in the past or do you feel it all was a stepping stone to prepare you for this time now?

As you look back now, from making the jump from working full time to going full time with your lawn care business, what advice do you have for others considering this?

Lester
11-01-2008, 04:47 AM
Steve,
I tried to edit that post and added about 2.5 hours more of content but wasn't allowed to save it. can you help?

Steve
11-01-2008, 05:33 AM
Ack I hope it wasn't lost! Can you add it as a reply?

Lester
11-15-2008, 07:15 AM
http://www.livingartlawns.com
I updated the website..thought you might like to take a look. I used the following ad copy as standard advertising for my site and some free ad sites.

Living Art Landscapes of Ormond LLC
We offer Landscape Design, Installation, and Maintenance Services to:

The Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach, Port Orange, and surrounding area.
Our Services include:

* Landscape Design and Installation
* Lawn Maintenance (mowing, edging, trimming etc.)
* Shrub and Hedge Trimming
* Flower Bed Maintenance
* Tree and Shrub Planting
* Mulch, Bark and Decorative Rock Installation
* Sod Installation
* Planting of Perennial or Annual Flowers
* Sprinkler Repairs
* Leaf Removal
* Spring and Fall Cleanup
Call us at 386-233-1068

$10.00 off your first Monthly Service Visit !

Lester
11-15-2008, 07:23 AM
http://www.livingartlawns.com

It also gives a description and definition of our service charges.

Thanks,
Les

Let me know what you think

Team Gopher
11-17-2008, 06:06 AM
Very nice work!

On your site you offer "10.00 off your 1st Monthly Service Visit"

What is your view on that offer? Have you found many people asked about that discount? Would you suggest others use something similar?

Also

You have so much knowledge and positive energy about your business, do you ever wonder now why you didn't jump on this in the past or do you feel it all was a stepping stone to prepare you for this time now?

As you look back now, from making the jump from working full time to going full time with your lawn care business, what advice do you have for others considering this?

Lester
11-17-2008, 04:23 PM
Very nice work!

On your site you offer "10.00 off your 1st Monthly Service Visit"

What is your view on that offer? Have you found many people asked about that discount? Would you suggest others use something similar?



The offer actually came about while signing up for some free internet advertising. I was supposed to offer a coupon of some sort to make available for downloading and printing to customers. $10.00 off the first visit was all I could think of, and it does imply that a customer sign-up for Monthly Service.
If someone can come up with another offer, I'd like to consider it.

And no, no-one has asked about the discount as of yet.

Thanks ,
Les