PDA

View Full Version : New guy in California


khazelet
12-21-2008, 12:55 AM
I did Residential lawn care from 1982 to 1995 then did strictly commercial till 2004 when I sold my business. I have been doing real estate for the last 4 years and I'm finally fed up with that! I plan on starting a new commercial maintenance business in January (yes we mow lawns in january here in calif. but only every OTHER week). Just went down and filed for a corporation last week and will have to get my pesticide applicators lic re done.

My targeted areas are Sacramento suburbs of Rancho Cordova and Orangevalle as well as the towns of Lodi and Stockton. Anyone working nearby, say Hi, and if you have any jobs you want to dump - I'll take them!

Ken Hazelet
ken@kenhazelet.com

Steve
12-21-2008, 03:46 AM
Hi Ken,

Welcome to our forum!

What made you make the jump from residential to commercial and which did you prefer? What were the up sides and down sides to each?

khazelet
12-21-2008, 04:12 PM
I started out by myself with a mower and a blower in the back of my stationwagon and built my business up to where I had 2 guys helping me. I did a mixture of res and com but mostly com at that time. I was always trying to build up to the point of not having to do the daily mowing myself but have my crew do it. The problem was the res customers wanted to see me there and not the crew. I would listen to their problems/ requests and take care of them right away. the customers knew I cared and would go the extra mile to make their yard look special. Hired crew just isn't the same as the owner when dealing with res customers. So some of my res customers quit and I picked up more com jobs so after a wile I gave the rest of the res customers to a guy just startiing out and focused on com. With com customers I spend most of my time on the phone with a manager or property mgr or owner. they are not at the site usually so phone communications work. The crew has very little interaction with the customer or the customer's tenant.

So my advice is if you want to work it yourself and maybe hire a helper or two someday, do residential. If your goal is to build up to a point where you mostly work out of the office and have a crew or two then do commercial.

residential is more satisfying if you like to do gardening and take pride in your work and do not want too much stress.

commercial is much more business like and much more stressful with the business operations, payroll, taxes, rent, etc. but you can make more money.

hope that helps the new guys and gals......ken

Steve
12-22-2008, 12:48 AM
Thanks Ken.

When you sold your business, were you feeling any burnout at all from running for those many years or what was your view on that? Do you think you are going into it now with a lot of knowledge that will help get you going a lot faster?

khazelet
12-23-2008, 12:57 AM
I had it made, my son in law was running the day to day business with the crew and I was doing the office work, making 3,000 to 4,000 a month after paying everything. I basically got side tracked. I got my real estate licence and was making more money doing real estate. so as time went on the income from landscaping went down but the income, and demand for my time, from real estate went way up. I really didnt sell it I gave the business to my son in law and I did real estate full time. that was great until 2 years ago when the market came to a stop (and so did my income). Son in law who is a great guy, quit and went to work for the County. Steady check and benifits!

So I am confident that even in this slow economy I can pick up some commercial acounts and be doing good in 6 months or so. I'll start out doing all the work myself and hire as needed but I think i'm going to stay at one crew with me running it. Much less stress that way. at least thats my goal for now.

Right now I'm working on makeing a brochure of my services that I will start mailing out in January or february to comm prop owners and property managers. also need to line up some insurance, etc.

Besides the mowing, what I offer commercial properties is building maintenance like graffitti removal, steam cleaning, roof cleaning (flat roofs need the drains cleaned and inspected during winter, one plastic bag can cause a drain to plug and water to build up), curb painting, and inspections.

I use Gopher (http://www.gophersoftware.com) for all my billing and scheduling issues, it worked great.

I like your website and forum - nice job!

Ken

Steve
12-23-2008, 02:55 AM
Ken,

You have a lot of great insights!

I basically got side tracked. I got my real estate licence and was making more money doing real estate. so as time went on the income from landscaping went down but the income, and demand for my time, from real estate went way up. I really didnt sell it I gave the business to my son in law and I did real estate full time. that was great until 2 years ago when the market came to a stop (and so did my income). Son in law who is a great guy, quit and went to work for the County. Steady check and benifits!

So I am confident that even in this slow economy I can pick up some commercial acounts and be doing good in 6 months or so. I'll start out doing all the work myself and hire as needed but I think i'm going to stay at one crew with me running it. Much less stress that way. at least thats my goal for now.

Do you have any reflections on this? What skill set do you think you have that would allow you to get a business up and going again when it seemed to slow down under your son-in-laws management? The reason I ask is because there are plenty of new start up lawn care business owners out here who read this and they wonder what you know that he didn't Or what you know that they don't. I am certain you can get your business up and running again because you have the skill set to do it. Are there any business or life lessons you could share with all of us on how this time you are starting up will be different from when you initially had started up in the beginning?

Right now I'm working on makeing a brochure of my services that I will start mailing out in January or february to comm prop owners and property managers. also need to line up some insurance, etc.

Besides the mowing, what I offer commercial properties is building maintenance like graffitti removal, steam cleaning, roof cleaning (flat roofs need the drains cleaned and inspected during winter, one plastic bag can cause a drain to plug and water to build up), curb painting, and inspections.

What is your view on why you will be going with brochures? Do you find that is the best way to reach out to commercial properties? Do you have any advice as to how to get in contact with the building managers, find out who they are and reach out to them?

Also you mentioned steam cleaning, what kinds of things would you steam clean?

khazelet
12-23-2008, 11:19 PM
Steve,

I could spend a couple of hours explaining what I learned, but I'll tyr to sumerize,



Do you have any reflections on this? What skill set do you think you have that would allow you to get a business up and going again when it seemed to slow down under your son-in-laws management? The reason I ask is because there are plenty of new start up lawn care business owners out here who read this and they wonder what you know that he didn't Or what you know that they don't. I am certain you can get your business up and running again because you have the skill set to do it. Are there any business or life lessons you could share with all of us on how this time you are starting up will be different from when you initially had started up in the beginning?

khazelet
12-24-2008, 12:04 AM
Steve,

I could spend a couple of hours explaining what I learned, but I'll tyr to sumerize,

The business slowed down because I stopped working it. I stopped trying to get new jobs, stopped calling existing cust just to see if they needed someting, stopped driving by the job to check the work, etc. I guess I was burned out! once I got on the idea of gettitng my real estate licence I put the landscaping on the back burner and focused my attention on the new carrer of real estate. lesson here is you can do whatever you want to in life, just be sure what your leaving isnt better than what your switching to! (In my defence, back in 2004 the real estate market was HOT and I made some serious $$$ - too bad the last 2 years caused me to loose ALL of it, lets just say I'm a little bitter on the real estate business right now)

Back to the core of your question, why did I make it and son in law didn't. First of all I did residential lawn service by my self for about 10 years before I started seriously doing commercial. So I had experience, which gives confidence when your talking to an owner or store manager (can't get that out of a book) and back in 1982 when I started, I became a Certified Master Gardner thru the University of Calif coopertive extension. this was a good base education. then I took several landscaping courses thru the community collage and I took a marketing class thru SCORE (service corps of retired executives) This class had the most impact on my sucsess. I guess you could say I had that entrepreneurial spirit. My son in law did not have the entrepreneur drive that I did. He was a real good worker but didn't have a clue on running a business and client management.

For you new guys out there: start small and grow as you learn. When I first started out, I could not have walked up to a Walmart regional manager and convinced him to let me bid and ultametly get the bid accepted to maintain the site.

Hope that helps ....Ken

khazelet
12-24-2008, 12:57 AM
What is your view on why you will be going with brochures? Do you find that is the best way to reach out to commercial properties? Do you have any advice as to how to get in contact with the building managers, find out who they are and reach out to them?

Also you mentioned steam cleaning, what kinds of things would you steam clean?

The best way to get commercial is to call the owner of the property, the property manager, or the store or office itself. you have to cold call these people. Find out who the managment company is. If there is a vacancy in the building there may be a for lease sign, call them, ask them who you should talk to in regards to the landscape maintenance. Look for a real estate sign, they will know the owner. If you have a friend that is a realtor, they can look up the owner in the tax record, then you have to track down a phone number. You have to be able to call these people and speak confidently about the maintenance of their property. It would help to have some "item of interest" to talk about. What I mean is something about the property that you notice and can suggest the solution to. Example: I noticed that on the west side of the building there is a long grass strip between the building and the street. The front section of that lawn is always soggy, in fact the lawn is thinning and moss is growing indicating that it is getting too much water. I thought maybe you had a broken sprinkler that your landscaper missed, but when I drove by early one day the sprinklers were on and there was no broken heads. The remainder of the lawn strip is not soggy and I believe that the shading from the building in that area is the cause. This can be rectified by changing the spray head nozzels to a lower GPM head that will spray less water in that area while the remainder of the lawn still recieves its normal amount. "I have those nozzels in my truck, I could change them out for you next time I'm out there if you want- No charge" if they say anything about the cost say "no problem, the nozzels I put on are the same price as the ones I'll be removing, All I ask is that you consider my co next time you bid out the Landscape maintenance"

You have to get their attention with some "item of interest". No one thing works on all properties. you have to go to the site, check it out and look for something the owner or manager is having a problem with and offer a solution. Never do it in a way to put down the current landscaper - that will go against you.

That is why I have the steam cleaner. Noticed a shopping center that had poor maintenance and also noticed that the sidewalks were very dirty. I cold called the owner (out of state) and told him I was interested in doing the landscape maint on his center. in the conversation I mentioned that when I was out there I noticed the sidewalks were very dirty, was he interested in getting them cleaned as I offer this service for my regular clients but could do a one time clean up for him to help him out if he could not find anyone right away. I cleaned the sidewalks and soon after got the landscaping contract. Rented the steam cleaner for a while then bought one. it helps get jobs!

See any graffitti? tell the owner then offer to paint over it for a fee. I usually say someting like "I specialize in commercial landscape maintenance in this area and i am constantly out checking out the properties I maintain and I noticed your building got tagged with graffitti about 3 weeks ago and then got tagged again last night." Thell ask where did it get tagged etc (you can offer to take digital pics and email them if they would like- no chg. then say Do you have someone checking your building for graffitti on a regular basis? This is something I offer all my comm clients no charge. When we see graffitti we take a pic then paint over it right away for a small fee.

You want to make the point that you take personal pride in your work and also in the property itself.

After making phone contact I will ask for the mailing address to send my card and info on my co for future use when they are interested in bidding the job. Then I send the professional brochure. even if your just starting, a brochure can make you look like your professional.

Ken