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Totally Green
01-08-2009, 01:03 PM
08' was my first year in business. We made it through the whole season with only one client failing to pay. Now that the end of the season is here, I have several (previously prompt paying) customers who have failed to pay their final bill. Is this something out of the ordinary or is it common around the holiday season?

FaccLndscpng
01-08-2009, 02:52 PM
This happens to me all the time, last season I had a property manager owe me $1,500.00 and it took him until Feb to finally pay. And as of now I still have some past due accounts but it is just normal and I know that after a few mailings or a phone call it will finally trickle in. The holidays, the economy and peoples ignorance are most likely the causes. Just remember it and either don’t work for them next season or just accept the fact they are late payers and you definitely have to keep on them!

Steve
01-08-2009, 02:56 PM
Hi FaccLndscpng,

What kinds of things should a lawn care business owner do to get those bills paid that are lagging from last season and how long should they wait before they take further steps?

FaccLndscpng
01-08-2009, 05:33 PM
Well this is what I do, first you get a copy of your invoice with “Past Due” stamped on it, if nothing after a few weeks then you go to a letter and remember to include you “Past Due” invoice (that “Past Due” really scares people its very powerful so always remember to make that stamp BOLD). If this doesn’t work you go to a phone call or stop by the house. Be persistent, that’s the key people will get so sick of seeing your face of seeing invoices in the mail that they will pay to get it over with. People are either forgetful of ignorant, sometimes the original gets lost in the mail and they pay by the second notice sometimes they don’t have the money and are embarrassed but eventually do get you the money. Just don’t forget it, and next season if you still choose to work with them raise your rates for the fact that they are a pain and don’t honor due dates. I have some people that pay their bills so fast that I didn’t even think they got the bill yet, these are the people that you take care of.
Now as for the Property manager that owed me $1, 500.00, I was just persistent with him and knew that I was getting on his nerves, I also knew that he was always in other states with his other properties and that he needed me for next season (he was too lazy to find someone else and have to show them around …) so I knew eventually would pay me, but if another month would have went by I would have been seen waiting outside of his house with a baseball bat! And going to court isn’t always the option because a majority of the money owed is under $100.00. Just chalk it up as timing, holidays, economy, and the fact that you cant dangle the “no more services until your account is brought up to date” factor over their heads, you will get your money just not as fast as you wanted it. Just face it we Landscapers are the bottom of the chain and that people will pay their other bills on time and get to us when their ready not when were ready besides we don’t have any bills right!?

Steve
01-08-2009, 05:41 PM
Just don’t forget it, and next season if you still choose to work with them raise your rates for the fact that they are a pain and don’t honor due dates.

Oh this is good!

Can you tell us, how would you suggest going about raising your rates once you get paid? Should you send out a letter to them the next day saying you raised your lawn prices by X%? Or how long should you wait to notify them?

Also, how much of a % should you raise your rates by?

FaccLndscpng
01-08-2009, 07:15 PM
A lot of the customers that I have trouble getting paid from are renters and they have tiny yards, a lot of them pay $20 per cut, so after I would finally get paid for that season, the next seasons “Welcome Letter” which I haven’t written out yet, would just explain that we are raising our rates for “the cost of doing business” and I would go from $20/cut to $25/cut, that way if you loose them its one less headache if they still want to have you take care of the property then you make an extra $5 for putting up with them. On this small scale it’s too complicated to raise by (%) it’s just easier to raise like $2.00 or $5.00 per cut. I would usually go through the summer without raising the rates, as most of my late payers show up for the last payment. But you should just raise your rates starting with the new season, but if you had to raise during the season I would say give 30 days notice, like write a letter saying that as of June 1, 2009 you will need to now charge whatever. But I usually do contracts and it’s easier to just honor it for the length instead of going through the hassle of a new contract. And forget about charging late fees; just be glad that they pay their bill.

Sometimes the renter will not “re-lease” so you will have to deal with another renter but they eventually pay because they are afraid to loose their security deposit. Which reminds me; don’t do any work for a renter without talking to the landlord or property manager, renters in Phila come and go, a lot are college kids so they just disappear, drop-out, whatever. I think that one of the reasons that a majority of the bad payers are renters because when I am hired by a home owner I also get a lot of business from “Word of Mouth” and when you get one house you usually get a couple of the neighbors, so as you can guess if “Mrs. Smith” isn’t paying her bills and her house gets skipped this round of cuts all the other neighbors will start to talk and “Mrs. Smith” doesn’t want to look bad in front of the neighbors. Then you can look on the bright side, if the yard is skipped a couple of times, then the customer finally gets their bills paid then you have to charge them for a big clean-up, but try to get it up front because they will probably try not to pay this bill for sure.

Steve
01-08-2009, 08:21 PM
Sometimes the renter will not “re-lease” so you will have to deal with another renter but they eventually pay because they are afraid to loose their security deposit.

When you say they may lose their security deposit, how do you mean? Is this a security deposit that they pay to the landlord? If so how will they lose it? Would the landlord have to pay you the fee then?

Also do you have a suggestion for a welcome letter with a rate increase? How should a new lawn care business owner word it? Should this be sent out year after year to the same customer? Or is this only for new customers?

FaccLndscpng
01-08-2009, 08:58 PM
Well I am not sure how things work everywhere else, but in Philly a tenant is supposed to care for the property especially the lawn and snow, some landlords will pay for it themselves to keep up appearances but most require the tenant to do it. So if at the end of the lease the yard is a jungle, the security deposit is held and used to get the property back in line, and whatever else went wrong, patch holes in walls… So if you previously spoke with the landlord or property manager, and told them the tenant stopped paying bills and you are terminating services until bills are paid then they will either get on the tenant to pay the bill or authorize you to continue services to be paid by the security deposit ( this is for some cuts not a whole seasons worth of cuttings but a few to finish out the summer or whatever it may be) but as long as you inform the landlord or whoever they usually take care of everything because its their investment, they don’t want to make the neighbors angry, or have a bad tenant who destroys their property, in a lot of ways you act as their eyes and ears. So “you scratch their back and they will scratch yours.”

In the end, when the lease is up, you submit the bill to the landlord or prop manager and they will pay you out of the escrow account. Most of the time, if a tenant looses the security deposit, its due to a lot of things not just the lawn, and if its just the lawn that the tenant owes the landlord will say something like “you must pay all bills or they will be paid by the security” and then you either get a check from the “Landlord Tennant Act” or something like that or you get the check from the tenant.

As for the “Welcome Letter” I will submit one but I don’t have anything ready for it yet… I will see what I have in my archive, and yes I send one to all customers, the letter is a welcome, a “what’s new with us”, an introduction to the contract and so on so it keeps us in touch with our customers.

Totally Green
01-09-2009, 09:47 AM
Hi FaccLndscpng,

You've given a lot of great information. One more question. Do you use contracts or service agreements? I don't and it seems to be a problem when I try to collect. Without documentation, it's really my word against their's if they refuse to pay.

Steve
01-09-2009, 11:00 AM
As for the “Welcome Letter” I will submit one but I don’t have anything ready for it yet… I will see what I have in my archive, and yes I send one to all customers, the letter is a welcome, a “what’s new with us”, an introduction to the contract and so on so it keeps us in touch with our customers.

Oh that would be great! I'd love to see them!

So this is something that is sent every year to the customers, new and old? And it would include any price changing? Also how do you deal with getting customers to resign their lawn care contract or do you just have it roll over from the last year until they call you to cancel it?

FaccLndscpng
01-10-2009, 03:36 PM
When I write a “Welcome Letter” to bring in the new season, it usually starts with some info like when we will be starting up again, what new services we will be offering, if there are any specials, and so on. I might tell the customer how we did last year (not money wise) but on how many new customers we had, who is on the crew…
When it comes to contracts, I will just give a brief explanation, like “enclosed find you contract for the 2009 season, everything is the same as last season, Lawn Service every 7 days for $30 per cut…” and usually my customers just sign it, I think that people don’t like change, so they will continue with anyone until there is something that they don’t like occurs like price increase, new practices or whatever. Not saying that people don’t stay with us because we don’t provide a great service, but people don’t tend to shop around unless they have to, they will keep well enough alone until its not well enough anymore. I think the main reasons that I lost customers were because of price increases, re-locations, and some disagreements. Basically as long as there were no issues from last year, customers will sign on for another season, even with price increases, people understand that not everything stays the same forever. I have some customers that I never had to raise their price per cut, they’re happy and I am happy so everything stays the same year after year.

Steve
01-10-2009, 04:29 PM
if there are any specials

Have you experimented with any specials you liked? What have you tried that you liked and what have you tried that you didn't?

Are there any future specials you would like to experiment with that you haven't tried yet?

FaccLndscpng
01-10-2009, 04:59 PM
The only specials I have done are mostly like 10% off spring and fall clean-ups, but this year I think I am going to do some free flats (like 1 or 2) of annuals with a number of yards of mulch for those customers that religiously buy 10 plus yards of mulch. I haven’t worked out all the numbers yet but I was thinking of that for this spring

Steve
01-10-2009, 06:28 PM
do some free flats (like 1 or 2) of annuals with a number of yards of mulch for those customers that religiously buy 10 plus yards of mulch. I haven’t worked out all the numbers yet but I was thinking of that for this spring

That is a great idea! How many annuals would you plant? What type of annuals are you looking to use?

FaccLndscpng
01-10-2009, 06:43 PM
Like Impatiens and Marigolds. it all depends on who and where they want them. One of the customers fills in beds, planters, window boxes, everywere. And then there are some customers that just want to fill in around the entrance way and under the mail box. So I will use any where from 2-5 flats per customer. Well we will see how the money end of the “Special” works out but I will at the least gear it toward my customer that uses the max amount of flats.

Steve
01-10-2009, 11:21 PM
I think you got a lot of great ideas there. Why not also sell window boxes and install them!

Can you imagine that! That could be an incredible service. Maybe even a weekly flower maintenance package where you change out the flowers or just keep the weeds out.

I bet there would be people who would just love to add color to their homes like that!

You could also sell larger planters and landscape pots!

You could have a list of upsells you could offer like this!

FaccLndscpng
01-12-2009, 01:35 PM
Sounds good, I was thinking about adding “Mail Box Installations” to this year’s services, why not window boxes also? As for weekly maintenance I do change out flowers and weed and so on for only one customer because they are the one that get everything done, so I make sure that everything looks great. But a lot of my other customers will wait until the annuals are done then we will switch them out for “Mums” and then “Winter Pansies”. They will save money and weed themselves.

Steve
01-12-2009, 02:16 PM
I was thinking about adding “Mail Box Installations” to this year’s services

Oh very interesting! What would this service entail and how would you suggest coming up with a price for it?

FaccLndscpng
01-12-2009, 02:34 PM
I recently saw at one of my suppliers some nice mail boxes on display and figured that they must install them as well as sell them. But I figure you would have to excavate the hole, fill it with cement, install the mail box then you can include the installation of annuals, perennials and cover with mulch. I didn’t look into pricing yet, but I would have to try it out at my own house, to see how much materials, and to see how long it would take me.

Steve
01-12-2009, 09:55 PM
Maybe you could even offer brick work! And build the mailbox into the brick! Have a bunch of different options and then you could have many different price points.

FaccLndscpng
01-13-2009, 01:51 PM
Well I do Hardscapes but mostly dry stacked walls, and patios but I haven’t yet gotten into columns and pillars and so on. But yet I have seen them while driving here and there and never thought of it. Great idea!

Steve
01-13-2009, 03:13 PM
People are always getting their mailboxes knocked over by kids or by accident. The stronger the mount, the longer it will last. Plus it adds value to the home! I look forwards to seeing what you come up with!

FaccLndscpng
01-13-2009, 03:47 PM
I might have to quote you on a flyer about kids knocking over mail boxes and home values. Sounds great I will keep you informed.

Steve
01-13-2009, 09:24 PM
I am looking forwards to your updates!

justin_time
01-14-2009, 12:23 AM
Here's what I do

I print my invoice, then I open word and do the following steps

http://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll280/jitys/watermark.jpg

http://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll280/jitys/pastdue.jpg

And then insert your invoice back into the printer and then you will get a background in your invoice that says PAST DUE

FaccLndscpng
01-14-2009, 11:01 AM
I picked up a stamp from like staples or one of the others, and it was only a couple of bucks. But its not that big, the idea of a Past Due watermark for the stubborn customers is a good idea.

justin_time
02-05-2009, 02:24 PM
Here's what I do

I print my invoice, then I open word and do the following steps

http://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll280/jitys/watermark.jpg

http://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll280/jitys/pastdue.jpg

And then insert your invoice back into the printer and then you will get a background in your invoice that says PAST DUE

I just tried this out, i've got 2 deadbeat customers that said that would pay me and I am getting fed up so I printed PAST DUE over my invoice and sent these 2 invoices through registered mail. See if I get a response or not

Steve
02-05-2009, 02:25 PM
Keep us posted.

justin_time
02-05-2009, 02:27 PM
Keep us posted.

Will do.

P.S. What's with the google ads next to the posts ? they are kind of in a bad spot

justin_time
02-10-2009, 01:20 PM
I am tracking my invoice and it says return to sender.

I am been trying to get this money from this house i did and that house is for sale and i'm now confused who's the owner since i've been mailing that bill to that same address and now its being returned to me

Steve
02-10-2009, 02:15 PM
You know what you might look into and I don't know how it works in your are. But you can put a lien on a property if the owner owes you money.

Maybe contact the realtor first and see if they can get you paid, otherwise possibly put a lien on the property and the real estate transaction can't finalize until all lien holders are paid off.

justin_time
02-10-2009, 03:01 PM
You know what you might look into and I don't know how it works in your are. But you can put a lien on a property if the owner owes you money.

Maybe contact the realtor first and see if they can get you paid, otherwise possibly put a lien on the property and the real estate transaction can't finalize until all lien holders are paid off.

My cousin is a lawyer and i told him about this and he said it's not worth going through small claims under 1200$

I e-mailed the realtor see what's going on.

I am getting frustrated and makes me think twice of doing houses that are for sale.

Tip for everybody.... get all info on your customer as you can.. e-mail.. address postal code.. phone numbers..

bnclawncare
02-10-2009, 05:14 PM
I know how you feel. I have a guy, that sadly is a realistate company, that has not paid his invoice from Nov.08. Today I sent him a firm letter demanding payment with his late fees included. I told him that I do not have time to set down and write him a letter twice a month asking for something that he owes. I said "I expect a timely payment as my clients expect a timely service" and this is what we provide. I guess I will have to wait and see what he does!

justin_time
02-10-2009, 08:28 PM
I know how you feel. I have a guy, that sadly is a realistate company, that has not paid his invoice from Nov.08. Today I sent him a firm letter demanding payment with his late fees included. I told him that I do not have time to set down and write him a letter twice a month asking for something that he owes. I said "I expect a timely payment as my clients expect a timely service" and this is what we provide. I guess I will have to wait and see what he does!

Mine are since June and now I just found out that the house is off the market, so i think i'm just gonna stop bothering with that property and let it go. But the other guy owes me 300$ with late charges and I've called him a few times. He said he would pay, but i haven't got nothing yet

bnclawncare
02-11-2009, 05:20 AM
This year, if my payments are not received by the due date on the invoice, then I am going to stop services until they pay. This will be for all of my customers. If the guy with the house for sale owes you a lot, I would put a lean against the house, he can't sell it until he pays you. I would include your additional time to do this in the amount also along with any additional fees. Good luck.

justin_time
02-18-2009, 11:31 AM
I finally got a phone call from the Owner of the property and she told me that it was a tenant living in the house that i did the cut so she gave me her number and I gave her a call.

I also gave a call to my other guy owing me 300$ or so...

Hope they both pay me

Steve
02-18-2009, 12:33 PM
Keep us posted.

justin_time
03-06-2009, 12:54 PM
Guy finally sent me a cheque.. two to be exactly, not sure why two different amounts for 1 bill but i'll take it

Totally Green
03-06-2009, 02:03 PM
When I first asked for help in this post, I had about 6 customers who were overdue. Since that time, I have recieved all payments. Most were very good customers and promptly payed each month. I had to be a little persistent, but I was always courteous and treated the late payment as an oversight by my customer. I received the last overdue payment about 3 weeks ago with a letter of apology. It looks like I have retained all of these customers except one.

Steve,
Thanks for mentioning my question in your "Lawn Care Marketing Business Show". It's turned out to be a very helpful thread.

Steve
03-06-2009, 07:54 PM
Gary,

You hit a home run with this thread. Because of you, many lawn care business owners have been able to get paid from customers who were not paying.

Thank you!

justin_time
03-11-2009, 03:23 PM
Now I have a dilemma, I've just received a call from the owner (that house I had done work for the real estate) and she said she ain't paying my bill. She said the person that asked me should pay. But I've also sent my bill to that person and they also don't want to pay

Help :confused:

justin_time
03-11-2009, 05:52 PM
Does this mean I should make the "out of towners" sign an agreement ?

Steve
03-11-2009, 10:35 PM
In the past, one of our forum members was talking about how before he did any lawn care for a renter, he contacted the owner to make sure they knew he was doing the work. He also said if he didn't get paid by the renter, the owner would pay from the deposit fund.

Is this something you could do too?

justin_time
03-11-2009, 10:43 PM
In the past, one of our forum members was talking about how before he did any lawn care for a renter, he contacted the owner to make sure they knew he was doing the work. He also said if he didn't get paid by the renter, the owner would pay from the deposit fund.

Is this something you could do too?

Well i've been sending the bill to the renter and i've sent one to the owner and they won't agree to pay.

FaccLndscpng
03-13-2009, 08:36 PM
stuff like this really pisses me off! at this point I wouldnt be able to keep my cool and I probably would be waiting for these people at their door step, or better yet have someone that owes you a favor take care of it for you. see I always had a relationship with the owners or property managers to attempt to aviod this. I say just keep on being a pain in the *** keep billing both tennant and land lord eventually they will get so sick of hearing or better yet seeing you that they will pay. and yes out of towners must sign a contract! if it was me I think I would have lost it and probably gotten into some trouble by now depending on how much it was, but people think you owe them something and that you dont have bills to pay, and that you can wait untill they are ready to send you your payment for a job that they requested.