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picframer
01-11-2009, 06:48 AM
Good Day!

I have been visiting the forum for a few weeks reading and gathering information/experiences, great forum.

Landscaping/mowing/mini excavation/snow plowing has been a hobby business for me for quite a few years, I mainly do the jobs requested as requested in the past however I have decided to move on from the day job and go at this part time this year and full time next year. I have acquired most of the equipment for landscapingm have all the equipment for mowing.

I will suplement my income in the fall/winter/spring with my woodworking business which has been going strong for the past 15 years however I want to work outside the shop in the spring.summer/fall, thus Oakridge Yard Care.

Company is registered, website was completed yesterday www.oakridgeyardcare.ca I still have some work to do on it but it's almost there, brochures are being printed I will use Canada Post mail drop to target very specific areas, ordered fridge magnets and business cards last night, will order uniforms today or tomorrow. The woodworking business has hundreds of customers in my area so I will target many of them first, my area is still in a residential construction boom, the down turn in the market has had little effect so far, unemployment as of Friday was still less than 5%.

I have to buy a bigger, tandum, trailer for the loader, due to weight I need electric brakes, I am thinking of a 7 or 8 foot X 16 foot cargo trailer for a number of reasons, I would be able to leave the gear in it and it would protect it from the weather.

Anyhow enough rambling, big snow storm coming again today so I know what I will be doing later and into the night:) My woodworking business is at www.picframer.ca we (wife and I) do custom picture framing using woods from all over the world, thus my handle Picframer.

Thanks for reading, comments on the Yard Care Website appreciated, I have thick skin so let her roll.

Have a great day!

Andy

ritchiem
01-11-2009, 11:33 AM
Welcome to the forums Andy,

First off your wood working talents are amazing...keep up the great work.

Your landscaping website is well on its way. Here are a couple of suggestions;

1. Name your site...as of right now your site name is the IP address.
2. Optimize your images...your images file sizes are too large. Cut down the size to create faster download times.

I really like the personal approach in your editorial for your site.

Again welcome and if you need any help with website or graphic design give me a shout.

Cheers,

picframer
01-11-2009, 12:21 PM
[QUOTE=ritchiem;44259]Welcome to the forums Andy,

Thanks Richard,

It will take about 72 hours for the DNS and Domain Name to get through the system, I only registered the URL on Friday and built the site yesterday.

I'm curious about the graphics, are you high speed or dial up? 98% of Halifax and area is High Speed, min of 3 meg up and down, I used a 1 meg up and down to calculate load time and received scores in the 2 to 5 second range which I thought should be ok.

Appreciate your comments and feedback. Woodworking has been a great love in my life, I am a tech resource on exotics to WOOD Magazine (another hobby), it's a lot of fun, we work with 76 species from around the world, as with a lot of things find a niche and go after it which is what my son and I did, by the age of 15 he had made enough from turning burls on a wood lathe to pay for his University education which is where he is now.

Our plan is to build the Yard Care then start a wood pellet manufacturing company, I have the business plan pretty much completed and by the time he graduates we will be ready to roll with it.

This Lawn Care idea started last summer when he took one of the tractors with a backhoe and did work for neighbours so we talked about it for a few months, threw out some feelers which all came back positive. Having spent 15 years as a RVP in banking I gained a lot of contacts in the corporate world, I sent out a few emails yesterday to lawyer friends, accountants etc. (target market) and already have 6 yard care clients and two construction projects so I guess the demand is there, my only issue will be finding time and getting the right staff which is desperate hard to do here at the moment.

Have a great day bud!

Andy

picframer
01-11-2009, 12:39 PM
Richard, I just ran a complete website speed test again using a couple of packages available on the web, here is what I received:

Speed
Average Speed Data Volume Size with HTML
0.62 seconds

Estimated Load Time
Modem UMTS DSL T1 T3
0.25 s 1.71 s 0.12 s

Will have to drop a few images for T1 users

Steve
01-11-2009, 01:17 PM
Hi Andy,

Welcome!

I love the sites! Here is my thought. I noticed you had your picture on your wood working site.

http://www.picframer.ca/images/me.jpg

Why not have that on your front page of your lawn care site? That would be fantastic. It would give the customer a chance to meet you just by visiting your lawn care site.

I would also let everyone know about your wood working site and the projects you have worked on.

Another thing is that I would try and combine the two interests. We were just talking about this in a previous post, but why not create wood products you can sell to your lawn care customers? Window boxes for flowers? Or something similar?

That would be amazing as well. Maybe you can come up with other wood working ideas that would create synergy with your lawn care business.

Steve
01-11-2009, 01:44 PM
Oh I just found this picture http://www.picframer.ca/images/cedarplanter.jpg

I see you do make flower boxes! Yea this is great, get these on your website for sale! How much do you charge for them? I think this is really inspiring!

picframer
01-11-2009, 02:09 PM
Oh I just found this picture http://www.picframer.ca/images/cedarplanter.jpg

I see you do make flower boxes! Yea this is great, get these on your website for sale! How much do you charge for them? I think this is really inspiring!

Thanks Steve,

What sets the woodworking aside from the comtepition is I build things you can't buy locally using woods most woodworkers will not touch, by doing this I can commend and get a very good price, the result has been a backlog of orders. You are probably wondering why I would bother with lawncare/landscaping if the woodworking does so well, it's manily because because I want to work outside in the spring, summer and fall.

The issue I found many years ago with planters is people will quite often compare your prices with the big box stores, granted the quality of work doesn't compare but they do not see that until a year or two later when the product they purchased falls apart.

If however someone were to ask, I will throw a price out that is based on what I charge to build items from the shop and leave it for them to decide.

Appreciate your comments and feedback!

Andy

Steve
01-11-2009, 02:46 PM
The issue I found many years ago with planters is people will quite often compare your prices with the big box stores, granted the quality of work doesn't compare but they do not see that until a year or two later when the product they purchased falls apart.

You know what you could do. Buy a big box store planter and take a picture of it. Leave it out for a year and take a picture of it then. Compare and contrast your product then with theirs.

Also, what about custom birdhouses? Or custom wood signs. 'Welcome to the Jones Home.' Stuff like that?

Oh and I saw these benches on your site http://www.picframer.ca/images/ashbench.gif

are they for outdoors? Those would be fantastic to sell to people who want to enjoy some time outside!

EatingEmoKids
01-11-2009, 03:28 PM
You know what you could do. Buy a big box store planter and take a picture of it. Leave it out for a year and take a picture of it then. Compare and contrast your product then with theirs.

Also, what about custom birdhouses? Or custom wood signs. 'Welcome to the Jones Home.' Stuff like that?

Oh and I saw these benches on your site http://www.picframer.ca/images/ashbench.gif

are they for outdoors? Those would be fantastic to sell to people who want to enjoy some time outside!

I agree, I think letting customers know about planters and if you make birdhouses and welcome signs would be a great service to offer as well. I know my mom loves stuff like that. I checked out your wood working website and you have a lot of nice work.

Richard, I just ran a complete website speed test again using a couple of packages available on the web, here is what I received:

Speed
Average Speed Data Volume Size with HTML
0.62 seconds

Estimated Load Time
Modem UMTS DSL T1 T3
0.25 s 1.71 s 0.12 s

Will have to drop a few images for T1 users

I dont think you have to drop any images, you should just resize them using photo editing software and save them at different qualities. I have actually done that to a few images on your front page and cut the file size by huge amounts, especially on your .bmp image. It was over 2mb, by saving it and resizing it as a .jpg it's now less then 40kb. I have attached the images incase you want to swap them. I can also edit the other ones on your "pictures of our work" page if you would like.

Also if you are interested, I'm running a promotion where I will be doing a complete makeover of a lawn care business website. You can sign up for a chance to win over in this thread: http://www.gopherforum.com/showthread.php?p=44255

If you don't win, Ritchiem does great work!

picframer
01-11-2009, 04:46 PM
Also, what about custom birdhouses? Or custom wood signs. 'Welcome to the Jones Home.' Stuff like that?

Oh and I saw these benches on your site
are they for outdoors? Those would be fantastic to sell to people who want to enjoy some time outside!

That one isn't however (it's Ash) I make outdoor benches in Teak, Ipe, Cypress, Tigerwood, African Mahagony, Jatoba and Cedar. I have built quite a few award winning Pergola's, as soon as the snow leaves I will add one I built for my home last year, while in Mexico last February I bought a few hammocks from the Mayan's, they are world renowned for their work, anyhow I didn't have anywhere to put them so I built a Pergola unit, then added an in gound firepit which turned out to be the talk of the neighbourhood after my son had 165 kids over for his high school safe graduation. This was what started all this, we had so many parents calling wanting to have a look then asking if we could build something similar. Due to the day job I passed up a ton of work but that has settled down and I now have the time to persue other business ideas.

I have a buddy that builds birds houses that are stunning, I tend to stick to high end crafts or items other woodworkers don't want to tackle, not that I am special in my work, I like doing things others pass up, could be that the wood in question is too difficult to work with, the project is over complicated, maybe they do not have the equipment for the joint or even the wood (all of my saw blades for example are diamond tipped) in question etc., that way I can get my $65.00++ an hour in the shop which is located here on my property. The exception is decks and storage sheds, I really enjoy designing and building them, 8 years ago I did it full time, had three crews and then sold the company.

Steve
01-11-2009, 05:09 PM
The exception is decks and storage sheds, I really enjoy designing and building them, 8 years ago I did it full time, had three crews and then sold the company.

Oh can you tell us a little about that experience? What did you like or dislike about it? Why did you sell it?

picframer
01-11-2009, 08:32 PM
Oh can you tell us a little about that experience? What did you like or dislike about it? Why did you sell it?

First off I understand construction is not for everyone however I have found people, myself included like one stop shopping. I have delivered items to peoples homes, say for example a piece of framed art, noticed the deck needed some work or noticed a pile of garden tools laying around with no storage shed, maybe a stump that needed to be removed, just what I refer to as stuff that needed to be done. One has to be careful in your approach, if I noticed a deck for example that needed to be replaced I maight say something along the lines,"If you ever decided to repair or replace your deck, give me a shout for a quote" response 99% of the time was "Oh, you do that kind of work?" I would guess 80% of the time I landed a sale. Decks are easy and require a min of tools. Storage sheds and baby barns are another matter and require some knowledge, the big box units are poorly constructed, floors should be at least 2 X 6, 5/8" T & G plywood, not OSB at least for our climate, their walls are 2 X 3 generally etc. If one explains in very simple and not drawn out terms the difference between what you offer and what the big box sells you will more than likely get the sale.

As we are driving around keep your eyes open, that load of crusher run has been sitting in their driveway for some time, stop and ask if they would like it spread, I drove by a house one street over from me, grass was a foot high, owner happened to be in the garage so I stopped and asked if he might like to have the lawn taken care of for $xx.xx, he said sure, I am a doctor and have been working in another province, would you mind or can you.....he listed of a bunch of things to be done, he is still a client and I just finished plowing his driveway. I personally believe there is tons of work out there at a very good price, we have to target the market and people we want. What I mean by that I believe every city has an area where we may refer to as "the rich folk live", I personally target these areas, they like everything to look professional, they like keeping up with the neighbours etc. at least where I live and where I have travelled it seems to be this way, just play into that and do your best work, people will stop and ask you to drop over to their house when you are finished.

When doing woodworking the only advertising I did was 25 flyers in this rich area, for two years and three crews we turned away more work than we did, I never even advertised on the trucks.

Now the Yard Care could be interesting to carve out a niche, I have to give it more thought but I know it will be fun! I have a few idea's, the Germans have been buying up land here on the ocean like no tomorrow and paying big bucks, many fly in construction workers from Germany to build their summer homes, they might be here a month, perhaps two a year, their places need to be taken care of, that is the market I am going to go after this spring in a very big way.

As for why I sold the construction company, I worked as a RVP in banking for 15 years and took a package as I would not move to another province (I have 5 acres on a very nice lake 15 min outside the city, designed and built my own home, no way I would move) so I just wanted to relax and for two years I did woodworking and construction, I sold as I had an oportunity to take partial ownership in the business (day job) where I currently work, we have gone from 13 to just over 400 employees in 7 years, now it's time to sell and move on to something else, thus the yard care.

I personally like building companies and if I get bored or if it gets too big, I sell my shares and move on, the exception is Oakridge Woodworking, it will be my retirement hobby business and perhaps this lawn care will also.

Steve
01-11-2009, 11:29 PM
The business you sold went from 13 to 400 employees?

Can you tell us how that happened? What do you attribute to that success? What about owning and running a large company do you not like?

I personally like building companies and if I get bored or if it gets too big, I sell my shares and move on

Is it possible to sell some shares and hold on to others as an investment or no? What's your view on that?

Also what advice do you have for the start up business looking to grow to a much larger size?

picframer
01-12-2009, 05:57 AM
The business you sold went from 13 to 400 employees?

Can you tell us how that happened? What do you attribute to that success? What about owning and running a large company do you not like?



Is it possible to sell some shares and hold on to others as an investment or no? What's your view on that?

Also what advice do you have for the start up business looking to grow to a much larger size?

It is my day job that has gone from 13 to over 400, what has created this is understanding the industry needs, looking at what the competition offers, massive capital investment in software and hiring the right people to set yourself aside so that clients and potential clients want to do business with you. Also hiring people that allows your company to offer services others are not.

As for selling and keeping shares, there is no generic answer to your question, if the company is sold you would have to word it into the purchase agreement, if you believe in the person or company buying your shares, keeping 50% is a good idea for many reasons including tax however I would suggest a person selling get appointed to the board of the purchaser so that you have some say in how the company is run. You also need an out if the company does not perform, suggest you word into the sale agreement that you may sell at "x" times book value of the shares and the current purchaser would have the right of first refusal to but those shares at any time you wish.

As for what I do not like, life is short, I believe one should be able to get in the morning and look forward to going to work, it's not a lot of fun being at the top of a large company and the stress can and quite often is over the top so to speak.

I decided a long time ago to get a formal education, a good job, buy the tools I needed to start my company, provide a good living for the family and at some point venture off on my own. When I started in banking in 1981 I had a Vice President say something to me one day, "You will never get rich working for someone else" there is quite a bit of truth in that, granted many people do get rich but those words have stuck with me. So I am personally at a point where I have all the tools I need, next to no debt and opportunities are knocking, I know the economy is not the greatest however it is entrepreneurs that are the base of any good economy and we have to start somewhere.

As for growing your company, understand the industry you are heading into, know who your competition is and what they offer, do a better job, don't get into price wars you will never win, stick to your pricing, you can't grow if you are not making good profits and one has to reinvest a percentage of your income, buy things (in lawncare it could be mowers, pressure washers, blowers etc.) that do a better job than the company you are up against, offer shares to your employees who are Supervisory and up based on performance by them and the profit they generate, when an employee has a piece of the pie they have a totally different attitude, ensure your customers know they are appreciated, call them up or visit them from time to time and say a simple thanks for your business, I really appreciate it, ask if there is any issues or other services they wish we offered, this makes a massive difference and it shocks me more companies do not do this. Look professional and arrive looking professional, it makes a hudge difference, there once was a saying that image is everything, I personally would not take it that far but it does have a big impact. In lawn mowing for example it could be something like keeping your equipment looking new, I personally pressure was everything at the end of the day, takes seconds and all the gear looks top drawer and it lasts.

These are just my opinions and experiences, it may not work for everyone, take what you think may work and try it, disregard the rest. I do the same, I have taken at least 30 management courses over the years, I pick up a few things from each one, I have yet to take or read anything and think if I follow this 100% I will be awsome, I don't think it works that way, just try what you are comfortable with, if it works great, if not try something else.

Online forums are an amazing resource from buying your tools to running your business, once again you have to filter out some opinions however online access to information is a gold mine.

Steve
01-12-2009, 01:14 PM
Thanks Andy!

With all of your building knowledge and expertise why not do more of that versus lawn care? I am sure a lot of the readers are wondering that too.

picframer
01-12-2009, 01:51 PM
Thanks Andy!

With all of your building knowledge and expertise why not do more of that versus lawn care? I am sure a lot of the readers are wondering that too.

An easy question<G>

I love working outside in the spring, summer and fall, love driving the tractors, doing excavation work etc. I guess it's like the saying goes, variety is the spice of life. I used to cut/split 60+ ord of firewood a year and sell it to neighbours just because I liked doing it and made a good dollar at it.

Many of my clients wonder why I do what I do sometimes, why would someone with their masters degree be building crafs, going to craft shows, digging out stumps etc. because that is what I love to do and I make really good money at it to boot.

Steve
01-12-2009, 02:02 PM
Great point Andy.

I used to cut/split 60+ ord of firewood a year and sell it to neighbours just because I liked doing it and made a good dollar at it.

We have talked a little about this in previous posts but not in too depth. What is your advice to others trying to make money selling fireword?

picframer
01-12-2009, 02:27 PM
Great point Andy.



We have talked a little about this in previous posts but not in too depth. What is your advice to others trying to make money selling fireword?

It's very hard work and in today's market there isn't a lot of money in it, perhaps I should say there are a lot easier ways to make a dollar. I live in the heart of sugar maple, yellow birck, oak etc. I buy 15 cord loads in 16 foot lengths (I only buy enough for myself, this size load will last two years), issue is getting it, they started spraying the forrest's here a few years back to kill hardwood so that softwood would grow. When you do get it, you are looking at 100 bucks a cord, then you have to cut, splitand deliver and you will get about $220.00 a cord, considering your time, equipment, vehicle wear and tear, fuel cost, IMHO there isn't enough money to bother.