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Steve
01-20-2009, 09:52 PM
What were the biggest mistakes you made starting out and what do you wish you could have done differently?

justin_time
01-20-2009, 10:00 PM
Buying a crappy trailer
Not getting a zero turn mower


It may not sound like much but my tractor would probably in better shape now if i would of had a better trailer (had to get a new cab since it bounced off and fell on the road)..

Also the fact that I use a tractor at the moment, maybe if I would of borrowed the money for a zero turn, maybe i would be probably debt free now and probably making money

mruiz
01-21-2009, 11:28 AM
The one I can come up with is the purchase of a Ram 1500 6 ft bed. For a lawn biz it was doing fine until my customers started asking for other services. Landscaping, Hardscape and etc...

Next purchase will be a small dump truck.

Steve
01-22-2009, 01:06 AM
Also the fact that I use a tractor at the moment, maybe if I would of borrowed the money for a zero turn, maybe i would be probably debt free now and probably making money

This is a very interesting point. So actually starting with slow or non commercial equipment can actually hold you back from making a profit faster? Then maybe if you make a profit faster you can scale up your business faster?

musician/lawnman
01-22-2009, 06:12 PM
Common Steve ya had to know the answer to that question when you asked...

A commercial ZT easily doubles (if not more) the productivity of a residential grade tractor mower. It does a better job, faster with a lot less driver fatigue. I've found with every upgrade that made me faster, I ended up with blank space in my schedule at 1st. You have time on your hands so you get creative on the advertising & marketing instead of just working. Every time, I've found ways to fill the schedule in again. More work = more money. Then I upgrade again, more equipment, more employees etc. This spring should be more everything. Time for a 2nd crew! I could just a easilly still be a one man operation today running the residential tractor I had for my lawn prior to opening up the business. I'd be workin my butt off on like 20 accounts for a little money. Instead I went big & grew big (Still growing at around 120 accounts currently. The adage "takes money to make money" does to some extent apply here in this industry too.
Like for instance: you might be able to build & sell a nice wooden lawn chairs one at a time with some nails, a jigg saw, & some sand paper. But if you invest in some better tools (skill saw, table saw, nail gun, power sander etc.) you can make them nicer, faster, & more of them. Productivity up & you'd then find ways to sell the additional chairs rather than just word of mouth. You'd advertise, maybe get local shops to carry & sell them! As they got more popular.... demand for your wooden chairs might be more than you can handle, so you hire a helper & buy a whole other set of tools for him to use! Now your both going full ime making 10 chairs each everyday with a back order list weeks long.... But if you had never bought the right tools to make the product better & faster you'd never even know what you were missing out on. You'd be proud of your 1 or 2 chairs a week....

Sorry to go off on a tangent but I think it accuratly explains the consequenses of working with inferior gear.

Steve
01-22-2009, 08:30 PM
Sorry to go off on a tangent but I think it accuratly explains the consequenses of working with inferior gear.

I very much appreciate your insight!

The thing I wonder is when you are starting, say if you had the equipment you had now, would the average lawn care business owner have the ability to make the equipment payments?

Also, should they invest in the better equipment when they don't have the infrastructure down to maximize it's potential. By that I mean, the advertising, the word of mouth, the customer base etc.

justin_time
01-22-2009, 09:30 PM
Common Steve ya had to know the answer to that question when you asked...

A commercial ZT easily doubles (if not more) the productivity of a residential grade tractor mower. It does a better job, faster with a lot less driver fatigue. I've found with every upgrade that made me faster, I ended up with blank space in my schedule at 1st. You have time on your hands so you get creative on the advertising & marketing instead of just working. Every time, I've found ways to fill the schedule in again. More work = more money. Then I upgrade again, more equipment, more employees etc. This spring should be more everything. Time for a 2nd crew! I could just a easilly still be a one man operation today running the residential tractor I had for my lawn prior to opening up the business. I'd be workin my butt off on like 20 accounts for a little money. Instead I went big & grew big (Still growing at around 120 accounts currently. The adage "takes money to make money" does to some extent apply here in this industry too.
Like for instance: you might be able to build & sell a nice wooden lawn chairs one at a time with some nails, a jigg saw, & some sand paper. But if you invest in some better tools (skill saw, table saw, nail gun, power sander etc.) you can make them nicer, faster, & more of them. Productivity up & you'd then find ways to sell the additional chairs rather than just word of mouth. You'd advertise, maybe get local shops to carry & sell them! As they got more popular.... demand for your wooden chairs might be more than you can handle, so you hire a helper & buy a whole other set of tools for him to use! Now your both going full ime making 10 chairs each everyday with a back order list weeks long.... But if you had never bought the right tools to make the product better & faster you'd never even know what you were missing out on. You'd be proud of your 1 or 2 chairs a week....

Sorry to go off on a tangent but I think it accuratly explains the consequenses of working with inferior gear.

This is why I am looking to get a ZTR as fast as I can, but before that, I need to afford a truck that can pull my trailer so I can pull that ZTR.. Like Chuck said, it takes money to spend money but my equipment is gonna have to be upgraded sometime in the near future

Steve
01-22-2009, 10:11 PM
This is why I am looking to get a ZTR as fast as I can, but before that, I need to afford a truck that can pull my trailer so I can pull that ZTR..

This is very interesting because here we are talking about infrastructure. A lot of things need to be put into place before we can scale up in any direction. In this case, you need a bigger truck to pull a bigger mower. Very fascinating!

justin_time
01-22-2009, 10:20 PM
This is very interesting because here we are talking about infrastructure. A lot of things need to be put into place before we can scale up in any direction. In this case, you need a bigger truck to pull a bigger mower. Very fascinating!

Well since I bought a bigger trailer, it means more weight compared to my other one, more weight as in carrying stuff, pulling equipment, carrying tools, weight all adds up.

Here's a picture of the truck I currently have, it is not 4x4, so I cannot put a plow on it and it ain't big enough.

http://i290.photobucket.com/albums/ll280/jitys/DSC02385-1.jpg

musician/lawnman
01-23-2009, 10:24 AM
Yes I understand the delema, Some may not have the financial means to do so right away & hey everyones gotta start somewhere right? But to build your business quickly it takes a little financial risk & investment. Ya know if I have to bet my hard earned money on something, betting on myself & my performance is a good bet for me anyday! So yeah I extended some money on the bet I could make the business fly, if it failed it would have been my fault & my fault alone so it was a safe bet for me. My familys welfare was on the line, I don't fail under pressure. I
In fact I've found in my carreer history I've alway enjoyed a new job, even more if it's in a new field I knew nothng about. I enjoy the challenge & take pride in climbing to the top of that field. Once I get there, & I was the best whatever, It takes me about 6 months to get bored & want to quit he job. This started as a kid working fast food... I got raises & whatnot & they wanted to make me a manager but Iwasn't even 18 so I couldn't... I got bored. I worked at Stanley Steemer, once I got crew cheif, the next step up was branch manager (wasn't happening at 19 yrs old) I got bored. I've sold vehicles, I been a service writer, ran independent auto shops, Managed & sold construction projects, & sold insurance..... This is different. I can just keep raising the bar!

Justin,
I was pulling a 6x12 enclosed trailer with a 52 in zt & all the other gear in it, then at times with 500-600 lbs of brush in the back of the truck to boot. I was running a for ranger (edge). You dakota should be able to handle an open trailer with a zt. What engine are you running in the truck? I only had a 3.0L v6.

justin_time
01-23-2009, 10:32 AM
Justin,
I was pulling a 6x12 enclosed trailer with a 52 in zt & all the other gear in it, then at times with 500-600 lbs of brush in the back of the truck to boot. I was running a for ranger (edge). You dakota should be able to handle an open trailer with a zt. What engine are you running in the truck? I only had a 3.0L v6.

I'll see how this it goes with my dad's truck this summer. Hopefully I won't get any problems. I'm not sure what the engine specs are... but I can surely find out. I might have to invest in a new set of tires.. since they original ones are worthless.

CloseCuts
01-23-2009, 04:58 PM
I think one of the biggest mistakes for any new landscaping business is not advertising enough. The biggest advertising you can do is put your name on your trailer and truck. Everytime you go out and do something wether it be a job or just take a drive you will be an advertising machine. Every new business hav to take advantage of this.

Steve
01-23-2009, 08:24 PM
I think one of the biggest mistakes for any new landscaping business is not advertising enough.

What other ways are you thinking a new business should advertise but fails to?

StartALawnCareBusiness
01-23-2009, 08:54 PM
Steve:

One mistake was spreading myself too thin both geographically and in the services offered.

My first year in business I accepted clients all over town. I even had customers 25+ miles away. Travel time can kill a lawn care business. In addition to wasting time and gas, the downtime of being in your truck knocks you off your stride.

Also, I think LCOs should focus on a small number of services offered. I am sure most people here have been asked to put up mailboxes and tighten outdoor light fixtures. There is nothing wrong with making extra money during winter with these add-ons but taking time away from your standard services can be time consuming. Have you ever agreed to install a mailbox not realizing you don't have the right tools (two flat head screwdrivers and not a philips in sight) in your truck. A "quick" $25 job can turn into 90 minutes of frustration. During that time you could have done two residential lawns. If you're going to offer these services, make sure you have all the tools and the know-how to complete the job efficiently.

BTW, even though it's still freezing here, the wild garlic is beginning to sprout after a few days of sun earlier this week. Anyone else???

Keith
Lawn Care Business Program (http://www.StartALawnCareBusiness.com)

CloseCuts
01-24-2009, 08:54 AM
I would have to say the phone book and online. If you already have your truck and trailor done up make sure your in the phone book. Some times they only catch your name when riding down the road. So how can they find you if your not in the phone book. Having a web page i think is important too but i don't think its as important as the first to things. Being truck lettered and in the phone book

Steve
01-24-2009, 11:33 PM
I would have to say the phone book and online. If you already have your truck and trailor done up make sure your in the phone book. Some times they only catch your name when riding down the road. So how can they find you if your not in the phone book. Having a web page i think is important too but i don't think its as important as the first to things. Being truck lettered and in the phone book

What kind of phone book ad or size are you suggesting? Also do you track when new customers call you, how they heard of you? Have you calculated what % of them heard of you from the phone book?

CloseCuts
01-25-2009, 05:58 AM
You have to be in all your local phone books. The ad size is up to you and how much your willing to spend but at least get your number in there. As far as tracking where your customers come from. I normally ask the customer how did you hear about us or you can put codes on your advertising or get a couple phone lines. Have 1 line for the phone book 1 line for your vehicle ads and 1 line for any flyers you put out.

ritchiem
01-25-2009, 11:16 AM
Here was some of my mistakes.

1. Buying a 2WD truck (should have spent the extra money and got 4x4
2. Buying a wider trailer. The max deck size I can put on my trailer is 52" :(
3. Not giving myself enough time for the office. I exhausted myself in the field and couldn't concentrate in the office. This year I will be delegating more office work to my office manager (wifey).

Steve
01-25-2009, 12:50 PM
Buying a 2WD truck (should have spent the extra money and got 4x4

Oh very interesting. Can you tell us why?

ritchiem
01-25-2009, 01:02 PM
I live in Ontario, Canada. I cannot plow snow with a rear wheel drive...I bought it out of desperation and it clouded my judgment.