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  • Special in One vs. Full Coverage

    Is it better to specialize in one particular service vs. being someone that others everything?

    If you listened to my online discussion many of you know that by the end of 2007 I will be just specializing in strictly lawn applications, but overall is this a bad move in your opinion? Should I offer a wide arrange of services for I am not shutting the door on myself for potental customers and potential money?

  • #2
    Hi tiedeman,

    It's my view that when a person starts a business, they should try a bunch of things and see what is going to work and take off. Then as you go, you should start to specialize because, I feel that is where the money is. The specialty knowledge you aquire or licenses or tools will set you apart from the start up and allow you to command a higher price.
    As you get more specialized you will also be able to streamline your operation to be more profitable than other companies you simply dabble in it. This will allow you to lower your prices so others find it difficult to compete with you.
    To sum this up. When your business is growing and you need cash to meet your expenses, be open to doing other things. Your company needs to survive. But as you grow you should specialize.

    What do you think of this?
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    • #3
      I don't believe in offering every possible service out there, but I belive allowing yourself to diversify in services offered will allow you to bounce out of slow periods and can ultimately keep a more steady income.

      When we owned a pizza shop we were basicly an Italian eatery, we offered pizza as number one but we also had alot of italian specialty meals, and on top of that we had the normal "quicky food" (wings, fry's, all types of fried foods, american style sandwiches and subs). I think the biggest problem with that situation was we were too widespread and overhead for inventory killed us. If we would of been just a pizza shop or just the italian specialty restaurant I think it would of went alot better. My proof that the business structure wasn't right, its a franchise and the longest owner of one of the shops was us (1 year), other then us everyone had to close up in 4-6 months.

      I try to diversify my services but I don't offer everything. I also think it has to do with the area, I recall you saying you only have 1 or 2 other companys that spray, so the odds are good that you will be able to get into that area easily. I currently offer mowing as my main income, landscaping, mulch installation, seasonal displays, cleanups, plowing. I'm certified to apply pesticide and fertilizer but I decided not to, I also cut out shrub pruning unless its for well known existing customers. I've had nothing but bad experience with one time calls for shrub pruning so it was too much of a hassle.

      All the guys I talk to around here always say "I want to get out of mowing and do X" X being landscaping, or fertilizing, or strictly lawn installs. But again this area can't handle it, thats why I feel for this area you have to offer a variety of services to keep income up and incase of a drought or too much rain you have other areas to work with.

      Good example of this area not handling landscaping solely. The largest company around here, the most well known and professional looking company, 20 some employee's...is now going under. They still seem to be doing fine but a friend works there and said they're trying to get a loan just to pay payroll (I said trying because they probably won't get the loan due to being so far in debt). They do wonderful work, and the owner is known for being a great business man, but he relies solely on landscaping and plowing..thats it. And with the current economy and then no snow this year he had no money coming in and he apparently never kept capital in the company's bank account. If he would of offered lawn maintenance, being his name is so great in the area he'd probably have a ton of work there and probably wouldn't be in the situation he's in.
      \"Every strike brings me closer to the next home run\"

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      • #4
        Well, I am just wondering about whether moving over to the strictly pesticide area, and thinking about having aeration on the side, is a good idea or not. I have always before in the past offered lawn maintenance, landscaping maintenance, etc. But to keep up with the equipment to provide that type of service is getting nerve racking. Sure if I didn't do that right now I would be lost with money, but how much possible money am I really going to lose by not offering those type of services along with the pesticide applications?

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        • #5
          Is it a good idea or not...for you it sounds like it would be a good idea. You mentioned in your webcast that its still an untapped market.

          When you say about how much money would you be losing if you left out the other services, thats up to you really. I mean how many application accounts would you need to have a full schedule? The companies around here that do strictly applications need hundreds of accounts to make money. VS mowing which you need XX weekly customers to make good money but you also have the headache of equipment.

          It's really all in what you want and what your area will support. Have you considered keeping a certain amount of mowing customers (or full service customers) and going over to pesticides mainly? As in being lets say 80% applications and 20% mowing? I just don't like having all my eggs in one basket, thats what I'm trying to get at, I'd feel more comfortable if I knew I'd have money coming from different areas.
          \"Every strike brings me closer to the next home run\"

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          • #6
            Well, my whole plan, as mentioned in the webcast was to be totally done with lawn maintenance at the end of 2007. I think my biggest concern is leaving behind a huge money opporunity. Sure, I would leave behind a huge headache, but would I also take on a huge headache if the lawn applications do not work out like I thought it would? I then would have to regroup again, and go back into the maintenance side.

            I basically need to get as many application customers as possible. I figure, in order to be comfortable, and not necessarily rolling in the dough, at first I need approx 250-300 customers for applications.

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            • #7
              You have to do what you have to do to keep the business going but as your lawn application side grows, maybe you could scale back everything else and just focus on that part.
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              • #8
                If it was up to me, and not necessarily the money side talking, I would be totally done with mowing right now.

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                • #9
                  Well at the very least you do have a direction you want to go. I think knowing this is going to help you a lot.
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                  • #10
                    I think that not mowing leaves a lot on the table. I offer several services of which most I sub out, mark up for administrative costs (15%) and I get the oportunity to learn and keep and gain customers. I would love to do just irrigation repairs but I know that there will be certain times of the year that there will not be a lot of work. Most of my customers are commercial and pay an averaged billing all year. That is nice I know that I have so much income every month coming and try to keep things going. I have learned this year that I am being asked to do a lot of work that I would not normally do, but the proffit margin in these jobs is so great that I can not turn them down. In my area most of the customers (commercial) only want the basic minimum for turf managemanet, (chemical applications). So there is no real money in them for me, two apps per year just doesn't go far. the biggest problem I find is that the larger companies like TrueGreen can do the job cheaper than I can purchase the materials. So I sub to them and make the mark up. No-one sees the mark up because it is figured in the monthly price.

                    Same as landscaping, if a customer askes for me to install and patio or deck, I never turn it down. I network with the companies in my area and explain that I do not want them to go in and take my customer that they work and are bidding for me and not my customer. So far no problems.

                    Good luck with your decision, I know it is not always easy.

                    Sorry for any mispelling. (no spell check)

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                    • #11
                      So are you suggesting that I stay in the maintenance side or sub-contract it out?

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                      • #12
                        I really appreciate Accuscapes' view point on this topic. Great insight.
                        I think if you want to manage all this then go for it.

                        I know of another business owner who just performs lawn applications and does very well for himself. He has 1 or 2 employees as well. I think what he likes most about it is that he doesn't have to manage all these operations. At the end of the day he can do non-business things like work on his cars etc.
                        He has managed to find something that works best for him

                        My question to tiedeman is, what would be best for you? What would you enjoy more?
                        - Subscribe to my Lawn Care Marketing Blog Feed and get daily tips sent to you. Free!
                        Download your Free trial of Gopher Lawn Care Software.

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                        • #13
                          I am personally at that point where lawn maintenance stresses me out. Believe this or not I got sick yesterday and today because of the stress in regards to doing spring clean ups. I just don't enjoy this work at all anymore. It's too the point where I would rather cancel a customer for the entire year, instead of having to do their clean up, or prune their shrubs, or bag their lawn.

                          If I had my choice right now, I would stop all lawn maintenance. But the major factor that is stopping me is the lack of enough customers for the lawn applications, and the money issue.

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                          • #14
                            Tiedman, sounds like you need to try and keep up with your current lawn maintenance schedule and advertise the heck out of lawn apps. If you invest enough into advertising (not just money but time) I don't see why you couldn't be almost completely switched over to lawn apps for next year. Then who knows you might want to keep 5-10 mowing accounts that are very profitable around (I know I would, I have a few that average over $80 an hour, I'd keep them)...But it diffenitly sounds like you need to switch over if you hate mowing that much.
                            \"Every strike brings me closer to the next home run\"

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                            • #15
                              Right now, there is only about 6 mowing accounts that I would like to keep. Those accounts are not only easy, very little spring and fall clean up, as well half of them are either a mow only, or on a 12 month flat rate plan.

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