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-   Starting a lawn care business. (http://www.gopherforum.com/forumdisplay.php?f=32)
-   -   How to compete? (http://www.gopherforum.com/showthread.php?t=18126)

smallstripeslawncare 02-19-2013 07:50 PM

How to compete?
 
I'm located in Charlotte, NC and have been in business two years now. The competition is getting worse every year. I constantly see mini vans pulling walk behinds with signs saying "$20 lawn service", etc...So I know they're all lawn care business's and I even see tons that are probably lawn business's but just don't have a sign on their vehicle.

After talking to a few guys I've ran into filling up at the gas station I can clearly see the reasons so many people start up a lawn care business. Its a relatively low cost business to start. A used walk behind, trimmer, blower and even use the wifes SUV to haul it all is pretty easy on the wallet. Getting a DBA doesn't run that high and its overall a simple business to start.

With gas prices on the rise and the crazy amount of competition how can I compete?

SECTLANDSCAPING 02-19-2013 08:35 PM

These types come and go. As soon as the equipment starts to break or theres a drought, blizzard, to weed them out.

You just have to be firm with your price and service. Youll win some and you lose some. I get calls for services that Im told Im twice as high other but came highly recommended.

The blizzard we just had I was charging people 4xs my normal price and only 3 out of 25 said no. A few months before I only closed about a 1/4 of my quotes for driveways. The storm was to big for the hacks. They shut off their phones and went to sleep, leaving their customers stuck in their homes.

Theres people on here all the time that brag about 20,30,40 customers when they just started but since their charging $20-$25 a cut. I end up making more with less. Its easier on my equipment and I always invest back into the business.

It happens with every service. I have people around here doing 3 yards of mulch for $180. I lose these quotes but get 15 yards for $1800 all day. They dont have the equipment or even the money for materials. I just quoted a 120 yard mulch install. Theres only a handful people in this area that have the capital and equipment to pull that off.

You just have to separate yourself from the rest.

smallstripeslawncare 02-19-2013 09:43 PM

It would seem that they come and go but it also seems tons more are popping up. Last year I marketed heavily and was at $25 a cut for anything less than 1/2 acre. The majority of the lawns in my area aren't even close to 1/2 acre so in my opinion its profitable to get $25 for a 20 minute lawn.

This year I'm at $30 a cut (1/2 acre or under) and even with staying firm at that price it seems I'm not getting no where near the amount of calls/emails as I was last year. I already have 10 at $25 from last year and 5 at $30 and one at $35 from last season that have already confirmed for this season.

I need a goal of 50 lawns to make ends meet and be able to support my family. This is with the current lawns at their prices and the lawns I need at $30 a cut. Last year I didn't get a lot of calls until the season had already started and the spring growth has kicked in but I still got plenty of calls/emails from people in February and this year I haven't gotten many at all.

Fuel prices will be a big hit in the wallet this season especially if the prices keep climbing.

JeffK26 02-19-2013 09:51 PM

The types you're talking about are not competition. They're competing with themselves. They're one broken window from going under, one car or mower breakdown from shutting up shop, one heatwave from sitting in the AC and thinking about going to work for someone else and one drought from not bringing in money and having to close down.

It's a waste of time to think about these guys. The types of clients these guys are picking up are the ones you don't want anyway, they're shopping on price, they don't care if the guy misses the grass around a gutter, they don't care the guy uses the mower to shove open a gate, or puts the trimmer up to the house and tears the siding, marks up the wooden fence. they don't care about their property and don't want to mow it.

Focus on the people that want quality. The people that notice not one blade is missed, notice there is no damage to their property from a mower or a trimmer.

SECTLANDSCAPING 02-19-2013 10:01 PM

Thats why I say target 20 $50 lawns. Its a lot easier to do then 40 $25 lawns. If your advertising on price. You already lost. Go after the big upscale houses that have acres. I rather cut one yard for $200 then 5 for $40 each.

This is why I have a $35 min. I would rather not get the calls for all the little yards in the first place. If they dont even have grass, how can I up sell mulch, plowing, pressure washing?

smallstripeslawncare 02-19-2013 10:02 PM

You do have a valid point but how to target these clients is the hard part. Of course door hangars and fliers. I do a lot of advertisement on craigslist and I'm not sure if many high end residential clients dont even check craigslist.

In my area it seems like a lot of high end clients go with big company's probably for the reasons you've stated above. I do have quite a few out of the 16 lawns I currently have that are high end and do care about their property. Surprisingly the ones that are the best clients are the ones that have nice lawns (because they'll spend the money) and want me to stripe it perfectly, edge everything the correct way, and want me to cut the grass the right height for the grass type. I dropped a lot of accounts at the beginning of last year because they simply wanted bi-weekly service only and we all know during the spring it will get super high and on top of it all they wanted me to cut it to the dirt. I'll argue that it will invite weeds, damage the plant, and will look horrible and just isn't the right height for the grass type. I don't even mention about the strain on my equipment.

LawnBoy0311 02-20-2013 06:48 AM

I ran into this same problem. I saw TONS of these guys driving around at the start of last year. I remember seeing them and waving to them, some would stop and talk for a little while. The end of the year....they were gone. Like the other guys say, their biggest competition is themselves.

I stuck with my cost and it worked out for me. Granted I've haven't been on my own for too long, and I'm only a part timer, my tactics worked great for me. I noticed a whole bunch were using push mowers with a crew of 2 to 3 guys. I went after properties that were a bit bigger....ones I know they couldn't do.

It was also mid summer when the weather here gets very humid. Thats when I got a few more phone calls...all of them saying "My lawn guy stopped showing up".

I know it can be frustrating, and hopefully it will all work out. Theres no reason to try and undercut them, but offer something they can't do. Or go after properties too big for them. Side projects are the big ticket item, more $$ with less equipment.

smallstripeslawncare 02-20-2013 11:02 AM

I love when I see people selling their whole rig on craigslist after the season starts and it gets a little warm outside. It did seem I got the most calls around the beginning of April last year. Most guys started March 1st so I'm guessing I got the calls because people weren't showing up and went out of business or because some people wait until last minute to get a lawn care service when the HOA starts to send notice's about the lawn being too high.

I did see a lot of guys with push mowers and 4 guys packed in a pick up truck and some even riding in the back with the mowers. I just don't see how they can charge $20 a cut and all of them actually get paid.

I'm hoping things will pick up for me this year. I definitely won't go out bidding lawns for $15-$20.

BelleCityLawn1 02-20-2013 11:17 AM

These little guys drive me crazy. I am located between Milwaukee and Chicago. They come from everywhere advertising $10-$20 cuts. I have come up with ways to get around them. I only advertise on yards too big to mow with a push mower which is what most of them use. Craigslist is amazing for advertising but most of the people are too cheap, however, I have picked up some very good accounts through Craigslist. The best way to advertise is to do quality work. I picked up a supper small rental property for like $30 a mow last year. The property manager contacted me and thanked more for doing such a wonderful job with snow/lawn maintenance and for my on time billing and such. Through that one house I have picked up another 5 houses for different property managers in the area that heard of my good work and they keep coming! Just do good work, keep advertising, and you will be rewarded.


Thank you,
Tim Oezer
Belle City Lawn Care, LLC

smallstripeslawncare 02-20-2013 11:51 AM

I'm not going to lie I'm a solo business and plan to stay that way because I like doing it all myself and I like being able to provide the best quality of work possible. I do have much better equipment than the guys that are just starting out. 1996 Cummins 12v ram2500, gravely pro turn 152, gravely 36in hydro wb, etc...All commercial equipment because I learned my lesson with trying to use residential grade stuff last year.

The majority of lawns in my immediate area are less than 15,000 sq ft and that's probably why I see tons of guys with walk behinds and push mowers. I don't do contracts because it seems a lot of people in my area are scared to even sign one because of the guys who are unreliable and just do a horrible job and then they're stuck with them. Plus its easier on me not to offer contracts. I do flat rate pricing which really worked last year so people know what to expect to pay when they contact me. Any lawns under 1/2 acre (most are 15,000 sq ft or under) $30. Which isn't really low balling when most are small and don't take long but I have gotten burned on one or two that were right at 1/2 acre which I know $30 is too low.

Surprising I love lawn care and love working outside but I do have a family to support.


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