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  #11  
Old 10-15-2009, 06:25 PM
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When you reflect back on the year and think of the mistakes, what stands out in your mind? Do you have advice for all of us on the issues you had to deal with that were problems that you were able to overcome?

It seems the first year of business is the biggest killer and the issues you ran into could be issues others run into but can't figure out how to get around them.
Well I thought my research was sound and I had the lawn care nailed, I never intended to expand into what I have, I neglected the number one rule, what are the customers needs. You see the lawn being mowed needs were being met by law rate service providers, I am in this to make money not just mow lawns so I had to go to the customers ask what they were doing that they would rather hire someone to do, once I did that and advertised the service, everything changed.

I overlooked it takes time to show staff the ropes to get the results I and the customer want, we did get there however it was a stressful trip, now I have the staff in place so that is taken care of.

Don't buy equipment until the demand is there, I have a $12,000 ZTR I thought I would need, to be honest the X749 All Wheel Steer out performs a ZTR is every way, just my experience and I should have bought this tractor long ago.

On the excavation side the 17D I have has paid for itself, I sold myself short I should have bought at least a 35 although the 17 has done jobs where space is an issue and the 35 could not have.

Trucks, I really screwed up here, I should have bought either a 350 or a small dump truck, now I have two rangers and a F150, I just wasn't thinking.

Most companies fail due to a host of reasons, managing cash and cash flow has to be number one along with receivables, I knew this going in and it has never been an issue.

The old saying it takes money to make money is ringing loud and clear, if I didn't have access to my own capital, I would never be where I am today, in short I invested in myself and kept the company out of debt, it has pretty much paid me off.

Take the risks, I would stew over making large financial investments in commercial gear, just do it, most of this companies gear is paid for and I haven't been in business that long and it all looks new.

More research and the research has to be on going, stay ahead of the competition by looking and testing new products, this is how I built the security company and it came to me in September I should be doing this in lawn care and I have started.

Pretty much everything else I had in place and it saved my butt, I went at this in February writing software, doing research, business plan etc. all of that saved me when the flood gates opened in May when I started offering services that had nothing to do with mowing lawns.

I screwed up on storage, I could have and should have made the time to have a building built and ready, anyhow the rent isn't that bad and I have a place at Metro Self garage Storage booked, it's 24 X 20 with a 9 foot ceiling, I can fit 60% of the gear in there which is fine I have enough room at home for the rest in other buildings.

DON'T sub out, either take control and do it or pass, when there is a problem with a sub, it's your problem with a customer, I got burnt once and that was the end of it.

There are probably other things but that covers the things that come to mind.
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Last edited by picframer; 10-15-2009 at 06:29 PM.
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  #12  
Old 10-15-2009, 09:18 PM
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Well I thought my research was sound and I had the lawn care nailed, I never intended to expand into what I have, I neglected the number one rule, what are the customers needs. You see the lawn being mowed needs were being met by law rate service providers, I am in this to make money not just mow lawns so I had to go to the customers ask what they were doing that they would rather hire someone to do, once I did that and advertised the service, everything changed.
This is really fascinating because it makes you wonder, how much research can and should an entrepreneur do before starting a business. Is it even possible to know what you need to know, before you get started? Could you have gone out and knocked on doors and asked the home owners if they need lawn service and how much would they pay? Would they tell you? If you had done this would it have changed your plan initially?

Is this something others should be doing too before they even consider starting up?

Was does it seem with all of us, we do things on a gut level feeling. We think this or that can work and then we jump in and only then, when we are on the field and ready to play do we realize the field is not solid but in fact quick sand!
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  #13  
Old 10-16-2009, 04:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve View Post
This is really fascinating because it makes you wonder, how much research can and should an entrepreneur do before starting a business. Is it even possible to know what you need to know, before you get started? Could you have gone out and knocked on doors and asked the home owners if they need lawn service and how much would they pay? Would they tell you? If you had done this would it have changed your plan initially?

Is this something others should be doing too before they even consider starting up?

Was does it seem with all of us, we do things on a gut level feeling. We think this or that can work and then we jump in and only then, when we are on the field and ready to play do we realize the field is not solid but in fact quick sand!
I think my method of research was wrong or I was looking and thinking wrong, I spoke with friends about mowing their lawn, mainly the rich area of Halifax, everything was positive until I looked at the rates, my mistake was once I had the green light I went over the top on mowing equipment.

My focus should have been and now is a bedroom community, average age around 46, average home age around 14 years, 90 percent of my work is there, no traffic, all highway, no parking issues, lots of small places for staff to eat, this age group is ideal, home owner age perfect as they can afford to get things fixed. I can leave my gear in this area at safe spots, clients I consider friends, it's working perfect.

Knowing what I do now, I wasn't looking at all the angles from sitting in traffic to do city jobs to not being able to park.

What saved this company Steve is I had access to my own capital and was able to use it to take the company in a totally different direction, excavation, pressure washing, tree cutting and chipping etc. and do it fast.

Your last comment is very true and I don't have an exact answer as it's probably different for many of the readers, it took a lot of tweaking to get things rolling and then once I did it was like starting a snowball at the top of a hill then giving it a push, at one point the snowball was so big I could not manage it and had to learn to say no, we can't take on any further jobs, this really tore at me but thank god I did or I may have fallen apart.

I am going into year two with a lot of knowledge, I have learned more of what clients need and to grow next year I will take the company further into excavation, bigger equipment, bigger jobs and septic fields. As I mentioned I know a lot of developers, I told them for this year I didn't have the equipment, that was not totally true, I wanted to get the engine firing on all cylinders before I took on these big contracts.

There is a lot of work to do before you open the doors and this should all be done in the off season months so that when the season to be on the road comes, we hit the ground running, personally I will work at this Jan to March.

Advertising a service without the equipment may make some frown but for me it works, if enough prospects contact me, I get the equipment and start the jobs, doing this I have not made one mistake buying equipment, I have advertised services a few people asked about and it was a flop, didn't cost me a dime, I suppose if one was still unsure you could rent the equipment for a few jobs.
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  #14  
Old 10-16-2009, 09:12 PM
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Quote:
my mistake was once I had the green light I went over the top on mowing equipment.
Being that a lot of start up lawn care businesses read the forum, what equipment would you suggest they get where they are not going over the top with purchases? What equipment purchases would be too much for a start up?

Quote:
I have advertised services a few people asked about and it was a flop, didn't cost me a dime, I suppose if one was still unsure you could rent the equipment for a few jobs.
This is interesting because I am sure a lot of readers find themselves buying equipment first and then advertising for the service.

What services do you feel were a flop?
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  #15  
Old 10-18-2009, 08:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by picframer View Post

Don't buy equipment until the demand is there, I have a $12,000 ZTR I thought I would need, to be honest the X749 All Wheel Steer out performs a ZTR is every way, just my experience and I should have bought this tractor long ago.
Depends on the situation, if you were in my shoes, cutting grass with a tractor, you wouldn't go far.

I cut down my time in half with my ZTR since I had 5 schools to take care of
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  #16  
Old 10-18-2009, 09:10 PM
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Depends on the situation, if you were in my shoes, cutting grass with a tractor, you wouldn't go far.

I cut down my time in half with my ZTR since I had 5 schools to take care of
Agree to some extent but as with everything things change, an X749 Deere will cut rings around a ZTR and do everything a ZTR will do but more, in the same time plus open a lot of doors for the business owner, this is why research is key to any business, add to that it has a PTO with 24HP means roto tilling, wood chipping and a host of other abilities, a 3 point hitch means it will handle all the attachments for a CAT 1, front end loader option, runs on diesel and in my experience so far costs about eighty cents an hour to run, All wheel streer four wheel drive with Dif lock front and rear means it will leave a ZTR behind on grades a ZTR simply can't make, it's a big investment, but having one and a 997 ZTR which is probably the most expensive one on the market, I will never but another ZTR, they limit what I can do for the dollars spent, I can put a 7 Iron deck on my 749 if needed and they are considered one of the best in the industry.
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  #17  
Old 10-18-2009, 10:23 PM
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It's a nice machine, but at a cost pf $15,000.00 (including tax) the return on investment would be very small for my situation. The population here is only 12,000 and spread out. I like the PTO feature and the power, but, the economy will have to really jump before I could consider it. Until them I can just dream!

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  #18  
Old 10-19-2009, 02:04 AM
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Thanks andy!
I will very much consider the unit yet this winter. Though happy with my ZTR there is room for improvment and that very well could be green.
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  #19  
Old 10-19-2009, 04:48 AM
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Thanks andy!
I will very much consider the unit yet this winter. Though happy with my ZTR there is room for improvment and that very well could be green.
The key here is two things, it will match and exceed the ZTR as I mentioned, the main reason I went shopping is two of these gated communities we picked up early fall have places with insane grades and my competition could not get up them with their ZTR, I went in with my 997 ZTR as it's a pretty big unit, not a chance, I spun out and there is no way to get to the top and mow down, aside from that it would be dangerous if those tires lost grip heading down, the operator would fly down.

So I brought Deere out and the sales guy said a 749 will play with that, my response was drop one off which they did and he was right.

Then I got to thinking you know we till around 90 places, this unit is far smaller in size but has the same power and abilities as the bigger unit, I could do tight areas I had to turn away this year.

Then I was thinking you know we have turned down quite a few lawn jobs due to traction, this thing would do it no problem.

Anyhow when you buy a machine like this I appreciate the investment is steep but you are raising the bar and cutting the competition out, this will make you a lot of money and you can offer so many services with a unit like this, I think there is something like 45 attachments for lawn care that go on it, it will even run a wood chipper.

Then you can add a snow plow, blower etc. traction will never be an issue.
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  #20  
Old 10-19-2009, 11:44 PM
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Andy,

How does cutting speed factor into this? How do they compare and is this an important issue?
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