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Starting a lawn care business. How to start a lawn mowing business, lawn care business, or landscaping business. If you are starting a lawn care business, ask your questions here.

Cold feet about starting my business


Starting a lawn care business.

How to start a lawn mowing business, lawn care business, or landscaping business. If you are starting a lawn care business, ask your questions here.
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  #1  
Old 12-15-2009, 01:06 PM
iwhitne iwhitne is offline
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Default Cold feet about starting my business

I'll try to make this as simple as I can. I'm looking at getting into the lawn care business, and have for about 4 years now, but I'm worried about owning my own business in these troubled economic times. I have a college degree in construction management and have the business side covered. My brother is a graphic designer that would do my logo's and print media, my father is a legal advisor (25years now!), and my father-in-law is a retired CPA.

Right now I have a full size truck, 6x12 tandem trailer (no gate ramp), 48" Encore ZTR, Stihl trimmer/saw, medium snow blower, and a bunch of hand tools. I also have a 3 pt hitch scraper blade that attaches to my truck.. it's my "poor man's" snow plow. I don't have a leaf blower or real snow plow/spreader.

My overall goal is to have enough customers that will allw me to work all year round and have enough money to cover my overhead and pay myself. I would like to see take home profits of at least $40,000/yr. I want to focus mainly on mowing and plowing, but I also would do mulching/landscaping/New bed installs/Other odd job handy man work. I used to work in a greenhouse so I have a good relationship with my local grower (my old boss) and I think it would be a great network to find new clients.

My question for the forum community is how do I secure enough work to not only cover my direct costs/indirect cost, but also have some money in my pocket at the end of the year? I will be working by myself at first and maybe adding one employee (very dear friend of mine) in the future or on larger landscape projects.

I have thrown together some rough figures and based my calulations on a 1,500-2,000 hour work year... pretty much an average of 40hr/wk and
50wks/yr. I got an hourly rate of between $30-$40/hr. With operating costs of about $30,000/yr.

I guess what I'm really asking is.. how long did it take most of you guys to build a client list large enough to work 40+ hours per week during mowing season and keep busy during snowfall events?
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  #2  
Old 12-15-2009, 02:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iwhitne View Post

I guess what I'm really asking is.. how long did it take most of you guys to build a client list large enough to work 40+ hours per week during mowing season and keep busy during snowfall events?
One season, without hardcore advertising. Though customers tend to fluctuate during the season. You may lose 3, but gain 5. It's a weird business.

With practice over time, you could be a master at lawn maintenance.
Some people take an hour to cut an average lawn, others take 20 minutes.

Some solo workers can work 8am-2pm & get 10 lawns done while others may work the same hours & get 20 lawns done, etc.

Next year my company will be making around $937.50 / week with 50 lawn maintenance customers. I will do my best to maintain 50 customers, or find small jobs to keep my income the same. (gardens, gutters, hedges, fall/spring cleanups)

I will only be working around 35 hours a week with lawn maintenance alone.

Getting into lawn service is a chance worth taking. Miracles do happen.

As for snow removal, that's risky.

I took the plunge & got back into snow removal with regrets, but it's for my benefit.

I have a commercial snow blower, but it doesn't fit in my truck. So I have to shovel every driveway I come across.

Worst case scenario, on average I can shovel a driveway in 40-50 minutes after a heavy snow storm. You will probably need a break after & a shot of tequila to keep going. :P

The best way to make money during the winter is;

a) either already have made enough money during the previous season

b) own a tractor & be able to cover it's maintenance/ operation costs

c) Advertise to customers who are door-to-door & be outside all day during the snow storm in order to keep the work from getting too difficult to do. Keep on shaving those inches of snow off with your shovel until the snow stops.

Figure out the average going rate for snow removal in your area, & charge your customers accordingly. Normally companies ask for 2 post dated checks at the beginning of the season.


I didn't manage to save a lot of money, so plan a) isn't for me. Sometimes I let my money disappear.

I don't own a tractor, but it's on my wish list for possibly next year... Also I need the right attachments. And don't worry, they aren't that difficult to drive, in fact someone should post a HOW-TO video on tractors, etc. It's one of those things you try for a few hours & you master.

So I'm stuck at plan c) , I know I could have made more money at McDonalds, but I'd rather be a champ & tough it out & teach the snow a lesson.

I'm sorta worried about biting off more than I can chew, so I'm keeping it to a minimum... In fact, my business isn't really making any money, I'm just paying myself and enjoying the thoughts of spring time.

If you need any shoveling tips, I'll post a thread about it in a second.
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:52 PM
iwhitne iwhitne is offline
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Well.. thanks for the interesting response..

I don't need any lessons on how to shovle or drive tractors.. I worked for the grounds department of a large college in Ohio. We had over 33 miles of sidewalks only to clear and we did it with power broom and truck/tractor mounted plows.. I have a lot of exp. plowing and mowing and it sounds like you just do it for a hobby. Which is fine by me.

I not only want to do this because I love it.. ut I also want to make some decent cash. I figured I would start-up this coming Spring and hopefully make enough cash to buy a decent plow set-up to support myself through the winter. I also know a landscaper about 2 miles down the road from me that does not offer mowing services and just this winter started to offer plowing service... I was thinking about contacting him to start join his company.. or just buy a list of his clients to send marketing info to via mail/phone.. pretty much this isn't going to be a hobbie.. I want it to be a lagit business to support myself and family
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Old 12-15-2009, 05:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iwhitne View Post
Well.. thanks for the interesting response..
They only get worse. LOL.

You have a neat plan.

Does this guy you know operate solely? If so I'd say hit him up about doing some business together.

I know a guy a few blocks away from me that owns his own tractor, I talked with him but apparently he couldn't get business in the area and has to travel long distances just to get work.

Do you know if this guy does any lawn maintenance? I'm sure you could teach him a few things & you could have a solid team year round.

There are a lot of problems with partner based businesses but there seems to be a way around it possibly in your situation. I'm sure if you scratch his back during spring > fall, he can repay the favor during winter?

Keep us updated with what you do, snow removal is a tough business to get into & if you can do it I'm sure there is hope for the rest of us!

Last edited by CHEESE2009; 12-15-2009 at 05:31 PM.
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Old 12-16-2009, 02:39 AM
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Quote:
I guess what I'm really asking is.. how long did it take most of you guys to build a client list large enough to work 40+ hours per week during mowing season and keep busy during snowfall events?
Hello and welcome to our forum!

We have seen some members on here absolutely take off and do great in their first season. But there are others who flounder year after year.

I think there are many factors that play into it. One is your ability to reach out and get customers. Another factor is your area. How is the economy in the area. What services are homeowners looking for and will to pay for. Are there niches in your area that are underserved?

To me it always seems to be a better idea to just get something started and get your feelers out there today, rather than wait.

You seem to have a lot of advantages many others don't have when getting started. I think that is going to help you out alot.

Quote:
My question for the forum community is how do I secure enough work to not only cover my direct costs/indirect cost, but also have some money in my pocket at the end of the year?
You need to promote yourself. Do you know a lot of people in your area? Are you friendly? Are you a member of local social organizations in the area? Do you have many family members in the area?

Can you get some business cards made up and start handing them out?

What do you think is holding you back from running with all this starting today?

Why do you think you have cold feet? Have you been considering other options besides starting your own lawn care business? How do those options compare?
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Old 12-16-2009, 09:56 AM
iwhitne iwhitne is offline
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Thanks Steve for the response. I think I have a lot of advantages in my local area. My wife's mother is a retired teacher with a bunch of women the same age and they love to gossip.. and she's very perswading. Her father is also a teacher in another close by community.. my mother is at the top of a 5 chain library system.. my uncle is in the plow busniess and my cousin was in the lawn care business with a buddy but had to quit due to back issues. My biggest problem is a year from now there is a possibility I may be moving across state. I'm all for getting started this year.. but what happens when I move? I lose my shop, my yard, my clients, and most of my networking "ins"

The other reason I'm slightly worried is my community is a retirerment community.. lots of condos and small homes with a few commercial lots... souds great right? Well there are at least 6 other lawn care/landscape guys in town and prolly triple that on the plowing side! I would say we have 3 big guys and a handful of smaller 1-3 man crews working the area. This city has a population of about 26,000 and has a small college as well.. I also have a good friend that has a bunch of rentals.. but I know they're cheap and I'd prolly break even but it would be a good source of advertising. My home town 10 miles away has a population of about 1,000.. there is one lawn care provider but I do think he actually does any in my home town... as for snow plowing there is about 3 people that do it and the one guy is a farm that plows some lots with a bi-directional tractor and 14' box blade...

I guess what I'm trying to say is.. should I even attempt to try and get work knowing I'm going to be moving in a year... or try and get work through the year and sell my contracts when I move?
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Old 12-16-2009, 11:12 AM
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Personally I would start the planning process but not really wast your time starting. Even when you think you have planned well keep on planning. You will never think of everything. Not long before you move start putting out adverts announcing your coming to the new city with your service, maybe doing that will get you clients signed on before you actually move. In my opinion if you start now you will be happy and everything will be working out then you will have to start over and go through all the crap somewhere ells that you already went through here. You may get distracted or even discouraged and decide to just quit. Starting a business is not as easy as just offering a service. After you get back to the office you have another days worth of work to do, you never get caught up. Trust me I don't ever care to go through the crap again that I have this year.
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Old 12-16-2009, 12:16 PM
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I see in your signature photo a mini excavator. Can you operate them? Is this a service you might want to offer too? Mini excavation?

That could give you an edge if others dont offer it. Another one of our members on here has done quite well offering such services.

Quote:
I guess what I'm trying to say is.. should I even attempt to try and get work knowing I'm going to be moving in a year... or try and get work through the year and sell my contracts when I move?
My view is, why waste a year? Why not use it and experiment with it. If you move, you move. No big deal. But all the lessons and skills you pick up this year will help you next year.

You will be able to build up a collection of before and after photos of your jobs. You will be able to get customer testimonials. Plus potential referrals to where you are moving to possibly.

What's your view on all that?
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