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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.

Service Agreement **- NEED TO VENT


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 04-24-2010, 11:28 PM
HDfromTX
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Default Service Agreement **- NEED TO VENT

Some of yall might know me from the introduction forum but I have been in the lawn business before about 10 years ago. Back then I was doing yards for family friends and their neighbors nothing to big about 20 customers. Well, this time around I have done good for my first month with landing 15 customers a week and growing everyday. But here is my problem and I need advice before I land anymore business -

I had my first failed relationship with a bi-weekly customer. The only reason I believe is the guy was trying to stiff me out of services. He called me up one Saturday around noon and asked if I could do his lawn, I did have an small window between 2 other customers and told him I would try. Before he hung up, he told me that he was interested in a bi-weekly visit and that he couldn't pay me until the following week until he got paid. I told him that I would try and fit him in that day and that I would be in touch. I called him later that day and rescheduled due to my first customer adding some services to her visit. I told him that since I missed that day that I would take off $5.00 for his first visit due to rescheduling. Not a problem, mowed his grass Monday and offered more services if needed and left. I emailed him today due to his phone not accepting calls, I told him that I had him schedule for Monday morning and that his total due would be $55.00 ($25.00 first cut ($5.00 off discount) then $30.00 for second cut)... I got a quick reply back that he didn't agree with the charges and that he wanted to be mailed an invoice and that he would find someone more reliable - wait a minute, you told me that I did a great job and basically now Im financing your first cut because you were broke and didn't have any money. Im ticked but I try and let my customer service kick in through email form and try to get through the bottom of this (remember he doesn't have a phone, probably cause he didn't pay that bill). Anyways after bouncing emails he told me that I wasn't reliable and that I ran over a sprinkler head, WHAT??? I do all of my own work and mostly mow high end homes, I know what I hit and dont hit with all my equipment. I try to make arrangements with him to come out and make it right but all he wants is an invoice with the amount owed. Im through playing games, and I am thowing this one in the bag as a lesson learned. It has been a BS day, and glad a new one starts in less than 2 hours.

NOW - How to Design a Service Agreement without making a customer feel like the are under a contract. Anyone have ideas? All I want is it to listed services offered under a "lawn visit", how often they want services preformed, the $$$ amount they agree upon, and payment options. In my eyes this sounds like a contract but in reality this is the only way I can justify taking on any more new customers. I never had this problem before but this problem took my Saturday and threw it in the garbage.

Thanks in advance and sorry about the novel.
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  #2  
Old 04-27-2010, 12:26 PM
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I see a couple of problems here.
#1- You offered to do work knowing full well he didn't have money.
#2- You will make everyone pay with service agreements for one person? You ask about service agreements without making them think they are signing a contract. I hope this was misworded, If not you are a very dishonest untrustworthy person. A service agreement IS a contract. I never have needed them and never will use them. I am a good judge of character and do good work and have no need to "swindle" someone into a contract to keep there business.
Here is my advice. File a complaint with the local D.A.
Ask to be met at his house with a local officer, Provide him with an invoice and demand payment with said officer present. If nothing more he will know you mean business and at least pay what he owes. Local authorities are more than happy to mediate situations like this. Unfortunately sense it was a verbal agreement I am not sure if you are in a legal position to goto collections and charge interest. You will have to check your local and state laws about that. All this will work but is assuming you are running a licensed business. If you are not licensed then the answer is shorter "You are screwed" learn and move on. For example here in Ca the SLB specifically states if you are not licensed you have NO legal weight to attempt to recover lost fund do to a non paying customer. In short do NOT ever do work for someone who has already stated they have a problem with paying for the service. Next time if they get paid next week schedule them for next week.
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Old 04-28-2010, 03:52 AM
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Okay first off I misworded what I thought a service agreement might be. Im not looking for contract, just something that explains to a customer that these are the services that I offer for xx.xx amount of dollars and anything other service is considered extra.

I have talked to another lawn guy in the area, he told me that what he does whenever he recieves a new customer. The first time that he invoices them he staples a letter to the invoice just stating how he sets his schedule, what to do if you need extra service done, how he schedules due to weather, and a simple area at the bottom that has your first estimate written on it. There was probably more to it but he didn't have a copy in his truck at the time.

His letter idea is what Im considering... But to be honest, I think that one bad customer experience out of 15 new customers isn't too bad. I have learned my lesson through all of my negative happenings so far and I think in time I will be able to weed out the good people from the scammers without thinking twice about it. I think most people will agree when you start out in this competitive market, when someone calls and wants service then you try all you can to gain a customer.
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Old 04-28-2010, 07:00 AM
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Bi-weekly was a warning sign. Then no money was an alarm. Any bi-weekly you should demand payment before work starts.
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Old 04-28-2010, 12:31 PM
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Hi HD,

Did you check out the contracts and service agreements in the lawn care template section?

You will most likely be able to find something you can use there.

In this situation though, even if you had one, this customer sounds like a train wreck and most likely it would have been problematic anyway.

As you are getting back into business now, what could be happening is that you are getting your feet wet again and you are trying to get your bearings straight with all these customers.

After you get a few that are not problematic, you will begin to see the problem customers coming at you from a mile away.

Don't worry about a handful of customers now being idiots, it will improve as your senses improve.

What's your thoughts on all of this?
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Old 04-28-2010, 02:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cklandscapingorlando View Post
Bi-weekly was a warning sign. Then no money was an alarm. Any bi-weekly you should demand payment before work starts.
Why? All my mowing are biweekly and I have NEVER had a non payer. Not even a late payer. All my clients are trying to force checks down my throught 2 weeks before there money is even do.
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Old 04-28-2010, 06:36 PM
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Maybe you have a diffrent market than I. 90% of bi-weekly here simply want that because they have no money. It would cost to much for the time it would take to keep a property looking top notch on a bi-weekly. That means they will only have you mowing so the place looks like hell. You dont get work from dust bowls and here if it's bi-weekly it's a dust bowl. I have a few great bi-weekly's but most are PITAs
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Old 04-28-2010, 08:23 PM
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For most lawns that i mow for residential customers, I have a carbon copy proposal sheet that i just write in how often its to be mowed the price of each service and that a bill will go out at the first of the month and its due in 15 days. I can do it right on the job. I havent had any prob with this yet. Its not really a contract it just basically says when i mow you pay. For commercial accounts i do have a couple different contracts.
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Old 04-28-2010, 09:24 PM
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Service agreement/Contract call it what ever you want, but you should always get something in writing. It's sad to say, but a handshake just does not cut it this day in age. If a customer racks up a huge bill and doesn't pay, it is a pain in the neck to take a verbal agreement to court.

People aren't as scared of contracts as they used to be. Every time you sign a credit card receipt you are signing a contract. Most customers view a contract as a professional way of doing business.

Don't try to fill your contract with to much legal jargon. The contract should contain service prices, payment terms, and what happens if you damage their property. Keep it short, simple, and explain it to them. Make it known to the customer that the contract is a benefit to them (Your company is held liable if you damage something etc.)
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Old 04-29-2010, 02:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TeamDynamic View Post
Service agreement/Contract call it what ever you want, but you should always get something in writing. It's sad to say, but a handshake just does not cut it this day in age. If a customer racks up a huge bill and doesn't pay, it is a pain in the neck to take a verbal agreement to court.

People aren't as scared of contracts as they used to be. Every time you sign a credit card receipt you are signing a contract. Most customers view a contract as a professional way of doing business.

Don't try to fill your contract with to much legal jargon. The contract should contain service prices, payment terms, and what happens if you damage their property. Keep it short, simple, and explain it to them. Make it known to the customer that the contract is a benefit to them (Your company is held liable if you damage something etc.)
I still stand by my way of doing business. No contracts, Never had a non or late payer. Never had a problem at all. In fact one of my clients specifically fired there last guy because he had them on a contract, He would mow and charge them when it didn't need to be done, Sometimes he would never show up but still charge because the lawn was short but according to his contract he got paid. As far as I care people around here can keep pushing contracts and I will keep taking there clients,
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