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Quote[/b] ]“On establishing your trade area: “When my son and I went into business, we hoped to create tight little routes within a few blocks of home. On about the second day, one of our neighborhood customers asked us to mow his apartment
building, located in a suburb some eight miles away. In a week we had three apartment buildings and two houses in that same suburb! So much for working right around home.
“In a city of any size, due chiefly to contractor turnover, there are heaps of jobs up for grabs all the time. But they aren’t necessarily in those two upscale subdivisions you’ve chosen as your favored turf. They might be anywhere, including on the wrong side of the tracks.
“Plan to cast a wide advertising net. Go where the jobs are. If you don’t already know it, you’ll soon learn that there are profitable jobs and helpful, friendly people everywhere. If you must weed your routes out, do it later when you have too many jobs, not now when you have too few.”
On varying work loads: “Suppose you decide to keep your day job and mow lawns part-time, roughly 20 hours a week. You line up equipment and start running ads in local papers.
“What’s going to happen? No one knows. But normally, nothing spectacular happens. You start getting calls, start doing estimates, start mowing lawns. Usually, things are fairly peaceful. It takes a while to build a client list.
“Usually – but not always. You might be hoping for $600 a week and suddenly find yourself with $1600. How? Well, you might bid a single strip mall – and next day the owner calls and wants you to do all 14 of his properties. Or you might wander in where some other outfit just went out. That happened to us once, and in two days we had a single stop with 20-some fancy little lawns totaling over $600 a week. Flier distributions (discussed later) can also produce startling results.
“What to do? First, expect this sort of thing to happen. Not right away, perhaps, but if you hang around this business any length of time, sudden leaps in the workload become highly likely.
“Second, when it happens, please don’t hire the first warm bodies you see and send them out to do the work while
you go about business as usual. They might work. Then again, they might spend the day in the park, pitching woo at girls. You have to stay close all the time. Otherwise, you won’t have to worry about all those new jobs for long. Somebody else will be worrying about them.
“Third, understand that mowing hours are highly flexible. There’s no such critter as a “40-hour mowing route.”
Double the number of people and machines, and your “40-hour route” takes maybe 23 hours. (Due to inefficiencies
with larger crews, doubling up won’t cut time in half.) Double again and you’re down to perhaps 13 hours.
“All this is just as simple as it sounds. By adding or subtracting people and machines, you can handle enormously varied workloads without changing your own hours significantly. That’s what experienced contractors do all the time; it should not be otherwise when you’re just getting started.
“But you can’t shift gears smoothly if you’re not prepared. So do your homework now. Know exactly who you are going to hire – family, friends, relatives, perhaps help from a temporary agency such as Manpower. Also do your shopping now. Know exactly which machines you’re going to buy (see the equipment chapter) and where you’re going to get them. Know the price, delivery time, warranty, financing.
In short, be ready. All it costs is a little time.”
And a tax tip: “If you operate from home, you could qualify for a tax deduction called “business use of home.” This means that a portion of certain household expenses – taxes, insurance, repairs – can be written off as “business expense.” Savings can be significant. However, rules governing this deduction are stringent, and claiming it is said to be a red flag to the IRS. Before claiming this expense, talk to a tax professional to be sure you qualify.”