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Earthworks II
05-01-2001, 02:41 AM
Well, this is my first post ever. I have been reading everyone elses posts since I discovered this site about 9 months ago but never really had anything to say cuz I didn't know anything about the business...just wanted to read and learn. About October of 2000 I decided that I wanted to get in and do this and someone that I've known awhile was leaving the biz and wanted to sell all his equipment and client base. I said great signed a note to him for $25K payable over three years jumped on the Walker and went to work. I have discovered that this is the most difficult thing I have ever tried to do. Not only is the work strenuous but the development of business is unreal.
I've lost 30% of the residential clients that he gave me for various reasons, the residentials that are left don't pay but when they feel like it but the commercials are steady and on time. I really want to take this business to a level that will provide a future for my family if I should pass away. But I don't have a plan or any real clue as to how to do it. I market alot and I've just picked up a 3 1/2 acre condo complex but I can't do it by myself and even the illegals want big bucks to work 12-15 an hour. I am venting at this point but it sure would be nice if someone could point me in the right direction. Thanks

Starling Lawn
05-01-2001, 09:43 AM
earthworks,Since i went to the Small Business Development Center it change my thinking about where i needed to go with my business.Its affiliated with the SBA.They offer other services like how to do a business plan,where to find help etc.Go with an open mind,its a tremendous resource.
Dave

Stonehenge
05-01-2001, 07:33 PM
Welcome aboard -


You might try asking the prior owner for some help/advice too, as he may be able to give you some good insight as to why you're having problems.

If you have time, I'd also ask those customers that left you why they left. They may be a great source of information for you.

And for those that don't pay timely - get on top of your receivables (accounts that owe you money). That can kill you. Even if on paper you're earning all kinds of money, you can lose your shirt if those people aren't paying on time.

Earthworks II
05-02-2001, 01:20 AM
Thanks for responding. I have considered the SBA and maybe even the SCORE program that they have only thing is getting the time to go in...guess I'll just have to make time.
As for the lost clients that was do primarely to an increase in fees. The prior owner was charging as little as 15 bucks a cut for a front yard and 25 for front and back including hedging etc. After reading the info on this site and waiting a few months I sent them all letters with an avg increase of $5-$10 alot of people stayed but some just went with someone else for less than or equal to what they were paying also, a few that left were because they didn't like me calling to collect past invoices. Never was rude just persistant. I admit that I probably lost a couple due to a lack of industry knowlege on my part. Like how to keep the weeds out or what fert. to use etc. But hey I'm learning as I go. Today I found out that the largest client I have, the condo complex, is concerned that I do not have sufficient help to get the job done in one visit. So I am going to have to hire a few guys to help me that day.
All I know is that this puppy is not going to beat me. I will make this happen. I try and go out at least once a week and solicite business from commercial properties and I've made contact with 17 Property management companies in town...that's where I got the condo's from. My biggest challenge is income...having enough to pay the bills and keep feeding this baby. It seams the more clients I get the more help I need which translates into large costs margins. It's an evil circle. But I know that somewhere I'm suppose to start making money. At least that's what the books all say so :-).

Stonehenge
05-02-2001, 06:05 PM
EW2,

In reading your second post, I think that you're handling this right. The first thing anyone does who takes over an existing business is cuts loose the dead weight. Sounds like you did that with the customers who didn't want to pay fair prices.

You wouldn't want those accounts anyway. Like working for $5 a day and spending $5 on lunch.

Managing growth is a good problem to have, and one that requires careful thought. Sounds like you're on the right track, though.

HOMER
05-06-2001, 09:25 AM
I wouldn't go out and hire a "bunch" of guys to help you do the complex. You will be surprised at how much ONE GOOD guy can benefit you. Until you pay 2 or 3 to help you will not understand the impact it has on your bank account, sure the work will get done, but where will the money come from to pay these guys????????????????????

You also can't be all things to all people. If they want to know about weeds and you can't help them then tell them you are taking things one day, month, year at a time----whatever-------don't lie to them and get caught in it for sure! Go to Lowes and buy the books on those subjects, All About Lawns is a good starter book. Anything concerning grass and shrubs is a good way to get introduced so that you can carry on a somewhat intelligent conversation.

Your on the right track-----------don't panic. One day at a time is the best way to handle most situations.

eggy
05-07-2001, 10:06 PM
3 1/2 ACRES?? What are they wanting?? you should be able to handle this no problem..by yourself . We do a 5 acre nursing home in about 2 1/2 hours me and one other guy. By myself average about 4 hours. This includes a lit of trimming , Of course I am sure they need mulching but try it yourself...hiring people costs big bucks, good people. remember workers comp, payroll service ,taxes etc. i have a guy who can pretty much run my buisness but it has taking a few years to get that way.

Earthworks II
05-08-2001, 03:47 AM
I want to thank all of you for the advice and support. I should have started posting awhile back. Here's the deal with that 3 1/2 acre condo complex. It's not all a straight shot. Each building ( 20 total ) is like a bungalow with about 6 units per building. each unit has a small ( 6x6 ) to mid-size ( 9X9 ) patch of lawn. There are hedges running along each building and a common parking area behind. Along the street side of the complex there is a straight shot of lawn extending approx. 1 city block. This place is " L " shaped. Also, there is a common area about 95 X 95 with a lawn and a pool. To cut the grass alone took me all day. This included edging all areas with turf & blowing the walkways and parking area. I am supposed to trim the hedges/shrubs, weed the shrub beds and the rock areas. When I took this place over it was overgrown with weeds and the grass was 8" tall. I just found out the previous guy had 8 guys there each week for 3/4 of a day doing this place. I charged $1800 a month and was 2000 more per year than other bids I was refered so I got it.
It doesn't matter though cuz i just got an e-mail informing me that my services are no longer needed. They stated breach of contract. I've worked there for only 5 weeks trying to beat down the weeds and the overgrown shrubs while also mowing,edging and blowing. Spending a good 10 hours there per visit. I hired one guy to help and it did but I guess too little too late.
The way I write my "agreements" is all services listed to be performed on an as needed basis and that either party must give a 30 day written notice prior to cancellation. They want my last invoice so I'm charging the full month of May because of the lack of a 30 day notice. We''ll see if they pay. It bums me out though I really wanted to make this work...was my first opportunity into the "big time". Well, back to the residentials at least when they quit it doesn't hit the wallet so hard.
I felt like I wanted to give up cuz we're stuggling financially but damn it I can't just quit. So today I went out and spent the day putting out flyers and calling on smaller complexes didn't get nothing right then but it felt good. I did get a call from a drop I had done a couple of months ago and a guy from church they want to start service. Thanks again any advice is trully welcome and accepted.

John Allin
05-08-2001, 09:25 AM
If you're not going to quit (and I'm not advocating that you do by any means), then view this as a learning experience. "Show me someone who hasn't failed, and I'll show you someone who hasn't tried...." You tried, and you should be commended for it...

Congratulations.... you're learning. Don't get down on yourself. This is part of the learning curve.

You gave it a try, and learned something from it. Don't let that disuade you from trying this type of account again... just learn from the experience.

I think you should be proud of yourself for the effort. And, I (personally) think you're one damned good business person because you picked yourself up and went out soliciting work to replace what you lost - instead of licking your wounds for months pleading "whoa is me".

You got my respect (for what that might be worth).

Mike Nelson
05-08-2001, 11:08 AM
Life is like climbing a ladder.

You might go up and down several times in business,but as long as you don't fall off.Hang on tight and have fun. :D

John is right on the money about trying.

Good Luck

Mike Nelson

Stonehenge
05-08-2001, 11:45 AM
Don't think that any successful business person hasn't had days just like yours, and thoughts just like yours. Because they have.

There's another saying out there 'if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger.' I don't think this applies to everyone in business, but for the ones that it does, they are more likely walking down the road to success. Keep fightin'.

65hoss
05-09-2001, 01:58 AM
We are all still learning. Not one person here has all the answers. Keep fighting.

I know I do something everyday that makes a learning experience. I'm starting to get tired of learning experiences. lol :p

Fantasy Lawns
05-09-2001, 09:03 PM
I have this in front of my Desk:

"When things go wrong, as they sometimes will....When the road you're trudging seems all uphill, ....When the funds are low and the debts are high, ...And you want to smile, but you have to sigh ...When care is pressing you down a bit - Rest if you must, but don't you quit"

"Success is failure turned inside out--So stick to the fight when your hardest hit-It's when thinds seem worst that you musn't quit"

You have a great attitude .....it will be tough .....even seem impossible ....then by stroke of faith ....it will come together .....this is ONLY true with a positive fresh attitude ....so you have one up on a lot of people

Kurt
05-10-2001, 10:27 PM
EARTHWORK II
I feel for you because, for one: I am new too and am struggling. two: I am attracting the wrong customers.
Before starting this business, I was in sales and marketing. Just like starting any business, the ladder is steep. The road is rough. The customers are lame.
That's the dues to owning a business.
As you get to know more people, provide an honest service at a fair price, the ladder will become less steep. It takes many months to know people and earn the trust of people.
When I was in Business to Business sales, I met hundreds of small business owners. I interview many of them and found a common thread among all. No matter what the business, the answer to my question "how did you get started?". "I struggled at the beginning. It took me a few years to get started" they would tell me.
In this industry, most start off small and work on the side. A lot of them would work for someone else and get exposure and take on weekend or after hour jobs. Many work for or took over the business from their fathers. I found it rare that people start like me and you. Cold Turkey. We woke up one morning and said "I think that I will start a Landscaping Business." That's the hardest way. But stick with it. The rewards are at the top of that ladder.
I'm in the same boat.
Many great motivational researches agree. "If you want to be the best, then find out how they do it and become that person."
My advice is keep your fixed cost to a minimum, until you can justify.
Mine is about $400.00 a month.
Work alone until you can take on a trusted employee. Payroll is the GREATEST expense for ANY company.
Keep reading and networking.
Good Luck
Kurt:)