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View Full Version : Student starting a business... am I doing this right??


EGLC
04-13-2007, 01:56 PM
I need some advice and feedback about my business plan. Im pretty much confused but i'm putting in alot of time and effort into this. Im a college student and since college usually ends during early April here, I decided that it's a perfect time to start and operate a residential aeration business during my break. I chose to do aeration since its an important service that most home owners just don't do since renting is expensive and an aerator is heavy. I will be doing this in Ontario in the Greater Toronto Area.

I used to work for a residential lawn aeration company and plan on having the same business structure. I plan on doing door to door sales while distributing flyers at the same time for people who aren't home and want to pre-book next time we service their area again. I will be working with 3 others that I plan on paying maybe 40% commission. Each person will be working on different routes in the area to be able to cover alot of ground in one day. I expect each person including me to service at least 6-12 lawns in a route in a day. So thats about 24-48 lawns serviced in total a day.

I will be renting 4 aerators during the first 2 weeks until i can afford to purchase 4 aerators. And I already own a trailer.

Also I would be charging at an average of $60 per lawn. And an average of $45 for the front only. Also Im thinking of offering fertilizer application for maybe an extra $10-$15 since their lawn just got aerated, but Im not sure if thats a good idea.

I don't know if this plan is good or not... also let me know if there's something i'm forgetting. Thanks in advance.

EGLC
04-14-2007, 02:06 PM
hello? anyone?

Young Lawn Boy
04-14-2007, 02:16 PM
Also I would be charging at an average of $60 per lawn. And an average of $45 for the front only. Also Im thinking of offering fertilizer application for maybe an extra $10-$15 since their lawn just got aerated, but Im not sure if thats a good idea.


do you have an applicators license to spread fertilizer?

xtrim
04-14-2007, 03:02 PM
I concurred with Young Lawn Boy. I hate them bitches who do what they do w/o a license. Either sub it out like me, or get a license, like other people do.

I don't think your plan is good enough for what you are trying to do.

The BAD:

#1: Make sure you have insurance, I don't think doing what you are gonna do w/o insurance is right. There are serious damage you can do when aerating.

#2: The amount if time and money that you will spend advertising for just $65 a pop is not worth it, lawn maintenance is better, same fixed advertising cost, but you go back every darn week to do services.

#3: If you REALLY want to do JUST aerating (and fertilizing - as long as you get a license) become a sub contractor. Lower your price a bit, network with local LCO's who can offer the services to their customers.

#4: How are u having people cover different routes when you only have 1 trailer?

#5: Do you REALLY need to rent 4 aerators, I started my lawn care company with 1 push mower, 1 2cycle with interchangeable edger, trimmer & blower. Start small, and get more onec business picks up.

The GOOD: At least you are doing your research and coming up with a business plan, although you might follow the same structure as a reputable company who has done this before, the structure might not work for you. And with the ambiguity of the business, its good that you will be paying commission.

mirrorlandscapes
04-14-2007, 04:55 PM
Hmm...just aerating? That would be a challenge to specialize like that and keep enough work flow. Best time to aerate is late april to early June, depending on weather conditions. You don't want to be aerating in the middle of summer. Again, make sure you're licensed for fertilizing and trying to sub out with other LCO's isn't a bad idea.

EGLC
04-14-2007, 05:28 PM
thanks for the response.

but yeah i'm thinking of omitting spreading fertilizer. also the reason i will need to rent 4 aerators is because i will need one aerator for each person i work with. since each person will be dropped off with an aerator in a neighbourhood to go door to door. that explains how i can cover different routes with one trailer. i will be dropping each person off at their routes and they will be going door to door selling the service. then they will be picked up after they finish their route and moved to another if there is time.

i appreciate all advice and feed back. im new at this so anything is helpful.

EGLC
04-14-2007, 08:37 PM
also im just wondering how much do you guys think i should charge per lawn on average? what my minimum should be? and do you guys think that door-to-door sales is effective and at the same time handing out flyers?

CoreyD
04-14-2007, 09:01 PM
how much does it cost to get a biz license and insurance...? reason i aint done none of that is because, i figured id need some weekly or bi weekly customers before i go about geting insurance and a license

matt spinniken
04-14-2007, 09:26 PM
For pricing you need to estimate your costs and your desired profit, its going to be different in different areas. Alot of people start out charging really low prices because they under estimate what there expenses are going to be and they quickly go out of business, be careful here. Door to door selling can be very effective especially if you have a likeable image and personality, wear a uniform. Personally, I feel that having four people out aerating in different areas of town with one trailer would not work. You would have to have unrealisticly tight routes. If it was me I would start out by myself, learn as much as I could about aeration (which you already have experience in) go door to door proffesionally and as much as possible. Get some work to start, gain a little experience and enough money to invest in growth for your company e. g. buy another trailer and truck develop your buisness image, do some direct mailing, newspaper, etc. Contact some people that might be interested in using you as a subcontracter and get some good networking going on. Just my opinion. If you feel like your ideas might work im all about trying something different, good luck, i wish you well.

matt spinniken
04-14-2007, 09:28 PM
Corey, get legit before you start.

EGLC
04-14-2007, 10:25 PM
matt spinniken, you have really good points. I do plan on wearing a uniform with my crew, it seems to give a more professional image. I see what you mean with pricing. I should figure out my expenses and add on my desired profit onto that price and calculate how much i should charge to achieve that. Thats a good point! Also with four people working, I plan on having them in the same neighbourhood but just in different streets just to cover the area more quickly. So we can move onto the next neighbourhood. Networking is a good idea but since I'm new at this, i dont really know what everyone means by LCO or subcontracting.

I'm also in the process of getting a business license and getting insured.

QUESTION: what is the most effective way of advertising? flyers? yellow pages? news paper? and what is direct mailing?

Thanks in advance, you guys have been very helpful

matt spinniken
04-14-2007, 10:56 PM
LCO = lawn care operation
subcontracting = Another company hires you to do work on a property that they service.

There is no one method of advertising that is best, this will depend on your budget and what you want to portray your company as, among other things. Personally I think you should focus on door to door sales its a very cheap option and can really get you a great response.

Id like to hear more about your buisness plan, when do you plan to have 3 employees? how many properties first year?

EGLC
04-15-2007, 12:04 AM
QOUTE: "Id like to hear more about your buisness plan, when do you plan to have 3 employees? how many properties first year?"

Well i plan on going door-to-door with my aerator and aerating lawns on my own for a couple of days maybe just a week and see how its going for me and also until i can get the uniforms. Then i'll hire 3 employees, which are people i know very well and have very good social/sales skills. I'll be paying them 50% comission to ensure that they are motivated. Then i'll choose a part of the city that is about a half mile radius and i'll have my crew in different areas/routes of that part i chose going door to door while handing out flyers for people who choose not to have the service done and for the ones who arent home. When we are done that area, we'll move to the next half mile radius area i choose that is close to the previous job site. And this will happen basically every working days which is about 5 days a week depending on weather. I'll plan on operating my business across 4-5 cities.

The number of properties on my first year is basically alot. Since where I used to work, which is door-to-door as well, I would aerate about 8-16 properties a day depending if its a weekend/weekday and the weather. So basically on average of about 10 properties a day for each person (4) and i plan on doing this at least 4 times a week for 10 weeks. That is about 1600 properties more or less for my first year. Then following year I hope to have two crews of 5 doing two seperate areas of the chosen city for the day, which will hopefully double the properties of the previous year.

I hope this gives you a better insight of my business plan and daily schedule. I appreciate your interest my ideas. Let me know if you think this is possible. Im open to all suggestions. After all you guys have more experience than me.

Oh since i'll be going door-to-door and aerating lawn after a sale, which uniform will be more appropriate, a t-shirt with advertising on the back and company name on the front or a golf shirt with a logo on the left chest?

EGLC
04-15-2007, 12:14 AM
just to make it clear, when i go door-to-door, i plan and will be doing aerations at the point of sale. i dont think i mentioned that earlier.

CoreyD
04-15-2007, 12:15 AM
Spinniken how do i go about geting a license?

xtrim
04-15-2007, 10:49 AM
thanks for the response.

but yeah i'm thinking of omitting spreading fertilizer. also the reason i will need to rent 4 aerators is because i will need one aerator for each person i work with. since each person will be dropped off with an aerator in a neighbourhood to go door to door. that explains how i can cover different routes with one trailer. i will be dropping each person off at their routes and they will be going door to door selling the service. then they will be picked up after they finish their route and moved to another if there is time.

i appreciate all advice and feed back. im new at this so anything is helpful.

I don't know how things work in :canadaflag: , or any other state as a matter of fact. But, don't you guys survey the property for ground cables, sprinklers heads, and any other underground objects that might get damaged through aerating. Surveys for underground cables are free here in Florida, usually takes them couple of days to get there, and they would mark all the underground cables for the property.

Either you have awesome insurance that covers your azz for everything, of your people have x-ray vision. But if I ever provided aeration services, I would def do a survey 1st.

One last thing, I don't know how professional it looks with a person going door to door with an aerator, are they going to have a tank of gas with them too? or are they like solar powered? I think it would be cool if I drove my mower door to door to advertise my services (although it'll be a big waste of gas) but my credibility and professionalism would be questioned. Door to door advertisement is awesome, but have your people backing you up.

And you STILL don't need 4 aerators, how many lawns you think each person is going to get? Why can't 3 people go door to door to offer services, once they get a customer, make them give you a call to bring your trailer and equipment and do the work. (I still think you should survey the property before hand tho)

matt spinniken
04-15-2007, 01:30 PM
I agree that going door to door with equipment may not look very proffesional. Why not focus on selling door to door and then coming back later and doing the work with your equipment? In order for you to service 1600 properties you are going to be selling ALOT that is a very very lofty goal for your first year.

kentuckylawns
04-15-2007, 02:07 PM
how do u plan to keep your employees from pocketing money? How do you know how many yards they did when you arent they to supervise? If you drop them off them can say they did 2 yards when really they did five and they will be making quite alot of moeny off you!

EGLC
04-15-2007, 04:30 PM
in reply about surveying the property, i think that the aerator tines wouldn't be going deep enough to damage any cables. Since the tines only go in as deep as 3 inches, and i believe cables are buried alot deeper than that. In case of sprinkler heads, I would ask every customer if they have one installed so I can flag them before any aeration is done.

however i somewhat agree that going door-to-door may not look very professional. If i were to sell then do aerations the next day, that is one selling day that is lost. And since the company I used to work for has done door-to-door with an aerator and averaged about 10 lawns a day per person, I might as well give it a try. If it doesnt work then I'll do it without the aerator and see how that turns out. Although i am actually thinking of selling during the morning and afternoon and aerating during the end of the day. But this may still cut down the sales since most people are home at the end of the day, which will be the time i'll be aerating instead of making sales.

Also having a goal of 1600 lawns serviced is pretty high but achievable, which will keep me motivated.

And about preventing my employees from pocketing money is very simple. Right before or after i pick up each employee, i will be driving around their route and counting how many lawns are aerated since its pretty obvious with the mud trails of the aerator and the plugs. And i also require my employees to take a name, phone number, address and signiture right beside the amount paid by the customer. Also I will have my employees sign a contract that if found guilty of pocketing money, they will not get paid for the day and will be fired. Which is a consequence that will make them think twice about stealing.

I dont know if my ideas are any good, but the responses are great.

EGLC
04-15-2007, 06:39 PM
also i got a question. is it bad to spread fertilizer at the same time of seeding? after aeration of course. thanks

causalitist
04-15-2007, 09:28 PM
i would say do it.. its a good niche! i get so many calls for areation that i dont do.
also, get educated on how to pursuade people who like de thatching to do aeration insead. i usually say something along the lines of they are 2 ways of doing the same thing, but one leaves the nutrients in the lawn where they should be.. and know that a certain level of thatch is needed for good growth.. this will help you get accounts that normally do dethatching.

i think this is a good idea.. but personally, i would just buy one areator and just you work with that one for the first season at least. you would really have to have sooooo many jobs to not be able to do them all yourself.

i would say buy one, and anytime your not working, advertise.. THEN the next year maybe add someone to work for you.

its a nice little niche, and if you do it this way it'll work well.

i would add on fert and overseeding! i know companies that make a killing doing areation/fert/overseeding combos .. plus the initial investment is tiny for a nice spreader and some fert and seed.

i really would not pay 40% commission for sales people.. at least not at this point. just get 5000 flyers made up and hire 15 year olds to pass them out on either side of your car as you drive down the road supplying flyers. i do this and @ $7.50/hr i get 1500 out in a day for $150 ..

in addition to that you can just do door to door in your free time.

i really dont think 40% commission is a good idea.

matt spinniken
04-15-2007, 09:33 PM
yes....good points

the ace
04-16-2007, 08:34 AM
I think the hardest thing your going to have to deal with is staying motivated when your goal of 1600 produces about 400, and that's being optimistic. I'm not trying to discourage you but this is the reality of things. I hope you do hit your projected number but if you don't I wouldn't let it bother you. Building a business takes time, work hard, be fair to your customers, and the word will get out that your the kind of company people want to hire.

GOOD LUCK!

EGLC
04-16-2007, 03:10 PM
causalitist, since you mentioned it, how much do you think i should charge extra for spreading fertilizer and overseeding in case that the customer wants to purchase the aeration, fertilizer and overseeding package? And I researched here in Ontario and applying fertilizer doesn't need to have a license, but you must be a registered business.

also about educating people to choose aeration over detaching is a good idea, i've used it in my sales pitch already when i used to work for another aeration company.

If you think that 40% commission is not a good idea, how do you think i should pay my sales people who also does aeration? i jus thought that paying by commission encourages them to make more sales.

And speaking of reaching my 1600 goal, I think it is achievable but not just by myself of couse. Since I plan on servicing at least 5 cities, I think that I can expect myself and my crew to hit at least 40 houses a day on weekdays and 60 on a weekend. Plus after doing aerations for those people in the spring I expect most of them to pre-book another aeration in the fall. Since aeration must be done spring and fall for clay types of soil that we have here. Also I am a fair person and kind to my customers so I'm a likable person. I work hard and hardly take any breaks. So that should add to my sales.

Anyway you guys have been really helpful and supportive. Keep the advices coming since i'm improving my plan as i get more replies. Thanks

coif_kid
04-17-2007, 07:57 PM
While I am a great fans of ambitious ideas, I really suggest that you be cautious. Firstly, I would definitely start out with just yourself, before you go about employing three people and the costs associated with them. Finding that amount of labour is very difficult and to be honest, quite a few will quit on you not realizing how hard the work is.

All damages done by your employees will be your responsibility and without insurance you will be personally and completely liable for the total amount. Are you ready to pay $1000 or more for damages that they may cause to the owner's property (eg. ripped apart lawns, etc.) or the rented equipment? Since you have experience you probably will not create any damages for yourself, but I can guarentee you that your employees who have no experience and less incentive to prevent damages are a huge risk. Furthermore, what about customer complaints? How are you going to be in communication with your employees and deal with them?

Thirdly, I find it difficult to see you aerating people's lawns into July. You stated that you expected to be able to work 10 weeks, but I do find this extremely doubtful and would probably estimate at best 7 - 8 weeks.

I am really not trying to rain on your parade, but I think you are playing with too many hypotheticals and best case scenarios. By your numbers, you would easily be making $200 a day per person and $400 a day for you (after the cost of rentals (assuming $70 a day rental). If it was that easy to make that much money, with such easy barriers to entry without a doubt someone else would be doing it. It's all economics :D.

EGLC
04-17-2007, 09:34 PM
While I am a great fans of ambitious ideas, I really suggest that you be cautious. Firstly, I would definitely start out with just yourself, before you go about employing three people and the costs associated with them. Finding that amount of labour is very difficult and to be honest, quite a few will quit on you not realizing how hard the work is.

All damages done by your employees will be your responsibility and without insurance you will be personally and completely liable for the total amount. Are you ready to pay $1000 or more for damages that they may cause to the owner's property (eg. ripped apart lawns, etc.) or the rented equipment? Since you have experience you probably will not create any damages for yourself, but I can guarentee you that your employees who have no experience and less incentive to prevent damages are a huge risk. Furthermore, what about customer complaints? How are you going to be in communication with your employees and deal with them?

Thirdly, I find it difficult to see you aerating people's lawns into July. You stated that you expected to be able to work 10 weeks, but I do find this extremely doubtful and would probably estimate at best 7 - 8 weeks.

I am really not trying to rain on your parade, but I think you are playing with too many hypotheticals and best case scenarios. By your numbers, you would easily be making $200 a day per person and $400 a day for you (after the cost of rentals (assuming $70 a day rental). If it was that easy to make that much money, with such easy barriers to entry without a doubt someone else would be doing it. It's all economics :D.


Well first off, I'm glad that you have made an honest comment. I appreciate the advice. But yes I do plan on having insurance since aeration can do some damage to a lawn if not done properly.

Speaking about aerating for 10 weeks, the reason why I estimated 10 weeks this season is because I also plan on aerating during the fall. Since aeration is recommended twice a year (spring & fall) for clay type soil we have here in Ontario. I plan on pre-booking most of my spring customers for a fall aeration for a discount. Im aware that aerating can damage a lawn if done during july and august.

Also I do feel that I am too ambitious, but I think that $600 a day is possible since i'll be charging 70$ per lawn and $80 on average. When I used to work for another company I could easily service 6 lawns and never had lower numbers than that and average at about 10 lawns. And since my employees would not have experience I would only expect them to service not less than 4 lawns a day. So I think its possible if it is me working with one employee.

I do agree with you that employees may quit since they do not know the difficulty of work. I have some thinking to do about hiring people still. And less employees means less people I need to worry about.



QUESTION: How much should I charge extra for starter fertilizer and overseeding after aeration, since it is the best time to do it???

earthwormaeration
05-21-2008, 11:30 PM
EGLC,

What is the current status of your biz? I noticed you haven't posted in a while..