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SkyLawncare
04-02-2008, 11:29 PM
I've had the entrepreneurial spirit my whole life. Working for someone else, not being able to apply my creativity, glass ceilings, I can't stand it. At the risk of giving up medical benefits and a modest retirement contribution I would find it more rewarding to build a business from the ground up, my way.

That being said I have some great ideas, some of them will work, some are probably unrealistic, but thats the beauty of owning your own company right? This will be an ongoing thread, kind of a blog if you will, about the ideas I have, the things I'm trying and how effective they are/were.

I take this business very seriously. Professionalism is a requirement. I want to learn about my business one step at a time. I am currently employed full time outside of lawn care, so I have a little bit of freedom to experiment. It is my desire to set my self apart, and above my competitors. I am not afraid to spend money to make money, specifically speaking, professional equipment, professional image and advertising.

Be forewarned that you will probably not agree with a lot of my methods, but I'm ok with that.

My overall goal and modis operandi will be to saturate one residential subdivision at a time, starting with lawncare services and expanding from there. It is my desire to start hiring employees to perform my services within three years of conception, allowing me to work on the next level of service, ultimately expanding to other non-lawncare related services.

I disagree with the typcial LCO strategy of plastering 1,000 fliers all over hell and gone. I will purposefully create brand name recognition withing each subdivision through careful image marketing, and repetitive advertising.

My company name, at least initially will by SkyLawncare.com. My middle name is Sky, but thats irrelevant. I plan to have a substantial web presence so my website will be synonymous with my company name. My color scheme will by a dark sky blue, or cyan, and white. Fresh, clean, different. Sure I could call it Evergreen lawn and landscape, but that's so cliche' is it not? I may or may not go with a logo, I haven't decided. I think the color combination and name should be enough to achieve the desired brand name recognition. My slogan, or one of them anyway, will be "SkyLawncare.com - blue is the new green".

I plan on painting my vehicles 2 tone, the bottom half being cyan and the top half being a nice white with SkyLawncare.com pinstriped or brushed onto the doors & tailgate. My company uniform will consist of khaki shorts and a cyan polo shirt with SkyLawn.com printed on the back.

When I park my truck I will set out an orange cone in front and to the rear of my vehicle and trailer. I intend on creating a sandwich board to set near my truck that lists my name, some services performed, and some contact information.

I will be creating my own marketing materials. I am quite good at this. I am purchasing clean edge, glossy business card stock from office depot and printing my own cards. This way I can control the cost while modifying my cards at my whim. I will by making every attempt to distance myself from the competition so I have purchased a roll of model railroad imitation grass and intend on printing my name and contact info on my business card, glueing miniature fake turf around the contact info and applying a self adhesive magnetic backing. I will post pictures when I have done this.

Other methods of direct and indirect marketing will include creating brochures, mailing post-cards and producing self-playing powerpoint presentation disks. You can in fact have companies cut mini-discs into the shape of a business card and silk screen your logo and info onto the disk, you can then record a presentation onto the disk which also leads them to your website.

When I select a subdivision to dominate, since most noisy work cannot be started until after 8:00, I will create a sign that says something like "SkyLawncare.com CUTS CEDAR RIDGE", and stand at the entrance of the subdivision as everyone leaves for work in the morning. When you show up in the middle of the day when eveyone is gone, how do they know you're even servicing that area?

Given time is money, and the fact that gas prices are through the roof, it is my intention to offer any and all services I possibly can to each subdivision. I will focus on lawncare first and expand, service by service as I master each one while sending out post-cards each time I offer a new service. My brand recognition will be inescapeable once I decend upon a neighborhood. It makes sense to milk as much profit as possible out of each client without having to load up your equipment and drive. More houses withing a small geographic area should increase profits. Less time loading and unloading, less time driving, less fuel, less miles. I would eventually like to offer pressure washing, auto detailing, small dent removal, home cleaning services and eventually real estate services, you name it. Understand I will only do things that feel like a logical progression of services, I won't jump right into anything and I won't do everything conceivable. In the long term, I feel my investment in time and marketing will pay off in the long run.

These are just a few of the ideas I have. Rather non-conventional. Most people know that you need to get your name in front of people 5-8 or more times before they start remembering you and I plan on doing a better job at that than anyone.

We'll see how it goes, lol. Like I said, I'll be taking it slow. If something isn't working I'm not afraid to change it.

Paulup
04-02-2008, 11:43 PM
Only 2 things i see wrong with your strategy.

1. You posted this plan on Lawnsite, and if anyone searches Skylawncare, this will be the first thing to show up until your website gets some recognition, so i would request edit rights to this post so that when it hits the bottom you can make it disappear.

2. The mini discs you plan to have made. Many people are switching to slot load cd/dvd players, and they are incompatible with those discs.

I've spent a lot of time in undergrad and graduate marketing classes, you've got a pretty sound plan there, and I'm anxious to see how it turns out once you implement it.

verant
04-02-2008, 11:55 PM
what you're talking about takes a lot of money to get going. It's not that easy to get a whole division of houses either. However, I applaud your thought out plans on what you will do. I wish I would have been on lawnsite before I started my little biz, i would have done some things differently

Tider6972
04-02-2008, 11:59 PM
The sandwich board is a clever idea as is having a sign at the neighborhood entrance/exit during rush hours.

Whitey4
04-03-2008, 12:46 AM
First off, I think (I know) you are more concentrated on image, marketing and frills than you are in the nuts and bolts of the business. You are takling about employees before you talk about ways to expand your services.

Let me say, I've been in marketing, I've been in sales, and had the 6 figure salary. DOD related defense electronics, but that is neither here nor there, except as it pertains to you wanting to be an executive management type in the green industry as your goal. You did not define that clearly up front, and you need to.

You, based on how I read your business plan think you can start up and gain expertise and experience along the way. Bad assumption.

What services will you offer? What will make you different out of the gate? Where is the analysis of the competition? It's all marketing and fluff. Where is any capita investmentl vs. forecasted income? Perhaps you (understandably) left some of that sort of confidential info out.

News flash... your truck' s two tone paint job, and all this name recognition stuff is near worthless until you establish a reputation for good service first. If you know anything about business management, you know that expert leadership is the single most effective form of leadership. What do you know about mowing lawns? Different types of grass, and where they do well? How about getting certified for pestricides so you can start off being a full service company?

This 3 year plan looks nice, but it lacks the execution of what you will do in the first year. You want to start off doing mow and blows? You won't differentiate yourself that way, there are a million of them. Can you identify and treat a lawn fungus? A leaf miner disease in a shrub? Know how to get rid of nut sedge or wild violets, stuff the average mow and blow guy can't do?

Do you know the right way to prune a tree? I could go on.... you seem focused on how to market, not on operations. You need to get operations down NOW. EVERY aspect of operations. this is a service industry, and is driven by operations, not marketing unless you are the Scotts Company.

I admire your optomism and willingness, but this general statement about learning what you need to along the way is all wrong. Learn first. Then do. Then grow. This is constructive critisism, and I hope it is taken as such. In any case, good luck.

Big C
04-03-2008, 03:59 AM
To Whity4: You are right, a rep for good service should be priority #1.

To Skylawncare: Your ideas are great and will set you aprt from the competition for sure....but look at all angles of the game before you put your plan in motion.....Good Luck...hope it all works out for you

SkyLawncare
04-04-2008, 04:53 PM
Lol, I thought providing professional service was a given, but you're right, I did seem to spend more time mentioning marketing and image. Of course service is the most important!

Anywho, I have a co-worker that worked in the green industry for a time so I've been picking his brain.

Stopped by the county today. Apparently, and this blows my mind (I'm originally from Seattle), I don't need a business license to operate (except for two small areas near city centers). Not only do I not need a business license, but Florida Dept. of Revenue doesn't tax lawn care service. All I need to do is file a fictitious name and use my social as my tax id number, so I'm going to take care of that on Monday, as well as open a business checking account at the credit union.

One thing I need to research is whether I need a license to apply fertilizer, chemicals - etc, which i'm assuming I do, however you never know down here in the deep south. I need to do some more research on the 4 most common types of grass down here and some common ailments. I don't really feel like offering those services at this time, however I know home-owners expect it. In the end I may choose to refer it out for a finders fee or subcontract that service out until I'm ready to tackle it myself.

Next I'm going to pick up an Echo PB-620 Blower and also see if I can get a hitch to work with my truck. Worst case scenario I'll have to buy a bumper and ditch the roll pan.

Still haven't decided on what trailer to go with. Once you get past the entry level price, prices don't increase too much. On one hand I want to get something that will serve me for quite some time, however, cheaper is better and I don't have a dedicated work truck to haul it yet, so I may just go with a 6x12 single axle for now.

I also need to start designing my business cards. I'll post a pic when they're completed. This may sound unprofessional to some, but I will be making my own and printing them at home. Office Depot sells high quality gloss business card stock. You print a page at a time and there is a border around the outside edge. Instead of tearing them off, they *snap* apart, creating a nice clean edge. In this way I can print them as I need and also change and modify it's design, contact info, pretty much anything I want on the fly. You're pretty much stuck when you have a box of 5,000 cards printed.

Thats all for now, I'll keep you posted.

SkyLawncare
04-04-2008, 05:07 PM
To Skylawncare: Your ideas are great and will set you aprt from the competition for sure....but look at all angles of the game before you put your plan in motion.....Good Luck...hope it all works out for you

Thank you for that. I most definitely have a lot more planning, researching and thinking to do before I can more forward. I do have full time employment, so I can afford to take it slow, although I am admittedly anxious to get some business. Obviously when I get a business phone, business insurance, and a starter website I'm going to need to be prepared to hit the ground running to at least pay for my monthly expenditures.

I most definitely take notice of all the LCO's around here now, and I have to say, I think i'm going to clean their clocks, not to sound too overconfident. One company threw a business card inside a ziplock into my driveway. Card looked ok, but the website on it isn't valid, and they're offering $25.00 cuts! Most of the trucks driving around have no advertising or company name on them what-so-ever, or if they do it's not much. Granted, a couple guys seem to be doing a great job, but they're few and far between. At any rate, I have reason to be optimistic :)

bohiaa
04-04-2008, 06:32 PM
Sounds Great......


Did you do anything today to move closer to your goals?

Whitey4
04-04-2008, 07:03 PM
Sky... after rereading my post, it came across as a bit negative, which was not my intent. I DO like many of your ideas, and did not mention that.

Florida is a VERY competitive market from what I've read, and the testing for getting certified is in the top 3 states as far as difficulty goes.... it's either FL or CN that are the toughest. But, FL does have some limited certification programs for ferts and Roundup apps. Passing the full FL pesticide test will require some serious time and effort. This seems like the sort of thing you have not researched much, and apps is where the profits are, especially in a competitive market like FL.

The marketing side you have some great ideas on.... but I still think you have not done due diligence on the ops side of it. For the kind of operation you envision, think more about year 1 instead of year 5 right now. Knowledge, being competant, knowing how to be more than a mow and blow will take some time. Being in the ops side will let you learn what works best in your territory. Then, when you put the rake down yourself, you are prepared to manage, but not until you really know your chit on the ops side.

You can buy that talent, but employees can leave. You need to develop enough expertise to do a soil anaysis and know what kind of turf will do best at a given site. Learn a bit about plant installation design, what certain plants need culturally (where on the property to plant them) and how to combine southern climate ornamentals for a striking aesthetic appeal.

I'm just saying that I think for a company to reach the kind of goals you have, you have underestimated the needed knowledge base and what it takes to build that knowledge base to make you a competant manager later on.

The fact that you have a business plan gives you a leg up... now make sure it's a viable working one. I'd suggest taking some courses, either locally or on-line. preferably both. Is there a local LCO association? I'm sure there is.... join it. The help and advice you can get from associations is free (once you join) and very valuable in the real world.... as opposed to paper.

With some more due dilegence on the ops side, I think you have a good chance of acheiving the company you envision. Marketing is your comfort zone, and you have that part down. Work on your weaknesses more than developing your stregnths now. Like 90/10 effort on ops vs. marketing.

JMHO, so take it for what you think it's worth.

brucec32
04-13-2008, 11:39 PM
Nothing personal, but this is so typical of modern day America.

Emphasis is all on sales and image, almost nothing on operations and the knowledge base built over time through the organization. Or dealing with the fact that this is just plain hard work and the current wage structure doesn't compensate well enough to find reliable legal labor. This is why when you hire a service or go to a retail location or restaurant, the experience is often so bad. The bean counters and idea men were too busy with the glamorous end of things to worry about actually delivering great service (other than promising it in the slogans!)

Getting the customers is the EASY part. The reason it's hard for some is they either work in economically bad areas or they lack the communication skills and ability to present well. You'll do better if you spend at least as much time figuring out how to get the work done and setting up systems to ensure it does.

And good luck in J'ville. I had a 2nd home there for 3 years and spent winters there and many weekends. I saw more run down old lawncare trucks and trailers there than I've ever seen in metro Atlanta. That made me wonder if earnings aren't that great. (this is in Southside, the high income corporate earner type area)