View Full Version : Starting Out
JB Lawn Services
01-04-2000, 08:55 AM
Hello all from the wonderful world of mowing lawns. I am about to begin a lawn service in a small town (94k pop) and need some ideas for a successful lawn service. Should I distribute flyers, brochures, go door-to-door, etc? Currently I have a Honda push mower, gas weed-eater, and an electric blower. What do you guys wish you had known when you first started cutting grass that you would pass onto a fresh starting lawn mower? Ideas would be very appreciatavely taken and acknowledged.<p>Thank you!
01-04-2000, 12:52 PM
I wish somebody would have knocked enough sense in me to pursue a decent career.
01-04-2000, 12:58 PM
You will probably need a gas blower
JB Lawn Services
01-04-2000, 03:02 PM
Thank you so far, but I would like to know what a successful way to advertise may be. Do brochures work, ads in the paper, or just going door to door? What brings in the most business?<p>Thank you!
01-04-2000, 03:46 PM
Do you have any potential customers yet?<br>If so just do a proffesional job. The word will get around. Fliers work but choose the area that you want to mow. with ad's in paper you really cant choose your location, so start with flyers.Make up one on your computer and print it out and get some copies made (mabey on your present Job's copier) at Staples or a store like that.<br>Good luck<br>Ken
01-04-2000, 04:45 PM
With only a push mower you would maybe be best putting flyers on doors of lawns that you can and want to cut. I tried newspaper ads and never had much luck with it, too expensive and way too big of a coverage area. With flyers you control who gets them and only where you want to cut. Oh yeah most of all, keep your full time job until you can get good jobs. I've been playing the part time game for 5 years,, I just never sleep all summer long.
01-04-2000, 04:47 PM
Passing out flyers works well for residential. Go to a neighborhood you want to work in and distribute them. Make a professional looking flyer and present a professional image. People have dealt with all kinds, and a good first impression is essential. Following through is the second step. Good luck.<p>John
01-04-2000, 05:17 PM
Since when was 94,000 a small town!!!!!!!! Try a town of 20,000 with 40 licensed companies. You may want to try and become an employee of a larger outfit before you try it on your own. I am not at all trying to put you down, but a pushmower ain't gonna net many yards a day. There is a person in our town who uses a pushmower, works alone, and does a great job. Her angle is to (I THINK) go to higher end residential homes, she started with one, and do it all, pull weeds, prune shrubs, rake the yard intensely, and mow it with a push mower. Her work is actually second to none. Everything is neat as a pin. It may take her all day so I call this person more of a gardener. I believe she gets paid by the hour. I'm sure this works for her, her overhead sure is low and her profits are probably good. This is one way to get in to it. You won't be rushed to get to the other yard so quality will sell you more than anything. If you could pick up 3 or 4 like this you would stay busy and make a little money. Save what you make and put it towards better equipment, soon you'll be working every day, dawn til dusk, every Saturday and wondering why in the h---- you started cutting grass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
01-04-2000, 07:13 PM
ok most people dont give away all this stuff but heres what worked for me. First decide where you want to cut then go up to any landscape truck and tell them you will buy their accounts for one months worth of cutting thats hat i did and in one year i will probably have 50 to 60 accounts. dont listen to anyone about wasting money about advertising. If you advertise in the right place you will hit the jackpot. Call the city bid departments for placing bids on big city jobs. go and place estimates wherever you think you can get a job. Call every lawn company in the phone book 1 month before and 1 week before spring and leave a message saying you are willing to buy their unwanted accounts for that year. Many poeople turn down all types of work every season and they will probably be happy to help out a begginer. This is the best way to start out because you have the chance of actually getting somones good routes sometimes if you get lucky. Well dont forget to pass out flyers in the beggining of spring and also dont work only in one place. Travel if you have to do get work. There is a lot af money in lawncare and you can really make it happen with some drive, ambition and hard work. Good Luck<p>Bedros
01-05-2000, 01:28 AM
So if you offer to buy unwanted accounts, how much would you expect to pay?
01-05-2000, 04:11 AM
jb--I started in the buisness with no lawns. I spread the word by mouth, had 1K buisness cards made up that looked real nice, and started looking for grass to cut. two things helped tremendously,<p>1) I asked permission from buisness owners if I could leave a small stack of cards at the cash register, about 10 or 15. usually they'd agree. customers will lap up the cards for future reference. lots of time I got cell phone calls from people before they ever got home. other stores keep a bullitin board or will let you tape a card inside of a window for people to see.<p>(2) I responded to an ad in the local neighborhood paper asking for help with cutting grass for the needy and sick elderly. I volunteered and made good friends with the publisher. I paid him to run an ad for one week and he ran it all year for free. all it cost me was some free time which I had plenty of any way. working for free will probably draw some criticism but it has returned my time investment a hundred fold. I've cut one familys grass for free for 4 years now. not every week, about every 3 to 5 depending on how much rain.<p>hope this helps. by the way, I'd recommend upgrading your equipment as an initial investment. IMO you need a 36-48 in walkbehind and a back pack blower to start. GOOD LUCK!<p>GEO
01-05-2000, 05:22 AM
I agree with Lazer. Ha ha that was funny and true. But to answer your question. I would use flyers and newspaper ads. When customer call on my ad in an area I don't work I tell them so. The paper ads are needed because most people will lose your card and your flyer. You will definitly need business cards before you even start. With the type of equipment you have, you best have another job to get you through the winter months. The lawn service really doesn't work well sticking one foot in at a time. I mean you have to make enough money to pay yourself and buy new equipment. That you will definitly need after that stuff you have wears out. You will not be set up for a volume business. I would recommend working for someone else until you can afford to get into the business with both feet. And to see if you even like the business.<br>charles
01-05-2000, 05:48 AM
The one thing I would add is, if youre serious about doing this for a living you are gonna have to jump in with both feet and go full-time. Part-timing it, will just lead to aggravation and fatigue. You WILL make enough doing lawns where it will be your full-time job, and its always a good incentive when you know that its either get the accounts and keep them or start rummaging for a new refrigerator box to live in!<p>Bill
01-05-2000, 06:22 AM
Whatever you decide to do to gain business, it would be wise to do some research first. There certainly is potential in the market for most people, esp. in a town with 94k people. But check on the laws and regulations first. What licenses do you need? In Connecticut, it is a violation to advertise for certain services if you are not licensed. Companies are fined or warned for advertising services such as - pruning, tree care, lawn care, weed control, etc...We also need a Home improvement contractor's license to landscape. The Dept of Consumer Protection scanned the Yellow Pages and issued warnings and an amnesty period. Then, they started to hand out $500 fines. There is no need to get in trouble right out of the gate. Check with some people that are in the industry in your area, or check at the supply businesses. In addition to our contracting business, we run a wholesale supply company, and during the Spring get 2 or 3 calls per day for lawn mowing and simple stuff. We, like some others, don't have room for non-full serve, or drop and chop mowing, so I refer the lawns out to my wholesale landscape customers who want the work. This works for me, because they end up buying stuff (fertilizer, shrubs, mulch) for those accounts from me (hopefully!).<p><p>----------<br>Phil Grande - Soundview Landscape Supply - http://members.aol.com/slsnursery<br>Ivy League Landscaping - http://members.aol.com/scagrider
JB Lawn Services
01-05-2000, 09:06 AM
Thank you for the advice so far, it is great. What price do you recommend paying companies for unwanted jobs? And what equipment will I need for sure? Thank you again, very much.
01-05-2000, 09:27 AM
Another way to get accounts is call all the Realtors in your area and let them know you would like to bid on any lawns they might need. They aren't always in one area. I told a friend in this area to try that when he first started, and he got 6 from one Realtor in our local town. I also gave him any excess work we got, which helped him out. I didn't sell him the accounts, I gave them to him. I now give accounts to 3 different companies. Check around, there might be another company like ours out there. :)<p>----------<br>Eric@ELM<br>http://pages.prodigy.net/eric.erickson/index.html
01-05-2000, 02:26 PM
Hello JB:<br>It would be hard to top all of the great advice that some of these Pro's have given so far. When first starting out things can be pretty tuff. Be careful about making quick & rash decisions. Unless you have a unlimited money source, which if you did I would buy & fix up houses. Hey I'm just kidding but I will do that if I live long enough.<p>I'm going by what you have posted & if I were in your shoes. Please remember "Every body knows what to do with the Bear except the Man that's got him!"<p>Make some kind of "Killer" flier & target the neighborhoods that you want to be in & believe me it's not always the highest dollar ones either. <p>A few weeks or month before the grass season starts run ad in paper on Sundays maybe consider Wednesdays in time you will find the right day besides Sundays. 3 lines is all you need bold faced 1. Lawnservice, 2. Company name & 3. Your Phone # anything else is I think a waste of time. I've been there & done that. In most cases they think you do it all anyway.<p>You have got the best 21" lawnmower made, I think there is. I would consider getting another one & which ever one is the best let it be the back up. Why you ask, if you use the new one all the time you will have junk to back you up. <p>I would wait on the back pack unless you got the extra money. With what a backpack cost you can buy a good handheld blower & a pair of good gas powered hedge clippers. You can make more money in less time with clippers & you don't have as much overhead.<p>Go after trimming bushes, aeration-fertilization, initial cleanups & go after smaller properties until you get equipment & manpower.<p>Talk to some people & find out what you need to be legit in business in your area. If I can be of any help just e-mail me. I wish you the best in business!<p>----------<br>GrassMaster - Have a nice day!!!!!<br>http://www.lawnservicing.com
01-05-2000, 03:16 PM
Eric made a suggestion about realtors. I thought of doing that, but never took the step. Anybody have any experience???<p>My experience with one case this summer was dismal. An owner, who I contracted with for three years (my biggest sales for mowing for all those years) moved out. The property was sold to a relocation firm. The owner had made arrangements with them for me to continue the work at a nice fee for me. After a couple of months, the house sold. The new owners were impressed with my work and wanted me to continue to maintain the property. The relocation company paid the invoices, until they knew the house was sold. I got stiffed for all work I did after the sale was pending. It seems to fit the mentality of "I'll pay you so that you keep coming back to work, but not for the work that you've already done." I've seen my share of residential accounts with this approach! So, I'm not sure about the realtor approach.<p>P.S. And, the new owners never paid me for Oct, Nov and Dec work either! Like I said, it WAS a good account.
01-05-2000, 04:25 PM
Roger, From what I get out of your post, the Relocation company paid you up until it was sold, and now the new owners owe you from then on. That is a bad experience, but I wouldn't let them get that far behind. That could of happened in a lot of cases and it is one of the few things I dislike about this business. We had a customer that owed us for two months. He had lost his job and had a big fancy house and couldn't make the mortgage payment. He committed suicide, so all we could do is right it off as a loss.<br>The guy I mentioned that tried the Realtor deal, has had good luck and gets paid 1 check for all the accounts he does for them. When the houses are sold, he has continued on for the new owners on some lawns. He has done this for the past 3 years without any problems. This might not be the perfect start, but it is a start in the right direction. :)<br><p>----------<br>Eric@ELM<br>http://pages.prodigy.net/eric.erickson/index.html
01-05-2000, 04:53 PM
If you currently have customers, ask them if they know anyone nearby that may want your service. Even just letting them know that you are interested in picking up some more lawns will get them on your side. Word of mouth is the best way to grow.<p>You may even consider giving a discount to current customers who send a referral your way.<br><p>----------<br>Blake<br>Ferta-Lawn
JB Lawn Services
01-05-2000, 07:29 PM
Great Advice! Thanks to everyone who replied. Is there any other advice that you might give. Thanks again to all! <p>Oh, by the way, how willing are realtors to contract someone to mow their houses?<p>Thanks a bunch!
01-06-2000, 05:33 AM
Eric, I'm sorry I was not clear (in hindsight). The relocation company stopped paying when the offer was accepted, which is different than my words of "when it was sold." IOW, when they knew they had a sale pending, they had no reason to continue to pay. They had received sufficient service from me to accomplish their goal: sell the house!<p>I don't know how to handle because I don't want to cut off service, less I damage my chances of picking up with the new owners. <p>As with all cases, I presume the best case: I will get paid. Sometimes I have been stiffed because of my trustworthy approach. But, I do not wish to take a hard-handed approach - that's just not "me."<p>BTW, the new owners left a message last night, apologizing for not paying. They said my invoices got lost in their shuffle of moving in, and payment will be forthcoming.<p>------------------------------<p>Update: The check came in the mail yesterday!
01-06-2000, 05:47 AM
Roger, that's good news. Glad your going to get paid. :) <p>----------<br>Eric@ELM<br>http://pages.prodigy.net/eric.erickson/index.html
01-06-2000, 07:51 AM
Roger,you were in a great position to get paid all along. All you have to do in that situation is to file a lien on the property in question. The closing attorney would then have to pay you at closing before the house could have change hands. Not a hammer play by you. Just a good way to do business. Done all the time. You performed a service you deserved to get payed in a timely manner. You won't lose business playing hard ball like this because no one likes a dead beat.Just for future reference.<br>Charles<p>Charles
01-06-2000, 08:34 AM
Charles is right. Nothing motivates someone like knowing the deal on their house won't close over $100 or so. I had to let a realtor know her deal wouldn't close if I wasn't paid. My customer had me paid within four hours and I had a phone call within a half hour of contacting the realtor. Your results may vary, but the tune changed quickly once the lien was mentioned. "I don't like to do business this way, but..." is a good way to communicate to the customer that you are trying to be reasonable. It costs $15 to file in Illinois and becomes public record with a five minute visit to your local courthouse. You can even pick up forms there for mechanic's liens, which is what these are considered. Then if you have a problem, you fill it out, go to the county and have them get a legal desc. of the property from their computer and Voila! I have yet to have to follow through. If I thought I'd get my money 10 years down the road, doesn't matter. I'd rather know I'll get it some time.<p>John
01-06-2000, 04:33 PM
I have found that realtors are like snakes. We work at some realtors private homes and don't even work with them on the lawn mowing stuff or take care of their offices. They want us to take care of their main concerns and for some cheaper guy to cut the lawns for them. They are always in a pinch, never can spend a lot of money, and just need the basics. It would be nice to get a referral at the time of sale, but it would be bad for the realtor to refer you as the guy who will do it cheaply. Be Careful, you don't need someone else to create a reputation for you.<p>In addition, I have done total lawn installs for realtors before, so they could get COs or make sales, etc. I finally told one guy to find another company because he didn't care about quality, just speed. I can't afford to risk my reputation so that he can make sales. Furthermore, after working with him it was clear that he did the same thing with the mechanical contractors. I wouldn't buy a house from the guy and I didn't want to be his lacky.<p>Be wary with realtors of all shapes and sizes.<br><p>----------<br>Phil Grande - Soundview Landscape Supply - http://members.aol.com/slsnursery<br>Ivy League Landscaping - http://members.aol.com/scagrider
03-17-2002, 09:16 AM
So JB, if your still here, how are things doing after 2 years.
Woops, I guess we won't know about this one since he got banned!
03-17-2002, 12:24 PM
I havn't seen a banned member yet?
What did JB do?
Retro 67 was also banned?
05-19-2002, 04:07 AM
SOOOO...........What'd he do?
05-22-2002, 12:38 AM
A note on the realtor idea. I tried that in my area and no dice. It was a waste of time. I did one bid for a realtor and they thoght that it was a waste of money.
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