View Full Version : Full time?

02-18-2009, 10:37 PM
So this is my first post on the forum and I would like to start off by saying that I've really gained a lot of valuable information in the last hour of going through post after post. Pretty cool! The reason for my interest in the forum is that last year I started mowing lawns out of the back of my truck with a 21 in. walk behind and a trimmer to make some extra money a side of the U. S. Navy as a helicopter mechanic. At the time, I had enough business and had a little extra cash on hand so I decided to "upgrade" and wanted to take it to the next level. I ended up investing in a complete small scale lawn business that consisted of a 16ft tandem landscape trailer w/4ft sides and equipment box ($2000), an Exmark "Metro" 36 in. walk behind w/15hp & mulch kit ($3200/NEW), an ECHO SRM-260 trimmer ($300), an ECHO PE-260 edger ($300), and an ECHO PB-413T ($400). I also purchased a STIHL MS-230 chainsaw and various other trimmers and such. Needless to say I have it all. Things were great until my full time job picked up and caused me to have to put the lawn business on the back burner. I was pretty disappointed because I knew the potential I had if I were able to devote 100% of the time to it. I just didn't have that option. Now, I am three weeks away from discharging from the service and I'm wondering if I could actually do this full time??? Luckily my wife has a good job with health ins. so this would not be a problem. Before, I didn't get to the point of becoming officially "legit" with ins., lic., exc and would definitely be new costs and obviously mandatory. Considering I have all the equipment at hand, is this a good idea considering the current economic state?? Could I survive if done right? Thanx.

02-18-2009, 10:55 PM
If done right, you can definitely make it in my opinion. I think that you'll need tons of advertising and great customer service. You probably won't be a huge company right away, but if you do it right you will slowly and surely grow. By the way...welcome to the site.

02-18-2009, 10:57 PM
If you have some savings in the bank to be safe say 6 months to get you through this period and If you donít have many bills to pay and your family can be supported the decision is much easier.
I am sure with enough determination and research as to the business potential in your area you have a greater chance of success.

Good luck:)

02-19-2009, 12:07 AM
well thanks for the welcome.

Lucky Star Lawn Care
02-19-2009, 03:40 AM
It might be tough at first but if you manage through it you will be ok might have to pick up a small side job to help pull in income but stay positive and grow slow dont rush into being big. GOOD LUCK

02-19-2009, 07:36 AM
Considering you have all the equipment at hand and you know about the job it shouldn't be very difficult. You might find it a little difficult in the beginning but if you can manage to go through that stage I don't feel it should be any problem for you.

02-19-2009, 09:09 AM
Print flyers and get them out many, many thousands. The prime selling season is now and for the next three months. A massive effort will reap a massive return. A tiny, wimpy effort will reap nothing. "Shock and awe" the neighborhoods it makes sense for you to be servicing. Plan on a rider soon. The increased productivity will be twice the walk-behind....that's mostly profit. The number of customers you get is ONLY a result of how many flyers you get out. Do a stunningly large distribution, get a stunningly large result, I personally expect to add 1000 in the next 120 days. Not 1000 dollars, 1000 accounts.

02-19-2009, 10:22 AM
I was under the impression to start slow at first? I'm really considering doing this full time verses taking a full time "nine-to-five" (that's if I am able to find one right now), BUT I've also considered doing what Lucky Star was saying about getting a smaller job to help with income at first. This is such a big decision to make with a family to support, I'm just a little cautious right now. The good thing is that my personel bills are minimal and there is currently not much overhead involved, but we have to eat! Scarry????

02-19-2009, 05:02 PM
The smartest business person I ever heard, (he was warning that the real estate bubble was not based on actual real estate value appreciation and will collapse...3 years ago) Said this about starting a business.
What do you need a side job for? You planning on failing?
Get in business and commit to that business. You will do whatever you need to do to make it happen. If in the back of your mind you know you have your other job to cover your butt ARE YOU GOING TO PUT IN 80 HOUR WEEKS AS YOU BUILD YOUR BUSINESS TO MAKE IT SUCCEED? Businesses grow by effort and brains and nothing else. You spending time working for someone else....when you need to be growing your lawn business. To reach a reasonable income level does not take long. I get it done under 30 days usually.....just how I told you. Start smal, 1 today, 2 tomorrow 3, the following day. You'll have the basics figured out in 2 weeks-3 weeks.
You are cutting grass and doing a nice job. Figure out how to do it nice and then fast....haul ass to the next one...repeat. To get better money than your "side job" will take 1 week if you put flyers out. Line them up right now...pre-season...this gives you time to 'take your time"
line up 30 now...don't be afraid of anything but being lazy. You will never be in a better position in your life then right now to start your business. Your expenses are low, you have no job....dude, if I was your buddy, I'd gently kick you in the ass and say GET ON IT NOW. WHERE YOU GOING TO FIND A JOB THAT WILL START OUT AT $25-$30 PER HOUR... AND BY THE END OF SUMMER WILL BE $40 OR MORE ....IN THIS ECONOMY?

02-19-2009, 05:13 PM
You already are starting slow. If you only have 20 lawns... what advantage is there to stopping growth? So you have 30 hours to think about those 20?
They come in incrementally. Take them, mow them, work them into a route. When you hit 40 why stop there? Get faster, Find what your personal maximum weekly capacity is and then run like that for a while, topped out solo. Consider adding a helper, and max'ing out the productivity capabilities of one truck.
Helper make a good crew leader? consider growing and adding a 2nd route.
Call me I'll holler at ya. 321-216-1837

02-19-2009, 09:33 PM
Times are fairly difficult in our area right now, at least the phone calls I get. My prices are sometimes slightly higher even though the quality is better than some others. I have done countless estimates for spraying and picked up one. The reason I picked that one up is this person is a horticulturist with no time to take care of their own property. They talked with me for 30 minutes, realized I know my stuff and signed up. They realized the quality is worth the price. This person talked with 3 other companies before me and found out that they know when they put products down, but not why.

This one is the exception. All of the other estimates are looking for the bottom dollar regardless of quality. Someone here (sorry can't remember who) has the quote in their signature: "Good steak is not cheap, and cheap steak is not good". Right now the ones I have seen don't care, they just want steak, even if it was picked up off of the ground.

The same goes with the mowing side. There are lots of guys out already with home owner epuipment trying to "make a go of it". I just don't think that you timing has worked out in your favor right now. I am already in jeopordy of losing one of my commercial properties to a bigger outfit that has lowballed the price by $200 and included every application plus sprinkler repair plus 3 color changes and mulch. All that was in the original bid, even before me was mow, blow, go. Applications etc. were always extra.

Sorry for the long post and if it sounds a little doom and gloom, but it is concerning right now.

PM me if you want to try and meet sometime, I will buy you a cup of coffee.

02-19-2009, 09:45 PM
I was under the impression to start slow at first? I'm really considering doing this full time verses taking a full time "nine-to-five" (that's if I am able to find one right now), BUT I've also considered doing what Lucky Star was saying about getting a smaller job to help with income at first. ...

If you follow this plan, you should most likely be OK ... good luck !!

02-19-2009, 09:52 PM
In your first post, you said the key word "POTENTIAL". Nothing is guaranteed and in this economy people are trying to cut costs accross the board. You might be able to do it if you get the right customers and enough. But my suggestion would be to do this part time for a year or two until you build up a good customer base, then go full time.

02-19-2009, 10:17 PM
Hey Hoots, have you considered offering a "budget program" to those that are trying to have a program but still need to cut expenses. As the economy gets tighter the lower priced services will prosper. Can't you offer a scale of pricing that allows the customer to choose what they can afford.
To the new guy. You are going to get work. I got two new ones yesterday. I got 759 new properties in 2008. Sure the ecomony is tightening, use that as an asset. No customer uses us because they want to. We are a necessity The number of customers using lawn care will increase in 2009. Baby boomers are getting older and hard working families will need to work longer hours to make ends meet. Use attractive pricing to get yourself a route fast. You are in a major metro area. millions of people. (My market area is about 300,000) Get off this site, print your ad and get it distributed...by the many thousands.. I can't stress that enough. You don't do that....then you will fail.
Did I mention I got 759 new accounts last year? Few people are treading in those kinds of sales numbers. Oh did I mention I got....

02-19-2009, 10:54 PM
I have thought about a "budget plan" but I am not sure that it would work "that" good. With the fuel prices last year, I held my ground and did not increase my prices. I did lose a little on my side but did not lose one customer over a fuel increase, to me its a victory.

The only reason I have not come out with the budget pricing is if the fuel prices go up I might lose big time. I may be forced to, but I hope not. I did however see an ad out in my area that is priced almost exactly like mine. They are charging for 2 apps less than I am.

Part of my pricing, I will admit, is that I recommend the whole package and that is the price provided. It includes fire ants and grubs. I personally don't see why people want pre-m and ferts but not the fire ants and grubs. You might as well buy a cake with no icing.

02-19-2009, 10:56 PM
The key here is going legit. Having the proper insurance, licenses, and maybe learning a little about the lawn care business from an agronomic standpoint. Having insurance is the key, one mishap could cost you everything. Many people in this industry don't know much about what makes a lawn look good, what makes a shrub look good or why they are dying etc. Get some education on it. Don't be like them.

02-19-2009, 11:18 PM
Hoot's, I think you provide a valuable service when you sell a quality program, but many have to cut costs. Many in our area skip grubs and we have what I consider an epidemic. on some streets every home is showing signs of insect damage. Most think it was chinch bugs but it really is a large grub (Tomarus Subtropicus or something like that). they first appeared here in 2003 and have quite an appetite. The amount of damage is staggering.
Still you tell homeowners what is the proper remedy and they opt to skip it, and continue the life-cycle uninterrupted. We had 3 freezes this winter, only for 8 hours each time but hopefully that will get a few of them. I know I nail a few with my aerator too. Even when the lawns are showing obvious damage it is still a chore to sell an insect addition that will actually help
I give them the budget options and work on them through the year hoping to get through to them. A lack of good info on that species of grub isn't helping things either. Traditional controls only make these grubs laugh at you.

02-20-2009, 08:52 AM
Hoots I feel your pain here. I am in a similar boat. My approach is thus, I do over half a district for one of the chain stores here with snow plowing, I stayed away from the landscaping projects for them last year as it wasn't;t worth it to me to move in that direction with $% a gallon fuel. I have maintained the relationship with the district manager and helped out whenever I could for others short comings. Like everyone else, we are facing severe economic issues in this part of NY as well. I am fortunate enough hat I have a full time job running an ambulance service that requires me to be in house for 48 hours a week and then on call the other 120+ but it works, two days and done. However, you sit in a better position, I had to buy all my stuff again (sold it the year before = dumb ass.) If your wife can support your family even on tighter wraps, you will make it. Your key is perseverance. You know what it is like to be on a regimented schedule, to go the extra mile, so it will work out OK for you. I agree with the budget idea, but I would go into breaking up packages, mow, blow and go, then mow, blow, go, and some fert, then add steps like that. Once you get your base set up, you know your numbers better than anyone else, anything above that is a profit, bonus cash. When you are covering your expenses, take at least half of what is left over and bank it. This spiral we are in isn;t going to end any time soon, it will get less harsh, but it is not going to go away. Once you get yourself seen again, things will pick up and be steady, word of mouth will travel. Advertising is a huge point. Get yourself a logo designed that no one else has anything close to, something that instantly burns into someones head. Then plaster it on cards, flyers, brochures, truck(s), signs etc. Design (yourself or a pro) something that the colors magnetize the eye, people are drawn to it because of how pleasing it is, not because they are thinking to themselves "what the h*ll is that." You will get to the point that people recognize your logo, your trade mark. People will see you on job sites, and either will stop and ask you about projects or they will call. Do not try to smack a home run out of people, regardless of the area you are in, regardless of what people make, charge a fair rate for your work, it will take longer to make the bigger numbers, but you will steadily grow, and you will get referrals from doing a great job at a great price, quality over quantity. Don;t let people chew you down, present your programs firmly, but have options in mind that can offer some relief to the overall cost, but will also offer you the relief in the work/time involved. Offer people stages of projects instead of the whole job, get the foundation work out of the way so to speak, you will be the one they call back for the amenities. IF you approach people as you would want to be approached, you will establish yourself firmly and successfully, and you will grow steadily. Good Luck

02-20-2009, 11:07 PM
Thanks addicted, I am still trying to get a better grasp on what the competition is charging and the ones I have found seem low. I did however see a flyer in the paper that is the same price as what I am charging. Both of us include free gypsum and soil tests and to my knowledge neither of us know the other one exists. I did find out he is from another area that I do not cover.

I do have a recognizable logo that is on the truck. I have already sent out 10,000 flyers (5,000 twice) to the same areas and have another 5,000 the first week of March. I have a one page door hanger that has 4 other businesses on the back side. Each time I have received about 10 calls per delivery but only signed 2 each time. The first one paid for the delivery while the second turns the profit. Again these people are still looking for the $20 mowing crews. There is one guy on craigslist advertising around $65 per month for mowing. It is insane. The only property I do for $20 is across from one I already mow and it is only the front. It takes 5 minutes.

Back to the original post, don't try this year to just "jump in" it took me two years to build up enough part time legitimate business to go full time. When I was working 6 days a week sun up to sun down with my full time job and my mowing business, that is when I made the change. If you are terminated or downsized from your full time job, that is when you should focus on full time lawn care. Don't quit and hope you can fill the void.

02-21-2009, 12:34 AM
Bud let me tell you, if you want to do this full time then DO IT FULL TIME!! There is a lot of money to be made in this business, if you commit all of your available time. I would advise you to NOT get a second job. This will only slow your growth and eventually hurt you in the long run. What is going to happen when you were supposed to be mowing on a Monday and it is poring down rain. Then you are at your "Second Job" Tuesday and Wed. Now those yards that were supposed to be mowed Mon are now 2-3 days behind. That will throw your whole week off!!! That’s when you find yourself mowing Sat and Sun until dark and that SUCKS (I know from personnel experience!)
The post about you figuring it out in about 2-3 weeks is VERY ACCURATE. Not to talk down to my profession, but this business is not rocket science. Do quality work at a reasonable price and the money will start rolling. The advice about the flyers is also very true. Flyers are pretty cheap considering the money that they "could" bring you. Hit areas that you already mow and start there. Tell your current customers that you are taking on new customers. If you are any good they will recommend you to their friends and family. You might consider offering a referral to your current customers for giving you business.

02-21-2009, 12:53 AM
this is to scottgalat: I know everybody is thinking it so I will ask it. How the hell did you get 759 new accounts?? I want to know the secret. Dont worry I dont live in FL so we will not cross paths. We are expanding this year and any advise would be GREATLY APPRECIATED...

02-21-2009, 10:02 AM
Ok, yes jump in full time, maybe you don't get a full schedule untill the end of the summer. In the meantime you have not recovered your investment in your equipment and truck. You are also behind on your mortgage your truck is being repossesed and you are advertising on craigslist for food.

By all means in this economy jump in full time. If I had not already been full time, this would not have been the year I would do it. You have to crawl before you walk.

The only difference in what you want to do and some others on here is you appear to want this as a business and not just a part time forever "make an extra buck" job.

Read Procut1 post about how to not succeed in this business.

02-23-2009, 04:03 PM
For the record the last post was more toward nicktfd62. It was not directed at the original poster.

I am a nice guy except when people give radical advice.

The offer is still on the table for the coffee, my treat.

02-23-2009, 04:15 PM
How can u say that is radical advice? All I was saying is if you are going to do this, do it 100%. Don't half ass it!! If you have already purchased all that equipment put it to use. If you want to do this job for "extra dollars" then be my guest.
I will still say good luck!

02-23-2009, 04:40 PM
Ok, when you explain it like that, I agree. Don't half ass it. I guess I misunderstood your post, sorry.

I do however stand firm on keeping your day job untill you reach the saturation point, then go full time mowing. If you schedule correctly you can still take care of all properties even with rain issues. If it rains two days consecutive then you come back next week. My customers understand this. You just have to explain it.

02-23-2009, 04:53 PM
whatever you decide to do...good luck. keep us posted

02-23-2009, 08:33 PM
I already answered your question earlier in this post. I said EXACTLY how I did it. Massive efforts yield massive results.... I'm not saying that as an abstract thought. It is the actual method I employ...VERY BIG direct marketing efforts. No better method for lawn-related promotions.
Good ads, conveying good info, combined with fair pricing...$$$$$.
Being a nice person helps too.