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View Full Version : Advice for a new comer?


matcor9925
06-15-2009, 09:22 AM
Hello,

I'm 24 years old and am currently working full time as a Network Engineer in Charlotte, NC. I spend long hours hunched over a computer and rarely see the light of day *ugh* (no windows in office). Needless to say I'm ready for a change. I love being outdoors, hot weather, and hard work (call me crazy) and have always had landscape design/lawncare in the back of my mind as one of those dream jobs.

I would like some advice from you veterans out there for someone starting out small. What is the best way for someone to transition into this industry? Can you make decent money in a solo operation (not that important, but thought I'd ask)? What brands/models are reliable as far as mowers, weed eaters, etc. are concerned? I realize I'm getting a late start for this year but better late than never. I appreciate any input. Thanks for looking.:usflag:

TurfTrimmer 92
06-15-2009, 01:45 PM
First thing first your going to need tot get your name out there so ADVERTISE. Then your going to need a truck and trailer F250 and 7x12' trailer will do to start out. As for mowers Exmark Toro and Scag are all great brands. Now depending on who you ask there gonna say that this one better than that and that one better than this but there all great. Handhelds ie, trimmers blowers Ect. Go with Stihl,echo and redmax. The main factor your going to need to worry about is dealer location and service, that will depend on what mower you get. Also depending on how many jobs you get and the size of them you probably wont need a ztr right off the bat, a nice 42'' Wb and a 22'' push mower will do just fine. Then your going to need to figure out your pricing!! this is the most important part. (price to high not gonna get the job. go to low "low-balling" not gonna make any money at all and put everyone out of bizz.) People round here don't like lowballers. Then your gonna need to get licensed to be legit.

Hope this helps
-Bill :drinkup: :drinkup:

luis@NJ
06-15-2009, 06:13 PM
Hello whatever you do just dont start your company with debt buy older machines and work your way up.My walk-behind was old so I got a deal on it, you can start with an older truck. Then if you see business gets better you can upgrade to new machines,truck,trailer.

Exact Rototilling
06-15-2009, 07:30 PM
I can relate to the indoor job with no windows staring at a PC screen for 40 hours a week. :dizzy: That kind of work is a living death in my book. I did if for 5 years and to this day I don't know how I survived or coped with it. Welcome to outdoors work the way God intended it to be for many of us. :)

Don't quit your regular job just yet. Look for a niche market in your area. Try to keep it simple at first. You do not necessarily need a big truck and big trailer an a big riding mower to get going. Truth is less can be more.

I have smaller trucks and I pull a 6 x 12 enclosed trailer. I will probably never have a big riding mower and I will never be the Mow King nor do I want to be. My focus is on smaller lawns and lawn renovations. Mowing is the least profitable service I offer just because there are so many LCO's out there and kids with mowers doing the same exact thing. If mowing was the only service I could offer I'd quit this business yesterday.

I started out just Rototilling 3 years ago and I still have those regular customers from back then. I actually miss the simplicity of just one service. People will often say on Lawnsite you need to be a full service Co. and you can't pick and choose the sericvces you offer. Bull Pucky! I will never spray herbicides or pesticides [makes me deathly ill] and I really can't tell you much about one shrub or plant over another. I know aircraft hydraulics but I don't know squat about sprinklers. Sure NOT being full service will limit you to some degree. Becoming a specialist in a few areas especially being solo is an advantage IMO.

However....those big projects can really drag on & on & on..... when working solo.

lawnmastersoftyler
06-15-2009, 10:14 PM
Hello! Just wanted to let you know there are obviously several ways to enter the market. Being that you are wanting to start small I give this advice. A truck is a good starting point. Don't have to buy a trailer right off the bat because you really only need a good mower (push & or Walk behind) Backpack blower, line trimmer and hedge trimmer. All of which fit niceley in a typical pickup. Since it is late in the season, I would reccomend on getting about ten lawns as quick as you can and focus on getting your quality up to proffesional level before venturing much further. A good way to do that is to take some time and just sit and watch a well known LCO in your area take care of a typical lawn. Take notes and watch the order they do things in, as well as specific techniques. Then put into practice what you have seen as quickly as possible. Try to get as many of your rookie mistakes out of the way this year and really hit it strong marketing your newky honed skills BEFORE the start of next season. All this aside, no matter how great your personality, marketing skills, or expertise is, you cannot operate any business without capital to fund your business. I would reccomend you open a business account and have a minimum amount that you keep in there to operate out of so you do not find yourself desperately hunting down checks from your clients. This is not what you buy your equipment with. Try and build this "cushion" up to a full month's living expenses and business expenses before you even think about quitting your day job. If you do this and track every dollar that comes in and out from day one you will be way ahead of most of your competitors. This will help you get to whatever level of business you want to take your company to in much surer fashion.

DIXIEHILLO7
06-16-2009, 03:08 AM
I would reccomend starting small and keeping your overhead cost as low as possible. i started mowing at the age of 13 i'am now 19 and have gone from a 42 cut yardmachines of my dads to a 48 cut simplicity riding mower to a dixon ztr now have 2 john deere's and a dixie chopper. i have managed pretty well to keep costs down except for a new mower but that seems to be working very well for me. i have a couple of stihl weedeaters and a stihl blower wich i wouldnt trade for a new one of anything else! don't know that this will work for you but maybe you can be successful. good luck!!!

Ben's Landscape
06-29-2009, 11:08 PM
Do your self a favor and keep ur overhead low!! But at the same time as you make money put it right back into the biz. It works out good for you because you have money coming in both ways. So you could get fed up with a mower or a handheld and just go out to buy a good one. When you do have the money to buy equipment make sure that it is quality. Don't buy a homeowner weedwacker etc. step up to the commercial. Good luck with the career change. Keep asking questions.

36metro
06-30-2009, 11:12 PM
You know I'm in the same boat. Very good job, but bored to tears shuffling paperwork day in and day out. The thoughts of being outside working like a dog are just to attractive not to ponder the thoughts of a one man yard service. However, pardon the pun, but the grass probably isn't as green as I hope it will be on the other side. I think if I do anything as a transition it would have to be 10 hour Saturdays just to see if it really is worthwhile doing 5 quality lawns. The security of a 40 hour workweek, paid vacation, paid sickdays, health insurance, etc is dumb for me to give up. I think maybe I can have a glorified job/hobby one day a week and get my fix. I can still have the 36" exmark metro, the commercial blower, trimmer, chainsaw, hedge trimmers. I'd want them for my home anyway.

I seem to hear a lot of smaller guys on here admit this is a ton of work and not as lucrative as one might think without years of hard work and about 80% reinvestment in equipment/maintence costs.

I'd love more input from seasoned vets.

Toy2
06-30-2009, 11:14 PM
Hello,

I'm 24 years old and am currently working full time as a Network Engineer in Charlotte, NC. I spend long hours hunched over a computer and rarely see the light of day *ugh* (no windows in office). Needless to say I'm ready for a change. I love being outdoors, hot weather, and hard work (call me crazy) and have always had landscape design/lawncare in the back of my mind as one of those dream jobs.

I would like some advice from you veterans out there for someone starting out small. What is the best way for someone to transition into this industry? Can you make decent money in a solo operation (not that important, but thought I'd ask)? What brands/models are reliable as far as mowers, weed eaters, etc. are concerned? I realize I'm getting a late start for this year but better late than never. I appreciate any input. Thanks for looking.:usflag:
Keep your day job.....trust me on that one.....to much comp, low prices.......

mowerdude777
06-30-2009, 11:31 PM
Hello whatever you do just dont start your company with debt buy older machines and work your way up.My walk-behind was old so I got a deal on it, you can start with an older truck. Then if you see business gets better you can upgrade to new machines,truck,trailer.

I compleatly agree

lawnmastersoftyler
07-01-2009, 01:07 AM
What kind of men are we if we resign ourselves to not take risks, to put in hard days and struggle until we succede? If you are contemplating starting a lawn business just to make more money than you are right now, Sure, forget it! But if you are dreaming of it for the ability to be able to go to bed at night knowing that all that is transpiring around you is ultimately soley your responsibility, The good and the bad. Then you are on the path to true freedom. Freedom from office politics. Freedom from glass ceilings. Freedom from resumes. Freedom from pay scales. Freedom from your J.O.B.(Just Over Broke) Chances are it is probably more of a J.U.B.(Just Under Broke) Anyways. Where is the security in knowing that if Bob the boss doesn't care for your personality you are back among the masses, begging for another chance to Make someone else rich? Or the saftey in Mr. Big corporation who doesn't even know you exist, let alone care how long it has been since you have had some real time off. Come on guys! Are we men, or are we mice?:weightlifter:

brodo374
07-02-2009, 12:41 AM
Buy nothing residential...go aheas and pay extra for commercial. Also, in the early stages the most important thing is to spend as much time as possible throwing out flyers, going door to door, whatever it takes to generate some buisness...then word of mouth will generate more bisness if u are good...

Disgruntled_Veteran
07-02-2009, 07:59 PM
Kill all of your opposition !! joking joking ... ha ha.

Hey all of the advice posted up above is great and this is the perfect place to ask questions . Some of the guys on here are very good and very experienced , their input is priceless, also don't be afraid to crack open a book or two on certain skills in this business, that has helped me out.

Good Luck to you , Drink lots and lots of water and then drink some more.. Transition from working indoors to outdoors in the dead of summer is brutal..

whosedog
07-05-2009, 10:13 AM
I 2nd Toy2 and 36 metro. In this economy if you have a decent job with health insurance,a 401k,paid holidays and sick days stay put. Try picking up a few lawns to do on the weekends and see how you like it. Your air conditioned office job might not seem to bad after getting poison ivy ,bit by misquitos or finding ticks trying to suck your blood, not to mention dealing with idiot or slow paying customers. And remember eventually you will want to retire, if your company matches your 401k contributions and let you retire with health coverage that is priceless; don't count on social security it might not be there.

White Gardens
07-05-2009, 11:22 AM
If I were you, don't mow.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry is out there mowing yards in this economy. It's hard to compete in price when a unlicensed, uninsured people are out there competing for accounts.

I started out as strictly landscape maintenance. It's mostly hand work so the equipment needed is minimal. I started with the usual equipment such as a blower, trimmer, hedge trimmer, pole pruner, shears, edger etc.. You can find most of this stuff used as you won't be using them quit as much initially on maintenance accounts.

Now I offer everything, and still haven't added too much equipment. If any job comes up that I need a piece of equipment, I go rent. If I'm renting more than what it would cost new, or used, I buy.

When it comes to mowing, I've actually only got a couple of accounts, but it was from customers I already have for maintenance and I charge more than the norm, so I can take my time mowing and still make money.

When you start out mowing, you generally start with small equipment. The way I saw it was I could mow this house for 25 bucks, and it would take me an hour with start-up equipment that I have to maintain, or......... I could spend 1 hour+ at a property, charge 45/an hour, and up-sell on mulch, herbicide applications for the landscaping and any other supplies that might be needed.

I gave my biz 1.5 years before I gave up my part-time job I had at the time. Since then I hope I don't have to work for someone else ever again.

Exact Rototilling
07-05-2009, 05:49 PM
If I were you, don't mow.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry is out there mowing yards in this economy. It's hard to compete in price when a unlicensed, uninsured people are out there competing for accounts. .....snip....."

I agree in large part with what White Garden says, ..however..... Some people on Lawnsite are claiming well over $1 a minute doing mow and blow - and some are claiming as high as $2 a minute? Maybe it's because they are also full service?

It really depends on your local market conditions. Some here on lawnsite find the mow & blow business model to be profitable.

golfnpreacher
07-13-2009, 09:14 AM
Since the lawn season is half over, and since it is not truly year round, I would take an approach that gets you in the door. I missed what equipment you already have, even if it is consumer brand as opposed to commercial.

My first suggesting is to start Part Time with a full time approach and because you are part time, I would make every effort to avoid debt. I'm in my second season, still looking to grow and build, but I'm still using two consumer rated string trimmers and they are still going strong. They paid for themselves last season. (BTW, one was mine before I started and the other I purchased on Craig's List for $40) My mower was my mower... a Toro recycler from a BigBox store. It still runs strong. Again it's paid for itself and is putting money in my pocket vs making the bank richer by making payments. I actually salvaged a small trailer, it's not pretty but it is functional. This season I purchase a used Exmark Metro 36. Actually I got it at the end of last season from a guy who was getting rid of it, paid around $250 and put about that much it parts to fix it. It starts on the first pull, cuts smooth. I also picked up an edger and a blower at the end of last season off of CL.

In all I spent about $700 for equipment and repairs (including the stuff to fix the trailer) Working PT I made that in less than 3 weeks. So, today when I go mow a lawn, I'm basically making what I'm charging (less what I'm putting away for future purchases) as opposed to a guy I meet the other day that HAS TO make $300 a week in order to cover payments... I didn't have the nerve to tell him that he has to make that this winter when the grass isn't growing.)

Okay, I've rambled enough to stay out of debt. Second, find 5-10 customers and give them the best service they have ever had. Don't work for free, but everyone is aware of pricing these days. People are losing jobs, cutting corners and trying to squeeze every penny. That includes lawn care. My average lawn is $25 for the basic, cut, trim, edge and blow. And I throw in a free fall feeding if they are a regular. (It extends my cutting season so while they think it is free, it gives me another few weeks of cuts) Now, working alone it takes me about 30 minutes from start to finish. $40-50 an hour is not a bad pay rate and since I don't have the overhead it is doable. Now, that guy I mentioned won't do a lawn for $25, there is no profit in it for him. Needless to say I'm in two communities doing 20 lawns (and growing) He is spending a lot in advertising and scrabbling to get business.

Overhead is one of the factors that determines pricing. Remember that. If I can mow the same lawn as company "X" and make the same profit, I'm not "lowballing" if I do that lawn for less than he charges. It's his OVERHEAD that priced him out, not my lower price.