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View Full Version : Hypothetical: You're starting over from scratch...


Ex-golf guy
08-05-2009, 06:46 PM
Ok guys, I know this looks like my first post, but I am a semi-regular visitor who had to start fresh under a new handle to overcome a little paranoia about asking a question like this. I hope everyone can understand that and help me like you would if I used my regular handle with the 100+ posts attached.

I've worked in many different areas of this industry, golf, large full service companies, distributors etc... I have a 4 year B.S. (ain't that the truth) in Turf Management and I am comfortable with both my knowledge of turf and the lawn care industry in general. Some things are happening that have me thinking it is finally about time to get out there on my own, starting out as a solo fert & squirt operation. Here's some of the things on my mind... then I'll ask for opinions.

Working my current job and starting this business, even on a very small scale on the side, is nearly a logistical impossibility. In light of that, once started I will need to grow this thing as fast as possible in order to get income to a survivable level. Assuming you can keep up with the workload what would you do marketing/sales related to grow as rapidly as possible, but obviously not being able to spend a complete fortune on advertising?

I've seen too many guys go overboard spending on equipment starting up, but I also don't want to spend a single dime on junk that would have to be replaced quickly if things really took off. So with both frugality and functionality in mind, what equipment would you start off with? Through industry contacts I could end up with a deal on a PG Magnum too good to pass up? If that were the case then I would probably be thinking along the lines of a decent used 200 gal sprayer and a used with life left 3/4 or 1 ton pickup. I do already have a Lesco spreader, a couple backpacks and some of the miscellaneous things like that.

That's just a couple to get started... will post more as this thread moves along.

Ric3077
08-05-2009, 06:53 PM
I would start with the lesco spreader you have and the backpacks...then add this when you grow http://www.turfcodirect.com/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=1&pid=39

a plus bob
08-05-2009, 07:17 PM
I would start with the lesco spreader you have and the backpacks...then add this when you grow http://www.turfcodirect.com/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=1&pid=39

No your to late to be a A team member call Z-SPRAY :)

RAlmaroad
08-05-2009, 07:22 PM
Do not deal with cold and indifferent people. There's enough warm fuzzy people around as not to have to deal with cold prickly people.
Give your clients more than they expect, be on time, make sure your clients understand what you are doing and WHY. Overcome any and all objections before they arise. Size up the age, ability, and mind of your clients and then give them some type of bargain that will not cost you nothing but time such as pruning the foundation plantings or mulching them if they will buy the mulch. Ask them to recommend you to their friends...You'll have more work than you will know how to handle. It's the same for every business.
.

Maple Wood
08-05-2009, 07:29 PM
There are lots of ways to start, but you want the best way for your situation.

Is this to be started on a shoe string budget or is there some seed money?

Negative cash flow is the number one killer of new business. So you must protect yourself from this problem.

One piece of advice is to get set up to take credit cards. Don't carry anyone or as few as possible. With the customers credit card on file, charge it the day you do the app. If you keep your receivables down it will help your cash flow tremendously.

david shumaker
08-05-2009, 08:21 PM
Do not deal with cold and indifferent people. There's enough warm fuzzy people around as not to have to deal with cold prickly people.
Give your clients more than they expect, be on time, make sure your clients understand what you are doing and WHY. Overcome any and all objections before they arise. Size up the age, ability, and mind of your clients and then give them some type of bargain that will not cost you nothing but time such as pruning the foundation plantings or mulching them if they will buy the mulch. Ask them to recommend you to their friends...You'll have more work than you will know how to handle. It's the same for every business.
.

I was giving away some freebies to some customers just to be nice, but it back-fired on me and now some of them want everything extra free. How do you prevent this situation?

Ex-golf guy
08-05-2009, 08:49 PM
I would start with the lesco spreader you have and the backpacks...then add this when you grow http://www.turfcodirect.com/index.php?module=pagesetter&func=viewpub&tid=1&pid=39

No your to late to be a A team member call Z-SPRAY :)
I've got a lot of ducks to get lined up before going down the Z vs. T road. At least here on lawnsite the PG seems to be the forgotten machine, and like I said before the deal may be too good to pass up.
There are lots of ways to start, but you want the best way for your situation.

Is this to be started on a shoe string budget or is there some seed money?

Negative cash flow is the number one killer of new business. So you must protect yourself from this problem.

One piece of advice is to get set up to take credit cards. Don't carry anyone or as few as possible. With the customers credit card on file, charge it the day you do the app. If you keep your receivables down it will help your cash flow tremendously.

In between a shoe string and some seed money. I don't have a big cash reserve, and I'm not going to take on a mountain of debt, but a little debt for smart spending will be tolerable.

I absolutely plan on taking credit cards, along with having a very informative website (groundwork has already been laid), an E-Newsletter, "call" ahead text and e-mail options, anything that can make things easier for the customer and keep me in contact more often.

I will add more again a little later.

EVM
08-05-2009, 09:06 PM
I have a friend who is on his second perma green, the other one fell apart. He could have bought one Z and still be in good working order.

RigglePLC
08-05-2009, 09:35 PM
You are on the right track--go for it. Do your treatments on Monday--spend the rest of the week on sales and marketing. Pass out brochures. Door to door--whatever it takes. Try to get some concentration. Only do accounts within 15 minutes of your location. Short drives make profitable customers.

rcreech
08-05-2009, 09:45 PM
Only do accounts within 15 minutes of your location. Short drives make profitable customers.


:clapping:

Very good advice...especially when just starting out!

I had a lot more fun when ONLY working close to home!

Turfdoctor1
08-05-2009, 10:24 PM
You are on the right track--go for it. Do your treatments on Monday--spend the rest of the week on sales and marketing. Pass out brochures. Door to door--whatever it takes. Try to get some concentration. Only do accounts within 15 minutes of your location. Short drives make profitable customers.

I think Riggle gives good advice here (as usual, thanks Riggle!)

My first 2 years, I worked full time, and did the squirt and fert on the side. so, don't rule that out as an option. It sucked, but hard work pays off. I had $2000 invested in a sprayer and spreader, already had a truck. Had about 30 accounts year 1, about 100 year 2, then went full time in year 3. ended year 3 with 250. now, about 450 in year 4.

IMO, the only area that I would disagree with your plan is starting this time of the year. It is nearly impossible to pick up accounts in my area in August. Best way for a new solo to pick up accounts immediately on low budget, very professional door hangers--pointing out what separates you from your competitors.

Ex-golf guy
08-05-2009, 10:38 PM
You are on the right track--go for it. Do your treatments on Monday--spend the rest of the week on sales and marketing. Pass out brochures. Door to door--whatever it takes. Try to get some concentration. Only do accounts within 15 minutes of your location. Short drives make profitable customers.

Concentration is of course the goal, however I think getting started I'll need to take on as much as possible, within reason of course. I'd prefer not to drive 20 minutes for one lawn, but will gladly do it for a small cluster.

I do have a couple of contacts that are solo operators who currently are full. I should be able to gain a decent handful of accounts that they pass off to me. I of course will blanket everything remotely close to my own neighborhood and expect to land 6-12 accounts right away within blocks of home.

Beyond some of the referrals to get started, when would you put out that first direct mailer/advertising push? Right after new year when everyone else is sending out their renewals/prepays? I'm in the snow belt, and I probably can't pull off getting started for the last round up here... I am assuming that while my turf education and golf maintenance background mean nothing compared to results, they will be strong selling points for a company with no history?

More later, time to get kids to bed.

ryde307
08-05-2009, 10:46 PM
I live in the snowbelt also. MN. Feb. has been the best time for us to get going on things and staying hard at it till may.

Ex-golf guy
08-05-2009, 11:55 PM
I think Riggle gives good advice here (as usual, thanks Riggle!)

My first 2 years, I worked full time, and did the squirt and fert on the side. so, don't rule that out as an option. It sucked, but hard work pays off. I had $2000 invested in a sprayer and spreader, already had a truck. Had about 30 accounts year 1, about 100 year 2, then went full time in year 3. ended year 3 with 250. now, about 450 in year 4.

IMO, the only area that I would disagree with your plan is starting this time of the year. It is nearly impossible to pick up accounts in my area in August. Best way for a new solo to pick up accounts immediately on low budget, very professional door hangers--pointing out what separates you from your competitors.

I can't rule out working full time and doing the business on the side at first, but that would require a different job than the one I currently hold. Too many reasons to list, but safe to say I cannot work my current job and do lawn care on the side. I know enough guys that I could probably go back to work on a golf course, maybe even with a flexible schedule to work around other interests.

I won't be ready to start apps until spring rolls around, but I will be ready to pounce on every opportunity to start accumulating customers as soon as I really commit to this... that's where the timing questions come into play.

Some of the other questions on the top of my head right now may not apply right away, but should down the road. Especially the solo ops, what type of business entity do you guys have set up? How do you pay yourselves? What's the best setup for taking credit cards? My unknowns right now are a lot more nuts and bolts of business questions rather than lawn care questions.

One last question for the solo guys... How many accounts/sq ft/Acres do you feel one guy can handle on approx 6 week rounds? How about with a push spreader and spray tank vs. a ride on? I would expect quite a bit of variation in answers, but it should give a general idea anyway.

ryde307
08-06-2009, 01:33 AM
We have subbed out or fert for 3 years for various reasons we are going to start doing our own starting in a month or so. We have around 150 accounts right now that we sub I know I can get 10-20 more plus doing other friends work for them that still sub it out.

We have 1,000,000 + sq ft now and would be adding 3-500,000 sq ft
I am planning on doing this in around 4-5 days with one man, PG, spreader, and backpack sprayers.

RAlmaroad
08-06-2009, 05:22 AM
I was giving away some freebies to some customers just to be nice, but it back-fired on me and now some of them want everything extra free. How do you prevent this situation?
You are the one to suggest the "Little Extra". When any client asks for something above your service. Answer with "Should I add that to your account next month or just Cash Today". Chances are they will say "But you did this or that at no extra charge".
Always meet an objection before it comes up. State your "Freebie" with the words..."Just this time" or "Can't do this every time" or "My Time is really tight, although I'm a little ahead just this time". You get the idea. Everyone will want to take advantage of you.
The first time you add a nominal cost is the time they will quit asking.

Turfdoctor1
08-06-2009, 06:37 PM
I can't rule out working full time and doing the business on the side at first, but that would require a different job than the one I currently hold. Too many reasons to list, but safe to say I cannot work my current job and do lawn care on the side. I know enough guys that I could probably go back to work on a golf course, maybe even with a flexible schedule to work around other interests.

I won't be ready to start apps until spring rolls around, but I will be ready to pounce on every opportunity to start accumulating customers as soon as I really commit to this... that's where the timing questions come into play.

Some of the other questions on the top of my head right now may not apply right away, but should down the road. Especially the solo ops, what type of business entity do you guys have set up? How do you pay yourselves? What's the best setup for taking credit cards? My unknowns right now are a lot more nuts and bolts of business questions rather than lawn care questions.

One last question for the solo guys... How many accounts/sq ft/Acres do you feel one guy can handle on approx 6 week rounds? How about with a push spreader and spray tank vs. a ride on? I would expect quite a bit of variation in answers, but it should give a general idea anyway.

Personally, I have an LLC. I am the only member of that LLC. I simply transfer money out of the business account into my personal account every month for my salary. Because I am the only member, I have to pay personal income on all profit anyway, so it really doesn't matter how you pay yourself. Business income is reported on personal income tax return.

How many accounts can you handle? Probably depends on the definition of handle. I think I could probably "handle" upwards of 600 by myself, if they are the right types of accounts, if I'm willing to not have any time off, be tired every night, be a worthless husband/father because I have no energy at night and on the weekends. But, it would be possible, and you could make some serious bank doing so. Working my 400+ accounts on 6 week cycles, I generally have about 1 - 1.5 weeks to kind of kick back a bit. Today, I played golf, then went to the pool with my wife and kid. That's the reason I'm self employeed, and certainly hope I can keep it that way.

ksJoe
08-06-2009, 10:30 PM
For equipment, watch craigslist & ebay for used commercial stuff. Get anything in good condition going for less than its worth. Even if its not exactly what you want, it should be good enough to last until you have the cash flow to buy what you really want. And if you buy it cheap, you shouldn't have any trouble getting your money back out of it later.

Until you schedule is full, spread brochures for a block or two around every customer you have when you're doing their lawn. Its a time efficient way to distribute your brochures, and the customers it gains you will add no additional travel time.

Ex-golf guy
08-10-2009, 03:40 PM
Hopefully I'll get a response here, rather than starting another thread.

I've searched the site and read as many threads as I could find regarding buying companies/accounts. The pros and cons and methods of determining proper value have been discussed many times, but the execution of the sale much less.

Assuming you negotiated what you believe to be a fair price...

> Would you buy a company/accounts while you're just starting out?

> Is it possible to obtain reasonable financing for a purchase like this either from banks, government small business programs etc..? Probably pretty tough finding 100% financing?

> How much business would you consider buying, how much would you be willing to spend?

I think I would strongly consider taking this route if the right opportunity came along. Obviously the numbers would need to work out, and the money would need to be available somewhere. It seems like it could be a good move if you found the right purchase of say 20-50 percent of what you would consider full capacity, maybe 100-300 average residential accounts. That would probably allow for some cashflow, keep the purchase price managable, and leave room for aggressive growth that can be worked for rather than paid for? Thoughts anyone?

Ex-golf guy
08-12-2009, 06:56 PM
Any thoughts on the last post on buying to get started? Seems like start-ups grow their accounts exponentially based on more customers for referrals, almost pyramid like. Could buying be a way to maybe bypass the early stages?

RigglePLC
08-12-2009, 10:31 PM
I think you have the right idea. Sure you can buy another company. Government probably is too slow and too much paperwork, and likes to loan bigger amounts to bigger companies, about a million. Banks and finance companies like to finance iron--so they have something to repo. Shop around--you might have to get them to self-finance. Make payments over two years--at a fair rate of interest.

tlg
08-12-2009, 10:51 PM
Contact all your friends, family and business contacts first. Let everybody know that your in business. You will be surprised how fast you can build a customer base just from these leads alone. In fact I think you will find they really want to help you by being a customer and referring you to their friends and family. Also, try going with a company name that will be noticeable. Something they will remember. Spend some advertising dollars on you truck. have it stand out with your logo etc.... and by all means keep it clean! We get more new work off our trucks because they don't blend in with the rest of the crowd. It's the best billboard you can buy!

Ex-golf guy
08-13-2009, 12:20 AM
One more thought I had, open for comments.

I'm somewhat well versed in tree fert/pest applications. I've considered as I get going to offer all to new customers, but also that the tree/shrub work could be sub work for other lco's as well as long as there is some type of agreement in place so as not to be taking customers. I thought this could be a faster way to fill my own schedule and revenue streams. It seems like the tree work in my area is dominated by a handful of large tree care companies, and a lot of the fert & squirts do not offer this service, or at the least do not do it themselves? Good idea, or am I going to run into to many sticky situations subbing for others in areas where I would like to gain my own customers?

Ric
08-14-2009, 01:35 PM
Contact all your friends, family and business contacts first. Let everybody know that your in business. You will be surprised how fast you can build a customer base just from these leads alone. In fact I think you will find they really want to help you by being a customer and referring you to their friends and family. Also, try going with a company name that will be noticeable. Something they will remember. Spend some advertising dollars on you truck. have it stand out with your logo etc.... and by all means keep it clean! We get more new work off our trucks because they don't blend in with the rest of the crowd. It's the best billboard you can buy!

Tig

I believe your reply best answers the real question being asked here. Equipment can come later. You can always spread fert out of a Coffee Can and Spray with a Windex bottle.


Ex Golf Guy

Are you still working on a Golf Course and is it a private club??? Can you get a hold of the membership list??? Are you well known by the Golfers such as the Head Greens Keeper??? Is the Course up to par as far as quality of Turf???

In my mind you have a ready made prospect list with your Golfers. Make up a letter (get help if you can) that can be mailed to each person that plays Golf at your course. Mail it now and follow it up in the spring and maybe even in the winter. Take advantage of situation you are already in. This is not a conflict of interests since your Golf Course doesn't treat homeowner lawns. But as long as you are working for the Golf Course you can put your return address as the Golf Course making sure the potential customer opens it. I suggect making a data base on your computer and Typing the envelopes to the Golfers. This way you can send follow up letters and get a great response because people will think it is from the Golf Course. But be careful of how you word it.

I know of a Mom, Pop operation in the town North of Me that started from being a Greens worker. It was a Private Club. They offered upscale work at slightly higher prices. He stayed working while his wife did a lot of the treatments. The people they were dealing with had BMW symdrome that if it cost more it was better. They held their prices and good they did because the first time you give a discount that Member braggs on what a deal he got.

Good Luck

Turfdoctor1
08-14-2009, 05:32 PM
Tig

I believe your reply best answers the real question being asked here. Equipment can come later. You can always spread fert out of a Coffee Can and Spray with a Windex bottle.


Ex Golf Guy

Are you still working on a Golf Course and is it a private club??? Can you get a hold of the membership list??? Are you well known by the Golfers such as the Head Greens Keeper??? Is the Course up to par as far as quality of Turf???

In my mind you have a ready made prospect list with your Golfers. Make up a letter (get help if you can) that can be mailed to each person that plays Golf at your course. Mail it now and follow it up in the spring and maybe even in the winter. Take advantage of situation you are already in. This is not a conflict of interests since your Golf Course doesn't treat homeowner lawns. But as long as you are working for the Golf Course you can put your return address as the Golf Course making sure the potential customer opens it. I suggect making a data base on your computer and Typing the envelopes to the Golfers. This way you can send follow up letters and get a great response because people will think it is from the Golf Course. But be careful of how you word it.

I know of a Mom, Pop operation in the town North of Me that started from being a Greens worker. It was a Private Club. They offered upscale work at slightly higher prices. He stayed working while his wife did a lot of the treatments. The people they were dealing with had BMW symdrome that if it cost more it was better. They held their prices and good they did because the first time you give a discount that Member braggs on what a deal he got.

Good Luck

This is an outstanding idea.

I also agree with contacting all your friends, family, etc., and telling them about your idea and simply asking them for help getting started.

Personally, I think buying accounts is a bad idea. Those people have no loyalty to you whatsoever. Plus, I just don't see a lot of referrals coming from people you don't know, but that you simply bought their accounts. For a small operation to make it, you have to make it personal with your customers. That's what separates you from the competition.

And, I think offering the tree/shrub service is a great idea. I don't do this and see money going out the door everyday. If you have the experience, absolutely, 100% upsale these services.

Heidi J.
08-15-2009, 11:56 AM
We sold our residential and commercial weed/fert accounts in 2000, we regretted it within a month, so as soon as the no compete was up.. we were ready to rock and roll. We didn't go after our old accounts right away. In fact we are getting them back now still. The one up we had, was our equipment, we had kept it all and it was all paid for, so that was a big help. So was the fact the company we sold to although the kept our employees, had very "corporate" rules and regulations, and our customers hated them.

We simply started back up by doing door hangers, had our truck done up with a huge logo and offered referral credits. Customers love to save money! We also offered exceptional service. Always have and always will.

I won't kid you.. it is hard. Sometimes, my dad and I just didn't get a paycheck, our employees came first. Plus, you have to reinvest alot back in to get it out in the future.

Once you make a name for yourself, and the service you offer, you become your own best selling tool.

Good luck!:waving: