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blaiselfd5
08-14-2009, 07:25 PM
Thank you for reading my post and any advice or constructive criticism is GREATLY appreciated.

My brother and I are in the process of planning our own lawn care business. I am a full time fireman, so it would be a full time/ part time business for me. My brother wants to go strictly full time. I am very good with people (public relations) and business management (I was a golf pro for several years). My brother will look to me for handling almost all of the business side, and he is ready to cut five days a week. I will help him cut on the days i am off from the fire department. Here are a few questions i pose:

1) Starting the business I am torn as to borrow the money (8K to 12K) to buying all the equipment needed to start off full force; or getting into it slowly by buying equipment piece by piece. We are ready to go at it full force and hustle up work as fast as possible, but i'm smart enough not to make a boneheaded move and put myself in a bad situation financially.

2) Is our timing bad as far as starting a lawn care business in August? I know the winter months are approaching and the last thing i want to do is invest money on equipment, then sit on it for a few months. We are willing to hustle up any type of work we can to keep income coming in, but i don't know the demand for winter work around here in south louisiana. But whatever it is, we are willing to do it. Any realistic ideas?

3) In order to expand our capabilities of acquiring more work, we are thinking of buying a pressure washer. Is this a good idea? Are there any other oppurtunities that go along well with a lawn care business?

4) Looking into the future I am thinking that attending a career school in landscaping might help our business to grow. I don't have any experience in landscaping itself, but is a school that gives you a certificate significant enough to make it worth taking?

Thanks again for the replies and look for possible another post with more questions because i know i am leaving something out.

SangerLawn
08-14-2009, 10:40 PM
First off I want to say this was very well written. It is nice to read something I can understand. I am located in southern Indiana so some of the things are probably going to be different for my area compared to yours so I am not going to answer everything.

In my personal opinion I strongly recommend working for another company before you start your own. Get some experience under your belt. Every time someone goes into this line of work thinking mowing someone else’s lawn is like mowing there own lawn, the business fails. Learn how to use a trimmer and why/when you do certain things with it. Learn things like how to mow. Simply hoping on a zero turn and mowing will loose you more customers then anything. Believe it or not mowing lawns takes a certain finesse that most people don’t understand until they mow for at least a year.

Do not go out and buy thousands of dollars of equipment right off the bat. Your normal company starting out with no name for there self will only gain about 20 lawns the first FULL year in business. This will not make payments on everything. Go buy a 36 inch scag or something along that line to start out. If you get big contracts or a lot of customers then purchase something larger.

I picked up 2 new lawns this week so yes you can get some yourself right now. With that being said, if you don’t have an established name, it is going to be tuff to make any money this late in the year.

SangerLawn
08-14-2009, 10:42 PM
I forgot to add about pressure washing. We also offer that service and have several large contracts. If you get large contracts you will make money however I have noticed a huge drop in residential customers this year. More then likely due to the economy. I don’t recommend getting into this right now because it has a huge over head.

THC
08-14-2009, 11:27 PM
Thank you for reading my post and any advice or constructive criticism is GREATLY appreciated.

My brother and I are in the process of planning our own lawn care business. I am a full time fireman, so it would be a full time/ part time business for me. My brother wants to go strictly full time. I am very good with people (public relations) and business management (I was a golf pro for several years). My brother will look to me for handling almost all of the business side, and he is ready to cut five days a week. I will help him cut on the days i am off from the fire department. Here are a few questions i pose:

1) Starting the business I am torn as to borrow the money (8K to 12K) to buying all the equipment needed to start off full force; or getting into it slowly by buying equipment piece by piece. We are ready to go at it full force and hustle up work as fast as possible, but i'm smart enough not to make a boneheaded move and put myself in a bad situation financially.

2) Is our timing bad as far as starting a lawn care business in August? I know the winter months are approaching and the last thing i want to do is invest money on equipment, then sit on it for a few months. We are willing to hustle up any type of work we can to keep income coming in, but i don't know the demand for winter work around here in south louisiana. But whatever it is, we are willing to do it. Any realistic ideas?

3) In order to expand our capabilities of acquiring more work, we are thinking of buying a pressure washer. Is this a good idea? Are there any other oppurtunities that go along well with a lawn care business?

4) Looking into the future I am thinking that attending a career school in landscaping might help our business to grow. I don't have any experience in landscaping itself, but is a school that gives you a certificate significant enough to make it worth taking?

Thanks again for the replies and look for possible another post with more questions because i know i am leaving something out.
Search for threads started by some guy named bigw, he did what you are thinking about doing except he invested, I think it was 50K. He had NO Doubt in his mind and he had sales experience and got the whole thing off (at the proper time of year: spring) with a drop of post cards. He even went through the learning curve about pressure washing.

charlie g
08-14-2009, 11:55 PM
:usflag::I definitely agree with sanger lawn go work for someone first I would say for at least two years. Get to know how to operate the equipment properly string trimmer/mower/hedge trimmers etc. and how to maintain or service them. Start small get a feel for it keep your overhead low as possible ,don't forget insurance, licensing ,phone bill ,fuel cost,advertising costs and any thing else I left out.

Best of luck.

Charlie Gambino/Owner/Manager or CWG Landscape Services LLC :dizzy:

THC
08-15-2009, 12:37 AM
Bah!

Don't work for anybody but yourself. Fake it till you make it. Everybody and their grandmother can mow a lawn.

mowerbrad
08-15-2009, 12:48 AM
1) Don't borrow the money. In this economy and starting at this time of the year, the number of jobs you get could be rather low as compared to starting in the spring and in a better economy. I'm pretty sure you can spend less than 8K on equipment (ie, $1200 for trailer, $2000 for a 36"-48"walkbehind, $500 for a "good" 21" mower, $500 for a trimmer and blower, and $500 on misc. tools/supplies....total: $4700).

2) Timing is kinda bad, just being in the middle of the season, most people have already signed for this year. But you would probably still be able to get some work. But it all depends on your area.

3) Don't do the pressure washing yet. During your first season, take note of what your customers ask you to do...those will be the services you need to add on. Don't add on services that aren't in demand. Stick with mowing and other small jobs your first year, then expand and offer more services your next years. Other services would be aerating, dethatching, fertilizing, etc.

4) Going to a school to get certified to do certain things can really be good for your business. This type of thing could set your business apart from others and thus get you more business. Its just like in the fire services, the more certification you have the better fire fighter you can be. And in the lawncare business, the more certification you have the better chance your business could do well.

sdk1959
08-15-2009, 01:23 AM
It's smart thinking to hold off on buying a lot of equipment before you get your business established.

Start with a used commercial walk behind, 32" will get you through just about any backyard gate yet still reduce your cutting time by a good margin. A 21" push-mower, trimmer & blower, rakes, brooms etc. Pay cash if you can for your equipment.

Also NO MONTHLY BILLING, make this clear to your customers. Give a courtesy call or email your customers the day before you cut. This way they know when your coming and will have a check in the door for you if they aren't home. Also you don't have to keep track of individual customers, who was cut, who paid, who didn't, and your money is not tied up for a month.

The 2 biggest reasons small business's fail is being under-capitalized and unpaid receivables (cash-flow). Ever see those ads for companies that buy receivables, a lot of those unpaid receivables are from lawn care operators. Receivables can be the death blow to many companies.

This time of year you may get a lot of PITA customers calling you who want to drop thier present service provider. Ask why they want to switch, what they didn't like about the service, it will save you grief later on.

Good luck in your business venture! :)

THC
08-15-2009, 02:55 AM
Also NO MONTHLY BILLING, make this clear to your customers. Give a courtesy call or email your customers the day before you cut. This way they know when your coming and will have a check in the door for you if they aren't home. Also you don't have to keep track of individual customers, who was cut, who paid, who didn't, and your money is not tied up for a month.


I would ignore this advice if I was the thread starter, (it's ridiculous). Might as well stamp "I'm a hack" on your forehead". Nobody wants to write out 4-5 cheques a month and nobody wants to write out 4-5 reciepts per customer per month and if you can't budget, don't go into business.

blaiselfd5
08-15-2009, 03:11 AM
Thanks for all of the replies! It really does help me to get a better feel for the avenue my brother and I should take for starting the business.

I have experience in working with a lawn care. It isn't much, but i have a good feel for the speed and routine of cutting the yards. I also have a good understanding of what customers generally expect from the lawn care co. they hire.

I would really like to speak with someone who has taken career school classes in the field of landscaping. I have done a little research and it seems to be pretty pricey, but if i know it will pay off in the long run then i don't mind the investment.

So what i have gathered so far is that i should probobly start off small as possible. A 36" mower, weed eater, blower, edger, and maybe buy other equipment as i need them on a job? And what do i look for when buying a used mower? or should i even buy used equipment?

The guy i work for now told me the best advice he could give me is to make sure the motor on the mower i buy is plenty big enough for the machine. He said a mulch kit is almost a must.

Thanks again for the replies.

THC
08-15-2009, 04:40 AM
You could start smaller then that, just with a 21 (two 21's because you need back up) then you wouldn't even need a trailer. You could stick to neighborhoods with yards less then 1/4 acre. I don't edge either, if they do that in your area then fine.

If you're going to do yards that NEED a 36, you'll be kicking yourself that you didn't buy a 48 wb, or even a rider. That's the situation I'm in now.

A 36 should have at least a 15HP, especially if you're mulching.

sdk1959
08-15-2009, 07:27 AM
I would ignore this advice if I was the thread starter, (it's ridiculous). Might as well stamp "I'm a hack" on your forehead". Nobody wants to write out 4-5 cheques a month and nobody wants to write out 4-5 reciepts per customer per month and if you can't budget, don't go into business.

Let's do the math THC, shall we?

Since the poster's brother will be doing it full time and he's helping out part-time they could most likely handle at least 40 weekly accounts.

Just to simplify let's say the average price per weekly cut is $40.00.

$40.00 x 40 = $1600 a week
$1600 x 4 = $6400 a month

$6400 a month is sitting in his customers accounts not his. That is a lot of money to be tied up for a month for a small operation just starting out, not to mention all the extra record keeping, slow payers, deadbeats, customers who think he's only cut 3 times instead of 4, collection efforts, etc to deal with.

And few LCO's that bill monthly will own up to the fact that there is a awful lot of PITA customers that they just put up with because they are owed money, sometimes A LOT OF MONEY. And in today's economy with all the competition if he tells a deadbeat customer he will stop their lawn service they can easily replace him and then GOOD LUCK GETTING PAID. And he would be surprised that many customers prefer to pay after each service. Banking is very competitive so many banks offer free checking with a miniumum balance of $100.00. And if not, 25-30 cents a check isn't going to break them.

I had accounting and business courses in college and the mantra is to AVOID receivables whenever possible for the reasons I stated above. That's why many businesses offer a discount if the invoice is paid in so many days, so that's more money that could be saved for the business if receivables were avoided in the first place.

As far as budgeting it is the CUSTOMERS RESPONSIBILITY TO AFFORD AND PAY FOR YOUR SERVICE, NOT THE LCO's TO BE A MONTHLY LENDER. If the customer cannot budget their money they shouldn't be looking to hire a lawn service.

As far as writing out receipts he can get a invoice book at Staples for like $5.00 then get a rubber stamp made with his co. name, phone to stamp at the top. He can always get more professional looking printed ones after the business gets rolling. If the customer is not home but his check is there he can put it in their door. Not very hard, not rocket science, very simple, takes 2 minutes. And it will be nice for him at the end of the day depositing all those checks into his bank account with no money worries. Ahhh yeeess. :cool2:

THC
08-15-2009, 08:30 AM
Let's do the math THC, shall we?

Since the poster's brother will be doing it full time and he's helping out part-time they could most likely handle at least 40 weekly accounts.

Just to simplify let's say the average price per weekly cut is $40.00.

$40.00 x 40 = $1600 a week
$1600 x 4 = $6400 a month

$6400 a month is sitting in his customers accounts not his. That is a lot of money to be tied up for a month for a small operation just starting out, not to mention all the extra record keeping, slow payers, deadbeats, customers who think he's only cut 3 times instead of 4, collection efforts, etc to deal with.

And few LCO's that bill monthly will own up to the fact that there is a awful lot of PITA customers that they just put up with because they are owed money, sometimes A LOT OF MONEY. And in today's economy with all the competition if he tells a deadbeat customer he will stop their lawn service they can easily replace him and then GOOD LUCK GETTING PAID. And he would be surprised that many customers prefer to pay after each service. Banking is very competitive so many banks offer free checking with a miniumum balance of $100.00. And if not, 25-30 cents a check isn't going to break them.

I had accounting and business courses in college and the mantra is to AVOID receivables whenever possible for the reasons I stated above. That's why many businesses offer a discount if the invoice is paid in so many days, so that's more money that could be saved for the business if receivables were avoided in the first place.

As far as budgeting it is the CUSTOMERS RESPONSIBILITY TO AFFORD AND PAY FOR YOUR SERVICE, NOT THE LCO's TO BE A MONTHLY LENDER. If the customer cannot budget their money they shouldn't be looking to hire a lawn service.

As far as writing out receipts he can get a invoice book at Staples for like $5.00 then get a rubber stamp made with his co. name, phone to stamp at the top. He can always get more professional looking printed ones after the business gets rolling. If the customer is not home but his check is there he can put it in their door. Not very hard, not rocket science, very simple, takes 2 minutes. And it will be nice for him at the end of the day depositing all those checks into his bank account with no money worries. Ahhh yeeess. :cool2:

Lets put on the sleeping cap back on and keep dreaming.:laugh::hammerhead:

I doubt you're even in business. I wonder how many LCO's demand weekly checks be left in the door like you? I think you're a 15 yo adding up his allowance.

Patriot Services
08-15-2009, 08:45 AM
No weekly billing on regular customers. The last thing I have time for is to run around a customers house looking for a check and keeping track of who didn't leave a check or worse having to reschedule. This business is all about get in and get out ( Firefighters are good at that:laugh:) Be a professional, mail proper invoices and develop a billing system. It can be a simple spreadsheet. You don't' need fancy software. Try to stay away from one-time cuts. Usually a disaster and cheap. A used 36" WB is a great starter mower, fits through gates and can still cut decent sized yards.:usflag::usflag::usflag:

SangerLawn
08-15-2009, 09:02 AM
Lets put on the sleeping cap back on and keep dreaming.:laugh::hammerhead:

I doubt you're even in business. I wonder how many LCO's demand weekly checks be left in the door like you? I think you're a 15 yo adding up his allowance.

Every week there is a check in most of my customersí door waiting for me. I also offer online bill paying, a lot of my customers love that and pay me weekly. We only offer monthly billing to commercial properties unless there is a special case.

I will assure you of 2 things. I am a real business not a 15 year old kid and your way is not the only way.

sdk1959
08-15-2009, 09:50 AM
[QUOTE=Patriot Services;3141928]No weekly billing on regular customers. The last thing I have time for is to run around a customers house looking for a check and keeping track of who didn't leave a check or worse having to reschedule. This business is all about get in and get out ( Firefighters are good at that:laugh:) Be a professional, mail proper invoices and develop a billing system. It can be a simple spreadsheet. You don't' need fancy software.


If you can walk or ride around their yard cutting their grass how hard is it to walk to the door and collect payment. See this other thread for some of the deadbeats you can encounter. Business is about taking in money, not short-term lending it like some payday loan operation.

http://www.lawnsite.com/showthread.php?t=286343

For a large operation with several lawn crews monthly billing might make more sense but not for a small operation just starting out. There's a poster named kaferhaus who has a very large operation who does not do monthly billing, for 30 years! He also posted on the thread link above. Read his reply. I bet he sleeps good at night not worrying about getting paid, cash flow problems, how to collect from deadbeats, etc.

mowerbrad
08-15-2009, 01:02 PM
There is no problem when buying used, I actually did that when I bought my first ztr. Of course there is some risk involved when buying used but if you look at the equipment closely before buying it you shouldn't have many problems. Some of the things that you need to look for is the color of the engine oil, overall appearance of the mower, check all the hoses to see if any are leaking, look at the air filter, check all the belts to see for wear, also check to make sure all the deck spindles are good (ie, not bent), also take a look at the condition of the deck. The more detailed you get when you look at it, the better time you will have with the mower.

tracyalan
08-15-2009, 02:27 PM
Fall is a good time to get started on next year. You need to go out and knock on doors and leave your cards and flyers. Some of the people may be done with their current service and want a new one, or looking for a better price. By getting them your info now, you stand a good chance of getting them.
Tracy

Patriot Services
08-15-2009, 02:47 PM
So what do you do if there is no check? Cut anyway and pray? Ring the bell and waste more time with chit chat? Leave and have wasted the trip? You will not find many fans of weekly billing here.:usflag::usflag::usflag:

THC
08-15-2009, 03:04 PM
Every week there is a check in most of my customersí door waiting for me. I also offer online bill paying, a lot of my customers love that and pay me weekly. We only offer monthly billing to commercial properties unless there is a special case.

I will assure you of 2 things. I am a real business not a 15 year old kid and your way is not the only way.

I can understand the Just Mow It style of billing Visa the day after the cut, it's online, automated (I think) and efficient but I can't get my head around picking up a check every time I mow the lawn.

SangerLawn
08-15-2009, 09:03 PM
So what do you do if there is no check? Cut anyway and pray? Ring the bell and waste more time with chit chat? Leave and have wasted the trip? You will not find many fans of weekly billing here.:usflag::usflag::usflag:

If there is no check we mow anyway. The client will mail the check or double up on the following mowing. I donít understand why you guys are making it so complicated. My customers like it, I get to drop a deposit every morning of several hundred dollars plus doing a little paper work every night is a hell of a lot better then doing it for hours once a week or month.

If your system is set up correctly your invoices will show if the client has an existing balance. Every night we spend about 10 minutes entering the checks and printing the next days invoices. No stamps are needed. If a client goes more then 45 days without paying I get an alarm on my system. At that point I call the client and they normally leave a check on the next service date or they will mail it. I have not been stiffed yet and the records stay updated and correct.

We do bill the way that you do on commercial properties. Both ways work however myself and my residential clients seem to prefer leaving the check on the door. As far as wasted trips, if you clean off the porch the way it should be cleaned, all you have to do is grab the check while your there. It takes about an extra 2 second and you are paid on the spot. Much faster then it takes to open an envelope when the check gets mailed to you. It also leaves a back up of all records. The check number is written down on the daily sheet, kept on the data base and on the normal back up.

sdk1959
08-15-2009, 10:36 PM
So what do you do if there is no check? Cut anyway and pray? Ring the bell and waste more time with chit chat? Leave and have wasted the trip? You will not find many fans of weekly billing here.:usflag::usflag::usflag:

Better to be stiffed out of one week instead of 4 weeks wouldn't you say? Did you check out the thread link I posted? I guess not. The poster got stiffed out of 4 weeks @ $45.00 a cut or $180.00 total.

Yeah small potatoes, no big deal, tax write off, whats a few thou a year lost to deadbeats right? That money lost could be put towards equipment, advertising, etc but I'll take the tax write off right? Makes better sense right?:hammerhead:

tinman
08-15-2009, 10:37 PM
Many bids are taken in the winter time so it is a good time to get rolling with that with the focus on next spring as the busiest time for you. Pressure washing is better pay per stop than mowing but inconsistent in my experience but yours may differ. Debt is risk so if you possibly can do so I advise working up with cash only. It will be slower but you will make better decisions with no debt over your head. Good luck