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Green from the Ground Up
09-01-2009, 12:36 AM
Right now I am in the throes of writing a business plan.

I have already considered the following;

I want to start with a used 60" mower to maximize my productivity, with a 21" WB for fenced in/inaccessible areas.

Two trimmers, two blowers.

I have a truck (2004 Ford F-150 SXT six-foot bed), need a trailer (what size would I need to accommodate a 60"?)

And of course fuel, blades, trimming wire, breakdown costs etc. I'm thinking I need at least $2000 ready at any time to handle something that comes up, ESPECIALLY using a used mower. I'd rather not have to mow my clients lawns with the 21".

But what else do I need to consider? I know the kinds of customers I want to target, namely I want to find clients close together in the wealthy subdivisions of my town. There are plenty to choose from. I know I want to market, but not overextend myself since I will be starting out on my own initially, but plan to have at least one part-time helper by the end of my first season.

So please, ye of much experience; what else do I need to work into my cost structure? I'd like to have a decent business up-and-running for under $10k, but I want to do it RIGHT.

shawn d
09-01-2009, 01:03 AM
Will you be looking to expand in the near future? If so buy as big of trailer as you can afford, I would recommend at least a 12ft, I have a 12ft and it was quickly filled once I loaded my ZTRS and hand helds in it. Also with a 60" deck you are going to want a 6ft or preferably a 7ft wide trailer.

Just my .02

mjealey
09-01-2009, 01:08 AM
Here is what I would do in order from experience! Don't know what you have already done.

1. Come up with a good professional name and see if it is registered in your state. You can usually check on your states website. If it isn't go get your business license, ($25.00)

2. First year you should be fine as a DBA. I started off as a Sole Proprietor and registered my business name with the IRS and got an EIN to report under. This is free on IRS.gov. Not required because it is a sole proprietorship, but a good idea to build business credit and a seperate EIN for the business.

3. Look into insurance. It stinks to get this starting off, but it is worth it. Probably around $500 for what you need. One rock through a window and it will pay for itself.

4. Trailer - I would suggest a 6 x 12 to start. However if you know this is something you are going to be doing in a few years you might want to go a little bigger. Don't do what I did and start with a 5 x 10 and 2 months later I realized it was too small. A 6 x 12 will easily fir a 60" and a WB or a push mower and some other goodies.

5. Get your name out there! I got 5,000 full color 5.5 x 8 gloss cards to hand out for $546.00 from Plan-it Graphics. They are in the business and know what works. Word of mouth is best, but thos will get you started. I would suggest telling all of your family members around you and make sure you tell them what you are doing, and hand them some flyers and you business card. Then make sure you tell all of your friends and tell them are expanding and basically looking for work. You would be surprised how far this can get you.

Costs:

License $25
Insurance $500
Trailer $1300
Business Cards $80
Advertising Post Cards $600 (5000)
Good Used 60" ZTR $6000
21" Push Mower $400
Trimmers $400
Good Blower $500.00

All this adds up to around $9700 and that is getting pretty good used equipment. I am sort of estimating on the high side of the curve. But that gives you an idea. If I were you I would start with a 48" Hydro walk-behind first. You will be able to cut anything and you can find a good used one for $3k - 4. This would leave $2,000 in the bank from your $10,000 and you would be ready to get it going and go make some money. Might of forgot a few things but this will get it going.

Az Gardener
09-01-2009, 01:44 AM
Google business plan and look for a template to use. A good template will ask you questions that need to be answered. They will also give you a format to present it in so it will flow.

I wouldn't be so concerned with the equipment you need as what you want the business to look like when its complete. Then you get to reverse engineering it so you have a road map to guide you to your goal. Stay focused and don't get sidetracked.

My business plan is over 30 pages long and there is not one single piece of equipment listed. It was not by design it just came out that way. When you talk business businessmen don't talk equipment they talk numbers, personnel, sales, projections and %'s. The guys that do the work talk about the equipment the guys that run the business talk about business.

Green from the Ground Up
09-01-2009, 02:02 AM
All excellent advice.

This is some personal reasoning for why I want to do what I want to do, so feel free to skip it. I fancy myself a writer, but to write well I need time. I want to do landscaping during the warm months, to leave winter for my writing. I love being outside, but I don't want to work hard my whole life.

I DO want to build a sound, successful business. I want to expand every year, to the point where I no longer have to go out and do the physical labor. I want to start with mowing, and expand my services with my business. I plan to concentrate on residential, but may consider commercial if the opportunity presents itself.

Right now the business name I have in mind is my user name. I have thick skin, so if you hate it don't hold back :P

Az Gardener
09-01-2009, 02:42 AM
I want to start with mowing, and expand my services with my business. I plan to concentrate on residential, but may consider commercial if the opportunity presents itself:hammerhead::hammerhead::hammerhead::hammerhead::hammerhead::hammerhead::hammerhead::hammerhea d::hammerhead::hammerhead: :hammerhead::hammerhead::hammerhead::hammerhead::hammerhead: Was that too subtle?

Many "opportunities" will present themselves along the way. Stay focused like a laser beam. I wasted a few years jacking around with "opportunities" that prevented me from focusing on my core business. I was dropping accounts almost as fast as I was picking them up. I lost a referral source that was sending me 2-3 $800 per month accounts because of these other "opportunities" One of the worst business mistakes I have ever made. My business would be double the size it is now just from avoiding that one mistake.

jada86
09-01-2009, 06:46 AM
I don't know how much you know about lawns and landscaping but if none, you'll need some education. Most of what you need is free from the cooperative extension service but put in the hours to get it, before you offer service.

I agree, focus on sales, profitability, growth in your business plan. You do need a certain level of reliable equipment to get the job done, but fancy equipment won't get you to retirement. Marketing is key until word of mouth starts to flow!

Green from the Ground Up
09-01-2009, 11:27 AM
As far as landscaping goes, I probably fall in the middle of the pack.

I am a good mower. I am fast accurate and I don't tear turf. I can mulch, I can weed, I can trim. I can even do mild hardscaping like patios and the like, but that isn't something I want to get too deep into until I've expanded. What I really have very little knowledge of is planting and flora in general. Can anyone recommend me a book?

I still feel like there should be more to my business plan.

There has to be something I have forgotten about.

richonsa
09-01-2009, 12:00 PM
There is a program I found that leads to certification as a landscape professional. It covers turf management, pests, etc. They also offer classes to get ready for pesticide application licensing. I found a book by googling that is about starting a home based landscaping business. It is cheap. All told, for a round $300 I can obain all of the materials needed for basic lawn care education.

BTW, do yourself a favor; do the name search on your state's SOS website. Reserve a name. Then, write articles of organization (find a basic template) and form an LLC for protection. Then, obtain your FEIN online. You can call your LLC "ABCD, LLC" DBA Joe's Cut Pros!" or whatever else you may decide. I just registered last night and as I was typing this message I received an email indicating my name was registered. Today I will file my articles of organization online, then I will apply for my FEIN online. Then I will take it all to my bank and open a business account.
It's easy for my because I am a CPA and have dealt with this before. You should really check with a CPA for advice. An attorney is the only one that can lawfully assist you in the writing of the articles. You can write them on your own, if you know what you are doing. If not, get a little help.

Az Gardener
09-01-2009, 03:36 PM
As a CPA you should know the cost to file his tax returns is going to quadruple as a corporation as opposed to a sole prop. Insurance will cover his liability and unless he has a high net worth there is nothing to go after anyway. I don't know why everybody makes this so complicated :dizzy:

A irrigation guy can make your irrigation system perfect and waste no water it may cost 4 grand to do it (hypothetical) or you can use a hose and a sprinkler. Both make the grass green. I suspect most people will be somewhere in the middle.

Same goes for your business I have a close friend who was a financial annalist for Intel, masters degree in finance. No matter what the question he always said do it for as little money as possible. If you ran the numbers I think you would find you are more likely to win the lottery than to be sued as a sole prop if you have adequate insurance which is much cheaper than going the corp route.

Last question if your a CPA what in the world are you doing in the green industry? Not doubting you are a CPA I just don't get it. Why do people leave perfectly good professions to come down here to slug it out in this sandbox?

richonsa
09-01-2009, 04:30 PM
As a CPA you should know the cost to file his tax returns is going to quadruple as a corporation as opposed to a sole prop. Insurance will cover his liability and unless he has a high net worth there is nothing to go after anyway. I don't know why everybody makes this so complicated :dizzy:

A irrigation guy can make your irrigation system perfect and waste no water it may cost 4 grand to do it (hypothetical) or you can use a hose and a sprinkler. Both make the grass green. I suspect most people will be somewhere in the middle.

Same goes for your business I have a close friend who was a financial annalist for Intel, masters degree in finance. No matter what the question he always said do it for as little money as possible. If you ran the numbers I think you would find you are more likely to win the lottery than to be sued as a sole prop if you have adequate insurance which is much cheaper than going the corp route.

Last question if your a CPA what in the world are you doing in the green industry? Not doubting you are a CPA I just don't get it. Why do people leave perfectly good professions to come down here to slug it out in this sandbox?


I did not suggest he file as a corporation. I suggested an LLC. A corp does not cost four times as much. An LLC does not either. A single member LLC is a disregarded entity for tax purposes, so the income and expense information can be filed on the taxpayer's schedule C, which is part of the 1040.

I suggested this to him because I know what I am talking about, much unlike 90% of people who make comments that have no basis in fact or law. Your friend who works for intel not in public accounting where these matters are handled on a daily basis. The sole objective is not liability protection. It is only the beginning. Having a separate business entity makes thing a little easier. But the OP can do whatever he likes. I simply made the suggestion due to an earlier errant comment.

Even if he is not a high net worth individual, he could still use the entity structure. There are many other things I could bring up about the subject, but I'll withhold any other comments on that.

BTW, I am a licensed CPA in the State of Georgia. My name is Richard Honsa and you can look up my license on the SOS website. I also have a small tax consulting business. I, too, have graduate education (almost done with masters) and I graduated with honors. I have five years in public so I am sufficiently educated and experienced in these matters.

With that said, to answer your last comment/question: You think the CPA business is a perfectly good profession? Though I am experienced in it I HATE IT. The firm I was at lost work and laid some folks off. I was one of them. I've never enjoyed the work, I hate desks, gossip, water cooler talk, fake people, and yes, even educated people can be jerks. Many of the CPAs I know are pompous and arrogant jerks who think they know it all, and many think they are hot doo doo because they have so much education. I can't stand most of them. I was a paramedic/painter prior to being injured, which forced me into school for preservation purposes. I majored in Accounting, even though I hated it, because I could become a CPA. Whoop dee doo, right?

I ain't fun, I'll tell you that. I don't have the character makeup to sit in front of a computer all day long pushing numbers around. I've done it for almost five years and I've hated every minute of it. The only thing I do appreciate about it is this: I've received a tremendous education in general business principles. I have an entreprenuer's spirit, and I am a big picture person that thrives on managing others. Hence, I must pursue business interests that interest ME. Accounting does not do that.

One thing I do love is working outdoors. I truly enjoy it. I'll be sitting for the pest. applicator test soon. I'm putting together equipment and getting cards, flyers and shirts made. I'm actually going to pursue doing something that makes me happy now. I've paid my dues in accounting. But with that said, I am more than happy to jump in an assist others here that keep getting bad advice on business formation.

richonsa
09-01-2009, 04:36 PM
Sorry to have been so long winded there. Anyway, I am happy to be down here in the sandbox with all of you guys. BTW, I've worked the books of several landscaping businesses and the profits can be quite good. And, when someone is running a company with numerous employees, liability can become an issue. And someone doesn't have to be a high net worth individual to be sued, to have a judgement lodged against them for 10 million dollars (suppose your coverage is for one million), and to spend the balance of their life paying out on a judgement against them due to the mistakes or intentional acts of employees. Hence, the need for an entity. YMMV.

golfnpreacher
09-01-2009, 10:59 PM
A business plan is more than getting a name and deciding between a Sole Proprietor, Limited Liability or Incorporation. It involves more than purchasing equipment, in fact purchasing the equipment come out of a plan.

1 - What type of business are you going to target. Just saying "residential" is not enough. High end, middle income. What size lots? Are you looking for a certain area? Or business in general?

2 - What are your limitations? Is there business you won't do? Can a customer request work you don't feel comfortable doing? Perhaps it is too big or too complicated for you at this time. Or perhaps it is too small or too far out of your way. (Just because you are a start up does not mean you should travel all over the place is search of work.)

3 - How are you going to market your business? Is it going to be a shot gun approach or are you going to target certain neighborhoods? Will you offer discounts in order to sign people up? (either permanent or first time)

4- What makes your LCO stand out from the others?

Now some other information... all equipment is USED equipment once it rolls of the sales floor. So keeping money in reserve is important even if every piece of equipment is brand new.

Once you are in a neighborhood, target that neighborhood. You are already there, so you're saving time on travel think about passing that savings on to your customers. The more customers you have in a neighborhood, the easier it is to gain new customers. (Hey Joe, who does your lawn? or I do the Jone's lawn perhaps you'd like to try my services that they have found easily affordable.)

Anyone can figure out a name, and can decide how to operate. It doesn't take a lot to decide what equipment to buy. But it is foolish to think that is the bulk of a business plan. That is the easy part, it's the remaining part that helps you make your business work.

mjealey
09-02-2009, 07:23 PM
richonsa, i have just sent you a private message and have a question for you.

richonsa
09-03-2009, 12:09 AM
"A business plan is more than getting a name and deciding between a Sole Proprietor, Limited Liability or Incorporation. It involves more than purchasing equipment, in fact purchasing the equipment come out of a plan."

That's obvious.

Mjealey, reply sent.

THC
09-03-2009, 12:44 AM
With that said, to answer your last comment/question: You think the CPA business is a perfectly good profession? Though I am experienced in it I HATE IT. The firm I was at lost work and laid some folks off. I was one of them. I've never enjoyed the work, I hate desks, gossip, water cooler talk, fake people, and yes, even educated people can be jerks. Many of the CPAs I know are pompous and arrogant jerks who think they know it all, and many think they are hot doo doo because they have so much education. I can't stand most of them. I was a paramedic/painter prior to being injured, which forced me into school for preservation purposes. I majored in Accounting, even though I hated it, because I could become a CPA. Whoop dee doo, right?

I ain't fun, I'll tell you that. I don't have the character makeup to sit in front of a computer all day long pushing numbers around. I've done it for almost five years and I've hated every minute of it. The only thing I do appreciate about it is this: I've received a tremendous education in general business principles. I have an entreprenuer's spirit, and I am a big picture person that thrives on managing others. Hence, I must pursue business interests that interest ME. Accounting does not do that.

One thing I do love is working outdoors. I truly enjoy it. I'll be sitting for the pest. applicator test soon. I'm putting together equipment and getting cards, flyers and shirts made. I'm actually going to pursue doing something that makes me happy now. I've paid my dues in accounting. But with that said, I am more than happy to jump in an assist others here that keep getting bad advice on business formation.
Good luck buddy....


but you're still an egg-head:P

Mckenzie's Maintenance
09-03-2009, 01:57 AM
I am in the process of writing my own business plan...and enjoy all the lawnsite info from everyone...


thanks richonsa for a stern honest answer on topics... mainly get professional advice...could cost you later...I majored in business administration by the way...and am still learning everyday...that is the way life is.

richonsa
09-03-2009, 08:18 AM
I am in the process of writing my own business plan...and enjoy all the lawnsite info from everyone...


thanks richonsa for a stern honest answer on topics... mainly get professional advice...could cost you later...I majored in business administration by the way...and am still learning everyday...that is the way life is.

It wasn't my intention to be stern. Yes, life is one big educational experience. Good luck with your venture. Success will come with smart work.

Mckenzie's Maintenance
09-03-2009, 09:33 AM
I guess I meant straight forward...stern was all I could think of at the time..