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View Full Version : 20 and owning my own lawn business


hdhsrebel
11-15-2009, 09:46 AM
Ive been mowing grass for a landscape company since i was 14 however this summer i finally got tired of his cheap pay rate and quit lol i found out that the 10 bucks an hour i was getting paid to weedeat 3 days a week just wasnt making ends meet. So a couple of months ago my dad decided to help me start my own lawn care business. i will not begin actually mowin till atleast april, but the winter time seems to be the best time to start putting my business together. Ive got a long time friend that owns a garden center just down the road from me, and he has since given me all of his non year round accounts to mow for next year. The customers are thrilled for me to start as i beat his price by a measly 5 bucks just to make sure they dnt look elsewhere:). so i went to my buddys garden center and just picked out my new mower i just gotta purchase it by january first for the special its got all of the goodies its the hustler super z with the 60 and the 31 kawie its perfect, i just bought a 88 f250 4x4 and a 16 ft tandem axle trailer, i got a cheapo backpack blower, a shindaiwa t242 trimmer, and of course all the little things like hand tools and sprayers and such. as things sit now ive got 18 accounts and i havent even advertised yet. But however here in murphy there is a lot of steep yards and i need a good walk behind bad! any ideas? im lookin at used ones just to get me by till i can afford a good one i really liked the husky hydro my boss had but it was very unreliable, every one ive looked at around here used is gear driven. Are the gear drives reliable? will they climb as good as the hydros? what should i do? Thanks in advance,

Yater
11-15-2009, 11:10 AM
Since you live in a hilly area and are just starting out, I'd ditch the ztr idea and spend 1/2 that on a nice dual hydro walk behind and a trim mower (if you don't already have a good one).

hdhsrebel
11-15-2009, 10:56 PM
whats a trim mower? btw thanks for the info

I.M. Green
11-16-2009, 08:04 AM
I agree, ditch the ZTR and get a good hydro walk behind.

Lazer Cut
11-16-2009, 08:46 AM
I'd say a toro walk with the t2 controls, they are really easy to use and big companies use those unless you like the ECS controls offered by exmark (turf tracer) then majority are usually split between the two companies, just whatever you prefer. I would not go bigger than a 52". No big companies example brickman uses bigger than that and hardly any other companies will use bigger than a 52" unless you have a lot of big lots, then companies jump to the 60" or bigger. I wouldnt get a big ztr i'd stick with a walk or get a stander. I use both stander and walk. had ztr just didnt like it as much except on big lots. Stick with walk or stander just my 2 cents.

Krafty
11-18-2009, 09:48 AM
Ive been mowing grass for a landscape company since i was 14 however this summer i finally got tired of his cheap pay rate and quit lol i found out that the 10 bucks an hour i was getting paid to weedeat 3 days a week just wasnt making ends meet. So a couple of months ago my dad decided to help me start my own lawn care business. i will not begin actually mowin till atleast april, but the winter time seems to be the best time to start putting my business together. Ive got a long time friend that owns a garden center just down the road from me, and he has since given me all of his non year round accounts to mow for next year. The customers are thrilled for me to start as i beat his price by a measly 5 bucks just to make sure they dnt look elsewhere:). so i went to my buddys garden center and just picked out my new mower i just gotta purchase it by january first for the special its got all of the goodies its the hustler super z with the 60 and the 31 kawie its perfect, i just bought a 88 f250 4x4 and a 16 ft tandem axle trailer, i got a cheapo backpack blower, a shindaiwa t242 trimmer, and of course all the little things like hand tools and sprayers and such. as things sit now ive got 18 accounts and i havent even advertised yet. But however here in murphy there is a lot of steep yards and i need a good walk behind bad! any ideas? im lookin at used ones just to get me by till i can afford a good one i really liked the husky hydro my boss had but it was very unreliable, every one ive looked at around here used is gear driven. Are the gear drives reliable? will they climb as good as the hydros? what should i do? Thanks in advance,


Sounds like your off to a good start and have a ton of ambition. I am sort close to your same boat. I have worked for another company since I was 14 and just got out of college and started my own business last year. I am with the other guys though. Personally I would get a very solid walk behind first. My walkbehind I can use on all of my accounts. My ztr I use alot now but still can't use it on every lot. Especially when it is really wet out. Start out small and when you make a few bucks invest it back into the business for some new equipment.

The charging 5 bucks less just too keep the customers. I understand where you are coming from but please don't get in the habit of doing that, it is a recipe for failure. Spend a bunch of time this winter do some number crunching and figure out exactly how much it cost for you to do business, and charge accordingly. It get easier the more you do it. You will get alot better at it and it becomes less stressful.

That garden center is a huge asset to you. I also have a Friend that owns one just a mile up the road from me. They trow me a ton of business, and in turn I but a lot of plant material from them.

Hope my rambling helps!!!

Yater
11-18-2009, 01:03 PM
whats a trim mower? btw thanks for the info

A trim mower is a 21" (or 26") mower for the areas where you can't take your walk behind. I'd go with a 36" walk behind with a step saver. You'll make a killing if you keep your initial costs down. Don't be tempted by the new ztr and expensive crap until you can pay cash for it.

hdhsrebel
11-19-2009, 09:50 AM
thanks guys

MarkintheGarden
11-19-2009, 10:13 AM
I would suggest that you get a good flier made and deliver it door to door in the same area as the 18 lawns that you got from your friend. You will find that you can make more money by mowing several properties that are next door to each other or at least near by.

hdhsrebel
11-19-2009, 04:09 PM
im up to 21 lawns im havin great luck in the same subdivision, does anyone have any objections to the hustler name? i mentioned a walkbehind and my buddy suggested the trimstar has anyone had any luck with hustler?

Sweet Tater
11-19-2009, 04:20 PM
im up to 21 lawns im havin great luck in the same subdivision, does anyone have any objections to the hustler name? i mentioned a walkbehind and my buddy suggested the trimstar has anyone had any luck with hustler?

check the link in my sig, I just finished a field test of the Trimstar and M1 for hustler. great mowers, the article will be in the Dec issue of Turf

dose0018
11-19-2009, 04:35 PM
I have not used the their walk behinds, but have used their z turns and loved them. The only thing i don't like about them is they are kinda expensive for my budget. I would say get a walk behind but make sure you get a sulky as well (it will save you tons of time if you get skilled with it).
The system i really want to try is a hydro walk behind with the toro sulky (dont remember the name but it has 2 caster wheels so you can reverse without jack knifing)
well good luck to you man, starting with 18 free accounts makes me a jealous man
that saves a ton of walking and putting fliers on doors

hdhsrebel
11-19-2009, 09:26 PM
thanks for all of the info guys things are movin along great im up to 21 accounts and im torn between the better outdoor 44 and the trimstar i really would like to drive one or the other but around here nobody sales walk behinds without u preorder them anybody like one better then the other?

Barefoot James
11-19-2009, 10:14 PM
Dude get a Wright 36 inch rapid height Stander. The walk behind crowd has never used a Stander or the would not ever recommend one again. Get the 36 cause it is great on slopes and will fit in most tight spaces yet will cut large areas pretty quick too so you should not miss a 60 inch cut too much (unless you have lots of 1 acre plus properties - But even a 36 Stander should do 1 acre in about 25 mins. I wold look at craigslist for a used one or check out your local Wright dealer - if it ain't Wright it's wrong. I have had the 52 for 4 years and loooove it.
Oh and get a 21 inch Honda - used - an Echo 210 with and edgit.com and a NEW $500 Redmax 8050 or the most powerful Sthil or even a 755 echo. But the most powerful blower - you will thank me when you have leaves and a dump trailer.

brucec32
11-22-2009, 01:32 PM
Smart moves. First, working for someone to learn how to do the work. Second, quitting to make a decent living vs working for the typical slave wages paid today.

That was a real coup getting the 18 accounts as a base to build from. However, $5 off typical lawns here ($35-$40ish) is a pretty steep discount. Remember in the future that if you establish your advantage vs the competition as being simply "cheaper", it will be hard to change that in the future. You'll get referrals and they will naturally expect the same cheap price as your other customers who referred them. And if you're mowing for $5/yard less, you might be leaving $200 or more of income on the table every week. My guess is you'd rather that be in your pocket. A better trick is to offer them a FIRST YEAR ONLY 10% off rate, so they can see your work. Later, when you raise them, they won't be surprised and since you do a good job, they'll feel it's fair. But if they went with you solely on price they'll be hard to raise later.

I personally would have spent MORE on the truck (yours is older than you are!) and less on a new ZTR. Your truck determines if you make $350 or $0 in a day, as you cannot work when it's broken down, and you will find that the #1 factor in keeping customers long-term is reliability. They do NOT want to hear how your truck is in the shop. But that's done, so make the best of it.

ZTR's are great. I use them as my primary machines, avoiding wb's as much as possible. However, in a hilly region you will find that a high percentage of your new accounts will be....hills. That is because more experienced operators will gradually weed out the difficult accounts (hills) or charge a premium for them. So customers, over time, gravitate towards new young guys who will do their PITA hilly lot for a little less money. For this reason I suspect you will need a good, reliable, high quality walk behind machine every bit as much as a ZTR. So I would NOT scrimp on that.

Your 60" dream machine is a rather large heavy machine for home lawns. Unless most of your properties are wide open, large lots, you may find that this size mower causes a little more turf damage in turns, and fits in a few less places (gates, narrow strips of grass) than a 48-52" unit that can sometimes be cheaper, lighter, and more manuverable. However, if you are going 60", I'd definitely check ebay and other used sources, as this seems to be a common size that is sold barely used (I suspect it is because they too figured out the mower is too darn big for their properties). I very rarely see 60" Z's on home lawns around here, unless they are rural and wide open. You will also find that on any type of warm season grass mowed low, the 60" would butcher the cut unless it was table-top flat. Wider decks handle undulations worse. And remember, on small-medium properties, you are only saving a couple of minutes with a bigger deck. It is a classic beginner's mistake to buy as big a mower as possible early on, thinking it will make you more money. It will on large properites, but if you wind up having to switch to the wb on others because of complaints when a 48" ZTR would have done fine you will regret the purchase and may actually lose productivity in the big picture.

If you are tempted to go new and big because of their various financing deals, just realize that while you may save on interest temporarily, you may also be paying more for the machine that you had to or buying a machine that isn't quite what you needed. Planning based on "cash flow" vs "profitability" is sometimes necessary but in the long run you will make less money.

If on a budget, I would think about a machine like the Toro Grandstand that is easier to use than a wb/sulky in most places, yet can go into walk-behind mode in a pinch to handle steeper, softer areas, etc. It is pretty productive on wide areas. It is probably just as fast as a comparable sized ZTR in 90% of situations, as it turns a little faster. It's really pretty rare one mows a lawn at top speed anyway. If working for someone else trimming all day you may not have come accross this fact, plus your boss did all this type of planning himself.

Avoid the Husqvarna. Or ask around more. Here they are unsellable, you never see them, and the feedback I got wasn't good. Also always factor in resale value into mower purchases. Buying the right brand may allow you to trade more frequently at the same overall cost and keep a newer, more reliable fleet.

And again, if buying for NEXT season, don't rush. Wait till December and start looking for barely used bargains. The market will be flooded with machines with 50-100 hours on them (just broken in) from guys who could never really get their businesses started. I picked up a machine that is about $4200 new this fall with under 50 hours on it for $2500. I got a ZTR with something like 80 hours on the meter (was left on and ran for about half that till they found it) as a demo for $4500 that was closer to $6500 new. The thing still runs like a top 3 years later. Picked up a 36" gear drive wb years ago for $1,000 that was dirty but otherwise in good shape. Sold it several years later for $1200! You won't get "financed", but in the long run you'll pay far less if you buy BARELY USED machines and are sure to check them out properly beforehand. I'm guessing that just starting out you might appreciate having a few thousand less tied up in equipment.


Ive been mowing grass for a landscape company since i was 14 however this summer i finally got tired of his cheap pay rate and quit lol i found out that the 10 bucks an hour i was getting paid to weedeat 3 days a week just wasnt making ends meet. So a couple of months ago my dad decided to help me start my own lawn care business. i will not begin actually mowin till atleast april, but the winter time seems to be the best time to start putting my business together. Ive got a long time friend that owns a garden center just down the road from me, and he has since given me all of his non year round accounts to mow for next year. The customers are thrilled for me to start as i beat his price by a measly 5 bucks just to make sure they dnt look elsewhere:). so i went to my buddys garden center and just picked out my new mower i just gotta purchase it by january first for the special its got all of the goodies its the hustler super z with the 60 and the 31 kawie its perfect, i just bought a 88 f250 4x4 and a 16 ft tandem axle trailer, i got a cheapo backpack blower, a shindaiwa t242 trimmer, and of course all the little things like hand tools and sprayers and such. as things sit now ive got 18 accounts and i havent even advertised yet. But however here in murphy there is a lot of steep yards and i need a good walk behind bad! any ideas? im lookin at used ones just to get me by till i can afford a good one i really liked the husky hydro my boss had but it was very unreliable, every one ive looked at around here used is gear driven. Are the gear drives reliable? will they climb as good as the hydros? what should i do? Thanks in advance,

hdhsrebel
11-24-2009, 09:06 AM
Thanks for all the great info guys, i probably should mentioned i live in the middle of nowhere lol about half the yard i mow are atleast an acre and up thats why the ztr was brought into the picture as one of the yards is 12 acres yes some old lady wants her pastures mowed lol. But ive been lookin around and ive found sum great deals on a used wb around here on craigslist. So overall im well on my way btw 23 accounts now=)

dose0018
11-24-2009, 10:44 AM
holy crap... I guess i am way too used to living in the suburbs. I am not sure i can remember the last time i saw a 12 acre lawn. I think a z turn would be a lot more fun for that lawn. Hope your making good money on it.

LouisianaLawnboy
11-24-2009, 10:55 AM
I wouldn't have dropped the price. You now losing 150.00 a year if u cut 30 times. If did that for 10 accs that's 1500.00 u lost.
Posted via Mobile Device

hdhsrebel
11-24-2009, 02:26 PM
yea i know but it being my first year in business its work it im still makin about 50 bucks an hour on every yard i mow as my ex boss asks for 55 so its not to shabby just to get the accounts i got besides im running a first year special with the understanding prices will increase the second year, and as for all of the subdivisions im getting im charging them a mininmum of 55 an hour bc most of them are owned by the bank ive done got 2 of them and had to mow em once with the trusty rider...