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View Full Version : Getting into the business, looking for a mentor.


cmdnvs
12-04-2009, 09:17 PM
Good evening everyone. Be forewarned this is a very long post!

My name is Madison, I'm 24 and have worked as a computer programmer/database administrator since I was 17. I currently make 80k a year, and have for a while. I am not in danger of losing my job, I'm not at risk of being laid off - I work for a company that made 14billion in profit last year (yes, profit, not gross). However, I am tired of working indoors - I constantly find myself depressed at being stuck in a taupe room with little to no natural light for 8-10 hours a day, I don't think humans should live that way, I don't think we were made to, and I don't think it's right. I've been doing research on the lawn care industry for about a year, I mowed yards as a side job when I was a young teenager with just a push mower around the neighborhood. Yes, that is the extent of my experience. That said, I've made the decision that I am leaving my air conditioned, taupe-walled career behind to start a lawn care business. I don't expect to make the kind of money I do right now, at least not for a long time, but I do look forward to working for myself, being outside, and living a more normal (as in, what humans were intended for) life.

I currently live very close to Charleston, SC, this is where I intend to stay while I start this business, a check of yellowpages shows 207 "lawn care" listings within the greater Charleston area, serving a population of roughly 600,000 people. I haven't found any local LCOs that were willing to discuss pricing (and I feel that it would be dishonest to get a bunch to come give me an estimate), however I have discussed with several homeowners who currently have lawn care service and the going rate around here seems to be 60-80$/hr. Yes I realize there are a ton of businesses already in the area, and every day I see a station wagon or a camry pulling a trailer with a push mower and some weedeaters. I don't expect this to be a cake walk, but I do expect to be able to survive.

I turned in my 2 week notice earlier this week, however at the request of the company I'll actually be staying for 45 days. I intend through the end of December and beginning of January to officially start my business. I have approximately 30,000$ saved and dedicated to this project, I don't want to attempt to start with consumer grade equipment out of the bed of a pick-up truck, I have always been taught and truly believe in either giving 100% or not trying, or I guess you could say go big or go home. I've already joined here and become a member of ALMA. I want to have every chance of succeeding, and I don't feel it would be fair to myself to not be willing to invest everything I have in this, either it works and I will be a business owner living off the profits of their company, or I will be in debt and going back to the office life that I hate.

I am treating this like any other business venture, I have been working for about a month on a detailed business plan, I've purchased some market research for the area to get a better idea of the incomes of different areas so I know where my most profitable (but probably harder to get) customers are. I've been narrowing down my selections for equipment (I also will be acquiring a used truck and an enclosed trailer) although I don't plan to start off doing anything other than mowing trimming and edging (I don't want to jump in head over heels trying to learn those things as well as what to plant and where, or what flowers grow the best in shade), trying to decide on a company name, and select the best marketing tactics. I have some additional money that I could use for marketing, I am not afraid of post cards, fliers, door hangers, or anything else. I may not have much experience but I am a fast learner, I graduated highschool at 14 and was in college the next year. I can learn to do anything, and I can be good at whatever I do. I will not fail at this if the market can support just one more company.

I realize that the 'looking for a mentor' part of my title might be a little odd, I know that Lawnsite exists for the exchange of information amongst people involved in the industry, but I'm hoping to establish a personal relationship with a few owners (I don't mind if they're in my area or not, although having someone here or close to here would be ideal) who I can discuss any aspect of the business with, I don't mind if it's here on Lawnsite, via PMs here, via email, or on the phone. Whether it's about equipment, specific questions about how to deal with a type or grass or shrub or what not, marketing, where to find employees when the time comes, you name it. I don't want to be the type of person who gives the industry a bad name because I don't have any experience, and I hope that through this site, and hopefully some personal help I can get off on the right foot.

Feel free to bash me, or offer advice, or anything that you want, I just figured this would be a good time to get my foot in the door and introduce myself.

Sorry for the novel, and thanks for your time!

zak406
12-04-2009, 09:33 PM
take that two weeks back i think you would be better off starting off on the side and build until you have enough work to quit your job with no income.

zturncutter
12-04-2009, 09:57 PM
Why did you decide to just go cold turkey and start full time, why not start part time to give yourself some experience before losing your steady income ?

cmdnvs
12-04-2009, 10:35 PM
I guess I can answer both questions with one shot. Honestly, I don't mind taking a hit on income (obviously), I am sick and tired of the life and job that I have, I can't fathom the idea of keeping a job where I'm locked up like an animal all day. I'd rather be outside, and I don't see a reason to try going part time when I think I can do better by going at it full steam.

Like I said, I feel like I have to give this my full dedication and support, all of my attention, I know it might make some sense to ease into it, but if you spend your whole life testing the temperature of the water you never go swimming.

Also, I know that if I jump into it with both feet, I can get a better faster understanding of things, I also intend to use my software background to make some custom tailored applications for my use (which, if it works out, I'll share freely with this community). I've already gotten the game plan ready for making an application to calculate my production ratios, that once inputted (and can be changed with any and every piece of equipment), I'll work on a tool for estimations that will tie the two together, that way I can give accurate, printed estimates quickly (tablet PC and wireless printer in the truck I envision), as well as if I decide to go with invoicing or monthly billing, I can set up recurring billing and bill cards/accounts the morning that I'm headed out, have the computer generate my GPS route, and either leave off or notify me of anyone whos payment doesn't go through. I know I won't be able to focus all that attention if I'm part time.

madisonguyton
12-04-2009, 11:01 PM
wow!!! if you get that software finish please let me know:clapping:! and it would be great if you would make it MAC compatible too haha... nobody has anything compatible with the MAC OS

cmdnvs
12-04-2009, 11:17 PM
Maybe if there's enough interest from the community I'll start a separate thread with requests to include in software, I don't think there's an all encompassing decent product out there, and I'd be more than happy to provide one.

Az Gardener
12-05-2009, 12:14 AM
I hope you would be selective in your choice of a mentor. With that in mind look at some of my past posts and specifically my e myth thread. Then Pm me when you get to 10 posts if I pass the interview.

SW Services
12-05-2009, 07:14 PM
I know I have said this before somewhere on LS... I commend your efforts and dedication to start the buisness, however, 80k is year is a damn good income. I wouldnt even think of going blind into landscaping. Its a very very cuthroat buisness and takes a while to get to an income you can live on. I would go part time and mow after work and on the weekends until you figure out where your standing as far as accounts go. I would hate to see you end up out of buisness, out of work, and out of an income in case you do go under. Thats what concerns me with people who just want to walk away from their 60k a year jobs and start landscaping.

g21
12-07-2009, 08:04 PM
Madison,
You are in one of the best markets in the country for growing a landscape maintenance business. You will be able to grow as fast as want. Feel free to check out ALMA, there are plenty of people who will help you. Also, I'm not sure what type of programing you do, but ALMA is looking for someone to do a proprietary software program for tracking manhours out in the field. If you have an interest, shoot me an email.

Good Luck!
Tommy

Falcon50EX
12-07-2009, 10:04 PM
I guess I can answer both questions with one shot. Honestly, I don't mind taking a hit on income (obviously), I am sick and tired of the life and job that I have, I can't fathom the idea of keeping a job where I'm locked up like an animal all day. I'd rather be outside, and I don't see a reason to try going part time when I think I can do better by going at it full steam.

Like I said, I feel like I have to give this my full dedication and support, all of my attention, I know it might make some sense to ease into it, but if you spend your whole life testing the temperature of the water you never go swimming.

Also, I know that if I jump into it with both feet, I can get a better faster understanding of things, I also intend to use my software background to make some custom tailored applications for my use (which, if it works out, I'll share freely with this community). I've already gotten the game plan ready for making an application to calculate my production ratios, that once inputted (and can be changed with any and every piece of equipment), I'll work on a tool for estimations that will tie the two together, that way I can give accurate, printed estimates quickly (tablet PC and wireless printer in the truck I envision), as well as if I decide to go with invoicing or monthly billing, I can set up recurring billing and bill cards/accounts the morning that I'm headed out, have the computer generate my GPS route, and either leave off or notify me of anyone whos payment doesn't go through. I know I won't be able to focus all that attention if I'm part time.

When you get the program runing I could use something to track fert aps.
On my first carrier I was told it would take a lot of persistence and it did, but I love it and I never hate going to work. Because of that I started my fertilization and weed control business on the side and all is well. So Good Luck

madisonguyton
12-08-2009, 12:52 AM
Madison,
You are in one of the best markets in the country for growing a landscape maintenance business. You will be able to grow as fast as want. Feel free to check out ALMA, there are plenty of people who will help you. Also, I'm not sure what type of programing you do, but ALMA is looking for someone to do a proprietary software program for tracking manhours out in the field. If you have an interest, shoot me an email.

Good Luck!
Tommy

Thanks Tommy,

It is an extremely competitive town i live in (Starkville) bc of about 4 EXTREMELY large and well established businesses. Columbus on the other hand, is where I am trying to focus. I am trying my best to get the best start possible and expand into smaller landscaping jobs, eventually larger ones, but I am just becoming overwhelmed with all there is to learn. The maintenance side is not bad but I am not very "landscaper oriented" as of right now! I hope to learn alot of information from all the members on this site as I am extremely passionate about the way my work looks when i pull away from it. Thanks for the great site

madisonguyton
12-08-2009, 01:13 AM
uh oh, i just realized there were two madison's on this thread.. sorry :hammerhead::dizzy:

cmdnvs
12-08-2009, 04:30 AM
Thanks for the responses thus far. I do value the input I'm receiving, although I won't be dissuaded from my decision to enter this business.

Thanks Tommy, it's encouraging to hear you say that this is a good market for a new business, I'd thought that was the case and every bit of research I've done agrees with it, but hearing it from a professional always improves things. I've also sent you an email regarding software.

madisonguyton, and here I thought I was definitely going to be the only male Madison on lawnsite. ;)

Lazer Cut
12-10-2009, 11:05 AM
Hey if you get that software program that'd be awesome... I have a droid and am in the process of trying to figure out how to use this phone to record things and hopwfully print off this thing somehow lol... good luck in starting biz... what mowers are you currently looking at and how much are you going to spend... also I wouldn't quit cold turkey like a few others said if you have kids and wifre or girlfriend to provide for. But hey go for if you are single... work your as* and you will do good if you keep working at it...
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starry night
12-10-2009, 12:09 PM
I agree that you just need to cut the cord and jump into the business. If you are looking for complete safety, you won't ever do it. I previously was in car sales earning good money but not enjoying it after 10 years. I wanted to be on my own. Now, it's 25 years later and I'm still enjoying the landscaping / lawn care business. And I've made a good living. Interesting that you should use the term mentor. I have been planning to introduce a concept of e-mentoring to my committee, part of the Ohio Nursery and Landscaping Association. I would be glad to answer questions for you even though I could not address your market specifically. PM me, if you would like.

Grasshopper49
12-10-2009, 10:35 PM
Wow, sounds like what I did last year, but i am a bit older than you. Was selling elevaors/escalators/repair/upgrades, etc. Was making money similar to you, had just gotten promoted, company car, beatufil office. Had planned to semi-retire in November of this year, but found myself hating to go to work, hating this, hating that, hated Sundays as the next day was Monday...

One day I handed in my notice. Was tough to do, giving up that income, car and benefits. Still wonder if I did the right thing.

You are starting at the right time though. I quit in July and only picked up a handful of mowing customers. I was very busy last fall with mulching jobs, aerating, overseeding, etc.. I was worried about mowing customers and income for this year, but in Feb I started distributing flyers by the thousands, door hangers, and put an ad in our local penny saver book. I could not believe all the calls I got from that! Then I picked up a commercial customer with six locations, they are opening four more this month, and five more by the end of April. That will be a $100,000 account. Have a few other commercial customers, and then my residential customers as well. I don't need a lot of mowing customers, as I also have my pesticide certification and license. Good money in that (but a lot more liability)

Recently completed my turfgrass certification through UGA and PLANET. Very useful, and looks great to my customers as they see I take my job seriously enough to continue learning and provide the best service.

Lots of other things I could suggest, even send you the flyers I used to maybe give you some ideas. Sounds like you have the right business attitude and putting some thought into your business plan.

Find the niche you are comfortable with. Mine is small to medium sized yards. I work by myself (most of the time) so I can't handle anything too big. However, I do have another company with five employees willing to work with me when I bid on a job too big for me.

Did I say I wanted to semi-retire? I found myself working seven days a week (not counting rain days) until this fall. Enjoying the time off now, but now reading turfgrass mgmnt text books I purchased during the year, reviewing business/marketing/pricing for 2010, maintaining equipment...and still picking up some mulching and lawn vacuuming jobs. Will be busy in Feb again putting out flyers and seeking referrals from my customers.

Would be happy to chat with you.
The Grasshopper

exmark614
12-11-2009, 02:49 AM
They say when most start a business, they take a risk. If I had that job, I, like many said, would hold the full time and go part time with landscaping. However, if one wants to take the potential financial risk. Go ahead and take it. That's why we live in America!

But what do I know...I'm just a college student majoring in Accounting that owns a landscape maintenance business that plans to work as a CPA after graduation and own my business and eventually leave the accounting firm and start my own CPA firm and be the CEO/CFO of both businesses.

Even though I'm young I'd like to say I know a lot about business and would be happy to help you with any questions.

mdlwn1
12-11-2009, 07:53 AM
Like many have said...maybe you can stay on 3-4 days a week. When I started, I stayed on with my landcape employer as a sub 3 days a week.

PTP
12-11-2009, 08:39 AM
I think that AZ Gardener would be a good one that you could take advice from. He runs a good full service company.

I run my company a little differently. I focus on the mowing and only on certain lawns in certain areas. I am very focused. If you like, you can read about the year that I started up here. http://www.lawnsite.com/showthread.php?t=95391

There were some things that I would have done differently in hindsight but I did jump in with both feet and, while others opinion may vary, I think that I am doing quite well in this business. I really enjoy my business and am quite pleased with my profit.