View Full Version : Hi everyone...new guy here
02-10-2010, 08:01 PM
Hey guys Iím new here so I thought I would say hi. I have been reading for a while now but still have so many more questions. I will try to ask just a few at a time so the post does not go too long. I will give a little history about myself first. Iíve been cutting my own lawn for about 40 years. I have never really cut others as I would this time around. I have a full time job now so this would be part time starting. That seems to be what everyone recommends anyway. I am also a disabled veteran so Iím not sure how all this will go. I will start with the basic push mower. Iím thinking of just targeting the houses in my area. So with that said, hereís whatís unclear.
1) What do you guys think about the books and starting guides that are for sale on the internet? ďHow to start a lawn care businessĒ.
2) Can a guy do okay by just doing the basics? Mowing, trimming and blowing off the walkways.
3) Have any of you guys changed careers late in life?
Well thatís it for now. I have many more questions. But this will get us started.
02-10-2010, 08:13 PM
I'll try to answer your questions as best I can...
1) I'm not big on the books that try and tell you how to start your own lawn care business. All that information is right on this website, just by reading threads and asking questions. So I really wouldn't spend money on them. I'm sure they have some very good information in them, but you should still be able to get that info from guys right on this site.
2) The basics is what everyone starts with usually. I actually like doing that best, mainly because its quick and I can knock out quite a few jobs in one day that way. And actually the "basics" is what alot of my customer want, they don't really want the whole full service.
3) I'm still young so I haven't really changed careers late in life. I'm an EMT and going through my fire fighting training, but lawn care is my main thing.
If you have anymore questions, ask away!!! There are lots of guys on this site that have quite the knowledge to share.
02-10-2010, 08:19 PM
Well, I can tell you I gave up fixing cars for a living on my 29th birthday, turning 35 this year and preparing for another year of owning my own business... I would not change a thing. Its been much more satisfying and the only thing I wish I did was start younger, but... I let others "talk me out of it" and once I over came that obstacle, its been smooth sailing...
I wish you the best of luck, try focusing on quality not quantity... Give 110% in what you do and love what your doing; the customers just keep falling into place. We still advertise, but not nearly as much as we did when we started. 75% (if not more) of our business comes from word of mouth... Now we try to handle all the calls we get... In this economy thats a real tough problem to have! :)
Upgrade your equipment as you can, figure out your cost of being in business and do yourself the favor... Become legit from the get go before you step on someones property... With the way people are so "sue happy" these days you do not want to take a chance and lose what your building before its even built...
Guides and how too materials can be helpful... But honestly, this site and some google searching will provide much more useful information for FREE. Start putting a business plan together, that will be more useful (and worth spending a few bucks on online if you need an example) then buying a how too guide. 90% of how too guides are pretty common sense, its not brain surgery here... Also, start reading books and magazines about the industry, go to the library and check out a few books there...
Hope this helps, again... Best of luck to you and thank you for your service to our Country. Hope 2010 is your year!
02-10-2010, 08:29 PM
I mostly do basic weekly service and don't have issues. Some customers want the full service landscape stuff but many just want their lawn to look nice.
I started with just a 21" and it was hell. Once I got commercial stuff it was much easier to get done faster. I would go with commercial equipment right out of the gate. I'd recommend a used commercial zero turn if your looking to do more than 5-7 accounts. Sitting beats walking by far plus it's less hard on you. Get yourself a good string trimmer and backpack blower, a trailer to haul it in and you're set.
02-10-2010, 09:18 PM
Thanks, you guys are so fast at the response. Sitting sure would be better than walking behind. It was my ankle that broke 20 years ago in the service. Four places! But I do not have any accounts yet so that will be a little later. I am an airline pilot and have been doing that for a bunch of years. It just doesnít pay very much. PBS did a special last nightÖ.thatís my life. Iím gone all the time and only come home to visit. So Iím looking for a better way of life.
I know this will be a loaded question, but how many accounts could one expect the first year? I plan on just walking door to door and hand out a flyer I created on word.
I donít think anyone will like this next one. Iím thinking of offering a discount to seniors and veterans. A 20% discount on a $30 lawn would be $6 off. Still $24! What do you think? Wait it gets worse. Maybe its better. Not sure! IĒm also thinking of mowing disabled veteranís yards for a $30 discount. Yep thatís free for a small yard. Wait, donít hang me yet. To go hand in hand with that, I was trying to come up with a sponsorship program where others that want to participate can basically contribute to the discounted lawns. Iím not sure how to go about that though. Anyway, maybe something like that. What do you think?
02-10-2010, 09:55 PM
If you do a crazy deal like that to attract business you need to cover expenses and not just work for free... Make sure you do a new business business press release and either contact a local news channel or local paper and have them cover the story about you giving away services to disabled vets... The start up publicity is needed if you are going to cut your throat with those big discounts and freebies.... If you do try it, let us know how it goes...
02-11-2010, 12:05 AM
To answer your question about the number of accounts you can expect this first year, that does really depend on your area and the number of flyers you pass out. Usually you can expect anywhere from 1%-3% call back. So if you pass out 1000 flyers, thats 10-30 potential customers, and there is no guarantee that the potential customers will actually hire you. So I'd say that for every 1000 flyers you pass out, you will gain 10 jobs (like I said, this could be different depending).
Now, I like your idea of offering discounts to senior citizens and veterans. I'd say that a 10%-20% would be a good amount. And at least for your first couple years, keep your discounts at that, don't go "overboard" quite yet. I would wait on doing the disabled vet's properties for "free" until you have established your business and have some good income coming in. I think that it is a great idea and something that will make a difference, I would definately wait on that and work on the idea over the next few years. I'd hate to see you go under, after only being in business for a few months.
Take it one step at a time. Start your business first and build up your client base. Then after a few years, and you have a larger client base, then I'd move forward with the "free" stuff.
02-11-2010, 07:50 AM
I think I put the horse before the cart. The discounts are important to me, but the amount of discount is still in the works. I like the smaller discount in the beginning. I agree that I need to get going before I start giving away too much. I will keep that in the back of my mind and try that at a later time. Sometimes my heart and desire to help others can get the better of me. I am planing on knocking on doors to hand out my flyers so I was hoping for better than 1-3%. I just canít do that much walking. This still seems the best way for me as this will keep someone from calling too far away. I know that should not be my present concern starting out. I guess I need anyone I can get just starting out. I just donít know if I want to place an ad in the paper. I like more a one on one approach.
How do you handle cutting times? Cutting Monday through Friday?
How many yards should I plan on cutting a day? Remember I will be targeting smaller yards. Subdivision yards!
What about when it rains. What if its just a fine mist? Maybe a light rain. What if it rains for hours and you day is shot? My personal yard is a problem yard as the back yard becomes lake front property after a good rain. It stays that way for at least a week. I just canít mow it. But what would you do if that was someone elseís yard?
I guess what I asking is, how dry does grass need to be?
Do you cut grass when there is just dew on the ground? It hasnít rained!
Well thatís it for now. Thanks for all the help guys.
02-11-2010, 08:39 AM
Wet grass can always be an issue for sure... Commercial grade equipment can help you with this though to some extent... The blade tip speed is faster then resi equipment and usually the decks are designed to still throw out the grass reducing clumps and what not. Dew, light rain, mist... As long as there is no thunder and lightning we are mowing... Unless the property looks like a swamp, we'll put that off for another day and none of my customers have ever said anything about that....
Best thing for you to do when cutting your first few properties is invest in a stop watch. Basically you want to make sure your covering expenses and bidding jobs correctly and the only way to do this for sure is to time yourself at each job. Do your own lawn and time it.. Cut, trim, and blow off and make sure you include the trailer load/unload time as well... Some guys use the $1 per minute method of bidding, so shoot for that to start off with...
Whatever equipment you start with is going to dictate your "lawns per day" question. My 52" zero turn is going to take alot less then you with a 21" mower... Also, the learning curve, I can go onto a property and be done with it before your even off the trailer (not really, but follow me here) because I have the experience of doing so many lawns under my belt. I would try and shoot for 8-10 lawns per day, considering your doing smaller lawns, that would be a good starting point...
Stick to your flyer idea, keep the discounts low until you develop a solid base of customers and then consider expanding. Work within your targeted area, no one says you have to advertise in the paper (we hardly do) and have great luck using flyers door to door. Also, there is always people looking to make a few bucks on weekends, so if you can't hand them all out, hire a few local college kids and have them do it. Pay them like 3 cents a flyer.
02-11-2010, 11:09 AM
The number of properties you can cut in a day, again has many factors that go with it. It will depend on how long you want to work everyday, how quick you are at the accounts, and what equipment you will be using. Now using a 21" mower on 1/4-1/3 acre subdivision type lots, you could expect to get them done in about 30-40 minutes, maybe more if your bagging the lawn. So you can probably expect to do an average of 1.5 lawns an hour with your 21". So in an 8 hour day, thats 12 lawns. In my subdivision, the lawns would probably take you 40 minutes (for most of them) to do, but in a subdivision a couple miles from me you could do those lawns in 20 minutes. So I'd say that anywhere from 10-16 lawns a day you can expect to do.
The nice thing about mowing is that you can schedule all the services. You can decide what days to cut what lawns. I cut alot of times on Saterday, mainly because of other things going on during some days of the week. Last year I also cut on Sundays alot due to rain/weather. I would suggest filling up a Mon-Fri schedule and use Saterday as a make up day in case of bad weather.
I try to avoid mowing when it's raining. Some people mow right through the rain and don't even stop, but I will stop. First off, when it rains it makes the ground wet and soft, so when I put a 1200lbs ztr on the lawn, it's going to create ruts. And customers don't like ruts, so I stay off until it has dried up a little. Now if I'm in the middle of my day and it happens to sprinkle or be a light mist, then I will just keep going and finish my day. But if it is a steady rain, then I will stop and call it a day. But that is exactly why you use Saterday as a make up day, just incase you have bad weather during the week and have to miss a day or two of cutting. And if part of the lawn is flooded, like you said your personal lawn does, just don't mow that area and wait until the following week.
On to the question about how dry the ground should be. This can differ depending on the company and equipment being used. If I had a 21" or 36" type mower as my main unit or even as a back up, I could put those on pretty much any lawn wet or dry and not have to worry too much about ruts. But with a 52" or 60" ztr, I can't put those on a lawn that is really wet. I even try to start a little later, like 9:00-9:30 so the dew has dried up a little bit. But if your using a 21" mower, I wouldn't be too concerned with wet lawns.
First, thank you for your service and paying such a high price on my behalf. You certainly can make a very nice living with a very limited supply of equipment and capitol so long as you are very selective on the types of properties you go after. Grow slow and and learn the trade. You are going to find it extremely rewarding.
If you need help with anything, please don't hesitate to ask.
02-12-2010, 09:01 AM
Thanks guys. You guys are so helpful. I still have so many more questions.
Do you bag the grass? Do you have a mulch blade and just let the grass fly out the side?
I will be starting I think with my 21Ē push mower, should I consider buying a com. Engine off of eBay to put on my 21í mower deck?
I donít think I could mow 10-12 lawns a day by pushing as it was my ankle that got hurt before and walking that much is only good for one day. I pay the price later that night. I have a 42Ē riding mower I bought from sears three years ago. It will go through MY gate to the back yard. I am thinking of putting it up for sale on eBay soon and then using the money for something else. But I will need something to ride at some point. Iím just not sure when. For me it will probably be sooner than when you guys would just because of my situation. Planning for the future, what mower could I ride (future) that is small enough to get through most gates?
One more question for today.
Just starting out and only working in my local area mowing res., what kind of insurance should I be asking about?
02-12-2010, 09:44 AM
Like you Dave I am a disabled veteran and just retired this last june after 25 years in the US Army. My wife started our business about 4 years ago with a push mower and a saturn vue. As I finished my tour in Iraq she was working hard to help our future. She moved up to a Cub Cadet tractor and now we run 5 trucks and I need to add 2 more as we continue to grow. We did not have great sums of money laying around so we found a great Equipment shop to help us, we work hard and keep a standard. Most of our equipment is used and paid for. I handle our workers and equipment to include running our shop and my wife handles the customers and estimates. The values and tools you should have learned in the military will help you. Be fair, honest, hard working and good things will happen, color, race and sex have nothing to do if a person has a great work ethic and cares for their customers and workers. Start slow, upgrade your equipment when you can and always care about the job you do and you be successful.
02-12-2010, 10:44 AM
Lets see here.....
Bagging the grass, mulching, or just discharging is not a huge problem. For me, most of my customers request that I bag their lawn and haul the clippings away. Now, I would much perfer to mulch or discharge the clippings just to save me time at the end of the day when it comes time to unload the grass clippings off the trailer. Mulching or discharging are better for the lawn and give it extra nutrition, so those lawns tend to be a little healthier. But sometimes lawns need to be bagged because the grass may be too long and wet to mulch/discharge and have it look nice. So if you can, try and mulch or discharge if the grass isn't too long and not too wet, otherwise bag. But sometimes you just have to go by what the customer asks for.
So with a push mower you're thinking about 8 lawns per day is your maximum. That's still a good number of accounts and should bring in some steady income until you can upgrade equipment. There are plenty of zero turn riders out there that are commecial grade that are small enough as to be a similar size to your sears tractor. I know exmark has a 34" ztr and bob-cat has a 36" and 42" ztr, I'm sure there are more as well. But I would use what you have right now, just to get some money coming in at first. Once you have some good revinue coming in, then I would start to look at one of the commercial ztr's like I mentioned above (or could be a different brand) or even looking into a commerical 21" mower. But your 21" mower right now is probably not built for commerical work, so its not going to last very long if your doing 8 lawns per day, 4-5 days per week. You'd put more hours on that in 2 weeks than the average person does in a year. So be prepared to get a commercial mower pretty quickly, I'd use what you have until you need to make the switch, just make sure to have the money coming in.
If you're just going to be mowing residential, there really is no reason to have a high general liability policy like $2million. I'd say that $500,000-$1million would be good, depending on what you want. If you don't want to spend as much, the $500,000 would be a little bit cheaper of a policy but should still cover most anything that should come your way. And if your going to be using a vehicle in the business, you may want to look into commercial auto for that vehicle. But definately call a few insurance companies around you and get a few quotes and see what they would recommend.
Great sentiment. Thank you for your service. And you're right. My dad was a Marine and it had an unbelievable effect on him and the way he did things. He learned that when you do something, you do it right. The disciplines the service taught him really helped him grow his landscape business the right way.
Your wife sounds like a great woman. Just coming off of a big snow storm and watching my wife at 50 years old plow and shovel with us really helps me remember that I couldn't have don it without her.
Sounds like you guys are building a great business. Keep up the great work and don't hesitate to let me know if you need anything.
02-12-2010, 10:47 AM
^^^^And by the way, Tommy is very knowledgeable about this industry. He is extremely helpful and can give you some great ideas.
02-12-2010, 07:11 PM
Thank you very much and yes I think my wife is special, she has to be to put up being married to me for 20 years and all of that time in the military. I am always interested in new ideas that is why I am up here reading, so at some point I will be asking some questions.
02-13-2010, 02:08 PM
Thanks for all the help guys. I will still have more questions soon.
I was not sure that I could make a go of this. At least not completely. But reading your post, I now know that I will be able to also. I'm the kind of guy that believes if someone else can do something, then why not me too.
I was only at your home page for a short time, but what is and where can I find out more about NaVOBA? From the title it sounds like a real winner.
Anyway, thanks again.
02-13-2010, 03:02 PM
Here is the website for National Veterans Business Association.
Best of Luck
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