View Full Version : Would appreciate some start-up advice

07-09-2002, 08:02 PM
I have been working for an acquaintance of mine since mid-last season, and I've decided it's time to stop working so hard so someone else can get rich. I have a full-time job, and I started working for him to make a few extra bucks. I enjoy the work, but I find he is relying on me WAY too much. I will even take the equipment and work solo for him if he is busy/falls behind. I figure, I'm already working hard, why not for myself?!? I have been seriously considering buying my own equipment and starting my own business. I would like to start out while keeping my full time job, and if things go well, then that can change to the part-time gig, and lawn care can take center stage.
I am having trouble deciding a few things:

1> What mower to buy? I have had enough of pistol-grip W.B.'s, having owned one myself for my own lawn for the last 5+ yrs, and having run one for the past year. I like the Exmark control system, but I'm wondering if I wouldn't be better off investing in a ZTR (is the Lazer HP a worthwile investment over a W.B.?)
---- I do still have a Scag WB belt drive 48" for home, but I don't want to subject it to regular, heavy use... OK as back-up.

2> What trimmer to buy ??? is Echo worth it's weight? I am used to the Redmax, but I'm also considering a Stihl. ( I have 2 Stihl dealers locally, one is excellent, I'm not fond of the Redmax dealer, but I like the machine )

3> Am I nuts to try and start up even a small operation in July-August, or should I just go for it??

I have read a lot of posts here and have learned a ton already, everyone is so helpful, it's fantastic!!

I really appreciate any feedback.... Thanks


mdb landscaping
07-09-2002, 09:09 PM
As far as mower choices go, get the biggest ztr you can afford. I would definately recommend the 60 inch. You can put it almost anywhere you would use a walkbehind, except for the hills and gates. A lot of people ive talked to have regretted getting a 48 or 52 inch rider and wished they had the extra cutting length. As far as trimmers go, i would recommend a split boom model for a solo operator. i have the echo 2400 seris split boom and have the trimmer, edger, power broom and brushcutter attachments. Since i couldnt justify the cost for a seperate power unit for each application, i think this is the best way to go. You cant really go wrong with stihls either. i have a br400 stihl backpack and have used their trimmers and they are very well made. The key to starting up the business is pass out a lot of flyers and get your name out, and the customers will come to you. good luck.

agrostis palustris
07-09-2002, 09:13 PM
Navig8r, where in New York are you from?

wayne volz
07-09-2002, 09:58 PM
I say go for it. Many of us started in this part time. Be prepared however to see the margins decrease as client base increases. It is not always "greener" on the other side.

The equipment choices are the easy part of your decision. The most important thing to consider is this. Understand why you will charge what you will charge for your service. Know your cost of operation, apply a profit that the market will bear and with good service and a little good luck along the way you will be OK.

Too many contractors have no idea why they charge what they charge other than that is what the competition is charging. That is important, but you must know what it cost you per man hour to provide your service.

We been in this business since 1979 and have seen many services making that mistake.

Good luck!


07-11-2002, 07:47 PM
Thanks for the advice thus far...... I also looked at the Husqvarna trimmers yesterday.... anybody using them ??? any good???

I have a stihl dealer literally around the corner from me, and he's excellent, so that is a factor I'm considering........ still not decided...:confused:

Thanks again all !!!

We do 4 U
07-11-2002, 08:06 PM
Why don't you want to use the wb you already have?
IMHO, I would use the wb to start out with until you get your customer base up so you won't be out that much if you decide you don't like it or whatever. And if you do get enough customers, you can always get a mower that will suite the customers you have instead of buying one now and regreting it later becuase you bouhgt a wb and need a zrt.
Anyway, i say go for it. When I started out 3 years ago, all I wanted to make was $100 a week. I am way above that now. By the way I also am a solo part timer. I work at the fire dept. full time.

agrostis palustris
07-11-2002, 10:45 PM
Navig8r. Which Stihl dealer are you considering? I probably know them, or of them.

07-11-2002, 10:48 PM
I am near Brady's Power Equipment... That is where my Scag is from... They have always treated me very well !

07-11-2002, 11:00 PM
I use the husky line exclusivly and really enjoy the quality they provide, I never have problems with them and use them day in and day out. I'm one of the few here in my area that use husquvarna tools.

Heller Landscaping
07-11-2002, 11:47 PM
Use the w\b you already have don't spend before you make. If you start out in the middle of the year in the hole you will barely be able to make any clear profit by years end.

agrostis palustris
07-12-2002, 12:46 AM
I think I was up at Brady's about 5 years ago. Not a bad place, their prices and selection were not good as far as what I was looking for though.

07-14-2002, 09:28 AM
Weelllllllll................ So, It has begun !!!
Yesterday I purchased a trimmer. Stihl fs85r, Got to use it a little.. runs nice, Real nice. I must say I'm impressed. It seems that Stihl had the most to offer for the $$$.... Solid drive shaft, good selection of attachment choices, good warranty, and reputation. Also, as I stated earlier, I have a good dealer near by (Brady's Power Equipment).. They are used to seeing me in there, but as someone elses employee. When I explained that this was no longer the case, they wished me luck, and gave lots of encouragement.... Good people !

07-16-2002, 04:19 PM
use the walk behind to generate enough capitol ,to get the z, then this fall and winter look for the best financing
deal u can get on a proven brand of ztr.
this way u keep the money generated as working capitol. u shouldnt have to save a scag walk behind. itll age about as fast just setting.while u are starting ,
keep all moneys generated an put that into top line equipment and the buisiness.
no matter what the other fella did as far as quality,always do a job as if u are making bookoo bucks on it. that way u are truely working for yourself and not a
customers money.
last take courses on buisiness money management this winter. personnaly
i think this is the biggest difference
in various lawncare services. ive many yrs in, an bring the whole package ,with exception of the latter point.i need some work in that area.
good luck

07-16-2002, 07:27 PM
Thanks for even more GREAT advice... I do have a college degree (associates) in Business Admin....... I have been thinkin about taking a Small Business Management course...... no time right now though.....

Thanks Again !!!!

07-16-2002, 11:25 PM
Regarding the equipment I say stay with your W/B. As for Trimmers, I use the Echo 260. I love it. I must say for me it was better than the stihl FS80 or 85. I found them to be a little heavy. The echo is light and powerful. I think for the money, I couldn't have made a better choice. Redmax, Shindaiwa, Husky, Maryama are all good but rather pricey for my tastes at this juncture. Blowers, you can't go wrong with stihl, but i have the echo just to keep in spirit of uniformity. You can come across some really inexpensive used and new units on ebay. I have one that I am bidding on right now.

07-21-2002, 11:09 AM
Well....... Thanks again all for the advice....
I picked up my new trailer this week:D
Checking out a Lazer HP this coming week.... Great financing deal..... If I qualify I'm gonna demo ASAP.........
Ordered a backpack blower from Russo Power Equipment thanks to info I found on LawnSite.... The guys at Russo have a great price, they're friendly, and accomodating... good people.....
I went with the RedMax EB7000.... I've used it and I know it's a good, powerful machine.......

Oh yeah.... estimated a couple jobs this week.........
That's always good for business too, right.:)

07-22-2002, 04:59 AM
A new Redmax EB7000 eh?

See, you are making great decisions already! :D

Equipment and business savvy are very, very important but 'customer satisfaction' is a must. Without happy clients all the best equipment and good business sense are of no use.

Besides building a good customer roster one of the most important things to consider is KEEPING them.

Be courtious, polite, DEPENDABLE, do a good job, and look sharp and you will retain your client base...and thus watch your business grow quickly.

Also, you may want to sorta "screen" your potential clients. This can sometimes take a little practice...but after a while you can develop a sort of 'sixth sense' about which people are going to be trouble (non-payers, complainers, ect.). The first thing I ask a potential client is "How frequently do you want your lawn serviced?" When they reply "Oh about every 3 weeks or so..." I KNOW it's time to run away! They are trying to "save money" while I am trying to make a living...and I am not a bank. Just a little 'chat time' when doing the estimate can clue you in on the type of person you are getting ready to work for. People like to talk about themselves and fortunately a little chat will sometimes unmask a 'problem customer'. Most of the time the physical condition of the property will tell the tale. Is the roof ready to cave in? Are the tires on the auto showing thead? Is there 'junk/trash' all over the lawn? I think you know what I'm getting at..."Uh oh, potential money problems here!"...and the lawn guy is ALWAYS the last to get paid in these cases. "The lawn (and lawn guy) can go to h#11 but DO NOT disconnect my cable TV!

Good customers create more good customers...and c*r*a*p creates more c*r*a*p!

Good luck in your new venture, Navig8r! :)

07-22-2002, 06:27 PM
Nav, do you know how many accounts you might get? My frirend; who is also a cop like myself and own's a pretty good size LCO in St. Louis, gave me this advise. Only buy as much equipment as you have employee's i.e., one worker (you), 1 mower, 1 trimmer, 1 blower and so on. It worked good for me my first year.

I had 13 accounts bought an exmark metro 36 (so I could fit through gates), honda umk431 trimmer and a stihl bg85 blower. Handled all the work I had flawlessly.

This year I more than doulbled my accounts, have a part time helper on the heavy day's and bought a turf tracer hp 52 (best money I've spent so far) and stihl fs 80 trimmer.

Good luck.


First Capitol Lawn