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mowerbrad
01-07-2012, 09:48 PM
So many people come on here to ask how they should start up their lawn care company. There are plenty of people on here who are willing to answer questions, but you have to remember that the search feature on here is quite valuable as most topics have been discussed on here already (it just may take a minute or two to find the info you’re seeking). Since it seems that there are plenty of people looking for info on how to start up, what equipment to purchase, what type of advertising to purchase, etc., I thought I’d put together a little guide to help those people out.

***Before getting into this “guide” any further, I want to get a few things straight. First, you will not become a millionaire overnight, the large/successful landscape companies that you see did not get to where they are at after just one or two seasons, it takes years and years of hard work and dedication to get to that point. Second, be prepared for long work days, this industry does not have a typical 9-5 work day. If you plan on doing this fulltime be prepared to start early in the morning and end your day late in the evening. It is not unheard of to have a 12 hour day (7am-7pm) just out in the field and then have office type work to do for another hour or two after that. So be sure to understand that it takes hard work and dedication to make it full time in this industry.***

I want to just touch on a few topics that may help some of the newer guys a little. Let’s get started…

MOWERS:

This is probably the number one topic that comes up from newer guys. “What mower should I buy?”…“What brand is best?”…etc. When you have some experience under your belt, these questions become much easier to answer.

As far as brands go, there is no one brand that is better than the other, really. It all comes down to what brand has the best dealer support and parts availability in your area. Just because many people on here may suggest Toro doesn’t mean that it is the absolute best brand out there. It won’t do you any good if you can’t get that particular brand serviced in your area or parts ordered for it quickly.

Size, is another popular topic. “48 inch or 52 inch mower?”…“What size engine should I get?”…etc. As far as size of the mowing deck goes, get one that matches the size of properties that you plan on servicing. If you plan on servicing multiple acre properties, a 60 inch deck or 72 inch deck would probably be the best choice (with the 60 inch option giving less scalping potential). The 48 inch and 52 inch decks seem to bet the a happy medium that allows you to service smaller properties (1/4 acre or so) all the way up to a few 1-3 acre properties. Just don’t get a 36 inch mower if you plan on just mowing 5 acre estates.

There are all types of engines out there and from many different manufacturers. Kawasaki and Kohler are probably the most popular right now. Some people like one brand over the other based on past experiences, some like Kohler and some like Kawasaki. Briggs and Stratton also make some decent engines, with the Vanguard series being the best for commercial applications. No matter the engine manufacturer you choose, just be sure it is rated for commercial use (if you plan on doing landscaping commercially).

TRAILERS:

Trailers are another big topic discussed. Most times people are wondering if a certain trailer is big enough. No one can tell you if a certain trailer is large enough, that is up to you. Get the equipment you have together, set it up how you would have it on a trailer and measure the amount of space it takes up. Don’t get a trailer that just barely holds all your stuff, give yourself a little extra space because you will need it. For example, if all of your equipment takes up an area about 6’x12’, then I would suggest a trailer in the 6.5’x14’ range. You don’t need to go much bigger, just a little is all that is needed. You don’t have to have a huge 22’ long trailer to be professional, there are plenty of large companies running 6x12 trailers.

TEENS/YOUNG GUYS:

Many of us have started out in this industry at a young age, myself included. I know many people on Lawnsite are in their teens, so I wanted to write a section to address a few things that will help them out.

First, just because you are young doesn’t mean that your rates need to be CHEAP. I know you young guys may not have tens of thousands of dollars invested into your business, but don’t be doing a typical $30 lawn for $15 a cut. Trust me, you are worth more than that. It is going to be a lot harder when you do start having more overhead to tell your customer that their $15/week rate is now going to be $30/week. But going from $25/week to $30/week is much easier to do.

A problem I do see, maybe it’s not true though, is that many young people seem to think that having “stuff” somehow makes them a better/cooler company. It may all look nice in the pictures you post, but do you really need a 1998 48” Bob-Cat, 1991 54” John Deere and a 2002 36” Exmark? Don’t waste your money on all these “fancy” mowers just to have a bunch of stuff. It doesn’t make you look any more impressive than you ever were before. Having one mower to do your lawns is not a bad thing. Save your money and don’t just spend it on stuff just to have.

Give yourself a safety net. I know you probably want to do lawn care/landscaping for the rest of your life, but you are going to want a safety net, meaning an education outside of high school. Go to a trade school to get certified for something, get a 4-year degree at a university…do something. What will you do if your landscape business fails, the economy worsens, or you can’t support your family with your lawn care earnings? Trust me, it is nice to have something to back you up.

ADVERTISING:

With all the different types of advertising out there, it is hard to figure out the right one for you sometimes. There are direct mailers, door hangers, fliers, newspaper ads, word of mouth, etc. Through experience (many people will agree) word of mouth is easily the best type of adverting. Customers talk, they will spread the word if they really like your services but they will spread the word even faster if they hate your services. Door hangers are also an alternative that is relatively economical compared to things like direct mailers.

You will have to figure out what you like best and what you find to work best for you.

INSURANCE/BUSINESS:

Before you begin providing services, look into getting insurance. I know you may want to keep costs low but insurance is a relatively inexpensive thing to have that provides you with some great protection. What if your mower throws a rock and hits a kid, how are you going to pay the $150,000 medical bill you left the kid’s family with? Personally, I don’t care if you have insurance or not, but do check into it. Usually a $500,000 policy is sufficient, but a $1,000,000 policy is usually not much more and it gives you so much more protection.

I can’t count the number of times people come on here asking for legal advice, like if they should become an LLC or stay a sole proprietor. We all have opinions on things, but consulting with an attorney will be your best bet. They will KNOW for sure what is best for you and your company. Also make sure to have a good accountant who can help you come tax time, there is lots to file and you want to make sure that you do it all right the first time.

BILLING:

Get yourself a good billing/accounting program like QuickBooks. There are other programs out there that will work similarly to QuickBooks, but may be a better fit for you and your company. Not only will a program like QuickBooks help you with managing customers and invoices, it will help you with other accounting tasks to make things easier for you.

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All this information only scratches the surface of what there is to learn. Lots of things you will have to learn for yourself, should you decide to actually get into the landscape industry.

I truly hope this “guide” has helped some of you guys who are new to the landscape industry. I know it’s not going to answer all questions, but it should give you some ground to build off of. I invite anyone to ask questions or seasoned lco’s to comment further on my post.

I don’t want to give away all of our “secrets”, but I think this information will be helpful to you new guys.

Thanks for reading!!!!