View Full Version : Business License, how to use this to increas your business

08-09-2000, 03:04 AM
Here’s a way for all you legitimate maintenance contractors to make more income by gaining more customers without word of mouth or advertising. I just wanted to share my experience from this month.

2 months ago, while talking with a friend that is in the same business, he made a comment about how he was asked by a police officer if he had a business license for the city he was working in. The police officer was out talking to him in regards to a noise complaint (Saturday, 10 am) and was making sure he was operating legit. He said, “your asking me if I have a license, why don’t you ask those gardeners up the street if they have a business license?” The officer said to him “we only ask if we get a complaint of some sort.”

Well anyway, while we were talking about it, came up this idea that was used by other contractors. It was 3 years ago, after 8 different maintenance contractors complained and filed a petition with the City of South San Francisco; the S.S.F. P. D. did an enforcement sweep. If they saw you working in their city, they stopped and talked to you, asked you if you had a business license for South San Francisco, took your name, called the dispatcher. If you didn’t, you got a ticket for $75 plus you had to go to city hall and get a $25 business license. The contact with the officer lasted all of 5 minutes. That year, the city collected in business license fee’s and fines an additional $12,000 during that sweep period. South San Francisco has a population of around 635,000 people.

My friend and I did a similar thing with our city this last month. We got a petition signed by myself and 12 other maintenance contractors that operate in Millbrae. First week of July, we presented this petition asking the city manager to order the police chief to enforce; Business License Tax is covered by Millbrae Municipal Code Title 7 Chapter 1 Sections 7-1.101 thru 7-1.707. The next step we took was to call and arrange a meeting with each councilperson. We didn’t get to talk to all of them so at the next city hall meeting, during the public discussion session, we read the petition to the whole city council. Each council member asked us a bunch of questions. Some of the tough to answer without being a bigot.

Well it gets to be the end of July and nothing happens. Yesterday, a Millbrae officer stopped to talk to me when I was getting my morning coffee at 7-11. He asked me if I had business license for Millbrae. I showed him where my sticker was and the end of that. Asked why he was asking me, told me about how they were doing a sweep enforcement that started last Tuesday. The city got some complaints from some local contractors and the city manager asked the police chief to have an officer do a business license check with any contractor working in Millbrae. This officer told me that out of 15 or so people he checked with, I was the first person to have a business license.

Since Monday, I have received 4 calls asking me to quote service. All of them said that their gardeners quit. Gee, you need to have a SSN or Fed Id number to get a business license.

Richard Martin
08-09-2000, 03:30 AM
Thanks for the idea but no thanks. I would never turn in my competition to the "man" just to get business.

08-09-2000, 03:42 AM
dang I like that.
You're not turning anyone in, it's a random sweep to level the playing field.
The reasoning is not to get biz but make sure everyone is playing fair. You have to be licensed; what's wrong with everyone else abiding by the law too? Otherwise if all the others are not legal, you've wasted $$ you could use for something else.
Our town is the same way-too many cutthroats, & the market is low with getting fair compensation for all the investment we've made; it's because the lowballers have little to no overhead, & usually don't have a clue what an 'operating cost' is.
I have enough biz to keep me busy, but there's absolutely NOTHING wrong with making sure everyone is legit if they're going to infiltrate this market. Gives us a better name too, cuz less half wits doing same thing, & property losses would be lessened due to proper ins., thus improving our image as a whole as more professional.
Good idea

08-09-2000, 07:33 AM
Amen!! Couldn't have been said any better!!


08-09-2000, 07:46 AM
What a great idea! :D

Davis TLC
08-09-2000, 10:06 AM
Great idea. We have the same problem where I operate. Most of the operators are not licensed. We are required to have a City business license and a county business license. The cost of each is a minimum fee of $20, with minimum gross revenue of $12,000 per year. The rate for our class of business is 1/8% of the gross revenue.

Most of the legit LCO's located here are talking about taking this one step further. There is a discussion of getting together and forming a local lawn care association, with the goal to set up guidelines and minimum requirements for a lawn care/maintenance company to follow. Some of which are a business license, and insurance, both of which are relatively cheap compared to the alternative.

We are covered up with guys cutting yards for $10 - $15 with a worn out Murray/MTD/etc. residential mowers and taking 1-2 hrs to cut a 1/2 acre yard.

Sorry for rambling on this.

08-09-2000, 10:46 AM
For those who "oppose" turning non-legitimate lmos in, I have some statements.
On one hand, I have been on the forum for several months and have heard, by several members mind you, that there needs to be a standardized billing and level of service. Great idea! That's where ALL involved begin working smarter, not harder to earn profit for their legitimate businesses.
On the other, yes, there is a lot of competition and yes there are a lot of customers out there, BUT why not level the playing field. You pay taxes (hopefully), carry liability insurance (hopefully), operate quality equipment (ditto), so why shouldn't they?
Lastly, it's pretty hard to put my two cents in when I have yet to start my lmo. I am entering this fall (with cleanups) and already made the right decision to do all I can to be fully legit. Business license, no problem; insurance, no problem; taxes? Paid.; top notch equipment, well I am working on that one, but everything I do have is commercial. Also, I have NO problem turning the competition in if they aren't legitimate. I pay, so you know what, they should too!

08-09-2000, 11:06 AM
JCoat - "Lastly, it's pretty hard to put my two cents in when I have yet to start my lmo. I am entering this fall (with cleanups) and already made the right decision to do all I can to be fully legit. Business license, no problem; insurance, no problem; taxes? Paid"

You're paying taxes on a business you haven't already started? Uncle Sam love people like you.

08-09-2000, 11:30 AM
Yeah, yeah, yeah... when the biz starts I will be paying those taxes... the lmo will be part-time starting out while I work my 40 in the sucky corporate world. I am ready to ditch this joint for something I really enjoy doing: Pretending to be Tim "The Tool Man" Allen, riding KICK A$$ equipment, getting nice and gamey and working my tail off to become an ELM! He's my hero! Heck, I love to get dirty playing outside, may as well get paid for it!!!

08-09-2000, 11:53 AM
JCoat: I hear ya man! Just bustin' in my previous post! I'm in the same boat and am going for it full next spring! I've been doing the part time thing for 6 years now. I think my wings are ready! :)

08-09-2000, 01:57 PM
To Richard,
Like everyone is saying, it's not about turning in your neighbor, friend or whatever. It's about getting your local city to enforce their own laws! It's also about making everybody an equal. That's why 13 of us got together and went to the city, to somehow get the city to enforce their existing laws on the books.

As in my cities case, 15 stops, no business license, @ $75 a license, that $1125 that my city is missing in revenues.

(see my orignal post)

[Edited by gusbuster on 08-09-2000 at 04:59 PM]

Richard Martin
08-09-2000, 04:38 PM
I read your post. What's next, calling the IRS to make sure everyone is paying taxes on ALL of their sales including cash sales? Did you guys make sure they got all the kids pushing mowers around the neighborhood? Some others here have said it's not about getting new business but that's exactly what you wrote
"Here’s a way for all you legitimate maintenance contractors to make more income by gaining more customers without word of mouth or advertising".

I couldn't care less wether the next guy has insurance, pays taxes or has a license. That is his business.

You said it's about putting more money in the city coffers. Do you guys go around getting petitions for everything? Do you make sure everyone gets a building permit or a one day license for that high school car wash fund raiser? That little bit of money won't do squat. I pay more than that in property taxes.

Remember, let he who has never sinned cast the first stone.

[Edited by Richard Martin on 08-09-2000 at 07:43 PM]

08-09-2000, 05:21 PM
We all have to follow rules. We elect officials to create rules that everybody can abide by. When those same officials say that we can't enforce those rules because our city doesn't have resources to enforce those rules, I am repulsed by that.

Instead of complaining about a problem that is prevalent in my area, 12 others and myself chose to do something about it. Let's get this straight, it wasn't a money issue with me, it's about what is fair and right. If I gain customers as a result of this action, it's just looking out for people who abide by the rules. That's a fair business practice by me.

These same people that don't get a business license, are the same one's that can cause new and unfavorable rules to be put into effect. I'll use the blower debate as an example. If you ever been to these public debates, one of the main reasons you here in favor of bans is the issue of Gardeners starting to early in the morning. I would be pissed off too if somebody started with a machine at 6:30 in the morning.

As for this statement:
I couldn't care less wether the next guy has insurance, pays taxes or has a license. That is his business.

This is apathy. Did you ever wonder why your personal income taxes are so high? Did you ever wonder why your insurance costs are so high? I know in California, up to 25% of my yearly premium goes toward un-insured motorists cost. This is just one of the many reasons why everybody should care.

08-09-2000, 06:13 PM
That's all fine and dandy, i'm licensed , insured, pay taxes too. Where my business is there are about 6 different localities that i work in within 15 miles. I sure the hell am not going to go to each one and get a license.i'm licensed where i'm based out of and pay my taxes here,i don't see the rest of them having any right to collect anything from my business if i'm not based there. I pay the city, state and feds, that's enough for me!

08-09-2000, 07:03 PM
Don't worry about GOING there, they mail the application/license to you. You just send a copy of insurance, fill out the basics. The license fees are made up by the reduction in the operators who draw the market down.

I am licenced by all local municipalities as required and wish more of them would require licensing.

08-09-2000, 07:54 PM
I have had only one person ask me if i was licensed to work in their area in over 10 years, until that changes i'm not doing it.To me this compares to the city telling me i need a permit to remove any tree over 4" diameter, screw them,i took down 6-100 ft. trees in my yard last year.I pay them property taxes, etc...should be a state level license not a local one. just my opinion

08-11-2000, 01:49 AM
Geez guys, I think this may have veered off in the wrong direction.
As for the original post about putting $$ in your pocket by leveling the playing field, throw that statement out & get off that topic. I think we're talking about everyone playing off the same page- what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
What most of us are probably trying to say is that we're sick of non-professional hillbillies (I can say that because my roots are partly there :) ) eating away at the pro image we try to project as a whole & group. They sneak in & are under the table, with no license or care about being "above board & professional" in their practices. They just want to make a buck no matter what the others are trying to acheive as an industry.
I also don't think you need to go after every little nitpicky thing, either. None of us do. The only license for us as far as lawn care is to have a vendors license for operating in the state of Ohio. If you do fert. & pesticides, you need a license for that too. Individual towns needing licenses are not existent here.
When I was out of college, I got busted for drag racing at the local part of town where everyone cruised. If I drive a car on the city roads, I have to live by the rules like everybody else. If I circumvent that & do my own thing, that jeopardizes others doing the same thing-driving their cars, getting to where they have to go. If some are obeying the rules, & others aren't, then it's not fair to those who are. If it's not going to be enforced, then why should ANYONE have to follow the rules?
Sorry for rambling; just trying to clarify some things.

[Edited by yardsmith on 08-11-2000 at 04:54 AM]

08-18-2000, 02:55 PM
Just doing a follow up on this post.

This morning while getting my coffee at 7-11, a Millbrae police officer stopped to talk to me. Asked me if I had a business license, told to look at my sticker on the window. The officer said thanks.

I myself asked how long this was going on, the asking for the business license. Told me as of the 15th of this month, they were issuing tickets. He himself said that he didn't write a ticket, but expected you to go down to city hall and apply for a license. Next time he saw you, you didn't have or it wasn't in process, you got a ticket. A ticket with a bail of $300. He said that most of the officers were doing what he was doing. That's cool by me. At least they give a chance before giving the ticket. He said next month, they will do another sweep, but no warnings, a ticket will be issued.

08-18-2000, 05:33 PM
In my county a business license is $75 a year. It basicly separates the legits from the scrubs.

08-18-2000, 11:18 PM
My city is also $75,but another I work in is $105 a year,but this includes a permit to park in city lots.

08-19-2000, 08:44 PM
i think this license debate is yet another example of watching your compitition to close (and blaming them for you troubles) rather than yourself.if you do good work you will get paid for it and there is no need to tear the comp. down.they will do that for themselves. i'm not against low ballers because some people can't afford a professional while others are just plain cheap and i don't want to work for them anyway.take care of your business and it will take care of you.

Mean Green Machine
01-21-2001, 03:55 PM
I am 17 and starting a business. At what point do u have to get a license. I am not applying chemicals.

Randy Scott
01-21-2001, 04:41 PM
What's the big deal about getting a business license, I've got mine and I haven't even cut a frickin' lawn yet. If it's required in your area, get it. It seems like everyone on this lawnsite want's to project a good image, provide good service, make a good salary, we all want to do good and make the customer happy, along with ourselves. To me getting the license projects a professional image and a respect for the laws and regulations of your community. So the license is $20 or $50 or whatever,we all look for deductions, ways to make our numbers look better. I think the people that don't think it's necessary to get a license, or pay their taxes, are without a doubt the reasons any honest business person may struggle a little. If you don't think the laws and regulations of this Country we live in are fair, LEAVE! We live in the greatest Country in the world, just look around you, it isn't too bad is it ? The reason we may pay higher taxes or high interest rates are because of the bums that cheat the system, or the ones that don't think filing bankruptcy is a big deal, it's their easy way out. O.k, I think I've vented enough now. This is by no means directed at anyone on this website, it is merely my opinion, I think everyone here seems to be some really good people and I think we all want this industry to go in the right direction Sorry it's so long but those are my feelings.

Randy Scott

01-21-2001, 06:00 PM
I m with RICHARD,just increasing personal
controls of people,and i am never for that.
You take care of yours.I take care of mine.

01-21-2001, 06:44 PM
hey fellas, i got a question: how many of u guys operate out of your homes? are these homes zoned commercial or residential? where i live u cannot operate from your home, that means no business calls, equipment, and so on. a great man once said"let he who is without sin , cast the first stone". i personally try to mind my own business.BOBBY

01-21-2001, 07:05 PM
AND ANOTHER THING, HOW COME MY NEIGHBORS CAN buy pesticides at home depot, apply them in bare feet and shorts and not have a permit? y do i need a permit to use the stuff responsibly, and they dont need one, to use it recklessly? permits and licences are a way to take your money! lets face it, the pest test is a no brainer, and buying a business license cost $75. if $75 is the only thing separating u guys from the "scrubs", then there is not much difference at all. what next? a license to put in mulch? a license to plant shrubs? a different one for trees and groundcover?i wish everyone would mind their own business and leave me alone to do my work. i had someone report me to the zoning board cus i was running my business from my home. do u guys do that? is everyone truly legit? no cash right fellas? NOT TRYING TO BE A SMART A**, BUT COME ON NOW, IF EVERYONE WHO DID SOMETHING WRONG WAS REPORTED, THE JAILS WOULD BE FULL, AND ID BE THE ONLY ONE OUT CUTTING GRASS. BE NICE NOW....bobby

01-22-2001, 02:45 PM
Originally posted by awm
I m with RICHARD,just increasing personal
controls of people,and i am never for that.
You take care of yours.I take care of mine.

Awm and Richard.
I said in an earlier post and I'll say it agian. The people that we chose, created the requirement of a business liscense. this means that everybody is supposed to abide by this rule.

I get tired of hearing the heads of the our city departments complaining that they have no money to buy a new fire engine and new patrol car or new equipment. The business license is a tax partially used to fund these purchases.

01-22-2001, 02:53 PM
Here and Millbrae, all contractors are allowed to operate a business from their house. However, they cannot park big trucks, have people come to their house, keep equipment at the House, or store dangerous chemicals.

The only time I see this enforced, is when a neighbor complains to the city. around my house, there's two contractors, a carpet person and a lawyer who operate from their house. We'll talk to each other, and if there's any issues such as parking or things like that we just talk to each other, that's all.

01-22-2001, 02:58 PM
Mean Green Machine
Generally speaking, any person who operates a business is required to have a business license. It just a issue of whether you are in a city, county or parish.

If you're only doing one or two lawns, I wouldn't call that a business. If you are doing this like a Monday through Friday type of job, then I would call it a business. So a business license would be required. Just check with your local authorities.

Mean Green Machine
01-22-2001, 03:14 PM
I currently have only 10 lawns but that will be increasing soon. Thanks for your help.

01-22-2001, 03:23 PM
where i live, u r not permitted to operate a business from your home, unless yur home is zoned as a commercial property. the point i was trying to make is that the people u guys call scabs and whatever else u call them, r guys who r working to feed their families. maybe they cant afford to be totally "legit". u dont know their situation, at least they r working for money and not selling dope or robbing houses. if u all reported them for every violation, u could be taking food from the mouths of their children. if all they can afford is a rusty push mower, and a broom to sweep the walkways, so what!ill tell u what, i was a "scrub/scab" at one time, cutting lawns for $12 with a crappy push mower, but thanks to knowledgable experienced guys like all of u who were willing to share their knowledge, i built a nice business and charge legitimate prices, i never knew i was working too cheap. why a business license? because its a law, doesnt make it right! the guy next door to me works as a carpenter, and guess what, he doesnt have to buy a license. its hard enough to make a living at this, y do they keep putting their hands in my pocket? if u want to report wrong doings, u should report the guys selling dope, and drinking and driving. now im sorry i took up way too much space here.

01-22-2001, 06:54 PM
Hey, if they don't have a license THEY ARE NOT COMPETITION, THEY'RE POND SCUM. They deserve whatever they get. If they're breaking the law, send'm to jail, they'll learn.

01-22-2001, 07:28 PM
I dont get it! If a guy is cuttin a lawn for $10 with a Murry-do you want it? Would you want it a $20? Do you think they would pay $35 for you to cut it? Live and Let Live. Maybe he does'nt have a license, naybe no insurance, maybe no car insurance, maybe no money, maybe no future, maybe less! If he angers you, leave him alone, he'll fail, if he really angers you give him some of your $20 mows. If you really hate him, hire him- then he will learn to hate you too.

01-22-2001, 10:05 PM

I believe in a fair and level playing field. Someone who's not licensed is not playing by the rules and should get whatever they have coming to them, period!

01-22-2001, 11:35 PM
I've got news!! LIFE is not a fair playing field!! Get used to it. Laws or being upset about it will not change anything. Someone said, "take care of your own business and it will take care of you." That is the truth. Don't get me wrong, low-ballers and the such bother me a little as well, but for each provider, there are their customers.
Being Professional is more than having a $20 certificate on the wall too. I have enough licenses, certificates, and insurance policies to wallpaper my office, but that is my choosing! Just run your business like a professional and you should succeed. Most people don't just hire the job done for a price, they are hiring a person or reputation to do it as well.