View Full Version : Starting Out Fresh

05-01-2003, 01:54 PM
Hi All,

A friend and I have been thinking about starting our own LCO recently, and I stumbled upon this forum and it has been a wealth of information. I'm former Air Force here in Charleston, SC, and I am on terminal leave (paid vacation) for the next 60 days, and have been job hunting. Operating an LCO looks like a lucrative option down here in the South with the mild winters. Anyways, here are some questions for all of you wise ones:

Is it too late in the season to start out?
What sort of equipment is 'must have,' and what brands are the most reliable/most bang for the buck?

We were looking to maybe take out a small business loan, get some equipment & trailer(s). We both have SUV's (TrailBlazer & Blazer), but eventually hope to get a pickup, so a trailer is not a problem. We're not going to both jump in full time, since my partner still has a job - since I am on terminal leave right now, I would do it until it became established and we could both do it. Basically, I am just wondering where to start? Any recommendations? I know I need to get a Tax ID and a business license...but what should we work on first? We want to get good quality equipment that we can keep as we grow - stuff that isn't junk and won't break down?

You all are the experts, so I figured this is the place to go! Thanks in advance :-)

Green in Idaho
05-02-2003, 01:38 AM
Alright LoadMaster,

Why do you think you can do well in the lawn business?

Why not painting? Why not framing? Why not pickin cotton? Why not cleaning swimming pools?

Why is it so many think the lawn business is the goldmine despite not ever working in the business as an employee?


05-02-2003, 09:01 PM
Well for one.. everyone has a lawn. Everyone (most everyone, that is) has cut grass at one point. I like being outdoors. It's hot as heck here in the summer, so why cut your grass in 90+ degree weather when you can pay someone else to do it?

--I have never framed anything, and nor do I want to.
--Not everyone has pools, so therfore the demand is lower than lawn care.
--Painting is tedious, and I just don't like to do it (heck, my house is still the same color it was when the bldrs painted it).
--Cotton picking is now done by machines.

Yes, perhaps working in the biz as an employee might be a good idea, but I haven't. I know I could do it, and I know I want to, but I do need some help -- as I am sure that everyone out there had some help at some point in time. No one can do anything of this magnitude with no help, be it financial, support, or even just some good ol' fashioned advice.


05-02-2003, 09:05 PM
This is just my first year doing this. I still have a full time job and just learning the ropes of this business. However, I do have more business than I thought I would for the first year. Here in my area of Pennsylvania I don't need a business licence or tax id number. Your ssn should do the trick. My biggest downfall, which I'm getting better at, is bidding a job. Trying to figure out my overhead and my costs. Its killed me on a few jobs, but I guess thats how you learn. Anyways, good luck to you and have fun....

Green in Idaho
05-04-2003, 02:32 AM
So you think you can do well in the lawn business because you like being outdoors???

You are good to go!

Okay since you have a cool Web page (despite being a zoomy and you need to add the USS Cole to your list) I'll be serious... No it's not too late. BUT it's certainly not early or being prepared.

I would seriously consider working as an employee for the best lawn outfit in Charleston for this summer. You will learn enough to know if you really want to jump into it with debt and all.

You want to do it cuz you like being outdoors. That's like me saying I want to be a loadmaster cuz I like being in the air. Never mind A School I want to go straight to the plane and start loading sht on. Come on my brother in-law is a loadmaster and he's an idiot (for real and in Charleston). So if he can do it I can too. I figure the navigator will give me a few tips, and if we're off balance I'll move some stuff around in flight. Chances are we'll get of the ground and be just FINE! Is that realistic?

Even if you did score a biz loan it takes time to build accounts. Waiting until next spring to start on your own is not going to kill ya. AND while working this summer always have in mind how you would be doing things IF you ran the show. You can keep track of how long it takes to mow a 10,000 sq ft property. And if you get the info you'll know how much your employer charges for the property. You'll know some equpip you like and don't like. etccccc..... Do NOT tell them you are interested in starting your own biz later.

If you think working as an employee for $8/hr (whatever the local LCO pays) is not enough, you need to throw down some real budget numbersof doing it on your own.

When I was in the biz I had an employee who was a real hard worker for me mowing. It was his first season working for someone. I knew he was a go-getter and wanted to pay him top dollar which I did for the time. Then he asked me for a raise and I said I couldn't do it based on my my numbers. He left and did his own mowing. He was just like you a Chevy Blazer with trash cans in the back towing a 3x5 trailer with little 3' wheels. I wished him well and even gave him two **** accounts I didn't want. BUT he only did it for a few months and when I saw him at a hockey game later, he said he made more working for me. I offered him the job back but he was huntin for something else.

You are trying to jump out the back of your plane without going to jump school. It's like if you want to talk to enough jumpers that maybe they'll be able to tell you all about it on the Internet but it's not the same. Heck you might not like it. Or you may not be the type of person that fits with it. You you might forget to pull the cord the first time.... learn before you jump NOT while in the air.

YOUR reasons were outdoors and you think it's lucrative. You are going to have a tough time getting a bank loan based on that! That means credit card debt...

Do you think you think you are the only airman in Charleston that thinks lawns is easy money? Your buddy is evidence of that.

And I've said it on other forums, it amazes me how many people think they can just jump into a business. 50% fail but I'l guess those 50% didn't learn before they jumped.

Knock yourself out if you want to jump in and skip the employee apprenticeship. I don't mean to rain on your parade, but based on my experience it's better to learn before jumping AND have time to make the flight plan.


05-07-2003, 04:10 PM
Working for someone else is a good idea, I did. I wanted to start the following year but still waited. I planned, researched, learned for 2 years before starting on my own. It's a lot harder then I thought, business aspect part for sure. Those two years helped me tremendously, plus this site. I would not just jump into this, make a plan. Good luck to ya.

05-08-2003, 08:06 PM
Man, give the guy a break, he is just curious about getting into the biz. I myself am in a very similar situation except I am a KC-135 Boom Operator, and am looking to start something up now, so that when my retirement comes around I can take it full time. He simply asked a question and I don't think he expected some smart *** to gvie him a smart *** anwser. It sure seems like a majority of the "experienced" people on this site have a huge chip on their shoulder about someone starting fresh in the biz. I do agree that you should mow for someone else before jumping in whole hog right away, but man this site needs an attitude adjustment. I am started out this year with me and one other person, my truck, a new 16' trailer, a 32" walk behind, 2 21" walk behinds, 2 trimmers, a blower, gas cans, and some tools. The total investment was under $5,000 bucks and I am doing 10 lawns per week and making good money doing it. This business is not brain surgery, it is no different than running any other service business, except that there tends to be a lot larger market for this service. My two biggest rpoblems were finding a place to store my equipment and disposal of the grass clippings. I solved both, I am renting a 10x24 storage unit for $90 and I dump my clippings at a horse farm for horse feed. That works great I get rid of my clippings and the horses get free food. So do not get discouraged by some of the "veterans" on this site, there is alot of good info here, but you have to weed through alot of junk also. Feel free to email me @ elliboom@yahoo.com if you want to ask me soemthing else privately. :)

Green in Idaho
05-08-2003, 08:41 PM
Mat, What make you think those are smart arse answers?

05-08-2003, 09:48 PM
When I read the first reply, I was taken aback. I thought there would be some nice positive feedback, instead I got the feeling that my questions weren't welcome. Just my first impression, hence why I've not really replied. The 2d response seemed a little nicer, but still a little smart alecky. I'm sorry if I inconvenienced anyone looking for a little more information before I start anything. Thanks for your help, boom.

Load clear...

Green in Idaho
05-08-2003, 11:42 PM
Well LoadMaster, I apologize if my tone of writ was mistaken. I was meaning to make some sincere points and ask real questions. I think everyone in every business needs to ask 'what is their competitive advantage and why?" And to get people to consider the numbers.

All is meant for good honest advice. This and other sites like it are meant for people to ask questions and they are not inconveniencing anyone. It's a great resource.

05-09-2003, 12:28 AM
Hey fellow Veteran!!!! It is your choice on what you want to do. If you have the experience than go for it. I too am on terminal leave from the Navy and have found that it is a rewarding job and great feeling to be free from my obligation from the U S Navy. I get up when I want and go to work when I want and that is almost everyday cause brother you by your self have the potential to make 400 to 500 dollars a day and if your friend gets on board you can easily double that. I spent 26 years floating ships for the Navy and I enjoyed it every minute of it. Now I enjoy the fresh cut of grass in the morning with a nice hot cup of Java and a Cig.

Equipment depends on what you are going to be cutting. I myself cut churches and residential. this is my equipment list:

1996 Dodge Ram 1500
6.5 x 14 ft tandem trailer with electric brakes
2003 44" Exmark Lazer Z HP
2003 48" Exmark Metro HP Walk Behind with Floating Deck
2003 32" Exmark W/B Fixed Deck
1997 John Deere LT 133 Lawn Tractor
1 John Deere Backpack Blower
1 John Deere Stick Edger
1 John Deere Weed eater
1 Weed eater Hand Held Blower
1 John Deere Three Wheel Edger
1 John Deer 22" Commercial Mower
All Kind of hand power hand tools, air tools and air compressor to work and maintain equipment.

As you can see by my list I am a John Deer and Exmark Man, but this is my preference. There are alot of good equipment out there. The Last thing I will tell you is go to your local government and see what Licenses you need. Oh and don't forget about Insurance. I hope this helps you out. I bid my yards at 2.99 per 1000 sqft. but never below 40 dollars. That is mowing trimming and edging. GOD SPEED!!!!!! Fly Boy

Green in Idaho
05-09-2003, 01:05 AM
Originally posted by Frosty_03
you by your self have the potential to make 400 to 500 dollars

2003 44" Exmark Lazer Z HP
2003 48" Exmark Metro HP Walk Behind with Floating Deck
2003 32" Exmark W/B Fixed Deck
1997 John Deere LT 133 Lawn Tractor

I rest my case.

Download fuel...

05-15-2003, 07:47 PM
Originally posted by Frosty_03

I bid my yards at 2.99 per 1000 sqft. but never below 40 dollars. That is mowing trimming and edging. GOD SPEED!!!!!! Fly Boy

So a typical 5,000 ft home lawn would bring in a whopping $14.95, except for your $40 minimum?

Sounds like you're going to be off on both ends. Your per foot pricing is too low for small properties, and your minimum is too high for others. Personally I think per-foot pricing is very inaccurate. Here's why: You can't account for the differences in obstacles, hills, shape of lawn, type of grass, fertility/growth rate, type of edging, etc per-foot. It might be useful as part of a formula, but it really all boils down to time, difficulty, and equipment. I doubt anyone wants to be mowing hills all day. But if you bid the same per foot price, the only bids you'll consistently get will be the hilly lots where your price is too low. And the easy flat rectangles of grass you'll tend to lose because your bid might be too high. It also doesn't factor in your drive time. With your system of pricing, you'll make the same amount doing two 20,000 foot properties as you will doing a single 40,000 foot one. Which will take longer? The two smaller ones, since you may have to drive 5-15 minutes to reach the second property.

With experience you can size up most properties. Knowing how big it is is important. But you have to adjust a quote for other factors too. Here's an example of how equipment factors in the equation.....you have a lawn to do with a gated back yard. You can't fit your 48" mowers in, so you have to use your 32". This will take longer. Yet the footage didn't change, did it? Or you have a slope where you have to switch to a walk behind to do. This requires you to spend a few extra minutes switching mowers, then you have to mow with a lesser unit. Or the ground is poorly drained and will often be too wet to put a heavy ZTR on. There are lots of factors to consider when bidding a job. It'd be nice to run a wheel over it and plug it into a formula. But this isn't fertilzing lawns.

Around here, some lawns and grass types can't be mowed w/o scalping with anything but a 32" or smaller deck. I can mow them with a ZTR in 10 minutes, but it wouldn't be a quality job, and I'd soon lose the customer. Using a 32" to do it right it takes me 20 minutes. If I want to be accurate in pricing, I have to take that into account. Finally, I will be much more tired at the end of the day walking behind a small wb, than sitting on my rear end on a ZTR. So I also need to factor that into my bid. I want more money for more difficult work.

As for the loadmaster.....I would also advise working for someone else for at least a few months to learn the ropes. It's not rocket science, but it's not as easy as it looks. It may only be $8/hour, but you won't have equipment costs so it will probably be as much as you'd net anyway, and you can make mistakes on someone else's time. Start cold turkey and you'll just burn bridges with new customers. This equipment is NOT like mowing with your Murray 21" at home. After 12 years I am still learning new ways to be more efficient at it.