View Full Version : Competition

01-16-2004, 10:35 PM
Guys, the competition in my area is crazy. Several of my accounts have already contacted me about new companies wanting to bid on them. It seems that each year there are dozens of new guys out there pulling trailers with mowers, I have been in business for my self now for 3 years (full time), but I have been in the bus. for many more, and I will bet that in my area, with a population of about 67,000 in 4 surounding towns, there are 15-20 large companies (with 3-5 crews), and hundreds of small ones (1 crew or solo). This area is flooded with lawn guys, I know many of them because the area is so small, but there a few large companies that seem like ghosts, I never see them but I here about them. Am I alone in this swamp of competition, or is it like this in most places?

01-16-2004, 10:38 PM
some areas see a larger of the everyday joe pulling a trailer with machines on it. others just have the big guys that come around year after year. let your work speak for itself. by now, people should know what to expect for a guy bidding their lawn at 10 dollars.

Kelly's Landscaping
01-16-2004, 10:46 PM
For fun I counted the ones that are in the new yellow book the other day. This is my first year in the book and I can't say I was to pleased to have 240 other landscaping companies in the book yes thatís correct 240. And allot of companies I know of arenít listed so it may be double that.

01-16-2004, 11:13 PM
Same here. Seems like close to a hundred pop up every year. Everyone with a trailer and a Craftsman mower wants to be an LCO. They don't last. Even my neighbor got in the biz two years ago. He did not even have a trailer. Put his mower in the bed of a chevy 1500. Poulan weedeater, homelite blower. The works. He did not last a season. :D

AL Inc
01-16-2004, 11:24 PM
Don't let it get you down. Create a good name for yourself and the work will come. There are literally hundreds of landscapers in my town, and every year, I am faced with more work than I could possibly handle.
It is an easy business to get into, but very tough to stay in for the long haul. Every year, I see guys start the season with the guns blazing, and the next, they are gone.

J Hisch
01-16-2004, 11:32 PM
Competition is good in a sense it keeps us all on our toes.

01-16-2004, 11:47 PM
if your customer goes for the cheap lawn boy -let them -and then when they call you back raise your price because you will now have to fit them in on your busy schedule - don't get me wrong though some lawn boys that know what they are doing can make some good profit b/c of their low expenses but if its daddys boy in his new Z71 dont worry you WILL GET THE ACCOUNT BACK. Competition in lawn business should be campared amongst us pros not with kids. Have a nice day.

01-17-2004, 12:09 AM
Every season I sit back and watch all the new people starting in buss. and then watch 99% fail at thier new Buss. But what I hate the most is having them call and ask for a bid so they can see what to charge. Its a huge waste of my time

01-17-2004, 05:13 AM
I assume you're referring to commercial accounts when you say that several of them have contacted you and told you about other companies wanting to submit bids.

See, it's that bad or worse around here for commercial stuff. That's why I stick with residential. In residential, there's even more profit per man hour and way more loyalty. Most residentials will keep you on for years and years as long as you do decent work. They won't ditch you for a lowballer. As long as you're fair with them, they stay loyal to you.

01-17-2004, 05:25 AM
When I was just starting out, I would get really worked up about competition. Seemed like every goofball with a truck was cutting grass. I was always worried about what other people were doing, how many customers they had, why I couldn't get their business. But as I grew, and became more secure, I saw that no matter what the competition did, as long as I did my best and kept my customers happy, I would be fine and make money. So that's what I worry about. I don't care who else is doing what, and have met and made friends with a few local lcos. I see some of the big companies that still think they should be mowing every lawn and how they treat other lcos, and it makes me sick. Stick to yourself and worry about your business, and hopefully the rest will follow.

And I'm with JimLewis on commercials. I don't like 'em, I stick to residentials.


01-17-2004, 09:16 AM
I agree around here you see them start up than there gong.
Most of them think that this is easy work until it gets into the 90's
that weeds them out. Let them bid, your work should do the talking.Don't worry when they mess up the jobs they got go bid on them you will most likey get them. there is lots of work out there.

01-17-2004, 11:49 AM
This is the very reason i sold, Every one in town saw I had new trucks, nice equip,shop etc.( me and about 5 others) so they all wanted a piece, pretty soon the market was so over crowed that you practically had to give away your work, i forcasted a big meltdown and was right. 80% of the companies are no more and the lawn care industry is shot. Its too bad because some of the other companys that were respectable got hit hard and to close shop. Glad I got out when i did. Only wish my freinds had done the same.

01-17-2004, 12:27 PM
Welcome to the world of free enterprise. With relatively low barriers to entry, expect competition to always be there. But several factors will make it worse in your area.

1. Relatively few high paying jobs per capita. Operating in the northern Suburbs of Atlanta where there are tons of high paid corporate transfer types and few young "natives" will mean more people able to afford your service, and relatively fewer natives there willing to provide it, than if you're in a less economically gifted area of the country.

2. Higher population densities mean more potential clients for a given area, of course. Also, the more rural the area, the more likely the homeowner is to mow it himself/herself.

3. What are the economic prospects for locals? If the economy is slow, more people will do what I did and get into the business after tiring of fighting for jobs in the corporate world.

Move where the money is, people have nice homes, and where young people willing to work hard aren't. Try government census figures on income, population, and house prices to see how your market stacks up with others. In general, a fast growing affluent area with lots of newcomers will have relatively few LCO types, since most people don't move accross country to mow lawns.

My last market covered an unusually busy, dual income type family area of about 200,000 people and I never had trouble finding work in 12 years. Currently I will be starting up again in an area of only about 100,000 with a distinct difference between natives (generally low skill, low education) and new arrivals (generally affluent retirees and corporate workers) So it will be interesting to see what the conditions really are.

Finally, find a niche'. With easily available immigrant labor you're going to be hard pressed to compete with the big boys on big commercial jobs. They can offer stability, benefits, and lots of hours you may not be able to, plus economies of scale, and a proven reputation. Try appealing to "basics only" customers who are tired of the unreliable unprofessional service of fly by nighters and part timers who don't take it seriously. But to make it work, you'd better be professional and reliable. Try to forge personal relationships with the customer, do little extras that appeal to them, appear as the most honest and reliable man on earth, and come renewal time they will be loathe to replace you for a cheaper price.

01-17-2004, 05:28 PM
At least I know that I am not alone in this swamp of competition. I would sure like to here some stories about confrontations with competition.

01-17-2004, 05:54 PM
The illegals are taking over here. They steal equipment and then go into business for themselves. A woman from my area called a national talk show and said her husband had to go to Alaska to earn enough money to provide for them. We need to vote any and all representatives that want to give the illegals amnesty. People that hire illegals now are reaping the rewards that their children will have to pay back ten fold. Think about the ones you hire and are using the free hospitalization. Then think again how much more time these illegals are going to be using these services as they get older. Insurance rates will increase drastically and your children will be paying the bill. The illegals are like a swarm of locus and they will be in your areas in the near future. In about three years, the population has more than tripled where I live. This is something to think about. To cite how bad it is here, three years ago, when I ran an ad in the paper, I would get two or more calls, now I have to run three or more ads on the average to get one customer.

01-17-2004, 06:27 PM
I don't mind competition because it does keep you on your toes, but I can't stand the "lowballers" who have the nerve to talk to my customers while I'm there working, had one guy solicit one of
my customers while I was cutting and also had one scrub solicit another customer while I was plowing. Both times I personnally
went right up to both of them ( away from my customer ) and told them both in no uncertain terms, if they ever did that agin I would personnally kick the livibg sh-t out of them:angry:

Luckily for me neither customer left me and they are both happy with my services, that's basically your only way to stay above the scrubs. You have to be great at what you do, and do it all.
Stay headstrong and always moving forward, the so-called LCO's
will eventually all fall along the wayside. Professionalism over
Price will always win in the end. Good luck to all the legit LCO's
outthere. God Bless

01-17-2004, 06:28 PM
Originally posted by J Hisch
Competition is good in a sense

Some competition is one thing, saturation is yet another. What is here described seems more like saturation. Whenever this occurs, in any proffession, your compensation will decline. While it is true that a certain 'loyalty' may be achieved with current accounts, be careful not to rely too heavily on this in a truly saturated market. A business needs to grow to succeed.

I just posted this in the beginners forum, but it is my opinion that as a market becomes extremely competitive or early saturation sets in, a good business operator will consider getting creative. Some have set themselves apart with knowlege of plants, soil and chemicals and attain a higher standard of 'Lawn Maintenance'. I am not nearly as knowledgeable as others I read from on this site, but reading books, looking things up and getting certified has definately impacted the level we can confidently operate at. And this is fine for now...

But as this market changes, I have thought about experimenting with other aspects of property maintenance as well. Business owners that just 'mow and go' really should stop complaining about competition and get serious about running a business. I know a 'pool guy' that made $90,000 last year with a very basic tools. I have a brother that makes $35,000 cleaning windows with a squeegie and a bucket. It may not be in 2004, but we will be trying to develop our present customer loyalty into a more diverse and profitable account, by intergrating into a Property Care provider, a TotalCareSolution, not just a 'Lawn Guy'.

01-18-2004, 12:25 AM
The only Comp. in the world is yourself.

01-18-2004, 12:26 AM

the scaper
01-18-2004, 01:08 AM
show me- drop the caps.

01-18-2004, 01:57 AM
Thanks for the advice. Is that better?

01-18-2004, 02:12 AM
Ha Ha yeah thats better its hard to read all caps, welcome to LS

01-18-2004, 02:19 AM
I know.Just getting use to the site and the computer again. Finally done with the last wet leaf clean up of the year.

01-18-2004, 07:49 AM
The post above that talked about offering more than mowing, is right on. What has worked extremely well for us, is that while we offer mowing, we also offer small to medium sized landscape installs, vanilla planting bed work (edging, mulch, weed control, etc), turf renovation/aeration, etc. We sub out most of the chemical work even though it can be very profitable....we just dont have the time to do service calls for a weed in grandmas lawn.

At least in my area, it is rare to have a smaller operation be able (or for that matter, even willing) to offer the add-on basic landscape services. Customers love that, so do we, and its very profitable. If I were injured or could no longer do the lanscape related work, there would be garage sale at my place for all the mowing equipment...in a heartbeat. I have no desire to every year be banging heads with Joe's Mow and Go who's main goal in business is to be able to buy a Big Mac and a case of Budweiser.

Theres an old marketing strategy that says you want your customers to "need" you and your services...commercial or residential. So while every year I get some yahoo going after some of my accounts, rarely have we lost one because of price only because they can't/or won't offer a professional level of service for the landscape work. This also allows us to get an adequate rate for our mowing work. While Joe Schmo can learn to mow in a relatively short amount of time, he can't learn overnight how to renovate a lawn or install and maintain seasonal flower displays. Yep theres lots of competition in my area, but its primarily for the commodity of mowing. I view mowing like milk and bread...eveybody sells it, most milk tastes the same, and theres only so much you can charge for it.

Gr grass n Hi tides
01-18-2004, 09:10 AM
I heard all kinds of "you can't do that" or "you won't be able to charge those rates" or "it's the wrong time of year for that" type comments. And yes, dozens of trailers being pulled up and down the highway in the early spring. All a bunch of BS. To all of that I say.........so what! Just get out there and plug away. There's business to be had.

Some guys I know and talked with were encouraging, others were not. The nay-sayers were wrong.

This site has been very, very helpful.

One comment from a friend that stuck in my mind after I told him about my plans and the multitude of worries. He said, "your plan sounds very good.........don't worry..........build it and they will come." Truer words have never been spoken.

I hope you all of your goals/needs in 2004 are met.

01-18-2004, 09:18 AM
Like I told you in the past Shawn, I remember when you started your biz becuase I love where you live therefore I remember some of your posts...I would KILL to be able to live there. I also remember that from day one you said would be better/different than the rest. I too took that approach. It seems as though it has worked well for both of us.

And yep those words are so true...do it right and they will come

Gr grass n Hi tides
01-18-2004, 09:32 AM
GarPA - Right on. I think we kind of mirror one another approach-wise.

What part of PA are you from? I ask because, I might need to find someone to mow for my grandparents. They live outside of Brookville (western PA) in a little place called Munderf. They're at the age now where it's just a bit much for them to handle. They've got an open plot that's proably 1.5 acres & next to it a mostly wooded plot where the house sits.

01-18-2004, 10:06 AM
Shawn...cant help you since we are in the middle part of the state. Perhaps one of our western PA guys here on LS could email you with a referral name

I hope that what you are asking for is not in violation of any of the rules here on LS...if it is in violation, it shouldn't be imho

Gr grass n Hi tides
01-18-2004, 10:53 AM
That's cool. Heck, I saw a jimlewis thread a while back where we all would maybe be able to help with out of area referrals. Seemed like pretty good idea. I might start another thread on this (grandparents) or look under the "people in your area" section to find somebody in that neck of the woods.

Their house burned down just before Christmas so the plans are a little up in the air right now. I'm not sure what they want to do, but I thought if I could help finds someone to do the grouns it could ease the decision making. Someone from LS maybe that is on the up & up such as yourself (except you're not in their area).

01-18-2004, 11:29 AM
Personaly I think everybody here worries about the competition way to much. When I bid a job I bid it for what I think I can do it for and if somebody under bids me I let them have it. If they are doing it to cheap they are the ones that suffer not me. I bid a lot of jobs knowing that a certain company is going to get the low bid. As long as I keep bidding and they want the work they have to bid low to get it. If they keep bidding low they will soon go under. When they go under I have just eliminated my competition. Not bidding on the commercial stuff is what is allowing some of these price cutters to stay in business. You want to eliminate your competition bid everyjob you can at a price that you can make decent money on, sometimes the lowballers dont bid and sometimes they see a job as a chance to finally break even and then bid to much. If they bid to much then you have just gotten a job at a reasonable price that you can make money on. Also the lowballers see your bid and realize how much money they left on the table and will raise their prices next year. Not bidding a job just because you know someone is going to bid it cheaper is just cutting your own throat. I dont mow grass but the same can be applied to just about any profession. Its all about competing with your competition, if you dont bid your not competing.

01-18-2004, 08:17 PM
If you do good work, show up on time and represent yourself and your company well, then you should not have to lose sleep over competition, even in a saturated area! Spend your energy improving and growing your business, not worrying about the next guy. They will always be there.

01-18-2004, 09:05 PM
When the greatest possible amount of something has been absorbed, how do you grow a business by showing up on time? It's not the competition you will lose sleep over, it is the fact that your market will have been affected and your compensation decreased.

Lets say there are 100 homeowners and 50 Lawn Guys are you just going to just iron your uniform, spit shine your truck and be punctual? In a smaller area you will have to pay attention to the competition.

01-18-2004, 09:50 PM
Yeah be careful about those guys with all that equipment. But watch out for the guy with the car. Thats how I first started nothing but my car and loaded up that trunk. It got me from point a to point b.

01-18-2004, 09:54 PM
there was suppose to be a pic with that post but guess not

01-18-2004, 10:22 PM
Guys I agree with all of you, for the most part your work will speak for itself.. also Keep in mind their are literally thousands of houses and business around you.. the average lco with lets say 3 - 4 crews doing even best case scenario 40 yards a day still comes out having about only 200 customers per week.. even a small town with less then 30,000 total population, it would take hundreds of LCO'S TO Literally flood your area to the point where competition is overbearing(which I don't see happening with the need for LCO'S on the rise..not to mention thats best case scenario, MOST LCO'S generally have a 2 - 3 man crew to make things simple. Not to mention the turnover rate for the fly by night guys. Lets be realistic how many homeowners want to get out and do their lawn, and those that do don't have time.....:angel:

01-18-2004, 10:29 PM
It seems to be a regional issue.
There is plenty of work around here,just have to structure the growth so as not to get caught in spiraling growth that ultimately leads to spiraling decline.

Turfcutters Plus
01-19-2004, 01:06 AM
Residential all the way.Treat em right and they'll be Very loyal.I make more $ than commercials.Someone will always under bid you at some point,although i have a select few commercials i keep.Never liked too many eggs in 1 basket.Good luck to you and your business.Don't forget safety glasses and hearing protection.I love my peltors.

01-19-2004, 06:34 AM
Good point you make Sircaesar...all the predictions are that the need for land/lawn service will continue to grow due to the aging baby boomers, and people spending significant funds to improve their homes and landscape.

I gotta believe a one man operation could find 30 good accounts no matter where he lives. With those 30, if he can also do the add on jobs beyond mowing, he could generate decent revenue to at least get started .

01-19-2004, 11:16 AM
how come, in every other business, "the competition" means EVERYTHING, but in the eyes of the lawnboy, the competition means nothing? sometimes i think you guys are brain dead. the competition will dictate your price, how far you have to travel for work, and how much you make, PERIOD!.

01-19-2004, 11:30 AM
I really don't care about my competition. I know that there may be things that my lawn service can't do or someone may be better than me but price sells everything. You drop your price and you can have everyone's business.


01-19-2004, 11:38 AM
Why drop your prices? So you can do what they . Never matched or bet anybody's price and still going. Don't let them fool you.

01-19-2004, 11:41 AM
Well said brucec32. Advise I would certainly take no matter what skill level anyone is at. I like a man with good business sense!!!!!


01-19-2004, 12:25 PM
BG...most times BG you make some very good points about the need to be tough in business dealings.

But on this issue, imo, you're missing the mark. We get referrals all season long from people who are tired of the low priced, and LOW VALUE service. VALUE the key word here....not price.What do they get for what they pay = their perception of the value of the service.

Your thinking on this issue would lead one to think all of us offer the same quality of work, with the same level of reliability and customer service, and all of that at the same price.

If in fact this is true in your area, which I doubt, then set yourself apart from the pack. There are many people out there(even in NJ...god help you in that state) who's priorities are not price alone. Price is only ONE of the factors in determinng value

01-19-2004, 12:34 PM

What city do you live in?

01-19-2004, 01:26 PM
gar, my man, it's very simple. what i read time and time again from you fine men, is that competition means nothing. ok, let me give you a scenerio: there are 40 homes on the average block. out of those 40, eight use lawn service.well, since you have one or two, why don't you have all eight? i'll tell you why, because someone else is doing the other six. these people are your competition, and are keeping you from the ideal scenerio, which would be to have all eight properties. now, about the competition setting price ranges: what is the average cut fee for an average residential there? here, it is $25. now, what is keeping you from charging $50? according to your theory, of quality wins and competition doesn't set prices, then i say charge $50. why can't you charge $50? i'll tell you why, it's because your competitors are charging $25! and the "better " services are charging $28-$30. but again i ask you, why can't you charge $50?

01-19-2004, 01:34 PM
Just to build off of what Bruce said...

Increase in demand:

1. Babyboomers
2. More divorced women
3. More single moms
4. More 'alternate lifestyle' couples
5. Younger couples with less time

These factors are adding to a culture, at least in Metropolitan areas, wherein the Landscaper has become just another service bill to add into the monthly bills.

With this comes a window of oppurtunity for a low-barrier startup business. While in a larger urban area 'Supply & Demand' is in the favor of the service provider now...there is always a threshold, if you are not keeping the pulse of the competition and that threshold is crossed, saturation sets in and absorbtion of oppurtunity with it. 'Supply & Demand' will always dictate the level of compensation your market will bear.

I don't disagree with J.Lewis and others that build themselves in with quality and professionalism and develop a 'loyalty' with their customer base. This does not mean that they did not pay attention to the competition, but on the contrary decided to raise their standards above the competition.

In a smaller area the threshold will come sooner, that is what some are probably coming into to. What are you going to do about it?

01-19-2004, 01:55 PM
there are 40 homes on the average block. out of those 40, eight use lawn service.well, since you have one or two, why don't you have all eight? i'll tell you why, because someone else is doing the other six. these people are your competition, and are keeping you from the ideal scenerio, which would be to have all eight properties. now, about the competition setting price ranges: what is the average cut fee for an average residential there? here, it is $25. now, what is keeping you from charging $50? according to your theory, of quality wins and competition doesn't set prices,

Well here is how I would get those customers. I know everyone hates low ballers. I don't like it either. But I make it a limited time thing usually.

So, you are missing out on six lawns that someone else is doing for $25. You won't get them for $50 for sure. If you advertise for $24, 23, 22, 21, is that going to get you the six? Well here is what I do.

You advertise at $20 for 2months of service then it goes back up. Let say you get 3 out of that. So you loose a little in the begining but your work is just as good as the other guys and now you have their business.


01-19-2004, 02:02 PM
you see jason, that was my point exactly. the issue here is "competition does not dictate price", and you just showed me that is does. because, in fact, it must certainly does

01-19-2004, 02:17 PM
Originally posted by 4SLC
Well said brucec32. Advise I would certainly take no matter what skill level anyone is at. I like a man with good business sense!!!!!

;) :confused:

01-19-2004, 02:21 PM
all things being equal, of course we have to consider the fees by all providers. You can't be way out of line for what the market will bear. Yes it would be nice to have all 8 on that block. But only after the bottom line on those 8, shows a profitable situation.

I mentioned in another post that if I was forced to offer only mowing, there would be a garage sale at my house by the end of the month. Yes BG competition does put limits on fees...but its not the only factor we can compete on. If price drives all purchasing decisions, WalMart would be the only department store in the world.

if price were the only important factor to customers, TruGreen would have put just about every other local fert company out of business. I have a friend who does only chemicals...has 5 employees...has been doing it for 20 years...2 vacation homes, nice cars, no debt, and rarely works an 8 hour day....I wonder what he is doing to retain his customer base when every spring TG calls just about every person in the phone book? I sub work to him....and I can tell you he is in no way, the low price fert company in town. Thats all I;m going to say about this issue since we're starting to beat this subject to death.

Kelly's Landscaping
01-19-2004, 03:00 PM
The prices of lawn services are stagnate and tend to roll backwards not forward you can have a lawn for 10 years and lose it to some one that will do it cheaper even if you never once increased the price.

If you play to win in a highly competitive market you need to do it better and faster you donít need to low ball the low ballers but you do need to stay par with their prices or you will see them cutting your lawns. How do you win knowledge skill and better equipment with a ZTR you can out perform a scrub on a wb so matching his price isnít tuff since your there half as long. I didnít create the game I just play it and I play to win let the other guy go hungry. Competition doesnít matter but they do dictate how much you can charge that much is clear. I donít ask what the other guy charges when I do an estimate I donít care and I donít like lies so why ask a question your new friend is likely to lie about. Quality of service are key but they are just words until your working for them. Yea I know you do better work then all the other guys hell you probably do but until I see it first hand its just a empty promises. A lot of guys are so full of their selfís they never look at it from the stand point if every one claims that how can it be true. I nearly killed my partner this spring as he would say cheap phrases and empty sounding words just to hear himself speak on estimates and finally I had enough as he was tripping me up with crap like ďyou can count on usĒ and ď we do superior workĒ and ď donít worry we are very reliableĒ. Yes all that was and is true but save the cheap sales talk I sell them on my knowledge and it isnít something you can fake hence my partner has many years before he will be doing any estimates.

So yes if you are that good you can sell your self but most cant and in the end weather or not you do exceptional work your still at the mercy of your competition. In my market I wont even bid on large commercials as Tru Green and Brickmans have cut the price to zip there is no money in that I may never do condos and I donít think I'm missing something if some idiot will do units for 6 dollars each. But in the residential there is plenty of room to expand regardless of competition. Question is how bad do you want it and how hard will you work for it. You know what my favorite job is brush removals ohhhh I love this stuff one no one likes this few ever bid on them and the customer wont even debate your price because they have no desire to do them. Itís a nitch I found Iím great at probably from growing up in the woods. I bid them out at 35 and hour and usually get them done in half the time I quoted 2000 dollar days on you and 2 guys where its nothing but 5 gallons of gas and their labor are sweet.

01-19-2004, 03:44 PM
My only competition is myself.

If I screw up then I open the door for someone else.

If I don't get done quick enough then I don't make the targeted amount per hour.

I can't stop the other guys from bidding or even lowballing me but I can make an impression on my customers so they will think long and hard about changing services.

It always goes back to me/you........not them.

01-20-2004, 11:48 PM
Thats right Homer