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View Full Version : Time to start using contracts


Pilgrims' Pride
07-23-2004, 07:32 AM
Ok folks,

Anyone who saw my "Can you believe this" post yesterday will surely understand why I'm writing now.

For years I've been in lawn care and have worked for a few of the big guys.
One of those companys did not use contracts but did everything on a handshake.
It seemed like the right thing to do so I have done that as well.

So much for Mr. Nice Guy!

I have been thinking that it is time for contracts and I wondered how you guys/gals handle the large volume of paperwork this will cause every winter.

My thought is (you tell me if it will work) that I will get a signature when I initially sell the customer.
The contract will contain all pertinent info including payment requirements, terms and conditions and it will also read that the customer understands that this service will automatically renew from year to year unless we are notified otherwise.

Of course I will still send out renewal letters and so forth.

I'm getting tired of the few and its just a few that say "I didnt hire you this year."

Any thoughts or samples of your agreements would be greatly appreciated.

Stay coool today,

Bob

LIBERTY LAWNCARE 2
07-23-2004, 11:53 AM
PM me your e-mail & I'll forward our contract to have a look at.

Here's how I handle it. Doesn't take too long either.

I use QuickBooks Pro. I have several custom fields for Mowing customers: Rate, Frequency, Bagging? (Every, E/O, As Needed, No), Bag Rate.

I created a custom report in QB, dumped it into MS Excel & saved it. Then I created a form contract in MS Word, put in merge fields for the data from the spreadsheet.

Mark & I go through all the customers & review their rates, make any changes that are neccessary.

Then printed them all out, reviewed them & mailed them out in duplicate with a self addressed stamped envelope. (One to keep & one to return to me)

When I receive the signed copy back. I put the contract in their file. Then ad the client to the active client group that feeds all my mowing lists & automated billing.

Takes a little longer to set up in the winter, but saves me weeks worth of time in the busier season.

TSM
07-23-2004, 12:30 PM
Pilgrim, i've read plenty about contracts on this forum and others. Personally, in our specific field (i am assuming that you are like us, strictly fert/pesticide, no mowing/landscaping) I feel it is nearly impossible to do.

We deal with a larger customer base and to get all customers to sign....i donno, i cant see it happening.

I also feel it MIGHT hurt in closing sales....most companies, us included, will not require a signed document. That might lead some of your potential customers to shop with your compitition.

And, what will you do when (you know it will happen) a customer still screws with paying you? Will you take the time out of a busy schedule to do a court action? See, my personal thinking is that nothing will change even with a signed document except you'll be abble to pull it out to remind the customer that they did in fact sign it....but will that be enough for them to say 'ok continue with service?'

one more thought on this, who would want to continue service on a customer who you know doesnt want you (for whatever reason, believe me I've been at this long enough to know first hand some of the off the wall reasons folks will not want you)

All our invoices state that we are a continuous service and will continue to come out automatic unless we recieve in writting otherwise. Our estimate sheets have those same words in large bold type, our renewal letters are the same. But every season a few will say i didnt hire you for this season. Even, on rare occasion, we have had customer who we talked with on the phone to confirm business has said they changed their mind and thinks they dont need to pay (changed their mind...what, are we suppose to read minds too?)

OK, one more thought just popped into my head... a signed contract could also work against you. What about the total airhead customer who after one application you know is going to be a constant thorn in your side...wont be able to just cancel them?

turf hokie
07-23-2004, 01:21 PM
Signed contracts are a requirement in the county that I am in (a law almost as silly as 48 hour notifications) I will get a verbal to start the service and just send them a contract that will automatically renew as a formality. All my contracts can be cancelled by either party with 30 days notice (in writing)

Brody11
07-25-2004, 12:12 AM
You said yourself it is just a few. For what you might be losing, contracts are a bigger hassle.

Pilgrims' Pride
07-25-2004, 03:20 PM
I made up a rough draft over the past few days.
It covers every possible angle from stem to stern.
I will change my estimate forms so that they are three part carbonless and have customer sign when I sell the service.
Then, I get a copy, they get a copy, and the bottom part becomes the permanent service record.
Maybe I'll use it or maybe I just blew off some steam by putting it together.

Tscape
07-26-2004, 09:15 PM
I have never lost a sale because I require a signature. I explain that the Ag dept wants it, and that they can cancel the agreement with a phone call. My contract also states in larger, red font that it is a "yearly service continuing from season to season, until canceled." It has saved my ass a couple of times from people who want to play like they didn't think I was coming back in the spring. Funny, they never take the opportunity to cancel at that point, but just say, "oh, OK, go ahead with the program, and I'll cut you that check to catch you up. Thanks."

General Grounds
07-27-2004, 08:37 PM
:blob3: bob, send me a PM with a fax and you can have a copy of ours. tony

James Cormier
07-28-2004, 09:26 AM
Bob, just blow off some steam, this is a great place to do that.

:p

I feel the hassle, time and expense of doing this is not worth it. This is a common problem of every lawn guy out their. I budget for bad debt every year just for this reason.

Theirs a company in my area, kinda big maybe 1000-1500 customers been around for awhile. Has a good name, well they make their customers sign a contract, even if the customer is unhappy they must stay with them or pay penalty ( kinda like cell phone companies do ) Ive never heard bad things about this company until they started doing this.

Now they way I look at this is, Yeh they may save a couple thousand dollars in sales, but that customer gonna cancel once the contract is up and the bad name and unhappy customer will out shadow the amount saved 10 fold.

I try not to do any other rounds until the last one is paid for, this solves that problem and is much cheaper and easier than changing all paper work to get signed contracts.

Also try this, come rd 5, i put a little check off box on the return slip, saying check here to sign up for next season and save 10% on lime( or any incentive to sign up ) That works really well, i usually get 70-80% of my customers to sign up that way.

DUSTYCEDAR
07-28-2004, 10:17 AM
right now i get them all to sign and it still doesent make some of them pay any faster
i am not sure if it is worth it or not it does make a lot of payper work for me and i hate payper work
if they arent going to pay no payper is going to help in my opin.