View Full Version : Thinking about getting into mowing business

10-05-2004, 11:37 AM
Heres the deal, For the last few years I have been strickly seeding new lawns and renovating old ones. I do fertilizations and areations. I have a pesticide license but dont do any spraying except roundup on lawn renovations. My problem is that everybody I seed a lawn for always ask if I can refer someone to cut or do pesticide treatments. I was refering them to another licensed LCO but he never seemed to do any follow up. I also see a lot of part time LCO's that really butcher my new lawns. I dont have time to do all these things solo. Cant keep up with the seeding now. I Have a partime helper, (inlaw) that also does mowing, bushhog and tractor work. He has a worn out Hus. walkbehind. We have discussed my purchaseing the equipment and him doing the operating. He suggested a 50/50 split. Which I havent done the math yet but basicly for my 50% I furnish the equipment and find the accounts, and he furnishes the gas, truck, trailer, and labor. Might be fair but....I can just see him using my equipment, unknown to me, on every $10 mow that he can find. My thoughts are more along the line of furnishing everything, (I have trucks and trailers) and just hireing someone to do the actual work. They report to my shop in the morning and leave everything parked there at nite. I could also use the new hire to help me with my seeding when I get behind and just keep the part timer a part timer maybe using him some for mowing if my new hire dont work out.
Only equipment I would need to purchase would be a ztr, probably 48in or 52in, I already own a 60in mowing deck to fit my Ventrac and Steiner, 48in walkbehind, small push mower, good weedeater, and backpack blower. I probably would only use the Ventrac and Steiner for certain steep properties and for backup, I find them to work real well for mowing my property but they are a little slow to try to use mowing full time.
Lets hear some opinions.

10-05-2004, 11:59 AM
IT's your business, so you keep it. I like your idea best about hiring someone. It sounds like you've got plenty of work, and that you could build a customer base real quick. Why give half of your money up for work that was obtained by YOUR reputation. Also, how would the 50/50 split work? If you went half of gross income.....take a $30 cut for example.....he'd get $15 (for 25 mins of work). You'd get $15.....minus gas, insurance, equipment costs, maintenance...billing time....etc. When you're done....you made $5, and he made $15. You take all the risk. Business men are risk takers....and that's why they reap the rewards. Make sure you're reaping the rewards. Also, what happens when equipment breaks down, or your partner insists that he needs new equipment to keep up.
Or, you could go 50/50 on Net income. Now you need to agree on every little penny that the company spends. EVery time you buy an ad in the yellow pages, you just took money out of his pocket. Try going on a spending spree, or buying necessary things, and see how much your partner likes it. You're taking money from his pocket too.

Best advice....Hire someone. I can assume that seeding/renovation jobs are usually 1 time customers (or maybe once per year). Cut back a little on that for your first year, and hire someone to do grass with you. Train them, make sure you trust them, and over time back off...even completely, and hire a second person to work for you. Then, you'll be running two businesses at the same time. Just make sure you spend time with your new hires, or you could end up paying someone to do a lousy job and sit around..

All in all, it's your business.....you take the risk.....make sure that YOU are the one making the money.

Hope this helps

10-05-2004, 03:28 PM
MasterCare, I think your thoughts run pretty much in line with what I was already thinking. You asked how the 50/50 split would work and I truely havent given it much thought. It has been my experience that these type of arrangements simply dont work. It is not quite as simple as letting some of my seeding business go while I work with and train someone to run the mowing business. I have quite a bit of money tiedup in seeding equipment that I cant just let sit unused. Three hydroseeders, tractors and prep equipment, trucks and trailers. I also have another job that I intend to retire from in two more years. My only thoughts on starting a maintenance service now is to have that part of the business up and running when I leave my fulltime job. You are right about seeding and renovations being a one time service but most of my costumers are summer residents and there lawns are usually took care of by someone else. My thoughts are that if I plant it, I should be the one that maintains it. Meaning why give the work to someone else. It would be easy to upsale almost every seeding job into a maintenance contract. I already upsale into fertilizations but usually lose this business whenever someone else starts mowing. Funny how people will believe their mower person about what to use and when to fertilize but doesnt trust someone that took the soil tests and knows what has already been applied. One of these days I am going to pick up the phone and start reporting all the illegal pesticide applicators in my county. There are only 4 licensed applicators in my county and my wife and I hold two of those licenses. I dont think their are any license holders in the county next to me but there are sure a lot of people doing it in both counties.
Finding the right person to run the mowing part of the business can be pretty hard. I may just let it wait for a couple of more years until I have more time to spend with it. I may just start looking for good used equipment and maybe pick up a few of the more profitable jobs and not worry about trying to take them all. This is probably where I could do the 50/50 thing with my part time helper without getting into to much trouble, but then again, I will probably end up regretting it.

10-05-2004, 06:20 PM
Most commission based pay systems when using owners equipment is about 70/30, with 70 going to owner. This is typical in carpet cleaning, lawn care, etc Where you have actual equipment and things to maintain.

When dealing with non capital intensive arrangements(little to no equipment), like home cleaning or janitorial, it's usually 50/50.

Just an fyi

10-05-2004, 06:23 PM
Oh, another thing, at 50/50 I doubt you'd make anything. Advertising, equipment, insurance, gas, bad debt, your time doing estimates, etc etc. It all adds up quickly.

10-05-2004, 07:31 PM
Good info on the 70/30, but I havent done the math because I am not seriously considering it. Except maybe on a few select high profit cases. These would be properties that I would pickup from doing the actuall seeding so I wouldnt have any extra tied up in advertiseing or other related expenses. And the guy suggested that he buy all the gas and furnish the truck. I already have insurance so I dont think it would raise the cost that much, but again I havent checked. My biggest concerns would be my equipment. Not so much the investment but the fact that some people you just cant trust to only mow what they are supposed to mow. I keep having nitemares of this guy taking my equipment and servicing his costumers that he already has. Since my work takes me out of town there would be know one to actually supervise him. A recipe for disaster. Now if I could find someone I could fully trust some sort of %/% deal might could be arranged and I wouldnt be trying to get just the select high profit jobs, but would take all that could be handled. I have about decided to look for some good used equipment and seeing if my inlaw can gain my trust before going into this thing full bore. He does good work and he's fast just dont know how reliable he will be.

10-05-2004, 11:54 PM
It's just a natural progression to mowing...we are primarily a design / build / maintain biz, but the last two years I have been adding mowing accounts from new installs and renovations as well. I have been hydroseeding for a year and a half now, and started asking customers about mowing their new lawns as part of the after care process. It's easier to sell full service to someone when you can do it all. We can prep, seed, fert., and mow all new lawns as well as renovations. What's funny is some people will pay 2-5K for a new lawn, but won't spend 100.-250.00 a month for fert. and mowing. The ones who do, however, value the time and effort you put forth into giving them a great stand of grass. I would try the in-law for a trial period, and give thought into hiring an hourly employee for mowing next spring. Figure your total gross for all lawns each day, and figure your costs for each production day, then you can come to an agreeable amount to pay him for the help, and you can adjust his rate of pay based on production time and attention to detail while mowing. You can never have complete control over someone taking care of your equipment as you would, so plan on things wearing out and breaking, hopefully not regularly.Also , try and demo some different mowers in your area. Larger properties will require a Z almost certainly, but lots of beds and such on smaller properties may not be accessible by a Z. Be sure to try Standers as well as different Z's for increased production time. BTW- Do you have an Aeravator for your Ventrac? I am getting a new 4200VXD in the spring, and used that Aeravator in Louisville, and was pretty impressed. Curious to hear first hand about it..


10-06-2004, 01:02 AM
If you do hire a helper to handle all the maintenance. Make sure you make him sign a non-compete clause. The customers will see him all the time and he will become closer to them then you. After a while, he will start thinking about how he don't need you anymore and try to start his own business with your customers.

10-07-2004, 12:00 AM
I demoed the Areovator for my Ventrac. I have the 4200 turbo. I liked it a lot but decided to get a tow behind one . My thoughts where that my 480 max Steiner wouldnt handle it and if the Ventrac broke down I wouldnt have anything to use it own. I have regretted that decision almost since dayone. The one I demoed had the seed box attachment, talk about making fast work of overseeding. I am convinced that the areovator is the only way to go in my area. The ground is just to hard for a core areator. I demoed Ventracs areator the same day I demoed the Areovator. One pass around my house and we bent half the spoons. One problem I had with the seed box was the rubber paddles that stir the seed. They started breaking off after about 600lbs of seed. The seed also has a tendency to run to one side of the box if you are on sidling ground. Had to keep a close watch on it to make sure seed was being distributed evenly. Wouldnt be a problem on most lawns, just fill the box up at each site, but I was seeding acreage with it during the demo. I was able to fertilize, lime, areovate and overseed three acres in about 4 hours. This was on two different sites, without any help. Cant touch that amount with the tow behind. I also have the ventrac power rake. If you purchase one of those make sure you get both weight bars for the rear. One set of weights isnt enough. Their power rake is heavy but it works good. I also regretted not getting the threepoint hitch on my Ventrac. One other thing, the Ventrac Areovator works better at about half throttle than it does wide open. dont know why, just seems to do a better job.

10-07-2004, 01:34 AM
Hey, thanks for the input..I wondered about the longevity of that seedbox. I don't think I would buy it anyway, but if I got a deal on it, that would be a different story. I didn't get to try the power rake, but I hope to get to demo it from the dealer locally when I get some time this fall. The new spreader at Expo was really nice as well. 3 acres in four hours solo is awesome$$$$$...later


10-07-2004, 01:52 AM
Before you get in the business, look at all the posts about people who couldn't make it this year. Landscaping is much more profitable than mower residentals. Guys that do well cutting grass have at least 25% commerical properties. I am getting out of residentals completly and focusing on commerical properties. I am also starting a crew on new lawn installs. People around here pay 17 cents a square foot. New houses sitting on 2+ acres is all that is around here. I wouldn't bother with mowing residentals their too picky.

10-07-2004, 08:16 AM
Good advice Toro. I am already doing the installs, I guess its just me being greedy and wanting all the pie. I do all prep work on mostly summer homes. A person would starve to death here trying to do commercial. Just not enough of it to go around. I do know of a couple of $40,000 a year properties but my cousins son has those tied up. Residential for the summertime residents seems to me to be where the money is at. They are the one haveing the lawns planted. I do very few lawns for locals. The locals are the ones that are mowing their own grass or have a son or neighbor that will mow for them. The summer residents tend to be older retired and not interested in doing lawn work. They want to travel and do other things. There kids are grown and all their neightbors are the same way. I have been suprised that no one seems to have targeted these developments. Most would be mow and blow with some weed wacking. Very little landscaping to trim around. And best of all the owners arent there most of the time.