I know exactly what you are talking about. When we had the business going it was great for many years. Then the big crash in the 70's brought every wanna-be landscaper out from under there rocks. Being that my father and I went to school for this business and paid for it we also needed to be compensated for it. At the time when most plants shut down every Tom Dick and Harry went to K-mart and bought a lawn mower and a broom and called themselves Landscapers. Well needless to say we did loose a few clients to them. Kind of funny because as it goes most came back to us. We all know that these fly by nights couldnt compete with the knowledge of a trained professional. Although they came into this line of work cutting their prices to half of what we were getting. The real kicker was when the customer came back to us our prices went up. Hmmmmm. The excuse was to them they screwed themselves by hireing the idjuts and the idjuts took 1 year to screw up what it took us 3 years to accomplish with their yards. The old pay me now or pay me later routine. We got our money with the pay rate increase too. But all in all those days were awfull to contend with. Much the same as these days we have now.
I dont wish to saturate the market with another company but like I stated I got the schooling for it. I am not a fly by night either. Even after leaving the business all the companies I worked for I ran there Landscape operations to complete the jobs we worked on (schools, Water and sewer line restoration etc). Its been in my blood and will stay there till I leave this world. This is what my father gave to me through all the years working with him and for that I am eternaly gratefull.
Like you we never advertised the proof of the pudding was in results of a well manacured yard. 95% of our new work came from clients recomendations or just simply people stoping us while we were working and asking for us to give them a estimate on their yards. Although now if I do this and get back into this self employed I will need to advertise to get the ball rolling. After that well time will tell.