Interesting thread, it started way back in '08, nothing posted in '10, now sort of up and going again. Good to see it continue. Not enough good thot provoking threads here. So I'll add my bit of wisdom.
Here's what I've done. I stated in '04 doing just "resi" cuts. Did a lot of door knocking in areas I felt would be good to start. Bought yellow pages for about 4 years but felt the cost was a waste of money vs. returns. Dumped them. Did a ton of flyers, but again the return vs. the amount of customers we got never floated my boat, so quite doing those as well. Back to door knocking and business cards, just in the areas we cut. Decal up your truck, rule in your cut area I say.
The best I ever had was 8 customers in a 11 house cul-da-sac. On the resi side we built it up to 150 cuts/week. This was done by 2, one man crews. House lots averaged 50' wide by 110' deep. $38/cut. Both of the trucks we used were 9/10 years old, bought at an auction. (trucks don't earn you a penny,they just haul your ass around, and the customer don't care what your truck looks like, but they sure care about what their lawn looks like) I say buy the best equipment, it earns you the money, not some fancy truck.
Each truck had 2 new JD self propelled push mowers, 1, new Stihl back pack blower, and 1 Stihl trimmer. I've always bought the same whatever, be it trimmer, blower etc. That way I only had to keep a very narrow line of extra parts on hand. Plus there was no learning curve on things being different.
During that time, we picked up 3 or 4 commercials, and bought 1 old....2200 +hour Walker to take care of them.
Then we started to spray, weed and feed. Again....here I go, knock knock knock, you need us to spray...OK we will............within in 4 years right around 800 resi and commercial customers. Equipment......3 old PU trucks, you got it, came from the auction. 200 gallon tanks, Honda motors, 150' of hose on hand crank reels, to cheap to buy electric reels.
Now we just do 97 commercial customers. I sold my resi cuts to an employee, who I financed, and he payed me back in 2 years, and the sprays I sold to a big custom spray outfit, who spray my commercials as needed.
So what is my "trick". I lease to buy, as the payments are an expense, so we can right the cost off of course. All my equipment is the same. Ferris mowers, Stihl hand tools, always the same model if possible. My newest truck is a '01 F350 with a Blizzard power plow, 100,000 miles on 'ol Betsie. Our 2 landscape trucks are a '99 F350 and '96 GM 3500. I'm still learning sadly to say, I don't need to be the cheapest on the block. In fact when I have been, potential customers have thought I didn't know what I was doing, I found out later.
Fortunately we are able to cut 3 church properties each year which we return the money to and it gives us a nice $15,000 tax receipt so that's nice for the tax side of things.
So we keep it simple for equipment, I advertise by knocking on doors, and I keep my equipment costs low. I'd love nothing more then to have a fancy fleet, because it sure would stroke my ego. In fact I only have 1 roof strobe on my plow truck I'm so cheap.
But I prefer the fact that I've been able to instead invest in a 11 suite apartment and pay it off in 5 years, plus 4 small rental house's that I hope are paid within the next 3 or 4.
Read the book.........Millionaire next door, it's but 1 book that fired me up and changed my thought pattern.
From Wiki, here are a couple of Main Points.....
"Spend less than you earn
If you are always spending up to or above what you earn, you will never increase your net worth no matter how much you make.
Avoid buying status objects or leading a status lifestyle
Buying or leasing brand-new, expensive imported vehicles is poor value. Buying status objects such as branded consumer goods is a never-ending cycle of depreciating assets. Even when you get a good deal on premium items, if you choose to replace them frequently, the older items hold no value and have become a sunk cost. Living in a status neighborhood is not only poor value, but you will feel the need to keep buying status objects to keep up with your neighbors, who are mostly UAWs. The authors make the point that Hyper consumers must realize more income to afford luxury items and become more vulnerable to inflation and income tax......blah blah blah.
It was books like this that kept me from being a "status" landscaper.
PM me if you want to chat, now that I'm 55, I'm happy to pass on what info I can.
Love this thread.