For a residential customer there really is no way that you can stop them from cancelling if they really want. Even if you got a contract and then they try and cancel a maintenance account (esp one with a bad relationship that would be sure to follow) is not worth legal action IMO. All they have to do is say you weren't performing the work to their satisfaction and they are pretty much out. Commercial contracts are a bit different but really not too much. If someone doesn't want you doing work anymore there is usually an easy out. Most maintenance contracts are in one way or another "At Will". Whether they are worded that way or not
We contract commercial work but not residential maintenance. Some people do contract residential maintenance. I personally think its a waste of time and energy but to each their own. If you do any job over 1000 (plantings, patios, etc...)then I would be sure to get a contract for that. As you start getting into larger jobs you will want to include payment schedules that coincide with the work as its completed. This provides you with important cash flow throughout large jobs.
Also, if you spent all your money to invest in the business, why do you want to sell? Seems like those two decisions have two different goals in mind. (although I guess it depends how old you are and how much time you have before college)
One thing we have had a lot of success with is getting customers to prepay for the year. We offer 5% off and about 20% of maintenance clients take advantage of this. (I know that's a little unrelated but its something to consider.) Even for this though we don't have a formal contract written up. We allow people to include mulching, fert, cleanups and landscape maintenance in this as well.
If you are planning to sell, you will get the most $ when you are willing to work with whoever buys it to aid in the transition and the payout would likely be over time based on revenues from retained clients.
Best of luck
Last edited by Greenboy24; 12-29-2012 at 12:21 AM.