When I first started I took on all commers. You have to in the beginning. But after all the ups and downs I decided that I had to do something different.
I looked around at some of the bigger players and went to their websites. What I found was the bigger guys who have been around for years and still are, only provide maintenance contracts. One of the biggest players around actually has on their contact page that states something like, we only work off of yearly maintenance packages and our minimum per year package is X.
So they are basically saying, if you don't have at least X amount to spend on your lawn and landscape maintenance, then you need to look elsewhere.
They don't do maintenance on call. They don't do bi-weekly accounts. Most take credit cards only. They all spread out the services and bill monthly.
I talked to some local guys who I'm friends with. I was complaining about my customers and explaining my problems. One of the business owners told me, You need better customers. I said yeah I know. How do you do that?
He told me to just offer maintenance agreements and nothing else. If they won't sign then you don't want them. So I reluctantly tried that approach. I spent a lot of time writing a clear and concise maintenance agreement and I have been modifying it all the time. You learn from experience.
I ask customers what they want. Then I basically modify my agreement to give them what they want and then break it into 12 monthly payments. Just like Sean said to do.
What I have found is that you will have to be a good salesmen. Which I'm not, but I'm getting better. You will not get a lot of people to sign up for that. Why? well from my experience you have customers that really can't afford to pay for the service but they need it done and don't want to do it themselves. So they look for the cheapest guy in town.
They also don't want to pay for weekly service because its cheaper for them to pay for bi-weekly service. You get the point.
Then you have the customers who can somewhat afford it but are trying to save money. We all want to save money. So they may sign up or they may not. But they also don't like the idea of being tied to you or your company. Even though you show them they can cancel anytime.
That is the way I do it anyway. I will reconcile their account and then they either owe me money or on the rare occasion I may owe them money. But they still want that option to be able to drop you at the blink of an eye if someone comes along cheaper. So with that in the back of their mind they will likely go with someone who isn't forcing a service agreement on them.
Then you have the customer who can afford the service. They want a nice lawn, they want fert and weed control. They want the landscape plants and beds kept nice etc. They don't have the time to take care of it nor the desire.
These are the ones that will sign an agreement with no problems what so ever. But those customers are far and few between.
But since sticking to that, and its hard sometimes when you are not selling like you think you should, I found that I get better customers. I don't have any real problems with my customers. Most pay on time all the time. My revenue actually increased with less customers. Its been a win win for me.
I'm still solo and would like to grow and run the business not be the business. But when you have to live off of what you make and invest in the business at the same time its hard. At least for me. Maybe I'm not the best business man or the best salesman.
I try to project a professional image with everything I do, and that helps also. Most customers could care less because they are looking for the lowest price possible and the shortest payment period they can get. Meaning they want to start the process as late as possible and finish as early as possible in the season, and just want the minimum at the lowest price possible.
But those are not the customers I want. Down here where I live landscape plants need trimming and pruning through out the year. So you are basically pruning or trimming something nearly every month. Cheap customers will wait for the landscape to get completely out of control and then want it to look great or cleaned up when the HOA gets on their buts or they are embarrassed.
Good customers want the lawn and landscape to look good all the time. Here is an example. January or December you prune low hanging branches on hardwoods. February comes and crepe myrtles need to be pruned. So do ornamental grasses. Late February early march first round pre emergent goes down in lawn and beds. March first mowing begins and weed control in beds and lawn. April mowing continues so does weed control and by this time Pine straw and mulch installs come.
First pruning of landscape plants like hollies ect starts and mowing continues in April. Fert and squirt continues and so does bed maintenance, seasonal flowers go in if they want them. Throughout the summer everything continues. May, June, Maples get pruned if needed and all the other maintenance continues.
Down here plants grow like crazy. Even with pre in the beds weeds still need to be pulled or sprayed. If a drought comes and the lawn doesn't need service, those weeds in the beds still need to be addressed and so do the weeds in the lawns. Flowers need to be deadheaded and so on. I have it in my agreement that the lawn will be mowed at my discretion for the benefit of the lawn.
I've had to skip lawns 2 or 3 weeks sometimes in mid summer, but I still had to pull weeds or trim bushes or whatever, and the customer doesn't mind. Come November leaf cleanups start final lawn apps go down and leaf cleanups go until late December. January starts and it all starts over again.
For me growth has been slow. Because this is the process that I follow. I also make more from each customer because I can bundle all those services into one monthly payment. I get the maintenance and the fert and squirt and the aeration etc.
I don't have to sell them every month on doing this or doing that, I sell them one time in the beginning.
My only complaint is I wish I could grow faster and become a business owner rather than a laborer with a business.