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  #1  
Old 03-06-2014, 01:25 AM
Danspropmaint Danspropmaint is offline
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Contracts or no contracts?

I have never had a customer, residential and recently 2 commercial, sign any form of contract stating that I am there lawn maintenance and or snow removal guy for the season. I've just been going on good faith, their word and keeping them happy that they don't change companies. So far i have never been canned mid season. But I'm looking at growing this season and this is my first season as this being my full income so it's more important then ever to keep the income, coming in. My question is, can anyone provide a sample contract? Is it bad to have them sign a contract? Does it benefit me or them more?
Thanks!
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Old 03-06-2014, 01:55 AM
dc33 dc33 is offline
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I wont step foot on a property without one. For residential im very lieniant and dont enforce it much, but what it does do is weed out all the bums, deadbeats, and liars that will say anything to get you out to cut their overgrown lawn or when it grows like a jungle april and may and will sack you or play games come june. If you havent had this happen it will soon. Not to mention its great when it comes to suing a dead beat. Its an open and shut case and i win every time. I recently added a section where they agree to be held responsible to ll court cost, attorney fees, court cost, and any fees related to collecting the debt plus 18% apr. This means i just had the case over to my attorney and he handles it all for me, and they get to pay him to do it its a win-win all around
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  #3  
Old 03-06-2014, 03:17 AM
Bryan27 Bryan27 is offline
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Depends on what you are wanting to include in your contract. I think the term "service agreement" is a little bit easier for people to digest, the word "contract" puts people in a defensive position. If they give you any problem about signing a service agreement, just explain that it is one of the checks and balances you are implementing this year to make sure that all your customers are getting all of the services that they expect to get and aren't paying for services that they don't want. A service agreement a.k.a. "contract" is good business, imo. It doesn't lock your customer into using you, but it does lay out what the expectations they have of you are, scope of work to be done, price, how change orders are handled, frequency of service, how termination of services are handled... and most importantly, how payments are expected to be handled. If you are considering using a contract that you feel will lock your customers in with you for the year, "marking your territory", yes, they will be turned off by that and likely tell you to take a hike.
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Old 03-06-2014, 10:29 AM
Roger Roger is offline
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To the OP, it sounds like you want to put customers on a contract to insure they will remain with you all season. Is this the primary reason for wanting to implement a contract?

First, forget the distinction between "service agreement" and "contract." LS has lots of talk about "softer" with a SA -- customer doesn't care. Thinking the LCO is pulling something over on a customer is delusional. Most of our customers are much smarter about business than LCOs -- they wouldn't be hiring out the work if otherwise. No, not all are this way, but I suspect that the vast majority of residential customers.

Since nearly everybody on this Board suggests an "out" clause in the contract, two weeks, one month, or whatever the term might be, the contract will not insure you keeping the customer over the season. Your work, reliability, integrity, etc. will keep them on board, not a piece of paper with no teeth. Often, properties are sold, the customer moves, and the contract is rendered meaningless in these cases.

Even if you have language in the contract about cancellation, what happens if you show up, the lawn is mowed, and the customer has hired somebody else, or chosen to do the work themselves? What good is your piece of paper?

Further, if you have a contract that is binding you to do the work, is this a good thing? What happens if you wish to move on without this customer? The LS talk is always focused on binding the customer by contract, but thke same contract will bind the LCO as well. Why do you wish to do this for simple residential customers, performing menail work (e.g. grass cutting)?

I've heard the argument, "I want to be protected." Nobody has the follow on thought: Proteced from what? It is good to be protected, but you must be clear about what protection the contract affords. Remember, a contract is no assurance of being paid. Only the honesty of the customer insures you will be paid, regardless of what the document reads. If the amounts of loss is small, taking legal steps may be followed, but at what cost? Strong business relationships will go much further to get paid, than any document for these small amounts of money.
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  #5  
Old 03-08-2014, 04:12 AM
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BckYrdLmbrJk BckYrdLmbrJk is offline
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I started using contracts for snow removal last year and this year didn't take any new customers without signing one first. I wrote the contract myself and had a lawyer look it over for me. I can tell you one thing with the plowing, having a contract helped me weed people out and saved me a lot of money and aggravation thus far. I do not give out my contract to potential customers. They see it, they sign it, I take it and mail them a copy.

I had one slip up at the beginning of this season where a guy didn't want to pay my rate for plowing because someone else did it for $40 or something stupid like that, I offered to give him a little bit of a break since he wasn't far from my house, but he pulled some crap trying to keep a copy of my contract. I let him take it so I wouldn't seem like a d***. He then called to laugh at my contract, make a weird analogy about having sex with his daughter? which was totally weird and tasteless, I hate when creeps talk like that. Needless to say I didn't end up doing that driveway. About a week later I ended up hearing something through the grapevine about how this guy doesn't pay. Go figure. Anyways, a good contract is a great way to weed people out.

A contract is also great for laying out the details of the work you'll be completing and what you will and won't be responsible for. I had a creep that I almost posted a special thread about on here (or plowsite) but refrained. Who signed a contract with me for 4 inches, and when the first storm came called my phone 7 times and left me messages trying to micro manage me and tell me when to plow. He then had his wife shovel the driveway for one push (my contract has a clause that if the driveway is cleared when I get there, I bill them anyways). I didn't bill him and just ignored it. The night before the next storm I get a call telling me "We're only going to get 8-10 inches, don't plow until the morning" I explained myself in a stupid phone conversation that lasted way too long. The next day he blew up my phone about 15 times. I came about 5-6 inches into the storm and he flipped out. We ended up terminating the agreement later that evening. I'd love to go further into that story as I know you guys would really get a kick out of it, but I'd better not think about it. He still owes me for that last push . Some people.

This year I'm going to begin using a contract for mowing services, dump trailer rentals (more like dumpster services, I haul the trailer) explaining the time slot and prohibited materials. I may consider adding a contract for tree services and landscape installs if I feel I need to but I think this kind of thing is more necessary for seasonal service type deals. Anyways here's my top 5 reasons for using a contract.

1. Weeds out jackasses
2. Addresses liability
3. Ensures payment and lays out payment terms
4. Keeps the customer and I on the same page as far as the scope of work to be done. Most customers aren't experts on our industry and this helps them know what to expect. If they're expectations don't match the services you're providing, its not gonna be good.
5. Its a good back up for saying "no" to ridiculous requests
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  #6  
Old 03-08-2014, 10:10 AM
gardiner gardiner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Danspropmaint View Post
I have never had a customer, residential and recently 2 commercial, sign any form of contract stating that I am there lawn maintenance and or snow removal guy for the season. I've just been going on good faith, their word and keeping them happy that they don't change companies. So far i have never been canned mid season. But I'm looking at growing this season and this is my first season as this being my full income so it's more important then ever to keep the income, coming in. My question is, can anyone provide a sample contract? Is it bad to have them sign a contract? Does it benefit me or them more?
Thanks!
I'am the same way . never had any contracts .
The only contract i have even worked on but never finished writing up.
was one for a 12 month payment plan,
only offered to returning clients , after building a payment history with me .
records of cuts per season , time spent on there property .Yards of mulch ect, To give me exact numbers .

I got the idea because. i have a few clients that only does the clean- up, mulching every other summer. due to being on a fixed income ,
with the plan i can maybe up sale and keep the price tag within there monthly income ,
This is a exmaple only ,
clean up, with mulching $800.00
lawn service $45.00 a weeks x 30 weeks $1350.00
the total of a year services comes in . $2150.00
divide the $2150.00 by 12 payments = $179.16

where just for the $45 a week cut x 4 weeks a month = $180.00

i will get to collect the $179.16 all 12 months .
stayen within the clients budget of $180.00 a month
They get to have there property done every season .
and not save to come up the $980.00 on the one time.

But like i said i never worked out all the details of the contract yet due to feeling that it maybe insulting to some clients .
that i targeting a lower class
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  #7  
Old 03-08-2014, 10:56 AM
PaperCutter PaperCutter is online now
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Everyone looks at contracts as the nuclear option, that if it all goes sideways with the customer you have something to fall back on. And they do serve that purpose, but (hopefully) this is in a tiny fraction of cases. The reason I never, ever work without a contract is because it makes the process smoother. This is what's included, this is what's excluded, this is when it'll be done, this is how you can cancel the contract and how we'll settle up at that time. Any questions during the process, refer back to the contract.

I totally agree with Roger about the service agreement/contract thing. Call it whatever you like, two parties are agreeing on terms and signing at the bottom. Everyone knows what's up.

If you're somehow worried that presenting a contract will offend the client, you're doing it wrong. This isn't some screw-you-in-the-long-term trap you're springing like the 10 CDs for a penny with Columbia House, it's making sure that both parties know what's expected from the relationship. If you're presenting the contract, guess what? You're in sales. Sell it.
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Old 03-08-2014, 11:02 AM
PaperCutter PaperCutter is online now
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oh also, I use an online proposal builder now. All I do is put in my client info and tweak the price and scope of work for each job. It then puts that info into a professional cover letter, a description on my company and services, an explanation of the design process, my references, the pricing page, and the terms and conditions of the contract. I click send and they can either print the proposal, sign and mail in with a check, or they can do an e-signature and click to pay by credit card. Love it.
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  #9  
Old 03-08-2014, 02:26 PM
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Elite Outdoor Elite Outdoor is online now
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Paper cutter what proposal builder are you using? Ive looked into right signiture just haven't pulled the trigger yet.
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  #10  
Old 03-08-2014, 02:55 PM
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mwalz mwalz is offline
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Last year i didn't take this service too seriously. I was more the neighborhood kid deal with only advertising on 2 streets. Well this year i am putting out 2500 door hangers, and wanting to get a few commercial accounts, more would be great but i want at least 3, and then 30 residential accounts. Some guy on another thread like this says he and the customer agrees on a scheduled, no signing of paper, but they shake hands or whatever. So for example, you go and do a bid, then you and the customer agree on every week mow til July, then every other week mow the rest of the year. Is this really affective? Or if i go this route should i have a paper that we both sign stating that this is the agreement? But then again this sounds along the lines of a contract, or "Service Agreement".
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