beginner's story to share and receive feedback

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by eyes&earsopen, Aug 17, 2005.

  1. eyes&earsopen

    eyes&earsopen LawnSite Member
    Posts: 66

    First of all hello to all on the site. I'll start with a little background before I get into my problem. I have been thinking about starting a lawncare co. for about three years. Mostly due to the fact I have two co-workers who are currently successfully operating their own lawncare co's. I'm not jealous of their success, it's just their stories have inspired me to do my own thing. Plus with the limited opportunities for advancement up the chain at my job, I just figured it was a great way to bring in some extra money and a chance to call my own shots.
    So about three months ago I spent a weekend working with one of the guys from work on some of his res. properties. I was instantly hooked, and I also walked away with the confidence that I could do this too. Now I don't expect to get rich quick, but this sure beats trying to convince some manager at some local store to give me a part-time job AND work with my current full-time 3rd shift schedule. After a couple times out with my buddy I visited a local dealer and purchased my own 36" wb and all Stihl handheld equip. I had a decent sized savings so right now nothing is financed.
    Well now to my problem. I didn't realistically envision starting up this yr. seeing how it was past mid season, and I thought customers would be hard to come by (a thought later confirmed by reading several posts on this web site) but I did want to work on improving my new craft so next season I could hit the ground running. I ended up running into my neighbor as I was bringing all my new equipment home and I informed him that he was witnessing the beginnings of my newest venture. Now during our two yrs. as neighbors I have noticed he is not too much into yard work, so I informed him that I was looking for some "practice yards" (besides my own) and that I would charge some discounted rates. He was like "I thought you'd never ask!". From that point he just let his yard go, but never gave me day he wanted it done. So weeks passed and his yard got worse and worse. Some of my buddies/family would visit and ask when was he going to cut his grass. My neighbor is a police officer and he also works 3rd shift, but he comes in 2 hrs before me and we started only seeing each other in spots. Well one evening while I was cutting my yard I decided to go on and at least do his front yard. When I was finished he came out and was like "thanks... I'll pick up behind my two boxers in the back yard and get with you about cutting it". Well days went by and no word came. So his front is soon to back to looking pretty bad again. Well after no word, or pay, for cutting his front weeks earlier I decided to leave a note on his truck. I left my cell and home #s, and said we could arrange for a cut at whatever day/time he liked. I also told him the going rate for a yard of his size in our area, and told him I would knock $10 off of that because he was my neighbor. Well about 3 wks. ago the city leaves him a notice stating if his yard wasn't cut by that weekend, they would charge him a min. of $100 for them to cut it. I get a call that thurs. and he wants to meet outside. So I go outside and he gives me a $100 and says he'd rather me get it than them. I said well this is enough for a few cuts and I'll just divide it up. He also said he would have his backyard picked up by Sat. and it was cool to do it. That Sat. I cut, trimmed, and blew his yard and when I was done he came back out. He didn't have any complaints and I said well feel free to call when he was ready for his next cut (he never seemed to be up for the scheduling idea). I come home last Thurs. morning and I notice that his front yard has just been cut! I'm like what the... Now I was getting ready to cut it that Fri. or Sat. depending on whether or not I could get in touch with him. So I don't know how to proceed from here. I am confused because they recently bought a house with a little over two acres and that would be a good yard to have set up for next year. Plus his wife is an attorney and networking possibilities could be good. But if we can't have a smoother business relationship than this I don't know if I want the hassle. Well I have a few other things to add, but I'll shut up now and get some feedback from some of you vets. Sorry for the long post, but I covered a few things in one post.
  2. steve122

    steve122 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 208

    Avoid the guess work and misunderstandings and have a talk with him. Tell him what you told us, politely and ask if you misunderstood.
  3. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,494

    You're the business...YOU communicate. You simply tell him, Hey, I'll be here on x day to mow. It sounds like you are leaving too much back and forth convo going about the too simple of matters. "Just do it", as they say. He already welcomed you to do it, he's already paid you, like I say...just do it. If his lawn is cut, OBviously he wanted it done...Maybe what he has envisioned is a bit more frequency in care. Tell him you want to care for it regularly and have the place lookin' good for him.
  4. eyes&earsopen

    eyes&earsopen LawnSite Member
    Posts: 66

    It does sound like a real simple situation to handle. But before I even cut his front lawn the first time we had ran into each other in our driveways a couple of times. Each time it was the same thing " wife ok'd you to cut the grass" or "I'll get with you when I get the backyard cleaned up". That was like for 3 or 4 meetings. So when he never got back to me on anything I left him a short note on his truck informing that I could do things anyway he chose. I told him that I would like to do it on a set schedule because then there would be no chance for miscommunication. I don't have 10+ accounts, so my calendar is open. He never gave me a day. Also I can't just cut his yard when I want to because he keeps his back gate entry locked, plus he doesn't pick up after his dogs regularly (I spent several nights at work reading posts about LCOs and dog crap). I was polite on every occassion that we talked, and I was also crystal clear that he had given me enough money for at least three cuts. He also in so many words expressed that he doesn't want me cutting while he's sleeping during the day, and furthermore his off days, while consecutive, fall on a different two days every week. Last point fellas, if I paid somebody $100 I would make sure that I would let that person know what I expected and when. I have tried to be as accessible as I can be to him but keep in mind that I also work 3rd shift and my sleep is important as well.
  5. Tn Lawn Man

    Tn Lawn Man LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 479

    I see this a lot.

    You are still in an "Employee" mode of thinking.

    You have to convert over to the "Business Owner" manner of thinking.

    You tell him (your customer) your way of doing business. Then if he agrees he will hire you do the job.
  6. Toy2

    Toy2 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,924

    The posts above have it right, talk to the guy...I had one where i landscaped part of his yard, was scheduled to do the rest, showed up and it was done...WTF...I was pissed the whole time I mowed his yard...after I'm done he comes out, I ask him if i had done something his boys came in from out of town, his(80TH) birthday and finished it stress.....made me feel to him.....
  7. eyes&earsopen

    eyes&earsopen LawnSite Member
    Posts: 66

    Toy2, that situation sounds similar - and I also will go ask my neighbor what was the deal with why he cut his lawn. Maybe since he is moving soon, he had an unexpected inspection and didn't think he had enough time to let me know that it needed cut. But since the backyard wasn't cut I don't know if that was the reason. Also with the situation you mentioned, how much did the man end up paying you for the partial landscaping job? Did he end up changing the figure since he ended up completing it?
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Yeah and in this case I would leave it the hell alone before you get yourself in deeper. That guy was pretty cool and all is good but as a rule, I don't do any of the following:
    - Never work for neighbors, friends, or family (unless asked)... Even then I'd just as soon they call someone else so if something goes south then there's no hard feelings. That and it's ALWAYS dirt-cheap and it can go on for years until such time you have to cut it off, then the hard feelings could start. But, I did it, too.
    - Never solicit for work, meaning never walk up to someone and ask them about their yard even if it looks like total schitt. Soliciting for work only gets me dirt labor rates and pita work.
    - Clarify the work to be done, when it is to be done, and how much. Then do it. This stuff about 'just take care of it' and other wish-wash doesn't work, please be specific.
    - Nevermind any other work they have due to other properties or whatever they own because this allows greed to cloud your judgement. I have a resi. customer who owns an apartment complex and I don't care, thou he did ask for an estimate at one time and THAT is the time to follow up. btw, i didn't get the apt. complex, guess the other lco was doing just fine after all - Here again, no big deal, no loss.
    - Never keep going when the gears are grinding. Things should move along smoothly and ideas and work and all that stuff needs to click into place naturally and easily... One or two miss-clicks and that's it, no more. See if it does not go smooth then there exists an incompatibility or another problem and it's trouble waiting to happen. In the case you described, you're grinding gears, it is not flowing smooth. It does not matter whose fault it is, what matters is flow.

    well that's it for starters, i gtg...
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    LOL I have a few customers who from time to time cut their own grass (or their kids do it or whatever) but to be quite blunt there are times this practice really irritates me if for no other reason than they are on my schedule so I'm driving by ready to work and it's already done... like yourself I'm like WTF... They usually don't even call to let me know but even when they do call I'm not really amused... I haven't dropped someone off my schedule for this practice yet because in and of itself it's not THAT big of a deal, but it does tend to frustrate over time. I guess so long they only do it once or twice a year it's ok, but I got like 3 or 4 of them who do this crap once or twice a year so I run into it about once/month.

    Do I talk to them? Yeah but I really only want to know if they want me to take them off the schedule, and that's what I ask them when I can't take it no more. You know, ON or OFF, what's it going to be? Ok I don't get quite like that with them but I do feel like it... I dunno why they do it, it drives me nuts thou it is one of the things I have and will likely continue to tolerate.

    I swear, no matter what you do to get rid of the bs, it is ALWAYS more there.
  10. eyes&earsopen

    eyes&earsopen LawnSite Member
    Posts: 66

    Thanks topsites!!! Your opinion is what I was really for so I could lay the situation to rest. I mean I would be interested in refunding some of his money or even completing the other cuts, but like you said this relationship should be running a lot smoother than this. To be honest I had given up on the whole thing the same week that he came over and gave me $100, because I had cut his front yard by then and hadn't heard any word on when he was gonna have the back ready to be cut. I saw him like 2 or 3 times and it was "...I'm gonna get you paid for cutting my front yard. Also you're right my judgement may have been a little clouded because I was eager to work on some level. Another thing to understand we weren't buddy-buddy before any of this, we were just on a hi/good-bye basis, and occassionally some sports chat. I hadn't knocked on his door for anything in our first yr. of living there and I wasn't going to do it now just because I was getting into lawncare. He's a good guy but I just think he has a different set of priorities and interests than me. Which I guess most people will have. At the end of the day I think there was a level of discomfort with him paying me to work for him (albeit at a cheaper rate than what he would've paid), but just in case I still have that exact same $100 bill he gave me and I don't have any intention of spending it anytime soon.

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