Best geographic region?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Mowboy, Dec 5, 2003.

  1. Mowboy

    Mowboy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 7

    This may sound a little weird, but here it goes. I am a 41 year old who has dreamed a long time of changing careers and jumping into the lawn care and landscaping business.
    To make a long story short, I have decided to relocate to the southeast and set up shop. My question is what is the best way to gain info about regional markets (eg., how saturated is it there) before making the move. My family is open regarding the move, so I am trying to chose between which state, how large of city/service area, coastal vs. inland. I realize this question is broad, but any advice is greatly appreciated.
     
  2. crawdad

    crawdad LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,939

    Can you afford to support your family while in startup mode? You won't make a lot of money at first. Many people who move to the Appalachian area are subject to "sticker shock" on their first few paydays. How big is your family, will they be involved in the business?

    If you have a few areas in mind, find the online versions of the local newspaper, check to see how the job market is going, even though you intend to create your own job, you'll need to be in an area where most people have decent jobs. Other things to check in the paper, under "public notices," are, how many people and companies filing bankruptcy, and foreclosures. Then of course, the price and availability of real estate. Will you be building your own house, or trying to find a place with a house and shop? Plan to have your shop on a separate piece of land? Zoning and building codes come to mind. The county offices would be where you'd get some of this info.
    Have you already got some equipment and experience in lawn care and landscaping?
    Saturation, lets see, how to check that out...Online yellow pages would be a start, but a lot of people don't use them. Back to the newspaper, checking out how many people advertise. Kind of late in the season for that, most online newspaper archives don't go back but a few days. You can pretty much bet, that wherever you go, there'll be a lot of people in the business. Some good, some bad. Some expensive, some cheap. Don't be the new guy who goes door to door, saying I'll do it for five bucks less than the last guy. There's no future in that. When I see a flyer that says they'll beat any ones price, cheapest guy in town, I think to myself, "His wife must be proud."
    So, you have a lot of homework to do. Here's your start---first assignment--
    Go to yahoo, or google, whatever, and type in newspaper + "north carolina" or, newspaper + georgia, or whatever. Get a map, so you can see where the places are.
    Welcome to Lawnsite, get back to us when you have a few places in mind.
    :D
    Crawdad
     
  3. Mowboy

    Mowboy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 7

    Thanks for the advice. I have a wife in real estate and a very young son, so it'll be just yours truly at first. I have a 16' double axle trailer with brakes and a truck to pull it with. I also have a new holland tractor with loader (TN 65 - for what it's worth). I am completely inexperienced but willing to learn, perhaps through the hard knocks of start-up experience. I have thought of just starting as hired help wherever I end up, but I really don't want to turn around and start my own competitive business and step on the toes that trained me. At the beginning, I am considering looking for a rental with shop space before I jump in and buy a home/shop. Any additional advice for the inexperienced is greatly appreciated. Thanks again!
     
  4. mowitup

    mowitup LawnSite Member
    Posts: 22

    To be honest with you, Las Vegas is the best place in the nation for landscaping. People always need fertilizing and with the drought, they want to do major projects like take out grass and put in rock. Labor is VERY cheap here too. I see you guys back east paying people $30/hr while I pay guys $10/hr and the usual is $9.
     
  5. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Posts: 2,585

    I wont pretend to know much, if anything, about the Southeast. But I'l throw out some food for thought:

    1. You;d better have a nest egg or some other form of cash coming in because the first year you will not liklely not make enough to support you and your family.

    2. If I had to choose a place to move for this business, I would choose the Carolinas. Why? Longer growing season.And the Southeast is still growing( I think)

    3. I used to travel a fair amount in the Carolinas and I remember some cities were really growing. Like Raleigh and Charlotte. If you can get close to a state capital, that may help as they employee thousands of white collar people. And as Crawdad mentioned above, you need to choose an area with lower than avg unemployment,,,and state capitals are usually better for this.

    Tobacco and furniture used to be big business in the South...so be careful you dont move into an area where they were once big businesses as allot of those laid of people may have started a green business.

    We have allot of people here from the Carolinas so I would think you will get some good advice from them here on Lawnsite.

    But I can't say it enough...your first year or 2 will be lean...dont kid yourself into believing anything else. In the meantime if you dont know much about landscape/lawn procedures/issues......go to the library NOW...and start reading everything you can get your hands on. And also start reading all the posts here on different topics. Nothing will substitute for hands on experience...but at least you will learn some basic concepts and procedures

    There is much more to this business than meets the eye...particulary if you are going to offer services beyond mowing. And also pay attention to the climate issues. Plants, mulches, grass, fertilizing etc are all very different in the Southeast compared to colder areas of the country like the midwest, northeast, and mid-atlantic I have over 20 years experience in the landscape side of the business and if I were to move south, I would have allot to learn all over again. Good luck to you
     
  6. Mowboy

    Mowboy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 7

    Thanks for the posts from everbody. I have contacts in NC, SC, and FL. Question: Is Florida the better choice due to length of growing season, or do other factors (eg. strong competition) offset this? Also, what is the length of season in vegas?
     
  7. socty

    socty LawnSite Member
    Posts: 108

    At first glance, the northeast looks like a great place...cool summers, fairly long growing season, great fall and spring cleanups, and snowplowing. Only problem is, you can't get a decent house around here for under $200k. I'm talking about Ct., RI., MA., NJ., downstate NY., anyplace within 2 hrs of Boston or NYC. Further away from those areas, you might find more affordable housing, but the customer base may shrink too, especially customers willing to pay well. I like the advice on the Carolinas...been thinking about going there myself. Good luck!
     
  8. sutter

    sutter LawnSite Member
    Posts: 4

    I recently (april) purchased a 8yr. lawn maintenance and landscaping company with a partner in north broward county florida. The weather is great most of the time and the grass continues to grow all the time. Slower in the winter and heavy in the summer (rain season) the weeds, hedges and just about everything else continues to grow. So the competetion is probably more here than most places. Although I must say we are growing at a nice rate. We have around 100 accounts residential and 10 or so commercial. 3 full time people and the pay rate here is under 10 usually 7-9 per hour. Our 3 man crew was already at 10 per hour when we took over the company. What you may want to do is buy a company that someone else is selling. Obviously after you have fully checked them out, and there are quite a few for sale down here.
    good luck
    Kevin
     
  9. Mowboy

    Mowboy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 7

    Do you have any pointers on what to look for in evaluating an existing LCO? I am a novice anyway, so I don't want to get burned, but the idea is appealing in a tight market such as in FL where I have family and friends. I know it's a broad, difficult question, but any advice is greatly appreciated.
    Jeff
     
  10. Mowboy

    Mowboy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 7

    Ditto
     

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