Heads up for the new guys or just starting

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Mow"N"Bud, Oct 29, 2006.

  1. Mow"N"Bud

    Mow"N"Bud LawnSite Member
    Posts: 138

    This is for FYI. I'm not trying to deter anyone for lawn service business, but here is an observation I had today.

    Today I picked up the local bargain trader type paper, and there was an unusually large amount of commercial lawn care equipment listed, and at rock bottom prices. I even bought some items, because the prices were steals, and every item I called about an item and or bought an item the owners said they were throwing in the towel on lawn service for every reason from it was too hard, and not enough pay off, to they bought stuff they couldn't afford, and the grass wasn't growing so they weren't making any money at all to pay for it.

    So those of you out there considering starting up or have recently, please for yours and your family's sake take the time to make sure you know what you are getting into. After 9 years of working for a Lawn Service I decided I would start my own Lawn Service. When I started my own business 6 years ago I sat down with business owners, former business owners, an accountant, an attorney, an insurance agent, and anyone I could get sound advice from concerning owning and running a business. The lawn service is a business, and you need real advice on running a business.

    When talking to a new potential customer, or renewing a contract with an existing customer, and the say I am a little high on the price, I have a saying and it goes like this - Any smuck can buy a lawn mower from WalMart, and go cut grass for a quick buck, but do they know what they are doing, or will they still be in business at the end of the year, or were they ever really in business at all. I'm insured, licensed, bonded, with 15 years experience, and 6 years of owning my own lawn service. Now who do you want taking care of your lawn? 99.9% of the time I got the contract.

    Again I just want to say, if you think you have what it takes, go for it, but make sure you really understand this is a business, and learn all you can so you don't get yourself in a mess.

    A little back ground on me. When I started on my own I had a Ford Ranger, a used 36" walk-behind I payed cash for, 2 new commercial string trimmers, a stick edger, hand tools, lawn tools, a hedge trimmer, a used chain saw, a hand held commercial blower, and minus the truck a total investment in equipment of just under $3000.00. Now when you looked at the real numbers, that first season I only made just under $6000.00 net after paying myself back, and paying all the other stuff. Thank God I was still working for the other guy who didn't cut in the county I live and cut grass in. If not for that job I would have been really hungry. It wasn't until after being in business for 4 years was I able to let go of the apron strings so to say, and actually live off what I made from my business.

    Good luck all, and please look before you leap into Lawn Service.
     
  2. DuraCutter

    DuraCutter LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 806

    Very true. Like any business, lawncare is tough. I like the part where your customers complain about the price. I get that feeling with various co's I bid for. The best paying jobs I find are with managers who are not spending their money. There is less pressure to hit rock bottom.

    Most new businesses in lawncare will have to deal with different paths. Not watching for the best price you can make that day or week will lead down the wrong path and slowly kill your business. It's the difference between getting good money or just paying the bills

    Well said!
     
  3. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Your news comes as no surprise to me, but I can appreciate the advice in ways, as I got pretty tired of the competition myself.
    But, they're storm chasers and they come, and they go.
    I should feel sorry, but I don't.

    Last year (2005) was very BUSY, so busy in fact that it awakened these storm chasers.
    The year before that, they were all doing tree work for the same reason:
    A year after Hurricane Isabelle came through, *EVERYBODY* was a tree man.
    Unfortunately they are always too late, they arrived for lawn care in time for this year, but we were busy last year (while they were doing tree work)...
    This is why I don't feel sorry, they come in time to take the remaining bread crumbs, frustrating those of us in it for the long haul.

    This business is a little bit like the stock market: If you plan on buying low / selling high by constantly chasing (and attempting to predict) certain stocks, you will likely fail. The true secret of it is, you have to work this thing for many years solid, and you will benefit from the ups so long you can outlast the downs.

    This year, we had a dry year... There's never any telling, but when it starts out dry, watch out. Matter of fact, anytime it doesn't rain for about 2 weeks straight, it's time to start shutting down financial leaks, put whatever money you can aside and keep putting it aside, and prepare for the worst: The sooner, the better.

    Right from the gitgo I advised on this forum (and more than once) to tighten up the hatches and prepare accordingly.

    Those who failed to do so are now likely gone. Those who prepared are not only still here, but evidently at least one of them has benefited from sub-market price equipment. Once again, the secret is in the long haul, doing it the hard way...
    Another way to say it is, the secret is there is no secret.

    There is no way to forecast the next year, other than it appears at least for now, we're back on track with the rain.

    If we stay on track with the rain, I fully expect the next year to kick our tails.
    We're short on Lco's already, it will be at least another 6-12 months before we see relief in that area, and WHEN those customers call us in spring, omg!
     
  4. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 13,494

    Lawn maintenance IS a hard business to make it in. It is an even HARDER business get off the ground. Oh sure...it's easy to start. Buy a mower, some 2 cycle goodies and a pickup truck, and you're off and running. But to settle in, make the profit, grow, and run a SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS, it is a whole different thing entirely. That is why after having BEEN in this business for 25 years, I can say that 99% of them don't make it. That is not an exageration, and that is not a figure of speech. I'm willing to bet that that is a pretty accurate number. Some find out 1 or 2 years into it,...some find out 6 or 7 years into it. But like I say,...about 99% will NOT make it. Of all the "lawn services" you see out on the road today, they will NOT be there 5 or 10 years from now.
     
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Something else just dawned on me, check this interesting bit out:
    (yes, I'm going somewhere with this)

    FICO scores - % of Total US Credit Card Balance:
    <540 - 3%
    540-600 - 6%
    600-660 - 20%
    660-720 - 33%
    720+ - 38%
    Total 100%
    (summary: <540 is High Risk, then it's D, C, B, and A on the Experian scale, not sure how it works for the R-1 > R-9 equifax model)

    First, it roughly confirms the 9 out of 10 rule.
    To put it bluntly, 9% of the total Credit Card Balance is held by High risk borrowers, folks who have no fear of never paying back, who think of defaulting as a tool, are within (before, IN, or after) 2 years of bankruptcy, and so on...

    Meanwhile, the OTHER 91% holds the bulk of the balance, and pays it off.
    So, guess WHO the bank is most interested in?
    Guess WHO the bank holds on to with dear life, and whom they give the boot to?
    And where do HR / D-grade credit borrowers go?

    It's like that in this business, too...
    Long-term Lco's hold on to their good customers hard, and give the rest the boot.
    Where does the pita go?

    Sadly, the following example roughly illustrates what happens:
    Say you live in a town with an exact population of 100,000 homes, and 100 Lco's (10 long-term, 90 <5 years).
    Only about 10% of these homes actually want or need Lco service.
    9,000 already have regular service from 10 established Lco's.
    Another 1,000 have been sent to limbo, while the established Lco's have made a name for themselves this way.
    And, a few more thousand on top of that are considering Lco service...
    There's no guess work here.
    ALL those folk tie up the phone line of the newer 90 Lco's.
    They know, the established Lco isn't cheap and doesn't play games.
    Those who don't know soon find out.
    Meanwhile, they also figure on giving the new Lco a chance.
    But, 9 out of 10 of them (some inadvertently, others on purpose) will take advantage of the new Lco.

    And that's another factor takes care of a lot of new businesses (today, some of it much to my amusement).
    That, and the failure to adjust to the changes over time.
     
  6. garth1967

    garth1967 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 640

    this a good thread for those starting out and what i mean by starting is,those that have under 5 years under there belt[fulltime].its hard work,not just physically.you need to be very disciplined and exact with your book work and keep an eye on your market and adjust when necessary.
     
  7. Prestige-Lawncare

    Prestige-Lawncare LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 753

    What people must remember is ... that the thoughts and perceptions found on a website such as this are the personal thoughts and feelings of any other individual on here. One's perception of a successful LCO may (and is) totally different then that of another.

    While one LCO may think he or she is not successful unless they reach a certain number of customers ... or crews ... or equipment, another guy may think they are totally successful with only having 40 - 50 accounts. It all depends on the goal each of us want to reach.

    I know guys who only mow 10 - 15 properties a week, part time ... and are totally happy with that. They run their small business just as professional as the "big" guy ... provide at least the same amount of customer service (if not better) ... and are happy with the little income they have coming in from their mowing service to help provide those extras they want in life.

    On the other hand, there are the guys who have 75 - 100 accounts, who still are not happy with their growth, or net profits, and want to grow even more. This is fine as well ... as their outlook or goal is much different then someone else.

    The little lunch diner down the street may be totally happy in life, and not have any desire or want to be the next McDonald's. Who cares about selling billions of sandwich's. That level of success is not everyones dream.

    Me ... personally ... I am happy with 40 - 50 accounts that will provide enough for me to continue my life as it is, and allow me to enjoy my family and friends on our many weekend getaways in the RV. To me ... that is a happy end to the reasons I do this. If my son wants to take over in a few years and grow the business, or take it in a different direction, that is fine. When it's his business, he can approach it and form it into what he wants out of it.

    Each persons level of success depends on what we desire, or have the drive to achieve. I was always taught that you can achieve what ever it is you have the desire to, providing you have the drive, intelligence and determination.

    :weightlifter:
     
  8. Mow"N"Bud

    Mow"N"Bud LawnSite Member
    Posts: 138

    Wow! I think I may have started my first thread that actually is for something other than just talking about equipment. I do wish 6 years ago when I started that I would have had this kind of advice from experianced LCO's.

    I do feel that the comments on here are so very true. After 5 years I think 1 out of 10 is all that is still in the business. I also agree that being a success is up to the individual. If someone has 20 customers and they are happy there then they are a success. For me Lawn Care being my income then I am happy at 200 customers, but I am always willing to grow. Also to supliment my Lawn Service does Landscaping, tractor work, tree removal, and most anything that goes on in a lawn.

    Also I got a message so I answered it directly, and I thought I would throw the same info on here also. The question was what did I buy?

    A 2006 Snapper Pro Hydro walk-behind 17 hp with 52" cut - $1000.00 in really awesome shape
    A Frontier 60" rear discharge finish mower used very little - $400.00
    Stihl BG 85 hand held blower that looks brand new - $40.00

    All items from different owners. The fellow who had the Snapper also had a 2006 Wright Stander for $3000.00 with 211 hours on it. Check with CBT he may still have it.

    Good Luck to you all.
     
  9. Poncho25

    Poncho25 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 369

    I agree with what everyone here said, even though I fall into the area of the 1% of failure I unlike alot of people who start out, realize this and use that as my ammo to not be in that 1%. Being my 1st year into it, I am very pleased with my turn out this year, and have already started my plan for next, I am not one of the guys who gives up if I don't reach my goals, but I would look at why I didn't reach them, ask people what they would have done differently and so on. This site by far has helped me 100%!! Thanks for the good post, its nice to see these!
     
  10. garth1967

    garth1967 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 640

    good post poncho .never fall in that attitude,gee i think i have made it.im sure the guys on here that have been doing this for have been doing for a while for that reason.they sit down and scrutinize everything they do and ask themselves questions
     

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