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Hope For Companies Just Starting Out

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by JimLewis, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,839

    So I've told this story a few times over the years here on Lawnsite. But it's been a long while since I told it. I was sharing the story with someone here in a PM and I figured maybe it was about time to share it again. The membership here has mostly changed over the past 5 years so I would bet most Lawnsite members here haven't ever seen this story before. I'm hoping maybe it will inspire some of the smaller companies just starting out.

    I started my company 16 years ago. I was totally broke. And had been for years. Always living paycheck to paycheck - like many Americans. I started with about $1000.00 available on one credit card. With that, I purchased a used $50 MTD 21" mower with a B&S engine, a stick edger, some big black garbage bags (to throw grass clippings into) an ad in the paper, and a $50 old rusty truck bed trailer that I got off a farm out in the country. The main color of the trailer was rust. But you could still see some of the original yellow and brown. It was a beauty, let me tell you! The only vehicle I owned was my baby - a 1980 metallic blue Camaro. I installed a towing package on the back of this Camaro and pulled that ugly trailer around with my crappy equipment. And that was my set up. I didn't even have a blower. I just used the broom from our apartment to sweep off people's sidewalks and driveways when I was finished mowing.

    So here I was driving this "classic" Camaro down the road towing this ugly trailer. Because the camaro sat so low, the butt end of the trailer sat really high up in the air. I didn't know that they made receivers that went up and could adjust the height of your ball. So I just had a straight receiver and ball and the trailer always sat at this funky angle. To add insult to injury, the trailer squeaked really loud! With every rotation of the axle you'd hear this really loud "squeek...squeek....squeek" as I drove down the road next to you.

    I would give anything for a photo of that setup. But I don't have any. I created a mock up of what my set-up looked like on Photoshop. (see photo below).

    I drove around in this set up for pretty much the entire first year in my business. In the winter, I was finally able to save up enough scratch to sell the Camaro and buy my first pickup.

    But one thing I remember vividly was coming to stop lights in the summer and another LCO or landscaper from one of the big companies in town was parked next to me at the light. You all know the drill....you see another landscaper.....look over at his setup... nod your head and maybe waive a little - just out of respect. Well, that's not what would happen to me. I got laughed at. Badly. I remember this one time I stopped at a light and these two Hispanic guys were in a big Isuzu truck or something. Really nice huge bug truck. Really nice trailer. all nice equipment. They worked for the biggest company in our town. And the driver didn't notice me at first. But then after 10 seconds he just sort of glanced over at me and then glanced back at the set-up I was towing behind me. Right then he instantly started belly-laughing. He poked the passenger as to say, "Ha! Check this fool out!" And then they were both just cackling laughing at me and my set up. I just sort of smiled. It was pretty horrid looking, I knew that. I agreed with them. It was pathetic and it was funny. It didn't really offend me too much. I knew where I was but I also knew I didn't really have any other options - yet.

    But I had a dream. I said to myself, "That's right. Laugh it up guys. But you just wait. One day, I'm going to own one of the biggest lawn care and landscape operations in town and you're still going to be working for someone like me, making $10 an hour. Just give me a few years and we'll see if you're still laughing."

    Fast forward 16 years later. In many ways I've realized that dream. We're not the biggest gig in town. But we're one of just a handful of pretty good sized companies. We have 28 employees now and will have about 35 by the middle of this summer. We currently have 14 trucks on the road any given day and more coming this year. We have two nice big shops (one open, one enclosed). We did a little over $2Mil in sales last year, which ain't bad for a guy who started with literally nothing. Below is a photo of our open shop. This is just 5 out of 14 trucks we have in this photo. I haven't been able to really get a good photo of all our fleet yet.

    But we've come a long way from the young 24 year old kid who was riding around in a Camaro pulling a crappy trailer with crappy equipment.

    Point is; if you have a dream and work hard enough you can get there. Your dream may not be to have a big company like mine was. But whatever it is, hold on to that dream! Don't give up, even when it looks like giving up is the only option. You can accomplish your dream. It's just a matter of will.

    I hope this helps inspire a few people.


    Camaro & Trailer.jpg

    bradley_it likes this.
  2. KrayzKajun

    KrayzKajun LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,742

    Thanks Jim. You are a true inspiration.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  3. GMLC

    GMLC LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,353

    Thanks again for the great story. It keeps me going at it!!!
  4. 93Chevy

    93Chevy LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 37,805

    Thanks for sharing. I didn't want it badly enough...I sold my business a year ago, but I'm happier working for somebody else...for now. Who knows what the future will hold.
  5. 94gt331

    94gt331 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,695

    Thanks for sharing your story. I have a story like yours also, but your way a head of mine. It's cool to see over time how far you came with your buisness. When you where growing your buisiness was it allways steady growth or do you have years where you feel you really didn't grow or get any farther? And do you plan on growing any bigger? It would be nice to see more pepole try allittle harder in life because you can do anything you want to in life if you set a goal and work for it.
  6. Thanks, Jim. Great story. One thing I want to point out is that you have been in the game for 16 YEARS. This is what I think most people don't get. You have to be in this for the long haul.

    There is another guy on here; Az Gardener, whom I admire his business and what he does. He has been in this game a long time too.

    You have to put in the time, but I agree, if you have a dream, work hard, you can get wherever that "successful" place is to you.
  7. LindblomRJ

    LindblomRJ LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,570

    Jim, that is an awesome story. Amazing what hard work and a never give up mentality will get you.

    Many can learn from your business savvy. Many can learn from your technical knowledge. Excellent story.
  8. Richard Martin

    Richard Martin LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 14,700

    You sure this isn't a picture of Topsites?

  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,839

    I agree. A professional all the way. He's been a big help to me over the years as well. He helped me out with a huge landscape project we did in the Phoenix area a few years ago for a family friend. And we had the opportunity to have dinner together and spend some time after dinner together last year after the 2011 I.A. show there in Phoenix. I really love the way he runs things. Great guy.
  10. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,839

    It probably is. But unfortunately, I used to be pretty scrubby myself. So that's a pretty accurate description of what my set up looked like in 1996. The difference is that TopShites probably still has a set up like that to this day. :laugh:

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