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How to fail in the lawn business by someone who did it.

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by PROCUT1, Feb 18, 2009.

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  1. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Posts: 4,909

    Just like many didnt believe a few months ago that the economy was crashing, many wont believe this story.

    They will think they know better.
     
  2. lawnprosteveo

    lawnprosteveo LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tulsa
    Posts: 1,930

    Thanks for that post ProCut. This is a topic Ive wrestled with for awhile. I opted to stay small and only run equipment I could pay cash for. Keep my route extremely tight and only take on yards that fit my "niche".

    Once I did this, I immediately noticed greater profits. Not higher gross....but higher profits. I got more pennies out of each dollar I made. So when a customer died, moved, or got fired...it didnt affect me. They were easily replaced.

    I began enjoying the job SOO much more once I went this route. Solo has ALOT of advantages. And now this summer my son will be old enough to help...but I still consider this solo or small..

    Every once in awhile I get the itch to chase the big accounts, buy nice equipment, hire help and so on. But when I crunch the numbers, it just doesnt seem worth it to me.

    So thanks again for confirming what I was pretty sure I knew already. Its great advice.
     
  3. ALLPro Landscaping

    ALLPro Landscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 813

    I think you are absolutely correct pro cut, The successful business owners are the small ones. My philosophy is why get big when I can make more money staying small. More customers = more equipment and more equipment = more over head, all this comes to more debt. And sorry to here about your business.
     
  4. one man gang

    one man gang LawnSite Fanatic
    from N. In.
    Posts: 5,811

    Excellent thread, thanks Procut.
     
  5. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Posts: 4,909

    Thank you

    Fortunately my new business is going great. Im still digging out of some leftover crap from the lawn business but I have learned the hard lessons and wont repeat them.

    I chose a business and a client type that has limited competition.

    Unlike the lawn business, qualifications, ability, and references play a much bigger role than they did cutting grass. Price still matters, but on this level you are dealing with a more level playing field.

    A guy with a bucket of sealer and a brush wont be competing with me.

    Its other companies that have similar overhead, similar payroll, similar material costs, and similar reputations.

    In the lawn business, the same condo complex accepts bids from Brickman, Trugreen, the 3 truck operation, and johns lawncare and roofing.

    You still have your lowballers, you still have price shoppers, but not as much.

    I decided i was going to go into this business big from the start. I immediately specialized in large commercial work that very few competitors are equipped to handle.

    I do very very little homeowner work, because, like the lawn business, I didnt want to compete with every guy that has a can of sealer and a roller.

    Its just as much work to sell a commercial property on a $50,000 job, as it is convincing mrs jones that paying you $150 to seal her driveway is better than the handyman for $100.

    The last thing I wanted was another low margin, volume business.
     
  6. lawnguyland

    lawnguyland LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,108

    It's all true- I've been back at being solo now for years after having a few friends working for me. For me it's solo you have to go big- and I don't have the personality to deal with employee BS so it's I'm Hans Solo.

    Soooooo much easier.
     
  7. lawnguyland

    lawnguyland LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,108

    It's all true- I've been back at being solo now for years after having a few friends working for me. For me it's solo you have to go big- and I don't have the personality to deal with employee BS so it's I'm Hans Solo.

    Soooooo much easier. Except all the work!
     
  8. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Posts: 4,909

    Thats true...sometimes.

    There is no common rule to it.

    Walmart sells cheap stuff....They are the "lowballers" of retail. Theyre also the largest most profitable company in the industry.

    You have guys that are successful and make a great living staying small.

    you also have guys who are successful and make a great living and run a large operation.

    In the sealcoating business I grew very fast and Im the largest operation in my area.

    The difference is that I learned the dangers from the lawn business.

    I could make a nice living sealing residential driveways with a helper.

    I make a nice living now with my average project being over $20,000.

    I was the operation that all the lawn guys drooled over. Had the new shiny trucks and trailers. Had gangs of uniformed workers. Commercial accounts...Equipment up the wazoo.

    I was the guy everyone wanted to be. Little did they know it was all fake. And i followed the model of another guy, who I wanted to be. hes out of business now too from having 7 crews on the road.

    In the business Im in now. I am somewhat at that status. I do the big jobs. I have the fleet of trucks. I have the gangs of employees and equipment.

    But it took me failing miserably to get to here.

    And its still not easy. If i had done things right all along and I was better prepared, I would be three times as far as I am now.

    Im still digging out of past mistakes. Money is still tight. Debt is still high.

    The important thing is that Im headed in the right direction. I learned from my failures and Im not going back there.

    Im still not as successful as I make myself sound or I look on the street. But without a doubt, Im headed there.

    Falling on my face was the best thing that ever happened to me.

    The business world will eat you alive and you will never see it coming.
     
  9. mngrassguy

    mngrassguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,167

    Sounds a lot like my story. I saw the writing on the wall after only a few years. 15 years later, I'm still digging myself out of the hole. Now I'm solo and happy.
     
  10. justanotherlawnguy

    justanotherlawnguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,245

    Nice post Procut.

    I fly solo for the most part (about 99% of the time). I am, however, a big solo op. I have my core group of lawn customers that provide my base sales, then I have a ton of customers that I work for on call, they call when they need something, mostly jobs that only need to be done a couple of times a year.

    My enclosed trailer has no lawn signage on it at all, the only thing I have on it is a sprinkler repair ad on the back of it. I do get a few jobs here and there from that.

    I also do a great deal of palm tree trimming, that is the bread and butter part of my op.

    I stay super busy, almost too busy for me to handle, usually running a week or so behind during peak season, almost to the point of needing regular help, almost to the point of losing business. That I dont mind so much cause I have projects stacking up anyway.

    I have found it is that "almost" point that gets a lot of guys in trouble, thinking that bigger is better. Friends/Family are always saying to just hire a couple of guys to do the work for me, and I wont for fear of exactly what you posted. The way you explained it is almost exactly how I figure it goes.

    I would rather stay a moster solo op then a struggling, on the way out mid size LCO.

    that is my $0.02.......
     
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