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. Knight511

    Knight511 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 207

    I have been a part timer for 17 years. Started when I was 13 actually. I have always "dreamed" of making it my full time gig, but the risks are high and my "market" is pretty heavily saturated.

    I have not followed much advice on dumping money on equipment I don't need (I am not big enough to justify $5K on a mower and I know it). In fact... since I started, I have only bought "Crapsman" mowers (I have purchased only 3 in my 17 years... two of which currently sit on my trailer and are in use)... I learned pretty quick that burnout (reached one time while mowing 15 yards a week, working 48 hours on grave yard shift and pulling 15 hours of class my sophomore year in college) and problems come quicker than anyone can imagine, so I have limited my expenses and overhead as best as I can (only "employee" when she can help is my wife).

    I am the person everyone on this board seems to hate.

    Two seasons ago, I was paying for a wedding, so instead of buying a new vehicle or even a trailer, I was the "scrub" mowing out of the back of a 1991 Integra hatchback.... last season, I bought my house (right smack in the middle of all of my accounts), so again, money was limited but I was tired of loading a mower in my hatch, so I pushed it around. This season, I bought a trailer (still using my Integra though) and life is good.

    In 17 years of part time work:

    1. I have never had debt for my business.
    2. I have spent no more than $2500 on equipment.
    3. My main overhead is my time and gas.
    4. I have only lost 4 customers (I have dumped a few more than that for lack of payment).
    5. I have made friends with most "big shots" that mow in my area. I don't pursue theirs, they don't pursue mine.
    6. I have no delusions that I will ever be a big roller in landscaping.
    7. I still love mowing (I like the smell of fresh cut grass more than fresh kissed ass.)... I think about mowing while sitting in my office during "normal" business hours.
    8. I still smile every time I read a thread complaining about us scrubs.

    I have seen it many times written and advised on this forum over the 5-6 years I have been lurking... but when you are ready to make it a full time gig, draw up a business plan... evaluate it objectively... and STICK WITH IT! There is no shame in being a small fish in the sea with the storms come. My plan... stay small enough to still enjoy spending time behind the mower while being big enough to make it worth my time. :)

    And thank you for your story... this is the second time I have read it... I thought I would post some appreciation for it.
     
  2. TGG2008

    TGG2008 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 77


    Awesome example! Overpromising and underdelivering pisses people off more than being upfront and honest and turning something down. I really appreciate this thread, its really making me think.
     
  3. punt66

    punt66 LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 8,538

    yea, but a small fish working out of the trunk of your car after 17 years????????
     
  4. Knight511

    Knight511 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 207

    Small fish working out of the trunk for 1 year ;) Once I was 16 and could drive, I used my brother's pick up until he traded it in at the beginning of last year... :) so only 2 years of hardship while I got married and bought my house :) well worth the sacrifice :D I will say that my trailer (even at a small 4x6 size) has been an EXCELLENT purchase and I wish I would have done it sooner... but until I had my house, I had no where to store it :)

    EDIT: Why the hell does the WINKY eye smilie look like he just got punched in the nuts? ;)
     
  5. mbrew

    mbrew LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 491

    I enjoyed reading this and by and large one of the most constructive threads that I've read on this board. I wish there were more threads about calculating costs.
     
  6. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Posts: 4,909

    Heres another way of looking at it too. And this is what I would do.

    If I were that mulch yard. To make sure I kept the contractor as a customer..I would go myself to mulch yard #2 and get the mulch and bring it to the contractor.

    I wouldnt tell him I was doing that.

    I would rather make less money on the mulch this ONE time. And still ensure that the customer calls me first next time. Otherwise, If I tell him Im out of stock, another mulch yard has the opportunity to try to impress my customer into being their customer.

    Never intentionally allow a competitor to get the opportunity to meet your customer.

    I know for fact......If I were mulch yard #2. As soon as your customer showed up. I would make sure he left calling ME next time instead of YOU.
     
  7. abraham

    abraham LawnSite Member
    Posts: 78

    i started 9 mos ago.im by myself low overhead no debt close accts its not rocket science dont do drugs dont buy what you dont need save your money and look for other business oppurtunities
     
  8. lyube

    lyube LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,598

    Great thread.
     
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    I don't even have to try, I acquire a good half of my customers that way,
    they're disgruntled with the past Lco.

    Sometimes I do see why the last guy was doing whatever thou lol
    Like when I have to pick up 150 feet worth of rubber garden hose splayed all over the yard.
    Wrap it all up nice and decent.
    That POS is right back all over the dang yard the next time.

    But I'm guessing it's either that or spend 5 grand on advertising, either way it's going to cost.
    So, pick up the garden hose.
     
  10. whoopassonthebluegrass

    whoopassonthebluegrass LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,205

    If those are the only two options you perceive, you're REALLY limiting yourself. All you need to do is create the necessary incentive for them to do it, or compensate yourself for doing the work...

    That's as flawed as relegating yourself to picking up all the trash at a commercial account! That's a big fat "hellz no!" in my book. I do landscape maintenance, not sanitation engineering.
     
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