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Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Houston Wyatt, Jul 24, 2010.

  1. Houston Wyatt

    Houston Wyatt LawnSite Member
    Posts: 49

    Hi all. I've been reading these forums for the past month or so but just decided to register bout a week ago.This place is pretty cool. Just thought I'd introduce myself. I'm 19, live with parents and currently in college going full time for my associates in business. I've saved up a bit of money. I don't have a legit job right now. I'm in the process of finishing up my entry stuff for the Memphis Police Department, but it's taking forever. Currently, please hold your laughs lol, but I sell produce such as watermelons, tomatoes, cantaloupe, etc. on the side of the street, believe it or not it does bring in a little money, enough to keep gas in the truck, pay a couple bills, and give me some spending money on the weekends.

    I've never done extreme lawn care, for the past 5 years I've really just cut my grandpas 5 acres and my parents half acre. But I'm really into starting a lawn company next spring. My grandpa owns a new Cub Cadet RZT 42" that he will be letting me use for no cost. And I have a Honda 21" push mower. Nothing big. I've got about a 6' open trailer. I also have no truck. I've been driving my dads Titan but I can't continue to use it so I have to look for something. I'm trying to keep overhead to a minimum, I hate payments more than anything. I need to pick up a blower and edger, if anyone has any recommendations. And also, if i were to buy an older model truck (90s), what do customers think? Do they care, or do some customers view driving a 1994 Chevy differently as in less professional or less successful than the guy in the 2010 Ford? Because I see a lot of newer trucks doing lawn services but I also see older models.
    Thanks, any advice on anything would help.
  2. MowHouston

    MowHouston LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,012

    Welcome to the forums.

    At first when you said you don't have a legit income, I was about to ask you how much a dimebag was. But I don't guess that is in your produce mix :D Just kidding.

    It seems like your main concern right now is the truck and whether or not the appearance of it would scare customers away.

    You gotta do, what you gotta do. If you look hard enough, you'll find all sorts of pictures online of people hauling around mowers in beater uppers, 5x8 trailers pulled by a 1990 honda civic, and even just hauling their equipment around in their trunk.

    I know a guy in Houston who has about 300 accounts now. I met him while servicing a lawn and she shot the breeze for a bit. He started out in an old Honda Accord. Yep. Lawn mower in the trunk, trimmer and blower in the back seat. When I met him he was running commercial walk behinds and dropping his employees off through out neighborhoods to take care of all of his customers.

    So anything can happen, and like I said, you've gotta do what you've gotta do. Customers generally do not care.
  3. mowerbrad

    mowerbrad LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,273

    Everyone starts somewhere, that "somewhere" is different for everyone.

    As far as the truck goes, all you need is something that does the job. I think it is important to have a truck that looks nice (clean), but it doesn't have to be new. I drive a 1998 GMC currently and I've seen plenty of people who have just as old of trucks as I do, if not older sometimes. New trucks are nice, but not a necessity. Just make sure it is clean, I think cleanliness is very important when doing any type of business.

    Just a word of caution, be very careful when using your grandpa's cub cadet, that model is designed for residential use, not commercial use. So make sure you do all the maintenance on it regularly, otherwise you will most likely destroy that mower. Make sure to keep the oil changed, air filter clean, everything greased and everything well taken care of....those things will at least help to make it last as long as it can.

    A blower and string trimmer are the only things you will need. You don't need an edger when you are just starting out, especially when you have limited funds. You can get a good trimmer and blower from pretty much any name brand company (ie, STIHL, echo, shindaiwa, redmax, tanaka, etc). I personally suggest stihl, I've had very good experiences with all their equipment. You can probably buy yourself a small trimmer from them as well as a handheld blower. Between those two things, that will run you near $400 total.

    You just have to do quality work and invest in equipment wisely. If you can, go to one dealer for all your equipment needs...it can be very helpful to have a dealer that will lend you a hand when you are just starting out. So try and build a good relationship between you and your dealer....it doesn't always workout as you will find that some lie to you to get you to buy things, but for the most part you should try and find a good dealer to work with.

    Best of luck to you.
  4. garden.nanny

    garden.nanny LawnSite Member
    Posts: 29

    You sound like you have a good head on your shoulders for a 19 year old! Good luck to you!

    And as far as the truck thing - don't go in over your head - If I saw a young man working hard with an older model truck I would think he is a smartt guy. You might even get some extra tips out of it!! Don't worry what other people think - the shiny new trucks you see are probably guys that have been busting their rumps for a while. I agree with the other posters - only buy what you need.
  5. Houston Wyatt

    Houston Wyatt LawnSite Member
    Posts: 49

    Thanks guys. I won't be using his long, just until I can purchase my own. What kind of dealers would you recommend? We really don't have say Toro dealers or anything like that, we have Tractor Supplies and Northern Equipments. I think the only real sole manufacturer dealers we have here is John Deere.

    Yeah I'm probably going to end up buying my dads 95 single cab v8 Chevy 1500, its real clean. Hes a auto painter for Nissan and he just got through painting it silver.

    When I really get ready to start, which will be next year, I'm going to be doing hopefully 10,000 doorhangers and hope for an outcome. Advice?
  6. mowerbrad

    mowerbrad LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,273

    You are from the Memphis area, right? If you are, then you have multiple dealers to choose from, snapper pro, exmark, scag, ferris, etc. Go to some of the lawn mower websites and check and see where the nearest dealer is to you. But through my quick search I did find dealers for the ones I mentioned...I guarantee there are many other brand dealers out there in your area.

    I don't think you'll be able to afford anything new, but some of those dealers may have some used commercial walk behind mowers that would be in your price range when it comes time. Try to stick with independant equipment dealers, not the TSC type stores.

    The truck sounds perfect for you.

    Doorhangers are expensive, especially if you are just starting out. You might be able to find some good deals, but no matter what, they are pricey. The other option is to do flyers, they are more reasonably priced when you have a limited budget. At any rate, target the neighborhoods/areas you would like to work in. Try and keep the area small so your drive time isn't too excessive. You can expect to get 1-3% response from your advertising. And of those who do call you, expect to actually service a fraction of them. So if 125 people end up calling you back after passing out 10,000 doorhangers, you may only get 20-30 jobs out of those people....you may only get 5 jobs too....there is no set number.

    Good Luck!
  7. Houston Wyatt

    Houston Wyatt LawnSite Member
    Posts: 49

    Oh, wow, I guess I just didn't search hard enough. Thanks, I'll look into that.
    Ya on the doorhangers, I realize, by reading this forums, some get hundreds of people from them and then others it was a total waste of money. My goal for my first year is 20-25 weekly customers. It maybe high, it maybe low, but that is my goal. And I've already got two (my grandparents, and parents lol).

    One last thing, I've heard and read that it's better to use walkbehinds than zero turns because the zero turns weigh so much. Which are better all around and why?
  8. mowerbrad

    mowerbrad LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,273

    I think 20 accounts is a fairly do-able number. The one problem that you may run into is that you are not a reputable company that has been around for years. Just act as professional as you can and be confident. Try not to "low-ball" a price. A good number to shoot for is $60 an hour for mowing...you may not be able to get that, even some guys on here can't always get that especially in this economy....so you may have to shoot for $50 an hour for mowing. But for you to charge $15 to mow a lawn will only cause you to loose money. You may want to set a minimum charge of $25...or whatever you deam necessary.

    Also, you will want to look into getting some liability insurance. You should be able to get some for about $500 a year and that will give you $1million in protection. This will cover you incase you injury someone near by, break a window, etc. You will really want to have this just incase something happens. Its a small price to pay to cover yourself.

    Look into good billing software too. I use quickbooks, which is pretty user friendly and can usually be found for $100 onsale. It will make your billing much easier and help you keep track of everything.

    Also talk with an accountant. It may do you good to file a DBA (doing business as) or even an LLC. It also will be good to set up a business bank account...keeps all money brought in by your business separate from your personal funds. It will really make things easy for you.

    Between filing for an LLC, getting insurance and getting some billing software...that should cost $1000, no more than that though.

    The question of whether to use a zero turn or a walk behind is one that should be dictated by the properties you service or target. If you want to service properties that are 2+ acres, then a zero turn (ztr) will be your best choice. But, if you want to service all 1/4 acre properties, then a walkbehind (wb) would be the best choice.

    I have accounts ranging from 1/4 acre to 1 acre and use a ztr and have been using a ztr for the past 4 years. But my main reason for running the ztr is to have the large bagging system on it for when I bag and especially when I do the leaf clean ups.

    The advantage of a ztr is the ability to have the large bagging systems, the larger decks, faster ground/cutting speeds and less fatigueing operation. However the downside is that they do weigh alot. My John Deere weighs in at 1400lbs stock....with my bagging system on, it will tip the scale at roughly 1850lbs...add the wieght of the operator, gas in the tank and grass in the bags, I am then well over 2100lbs.

    Walkbehinds are nice for smaller lawns or areas that are awkward shaped or sized. They weigh a fraction of what a ztr would weigh, well under 1000lbs...typically around 750-800lbs for a mid sized unit. They are great on hills, take up less space on the trailer and use less fuel.

    If you get 25 accounts you should have no problem bringing in $600+ each week (gross). So your first couple months will just be paying off your initial investment. After 2-3 months you should then start to see some nice profit coming in.

    I'll guess that you will spend about $1000 for the insurance and business expenses, $3000 for a used commercial walkbehind, $500 for trimmer and blower....so maybe $5000 in total to start your business. You should take in that amount in about 10 weeks....after that, you'll be seeing some good profit....you'll just need to pay for gas and repairs.
  9. Houston Wyatt

    Houston Wyatt LawnSite Member
    Posts: 49

    Yeah I'm definitely going to be doing everything by the books with the insurance and taxes and so forth.

    But I'm also going to have an actual job, I got the police department going and an interview at a Harley Davidson dealership nearby in a couple days, and do this lawn service part time until it really takes off and I'm making more than my job so I will have the funds to fall back on just in case this doesn't work as planned.

    But thanks for all the help Brad, I found this place about a month ago and it looks to be pretty good.
  10. mowerbrad

    mowerbrad LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,273

    Good luck to you.

    LawnSite is a great tool to have...you may get some people who are less than helpful, but don't be detoured by them. There are a number of great people on here who will help you out greatly.

    Sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders and will have all your ducks in a row when you start.

    If you need anything, don't hesitate to PM (private message) me on here once you are able to (10 posts and 10 days). I am always willing to help out.

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