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Long, Serious Post - Please Help

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Regular Joe, Feb 28, 2007.

  1. Regular Joe

    Regular Joe LawnSite Member
    Posts: 48

    I have been monitoring this site for about 6 years, but have not posted, just read. I would like to tell everyone how great I believe this site is. I am in a period in life where I desperately need some personal questions answered, and business has been a learning experience like I never imagined. I will give my story, and then I will ask my questions. I apologize for the long post in advance...

    I am 30 years old, from a smaller town in the Carolinas. I am married (almost six years) and have a 4-year-old little girl. I have an associate’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and an Associates degree in Engineering Graphics. I was an engineer for approx. 6 years out of technical college, and I have worked in retail, high-end sales, machine design, tool and die, and have general knowledge in a variety of smaller fields.

    Working in the design/eng. fields, I started hating the corporate world, the politics, the day-to-day BS. I went to a smaller company and found it to be similar in more ways than you would believe, so I went into sales because everyone around me says my personality lends itself to sales. People are supposedly drawn to me in an unusually trustworthy manner, although I am not sure why.
    I worked for a company that sold the movie theater rooms like you would see on Cribs. Big film screens, seating, upwards of $60,000 per room. It was fun, and I was a good salesman, making it to the top of 5 guys within 2 years in sales, and having no previous experience. Then the company changes to a retail environment, with retail hours, Saturdays, and my family was feeling the ripple of my unhappiness.

    Then, I like so many others on here, decided that I wanted to "be my own boss", and I was tired of working for someone else, making someone else all the profit. I decided to start a Landscaping business because I had side projects from friends, and others, and had interest in landscaping since I was 15. I had the mentality that as long as I could make as good of a living as I was making at all the other BS jobs, and I could call my own shots, I would be happy...I do not have to tell some of you where this is going, but for others, I will finish.

    I am about to turn 31 years old, and I made a decision that I need to evaluate some things about my business before I spend more time than I need to do the wrong thing. Most importantly, I realized that my company is my "job" and not my "business". I have to be there almost 75% of the time, and that was not my intention. I decided to start educating myself more on money and business, and less on how to install irrigation. The results have floored me. Over the last six months (winter is really slow here) I have read several books that have totally changed my viewpoint on life itself, both in business, and in my personal life. I have recommended these books to every single person in my life that I care for, because of the impact they have had on me. The list of books for your reference is:

    How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie (Author)
    Rich Dad Poor Dad Robert T. Kiyosaki (Author)
    Why We Want You to be Rich: Two Men - One Message by Donald J. Trump (Author), Robert T. Kiyosaki (Author)
    Seven Secrets of Great Entrepreneurial Masters: The GEM Power Formula For Lifelong Success by Allen E. Fishman (Author)
    Guerrilla Marketing: Secrets for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business (Guerrilla Marketing) (Paperback) by Jay Conrad Levinson (Author)

    This brings me to the questions that I have from the Business side of my dilemma. I feel like the first thing I need to do is evaluate some sort of statistics on my area. Populations, incomes, spending, habits, etc. to get a better feel for my market. How do I find out all I can about the population and market in my area? How do I know how to measure what my business could actually make, if I do not know how much is out there being spent right now on landscaping?
    Problem number 2...My market. How can I truly measure what my profit margins on installations are so I know what kind of jobs I should try to get. I think there is more money working with builders on new construction installs, with higher profit margins on plants, mulch, irrigation, plus less traveling because you are at one job site the majority of the week. We can successfully complete irrigation, 100 shrubs, few trees, 30 yds. mulch, 9000 ft. of sod in a 5-day work week (5 guys during season). That is pretty much a house a week (if we had that much business). Grass is a lot of loading and unloading, and the crew's labor really raises the cost per hour of the grass cutting side of the business.
    I am aware that I have not really given any specifics on my business, but I am trying to get some of the clutter out of my head onto paper. For reference, last year was year #2 and the company had roughly $110,000 Total Gross, $65,000 GP, and $20,000 net. I am not even sure how to tell if this is good for a second year business.
    I took no salary all year, as my wife has taken on the financial responsibility of our normal lives so that I might find us a better life one day through business ventures down the road. She's wonderful to me, and I have had a horrible time emotionally with the winter months. The fact is that I have been working to pay my way since I was 14, and now I feel guilty because my wife is "keeping me up". I often wonder if the Landscaping business is ever going to provide a decent income for my family.
    We have made the decision to take our future into our own hands. We know that the luxuries all of our friends are enjoying now, are not an option for us until we get some passive income coming in from investments. The plan has shifted, and now any income generated by the company will be invested in some sort, real estate, IRA, or other business ventures that have a low start up, high profitability.
    I feel like the "big picture potential" of my business ventures has been limited. Maybe I will change my company to a non-profit organization that is involved in Global Warming efforts somehow. Maybe I will have to use the investments and Landscaping is a stepping-stone. I am constantly looking for LEVERAGE. I am going to be successful in business, but I am not too proud to know that it will take a strong support group of people to get me where I want to be. I need to continue learning, and asking people who know is the best way to do this.
    I am asking for ANY and all advice (please keep it serious) that you guys can offer me, business related, other business ideas from your area, researching methods, marketing ideas, tax advice, etc. Does anyone recommend using a business planning/consulting group, or growing large scale vs. staying smaller. Also anyone going through the entrepreneurial struggles of trying to be successful, please advise me on the lessons that you have learned so that I can achieve my goals. I will gladly answer any and all questions you all have if I can be of service to you in any way. I also am sure you will have questions because this post has been all over the place. I apologize again for the length and boring details. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR TIME.
  2. mattfromNY

    mattfromNY LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,581

    Wow! That post hit home! Too many similarities! last year was only my first year, but I have a wife of 5 yrs supporting the family until things are running, 4 yr. old daughter, the whole college education (Agriculture school), working in a dead end job, then going to sales and doing well but not enjoying it, starting the business and wondering when things will come around!!
    I've been reading as much as I can also, but I've sat down and first Written a business plan, starting with the first year, then 5 yr., then 10 yr.- thats as far as I've gone so far. Then I created budgets based on solo with 40 lawns (thats what I mowed last yr.), solo with 60 lawns, then made budgets with myself and employee mowing 40, 60, 80, 100 lawns.
    Its a pretty grim picture, at least for the next yr. or two, but as long as I am as accurate as possible, then monitor my progress, and make adjustments accordingly, I think I can do it. Give yourself a short term goal to work toward, then when you hit it, you feel good. Work toward the next goal with just as much desire as the last, and so on.
    I was able to find out a lot of info. on my county's website as far as statistics, population, spending habits, age breakdowns, how many own homes, rent , How many are employed per household, etc.
    I know I'm not the veteran LCO you were looking to hear from, but man, I saw too many similarities in your post, and hopefully this will help a little.
  3. Regular Joe

    Regular Joe LawnSite Member
    Posts: 48

    I am not looking for a specific response, and yours was great to hear. I cannot stress enough the literature I mentioned. The "Seven Secrets of Great Entrepreneurial Masters: The GEM Power Formula For Lifelong Success" by Allen E. Fishman (Author) book is an awesome book on setting goals and action plans and strategies to achieve the goals. I definately recommend it to you if you are just starting out in self employement of any kind.
  4. mattfromNY

    mattfromNY LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,581

    Another would be 'the E myth'. I read it before starting and didnt really follow a lot of it, now I'm reading it again, and I'm floored by how accurate it is.
  5. Regular Joe

    Regular Joe LawnSite Member
    Posts: 48

    a quiet group. I know I have no credibility becasue I only have a few posts, but I feel as if I have been a part of this group for a while, so I will try and validate why you should offer me your time. Please let me know what you need to know from me to feel comfortable talking with me about these things which plague my life right now......help is all I ask for.
  6. Lawnworks

    Lawnworks LawnSite Fanatic
    from usa
    Posts: 5,407

    How many employees do you have? What kind of structure... # of crews? What are you concentrating on?... maintenance or landscaping? How much debt? What kind of advertising are you doing?

    I think the question of big vs. small co, is a personal decision. I think you can be successful either way. I am leaning toward staying small... 600k-800k, and really concentrating on the profit margins, excellent clientel, and doing the landscaping I want to do. For me I want to have the least amount of stress possible, but excellent profits. I guess if you manage correctly and delegate the workload and supervision correctly, you could do millions w/o the stress... I just haven't figured it out yet... or don't have the guts to go in that direction.

    It seems like Rock Hill is a great place to be... from the few times I have been there. Looks like it is growing and the market man hour rate from what I hear is pretty good.

    I just read "The Wealthy Barber"... it is has some sound personal financial advice. I also like Dave Ramsey's books on finance. I have also heard good things about guerilla marketing... prob next book I will read.
  7. Regular Joe

    Regular Joe LawnSite Member
    Posts: 48

    I will definately check out the books.

    My company is as follows:

    DEBT - $13,500
    Loan to buy Trailer and equipment

    ADVERTISING - $4000-$5000 /yr
    in the local yellow pages mostly, and local newspaper. Flyers were tried, but I had a low response rate, and I can touch more people with less money in our paper, so I figured being in front of more peopole would gain me some visual brand name trust eventually.

    CREWS- I had one crew of up to 5 guys (6 with me).

    CONCENTRATION- We have 2 accounts with clients that pay on the monthly. Both accounts equal around $1000.00 total. This is enough to pay all my monthly debt MINUS the labor (because right now I have one part timer only). Labor is only needed in the season, and then there is all kinds of other work that the crew does which, in essence, generates enough to pay for themselves. We do work with homebuilders on new instals as I mentioned before, and I would agree with your preference.

    Ithink this is also my preference. The question is, how do you get enough business to justifying have crews, and paying out all the labor and workers comp., and still make enough money to call it "worth it". I feel like I could hire good people, pay pretty good, and get away from it being my "JOB" and focus it into a "business" by focusing on creative business ideas, but I find it hard to market to the large commercial grass cutting accounts (less travel time), and home builders who are always putting out fires and needing it yesterday.

    Thanks for the responses so far guys, I am not the kind to let the fall on deaf ears.
  8. toac

    toac LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 350

    best book i've ever read! highly recommended
  9. Lawnworks

    Lawnworks LawnSite Fanatic
    from usa
    Posts: 5,407

    What is your phone number? I would love to call you and we can share some ideas.
  10. Regular Joe

    Regular Joe LawnSite Member
    Posts: 48


    I will be available at about 2:00 et to talk if you can do it that early. If not, please leave me a vm and I will call you back on my dime.
    Thanks alot, and the number is open to anyone else who would like to talk.


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