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Looking for your expert advice on start up

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Big Money, Sep 30, 2011.

  1. Big Money

    Big Money LawnSite Member
    Posts: 15

    I am in the process of researching what would be needed to start a part time lawn-care business and is my approach on the right path?

    Personal Info
    I live very close to Hershey PA with my wife and three daughters ranging in age from 13 to 18 years old, with my oldest in her first year of college.
    I've worked for my employer, (Large company) for over 25 years and have a very good job with perks (company car, expense acct, home office...) that also allows me some flexibility in my weekly schedule. I make a very good living (should gross close to a 100k this year) but lately, the stress of the job and working someone else is starting to wear on me. I know I am very lucky to have such a great job and I do appreciate it, and I'm not looking to leave it anytime soon. This would be the reason the business would be part time.

    Start up Plan
    I currently have start up capital of around 10k. With this I would purchase a used truck for no more than $2500 and a trailer for no more than $1500. (They are out there, I've been researching them) I would then purchase a used 48" to 52"zero turn, small push mower, good trimmer and good blower for $4000. I would use approximately $500 - $1000 for additional start up costs (phone, storage, advertisement) and bank the rest (Approximately $1000) for unforeseen expenses.

    Business Goals
    1) Secure 12-14 residential customers and 0-2 small commercial customers. Starting out, I do not want anymore than 14 customers per week. I would hope to cut between 4-6 on two week days/evenings and finish the rest on weekend.
    2) Target specific areas of town with flyer handout. Estimating between 200-300 flyers required for a 2-3% call back (between 60-90) hopefully landing the preferred 14 customers
    3) Get top dollar customers. Currently large landscaping companies are charging a minimum of $38.00 per yard, my goal would be minimum of $40.00 for that same yard. I know this can be tough with the economy the way it is, and being new with no name recognition in the business, but I truly believe that if Im only looking for that small amount of customers, I should be able to pick and choose my customers.
    4)Grow 20%-40% (3-6 customers) per year and add help as needed.
    5) Develop relationship and customer loyalty by providing 100% customer satisfaction.
    6) Take portion of profit for new equipment and repaying initial investment. I full expect not to make much money if any the first and second year of operations.
    7) Determine if this is a business that can be grown into something in 5-8 years and if this is for me.

    I know this is not an easy profession and being 48 I am getting into it late in the game. However, if this is something that can grow, I would hope to be off the mower by 55 and managing the business while growing it.
    If it is determine after the first year that this is not for me, I would sell my equipment for what I could and any loss chalk up to a life experience. I have no problem losing all of my investment if that should happen. I've put this money aside for the opportunity to try something different.

    I apologize for the long message, but as you can tell I've put a lot of thought into this and will continue to as I don't expect to start the business until next spring. (Will be looking to purchase my equipment through the winter)

    My question is, am I missing anything in my game plan. Is it just a pipe dream and I have no idea what I'm getting myself into? This is not something I just picked randomly. In my early 20's I worked for a landscaping business and enjoyed the work.
    Am I on target for the equipment I am looking to purchase for the services I plan to offer. (Mowing, trimming, blowing, light clean up)

    Again, trust me I do get it, I know I am extremely lucky to have such a good job as I do, and I do not see myself going anywhere for quite awhile.
    However, with my oldest in college and another one on her way in two years, any additional income is welcomed.

    I look forward to reading your expert advice!
  2. iMow2010

    iMow2010 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 11

    Being in my first year of business I may offer to point out a few things I noticed.

    1.) You may want to consider investing a little more in a truck. Yes, there are $2500 trucks out there, but you would be hard pressed to have that truck last you more than 1 season without having to sink some money into it. A good reliable truck will benefit you in the future with much less downtime. Especially if it is going to be a part time business, there are going to be some weeks where it will be difficult for you to service your accounts due to weather, let alone if you truck is broken down.

    2.) Your expected return calls on flyers is high. You may get 2-3%, but that only adds up to 6-9 calls not 60-90. In my experience, 1% is more likely. I would explore your other options such as local newspapers you can run an add in, placemat ads, etc. I would also consider budgeting for company shirts and such. Purchases like this will definetely help establish your company image.

    3.) We are approaching the best time of year to get good deals on equipment. There are less options as we approach winter, but if you keep an eye out on craigslist, ebay, etc. you will undoubtdly be able to snag a nice piece of equipment at a good price.

    4.) With that being said, I am assuming you have little to no experience operating a zero turn. If you are looking to charge a premium for your services, you will have to be certain you can provide premium quality. Without any seat time on a ztr, this will be difficult to do. There are too many guys who do not recognize the art in cutting a lawn. I'm not saying this is you, but you will have to be able to lay down a very nice cut if you expect to be able to gain the premium customers, especially being a new business.

    Other than that, you are off to a very good start. Keep reading the forums on here as they provide excellent information and learn as much as possible. Keep the questions coming too, as it helps others as well who may have the same questions. Hope i could provide some helpful information. Best of luck to you.
  3. Big Money

    Big Money LawnSite Member
    Posts: 15

    thank you very much for your response, I really appreciate the information.
    Great points on all and will definitely take all into consideration!
  4. sealcutter

    sealcutter LawnSite Senior Member
    from PA.
    Posts: 256

    Takes money to make money....

    I agree that a Z is harder than you think. How big is your property, can you practice on it? You might want to consider a used Belt WB unit before you jump into a Z. Allot of used stuff out there take your time and look for the deals. I do this full time for 7 months and back inside for the winter months, I have operated that way for about 10 years now. I have just recently joined this site and I am pleased with how professional most of the senior guy's act on here with very good advice. I would spend the rest of this winter researching and getting you name out there so people know your intentions next year.

    I do hold a Bulk mail permit and it works when timed and targeted right. Go talk to the post master they will go over all the details with you, my first shot ended up with 2 calls. Not to far from you, we went to Hershey a few weeks ago.

    Good luck with that:)
  5. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 16,985

    Well if you making 100k why dont you take up golf or get a girlfriend it will likley be cheeper and mor fun than lawncare.

    Lawncare is my passion but this business is super expensive to operate and super cometitave.
  6. Big Money

    Big Money LawnSite Member
    Posts: 15

    that's for the info!
    Sounds like you're in the Hershey area. If you don't mind, I may reach out to you in the near future for additional advice as I move along starting up the business.

    Thanks again
  7. Big Money

    Big Money LawnSite Member
    Posts: 15

    I play golf now, (not well) and my wife wouldn't care to much for the girlfriend!
    Call it mid life crisis but I'm going to give this a try! Part Time anyway.
  8. GMLC

    GMLC LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,353

    Nice beginings of a business plan you have there. Most fail to have any such vision. I think you can accomplish your goals! I would also suggest as much networking as possible. Its free! Get active in your community, attend professional events and reach out to everyone you know. You will be turning away work before you know it!
    Posted via Mobile Device
  9. Big Money

    Big Money LawnSite Member
    Posts: 15

    thanks for the words of confidence!
    Actually working on the networking now and hopefully see some benefit in the spring when the I hope to go "live" with the business.
  10. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 16,985

    Well if the wife wont share lol.....
    Im 46 I started 4 years ago worked part time 18 months, this is my second lawacare business and I hope to be in business till I die.

    I bought a bunch of used (slightly in most cases) at very low prices, should I have too sell out I would make money on thet part of the deal. Seek out good deals on good equiptment and you wont loose on that end.

    I do mainley "highend" accounts similar to what your seeking. That market is very difficult to penetrate. They already have a feller that does great work and are loyal to him. I got most of mine from being reffered from our local nursery who a close friend and his sister manage. Should realestate start selling and buliding start back its eaiser to get a foot inthe door so to speak.

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