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New guy-Different story

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Harvey Mushman, Jul 6, 2005.

  1. Harvey Mushman

    Harvey Mushman LawnSite Member
    Posts: 10

    Hi everyone. I'm new here, but I've read quite a bit on both this site and the "other lawnsite". I'm interested in getting into property maintenance. My story is a bit different from the ones that I've read though. I'm 42,decent physical shape, married, 2 kids, and live on 50 acres in the Bristol Hills of upstate NY. I have been self employed for about 9 years in a one man industrial optics shop. I do NOT want to have employees in optics or in this business. The optics have been a good living. I work about 10 hours a week. As much as I would love the optics to grow to 30-40 hours a week, I don't see it happening. My kids (twins) are going to college this fall and I would like to put my time and machinery to work to help with the new bills.
    Here is what I already own for our personal use:
    2004 Bunton 52" ZTR
    2002 New Holland TC40D with bucket
    6' 3 pt. bush hog
    6' 3 pt.rototiller
    Chipmore 6 cylinder Ford powered tow behind chipper
    2 Stihl chainsaws (hardhat/safety glasses/ hearing protection too)
    Stihl stringtrimmer w/ polepruner/hedge trimmer/ chainsaw attachments
    Honda 21" walk behind
    21' open trailer
    3/4 ton Suburban
    6.5 HP pressure washer
    I am mechanically inclined and my wife and I have run our self started business successfully for almost a decade. The only piece of equipment that I think that I might need is a leaf blower. I really don't know where to start. I saw the ads for the $100 or $150 starter kits that have the flyers and such, but I kind of got the feeling of a 1/2 hour paid commercial on daytime TV from it.
    I am thinking in terms of some lawn mowing,bush hogging,tilling,chipping,pressurewashing,opening/closing camps and cottages. What I need is some expert advice on how to get moving on this.
  2. sheshovel

    sheshovel LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,112

    Just start telling everybody you know that you do this work then ask them to tell their freinds.Then you could start by putting up a flyer at the feed stores, hardwarestores and nursery,and stick an add in the paper,be sure to buy liability insurance and get a licence to conduct business in your county.Don't give prices over the phone tell you look at the work and go home to work up a price.Get names adresses and contact #'s of customers and keep them all together in a book of file.Show up and do what you say your gonna do when you say your gonna do it and have fun!
  3. Harvey Mushman

    Harvey Mushman LawnSite Member
    Posts: 10

    Thanks for the first response Sheshovel. There aren't too many people that I can personally tell here. I live in the woods without neighbors. There are a couple of nice lakes within 10 miles that have plenty of millionaires (and at least two billionaires) where I'm sure they have better things to do than property maintenance. I will follow the rest of your advice and start those balls rolling.
  4. Harvey Mushman

    Harvey Mushman LawnSite Member
    Posts: 10

    I tried to PM this but I'm too new here:
    Sheshovel, Thanks again for the reply. I looked at your profile and see you ride HDs in CA.- I've rented Harleys the last 2 years while attending optics conventions in SanJose. Last January my brother (who's never been to CA before) and I rented a couple and rode along Rt 1 and into the Ave of the Giants. Neither of us wanted to come back. Absolute paradise!
  5. genoaustin

    genoaustin LawnSite Member
    Posts: 33


    Ahh, Naples. I grew up thereabouts, on the way out to Honeoye. Frequently miss it, too.

    I would suggest that you do everything sheshovel said, in Spades. Also, since Naples is a small town (well, it was 3000 people back in 1980, at least) I would go door-to-door and introduce yourself and your business. And go up to the cemetaries, restaurants, and other places, and find out if they have a service, if they are under contract, and when they are open for new bids. And be ready.

    Alternatively, get a nice finish mower for your tractor, and offer field cutting and finish cutting for the larger properties. Or get involved with new property construction, if you have the landscaping experience. Rock walls, Stone patios, that kind of thing. Just be sure you have enough experience to do a great job.

  6. Harvey Mushman

    Harvey Mushman LawnSite Member
    Posts: 10

    I'm on top of the hill on the east side of the lake (2 miles south of Cummins Nature Center) I have plenty of experience in all kinds of landscaping. Unfortunately for me I was piss poor and had no equipment when we did all of our place. I think that I've already done my life's quota of rock walls though. I can't do my optics too well with smashed fingers. I've also done plenty of rustic, Adirondack style arbors and such. Our property looks great after 13 years of work. Would it somehow be appropriate to offer potential clients to come to my home to see the work? I have no cliental for references. On the other hand, I don't want to seem like a show off.
  7. Lawn Sharks

    Lawn Sharks LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 394

    Show us some pictures of the work you do. We can all chide in with ideas on how to market what your specialties are. A big part of this business is marketing. Don't be shy! Just because you live in the woods doesn't mean you don't know people in your area. Once you tell them all what you do, or want to do, you should see a return. Start with some real estate brokers who need short time jobs done on vacant properties. I have gotten many a client via this route because after the sale the new owners just sign up.

    Marketing, marketing, marketing. Don't be shy. There is plenty of work if you are hungry for it.
  8. Harvey Mushman

    Harvey Mushman LawnSite Member
    Posts: 10

    Keith, I'm way too dumb to post pics online. I'm an active member on a popular car forum and have tried to post pics there with no luck. My wife is big time into her gardens. I've been recruited to do her hardscaping which includes some stone retaining walls, wavy wooden shingles on a shed (also called a Carmel Roof), and bark on arbors on the front of our home and a 20' long one that goes through one of her gardens. How to market such things is a mystery to me. Our house is deep in the woods so the only people that would see my work would be invited guests. :help:
  9. Lawn Sharks

    Lawn Sharks LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 394

    Try taking pictures of the work you have done and then bring them to a copy store and have 8x11 flyers printed up detailing the work you can do. A one page brochure on regular paper can be hung in a variety of locations like Laundromats, grocery stores etc.

    Make sure you put the phone number on the bottom multiple times so that people can tear it off if interested.
  10. genoaustin

    genoaustin LawnSite Member
    Posts: 33


    I hate to say that the season is almost over in Central New York. You will definately be able to get customers if you market hard, but also use the experience with your 5-25 customers to learn how to do it professionally.

    That means how to do all particular property quickly and efficiently. Like, the order of steps that works best for you and the grass type. Here, I Edge, trim, mow, Blow on weekly accounts. Some people hate this, because you may have to pull out the trimmer again to get something you missed. Also, there is a learning curve to see the best way to mow so no scalping or high spots are left. Each property is different, and locations of ditches and flower beds can effect your throughput.

    Try mowing your property differently, and see if the mow, edge, trim, blow time goes up or down for each item. Also, if you are willing to do onetime cleanups for overgrown properties, you need to learn how to judge the amount of time needed, so you can price accordingly.

    I would think that Naples/Canadaguia (I was born in the hopsital there) probably does not have a large population of illegal immigrant labor yet? What is the hourly you are hoping to achieve, over what length of season? What are others getting there? Is the market depressed? I imagine that the season is less than 30 weeks in your region. I can't remember myself how many times I had to cut, with 4 other brothers older to help...

    Take care, Gene

    ps. Are you grinding for the university, or for production businesses? It is incredible how many optic-related businesses have spun off in the Rochester area.

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