New guy: seeking advice

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by metalsasquach, Oct 21, 2013.

  1. metalsasquach

    metalsasquach LawnSite Member
    Posts: 16

    Hello everyone! New to the forum, have been busy reading all the information on here. Please excuse any typos I'm currently in my smartphone. I'm now finally posting in hopes of more advise, and hopefully some encouragement.

    To start, a quick background of myself. I'm turning 24, engaged, have a 2 1/2 year old, and have worked full time at Menards (shipping/receiving) for the last 4 years.

    Honestly I had plans of college, but my daughter came first and my first instinct was to focus on working and able to provide for my kid. Now I can say that I'm not going to school but I've realized I don't want to work for 11 dollars an hour forever.

    So unfortunately I'm not left with any easy options, but I'm willing to take a small risk in hopes of flipping it into a big reward/future. I have excellent credit and am contemplating on taking out a small loan to get started in the industry. The way I look at it is, I could get a loan fit 5k, and use it to buy a used walk behind, trailer and the other necessities, while having some extra for the fun stuff involved with starting a business. If for whatever reason this didn't work out I could still sell the equipment, take the loss and move on. I'm willing to risk a grand or two in hopes of being my own boss and having a better income.

    As for the questions, enough babbling:

    My main target is residential, what is the most ideal walk behind size for productivity while still being able to access most gates if that wound up being an issue.

    My only overhead would be the 5k loan and the other obvious expenses. Would you think that's to much and it will eat into my profits to much? The loan couldn't be more then 150/mo. Plus advertising and insurance.

    I plan on working solo in the beginning but expanding to no more then one person. Just to help if I'm over scheduled eventually our just to improve efficiency so I could improve my stops per day.

    I plan on doing door hangers, business cards, walk up and introduce to homeowners with untamed yards, google places/Yahoo jobs, Facebook, and craigslist. I figured between all then id get enough people to prove my with us worthy then hopefully neighbors will notice and word of mouth works in NY favor.

    Any advice is well appreciated, please only encouraging because I'm doing this for my family not just to get extra money for toys. Thank you.
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  2. Vecchio Lawn Care

    Vecchio Lawn Care LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 905

    Do not quit your day job. Wait until you have the client base to keep you going 5 days a week to quit your day job. Even if it mean hiring a guy to help you finish your lawns on a Saturday. Mower size depends on your area. 36" or a 48" with a 21 push is usual setup for small lawns.
     
  3. metalsasquach

    metalsasquach LawnSite Member
    Posts: 16

    Thanks for the quick reply, I defiantly don't plan on quitting. I'll stay full time until my client base picks up, then slowly work my way into lawn care as my primary income. I have the opportunity to drop to part time in the future, then even a morning stocking shift which would keep my job but free up entire days because stock id done in the early mornings. I get a nice bonus check annually so I defiantly want to hold the job until I feel the lawn care business will be sufficient income to rid my current day job.
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  4. kemco

    kemco LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 731

    Since you are just starting out now is a great time to get into the habit of keeping up with your numbers and by that I mean all of your expenses, your time on the job(s), your drive time, etc. in order to see what you are actually taking home... your net. It is easy to think to yourself that, hey I can cut a $30 yard by myself in 30 minutes heck I'm making $60 per hour. Well, no you are not when you factor in all of your expenses and drive time. Get into the habit of keeping up with your receipts, your books which can all be done with excel or even old style pencil and paper if that's all you can do - that's better than nothing. Get only the equipment you absolutely need when you are getting started. Sure a $1200 commercial 21" mower is great but you need to determine if you #1 want to do this as a profession and #2 are going to be able to do this as a profession (actually going to be able to do what it takes to make a living in this biz). No sense in breaking the bank (especially if you are taking out a loan - which I strongly suggest avoiding) unless you know that you are going to be able to do #1 and #2. Sure a $400 Kawasaki (or other brand of commercial model) line trimmer is great - but can you get by the first season or two on the best $200 trimmer that HD or lowes sells?... sure you can... and now you could afford to run out and buy a second one if that first one breaks for some reason. As your business grows you will learn the need to have backup equipment, but that's a little further down the line. Sure a new trailer would be great, but can you get a decent one used of craigslist? Or can you get by just using the back of your truck for the first season or two... sure you can.

    I don't know your area, but I suggest looking for a densely populated residential area where there are middle to upper middle income-type houses and market the heck out of that area. I drive 30min to and 30min from a suburb of my city to cut 90% of all of our lawns and I do this every day. The reason is that it is more densely populated than my immediate area and the average incomes are a bit higher in that area. Drive time will take more away from your business than you can ever imagine so the less time you have to drive between jobs the better.

    A friend of mine a few years ago lost his job and decided to get into the biz. He bought some nice equipment, I don't know if he used a loan or not, but after 2 seasons he was never able to get enough accounts to make a living doing this, and he tried... but he was only marketing in his immediate, very loosely populated area of town. He lives about 45 minutes away from the same very densely populated area that I drive 30min to. I asked him why in the world didn't he market to that area because he could have picked up as many lawns as he wanted to with a little bit of effort. His reply was that he didn't want to drive 45min each way every day. Well he failed in this biz because he was not willing to go where the jobs were. He sold all of his equipment at a huge loss after the second season. I guess all I can say is go where the jobs and money are. That doesn't necessarily mean million dollar houses, but an area where there are million houses - well maybe not a million houses but I think you get the idea. Best of luck
     
  5. TuffTurfLawnCare

    TuffTurfLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 668

    I just got I to the business this year and I did it in a way that most would not reccomend. I took a loan through my exmark dealer and got all of my equipment (48" hydro walk behind, 21" push, blower, and 6x10 trailer) financed through Sheffield financial. My dealer had to shuffle some papers to make it work, but the total on my loan was close to 10k at 0%. my payment is 170/mo. I make that in one day of mowing after my normal job. I sent out 2500 EDDM fliers that I made while.watching the snow fly from my couch. I targeted an area that has all newer construction that is 5 minutes from home and has worked out very welll for me.

    After having a long conversation with one of my clients (who is very well off) who has started and sold a few companies that pay for his lifestyle in his $500k home, he helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses. It was from this objective review that I realized the importance of communication skills. Anyone can get a mower and cut grass. Not everybody can sell and articulate why you should be the the guy who services the owners property. I think the largest part of being successful as a business owner is being able to clearly and intelligently communicate with the customer. To be able to gain trust, and nearly befriend your customers almost immediately. After one season I regularly have clients that hand me blank signed checks and just tell me to fill it in as needed. They don't do that because I make nice straight stripes in the grass, they do it because they trust me, arguably like family. I never worry about my clients leaving me to save a few bucks. Often I am more expensive than the other companies that are also in the area, but my clients are loyal to me, as I am them.

    Recently I was in the hospital for a week. I skipped every account I had. I called them all and let them know I was unable to service their properties that week. I offered to sub that weeks work to another company I know to get the lawns done and not one customer took me up the offer. Nobody wanted anyone but me on the property, 3 of them sent me get well soon cards to my hospital room. A couple sent me checks for service even though I didn't perform the work. When I called them after I got the checks, they said to keep the money as a bonus and get caught up when ever I could.

    My point is this. Don't focus solely on the work. it takes just as much effort and skill to keep good customers. I think many over look this and for that reason they fail or otherwise always complain about loosing customers.
     
  6. tonygreek

    tonygreek LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,405

    The minute you decide to follow through, I would get going with your online marketing, especially the Google/Yahoo/Bing local pages. And add a web site in to the mix. There are plenty of budget-friendly options out there, with my personal fav of those being squarespace.com.

    If you need an easy, free business phone line, check out Google Voice. Put all of these marketing vehicles in place. If the phone rings, you're on your way, even if you have to turn them down or wait until Spring to do any work. Too often, we see people who think March is the time to turn on the online marketing. ASAP is the correct time.
     
  7. metalsasquach

    metalsasquach LawnSite Member
    Posts: 16

    Thank you everyone for you're replies.

    I defiantly plan on focusing on small residential yards because I live right in town so travel time will be low, also there's 3 other towns I can target that are all within 5 miles.

    I defiantly believe this is the time to start my plan and get everything prepared and ready, as for the legal and advertising stuff goes. I really like the idea of getting my name out there even tho its early, even tho I can't mow I'll be able to quote them and have a client base worked out before the season starts. Which will be comforting.
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  8. metalsasquach

    metalsasquach LawnSite Member
    Posts: 16

    Also I don't plan on buying new trailer or walk behind, I want to keep as cheap as possible. I'll blower, trimmer, edger etc new but for sure going to be on craigs list hopefully getting a walk behind and trailer for under 2k.
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  9. metalsasquach

    metalsasquach LawnSite Member
    Posts: 16

    The number of accounts I'm shooting for the first year its 25 to 40. Is that a realistic goal? I figured that would be plenty as I'm just getting started, I don't want to overwhelm myself and get in over my head.

    Also I turned down someone who I know that's getting old and its trying to sell their business, which is 2 setups because he currently runs two two man crews. I thought it was a bad idea because 1. I didn't want to start busy, i want to get there myself and work my way up to it so I know I could handle the clients while still delivering the quality that I want. Also 2. He wanted 5k up front then pussy off the rest in monthly payments. That seemed scary to me, seems like to much too soon. I like the idea of having my own customers built up and knowing the yards, prices and the customers on a friendly relationship. So I know 100 percent what I'm dealing with, without any surprises that I wouldn't approve of. Also I didn't want to rely on his business staying profitable, because if it didn't id not be able to pay the guy..let alone pay my own expenses.

    I guess I made a good decision starting solo, as it will comfort me the most.
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  10. TuffTurfLawnCare

    TuffTurfLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 668

    if your gonna take a loan on equipment, do the math on both. if you take a personal loan with 10% interest to buy used equipment, you may end up paying more than if you bought new equipment with factory financing at 0%. The total amount of the loan will be more, but the monthly payment could be the same or less. Plus you will have new equipment with a warranty and no worry of a breakdown.

    This is the route I went, and I'm glad I did. Many don't like the idea of financing, but for many its a viable option that works well. Some of the banks offer options to help you get through the off season as well, including no payment for 6 months, and coupons to skip payments. I am financed through Sheffield and they just sent me coupons to skip 3 consecutive payments, with a Max of 6 skips through the life of the loan. as a start up business, this could really help the meager income during the winter after the first season of cutting and still be able to have the cash in the bank to get rolling again come next spring.

    Look at all options and visit your dealers. Be truthful with them and tell them your plans. They may have other ideas or plans to.get you going with the right equipment so you can hit the ground running come spring. I visited my dealer in January and worked out a deal. they ordered the equipment, I ordered the trailer, and everything came together at the end of March. I was out doing estimates and getting clients before I even had my equipment. once the grass started growing I was ready to roll. I had money coming in two months before the first payment was due.

    With a personal loan, you may find yourself making payments before you even have equipment. I'm not trying to steer you one way or the other, but rather show that if you visit dealers, and look at all options you will probably find something that will work for you.
     

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