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TIPS, Do's and Don'ts tips for the new guy

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Eric ELM, Apr 16, 2001.

  1. bowhunter1432

    bowhunter1432 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 43

  2. rbates

    rbates LawnSite Member
    Posts: 2

    Andy, My name is Raymond Bates. I am a nursing student in my first year in CANADA. I run a successfull Landscaping company using student lawns to suppliment equipment and living costs. I would like to have a chat and discuss a business plan while prying you for info as to why you quit your chosen career? I can tell you how runing a company is.

    Please email me raymond_bates@hotmail.com
     
  3. utterway landscaper

    utterway landscaper LawnSite Member
    Posts: 24

    I used to work for a company that had a cub cadet comercial zero turn prob. 60 percent of the time the clutch wouldnt engage unless you were at idle then you had to rev the the throttle up for it to fully engage did has anyone elese had this prob. with cub cadets?
     
  4. Turf Technologies

    Turf Technologies LawnSite Senior Member
    from Florida
    Posts: 590

    Utterway , we use Lesco Z2 that had the same problem, everytime it was just an adjusment that needed to be done. I cant think of it as being any worse than that.
     
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    I like a 12-volt air pump you can plug into the cigarette lighter thou it lacks the pressure should the seal come undone, and definitely fix-a-flat.
     
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    Hell yeah! A good one (I gotta be in the mood and as a general rule, must kinda like the person) is to whine back a little ... Sometimes this works, LOL!

    Never haggle (actually I do it a little bit, sometimes I give one small discount, end of story). Far as written estimates, some folk don't even do it because a lot of times the only reason they are getting it in writing is so they can call someone else, shove YOUR estimate in the other man's face and ask: Can YOU do this Cheaper?!!!
    As for myself, when a customer shows me someone else's estimate, I refuse to do the job because that is not a nice thing to do and I do not want to promote this any further, but more than that my mind has now been influenced by information I did not want to know. I do give written estimates and am not afraid to write the price and yes I know I am not the cheapest. Some folk receive the shock of their lifetime when they see it in black-and-white, but tough luck, I am not playing the bidding game here. My work costs what it does because the guy who fixes my car charges an invariable labor rate as well, as do the rest of the guys who work for labor/hour rates. In order for this to work, reliability, accountability, and honesty are all good traits.
    For discounts, I might give 5 or 10 percent off the total, especially with retired folk as a senior citizen discount. Now if the customer is totally shocked by the price, a 5 or 10 percent discount will usually do nothing as a shocked customer was likely thinking about half what you're asking.

    For written estimates, I have a pad in the truck and I write them out with a pen right then and there. Every once in a blue moon someone asks me to type it up in a contract and bla-bla-bla ... If contracts are your cup of tea by all means do it, but I don't do contracts as this consumes a lot more time than the 5-10 minutes it takes to hand-write it on the spot. Remember to write down your phone-number for them :)

    For estimates, 20 minutes alloted time. If, after 20 minutes the customer and I have not reached an agreement of sorts, it is time to leave. This rule was instated after a few f*ks wasted (literally) 2 hours of my time talking about everything they wanted done without conclusion or end in sight.

    Another one I dislike is folk who come up to me in the field wanting me to do something in the yard across the street as the general assumption is that it will be cheaper since I'm already there. Do NOT EVER do the yard across the street any cheaper than regular price as this is an insult to your current customer (the yard you Were working on). Also resist the temptation to do 'both' yards at the same time for a mutual discount as inevitably you will lose one yard sooner or later, and be stuck with the other one at the discounted price.

    Got a TON more.
    Later.
    Pascal
     
  7. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    I keep an entire First-aid kit in the truck, 20-25 dollars at Rite-Aid or Walmart and some nice jumper cables (spend the extra bucks to get good ones). Far as dead batteries, I run a 1000cca battery in the truck, the jumper cables are most often used to jumpstart a dead lawnmower.

    A strong, long rope in the truckbox is handy (I got an old but strong 100-foot tree-climber rope for free) and this is very handy when something gets stuck (like the commercial lawn-mower in the ditch, or in the mud). With the rope, you tie the rope to the truck, the other end to the mower, and slowly and carefully pull it out, what a lifesaver!
    Learn how to do the hillbilly-winch as well. I don't know how to describe the hillbilly-winch, other than you likely need someone to show you as this will enable you to pull your truck out of the mud with no other tools, unless you also have a come-along.

    Always wear safety goggles (I like the Uvex tinted kind) and spend the few extra dollars to get nice ones due to comfort. With the new 4-cycle stihl blowers you don't really need this, but for everything else I always wear hearing protection as well. I personally like the orange stihl mickey-mouse ears, but foamies work good, and for the ultimate in protection you can wear foamies + mickey-mice.

    Now to really make your day (but you need at least a year or two of practice under your belt), get this:
    Buy a portable, sports-mp3 player with the Koss earbud speakers. Burn a slew of like 100-120 of your favorite mp3's on a CD and you can listen to the awesome stereo (wear the earbuds underneath the mickey-mice) while working. This presents a safety issue: You can no longer hear the machine, you will not be able to hear a car's horn blaring at you, so you REALLY need to pay attention! With experience, I only do jobs I've done many times before with music and use the sensation of feel to detect imperfections in the machine. Also for some reason the weed-eater and blower send off static that interfere with the mp3-player so I can only wear it while cutting grass, wouldn't dream of wearing them while hedge-trimming or using the saw, thou it is great fun while doing mulch, too ... Likely even if you are new you can do mulch with music just be x-careful if you gotta cross the street. Speaking of which, even without music crossing the street has just about f*ked me up once or twice, please be on the lookout for cars, lol.
    The bonus is that it puts me in complete oblivion and I could swear I am not even working, while it also helps me ignore the fool(s) on the street waving me down to ask me stupid questions. On that last note, kinda be on the constant look out to make sure your own customer isn't trying to get your attention, and:
    When my customer IS trying to get my attention:
    - I shut engines off, music is off, I take off the hearing protectors AND the tinted glasses. This way they get my full, undivided attention.
    Hope is help, good competition is rare and
    we need all the good help we can get,
    there is sooo much work to be done.
    Peace
     
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    I keep an entire First-aid kit in the truck, 20-25 dollars at Rite-Aid or Walmart and some nice jumper cables (spend the extra bucks to get good ones). Far as dead batteries, I run a 1000cca battery in the truck, the jumper cables are most often used to jumpstart a dead lawnmower.

    Also, a 100-foot tree rope in the truckbox is handy (I got an old but strong tree-climber rope for free) and this is very handy when something gets stuck (like the commercial lawn-mower in the ditch, or in the mud). With the rope, learn how to do the hillbilly-winch as well. I don't know how to describe the hillbilly-winch, other than you likely need someone to show you as this will enable you to pull your truck out of the mud with no other tools, unless you also have a come-along.

    Always wear safety goggles (I like the Uvex tinted kind) and spend the few extra dollars to get nice ones due to comfort. With the new 4-cycle stihl blowers you don't really need this, but for everything else I always wear hearing protection as well. I personally like the orange stihl mickey-mouse ears, but foamies work good, and for the ultimate in protection you can wear foamies + mickey-mice.

    Now to really make your day (but you need at least a year or two of practice under your belt), get this:
    Buy a portable, sports-mp3 player with the Koss earbud speakers. Burn a slew of like 100-120 of your favorite mp3's on a CD and you can listen to the awesome stereo (wear the earbuds underneath the mickey-mice) while working. This presents a safety issue: You can no longer hear the machine, you will not be able to hear a car's horn blaring at you, so you REALLY need to pay attention! With experience, I only do jobs I've done many times before with music and use the sensation of feel to detect imperfections in the machine. Also for some reason the weed-eater and blower send off static that interfere with the mp3-player so I can only wear it while cutting grass, wouldn't dream of wearing them while hedge-trimming or using the saw, thou it is great fun while doing mulch, too ... Likely even if you are new you can do mulch with music just be x-careful if you gotta cross the street. Speaking of which, even without music crossing the street has just about f*ked me up once or twice, please be on the lookout for cars, lol.
    The bonus is that it puts me in complete oblivion and I could swear I am not even working, while it also helps me ignore the fool(s) on the street waving me down to ask me stupid questions. On that last note, kinda be on the constant look out to make sure your own customer isn't trying to get your attention, and:
    When my customer IS trying to get my attention:
    - I shut engines off, music is off, I take off the hearing protectors AND the tinted glasses. This way they get my full, undivided attention.
    Hope is help, good competition is rare and
    we need all the good help we can get,
    there is sooo much work to be done.
    Peace
     
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    Especially if you have a credit card. If you must use your personal card you gotta do what you gotta do, but I highly suggest saving the cash you need for a couple years before you start so you got some capital.

    As for me, into my 2nd year I got a business card, which, by the way, requires the owner's signature so the bank will come after me (and not 'the business) should the balance default. So contrary to popular belief, it's not "Oh well, the business is paying for it" as if it's free money, hehehe.

    As a rule of thumb, I pay 1/3 my gross to the credit card bill as ALL expenses go on the card. Then I watch the balance. What I pay must pay it off, and if it doesn't, I'm doing something wrong.

    As soon as you can afford it, I like having my business checking account so I got a place to deposit all the checks and it keeps the business money separate from my personal money. As a bonus, it boosts customer confidence a little bit (i.e.: it helps cut the bs).
    As a general rule, you will need about 1000 dollars cash to open one, and I don't recommend putting this 1000 on your personal credit card.
    Keep tab of those charges:
    Examples:
    Bank balance under 1000 anytime: $10/month - This = 12% apr !
    Online banking: $10/month (I don't use it)
    Deposit: 10cents/transaction (deposit slip = 1 trans, each check = +1 trans). For this reason, I make one deposit/week and if my deposit isn't enough, I wait another week.

    SAVE money the ENTIRE year so you can avoid working Jan-Feb!

    Pascal
     
  10. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,654

    I dunno, man... I burned one motor because I forgot to check it, and we're all human. It's 600 for a cheap 12hp replacement bs motor (b & s, that is), plus labor, and during my first year.
    After that $h!7, I never ran regular motor oil in my engines again. From that day on, I used synthetic or synthetic blend. Big Lots recently had Pennzoil Synthetic blend on sale for $1.97 a quart.

    Now I'll tell you what happened my 3rd year:
    As you know, in this business we change oil frequently (at least, I think you should). One time, I did not tighten the filter correctly on my personal car and drove off. Right at first I could smell a slight aroma of oil but I had spilled some while filling so didn't think much of it. While doing 45 or so mph I noticed nothing more for the next 5 or 6 miles, but when I had to stop I heard the tick-tick-tick tell-tale dieseling of a low oil warning and the car was smoking (but no, no red oil light). I had no choice but to wait for the green light, then pulled off right past the intersection and shut it off. When I opened the hood, there was oil everywhere, and when I checked the dipstick, there was no oil on it. I got back in the car, started it and drove (cauz you do not cross this intersection on foot) across the street to the auto-parts store. I purchased 2 quarts to begin with, then a 3rd... The car had been running on 1 quart.
    The car was running Synthetic Blend.

    You can only imagine how sick it made me feel to my stomach at the time, that car is a 1991 bmw 318 and the motor is like $5000 or $6000, more than what I paid for the car. I am still relieved, and the car is running well today.

    That stuff is like slick-50, I can't recommend you run a dry engine, but I can tell you that if you do, your chances of lock-up are reduced considerably. I hear some guys tell me that with synthetic (or synthetic blend) you should be able to run at least 20 minutes without oil, and up to 2 hours, but again it is not recommended ... I am telling it to you because I firmly believe this stuff will save your motor at least once.
    Peace
     

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