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Tough Decision Ahead - Input Appreciated

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Golden Gates, Dec 29, 2012.

  1. Golden Gates

    Golden Gates LawnSite Member
    Posts: 133

    I've been mowing lawns for the past 5 years as a small side business while I went to high school and now college. I always had a part time job along with mowing lawns, so that wasn't my only income. I worked at a grocery store for almost 3 years and a home improvement store in the lumber yard for a summer, then I found this job.
    I'm half way through my second year of college, where I'm going to school to be a Diesel/Heavy Equipment Technician. In September I got a job working at an International Truck Dealership, working nights after school. When I graduate in May they're going to offer me full time, working nights (3:30pm-12 midnight) .
    I'm trying to rationally weigh my options of staying in the mechanic field or whether I should try to pursue a career mowing lawns, landscaping, snow removal etc.
    I've tried thinking of pros and cons of each, I have talked to other mechanics about that field, but I don't have contact with any other LCO's in my area that I can talk with.
    What I ask of you guys is to help me with a list of pros and cons or even just some kind words to help me make a logical decision. I'm sure some others on here have gone through similar situations and can offer some advise or words of wisdom. Everything is appreciated!
    Also some things to take into account are I am working on getting my CDL right now. I enjoy both lines of work, each on has it's ups and downs. The reason I'm contemplating this decision is because for some reason I don't feel like I want to be a mechanic forever, but I think part of it is I'm getting burned out- School from 8am-3pm Work 3:30 pm to 10:30-11pm, 5 days a week. I miss my old jobs where I would interact with "customers" and now I don't really get a chance to do that as a mechanic. If I was to do landscaping/mowing I really feel like I can do a better job than the competition in my area.

    Here's some points that I've come up with on my own

    Mechanic- Pros
    Jobs are always going to be there, there's always going to be work to do.
    I already have my foot in the door for a job/career.
    Already have the training and tools.
    I enjoy working with my hands
    I don't know if It's necessarily for me
    Lately there's more I don't enjoy than there is I do, I don't want to spend to much time doing something I don't enjoy.

    LCO- Pros
    I already have a small client list.
    I still have my mowers and other misc equipment, enough to get started.
    I'm young (20) no rent, live at home, single= Low overhead
    I really enjoy the work, I like to work hard and see what I've accomplished
    Lots of competition in my area
    I'm not licensed or insured- will be if I go this route
    I don't have any formal training in Business or landscaping- Plan on taking classes if I go this route
    Is there enough work?

    Just typing this up has helped me look at my options. I greatly appreciate an and all help I get!
    Thanks ahead of time!
  2. jc1

    jc1 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,617

    Here are my thoughts. I went to tech school after high school to be an auto mech. I spent 20 some years at a gm dealer as a tech/ Forman. The last 3 as a tech I started my business then went full time. That was 8 years ago.I will say that a diesel tech working for a fleet will be a more stable environment than an automotive tech.
    Your schedule once out of school will allow you to have a small business.(do both)
    Pros of you current job
    Steady work predictable schedule. If you experience drought trucks still need to be repaired lawns don't grow.
    Medical benefits ( I only paid about 4k per year for a family plan, self employed I pay over 14k)
    Retirement plan ( if they contribute or offer one put in as much as you can while you are young, it doesn't seem important now but in 20 years you will be glad you did)
    A lot of options job wise, more demand less competition( anyone with a mower is your competitor.)

    I would do both take enough lawn/ landscaping to make extra money with out over doing it and sock money away. Establish yourself in life then make a decision.
  3. Kelly's Landscaping

    Kelly's Landscaping LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,338

    I am lucky to have an outstanding mechanic he has about a dozen ASE certifications including master auto technician and master truck technician. He would be the first to tell you the trade sucks but after 30 plus years he knows nothing else. He did try to open a legit shop after his I think 9th location ended. He's always found a shop with a free bay that type of thing and they never last. Hes done dealership work and town fleets including all the cop cars. After his big shop failed hes been too 4 more locations that I know of and now he does what he has always specialized in Limousines. Has to be the 4th or 5th limo company hes worked at and they always allow him as part of his service too work for his 200 or so private clients. I don't think hes ever made 50k in a year. The real money is in owning the shop but he quickly found out that wasn't the case for him as those 2 years I doubt he made 20k take home the shop rent alone was nearly 3k a month.

    If you decide to expand and run your landscaping company then you are a business owner. You will learn what it takes to run one as you comply with all the rules and make all your obligations and if you add employees you will know what that really means.

    If you go the mechanic rout you will save your money if your smart and perhaps someday own your own shop. Rent will likely be the rout you go as most small shops around here that are licenses to do auto work will cost a million dollars minimum. The big ones forget about but they allow you to make the real money in that trade which is selling used cars off the lot.

    You have an important skill set that compliments landscaping. And that is being able to work on motors and that will save you thousands a year and that is a huge advantage. I do can do metal fabrication and welding but your trade would be a bigger help to my operation but you work with the skills you have.

    If you get the certifications and landscaping isn't for you then you have a plan B and thats the safe rout. One of the cool things you have is the back ground to move into the heavy equipment side of the landscaping trade. That could mean future plow contracts with the town or the state or major parking lots all of it made easier because big trucks and big loaders break down and that wouldn't be an issue for you. Then there is the excavating end of this trade and again the mechanic skills are sort of a must.

    This trade is no easy rout either. If I were you id step back from both and ask my self where is it I want to be in 20 years. Does money matter to me how much do I want what kind of house do I want. Do I want to give orders or take them. Answer those questions then look at both trades and figure out what would need to be the case in both trades for those goals to be reached. Perhaps being a manager at dealership will get it done if not what will do you need to be? In business for yourself? And if that answer is yes which business is easier to start and which business is most like to succeed then make your plans from there.
  4. biodale

    biodale LawnSite Member
    Posts: 177

    I started out as a LCO because I lost me job and couldn't find another. I am making more money as a LCO than I did at my last job and I like being my own boss. However, I have no benefits. I do like taking time off during the winter.
    I have been able to expand because I put almost all the money made back into the company. If you choose this route, your living will be pretty poor for a few years. Many LCO's run their company like a hobby. If you run it like a real business, you can do ok. I make between 45 and 60 thousand net a year. It is not great but I have potential of increasing it as I grow the business.
    I started this when I was 57 years old. I wish I started when I was younger. This is my 3rd company I have owned and the experience I gathered along the way has helped be successful in lawn care.
    I am amazed at how much money there is to be made in lawn care. It is very hard work. I work from 8:00 am to close to dark 6 and sometimes 7 days a week during the season. For the hours I put in I probably don't do very well.
    If you choose this route I give the same advise my mentor gave me: Get your insurance and licenses and pay your taxes. Otherwise you won't be in business long.
    If you choose diesel mechanics I think you can also do well. If you have business ability you can start your own shop. If you don't have business acumen then work for someone else no matter what you do.
    I tell people I haven't worked a day since I started this business. It is all play. Do what you like the most. You are only 20 years old. You can start over several times at your age. Most of us have.
    Good luck
  5. Golden Gates

    Golden Gates LawnSite Member
    Posts: 133

    Thanks for the reply guys. I'm going to to take some time and step back and think some more about how I see myself 15-20 years from now. I appreciate the advise!
  6. weeze

    weeze LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 8,874

    there's thing that are true with most normal jobs out there.


    benefits (insurance, 401k)


    they make you miserable and destroy your life
    you are a slave to the big company
    you are unhappy



    not much stability(at first anyways)
    no benefits


    you are happy and enjoy your life
  7. jsslawncare

    jsslawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,674

    I was in your shoe's. I made plenty of money in both. (I am ASE cert. machinist) I worked on everything and built engines. So, someone that has never worked in the field doesn't really know "all" the pro's and con's. I think it all comes down to what you really want to do. And we cant tell you that. I support either because I've done both.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2013
  8. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 16,985

    Im a retired Toyota mechanic, I worked in fleet maintance for 10 years after that, then started my business part time and hopefully Im done with wrenching.

    I would start doing both, you will build a better lawn business if you start out slow and get the accounts you want.

    The big plus of doing both is you will have a trade to fall back on and thats worth a whole lot.
  9. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 16,985

    Theres definately a "PEACE" that comes with owning your own business.
  10. weeze

    weeze LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 8,874

    yeah i agree. i don't think i could go back to working for someone else again. i've tasted the freedom that being your own boss can bring lol.

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