1st year in business.... Learning Experience?

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by PicturePerfectLawns, Mar 26, 2014.

  1. PicturePerfectLawns

    PicturePerfectLawns Banned
    Messages: 3,845

    Many of you have seen me around the forum long enough to know and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Although it's not my first year in lawn care, it's my first year owning my own business and boy, can I tell you do I feel as if it is a LEARNING EXPERIENCE. Now I would like to ask how many of you fellow business owners felt the same way during or after your first year? Did you feel as though you were still learning new ways of doing things? Did you feel you made mistakes along the way? Did you feel you were going to make changes in the following year?

    The reason I ask, being my first year, I feel as if this complete first year was and is going to be a learning experience. I've already learned so much, I've made mistakes, realized my mistakes, and plan to progress and make changes and different ways of doing things based on what I learn throughout my first year.

    One of the first things I learned, stay organized and don't fall behind on paperwork. Going from a few neighborhood customers to 34 customers in one year was a big hop for me. I know many guys have gained 50+ customers in a year. However, coming from neighborhood lawns to 34 customers in one year, I was never expecting so much effort to run the paper work side of the business. Keeping up with invoices, scheduling, taxes, spending, income, estimates, side jobs, etc. I have new people call me periodically though out the day. I make an arrangement with them and write it down on my pad. At the end of the work day, I get started completing them tasks. Whether it be giving estimates or scheduling a new customer a day of service for each way. So many days I worked until Dark already and it isn't even Spring. At the end of the day being too exhausted to deal with scheduling, putting it off to the next day, only for a few more customers to call. And I get further and further behind. From my learning year, next year I plan to be much more organized. I started the free trial, liked it, and added my billing info for using Jobber now. While I don't know if it's the best, but it does make life much easier for me now days rather than the old fashioned pen and paper.

    Another one of the most important things I learned; some customers cost you more than their worth. Drop them customers and make it a goal to pass out flyers, cards, talk to people, do whatever possible to make up that one dropped customer with a good customer. I started off my first year being kind of lenient and open to customers. Never again. Lay down rules and grounds for your customers and don't let them cross them. I have already had to start explaining to customers because my foolish self didn't know enough to set grounds from the beginning. Mrs. X and X, I can't call and remind you to unlock your gate. Mrs. So and So, I can't call you every time I arrive to your property. Mrs. So and So, it's my responsibility to service your lawn, while it's your responsibility to keep the dog mess picked up. And I'm tired of explaining this one already. Mrs. So and So, there is no way I can service your lawn for $35.00. My flyers had the prices set for Weekly and Bi-Weekly customers. I can't mow your lawn once a month and risk tearing up my mower that cost a couple grands for your $35.00.

    How do I solve this? Next year all customers are signing a service agreement or signing up for service through my website where there will be guidelines put down the customers must follow or they get dropped. It took me a while to realize, some customers cost more than their worth. If their not paying you big bucks to walk in dog mess, you shouldn't walk in dog mess. If their not paying you to move their kids toys, you shouldn't move their kids toys. Don't get me wrong, I'm a well mannered person and love doing good for people. Sure I move Suzy Q's kids bike out of the way. But there's a time when you have to draw a line between being mannered and doing a favor and repeating the favor on a weekly basis.

    So the two most important things I learned in my first year, stay organized and make rules and set guidelines. A lot of customers are picky about who they want in their yard and I should be picky about who's lawn I work in.
  2. CreativeLawncareSolutions

    CreativeLawncareSolutions LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,017

    It's a neverending learning process and you'll always be making mistakes from time to time. Nobody is perfect.

    As far as your "paperwork" is concerned....Sign up with an online billing/scheduling service. I recommend Jobber. All of my invoices are emailed. I literally spend 5 minutes a night on Jobber. That's it. It's worth its weight in gold.

    As far as the PITA customers. Yes, drop them like a bad habit. They're like weeds. A few of them will mess up the beautiful garden you're trying to cultivate. Yank them suckers immediately.

    Your route...well, this depends on how big you wanna get. I have my route in my head. I know where I'm going and on what day I'm doing it on. It's fluid. It doesn't change unless there's bad weather. If that happens then everything gets pushed back a day. It's rare to see 2-3 bad weather days in a row. This is why I, personally, like to leave Friday's open as a free day. I've sometimes had to mow on Saturday (rare, though).
  3. Service.com

    Service.com Sponsor
    Messages: 804

    Omg my first year was terrible! I remember my first day, I almost quit. It has been a learning experience from day one, and you will never stop learning, that is for sure. Ill recommend the software I built for my company, Locqus, as your management tool. Completely free software (billing, invoicing, geo-location, CC payments etc. (Yes it is self serving :), but its pretty cool.)

    My first day, I literally ran over one of those metal water shut off things on a house because I did'nt see it. Seized the blades on the wb, spent the next 5 hours getting it back up because I had no idea what tools I needed, and I had put the blades on upside down to top it off. I literally got 3 lawns done out of 15 on my first day lol, it was terrible and I will never forget it. If you had a better day than that one on your first run, you will be just fine! Congrats on the new adventure and the best of luck!
  4. dpalmer

    dpalmer LawnSite Member
    Messages: 1

    Hey Paul! Thank you.... Today was our first day in business. I told my son I was going to have to buy or lease software and then as I was researching stumbled upon yours! I have just downloaded your app and am setting up my business. You ROCK!

    Thanks again.

  5. inzane

    inzane LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,478

    second year on my own.. I still have lots to learn. I learned a few things the hard way last year, mabee underbid a job or 2. I had to ditch a few that were a pain... but i endured them long enough to find other customers that were better.

    I think investing in a better software for my business really helped me out alot with my organization which wasn't so great last year. i was spending way to much time in the office at the end of every day and ready to pull my hair out.. this year.. more customers, yet easier to manage. I never wanted to pay monthly for a software, but couldn't go without it now.

  6. Service.com

    Service.com Sponsor
    Messages: 804

    No problem! Glad we could help! Always available for any questions or feature requests! Thanks David!
  7. yclawncare

    yclawncare LawnSite Member
    Messages: 78

    i have been in the industry for 15 plus years. I started out working for someone and now I am on my own. I think looking back I could have changed some things. There is always something to learn, things change in this industry all the time. I am sure the most seasoned veteran even learns a thing or 2 every now and then. You should feel good knowing you made it your first year successfully. I joined this forum last month and I have to tell you this is my most favorite website to go to. I have learned a lot off of other people and I actually and more motivated to move my business forward then ever before, I feel like the people on here are like extended family members.
  8. Service.com

    Service.com Sponsor
    Messages: 804

    ^^ Welcome, it is quite the kickass site and feel the same way.
  9. grassmonkey0311

    grassmonkey0311 LawnSite Gold Member
    from MD/NC
    Messages: 3,045

    Im in my first year too as a "legit" company. It's been a lot of learning and head aches, but so far so good! Keep it up and good luck this year!
    Posted via Mobile Device
  10. f50lvr2

    f50lvr2 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 277

    I feel like this every year. My biggest struggle is giving up control and letting the business grow. I tend not to trust people to work for me and have in truth probably held myself and my company back from growing more just because I can't handle more by myself and have struggled to find good help that's loyal.

    After owning your own business for a couple of years you start to look at people with 40hr work weeks as part-timers. C'mon 40hrs? That's done by Wednesday afternoon!

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