2010 - First Year's End

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by HustlerRider, Dec 14, 2010.

  1. HustlerRider

    HustlerRider LawnSite Member
    Messages: 110

    So I started mowing mid-June 2010. The first two weeks of June I bought all the equipement listed below in my signature line. Temps at the time in my area were around 105 most days with higher heat indexes. The only ads I ran were in the local newspaper classifieds, cheap ones, you know, "Beat The Heat" and so on. I retired at 40 from the real estate boom, but I've been working a full time "Retired Guy" job for the last 2 years (I'm 45 now) so I was only able to mow 3 days a week, Friday, Saturday, & Sunday.

    What I ended up with at year's end was 12 weekly residential accounts that average 1 acre in size, and 1 commercial account that's 7 acres in size. I mowed all of these weekly until mid October. Like most who are just starting out I also got a lot of one timers, the ones that no other LCO wanted, most were 2 foot tall or taller when I got there, and like most I under-charged for these at first. Since I started right, legal, insured, I was also able to get in with my city and mow for them. Around here you either keep your lawn mowed or the city will send me to mow it for you, at my price.

    What did I gain?

    All of my equipement is paid for except the truck, other than that my business has no recurring equipement debt for the coming 2011season. I have land and a barn that serves as my shop. On top of this I have almost $5000 left in my business account, and this is after all regular business expense.

    What did I lose?

    1) A boss, a "retired guy" job that I didn't want to begin with (my wife is hispanic & thinks I'm suppose to die while working just like her Dad and Brothers are doing), stress, headaches, an 80 mile round trip commute, and a general pissy attitude most of the time. I guess I'm just not cut out to be a 9 to 5 job guy. Other than my military service I've always worked in my own business.

    2) 45 pounds! I went from 245 to an even 200 in a little more than 90 days, awesome!

    So that's how my first experince in this biz went. If you started in 2010 how did you do??
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2010
  2. JodyG

    JodyG LawnSite Member
    Messages: 27

    Sounds Great! I am a little older and only doing about 6-7 properties a week during the growing season. I had hoped to get into this full time a couple of years ago but a weekly paycheck won’t let me, however, the company I worked for is no longer and now I am seriously looking to go full time as a solo operator. Not sure how big I want to get. My sister and I own a concession trailer that makes extremely good money in the spring and fall. It is all weekend work so I am thinking about adding maybe 20 accounts for 2011 to round out my weekdays. I will need to purchase a new mower. I have been using a friends old Bobcat and it is about to die. Anyhow it good to see success stories.
  3. s-lc

    s-lc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 38

    Hustler-good job on what seems like a successful start. As a newcomer myself, I had a few questiosn for you.

    -what was it like starting in the middle of the season? I feel like by that time 99% of people already have a company in place? How did you advertise/gain clients?

    -I still dotn understand the idea of one time clients...are these people that have it done once and then do it themselves after that? are they displeased with your work and hire another crew? what does this mean exactly?

    Thanks and good look this year!
  4. HustlerRider

    HustlerRider LawnSite Member
    Messages: 110


    You're right! By the time I started everyone that was going to hire someone to mow for them had already done so, but they also had time to see the job that was being done and to find someone new if they were unhappy with the work being done. I had calls and gave estimates, but for most of these people I was a little to pricey, they had hired the local lowballers and got what they paid for. Most of these calls were from in town, regular size lots, out of my 12 weekly accounts I have 3 in town. The only advertising I did was in the local paper, in the classifieds section, simple ads that are cheap to run worked for me. The population in town is about 18,000. So when the temps were 105 with a 112 heat index I ran an ad that said something like...

    ******* MOWING SERVICE
    (xxx) xxx-xxxx

    The other 9 of my clients are all outside of town and average 1~3 acres lots. Most of them told me that they could not get the other 3 guys in the paper to call them back or to come give them an estimate. A few that I took on told me that the estimates they got were very high, which translates into the LCO didn't want the job for one reason or another. For example, one of them with a 1 1/4 acre lot, all of it 2 foot tall or taller, I charged $300 for the initial clean up/mowing and $65 a week from mid june to the 3rd week of October.

    One time clients are people who, for whatever reason, need someone to mow now and then. For example one of them that called me worked for the power company and was putting in a lot of overtime & just didn't feel up to mowing his 1 acre lot. He called me out twice this past season, I charged $70 per cut. One timers (or call outs) pay a little more than weekly customers. A lot of time these one time call outs are people within the city limits that have received a warning from the city about the lawn, so when they call they are a little on the desperate side to fine someone to mow in a hurry, these folks pay more also. Course if they don't pay me to mow it or find someone else to do it the city will pay me to mow it for them, code enforcement sends me the work order.

    My one commercial client is a seven acre apartment complex where a friend of my Mother's is the manager. Pay is great, but checks come from the corporate office which is out of state. They had me caught up and paid in full last week.

    One thing is for sure. When you first start, especially if you start late in the season like I did you can't afford to pass up work, at the same time you must make a profit. You have to learn to sell your service and yourself. If you get turned down on your first few estimates that's fine, use it as a learning experience.

    Learn what people in your market are willing to pay on average & push your price by giving a good, in person estimate. Never give an exstimate over the phone or without walking the property, preferably with the client. My number 1 rule is I don't lowball, it's a short path to failure.

    So there ya go. Hope all that helped.
  5. HustlerRider

    HustlerRider LawnSite Member
    Messages: 110


    Sounds like you and I are of the same mind. I'd like to have 30 clients in 2011, 6 a day is about right for the size of lawns I'm mowing. That's about as large as I want to get, I think any more than that and it would seriously cut into my huntin & fishin time :nono:
  6. HustlerRider

    HustlerRider LawnSite Member
    Messages: 110

    Almost forgot one very important thing that I wanted to tell anyone who is just getting started, I think this is very important to know.

    You need a service contract, nothing fancy, just something in writing saying what you are going to do for the client and what the client is going to pay for that service, and stick in a 30 day notice cancellation clause, AND MAKE SURE EVERY CLIENT SIGNS IT before you do any work at all.

    This is the one mistake I made this past year, I didn't use any contract or written agreement at all. I just made a verbal agreement, put the client into my GroundsKeeper software and sent a bill at the end of every month. Luckily everyone paid, but I do have two clients who have not paid me for the 2 or 3 cuts in October. I sent them another copy of the invoice at the end of November, I harbor little hope at this point, but all things considered I think I'm getting off pretty easy.

    So don't make the mistake I made, don't scare them away with some over the top contract, just a simple written agreement as outlined above should do.
  7. JodyG

    JodyG LawnSite Member
    Messages: 27

    I think that I am going to use a service agreement showing what I provide and how I expect to get paid. A yearly agreement doesn’t sound as harsh as a yearly contract. Besides, both are worth as much as the paper they are written own. I am starting to look for new clients now but don't want to jump the gun before the spring clean-ups.
    I am hoping to get some spring clean-ups and roll them over to a yearly agreement. I would like about 3 ½ - 4 days worth of work and then decide where I want to be.
  8. blk90s13

    blk90s13 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,453

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