A few thoughts for you new guys from someone who was in your shoes

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by VAMower, May 13, 2010.

  1. VAMower

    VAMower LawnSite Member
    from VA
    Messages: 78

    I was just reading through here and thought I would post a few thoughts for you new folks trying to get into this business. I recently took over an existing solo operation, retained about 85% of the lawns from the purchase and have doubled the customers in about 1.5 years. Here are a few things I've learned along the way.

    Don't take Pain In The Azz customers for the sake of just getting another lawn to mow. PITA's will take up a ton of time and if you mess up the slightest thing they will drop you, expect a free mowing and/or bad mouth you. They have had 5 lawn service companies in the last 3 years for a reason. You own lawn mowers, not magic wands.

    Don't go cheap on handheld equipment. Seriously, If you can't afford $300 for a nice trimmer and $400 for a serious back pack blower this might not be the business for you. I've done it, its not worth the couple hundred bucks you save once you get a couple of parts fixed on used handhelds. Commercial mowers are a different story. This is a business, it will take an investment. You need equipment you can rely on.

    Charge a rate slightly below the major outfits in your area. If you go cheap on your prices just to get business your going to end up with a bunch of customers who's goal is to spend as little as possible on the lawn. This won't get you very far.

    Figure out how you want your org to run in 5 years, start operating that way now. Tell your customers how things will work, don't let them decide for you. You can only mow soo many lawns on a Friday. If you want to grow to a full weeks worth of mowing, don't take Friday only customers, at some point you will get a lawn around the corner and you will be going to the exact same neighborhood twice in one week. If you only want to be a solo operation and mow 20-25 yards a week than this can work. Don't let your customer dictate to you how your business will run.

    Piggybacking the above thought, if you want to grow, back sure your business is scaleable. Don't force customers to make you call them before you come or knock on the door once you arrive. You won't be able to do this if you have 2 crews and 150 lawns per week. Tell them you mow in their area Tuesday afternoon's or Thursday mornings.

    Get some insurance and a license. A lot of guys worry about how cool their truck and trailer look but don't have general liability insurance. This can be a dangerous business. If you hurt someone with a flying piece of debris or damage something with a mower it could not only put you out of business but could bankrupt you.

    Don't be afraid to charge A LOT! This is a business, you are doing this to make $$$. If someone has an emergency and you can take care of it right away, throw out a big number quickly and let them know you can start working on it 4-6 hours. I just cut an 1/8 acre lot (lot includes house and driveway) for $105. The tenants were moving out and it had to be done in less than 24 hours. They gasped, I quickly told them that the lawn should have been cut atleast 4 times this year, it now needs to be bagged and we can do it asap. I called my crew, met them there that afternoon and we were done in 20 minutes. Customer was super happy.

    I may sound stern about dealing with customers, but in my area we have to. Customers will try to walk all over you if you let them. Stand your ground. This is a hard business no reason to sign up for more headaches than you need.

    I hope this helps.
  2. cozymonkey

    cozymonkey LawnSite Member
    Messages: 111

    I would like to add if you are new. Chances are you have alot of questions. Well all 100,000 members were new at some point and the industry hasnt changed a whole lot, your question has probably been asked before. Search first then ask a newbie question if you cant find it. There is a lot useful knowledge on this site and a lot of members that are willing to share it. But you need to put the effort in too. Show them you tried then they will help you instead of jumping all over you for being new.

    My advise for you company wise is you are only as good as your equipment and know your minimum rate. You will put yourself out of business faster by cutting yourself short. Think of it this way if you cut yourself short you are actually losing money where as if you didnt have the work you would break even.
  3. Glenn Lawn Care

    Glenn Lawn Care LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,645

    Good post. i would like to add that it take some time to get alot of work. it doesnt happen over night.
  4. AOD

    AOD LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 331

    I tend to think I am doing a lot of stuff right. I am still struggling with really getting accounts, and I have a couple PITA people already. My day job keeps me busy so I dont have a whole lot of time to market, I have a couple guys willing to market and help me, I know it's foolish to take on help if you're small like me, but because I still work a 9-5 I don;t see any other way to make my business grow.
  5. GrassIsGreenerLawnCare

    GrassIsGreenerLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA
    Messages: 636

    i like reading posts like these that have insight for newer people like myself. i like that you take YOUR personal expereinces and reflect upon them in order to help us out. Im from VA as well and i have learned about these customers "trying" to walk all over you if you let them. just this week i had to tell a lady that i needed to switch her from biweekly to weekly cuts because her lawn was just too high by the time i got to it biweekly. its a $40 biweekly and i told her i would do it for $60 biweekly if she wanted to continue the biweekly nonsense. she had a hissy fit and stormed in the house. i figured i lost the account.(which sux cuz i dont have alot now) when we were blowing the drive and ready to leave she came out and begged me to do it for $35/week if i was switching her to weekly. after a few mins talking w/ her i agreed to do this since i will make more money out of it monthly now. Do u think i did the wrong thing or should i have stuck to my guns and kept it at 40 for weekly cuts? i normally charge more for biweekly as it is tho so i figured i did the right thing. but even tho i dont have alot of accounts right now, im not going to "just take whatever i can get" justr cuz i could use the work. cuz then next year when i have more lawns, i will regret charging low prices and then i will never be on the right track to making more money. I have landed about 80% of my estimates but have lost some from cheap people saying my price was too high. I know for certain that my prices are lower than the larger companies, however i do not "lowball" by ANY means as this hurts the industry as a whole, not only myself. thanks for the advice man
  6. barefootlawnsandlandscape

    barefootlawnsandlandscape LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 296

    Another word of advise, don't hijack other people's threads, but you did the right thing. You are up $20 per month.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  7. GrassIsGreenerLawnCare

    GrassIsGreenerLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA
    Messages: 636

    good call man. wasnt trying to highjack his thread at all and dont think i did. hes offering his personal advice and i simply was asking him for an opinion that completely is related to this thread. sorry if i stepped on any toes, but im not a complete newbie here to LS and know how to post. thanks tho
  8. VAMower

    VAMower LawnSite Member
    from VA
    Messages: 78

    No worries, I think you did the right thing by standing up for yourself.

    The lesson to learn here is to try not to get yourself in that situation in the future.

    80% is an amazing clousure rate on estimates. Good Job.
  9. GrassIsGreenerLawnCare

    GrassIsGreenerLawnCare LawnSite Senior Member
    from VA
    Messages: 636

    really? thanks. would you not reccomend taking on biweeekly accounts as a whole? as im sure you know....people in our area are always trying to find the cheap way out. i charge accordingly if the grass is supposed to be a weekly cut (irrigation etc) but like i said be4... i DO need the work....so for now i dont mind doing it. But like you said, i dont want to get into that situation again and have to switch prices and schedules so its a tough call man. thanks for the advice again and sorry if im taking up your thread, it just seems to be the only one offering help to new business owners
  10. VAMower

    VAMower LawnSite Member
    from VA
    Messages: 78

    We mow some lawns bi-weekly. I don't have much of a problem with them, they make scheduling a little tricky but its not that bad. We charge a little extra for bi-weekly. Extra customers are a good thing. You can still get spring clean up and leaf clean up work from them. I would rather have 15 extra bi-weekly accounts than nothing. If you decide to hire a helper, they are a great place to "train" the helper on a string trimmer or how to use a belt driven mower. Most bi-weekly customer don't care what it looks like anyway.

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