Advice needed!

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by blaiselfd5, Aug 14, 2009.

  1. blaiselfd5

    blaiselfd5 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 7

    Thank you for reading my post and any advice or constructive criticism is GREATLY appreciated.

    My brother and I are in the process of planning our own lawn care business. I am a full time fireman, so it would be a full time/ part time business for me. My brother wants to go strictly full time. I am very good with people (public relations) and business management (I was a golf pro for several years). My brother will look to me for handling almost all of the business side, and he is ready to cut five days a week. I will help him cut on the days i am off from the fire department. Here are a few questions i pose:

    1) Starting the business I am torn as to borrow the money (8K to 12K) to buying all the equipment needed to start off full force; or getting into it slowly by buying equipment piece by piece. We are ready to go at it full force and hustle up work as fast as possible, but i'm smart enough not to make a boneheaded move and put myself in a bad situation financially.

    2) Is our timing bad as far as starting a lawn care business in August? I know the winter months are approaching and the last thing i want to do is invest money on equipment, then sit on it for a few months. We are willing to hustle up any type of work we can to keep income coming in, but i don't know the demand for winter work around here in south louisiana. But whatever it is, we are willing to do it. Any realistic ideas?

    3) In order to expand our capabilities of acquiring more work, we are thinking of buying a pressure washer. Is this a good idea? Are there any other oppurtunities that go along well with a lawn care business?

    4) Looking into the future I am thinking that attending a career school in landscaping might help our business to grow. I don't have any experience in landscaping itself, but is a school that gives you a certificate significant enough to make it worth taking?

    Thanks again for the replies and look for possible another post with more questions because i know i am leaving something out.
  2. SangerLawn

    SangerLawn LawnSite Senior Member
    from indiana
    Messages: 736

    First off I want to say this was very well written. It is nice to read something I can understand. I am located in southern Indiana so some of the things are probably going to be different for my area compared to yours so I am not going to answer everything.

    In my personal opinion I strongly recommend working for another company before you start your own. Get some experience under your belt. Every time someone goes into this line of work thinking mowing someone else’s lawn is like mowing there own lawn, the business fails. Learn how to use a trimmer and why/when you do certain things with it. Learn things like how to mow. Simply hoping on a zero turn and mowing will loose you more customers then anything. Believe it or not mowing lawns takes a certain finesse that most people don’t understand until they mow for at least a year.

    Do not go out and buy thousands of dollars of equipment right off the bat. Your normal company starting out with no name for there self will only gain about 20 lawns the first FULL year in business. This will not make payments on everything. Go buy a 36 inch scag or something along that line to start out. If you get big contracts or a lot of customers then purchase something larger.

    I picked up 2 new lawns this week so yes you can get some yourself right now. With that being said, if you don’t have an established name, it is going to be tuff to make any money this late in the year.
  3. SangerLawn

    SangerLawn LawnSite Senior Member
    from indiana
    Messages: 736

    I forgot to add about pressure washing. We also offer that service and have several large contracts. If you get large contracts you will make money however I have noticed a huge drop in residential customers this year. More then likely due to the economy. I don’t recommend getting into this right now because it has a huge over head.
  4. THC

    THC LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,020

    Search for threads started by some guy named bigw, he did what you are thinking about doing except he invested, I think it was 50K. He had NO Doubt in his mind and he had sales experience and got the whole thing off (at the proper time of year: spring) with a drop of post cards. He even went through the learning curve about pressure washing.
  5. charlie g

    charlie g LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    :usflag::I definitely agree with sanger lawn go work for someone first I would say for at least two years. Get to know how to operate the equipment properly string trimmer/mower/hedge trimmers etc. and how to maintain or service them. Start small get a feel for it keep your overhead low as possible ,don't forget insurance, licensing ,phone bill ,fuel cost,advertising costs and any thing else I left out.

    Best of luck.

    Charlie Gambino/Owner/Manager or CWG Landscape Services LLC :dizzy:
  6. THC

    THC LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,020


    Don't work for anybody but yourself. Fake it till you make it. Everybody and their grandmother can mow a lawn.
  7. mowerbrad

    mowerbrad LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,268

    1) Don't borrow the money. In this economy and starting at this time of the year, the number of jobs you get could be rather low as compared to starting in the spring and in a better economy. I'm pretty sure you can spend less than 8K on equipment (ie, $1200 for trailer, $2000 for a 36"-48"walkbehind, $500 for a "good" 21" mower, $500 for a trimmer and blower, and $500 on misc. tools/ $4700).

    2) Timing is kinda bad, just being in the middle of the season, most people have already signed for this year. But you would probably still be able to get some work. But it all depends on your area.

    3) Don't do the pressure washing yet. During your first season, take note of what your customers ask you to do...those will be the services you need to add on. Don't add on services that aren't in demand. Stick with mowing and other small jobs your first year, then expand and offer more services your next years. Other services would be aerating, dethatching, fertilizing, etc.

    4) Going to a school to get certified to do certain things can really be good for your business. This type of thing could set your business apart from others and thus get you more business. Its just like in the fire services, the more certification you have the better fire fighter you can be. And in the lawncare business, the more certification you have the better chance your business could do well.
  8. sdk1959

    sdk1959 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 909

    It's smart thinking to hold off on buying a lot of equipment before you get your business established.

    Start with a used commercial walk behind, 32" will get you through just about any backyard gate yet still reduce your cutting time by a good margin. A 21" push-mower, trimmer & blower, rakes, brooms etc. Pay cash if you can for your equipment.

    Also NO MONTHLY BILLING, make this clear to your customers. Give a courtesy call or email your customers the day before you cut. This way they know when your coming and will have a check in the door for you if they aren't home. Also you don't have to keep track of individual customers, who was cut, who paid, who didn't, and your money is not tied up for a month.

    The 2 biggest reasons small business's fail is being under-capitalized and unpaid receivables (cash-flow). Ever see those ads for companies that buy receivables, a lot of those unpaid receivables are from lawn care operators. Receivables can be the death blow to many companies.

    This time of year you may get a lot of PITA customers calling you who want to drop thier present service provider. Ask why they want to switch, what they didn't like about the service, it will save you grief later on.

    Good luck in your business venture! :)
  9. THC

    THC LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,020

    I would ignore this advice if I was the thread starter, (it's ridiculous). Might as well stamp "I'm a hack" on your forehead". Nobody wants to write out 4-5 cheques a month and nobody wants to write out 4-5 reciepts per customer per month and if you can't budget, don't go into business.
  10. blaiselfd5

    blaiselfd5 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 7

    Thanks for all of the replies! It really does help me to get a better feel for the avenue my brother and I should take for starting the business.

    I have experience in working with a lawn care. It isn't much, but i have a good feel for the speed and routine of cutting the yards. I also have a good understanding of what customers generally expect from the lawn care co. they hire.

    I would really like to speak with someone who has taken career school classes in the field of landscaping. I have done a little research and it seems to be pretty pricey, but if i know it will pay off in the long run then i don't mind the investment.

    So what i have gathered so far is that i should probobly start off small as possible. A 36" mower, weed eater, blower, edger, and maybe buy other equipment as i need them on a job? And what do i look for when buying a used mower? or should i even buy used equipment?

    The guy i work for now told me the best advice he could give me is to make sure the motor on the mower i buy is plenty big enough for the machine. He said a mulch kit is almost a must.

    Thanks again for the replies.

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