contemplating going into app. biz.

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by teejet, Mar 22, 2008.

  1. teejet

    teejet LawnSite Member
    from Indiana
    Messages: 232

    I have been considering going into the spraying fert. app. biz. Has anyone started out in the landscape install field and gone to applications? I am hoping it would be less overall hassle, less equip cost(needs), scheduling headaches, time spent on complex estimates, backbreaking work. I am sure it is not as easy as one would presume.
    For those whom have done the landscaping thing and now do chemicals, do you enjoy it more? What are the hardships of starting a lawn treatment company? How long did it take you to get running good? I am seriously thinking of getting my license next year, phasing out the landscaping, and running solo as an applicator. Any encouragement? Advice?
  2. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    I started last year doing lawn ...cutting and edging. I decided to make it a real business. I think a lot depends on where you are located, and what kind of client base and property sizes you deal with, and lastly, what part of this biz you enjoy the most. Lots of variables. So, maybe if I explain what I decided to do, it may offer you some ideas.

    First, I love making things grow. I have 2 years of formal hort training, and was always an avid hobbyist, gardener, vegtable grower. I even voluteer my time at a state arboretum to work alongside brilliant people with PhD's from Cornell and the like. Since what I like to do best is total property and ornamental management, in other words, making my own property look great, that is what I wanted to do for my customers. One stop shopping... all maintenance, all apps, all disease diagnosis and treatments... total property management.

    My area consists of small properties, most finely lanscaped, with 2 to 4k of turf, and 1 to 3k of beds and plantings. Many are very high end landscapes. Their initial installations likely run for $4 to 10K in terms of bed plantings and specimen plants.

    I got certifed over the winter, took some classes, dropped my mow and blow accounts, and now have 11 clients that fit my business plan... which is namely, accounts that will bill out at $1500 to $3000 a year each, most averaging around $2400. As a solo, I want to get up to 25 to 30 accounts. That doesn't include new installations, annual plantings, or minor hardscaping, which should generate (after I hit 25 clients) an additional $40 to $50k per year.

    The demographics in my area support this kind of high end business plan. Are you thinking of leaving the maintenance side altogether? That is a different ball game, and doing only apps I am hardly qualified to even comment on. My goal was to be a bit like an estate superintendent, but on many small properties. I do everything, and because of that, can implement a complete IPM plan for all my clients. Total control over every aspect. I don't have to worry about a mow and blow guy that leaves piles of leaves under a backyard deck. I get involved with the client's irrigation habits, and am there every week to scout for problems.

    Everything depends on
    1) What kind of business goals do you have? Is the priority in money, at perhaps the cost of less enjoyment in the type of work you do? What kind of services will your local market bear? Is your area mostly irrigated expensively landscaped properties, or large tracts of unirrigated turf?

    2) The competition. Do you want to take on the big nationals, like Scotts and TG? Is your competition more like mine, LCO's, most doing illegal apps, and have lousy programs?

    3) The equipment investment. The larger the properties, the more stuff you need to do the volume.

    Lots of guys here, in fact most, do only apps. I am in the minority, doing total property management, but my maket has a niche for what I do, can support the $1500 a year minimum billing I want, and frankly, I don't have to bust my butt doing it. I project working about an average of 35 hours a week with 25 accounts, including installations. It helps that all of my accounts are within 3/4 of a mile of my home. I also tend to get bunches of clients... 2 or 3 neighbors.

    It's far too early for me to say this has worked, but I'm off to a flying start. Just today, I did a pH test infront of a customer. Sold a lime app for 40 bucks, which will take me 10 minutes to apply and cost of materials will be about 6 bucks.

    The short answer is yes, if you want to go to maintenance and apps, or apps alone, you will definitely make more money, no doubt about that, and your profit margins will triple. I can't imagine trying to make a living or run a business doing maintenance alone. But, if you do go into apps, be prepared to research and study yer arse off, if you want to do it right.

    You posed a difficult question to answer... I hope my post is somewhat helpful. Lots of variables that you have to define first in the way of goals and a business plan. Best of luck.
  3. teejet

    teejet LawnSite Member
    from Indiana
    Messages: 232

    My goal is to focus on doing as many quality applications I can in a day. I wouldn't want to do anything else. I am very production oriented. I think that is why landscape installs drive me nuts. The cost to do it right is to high. That is equipment and all the various materials. You need expensive equipment and back-ups of those. Also not having material on hand can be very frustrating.
    Now how much advertising (in general) does it take to get enough accounts to keep one solo operator busy?
    I have 3 competitor along with tru green and scotts.
  4. Frank Fescue

    Frank Fescue LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 713

    you want to start up a fert biz why? you have something against me and my family? you want my kids to starve? sorry bud, i was here first.
  5. CrownLawnSvc

    CrownLawnSvc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 51

    I think it may be a little late for this year. I would think that your competitors have already started their first round. Especially if you do not have your 3b. My advice would be to get properly licensed this summer. Get educated, if you aren't already. Purdue has a short course in Feb. Then hit it hard and be ready for '09.
  6. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,497

    The main thin is to learn your stuff - INSIDE and OUT. It's not just a matter of "fertilizer makes grass green" and "Weed killer kills weeds". It IS a science to know the field - and to perform it efficiently - let alone proficiently. The kids that spray for the big green companies for instance, have not a clue about the actual treatment of turf and soils...especially when it comes to treating disease or insect damages.
    It can be done,...but study it, and study it over again. Don't fall in to the "cookie cutter" treatment pattern.
  7. J Hisch

    J Hisch LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 952

    Well I am about 1 hour away and can tell you it will be a hard road to make it in Washigton alone. Scotts/Tru-Green will do apps for a lot less in your area, and washington's median income level is very low, which means not many potential buyers in your area. If you plan to drive to Evansville then it will be hard for you to spend 2 hours a day on the road, plus if you get a service call and you have to run down here more profits out of your pocket. I am not saying it cant be done, but I would get with the local guys and see how they are doing and I would bet they woud be doing well to hve 200 accounts. You need about 125k to make apps work for a solo. plus when you run that much you will not have much sare time for additional selling. You would be better off to team up with someone in a larger city looking to expand, you can get your experience requirement and learn the business lawn apps, it a whole new ball game.
  8. teejet

    teejet LawnSite Member
    from Indiana
    Messages: 232

    How bout I come down there J Hisch and you show me how to do apps. I wouldn't be any trouble.:rolleyes:
  9. ATVracer

    ATVracer LawnSite Senior Member
    from Indiana
    Messages: 346

    Hey there neighbor,

    Be prepared to be lowballed by True-Green, Scotts and "another" unnamed company. I am already having to lower my prices just to get work. I am at the point that to hell with going any lower on prices. Either they want me or not. I have personally seen estimates from true green that are much lower than mine, and I know Turf-Pro is a wee bit cheaper too. I do very good work on applications and my customers are faithful. Just trying to get new ones is hard here. Also be prepared to be Out-Marketed by the others. If you want to chat sometime call me. It's not hard to figure out who I am, there are only 3 businesses in the whole county that are licensed.
  10. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,135

    I too, did a five year degree in Horticulture. My satisfaction is is seeing the perfect lawn and beds that are in absolute top condition. The landscapes I maintain are all irrigated except for one or that are lawn only. The majority of my landscapes costed over $20,000 to install and they are not always in a luxury zip code. That is just what it costs to install a landscape here. So what I charge is small compared to what the owner had to pay for landscaping. I do not do everything from mowing to apps. I am strictly fertilize and spray, however I do maintain Bonsai, because most of my counterparts will not maintain these expensive plants correctly. I also manage and maintain the irrigation system on the properties on my program. I cannot stand the half-azzed work done by the "landscapers" for installs and repairs. Most of the irrigation systems I have seen require lots of modification and adjustment in order to water the landscape evenly and adequately. My title is lawn and landscape health manager, because I do more than just "throw and go" I counsel clients and their mowers on proper cultural practices at no charge. What I do is negated by improper mowing, pruning or watering. Right now I have 15 clients and my average monthly billing is $4000 per month. Which comes out to double what I was being paid working for a "landscaper".

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