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expanding to other cities

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by grassmasterswilson, Feb 9, 2011.

  1. grassmasterswilson

    grassmasterswilson LawnSite Platinum Member
    from nc
    Messages: 4,966

    Currently I'm a mow and application business. I have tried over the past 5 years to grow my business through referrals and postcards. I just added a website this year. I'm growing every year, but only about 10% increase in sales every year and don't have any big contracts... mostly residential.

    My town has about 40-50k in population with a lot of competition (full timers and a ton of part timers). I'm not losing any customers to doing a bad job and my keep rate is pretty high. There are a few towns close by that are larger. The state capital(pop 400k +) is about 45 minutes away. The "neighbor (60k)" is about 20-25 mins. A larger college town with big hospital (80k+) is about 30 minutes.

    I hate to drive that far for one job and the possibility of not picking up others. Thought about quoting a current price and a price if they refer 2 new customers. Any thoughts on successfull expansion. Would love a discussion here, through PM, or through my website below.
  2. Golfpro21

    Golfpro21 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 563

    I think it will work over time, but you will have to be prepared to bite the bullet for the first year if you go that route........what if you only get 1 client.......also what do you say to the first client who signs up.....I will service you but only if more people sign up....kinda a catch22
    Good luck, hope it works out the way you want it too
  3. ALC-GregH

    ALC-GregH LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Messages: 7,051

    That's a tough call. I currently work in 3 different towns that are about 30 miles apart. I have a few in each town. What I hope to do is create a route for each town. I have a full day in one town and half days in the others. Once I get to 3 full days I'm done. I don't HAVE to work 5,6 or 7 days a week mowing lawns. I'd rather stick with 3 days and have it easy the rest of the week. :)
  4. grassmasterswilson

    grassmasterswilson LawnSite Platinum Member
    from nc
    Messages: 4,966

    Yeah, I'm kind of discouraged with the amount of money I spend on website/postcards/signs vs. the amount of phone calls/estimates i'm getting. A lot has to do with the economy and a lot has to do with people don't shop around for lawn care. If they are happy with who they have and what they are paying they don't tend to change or get extimates from others.

    Just thought I might look into other cities and like ALC-Greg said have a route for each city. Maybe just use that advertising money to saturate my current town. Tough choice.
  5. ALC-GregH

    ALC-GregH LawnSite Fanatic
    from PA
    Messages: 7,051

    I haven't spent any money on advertising in the first 3 years. I've grown slow but still keep growing. It all came from referrals. This season coming I already have 3 new customers signed up that are local I picked up over the winter while plowing driveways. Now I'll be doing both lawn and snow removal for them. :) One didn't even know I did lawn care, they just wanted the snow cleared. When I told him about the lawn care side, he told me he was going to start hiring a company to do it this season as he's getting to old to keep it up. Guess who got it? :D :D
  6. Texas Lawn

    Texas Lawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 262

    I would only do it if you have a lot of money to put towards advertising. You will lose money if you go out and do only a few customers. Spend a couple of days and pick one of those cities and hit it hard. It will also be hard when quoting the customer to not overcharge them to account for the fact your driving so far.
  7. BrunoT

    BrunoT LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 741

    You're in such a small place you think of a 45 min drive to the "big city' as if it's expanding to another state almost. It takes that long to get from the northern burbs here to the slightly less northern burbs. And 25 min is nothing to get to another "zone" where you then start hitting jobs one after the other. There will be a period where you do a few one-offs and waste drive time till you build up a clientele, but that's just part of growth.

    10% growth a year, especially in a 3.5 year recession, is quite healthy, assuming you started from a reasonable base. Rome wasn't built in a day. It takes a lot of customers when you're netting $25/app after expenses/materials for 6-8 apps a year vs $35/visit for 30 visits a year doing the maintenance end of things, so expect it to go slower if a large proportion of your business is apps. I'd pass on the college town if it's anything like it used to be. Too much cheap labor out there already at work. Then again, these days they may not get their hands dirty.

    The good news is you're not having much customer turnover. Sounds like adding a 60,000 population base to your coverage area is well worth the drive time.

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