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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have been thinking a lot about this upcoming season. Times are changing quickly. I will avoid the politics of it all in this post, and just roll with it all. I am in a good position this year. I almost doubled my business last year. I did good with one employee. He left in Fall to join the military, so I have been solo trying to save all I can. I feel I make a higher profit in winter anyway. I can't get some to understand that concept. I hear all the time, what do you do all winter? I take it easy and make money because I am smart in how I set my accounts up. lol. I will need to find an employee by mid March or I will be in trouble. Good luck to me...

So thinking about all this, I realize that I will have to pay a higher salary this year. I will probably expect to pay at least 10% higher than I was paying in the past. Prices on everything is up, so price increases across the board are a must this season. I have a few accounts that saw a price increase last Spring so I may leave them alone. But, thinking about the position I am in and the amount of business I had last year, I think this is a good year to type up and give every customer a complete long drawn out service terms and conditions letter with their price increase letter.

I have been typing something up and already have about 6 pages lol. Thing is, I feel it may sound a little mean as I am including all of my business pet peeves. I guess being a small "home town" business you like to have that laid back non-corporate attitude with customers. But there comes that time when you have to lay it on the line and stop being too nice and letting some customers stay on the schedule that need to go.

I feel it's time to tighten things up. I do feel I may lose some customers with a price hike giving them a list of things they can expect form us, and everything we expect from them. But I feel like customers have to adjust with us. Everything is changing. It is time for them to realize at the end of the day, time is money. I put in the letter about extra charges for picking up personal items, charging if we show up and are unable to service for one reason or another, covered the topic of minimizing time knocking on doors for payment and wanting to set every account up to be billed monthly instead of me having to take time to knock, talk to them and having to keep up with checks during the work day. I really just went into it all.

Unfortunately, I feel we have to treat customers like 1st graders sometimes. But even though business is good, expenses are through the roof. Every customer must be on a regular schedule. No text or call reminders will be made unless we are going to be more than one day late. I get tired of the hand holding. I really do.

So I think I will e-mail a generic letter or mail sort of a newsletter that spring is around the corner blah blah and talk about price increases and give them a review of their service plan with the new price. Then refer them to the attached terms and conditions I have enclosed.

I am trying to not make it a list of everything that has irritated me over the years, but that may be what it is...in a nice way or course. But I also cover exactly what they can expect from "basic service" and what is extra. I cover it all.

Does it sound like it's too harsh? I may actually not send it to my best customers, but rather just start attaching it to their invoices each month as more of a generic thing. Then I can always put a note in their monthly invoice email that terms and conditions are attached. IF I get all this completed and sent out before I hire someone, I will know what customers are in and out for the year and I can plan accordingly.

Another thing I really want to do this year is expand. If I can find one person I can trust to do the job without having to hold their hand constantly, I want to get a skid steer and expand. We shall see how it goes. I do hate to get an expensive piece of equipment and have the market crash on me. Part of me feels like if I get into heavier tractor work, I may find like many others do, there is more money in that and give up on mowing. I don't want that, but I also am not getting any younger. My neck and back can't keep holding up to this. And goodness trying to find someone that can work a string trimmer is nearly impossible. It's frustrating really. So is finding someone that pays attention to detail. It takes a special person to do this commercially and professionally as I have slowly found out over the years. Everyone thinks they are professional. lol

What are some changes you have made or thinking of making this year? I think it's our year. The market may crash, but people are rockin and rollin at the moment and spending money. It's a great year to implement the changes you have been thinking about and also getting the lower profit yards where they need to be, or let them go if they are not on board.
 

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I'm gonna add a dog **** clause to my service agreements. I'm also buying a debris loader and building a box on my truck. Had a really goof leaf season and want take things to the next level.

Like you, I am not getting any younger and hope to have a solid guy or 2 this year. I enjoy landscaping and doing cleanups... with a helper!

6 pages does sound a bit much lol I would try and condense it down some.

So people still come out and give you checks.. Almost everyone pays online for me, and those that do pay by check will mail them.
 

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Did I read this right... You are going to send a 6 pager to your customers? Id suggest if that's correct a big... No. I sent a half page for the most part double spaced 3 quick sentence letter to my customers. Prices have gone up X, I've done everything I can on my side to absorb the cost of this last year and the previous year and I no longer can afford to do so at this point. Your new price is Y. Thank you for your loyalty and your past business. By the way here are a few of the main services we will offer going forward.... And by the the way here are a few of the services we can no longer offer....
 

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No letter about a price increase, just raised them. I do send out their program breakdown with the new prices tho, so they know before the season.

I also include a 1page breakdown that I call “The year in review “. It mostly talks about the weather conditions in a little detail; it’s amazing how much people forget about that. I also reinforce what I expect from them and what they can expect from me., etc.

I don‘t go into why their service costs more, I think they can figure that out.
 

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Agree w others it’s over kill. Sounds like you maybe just need to get rid of a few more problem Customers. Also it’s just lawn mowing and no need to add to ppls stress. I’m one of the few NOT raising prices unless the individual lawn needs it. not trying to add to my customers stress … we are paid to make their lives easier. Nothing wrong w having an agreement but simple is better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
It's not a 6 page explanation of why prices are going up, but more or less going over everything or anything that has maybe been confusing for customers in the past. What they can expect and what I also should expect.

part of it is basic info.Types of services offered besides mowing. Explaining that in summer we need advance notice for extra work needed to make sure to plan for it. Also covers all payment options available to make it easy for them to pay. It's not 6 pages or ranting or explaining price increases. Explains the importance of routing etc.

I just end up with the same questions and same issues over and over. If they choose not to read it, I can't help that. Almost every service you use has something similar. Not sure why it's a problem. I just don't want it to come off as mean or that I am ranting. It's too easy for people to play dumb, but when you spell it out for them, then you can refer them back to the terms.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
6 pages of service terms and conditions. Get real. That's plain ridiculous. Nobody wants to read something like that! One page of general terms and conditions and handling any issues as they arise is more like it.
I know no one wants to read it, but I can almost guarantee you almost every service you use has a long fine print terms and conditions. I think they fact that someone doesn't opens up a can of worms for some to play dumb. It's all basic and I like to keep it basic. But I get tired of running into the same issues over and over. They probably won't read it, but then does anyone really read terms and conditions? I really don't care if they find someone else. It won't offend anyone that isn't a problem. So, it may move issues on to some other company.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
No letter about a price increase, just raised them. I do send out their program breakdown with the new prices tho, so they know before the season.

I also include a 1page breakdown that I call "The year in review ". It mostly talks about the weather conditions in a little detail; it's amazing how much people forget about that. I also reinforce what I expect from them and what they can expect from me., etc.

I don't go into why their service costs more, I think they can figure that out.
I discuss weather in the letter too. It's all basic but needs to be covered. I may decide not to print a copy for everyone but rather start attaching it to invoices as more of a generic thing. I am thinking of creating a website too and could include it there. Honestly, I could make it more of a FAQ's kind of thing rather than this is how it is going to be, but I do run into the same issues over and over. Weather conditions is covered in great detail in what I typed up. It's really important for customers to understand how you operate in certain conditions,.

Heck, I have customers that think any moisture on the grass should be a no go. They don't understand that you can't rearrange your entire schedule and route to get to their yard in ideal conditions every week. I am to the point I would rather refer them to the terms or FAQs when they call for a quote. Then it may weed them out before they become a headache.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Agree w others it's over kill. Sounds like you maybe just need to get rid of a few more problem Customers. Also it's just lawn mowing and no need to add to ppls stress. I'm one of the few NOT raising prices unless the individual lawn needs it. not trying to add to my customers stress … we are paid to make their lives easier. Nothing wrong w having an agreement but simple is better.
I am thinking of it more as a FAQs kind of thing, but don't want them to think it's only advice or optional. We have to have ground rules too. I do want to make their lives easier but don't want to make mine harder through the process.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I get you want something in the customers hands . Same as signing up for anything else.
Whenever I makes changes.
It starts with the next estimate.
From here out.
Good idea. And I also think by having a website it and just referring them to the terms and conditions page may make it come across better. I do want them to have a good relationship but feel it may help eliminate confusion.

I certainly don't want to run off the long time customers that have never been an issue. But going forward I want to make sure customers know what to expect and eliminate as much time texting, e-mailing, and returning phone calls as possible and repeating myself over and over to different customers about the same issues.
 

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I would say explanations are good. Keeping your customers informed of what your expectations for them as well as what they should expect from you in certain scenarios is also a good idea if you are making big changes. But you want to keep it simple and short to read, maybe 1 full page max of reading. Attention spans are short so people will not fully read anything longer.

My seasonal letter has a front page with my business name and contact info with pictures of nice green lawns and garden beds to remind them of spring coming. Second page is the price for the spring cleanup, mowing and fall cleanup. Saying when they can expect services to be completed throughout the April-November season, not a full page but fills most of it. And a final page that goes through minor details of how they can pay, when invoices will be sent, if not paid within 5 days past the due date there is a small late fee, etc.

So I do a 3 page emailed .pdf, but the first is just pictures and the next two pages are not full pages but separated because they cover different things. I may be a bit long myself, so will consider doing just the intro picture page this year and one pages after that this year instead of two smaller not full pages.

Getting as much across as possible in less will be beneficial I think, for you as well as reflecting on my own plan for this upcoming spring letter going out to customers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I'm gonna add a dog **** clause to my service agreements. I'm also buying a debris loader and building a box on my truck. Had a really goof leaf season and want take things to the next level.

Like you, I am not getting any younger and hope to have a solid guy or 2 this year. I enjoy landscaping and doing cleanups... with a helper!

6 pages does sound a bit much lol I would try and condense it down some.

So people still come out and give you checks.. Almost everyone pays online for me, and those that do pay by check will mail them.
Unfortunately, I do still get checks. I have a ton of elderly clients. Almost every one of them are the same and want to pay with a check at the time of service.. No internet etc...I don't have a big issue with it, but then the busier you get the more you realize the clock keeps ticking when you knock on the door and they didn't hear it and you bang on the door and you stand there. Then they finally come and say okay wait a minute for me to write the check that they could have already had ready while you were mowing. That was part of what I wanted to get across in the letter. Just saying we would prefer to get everyone on monthly billing.

Not only is this time consuming but you are handing me a check while I am out servicing and I don't even keep my wallet on me as I don't want to get it dirty and wet from sweat. So, I now have the added responsibility of keeping up with checks handed to me throughout the day. And if I happen to send just my employee then it adds even more stress on keeping up with payment.
 

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I know no one wants to read it, but I can almost guarantee you almost every service you use has a long fine print terms and conditions. I think they fact that someone doesn't opens up a can of worms for some to play dumb. It's all basic and I like to keep it basic. But I get tired of running into the same issues over and over. They probably won't read it, but then does anyone really read terms and conditions? I really don't care if they find someone else. It won't offend anyone that isn't a problem. So, it may move issues on to some other company.
My terms did get longer over time but I've got great customers now and most of them have never even seen my maintenance agreement. Things like not being responsible for personal items left in the lawn and that dogs must be secured while we're working were added. Some lady wanted me to pay a ridiculous amount to replace her prescription sunglasses that she lost on the lawn and I ran over. And I was blamed for letting a dog out that a customer was pet sitting at their home. I didn't even know they had a dog there. Minimum charges for showing up and not being able to cut for reasons out of my control without notice was added too. Tired of showing up to not be able to do my job because of other contractors. Otherwise it's mostly what we will and won't do and that timely payment is required. You really don't need to go crazy with it. You might be viewed as being hard to deal with and having a poor attitude.
 

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Unfortunately, I do still get checks. I have a ton of elderly clients. Almost every one of them are the same and want to pay with a check at the time of service.. No internet etc...I don't have a big issue with it, but then the busier you get the more you realize the clock keeps ticking when you knock on the door and they didn't hear it and you bang on the door and you stand there. Then they finally come and say okay wait a minute for me to write the check that they could have already had ready while you were mowing. That was part of what I wanted to get across in the letter. Just saying we would prefer to get everyone on monthly billing.

Not only is this time consuming but you are handing me a check while I am out servicing and I don't even keep my wallet on me as I don't want to get it dirty and wet from sweat. So, I now have the added responsibility of keeping up with checks handed to me throughout the day. And if I happen to send just my employee then it adds even more stress on keeping up with payment.
I deal with mostly older and retired clients. So I fully understand them wanting to pay with physical checks. But see if you can get everything to monthly and have them send it through the mail once a month.

I find getting a check each week makes billing more confusing for me as the provider, harder to keep track of. A monthly bill is easier in my opinion to keep track of. I do all of my invoices through quick books self employed, so it is an emailed invoice. Have had some issues with customers in the past but you just have to get them used to the software. And many still pay with checks just sent through the physical mail after receiving the emailed invoice. A lot of older customers don't trust the electronic payment options and that is fine.
 

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Did I read this right... You are going to send a 6 pager to your customers? Id suggest if that's correct a big... No. I sent a half page for the most part double spaced 3 quick sentence letter to my customers. Prices have gone up X, I've done everything I can on my side to absorb the cost of this last year and the previous year and I no longer can afford to do so at this point. Your new price is Y. Thank you for your loyalty and your past business. By the way here are a few of the main services we will offer going forward.... And by the the way here are a few of the services we can no longer offer....
That's exactly what I am thinking.
 

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I discuss weather in the letter too. It's all basic but needs to be covered. I may decide not to print a copy for everyone but rather start attaching it to invoices as more of a generic thing. I am thinking of creating a website too and could include it there. Honestly, I could make it more of a FAQ's kind of thing rather than this is how it is going to be, but I do run into the same issues over and over. Weather conditions is covered in great detail in what I typed up. It's really important for customers to understand how you operate in certain conditions,.

Heck, I have customers that think any moisture on the grass should be a no go. They don't understand that you can't rearrange your entire schedule and route to get to their yard in ideal conditions every week. I am to the point I would rather refer them to the terms or FAQs when they call for a quote. Then it may weed them out before they become a headache.
I think a FAQ page is a better idea personally to have that info available.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I think a FAQ page is a better idea personally to have that info available.
Thanks I will take that into consideration. I may just do it as a FAQs page. It will also be great to hand out to potential customers to have something to read over with their estimate. Maybe 2 pages and still hit on the main concerns and questions. Some of it can be handled on an individual basis I guess, but I still say it's good to be clear and precise in what can be expected from the company and the customer.
 
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