JonesLawnCareWV

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Charleston WV
Spring/Summer 2018? :help: (Warning: Infamous Jones overly elaborated post ahead:dancing:)

Some guys here might recognize the name; I was a frequent poster a couple years ago before my university shut down the satellite campus I attended and I moved across state to finish out at good ol' WVU (GO EERS!) and sold off my accounts and equipment.

Graduation will be next spring, BS in Electrical Engineering with an emphasis in Power Distribution, minor in Business Administration (minor already completed). In a perfect world, I will land a job with one of the energy companies locally or (dream come true) find an operations/site-management position with one of the local Wind Turbine sites here in WV or in Southern PA. Though, all of that highly unlikely. Unfortunately, job market in this state is awful. State dying by the day due to opioid crisis and a decade too long of state government putting eggs in a coal basket with a gaping hole in the bottom of it and no backup industries to keep us afloat.

That being said, I'm planning to get back into the business, either part time or full time depending on available job offers. While I've already completed all of my Business Admin. studies, I'm really leaning toward hiring an accountant and/or fiduciary adviser to keep me on track as book keeping & funds management was my biggest issue my first ~4 years in business and I can now clearly see that. Anyone have experience using outside sources for book keeping / advising, etc. and if so how severely does it cut into funding?

In terms of game plan for picking up business where I left off:

A lot of my accounts I will likely be able to get back. A good number of them returned to doing their own lawns and regularly contacted me asking if I was going to be coming back to the business. New accounts were never really hard for me to get; always managed to pick up several on the same block once I worked my way into an area and people saw my quality of work. Also know all about various marketing methods: door hangers, flyers, adverts on my equipment, business pages, email lists, and the creme-de-la-creme - word of mouth.

I sold off all of my equipment before moving two years ago so finding equipment again is first order of business. And this is where I'm looking for advice and why I'm posting some six to eight months ahead of when I will actually be searching for equipment.

Internal debate: Do I go for a utility trailer to use with my current SUV and run that for awhile? Or save up now and search for cheap (>$2k) full size pickup and have someone fabricate dovetail flatbed for streamlined service?
  • Current SUV + Utility Trailer setup:
    • Pros:
      • No investment in a new vehicle.
      • Utility trailer can be had for similar price to custom fabricated landscape flatbed with dovetail and ramp.
      • Utility trailer perhaps has more customizability than a custom fabricated, permanently welded landscape flatbed
      • I'm sure there's more that will be suggested - will add to list as others mention pros
    • Cons:
      • Separate insurance, registration, etc for trailer.
      • Insurance policy on SUV does not cover using vehicle for business; any damage claim would be turned down if business use was apparent. (Also current predicament as I deliver pizza :hammerhead:)
      • Trailer + vehicle combo harder to maneuver in small neighborhoods which was and likely will be the bulk of my accounts (More money in small yards from my experience).
      • I'm sure there's more that will be suggested - will add to list as others mention cons
  • Full Size Pickup with dovetail flatbed + ramp gate.
    • Pros:
      • Full size pickup over mid size pickup simply for long-term usability; less worry about load on the flatbed as I expand
      • One vehicle dedicated for work. No major worries about damage, dents, dings, grass splatter, etc.
      • Could still fit a 36" to possibly 48" or larger walkbehind or similar sized stand-on in addition to a small 21" push or 30" Exmark / Toro for places WB or Stand on wont go.
      • If properly fabricated, would still have ability to tow a future utility trailer, dump trailer, or whatever might be needed on a job.
      • Likely more fuel economic than my gas-guzzling SUV that drinks twice as fast with a load behind it.
      • Could have bed fabricated to be easily removable allowing for the pickup to don a dump and/or spreader bed and be equipped with plow for winter business perpetuation
      • I'm sure there's more that will be suggested - will add to list as others mention pros
    • Cons:
      • Higher initial investment. ~$2k for decent older used full size and ~$1-2k invested in having custom flatbed fabricated for it
      • ???
      • I'm sure there's more that will be suggested - will add to list as others mention cons
Internal debate: Type of mower?
  • Medium-term goal is to quickly acquire a stand-on (have researched all of them. Obviously Wright is at the top of the want-list but also top of the expensive list).
    • Likely to be bought new as a long-term investment unless a good local deal were to show up on a used one; however not many around here use standers
  • Short term goal is a walk behind to get back into the business with.
    • Question comes to cheaper belt drive option to start or go ahead and invest a bit more into?
      • Can find belt drive exmarks, toros, scags, ferris, lesco, etc. pretty abundantly on CL in the area for between $800-2000 depending on age and use.
      • Can find hydro drive exmarks, toros, scags, ferris, etc. on occasion on CL in the area for between $1200-3000 depending on .
  • Long Term goal is to pick up a good, high-quality finish mower (Walker) to pick up high quality accounts in upscale subdivisions that are popping up around here (why these subdivisions are popping up IDK because our state economy sucks)
  • Long-LONG Term goal is to move to all GREEN equipment once I'm running the business from the office and have a few mow teams going and can afford the switch (I think this would be a great marketing push with the shifting economy. Plus, I'm an EE major w/ emphasis and interest in Green technology so could you expect any less?)
In addition: I'd love to find some way to incorporate my studies into my business. Some time after graduation I will be seeking all of the necessary endorsements and certifications that will allow me to do both my Engineering work as well as review and inspect residential (& likely commercial) electrical designs & implementation, high & low voltage applications, etc. (Opens the door for a lighting segment of business?)

Above are just a few of the million things on my mind right now. I have some time to get things figured out and start a working plan. But I'm looking for opinions and/or suggestions from others who've remained in the business and have more experience than myself. Looking to learn and take viewpoints from all walks of life and make sure my second go-around at the business is a sure-thing as my ultimate goal is to build a business large enough to allow me to retire from my degree-related job at a decent age and spend the rest of my time managing and growing my company to both retire on and to pass down to my children. Any opinions, suggestions, thoughts, or comments are welcome and appreciated. Fire away. :gunsfirin

(Posted in Starting a Lawn Care Business thread but feel free to move to appropriate home if need be, admins)
:popcorn:
 

DIYOKC

LawnSite Member
I have an MBA in finance and marketing, so here is my .02. I would be a part timer, and start locking in or beating the bushes for business later this year in time for next year!

Acquiring AND keeping customers will be your biggest challenge, as well good employees should you be able to grow the business. While I hesitate to say your presumtous in getting old clients back, what is a Realistic per cent that will return to you? Not calling you out, and I realize your a bit early, but have you tentatively reached out to see what the interest level on their end?

I would hold off on any equipment purchase until you see the level of interest building and buy based on that variable. Good Luck, Jeff
 
OP
JonesLawnCareWV

JonesLawnCareWV

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Charleston WV
Jeff,

I'm banking on 50% of my former clients return. Most of that 50% being family friends, colleagues, etc that I'm still in touch with and have already discussed the situation with. Of course things can always change between then and now but these are people I've known for years and are very likely to keep their word on giving me business when I return to the area. The other 50% were clients I acquired through advertising or neighbors of the family friends, colleagues, etc. I can't put a number on those returning as it will just depend on their interest in having me back. However, I'm hoping once my presence returns to those neighborhoods, those clients will cash in on me being there, as I always gave a slightly lower rate if it meant I could hit several homes in the same neighborhood which isn't a marketing tactic of the other companies in the area as far as I am aware.

I will definitely be starting in at part time until the client base warrants otherwise. Hopeful plan is full time day job will keep living expenses covered and the first year or two of running the lawn business will be near 100% reinvestment into fast growth. That is all based on speculation that I won't spend 2 years trying to find a job in my degree field, however, which is the statistical norm for college grads as of late.

Again, most of this is just pre-planning. My passion for work lies in this business and I intend for it to be a life-long venture regardless of national economic movement as service jobs will never go away.
 

DIYOKC

LawnSite Member
I couldn't agree more, the service jobs will not go away! I always tell "younger than me people" to always have some back up plan, because the economy you inherit there is minimal loyalty from any employer, and you could be jobless with some merger or upheaval in the economy. I moved into small office cleaning last year, a 2000sq ft office takes 35 minutes, $145. I dont clean any better than others, but I'm reliable. In one year, it grew faster than did my lawn stuff years ago. To your point, a service job nobody wants! Looks like a good plan on your end! Jeff
 

bigbjz

LawnSite Member
Location
Elizabeth, WV
Life long WVU fan here, go EERS! You may be lucky for your entire career and never run into an issue, but it might be a good idea to remove the trademarked flying WV from your logo and business before the University lawyers ask you to.
 

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