Going from a Dream to Reality

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by tyler_mott85, Oct 25, 2011.

  1. tyler_mott85

    tyler_mott85 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 582

    I've been posting on here quite a while. And while a lot of my posts sound like I may own my own business really what I've done for myself for the last 8 years is just a few yards here and there. I've worked extensively for several large multi-million dollar companies around here in that time. Even became a foreman at one for a year. I just could never find my place in those businesses. Either I had issues with the way they ran their businesses and I wasn't able to adapt or in the process of growing up and maturing I went through several stages in my early 20s that led me through a house foreclosure, becoming a single dad at the age of 22 and having to put everything back together up to this summer when I made several steps to finally go after my dream.

    One thing I have done in the past year that I find necessary for my being able to grow my business is finding a full time job that will pay for all of my financial needs in my personal life. Therefore every dollar I earn in sales from lawn care I can put back into the business.

    Here's the scope of my work load and purchases from this growing season.

    Beginning in March I used my Tax return (thank you, daughter!) to purchase a BOP Quick 36" Samurai with the single hydro. I then went down to my stihl dealer and picked up a 100rx trimmer, 90fc edger and bg 86 Hand blower. Loading everything up into my truck with wooden ramps I begin finding a little bit of work. Now I've had about 4 yards that I've done one way or another for the past 4 years. I was able to find an additional 6 yards this spring.

    Through various side jobs and calls I also picked up a Stihl MS-250 chainsaw and Stihl HS 45 Hedge Trimmer.

    Now take this equipment and my 10 yards through a couple months and my 10 yards dwindle down to 5 yards due to drought and people having to reevaluate their budgets.

    Now about a month ago a friend of mine that I've mowed a couple nights a week with for about 5 years told me he was selling his 2004 Gravely 1548 with 600 hrs and he would make me a deal on it. So I had to decide what I was doing.

    I was very negative and down at the time. I wasn't very happy with the BOP mower and not having to a sulky I was just frankly tired of having to walk. I was working 60 hours a week at my waste collection job and that being just hard work I was working the lawn stuff on Saturdays. I was exhausted. Also losing half my work I just wasn't doing what I was hoping to do.

    Stuff at my day job started looking better. Went through a reroute and the hours started to become a little bit more manageable. I got engaged and learned I had another kid on the way. It was go time.

    I purchased my buddy's mower for a steal of a deal. Now I had a problem. I had been using wood ramps with the BOP but this new mower is just too big and heavy to maneuver up ramps. Plus it won't fit between my wheel wells anyway. :)

    So through a craigslist search I found a 6x12 trailer with 5000lb axle and ramp for 1100. The gentleman I purchased it from bought it new himself only 6 months earlier and had only pulled his atvs to the dunes twice with it. Still has the nippled on the tires! Picked that up so now I'm good to go.

    So here's where I am financially:

    Basically I told myself that I wanted to make back everything I spent on equipment. My math tells me I'm pretty close. I am still undisciplined on cash paying customers' money not finding its way to a checking account or an income/expense sheet. :drinkup: But before I purchased this Gravely mower and the trailer I had actually made up the money I spent on equipment and then some. So after buying the new to me mower and the trailer I'm out 2900. But if I can get my BOP sold Im hoping to only be out the cost of the trailer. I've also purchased a steel grass catcher and mulch kit for the Gravely.

    That leaves me with about 1500 cash on hand. Now that doesn't sound like much but remember...I have a full time job so I'm not receiving any income from this yet. Plus should get another 500 with the rest of the years mowing (we're down to every other week here now :( ) And hopefully will get about that again back on taxes (only get to claim the tot every other year)

    Business Management is as follows:

    Now lets be honest. I'm not insured at this point and I'm not claiming this income at this point. But I am taking steps to get there very swiftly. Kansas is an easy place to start a business. No licenses and stuff life that. I just have to open up a checking account and get insurance, etc.

    Tonight I did some stuff that I was wanting to do but just couldn't pull the trigger on. I registered my domain name and got that on lockdown for 10 years. This was important to me because my logo I will be having designed next month will incorporate the website into the logo.

    So over the winter here's my plans:

    Logo Design
    P.O. Box
    Business Cards/ Promotional material
    Purchase software
    Type up service contracts and have reviewed by attorney
    Type up cover letters and other misc needs
    Shirts if I have the money.

    After taxes at the first of the year I'll open checking account for business.
    For the months of March April and May I'm going to run a 1/4 page add in a pretty nice part of town's newspaper.
    Some door to door selling

    March 1st I hope to have insurance in place. I don't see the point in paying for insurance when I will be doing NO work over the winter months. I'm making a point of it to focus on organizing this mess.

    Thats where I'm at right now. I hope to keep adding onto this over the next year at least to show how things go. When I get a logo going I'll show you all what I get and we'll go from there.

    Thanks for reading! :weightlifter:
  2. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 19,624

    Interesting story, I spent 1rst year part time and havebeen full time for the past 2 years. Im still on the payroll at a Firestone store and will likley have to work one more winter there due to circumstances behond my control.

    If you are going to stay part time find the accounts that you want to do, it will make the work much more rewarding. Im thinking of shirts so Im a walking billboard, but Im nearly full anyway.
  3. jonthepain

    jonthepain LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Raleigh
    Messages: 595

    I hesitate to comment on a lot of your post, but one thing constructive I'd like to say, is that I get most of my work (other than from neighbors and word of mouth) from my website.

    I tried all the other ad campaigns - door hangers, mailers, flyers, door to door, newspaper ads, etc etc, and got almost zero return.

    But I put a lot of time and effort, even hired an SEO guy, into the website last winter, and now I get 3 or 4 calls a day from it, and usually convert one of those into a customer.

    I also get a lot of calls when i run a craigslist ad, which I try to make look very professional, to set it apart from the 1,000 others.

    So for me, the winter spent on the website was the most effective use of my time and money.

    As for the rest of your post... let's just say that I'll wish you the best of luck when you get your full fledged business up and running next spring.
  4. tyler_mott85

    tyler_mott85 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 582

    Thanks Jon for the info on websites.

    Please tell me more of what you thought about the rest. I did not post all of that just to be praised and patted on the back without people tearing into it. Every person has a different way they have or would run a business. I'd like to hear your point of view to further define mine.

    Also I might add more information on the neighborhood newsletter I will be placing an add in. This paper goes out monthly to 5,000 homes that range in price from 150k all the way up to over a Million easily. Yet this is all within a couple miles of each other. Also I feel like spending $170 a month on a 8 page newpaper that will hit 5,000 homes three consecutive months is just as good as mailing out flyers. I have heard people say they don't get very good results from mailers, etc but I'd like to try it myself. I have some ideas of how to run my business that will set me apart.

    Last edited: Oct 26, 2011
  5. jonthepain

    jonthepain LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Raleigh
    Messages: 595

    Well, here goes:

    Unconstructive criticism:

    I've been in the painting and lawn business since 1985, and have battled the lowballing, uninsured, underground economy non-declared income (read illegal, immoral,) part-time painters and landscapers, full-time schoolteachers, firefighters, illegal aliens, you name-its. It doesn't hit me as much as it used to, but sometimes when somebody unabashedly admits to being that, it bothers me.

    I guess it used to bother me alot, because I used to bid against those (insert favorite pejorative here.) But years ago I decided to market to people who wanted me to do their work for them, not people who wanted work done. I'm in a different market now, so the cheaters do not affect me and my family as much as they used to.

    The reason I chose not to mention that to you, is because you plan on doing the right thing this spring, and I believe that you will.


    I like the newsletter ad idea - especially since it's a local neighborhood thing - we all know that a big part of profitability in this business is minimizing travel time - and local people might actually read it, if it applies to them. You should also submit some articles to it.

    But let me put this twist on it. I think that it's purpose should include sending people to the website. If it were me, I'd make that it's only purpose.

    You can sell your services more completely with your website, the trick is in getting people there. It sounds like the newsletter is a good way to do that.

    Maybe a coupon - people love coupons - "25% off Sale! Visit Tyler_Lawns.com now for details!" with your logo and URL prominently displayed.

    Anyway, that gives me the idea to look around and see if there are any comparable local newsletters in my area that I could try that strategy on! lol see, ya never know.

    Definitely try all your "set-you-apart" ideas. I can only relate to you what has and hasn't worked for me. But if you have great success with one in particular, let me know!

    Oh and btw, good luck next spring.

  6. larryinalabama

    larryinalabama LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 19,624

    Try to get in good with your local nursury, mabey even offer them some money for each account you can get from them.
    Timing for advertising is also a key, late ferurary to june are criticle.
    Most long term accounts will come from word of mouths so try to get started in the areas you wantto work.

    The only thing that will set your business apart from the others is good looking yards. I can assure you no one cares about a shiney truck fancy mower or your fancy logo.
  7. Georgia Lawn

    Georgia Lawn LawnSite Member
    Male, from Ga
    Messages: 99

    Getting in with the HOA has really helped us in increasing our route tightness. The HOA will definitely refer clients whose yards need to be serviced to you.
  8. tyler_mott85

    tyler_mott85 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 582

    Thanks for all the comments. I am definitely still "fluid" in how I go about things so maybe I will focus more on some ways of advertising or what I need to accomplish before others.

    Jon, the only reason my original idea to hold off on website was so that I had that additional cash to put into the "bread and butter" items of business. I know that in this digital age anything web oriented is a big selling point but I am wanting to do the right things to make this business "real". (Too legit...Too legit to quit?) Also I'm very particular in the way things look and from me playing around with these website generators and programs I just don't like what I am able to do. I have no problem spending $1000 on a clean professional website to have it how I want but that $1000 needs to go to insurance, accounting software, etc first.

    I live in an HOA and while the properties in this neighborhood are not my target clientele it has opened me up to this whole idea of just targeting these small local papers. I know our HOA has bi-monthly meetings and they have all kinds of people come to speak beyond the local police beat and a firefighter. Perhaps I can sweet talk myself into one and make a presentation. The hard part for me is to find a listing of HOAs and contacts to make this happen. Short of me finding a newsletter in the street I do not know how to go about this. Any tips?

  9. unkownfl

    unkownfl LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,837

    There is a lot of ways to advertise on the web for free. One is google places. Two is craigslist. There are plenty of places to make your own web page for a hundred bucks and dump a few hundred into google ad words. This is a band-aid until you can get things really rocking on the web with a guy to set you up. There is a few SEO companys like local outrank but you will eat a few months of a couple hundred bucks before you see results.
  10. jonthepain

    jonthepain LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Raleigh
    Messages: 595

    i think it's more important to just have something - anything - up as a website to start with, even if it's only one page with your logo and contact info and "website coming soon."

    because it takes a few to several months for you to rank on google. just get something up and polish it later when you have the time.

    you can buy hosting for three bucks a month, and use their free website tools, or wordpress for that matter, and have a decent website up in a couple of hours for less than a hundred bucks.

    really no excuse not to.

Share This Page