Growing pains questions

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by stomachbuzz, Jul 9, 2018.

  1. stomachbuzz

    stomachbuzz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 115

    I'm an extremely productive one-man op. I do great work, have a great image, and I charge accordingly.
    1. How can I smoothly evolve into a 2-man op?
    2. I have a compact pickup. It's great for my current op, but considering full size. Your input?
    3. What hours do you make noise?
    4. How do you know when to do a customer's lawn?
    5. How do you get bigger? (advertise/gain more customers?)

    I'm 23, and doing a one-man op. Previously, I was doing this just for $$ for college. I'm an entrepreneur at heart, and this pays a lot better than a 'real job' (how many times have you heard someone say 'when are you getting a "real job"??' lol).
    I had tunnel vision, but recently, I've started to pick my head up, look around, and pay a bit of attention to the bigger guys. Also, I very recently got access to some land to park a trailer and equipment so that helps.

    I'm now attracted to the challenge and interested in growing the business. At least try it out for a few years.
    I've started to wonder about things, even some really basic stuff (like, am I actually mowing the lawn correctly???).

    So I've got some questions:
    • Advice on a truck? I know, age-old question. Has anyone gone really far with a compact pickup? Or with just a full size truck? No trailer?

      I have a 2005 Tacoma 4x4 4cyl. I enjoy my 19mpg, Great A/C :D and fantastic for my 21" Honda, 30" Exmark, trimmer, blower, misc tools. I pick the mowers up, and put them in the bed. No ramps. Also great at getting ~1.5yd bulk mulch.
      Prob will tow a 5x8 w/36" WB fine. Towing cap. is 3500lbs but...:nono:

      Considering a full size, but pros/cons list gets complicated. 07+ Tundras are $$$ (and f***ing HUGE), so I looked to the Titan. I love an underdog (Nissan), but the truck doesn't project well to me after looking at common problems.
      Just curious what truck people use, and what they think of it? I assume most use a 1999+ domestic crewcab truck.
      INB4 "you need a diesel if you're serious," I'm sure most don't even tow 3k. My 5x8 is 350#, 36"WB is 400#, 21" is 130, 30" is 170, blower, trimmers, etc ~100# at most. Accounting for a larger operation, if you have a 500# trailer, and 3 big mowers (say, 3x600), that's still barely pushing 2500#.

    • What are your hours of operation? How early and late are you comfortable working/making noise?
    • How do you organize your scheduling/rotations? An electronic/software method of alerting you "Hey, it's Monday, go do Sally's lawn"? I use a desk sized calendar and write everything down, then just look to see 7, 10, 14 days since I did John's lawn, then I remember "John is a weekly guy" and add it to the list.
    • How did you make the jump from a 1 to 2-man gig? I'm at that point now. Currently working ~70hrs/week. With 2, I'd get more done, but worried about the "learning curve" with a new guy. It would be learning for both of us, as he would have to learn my method, but also I would have to learn how to teach and manage.
      I'm not a perfectionist, but I'm detail oriented. I provide a certain "environment". Friendly, careful, college student image, reliable, always have a minute to talk, etc. I want to clone myself, not pick up a 30y/o laborer from Home Depot, but maybe I'm wrong. I know those guys are very hardworking, I've been jealous for years of their work ethic, but it's not the image of direction I want to pursue. I feel like that's an extremely saturated operation in my area. Considering my brother, but he's 16y/o, overweight, lazy, and never even touched a lawn mower in his life....

      To quote Fight Club - "A guy who came to Fight Club for the first time, his ass was a wad of cookie dough. After a few weeks, he was carved out of wood."
    • How do you advertise/get more customers? I want to 'cluster' my clients if possible. Do you take 5-10mins and knock on neighbor's doors when doing a lawn?
    Will add more questions later. Funny how I've had 10 of them swimming in my head for days, but when I sit down to type them out, I struggle to remember 3!
  2. BigJlittleC

    BigJlittleC LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Chicago
    Messages: 4,812

    Truck would depend on your work. I personally run out of a truck bed and have no plans on getting a trailer anytime soon. Be doing it this way since 2012. But I'm in the inner city doing small lots so a big mower is of no use to me.

    As far as when I start local noise laws say I cannot start running equipment till 9am. I quit when I've finished my list for the day which is anywhere between 1-6 pm.

    Schedule is set up on yardbook. Check it out it's free.

    Making the jump is something someone else will have to help you with. In solo and plan to stay that way.

    I don't advertise much anymore. I do have a website, Yelp, and Houzz page. I get enough leads from them and direct customer referrals that I have more then enough work.
  3. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,679

    What was your college degree in?
  4. OP

    stomachbuzz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 115

    Thanks for you reply. I appreciate it. It seems you're probably in a similar situation as I am. I'm in the Silver Spring/ Wash DC area. Not quite inner city, but most lots are sub-9k sq ft, and my 21" has been nearly perfect. Still though, there's always a ton of larger lots that I have to turn down every year. Even just 2 miles away there are some 1+ acre lots. Even if my 21" is a good fit, I could still speed things up by having a 2nd person, and so forth.

    Just curious, what equipment are you using? Truck, and mower, etc?
    I mostly asked about trucks because I was looking for specific pros/cons. Like I had a 2000 Tacoma for a while, and that was a good truck, just fine. But now I have a 2005 Tacoma and I've fallen in love with certain features. Suicide rear doors on the extended cab, a composite bed w/drain holes, the "utili-trac" cleat system, etc.
    But some things I don't like are that the built-in storage boxes make the bed a tad more narrow than my 2000, so I can't fit the mower, blower, and trimmer all next to each other.

    Thanks for Yardbook. I just looked that up. It seems almost too good to be true. Is it really that great?
    Mechanical engineering. I'm actually still in progress. About 47 credits left. Sounds like a lot, but I'm finally more than 2/3 done.
    That's another one of the factors in the way.
    I had tunnel vision for years, where I just had my head down and only did the same thing (compact pick-up, ~30 customers, 21" mower, etc), year after year. Now, I've finally gotten excited about it, and paid more attention so I [more or less] know what to do to get better and expand, but I can't go blasting off and commit because I still have school in the fall.
  5. BigJlittleC

    BigJlittleC LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Chicago
    Messages: 4,812

    Just bought a 2012 f150 crew cab with the 6.5 bed. Before that I was in a 2003 f150 crew cab with a 5.5 bed. Just got the 2012 last week so far the extra space is really nice. The extra 100 hp going from the 5.4 to the 5. 0 does put a nice smile on my face when I push the skinny peddle.

    For mower my main mower is a ybravo 25. Got it last year to replace a Toro 21.

    stomachbuzz likes this.
  6. tonymower

    tonymower LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    I'm going to try to answer all of your questions as honest and to the best of my ability as possible. If anyone doesn't agree, that's cool.

    My first thought....I have a few of the 30" Toro Timemasters and 1 of the 30" Turfmasters. How in the hell do you lift them in and out of the bed of the truck by yourself several times a day? I realize that they are only 130-170lbs, but geez. I lift it in the bed of the truck once and I'm done. :)

    Anyways, about the truck...a full size is nice, but if you aren't going to be pulling a trailer, use what you got.

    I've purchased many full size trucks for my company for under 5k and they've lasted 4+ years without any major issues. You can catch a good deal on a truck on CL every once in a while. I got a 2002 F150 5.4 V8 with only 92k miles on it for 1800. Was an old city truck that a guy used for a year and didn't need anymore.

    If you are only going to pull a 5x8 trailer, the truck you have now is fine.
  7. tonymower

    tonymower LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    Residential I start at 8:00am. Commercial I will start at 7:00am. Check the ordinances in your city, but I've never received any complaints from residential or commercial customers at our start times.

    Also, I will work until dark if I need to. Depending on the time of the year it could be as late as 9:30pm. Again, no complaints ever.
  8. tonymower

    tonymower LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    As another member said above - Yardbook. They are fantastic and the price is great. I used their software for several years, but outgrew their software and switched to Service Autopilot earlier this year. From the sound of it, Yardbook will be a godsend for you.

    A small piece of advice, sign up for Stripe and accept credit cards as soon as possible (if you don't already). Stripe integrates with Yardbook easily, and being able to charge customer's credit cards for service makes cash flow issues non existent. We charge all of our customer's cards the day after we provide service.

    Also, I have found that providing 10 and 14 day service is a pain. Only sign up customer's for weekly service and allow them to skip a service 3-5 times a year. I had 40+ every other week customers at the beginning of the year and exactly 2 only need service every other week. The rest are a PITA to cut every other week and though we charge more, it's not worth it. Just friendly advice, take it or leave it.
  9. tonymower

    tonymower LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    1 helper/employee/team member is easy. Don't stress about it. When you have only 1, they will be working with you every day, so you are able to check all of the work done instantly. Let's be honest, cutting grass is not that hard. If you hire someone, give them a fair shot to learn, and they still suck, fire them and hire someone else. I lucked out on my first employee as he was my brother in law, so he didn't have a choice but to work his butt off.

    Also, don't hire the first person you interview. If you post an ad on Craigslist and go through resumes on indeed you should be able to get 5-10 interviews. Interview as many people as you can within a certain time range, then pick your best candidate. If you pick someone with no experience make sure you are both prepared for some "intense" training (I quote intense, because again, cutting grass is not that hard). If you pick someone with experience, make sure you allow them to show you their experience, but also you need things done a certain way. You and your customer's expectations come first.
  10. tonymower

    tonymower LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    There are hundreds of threads on here about picking up new clients. My advice would be to get a website, if you don't have one already. My website is invaluable and has made me millions of $.

    There are a few other things I can share with you that I use that have grown my company tremendously, but I don't like to share them on public message boards. If you want to chat in private, send me a PM and we can chat electronically or I will give you my number and we can chat.

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