Here’s my story…Advice Welcomed!

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by 80sguitarist, Nov 4, 2004.

  1. 80sguitarist

    80sguitarist LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    About two and a half months ago I lost my job as a Software Engineer. I wasn’t really shocked that much by the whole thing considering I didn’t care for my hotheaded boss. Unfortunately, this is the second time in five years I’ve been unemployed in the Information Technology field.

    After my first month of applying for jobs, going on interviews, and debating what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I decided to place an ad in the local paper which simply stated “Yard work – mowing, shrub pruning, misc. landscaping”. I knew I really enjoyed working in my own yard but what about doing that work for others?

    My phone rang off the hook. I couldn’t even return all of my calls. In the next two weeks I planted more trees, trimmed more bushes, and cut more lawns with my 20” Murray push mower (which I transported in the trunk of my car) than I would have ever thought possible. My theory was, if I enjoyed doing this work with unsuitable equipment for other people then I would probably enjoy it a lot more if I had the right equipment.

    With that said, I have come to the realization that I don’t think I can cut lawns full time. A friend of mine also lost his job in IT and we plan on trying to start up a computer-consulting firm. I know how hard it will be to start up the firm so I thought I would really enjoy cutting lawns for supplemental income. I planned on devoting two days to lawn care cutting about 10 lawns a week at roughly $30 a lawn (I’ll be targeting the newer type subdivisions with smaller lawns).

    Now for the big question, WHAT DO I NEED? I have done a ton of research on mowers, trimmers, trucks, and trailers but it seems everyone that wants to offer advice tells me of the huge investment I’ll have to make. I would like to keep my equipment fairly small. Some lawns I may cut might be too small for a ZTR mower. If they have privacy fences the mower might not even fit through the gate opening. If it takes me a little bit more time to get a job done that’s OK. Remember, I want to stay small, about five lawns a day for only two days. Is it possible to get a small truck (say a Ford Ranger) and get all of the equipment I need into the bed. I have actually thought about getting a really nice Toro self-propelled mower for commercial use and see how it works out.

    Thanks in advance for any advice the pro’s can give me.

    Oh, I forgot to mention that my wife is fully behind me in whatever I decide to do. The only problem is that she really wants kids and I think I’m ready too (I can’t believe I just said that). But call me crazy, I’d like to have a little more financial security before we start trying. And if it matters I’m 29 years of age.
  2. Carolina Cuts

    Carolina Cuts LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,152

    A quality, but small "One Man" operation... with equipment to make life easier for you....
    6' or 8' foot trailer...
    32" - 36" Commercial Walk Behind Mower W/Bag (Bite the bullet and pay the $$$$$) Well, worth it.
    (Snapper, Scag, Exmark Encore makes cheap NEW 32's (fits through all residential gates) roughly $1600.00

    Low grade commecial handhelds....
    Home Depot Echo' Line of Handheld blowers... $150.00 or so, Straight shaft trimmers...$199.00 and a stick edger....$199.00

    Trailer - $500.00
    Mower - $1600.00 New/Used (don't break your back with a 21" pushmower)
    Handhelds (Trimmer, Blower, Edger) - $550.00 - $600.00

    Shame your car isn't a small pickup... that could save the day and some money for you.

    Anyway.... that's a rough estimate to get you started with ease... and no problems for the next couple seasons with 10-20 clients.

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981

    If you're planning on just doing this part-time, I wouldn't overspend on equipment. Doing small lawns, a commercial 21" or 36" walk-behind is plenty.

    I started with a 21" John Deere, Shindaiwa trimmer and edger, and a Stihl handheld blower, total cost was around $1,300. Yes you'll probably want to get a truck to carry everything around. I still cram everything in the back of my 2000 Nissan Frontier. Thats with a 36" walk behind right now.

    If you foresee this as being a permanent part-time job, I'd really recommend getting a truck, it'll make your life so much easier.
  4. Omaha_residential

    Omaha_residential LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    I'm bassically in the same situation as 80's and am looking at a simalar setup as you (36" walkbehind w/ no trailer). I'm wondering how easy/ difficult it is to load/ unload a 36" WB in and out of a pickup bed. What type of ramps do you use?

    I have a 4x4 Toyota Tacoma

    Any help would be appreciated, Thanks

    HOOLIE LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,981


    I just use the ol' cheap wooden ramps. I bought the metal ends (I believe the brand is Ramparts) at Home Depot or Lowes. It comes with a chart to determine the proper length for your ramps, which is based on the height of your tailgate. For my truck, 8 feet was the right length. If you make them too short they will be too steep to make loading/unloading safe. That's what I see a lot, guys with little 6' ramps for full-size trucks. A little too risky for me.

    Cost me around $30 total to make the ramps, if you prefer a nice pair of metal ramps usually run around $100.
  6. Omaha_residential

    Omaha_residential LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    Add it up....... and you just saved me a bunch of money! Wouldn't think that the wooden ramps would work for anything bigger than a 21". If it works for you then its worth a shot. Thanks for your help.

    80s - sorry for hi-jacking your post!
  7. BMFD92

    BMFD92 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 694

    loading and unloading a walkbehind is not as hard as it looks. You just have to line it up correctly and go slow up the ramps. I put all my stuff in my truck bed. I got the 8 feet for a reason so im gonna use it. I will most likely get a trailer when I add on my second mower next season.
  8. 80sguitarist

    80sguitarist LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    Thanks so much guys for the advice. As luck would have it I've got another interview next week. If it goes anything like all the other interviews I've had it will be something like "Yeah we can pay you that salary but everybody around here works at least 50 or more hours a week". When that comes up I always want to respond with something like, "I'm married, I play in a band, I play on a recreational soccer team, and all of my free time is spent working on my house or yard, I work to live, not live to work." Now granted I've never actually said anything like that in the interview but it's usually what I'm thinking.

    You guys have given me a lot to go on. Either way I'll definetley be purchasing a truck. With all of the home remodeling and wood projects I do it only makes sense. If I can get a good reliable small to mid-size truck for under $10,000 I'll feel great.

    Omaha_residential don't worry about the hi-jack. I'm learning as much as you are with the info coming in.

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