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How should I approach this guys?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Hardwareman, Mar 2, 2007.

  1. Hardwareman

    Hardwareman LawnSite Member
    Messages: 39

    My wife and I are thinking of starting a lawn business. Just residential for now because over where we live that's pretty much all there is, and a whole lot of it to boot.

    I don't really know what mower or edger to start with and could really use someone with more experience to point me in the right direction.

    I currently work in construction and have for the last 10 or so years and have worked up to an annual income between $60,000-$70,000. However, there is a horrible recession now in homebuilding that I have'nt seen in all my years in the trade so I'm looking for something else to do to take care of my family with.

    My goal is to start small and do an excellent job. Use an edger to edge,etc. the right tool for the job basically. After a while I'm sure I'll know what to do and what not to do. I've observed landscapers on all my jobsites over the years and know this is something I can do, but I want to be successful at it so I need to start small first.

    I appreciate any and all help given. Thank you.

  2. Mow2nd-2

    Mow2nd-2 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 178

    how big are your yards gonna be? 1/4 acre,1/3 acre,1/2, 1+ acre?if most are gonna be below 1 acre i would say get a walkbehind+velke and if most are gonna be 1 or more acres get a Zero Turn Rider. the brand name don't really matter as long as its commerical grade equipment just look around at some of your local dealers and get what will fill your needs. just remember when selecting a deck size fenced in back yards the gates usually won't let 48" and up through so you will need a smaller mower like a push mower. i use husquavrna 36" WB+V if my 36" won't go through a gate i don't do it, in my opinion push mowing is for 12 yr olds.
  3. Hardwareman

    Hardwareman LawnSite Member
    Messages: 39

    I knew this was a good site from all the info here. Thanks for the response. There are sooooo many yards here it's unbelievable. I live in SoCal and the growth here has truly been legendary and record breaking.

    95% of the yards here are 1/4 acre or less. I'm talking track housing here, and I'm sure it's different then the track housing in midwestern states. The entire lot sizes of these homes are maybe 1/4 acre and there are thousands upon thousands of them within a 30-40 mile radius.

    I know it sounds crazy, but it's truly been historical here in Cali in the past ten or so years and since the building has slowed there's tons of lawns now right?

    I was thinking Toro WB. There is no way I would even be able to use a riding mower out here unless it was on the golf course..lol. I know that may sound funny to some of you but it's entirely true. What edger do you recommend? Thank you.

  4. General Landscaping

    General Landscaping LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 801

    Can you branch out on your own construction? Get licensed and do renovations, additions, and other jobs that are out of the standard homeowner's abilities? That seems like a more protected and regulated trade than lawn stuff.
    I'm sure a lot of other construction guys are looking in the same direction you are.
    Get some estimates for your lawn and see if you would be comfortable grossing that much per lawn.
    If you just want to mo-n-go.... get ready to run with the cutthroats.

    For standard maintenance, your trimmers and edgers don't have to be the baddest one on the rack. Weight is a big consideration at the end of the day, with another 3 lawns to go. Go with a backpack blower or a badazz handheld, a small unit will waste time and counteract any weight savings.
    If you can swing it, get a ZTR rider. Size will be determined by terrain and lawn size. Get the biggest one that will not scalp or dig on your smaller yards. You can compliment the ZTR with a smaller(36") walkbehind for really tight yards, gates, and special terrain situations. A standard belt drive or single hydro will do the trick.

    An open trailer is the most versatile, but a enclosed looks cleaner and is more secure; no more staring at the trailer while you're trying to enjoy lunch. On the other side of the coin, an enclosed does'nt really cut it when hauling mulch or cleanout debris.

    What is your equipment budget?
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    I'm not sure below 1/4 acre because what I service are 1/4 acre and up, but what I have learned is every machine is specifically designed for a range of yards, per size.

    For example, my 48" Toro is designed to tackle yards ranging from 1/4 acre to a full acre in size, and it is on these yards that my 48" excels in speed, and performance. Meanwhile, my 60" Z is designed to tackle lots from an acre in size on up, and sure enough:
    You put the Ztr against the Toro on a 1/4 acre lot, the slower 6mph Toro will whoop that big rider's tail in terms of time (how fast) and cost as well. Once you approach the acre lot, the Z's wide deck, raw power and higher 13+mph top speed start to pull out ahead, and I have experienced this myself over and over (btw you really can't cut right going that fast, but you can get up to around 8 or so mph).

    So, I dare say if you plan on getting into lots ranging from say 1/8 of an acre to 1/2 an acre in size, more likely than not you'd want to look at a 30" deck machine or thereabouts, keeping it at or below 3 feet wide will help you get through gated areas, while the smaller deck size will give you the agility you'll need to get around those tight sized lots... Plainly put, I hate using a bigger 4 foot deck like mine on small yards, it's so big I can't get the machine up to speed before I have to turn again and the sheer size gets in the way of itself, it feels like trying to maneuver a Stock race car around a go-kart track.

    But if I were you, I would double and triple check the acreage on those lots, don't assume please.

    As for what type of equipment, if you want the handheld stuff to last, get Echo. It's not quite as powerful as some of the other brands in terms of top end, but that's also why it tends to last longer, my Echo srm-260s is going into it's 5th year, that's a looong time for a linetrimmer that trims 10 yards/ day at times.

    Don't get homeowner quality equipment, with perhaps the exception of shovel / rake and wheelbarrow tools, you want all your gasoline powered tools to be at least entry-level commercial grade.

    Oh, one more thing: Start cutting your cost of living, I grossed 37k last year by myself, and that was my 5th year which is to say it gets better with time and the first year is a bit rough. And it's not just you, have you seen the news about the stock market? We might all end up feeling it.

    That's all I know for now, best of luck to you.
  6. Mow2nd-2

    Mow2nd-2 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 178

    well i don't use a stick egder, i use weedeater by holding it upside down. stick edgers are like mowers in the sence that as long as its commerical grade its fine
  7. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,943

    If you are grossing $60-70K per year by yourself, can we presume you are also getting benefits, such as health insurance, retirement, paid vacation, etc?

    I think you have a long road between now and when two of you will be producing that kind of income, including all the benefits. I realize cost of living i high in your location. You never stated why you wish to change careers, other than "something else to do to take care of my family." I think your first passion should be wanting to be a businessman. It has nothing to do with wanting to follow a lawn mower, nothing to do with the smell of fresh grass, nothing to do with not liking your boss, etc. Do you want to own your own business and be the one in control of risk management, failure, and the one makes all the decisions, the one who reaps all the profits?

    If you want to be a businessman, an entrepreneur, then you need to ask yourself how to make that desire a reality. Mowing lawns, or other forms of lawn care, is only one of many, many businesses to start. Why would lawn care be the first choice?

    I only suggest this viewpoint after reading so many threads on LS about those wanting to start a lawn care business, for the wrong reasons. The fascination of sitting on a mower all day, having bright shiny equipment on a nice trailer pulled by a truck with shiny wheels, ... all for naught if the right pieces are not in place to manage a business.

    Somebody suggested branching out on other forms of construction. To do so would draw upon your years of experience and knowledge of the industry. To change to lawn care would mean discarding all that, and starting to learn something new. Learning something new is not always a bad idea. The entry level knowledge and costs for lawn care are way down on the list, and that is why the industry is flooded with so many new entries every year.
  8. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,497

    I think Topsites post was an EXCELLENT post (not unusual:)). Also, if you are looking into the maintenance aspect of this biz, then keep your mind open to doing other things as well. Installs, new shrubbery, trees, and stuff like this is where the real money is at. Use the mowing as a regular thing, but more as a foot in the door for upsells. Also, for you, with all the newer houses in the area, this says that ALOT of people still have their property "incomplete". Something tells me that a guy like you would for "some" reason have the knowledge, ability and equipment to build a deck. :) See where I'm going with this? you would have SO much access to that kind of stuff. Decks, trellaces, gazebos, ,,ALL that kind of stuff. I have a firm belief that you can do this, especially if you have a good woman behind yo who is willing to support you on your endevour. you have certainly hit the jackpot on information b finding this site, and you might as well sit back and settle in, because you have iterally hours and hours worth of reading and learning to do here. That is not to mention hundreds of people here who are willing to help.
  9. Hardwareman

    Hardwareman LawnSite Member
    Messages: 39

    Well, first off.......yes I gross this by myself but like I said this year has been the worst since the saddam gulf war 10-12 years ago. Definitely headed for a recession, at least in the homebuilding industry.

    No, no health benefits, retirement, paid holidays, sick pay, NADA. This is a peice-work production type job where you make your income based on how much work you do. SOOOOO......if there's no work you make no money.

    For example:
    A house with lock-up and interior pays say $100.00. If it takes you an hour to do it (like myself) then you're making good money if you've got 3-4 per day to do. 95% of the guys I work with cannot complete houses that quickly and in order for me to make this type of income 2 things are MANDATORY.

    1. There has to be work......... & 2. You have to be able to work your butt off to make this kind of income and still have your work look clean.

    I've only worked one day this week (Monday) and I'm scheduled for work next Monday. Trimco is the name of the company I work for and we've already layed off 3 guys. My boss said we're letting another go next week too!

    Another issue is this: A lot of the money I make goes back into fueling and tooling costs. I drive an average of 200-250miles per day and when in full swing gas alone costs me about $200 weekly. That's pretty outrageous when you think about it! That does'nt include when my high dollar tools (Dewalt's, Makita's) break down, plus the necessary blades and bits that are required.

    So you can plainly see that I'm seriously looking into this and will invest $1,000 or so initially to see how it goes, and yes I'm sure of the lot sizes. I live on 1acre personally and there are some jobsites that actually will build 6 homes on the size land that I live on.

    I'm talking 30ftx30ft lawns is an average size out here. Sorry for such a long post but I tried to answer everyone. Thanks for the support guys.

  10. Hardwareman

    Hardwareman LawnSite Member
    Messages: 39

    Another thing that's going on over here is massive flooding of illegal aliens which are hurting wages in almost every industry, especially construction. But don't get me wrong. That's pretty much ALL you see doing the landscaping businesses out here as well.

    Even if I did remodels and renovations (which I have done occasionally), there is so much comp out here because everyone in construction is in the same boat as me right now you know? I see what you are saying however Runner, and yes this could always allow me to pass out a card fo more business.

    It's really horrible how bad the construction industry is here now. Property values here though are higher then almost anywhere in the nation still because of the massive growth that was going on.


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