How to fail in the lawn business by someone who did it.

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by PROCUT1, Feb 18, 2009.

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  1. 2brothersyardcare

    2brothersyardcare LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,116

    thanks man thats going to b the best advice ive ever gotten besides rap your tool
  2. lawnprosteveo

    lawnprosteveo LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Tulsa
    Messages: 1,930

    This reminds me of a time I was at a dealer buying some parts. A local guy with a fairly large operation (employees, multiple trucks, etc..) saw me and my wife in with our simple rig and equipment setup.

    Out of the blue he said.."You guys are doing it the right way. Stay small. Itll be better in the long run."
    JLSLLC likes this.
  3. punt66

    punt66 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 8,536

    Everything you guys say makes sence if your winging it. If you have a business plan and focus on it you can do very well.
  4. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Messages: 4,891

    There are guys on this board right now that when they post pictures of their operations, everyone drools.

    When you think of a successful business, you point at them. They have the fleet of new trucks, the office, the shop. They do the "big jobs"

    They also cant make payroll. Are one missed payment away from the repossessor, and are so depressed they dont want to wake up in the morning.

    I know this because I talk with them.

    Its not everyone with a nice looking operation.

    But the names would surprise you here.

    I got a couple of messages off the site asking me names. Please dont ask. Anyone I talk to, whatever is said, is between me and them and I will not hint, or break that trust.

    Not everyone is what they seem to be on the surface.
  5. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Messages: 4,891

    Everything can be overcome. Going big does not equal failure.

    Going big but not knowing what lies ahead does.

    The hard part about this business is that it IS so easy in the beginning.

    Everything works like you think it should owning your own business.

    The more you grow the more you make. Customers come pretty easy. Money comes pretty easy.

    In the initial growth stages it really does look like the sky is the limit.

    You can go big. There are many big successful profitable operations out there who have made it.

    But for every one of them there are 50 of me.
  6. yardatwork

    yardatwork LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 651

    I was growing and growing, but too a look at the overall money I was putting in the bank at the end of the day. My employees walked away each week with a bigger pay check after I paid out all of my expenses. I cut back and started doing more work myself and started eliminating the "friend" jobs that didn't pay. Plus those "friend" jobs were the ones I was driving 40 minute one way to do. I found a way to do more with having less...sold the dump truck that only hauled 4 yards of mulch and started hauling the mulch on my trailer that'll haul 6 yards. Less trips = more profit and I no longer have a dump truck payment. I just found little things that made a big difference. After 11 years in business, I finally have money in the bank and can do things how I want and when I want. It's not always the best to be the biggest. I grew slow at a pace I felt content with. So many people spend thousands and thousands on NEW equipment, advertise out the wazoo...and...get 10 total clients after all that...and...have to fold cause they aren't paying their bills.
    hort101 likes this.
  7. Chestnut Oaks Prez

    Chestnut Oaks Prez LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 782

    You left out more HEADACHES:)
    Always heard "Do as much as you can do with one crew" and that's the most you will make for the work you did.
    That sucks Procut but I can sure see how it could happen.
  8. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Messages: 4,891

    Exactly right.

    Its about being prepared.

    Face it. Most of us got into this business because it was easy. Yes we make nice stripes, yes our customers love us.

    Yes we think we;re great and the other guys suck.

    Compared to most anything else you can do, this business has the easiest entry.

    Growth happens easy.

    The thing most of us dont come with is business experience. For most of us, the lawn business is the first business we have run.

    We learn as we go.

    Cut grass. Charge more than you pay out. Make a good living.

    We take those basics and apply them when we grow.

    And for a very long time, that simple rule works. Cut the grass, pay the bills, have whats left over.

    Cut more grass, pay a few more bills, and have even more left over.

    That works for a real long time.

    For many it works forever.

    For guys like me however. I saw the guys with the fleets of trucks mowing the condo complexes and thats where I wanted to be.

    I wanted to be the guy with a bunch of crews.

    As long as I kept growing, kept adding customers, kept buying equipment...I was on the way.

    One by one the closer I got to becoming "one of those operations" I saw them disappearing.

    You would hear the stories at the mower shop how so and so just had a truck repossessed.

    What a moron I would think. That guy is HUGE!!. How would he not make a lousy $400 truck payment. Hes got 10 trucks and all those guys and all that work.

    Well in my 10 years in the business, I saw them come and go.

    All along thinking they must be morons to screw it up with all the work they had.

    How many guys must be wondering right now "How I screwed it up"
  9. JB1

    JB1 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,904

    all because they didn't have the right version of quickbooks.
  10. jsw2008

    jsw2008 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 513

    I worked part time for an operation similar to yours several years ago before I started my own. Sounds like a carbon copy of your story plus he constantly over booked himself and got a bad rep for not showing up for jobs or estimates. So he not only had the debt to worry about, but the bad rep was preceding him and people were really starting to talk about how bad his quality of work was. He's still "in business" but he's down to one truck (had 3 before) and one mower (that he's tried to sell several times and even called me about it) and one helper (had a crew of 5 before). I feel sorry for the guy because he has two small children and a stay at home wife. But I knew the first day I worked for him that he would fail. He had no organization, he would pull crew off of a job to go do some other little bs job and never go back to finish the first job. He didn't pay his employees on time. The list goes on. I learned a lot about how NOT to run a business in the short time I worked for him.
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