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. dwost

    dwost LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,667

    ProCut, excellent posts and a very good read not only for the LCO but really for anyone in business. Unfortunately many get blinded and caught up in the growth stage and completely forget the fundamentals that got them to that point of growth. It's always beneficial to reevaluate your business, purchasing decision, expenses, and goals. Keeping all of this in check can be daunting as well as overwhelming at times. The companies that keep this in view and stay true to their plan usually succeed.

    I'm in a similar situation now with our company (not an LCO) keeping our growth in check. We are being EXTREMELY careful about our decision making, purchases, hiring, and ensuring our customers stay our top priority. It can be tough as you feel invincible but remember it will crash as fast as it grew. For all the younglings on here, listen to his advice. He is not only wise but speaking from experience. Best of luck with your new venture ProCut and keep the posts coming!

  2. qualitylandscaping

    qualitylandscaping LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,581

    This is the problem that has created such a difference in mowing prices. Some companies could mow a lawn for $25, while I might have/want to get $40 for the same one.

    I think there is a fine line between charging what you need to make a profit, and lowballing. If you read my thread on the municipal bid I just did, my bids were $30+ per acre, while the winning and low bidder was $15 per acre. I cannot understand why anyone in their right mind would mow for $15, and still make money at it, but who am I to judge them.

    What I would like to see is that guy charging $15 understand that he could charge $30, and people would be willing to pay it. He either knows his costs, or he doesn't. Once he gets into mowing the properties, it will be fairly obvious whether he knows or doesn't know his costs.
  3. lawnkingforever

    lawnkingforever LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,280

    Good thread. I know a couple guys around here that gave up this year. Too much debt and too much overhead was their poison. I am just a part-time LCO and will remain so. People keep asking when I am going fulltime and I just don't see how I can do it. I have a fairly decent day job with good benefits and with my 20 yards do ok. After crunching the numbers numerous times it just does not add up. It gets frustrating at times turning down so much work, but I am happy with the lawns I have and could not do anymore yards without taking shortcuts and buying more equipment.
  4. Toy2

    Toy2 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,924

    Great thread...........hit the nail on the head........
  5. shane mapes

    shane mapes LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 537

    I read your thread and it is a slap in the face. A good slap though. A few years ago this happened to me . I blew up ,went from 32 customers to 98 in one season. i did no flyer's or anything. I had 2 part-time guys and my self. They went full time and after a few months my full time night shift job went 16 hours a day 7 days a week. So I put them in charge. My service lacked the personal touch my customers wanted. Instead of slowing my real job(had a choice) and making this one work, I closed up shop and gave all the customers away to other small time guys.I was out of bus. for about one year and started back up. This time I'm doing it slower and making sure it will work this time. Your thread has really hit home, and is an eye opener. Thank you for the reality check. Good luck in life.
  6. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Messages: 4,891

    Joe (aintnofun) and I have similar stories and similar solutions.

    We;re both the same age I believe as well. Both had similar size lawn operations, and both followed the same path. Almost scary...haha

    We both got out of it.

    I went into commercial parking lot maintenance.

    He went into Hydroseeding and install work.

    I chose large commercial customers to limit competition.

    He chose government/GC customers as his niche.

    For us it was to get out of the "rat race"

    We both learned what we had to do to make the lawn business work.. We both could have done it. We had a choice to make.

    I wanted a business where quality, references, ability, and such matter as more dominant factors instead of price.

    I dont care how good you mow a lawn....Price will always be number 1. You can overcome price to an extent. But most customers will not care. They just want someone to do a job they can easily do themselves so they dont have to.
    Your ZTRS, trailers and F-550s dont impress them. Their murray does the job just fine and so does the kid down the street.

    In the lawn business your competition is everyone with functioning legs. Some are better than others, some have insurance, some have ZTRS, some have craftsman, but to the customer you are all pretty much equals.

    I wanted out of that.

    I modeled my new business to target customers who could only be serviced by a handful of companies.

    If youre a property manager for a shopping center, you may take a chance on the cheap guy to get the grass cut. Worst thing that happens is you end up with tall grass and gotta call someone else.

    If youre getting the shopping center sealcoated and going to spend $50,000. Youre worried about longevity, if the contractor can handle a job that size...Youre worried about traffic control. youre worried about your tenants having access to the stores...your butt is on the line.

    In that case, the guy that seals driveways and thinks he can pull it off for $35,000 is not going to get the job. (usually)

    In this case my only competition are a couple of other companies of similar size who can handle the job. Our pricing is generally pretty close. So my only job is to get them to choose me over a couple of other closely priced QUALIFIED contractors.

    I can do that easier than I can convince Mrs. Jones that im worth $5 more a week to mow her house.

    Thats where I went with my business.

    Joe went a similar route with different services. The type of work he does for the customers he in a different class.
    While price is always a factor, he has a resume and history that he can handle the work he does. When interstates and 100 subcontractors are involved all being coordinated with state and federal regulations.....Theyre not going to fool around with a part time lawn seeder.

    There is money to be made in any business. Its all in how you do it.

    Justmowit is very successful (i think) using the high volume mowing approach. But he has a system of controls set up to guarentee profit where as most of us dont or didnt.

    He made it in the same business that I failed in. Providing the same service at the same price. He just had a better system.

    But if you only know what you see from his website or his prices and try to copy him without knowing the inner details.....You wont make it.
  7. murrayslandscaping22

    murrayslandscaping22 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 469

    pro cut im a young guy only 17 and i kno what your talking about i kno a family friend that got big got all the trucks, all the nice equipment, 20 guys working for him he had it all...5 years later hes got a million dollar house he cant afford and now had to sell his whole business and had to go back and work for some1. i want to go big not yet but in years to come and i hope i dont mess up and thanks for all the advice.
  8. scottgalat

    scottgalat LawnSite Member
    Messages: 72

    In his posts, The original post'er has referred to multiple mistakes made while operating his business. No problems he mentioned were rooted in "size". No business, regardless of size, will overcome poor management, poor time management, wasting of resources, and lack of proper supervision....and that's only what he's told us in his short 5 minute posts on what he blames for his demise. i'm sorry but he's not made a case for "size" issues as a cause of failure. He has made a good case for poor managemment issues as a cause for failure. Sorry.
  9. qualitylandscaping

    qualitylandscaping LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,581

    Not necessarily. The mowing season in New York is 8 months versus 12 months in Flordia.

    You get a lot of extra time to make up that revenue, and to pay your bills. Our profits are generated in a shorter amount of time. Its tough to add on costs and be able to pay them, when you budget on mowing 28 weeks out of the year.
  10. PROCUT1

    PROCUT1 LawnSite Platinum Member
    from TN
    Messages: 4,891

    I look at it this way.

    I price as if nobody has priced before.

    If according to my business model I will make money, do everything right, and show a nice profit and my lawn price happens to come out $25 when others are charging 40. I dont care what the others are charging.

    Im making money for me and if its successful, Ill stick with that system.

    In my mind Im not "leaving money on the table"

    In my mind, i found a better mousetrap.

    I may be "ruining" it for others, but now its up to you to compete with me and not the other way around.

    Now you can go out of business because you cant match my price and make money. And Im still plugging along.

    Im just saying that as an example.

    Of course I like to know what the "going rates" are for things but ultimately I price for my business and not anyone else.

    I dont care about "ruining the market" or anything to that effect. I know what Im doing and Im profitable and it fits my model.

    If Im wrong.....Then Ill be out of business....

    Been there...done that.....haha
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