Image or money?


LawnSite Senior Member
Trenton ,Ohio
What is more important, image or money? As I look back on this years mowing season I have to ask myself that question. I worked hard to get all the things I thought I had to have to be a LCO, commercial w/b, commercial ztr, enclosed lettered trailer, matching everything ( shirts, hats etc) ,insurance, advertising. So when I look back the image looks great but it has not been a good year financially. Then I see others in my area mowing with a resi. riding tractor, no signage, no matching shirts and hats ,etc. It really appears that maybe I'm missing something. The bottom line is (I think), to make money at this. So do we get caught up in the image and lose focus on the bottom line? What if all you had was the basic stuff, riding mower, trim mower, trimmer, blower, small trailer. Could you do just as well financially? I am beginning to think you could provided you are just a residential mower. If you are doing large commercial props than that theory goes out the window. So what do you think? Am I nuts or what?


LawnSite Gold Member
My first year in biz I had a old rusty van, a murray rider, all cheap weed whacker and blowers and made 3 times what I made last year. It was all paid for and gas was cheap. If I could do it over I would have one small commercial ztr, a PAID for dang truck, no insurance (dropping this year) Not one person has ever commented about my setup then or now, all they want is cheap decent looking lawn care and they dont care what you do it with. We have an LCO with a huge enclosed lettered trailor, a brand new ford F350 and I dont know how the heck he is paying for it around here as cheap as lawn care is.


LawnSite Platinum Member
It's only going to depend on your market.

Here, where people are more uppity, and all your competition drives nice new equipment, you'd probably have better looking stuff.

If more of your competition is running around in mid 80's - mid 90's stuff, then you can join them.

I've always been in the mindset that you want to look better than your competition, because until you have the customer, it's the one thing that sets you apart from them.

If you look like everyone else, then you're just everyone else, no reason for people to call you.

Now, I've gotten out of residential mowing for these reasons, and only do commercial mowing.


LawnSite Silver Member
QualityLawnCare4u said:
no insurance (dropping this year)
what kind of insurance are you dropping? with my general liability i only need it on the commercial props but i guess if i put an eye out on a residential then i'm glad i have it.

Sean Adams

LawnSite Gold Member
This is a very good question and I am sure there will be differing opinions on this subject. My short answer is that what you went through this year should have been more of a process. Starting out you should manage with what you can afford and justify. I think a lot of people get wrapped up starting out wanting to have shiny new trucks, top of the line equipment, etc... and they are often placing ads on ebay trying to sell everything before the season is even over.

Image is important to a degree. There is nothing wrong with a 1990 used truck, used walk behinds, 5 green shirts from wal-mart, and some decent hand held equipment. If you take care of what you have and do your best to make yourself presentable, your do good work, you handle your clients well and your pricing is fair - you should have all the business you need. "Upgrading" to the F-350's and the $10,000 mowers is something you should do only when you can justify the need for these things.

Bottom line - you are in business to make money. Keep your expenses as low as you can and more money goes in your pocket.

AL Inc

LawnSite Bronze Member
Long Island, NY
I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. Before I do anything, I try to weigh the costs vs benefits. My trucks are lettered and usually pretty clean, and my men all wear company shirts. I own almost all of my equipment now, and just try to keep things running as long as possible. My skid steer trailer is 20 years old, but with a new coat of paint and some welding, it looks new. I would say 95% of clients wouldn't know the difference between a freshly painted, nicely running 1985 truck and a 2005.
You are investing heavily in your business right now, which is to be expected in a growing business. Just don't let your ego get the best of you. Sure it is nice to see a fleet of trucks going down the road with your name on them, but as you know, that doesn't equal success.
Let this season be a learning experience for you, and start planning for next year. I think image is important, but be reasonable about it. Knowing your numbers and thinking like a businessman is far more important.


LawnSite Senior Member
Attleboro MA
It's called overhead I'm going to give some examples

Let's see

company 1 Small company has a brand new F350 turbo diesel truck that cost at least 35K has a new 20 foot enclosed trailer 2x whatever ZTR's and your for giggles 9K a piece puls basic hand helds
Truck payment 583 a month
Mower payments 300 a month
insurance 125.00 a month
plus trailer payment
His overhead is extremely high so his prices have to be higher to cover expenses and plus make profit

company 2 small company
truck payment 220.00
mower payment 0
insurance 125
trailer payment 0

Both companies bid on a 10,000 square foot strickly mow and blow job
company a has to bid higher than company b. So company a starts complaining on Lawnsite that they just got low balled. Which can happen but if company b's over head is alot lower than company a is it really low balling????? I suggest reading up on six sigma and lean concepts and maybe you will learn something. Some people are going to disagree with me but less money paying out is more money in our pocket think about it


LawnSite Senior Member
Trenton ,Ohio
Wow, I really expected a different response. Seems there is the tendency here to get caught up in the whole "image" thing. I'm not suggesting driving around in a pc of junk truck and going back to 21" murrays. Most people here (I think) are part time like myself so I drive a new F-350 ,but not because I mow. I have a good paying "1st" job and I need a big truck to pull our camper. I really think the equipment is what gets us, I am a tool junkie so I am always looking at bigger, faster, better. As far as mowing residential lawns do we really need a super fast Z? In fact I have lost several yards this year because of the "large fast" equipment. You can criticize the little old ladies for not liking the big z's zipping around their yard ,but the older people who can't mow anymore are a big market we can't ignore. My neighbors around me have Deere, Troybilt riders and basic push mowers. Except for my yard being striped and theirs not there is no difference in quality actually at times because of the Z tearing turf (I know you never tear turf) theirs looks better than mine. So I am considering down sizing to a decent rider and ither a small comm w/b or 21". Anyone else thinking like this or is it just me?

Lawn Masters

LawnSite Senior Member
Hudson Florida
IMO, image makes some difference, I like to look respectable, but not over the top. if my equipment is paid for, and my truck is as well, I'm happy. I dont have to look like the very best company out there, just respectable, and decent so people will see a professional outfit with great results.


LawnSite Member
central florida
meathead1134 said:
I suggest reading up on six sigma and lean concepts and maybe you will learn something.
Wow! Six Sigma on Lawnsite. If I hear that or SOX again, I'm gonna puke. That's exactly what I'm trying to get away from.

I guess where I'm really concerned about looks is in our advertisements. I think most of the people in our area don't care what you look like as long as you mow their lawn and they don't get a ticket from the HOA. Or it looks better than their neighbor's. I'd say 50% of the "LCO's" around here drive mini-vans.