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It's official I AM a fish out of water

Envy Lawn Service

LawnSite Fanatic
North Carolina
Yes, the saga that is the beginning of my '04 season continues leading off these three reference threads...

Need to change but how?
Need to Change but how? Part 2 "routes"
Am I ureasonably Expensive?

Let there be no doubt that I have found out I am a fish out of water in my efforts to do what I wanted to for this season. I've spent countless hours trying to work myself into the largest market where tight routes can be constructed. the cold hard facts are...

  • I am outside my area of operation.
    The market is saturated with low ballers.
    I can't compete with those who are willing to work at or below costs.
    They want my services but are not willing to pay the premium.
    There is little to no demand for my level of services in this market.
    I've wasted my time money and energy just spinning my wheels.
    I may very well hold the title for most expensive in my area.
    I have by all definitions worked my butt off
    I have slaved on in the face of extreme disappointment and unfair odds.

So far, to this point I have had returns on 86 bids placed.
Right now the record stands at 3 - 83.
Yes that's only 3 out of 86 bids placed or just shy of 3.5% positive return. Want to know what's even harder to cope with than that? Try keeping your sprits up and continuing to give the bidding process all you've got when you have lost 52 straight before winning the first one!!! that's something beyond hard!!!

Out of these 3 not a single one was won based purely on the fact I was the lowest bidder. The first one I was tied with the other bidder on a per service basis. He bid charges only for work performed v/s my flat seasonal billing. The customer wanted me instead though, so we negotiated a few items. I closed the deal by sales technique and proving superior quality of service.

The second was one that selected me although I was the highest by far out of 4 bidders. They said they spent a while trying to decide rather I was the type to try to rip someone off or if my pricing made a loud statement about how valuable I felt my services were. They said based on my knowledge and professionalism in pointing things out to them and their judge of my character that they decided it was the latter. So far they are not disappointed by the way.

The third one was much like the second one. I was by far the highest bidder, with the next one down in line being at 50% of my per visit rate and not only that but billing only for work performed v/s my flat seasonal billing. In the end, although the owner really wanted to save the money, he wanted my services more. My services were more in tune with his needs but my final price was outside his budget. After a great deal of effort and pursuit on his part, I did for the very first time ever negotiate my rates and lower them just a little to fit his needs in exchange for a few things that were beneficial or of value to me.

What's the moral or point of this story. Well to tell you the truth, I don't know. Maybe it's just part of the venting process. But I do know one thing is for sure. This will certainly be a good thread for anyone to re-visit when they are having a tough time of it. I think it will certainly serve as a reminder that even though things might be tough for you, they could always be worse. A least you don't have to fill my shoes right now...................

John Gamba

LawnSite Fanatic
Like i told you a year ago, Its not as easy as it reads. These forums have only created more people doing it then ever. Thats why i sold two years ago. i could smell this coming, the only people making any money are the higher ups here and the so called scrub with the 200 dollar push mower and broom. The people in the middle are screwed as always. I'm just glad that i did this before the mad rush. i'm investing in land and seasonal restaurant type investments. Good luck!


LawnSite Member

Not trying to come across as a PITA. I see these complaints often and wanted to try to help.

I am outside my area of operation. - What is your SPECIFIC area of operation. IE - What is your target market? Perhaps you need to move the target a bit.

The market is saturated with low ballers. - They all are and always will be, treat them as a non factor. If they are coming into play you need to work on your image more.

I can't compete with those who are willing to work at or below costs. - Don't. Sell your service not your price.

They want my services but are not willing to pay the premium. - Your services are worth a premium, as long as there is something unique about your service. What makes you different than the other guys?

There is little to no demand for my level of services in this market. - Give the level of services 'this market' wants or go find that elusive 'upscale' market. Don't sell premium grounds maintenance to little old ladies, they just want their lawn mowed.

I've wasted my time money and energy just spinning my wheels. - Hey, we all need to learn somehow. Remember what you learned and DON'T LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN.

I may very well hold the title for most expensive in my area. - That's great. Now be the most expensive guy that's busy!!! What makes your services worth more? If you are selling apples to apples with other guys you are not going to get your price. Note - the level of 'services' can be the same, but there is another dimension to business ... returning calls promptly, being polite, looking and ACTING 'professional'.

I have by all definitions worked my butt off - Welcome to the world of beeing self employed. There are plenty of people who just aren't interested in the hours involved in beeing self employed or prefer the benefits of vacation days, health insurance, and paid time off. It's not a bad thing to work for someone else and don't feel bad if your business doesn't work out. Something like 9 out of 10 small business fail in the first five years.

I have slaved on in the face of extreme disappointment and unfair odds. - You have proven you've got the right stuff!!! Congratulations of your effort. What can you do different to avoid the extreme dissapointment??

I had a hard time competing in grounds maintenance as well and had to move on. However, there are plenty of successful grounds maintenance companies in my town. You are running a business and have to find a way to make your business unique and different than what every other guys sells.

I wish you the best.

Davis Lawn Mowing LLC.

LawnSite Member
Owosso, MI
3-86? You can hit cleanup for my worthless Detroit Tigers with that average! lol I just started my business this year, been advertising for 2 weeks and only got 1 bid out from an internet ad I have been placing since late January. My newspaper ad has been running cold for 2 weeks now but the weather is changing more and more and I just got a huge upgrade as probably the best lawncare/landscaping firm in town and one of my good buddy's is not taking on lawn accounts this year, trying to phaze out lawn mowing in the next couple years, and there phone is ringing off the hook so they are going to refer callers to me. Hopefully this will land me some good accounts.


LawnSite Silver Member
Envy.. I am also curious as to what your target market is? What is the level of services you offer? If you are convinced that you are the most expensive in your area (which appears to be obvious by the ratio).. then maybe you need to readjust your pricing a little to become more competitive? Maybe you are trying to sell too many services at one time?

Give us an idea of what you offered these 86 potential clients... What was the average size? What was the average quote for services offered?


LawnSite Member
Holley N.Y.
I wouldn't be to hard on yourself alot of it is the economy. People like to get estimates to see if it's it worth it to go to sears and by a crap rider to do their own lawn. I have people who tell me my prices are too high and they can buy amower and do it themselves for what I charge. I tell them to go ahead, but remember that now you've got something else to keep gas and oil in and anything else that might,and probably will go wrong with their great buy. Then take it in for service somewhere and get charged $400 or $500 to get it serviced because they hit one of the kids toys in the yard. I've got customers that are sick of all this stuff that goes with maintaining their yards and say it's easier and looks better when I do it. Don't get discouraged it's still early and the good customers sometimes wait til the last minute to find someone.


LawnSite Member
Maybe this will work, works about 48% for my estimates against low-ballers.

On my estimate I have two copies of paper. The first is a letter to the customer stating that my company is working under a certificate awarded by so and so college and is licensed and insured for your safety.

(Same Page)The second part of the statement states that companies without the minimum of a licensed and insurance is running a illegally operation and if you are using them you could be liable for supporting such a operation.

The second page is the estimate.



LawnSite Member
Your on the right track by articulating what the problems are in not landing a higher % of issued quotes. JwHolden's post takes you to the second step, by describing possible solutions to each problem. That was excellent advise given, follow it and you will be successful in your decissions.
The customer is always right. We in the business must be on our toes and keep an eye on that market at all times, if we want a part of it. The market assessment, advertising, product/service development, and landing the quotes is the most Challenging (IMO). Especially in tight markets. Doing the actual work is the easiest part of the business. Albeit can be the longest part of the business cycle, as it is in ours. Of course this later part is specific to smaller operations (1 to 4 person operations).
Nothing venture nothing gained. Good luck!

Jwholden. That was excellent advise given, I enjoyed reading it. It reminded me of some things that I can improve on. A gift like that is pricelless. Thank you



LawnSite Fanatic
As an investor (in stocks) I learned that you can't argue with the market. When a bear market takes hold it will take down th stock of 80-90% of the best companies. To be a successful investor you simply have to let the market guide you. Fighting the market is a losers game. Likewise, in this business, you have to guage the market. If you keep losing bids, you're going to have to analyze what's happening. Are you simply bidding too high. Perhaps, you're factoring more services than the client really wants. I constantly do a post mortum on all my stock transactions; what did I do right and what did I do wrong. I suggest that maybe you need to do the same on your bids. The reality is that you're misjudging something when placing the bid. Your solution is to find out what.