Learning from mistakes

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by lot0210, Feb 23, 2008.

  1. lot0210

    lot0210 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 106

    I have always thought the best way to learn is from others mistakes.
    So what mistakes have you made in this industry start ups can learn from?

  2. landscaper22

    landscaper22 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 842

    Mistake #1: I would price jobs lower than I should because I thought that some money was better than no money. Don't do it. You will regret it later.

    Mistake #2: Work for family members or friends.

    Mistake #3: Keep PITA customers around hoping that things will get better. At the first sign that a customer will be difficult nip it in the bud.

    Mistake #4: Doing too many favors and extra work for no extra charge. Give an inch some will take a mile. You try to put a stop to it later and they will think you are rude.
  3. lawnpro724

    lawnpro724 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,201

    Growing to fast is the most underrated mistake made by many in this business. Growing faster than you can afford to can end up hurting your business more than helping it. When you grow to fast it may outpace your finances and the amount of help available causing delays in getting work completed on time. Taking on more mowing accounts than you have equipment for can lead to things taking longer than they should and costing you money. The end result being your reputation going down the drain. Take your time and grow at a moderate rate and only expand when you have the experience, equipment and help to take on more work.
  4. LB1234

    LB1234 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,208

    not knowing what it costs to operate my business.

    GSPHUNTER LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 311

    Hey lawnpro, could you expand a little on this. I'm really trying to grow my business this year. From what I have read in the past on here, people say not to buy equipment and labor until you have work for it, so with this in mind, I have been sending lots of letters out to companies to try to get bid opportunities. My thoughts were to land the jobs, and if I need to buy bigger faster equip, I would. Also, if I need to hire someone I will. Just wondering what your thoughts were on this.
  6. smcunningham

    smcunningham LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 775

    Not using the search feature before I asked ?'s and getting reamed out by other members of ls.

    No just kidding but if you search for ? you'll have enough to read for a couple days.......
  7. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,940

    #1 - Depends upon your workload. This has been discussed many times on LS. If you have no work at a slow time of the season, some income is better than nothing. The cashier at the local grocery stores doesn't know, nor care, whether the money was earned at $60/hr, or $45/hr. It still spends the same way.

    #2 - This too has been discussed many times. I would be in trouble if I followed this. Over half of my customer base is people I know pretty well. No family, but many people I know well on my customer list. No problems either.

    #3 - Sure some people might be more difficult than others. I consider nobody to be a problem if they pay their bills. If I have somebody I don't want to work with any longer, they are not on the list for next year, but not before. I finish out the season, no matter what I might think of them. This has only happened a few times in several years. I don't consider it a problem.

    #4 - I can't think of any case where somebody has asked for more when I've gone above and beyond what is expected. In some cases, people have paid for the extra effort, without my asking. So, I don't agree with "taking a mile." Sometimes it has resulted in extra work that they ask for, are willing to pay for, so it becomes a win-win. Taking up the trash barrel from time to time is a very inexpensive way of advertising and building a relationship with a customer. Often the little extra things being done are recognized with a nice bonus at the end of the season. I certainly don't take the approach, "... will not do anything extra unless the customer will pay me for it." I think my approach has built loyalty and a willingness to make referrals to other customers. No, I'm not going to pull out my clippers and cut bushes for an hour or two, but picking up some limbs, trimming out some tall grass in a place not ordinarily trimmed, and so on -- trivial things to do.

    I realized many LCOs do not approach their business in this way. That is fine, everybody has choices. I prefer to build working relationships. Many threads on LS seem to say the LCO-customer relationship is adversarial from the get-go, and therefore must be approached in that way. That is not how I choose to work. Customers are the BEST part of the business model. It is not the fastest ZTR, the best mulching mower, etc. Customers are the one part of the model that creates income. Without customers, ... nothing.
  8. lawnpro724

    lawnpro724 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,201

    Keep in mind some of what you will read on this site doesn't come from the people who have been in this industry for very long. Just because someone has a zillion posts doesn't mean they have been in this business for a long time, just the opposite in some cases. I always try to buy my equipment before the anticipated need arises but thats me. Growing your business is what everyone in this industry wants to do but growing to fast can be a death sentence for some. I'm assuming you have equipment to do the work your setting out to do, if not you should by now. I have been in this industry for a very long time and have seen many lawn and landscape company's come and go. I have seen company's that the first year only had 15 customers and then the next year there out bragging about having more than a 100 only to be out of business the next year or so. The reason is growing to fast, now if you already have all the equipment and qualified help to handle a 100 customers great but thats not the case for most just starting out. You say if you get the customers and need more equipment you'll just go out and get it but hiring someone who is qualified and likes this line of work is not as easy. Finding good help is a difficult task and keeping them is even harder and then there is workers comp, payroll, unemployment insurance and taxes that all go together when hiring someone. I not suggesting that your going to have 100 customers this year or next, I'm just using it as an example of a company thats no longer in business. If you don't have equipment and trained, reliable help and start taking on more and more jobs and then all the sudden your help quits or your mower, truck go out you will start falling behind in your work and losing customers because of delays that could have been avoided. The same goes for landscaping which takes time to do correctly. Steady, planned for growth is the key to success.
  9. Carolina Cuts

    Carolina Cuts LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,152

    my #1 rule of thumb...
    Work smart, not hard.
  10. landscaper22

    landscaper22 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 842

    I guess I can only speak for myself. But these are mistakes that I feel I have made. The thing about family is if they become a late payer or any other problem arises, then it is not just a customer, it is family. It makes things a little more difficult than just dropping a customer.
    And sorry, some customers are hard to deal with. No, we would not have any business without customers, but I don't have time to deal with customers that want to be difficult. Being difficult can be anything from paying late, always being negative, poor mouthing, thinking you are at fault for anything on their property that is broken, having the attitude of working harder and not smarter (yes I have had a couple of these in the past 5 years). I could go on.....I know everyone feels different about this. But I have dealt with the public for about 10 years now, and some people just like to make your life miserable because they have a miserable life. I have enough to deal with in my daily life, and I don't have any more room for drama from customers. Some want to sugar coat the term PITA CUSTOMER, and that is fine. Also some have a higher tolerance for difficult people than others. That is fine too. Now I am never rude to these people, but when I have had enough we have a nice talk, and I explain my position.
    I am not one that feels like a picky or particular customer is a problem customer. Particular customers just pay more for services because they require more of my time. Some LCO's place them in the PITA category unfairly.
    But I don't buy into this attitude that because customers pay our income we have to pretend like the bad ones are not really bad. I just call like it is. There are plenty of really nice and appreciative customers out there so why add more stress to my life by trying to work with the more difficult ones. Sorry, just had to vent.

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