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Leaving the Air Force-My starting Plan

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by SevenSpringsLawnCare, Apr 1, 2014.

  1. SevenSpringsLawnCare

    SevenSpringsLawnCare LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    I wish I could say I was retiring, but as a 24 year old who has served 6 years and spent over half of that deployed (I am on my last one now) and away from home I have decided to separate and return to my roots in landscaping. I started out as a 12 year old and did it until I was 18 when I enlisted. I wanted to share my plan with you guys and hope for some wisdom to make sure I am going in the right direction. Being in the military I like lists, so here is a time line.

    1. Separate in May when I return and get a job landscaping(2 months)- I will be on paid leave for roughly 2 months in which I will pick up a full time job landscaping. I figure I can work on my skills while I get everything else together.( it has been 6 yrs since I did it full time!) The only scary thing is going from 50k a year to barely 30k...luckily it is just my wife and I and our bills are pretty low. We have a very low mortgage and have no revolving debt. She has her own business pet sitting so you can kinda see a common trend here.

    2.Use my GI bill to go to school for Horticulture(6months-1 yr)- I already have all of my core classes completed through the military. I actually have a degree in electronic systems technology but I want nothing to do with that field anymore! The tech school that offers the horticulture degree has very practical classes that are all geared toward a lawn care business owner. They might as well call it a lawn care business degree. From small engine repair to turf management (both weak areas for me) all of the classes are beneficial. I will be going full time and hopefully will not have too many schedule conflicts. Also, going full time gets a housing stipend from the GI bill which will help greatly.

    3. Sell my old Mercedes 380sl/buy a truck ect.(within the year)- I have slaved over that old Merc for 2 years and it should sell for about 10-12K. I have about 9k invested in it so it isn't a total loss for me. that will be enough for me to get a decent 5-8k work truck and atleast purchase a trailer and a mower. I will elaborate in a later post regarding what my research here has me leaning towards as far as starting equipment.

    4. Website, insurance, LLC, intial advertising, ect (1 year)- Once I have all of this done the last thing I will do is send out advertisements and post craigslist, google map, ect officially going 'public'. I figure I will keep working until it gets too much to juggle them both and then i will truly set sail and hope I don't sink.

    This is my rough outline. I plan on breaking down each step to specifics as I plan them. I figure if I am going to spend all this time researching and planning I can get some good suggestions here and perhaps leave a resource for future lawn nerds. I am full of fear about the instability of this move but I refuse to spend my life working just for the money when I don't enjoy what I do. I know this move will make me happier, regardless of the outcome.
  2. Horizonlawnscape

    Horizonlawnscape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 16

    Go for it bro! I switched from active duty AF to the guard and don't regret a thing. Sure I miss working the F-15. But I have found that this profession had brought me happiness to my life even though I'm still new to sod chopping it still yet to feel like a "job". I still get my fix wrenching on fighters once a month but paving your own destiny one yard or mulch bed at a time and being your own boss kicks serious butt! Good luck! Return home safe brosuff! God bless and thank you for your service!!
    Posted via Mobile Device
  3. newguy123

    newguy123 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,096

    What's your career field buddy? I was Active for 6 as well. I was in POL.
  4. SevenSpringsLawnCare

    SevenSpringsLawnCare LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    The ancient field of Ground Radar Maintenance. I am gonna miss the hell out of my old equipment, but I will not miss the stress lol
  5. Horizonlawnscape

    Horizonlawnscape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 16

    I am just a dumb crew chief.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  6. SevenSpringsLawnCare

    SevenSpringsLawnCare LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    I certainly hope your not a dumb crew chief, I fly on C-5's, C-17's, and C-130's all the time with lots of equipment! I usually have no problem with you guys. I prefer my life over convenience =P

    I am looking into several landscaping jobs, preferably with a larger company(they can pay more), and have applied at two separate organizations. I won't be back for a little over a month so I will not be surprised if they don't bite until I get back and see them in person. I am really hoping to get some time in on a few different types of mowers. I only have experience on a zero turn and a typical walk behind.

    So here is a hypothetical starting equipment list:

    46' zero turn riding mower with side/bag/mulch
    -I figure that is the most versatile especially considering my initial client base being 5000-10000 sq ft lots. Any suggestion as to what features and brand would be appreciated.
    21' typical walk behind mower-
    -I am not sure what to look for in a good one. I know what works at home, but I want one that will leave me with lots of options.
    FS 100 RX Stihl weed eater
    Fc90 Stihl Edger
    BR 600 Mag Stihl Blower
    HS 81 T Stihl hedge trimmer

    of course there are all the yard tools ect. I am not too worried about not knowing what equipment to have but rather what brand and specific features to shop for. I will do my best to get used, but I would prefer to buy most of it new if I could.
  7. Horizonlawnscape

    Horizonlawnscape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 16

    All that really depends on what your budget is. Every mower or handheld have its ups and downs. Sticking to one brand makes it easy for repairs and parts stock. I still usea cub gtx 1054 for open yards and gravely walk behinds because my dealer fixes both. And you really can't go wrong with sthil our echo. I don't really buy commercial stuff since I'm the one using them and don't abuse them. Still have a echo gt 225 trimmer residential trimmer that runs super nice still after 5 years. Just my opinion. Hope this helps. Good luck.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  8. SevenSpringsLawnCare

    SevenSpringsLawnCare LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    I have spent at least 5 hours a day on here the past week, (I have nothing to do in my free time in the desert) and have come up with several alterations to my initial thoughts. Firstly, due to the nature of my area I have decided to go for a 36' zero turn hydro mulch/bagger. I thought a 46' would be good to start with but then I thought about small gates and decided it would be better to have efficient cutting rates regardless of gate size. Ideally it would be great to have a 36' and a 52', but I am not making the mistake of investing all that money initially. I am going for mulch/bag so that I have the option depending on the customer. My underlying theme here is to have enough equipment to be versatile and efficient when I start but not decked out and broke.

    I have brainstormed on a good way to market the 'whole yard' approach that is my goal to gather as much profit per property as possible. The idea is to offer lots of options in 'package' deals. These deals are not marketed with prices but vary from yard to yard.

    Ex- Customer calls about weekly mowing service. I will always try to get the owner to meet me on the property as I feel that is very important for building the relationship. After introductions and sincere words I ask a few questions-
    Do you currently have service?
    Why are you interested in service?
    What are your goals for your yard?

    I will then say 'let me take a walk around to get a few measurements and I will right you up a detailed estimate.

    Every price for the packages will be based on the estimated time I come up with vs what my hourly profit goals are. As a solo I am shooting for around $25 in profit per hour- 35ish hours a week ect. ends up 40k a year ideally.
    Add in associated operation costs taxes, gas, admin, processing, insurance ect to determine hourly rate for that job and adjust according to estimated time- none of which the homeowner will see obviously. These prices would be for a yearly coverage of 48 visits for weekly and 24 biweekly(bi weekly=+10%).They can chose to pay for a full year with a 5% discount, quaterly, monthly, or per visit auto-pay via credit. I would accept cash only as prepayment. For Ga I would be looking to actually cut from March-Oct most years so there would be a clause regarding no refunds/credits for less visits if they chose to pay a full year price.

    Basic-Mow, Blow,
    Edge, Weed-eat
    (option to bag or not bag)

    Basic+Maintenance- basic plus hedge trimming,
    weeding,roof cleaning w option to routinely add mulch, pine
    straw, or gutter cleanings
    Pricing with this option would vary a lot depending on the yard. A moderately maintained yard that would require little time to keep up with would be very different from a yard that would need a TLC. The opportunity here is to add constant revenue from something you would due half the time. I would estimate how much extra time I would be spending on those tasks every other week or so and add that amount to every week. It would be important to mention that this works best with residential yards that are pretty uniform.

    Total Yard- Everything plus a fertilization schedule
    and perhaps a once year aeration/thatching
    Pitch to customers that have a hands off attitude that want a perfect yard with zero hassle- Judge the customer and see what they are willing consider. Can you pitch a high monthly cost under the premise of spreading out a cost over time? This is def not for everyone but a major profit maker if you have the right client base.

    Spring/fall cleanups and hardscapes are also listed but with a statement that they are individually estimated so your customer knows of your services.

    I think if I can really get the numbers right on these there is a lot of room for profit. Here soon I will write up a fake scenario and see how close I can break the numbers down. Thanks for reading my ideas, I find listing them here helps me understand them clearly.
  9. Fmfrider1

    Fmfrider1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 7

    I served in the Air Force for eight years and got out last year in May. This is the things that I did and a few things that I wished I did.

    Equipment that I started with.
    02 Dodge 1500 2wd (I already owned)
    6.5x16 tandem utility trailer paid $900
    1999 36"exmark walk behind with a sulky paid $750
    A used echo stick edger paid $100
    Weed eater brand weed eater (I already owned)
    Hand held weed eater blower ( I already owned)

    I later bought a shaindawa 235t and a ryoibi hedge trimmer. don't ever buy one, I went through three in a month before I just returned it and bought an echo hedge trimmer. I continued to use all the equipment for the whole season. I used the local paper to advertise with, flyers, craigslist and word of mouth. The paper did really good for me I got mostly old people that called, be ready for early morning estimate phone calls. I got one customer from about 100 flyers, it was a total waste of time. I stopped using craigslist, customers tend to be cheap a$$es and expect you to mow for pennies or don't pay on time. I will never use craigslist again. This year I am running adds in the paper, adds on news station website home pages, door hangers and website. I wouldn't change a thing, I'm having a great return on everything. I wish I would have spent more time marketing, it's very competitive where I live and having a visual presence is everything.

    Find a good software program to do scheduling, billing, estimates and so on. It just makes life easier. I also put the business under a LLC, my option it's not worth it until the company has some worth. I also used odesk.com to have a logo made for like $10. Had a few shirts made with a logo and number from a local print shop. I hope this helps
  10. SevenSpringsLawnCare

    SevenSpringsLawnCare LawnSite Member
    Messages: 10

    Thanks for all the good information. I will heed you warning and stay far away from any from anything of lower quality. I am not trying to spend a crazy amount but I agree that it is better to go with the more reliable brand. I am very grateful for the info about marketing- I was considering craigslist and flyers both which I will now skip on. I am planning on doing a lot of website optimization to include some search engine stuff as well. Google maps, angie's list, yelp, facebook ect. I looked into Jobber and it seems to be pretty inclusive. I went to Odesk today and posted a job for a logo. I will talk to my CPA when I get home and probably go with an LLC as well mostly because I feel like it adds legitimacy in the eyes of the customer. You were super helpful! It will be a few months for me to get all this sorted out when I get back but I certainly hope to follow in your footsteps!

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