Looking for a mentor....

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by LawnLad, Mar 9, 2002.

  1. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    Three years ago we took our fertilizing/pesticide apps in house after using several sub contractors that failed to meet expecations. Since then, we have been learning about the application business on our maintenance customers properties. Obviously there is always more to learn. This site is great!

    However, we keep turning down customers for applications. We'll do their aerating, thatching, etc, but no applications since it doesn't fit into our plan. Currently we only make applications to those that we mow. Since we're at the property 30 times a year, we can watch to see if things are a okay and control the site very well.

    For added control (and opportunity to get our foot in more doors), I want to make fertilizing it's own entity in our own company. Rather than rely on the foreman of each crew to handle the turf applications. I want to do this slowly as we learn how to operate "a new business". Further, it will allow us to cross market our other services to these application customers.

    I'm looking for advice from anyone who has done this, or might have some insight. I'm not too worried about the marketing side of things. I'm more worried about the logistics of how to start adding 10 or 15 application customers this year to get our feet wet, and then add another 50 next year, etc. It's the program, equipment, method of managing quality, among other things that has me asking questions.

    If you'd be willing to talk with me so I dont' have to reinvent the wheel here, would you please email me with your phone number so I can talk with you? If you're local I'll buy ya dinner!

    Thank you in advance for helping me out with this.

    Douglas Freer
    Lawn Lad, Inc.
    Cleveland Heights, Ohio


    MATTHEW LawnSite Senior Member
    from NE OHIO
    Messages: 665

    All you really need to do is pick one employee to handle ALL aspects of the lawncare side. He can do the apps. I would not allow foremen to handle this. The service unit will be a totally different setup than a standard maintenance unit.
  3. Ric

    Ric LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,968

    Matthew has given you some good advise about one man to do all applys. But that one man can make you or break you so choose wisely. It takes 3 years to be a beginer and 3 life times to be an expert. If you really want to do it hire an experienced man.

    At 8 yards a day, 20 days a month, you will need 160 accounts a month to break even. That accounts for chemical cost, Insurance, license fee, Equipment cost, and labor burden etc. Part time applicators are no good, They get hung up in other work and let applys slide. Been there done that.

    Take my advise with a grain of salt. I am in the bug capital of America. I have bug, fungus, weed, and fert issues that are much different than yours.
  4. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    Matthew, Ric - I don't know if I was unclear, I do want to have all my applications made by one man. I'm just not at the point where I'll set up a separate truck or hire that one man yet - too much cost for the return at this point. Since I don't have production times and know how to run that crew yet - I don't have any numbers to bench mark the one guy I hire. Therefore I'm not going to rush in and get business until I know what to expect first. My own comfort level tells me to start a little slower, but your concerns are noted about having outside distractions to the applicator by involving him on other crews. Hadn't given much thought to that. Thanks.
  5. lbmd1

    lbmd1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 462

    Hey Doug, I did something very similar last year. We do mostly maintenance with all the bells and whistles (dethatching aerations, etc..) After numerous customer requests for fertilization due to poor performance from outside fert firms, I started looking into the organic side of the fert biz. (no interest or time to pursue certification, not in NH at least) Once I did my research, I wanted like you to have it perceived as a seperate entity. I found that a organic lawn care company run like a chem lawn type fert biz was more appealing and more serious than an LCO offering organic apps on the side. I needed another truck for our existing lawn biz to do extra side work anyway, (pruning, mulching, installations, etc..) so I purchased an Isuzu box truck so the pallets of fert could be stored, as well as it was an overall great utility truck for all the other stuff we do in the lawn biz side. Had a name search done, got new biz cards and basically seperated the whole thing for an image standpoint. I picked up about 50 new application customers from my existing lawn care base of 140 weekly clients which was great, but have found that the marketing for the app side of the biz is quite different than the lawn biz. Our marketing for the lawn care side is very well established, adding new lawn care clients is quite easy if you know how. I found that the telemarketing that Chem lawn and Lawn Dawg do in the months of february hard to compete with in some senses. I tried a large direct mail piece spending about $1000 mailed to 15,000 targeted areas with only 3 new clients from that. After spending about another $2000 in the same year, I was not happy with the results. I don't want to further drain my capital resources from the lawn division, so I'm going to focus more this season on a better plan and marketing direction. I think the seperate entity thing is key though in the minds of the client. It shows a more serious nature of being in it for the long hall. Overall, I've been pretty pleased with it so far. The organic side produced about $18,000 on just apps alone, but I have along way to go in my mind. And the expense of having the seperate truck is justified by the other work the lawn care side produces. I'll email you my phone number if you want to talk more. Sorry for the long post

  6. mowing king

    mowing king LawnSite Member
    from ct
    Messages: 85

    Don't make it harder than you have to. And don't spend any money until you have to. I have done All those ideas from the previous post and they are mostly correct. I think that guy Larry Stone has a good grip on mowing and app business.
    He kept it small and makes lots of money. I seperated my app business from my mowing and grew to 3 trucks and 700 customers. We now make more money with just two trucks and 400. one full time tech and one floater tech. The marketing and sales cost in the lawn app business are big $$$.

    If I were you I would do granular and spot spray the weeds. I would pick one day a week like mondays and send a guy out. he could do 1 million feet per round on a 6-8 week cycle. I have found mowing guys to be good techs.

    Hope this helps.
  7. Turfdude

    Turfdude LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,899

    In the same boat.

    I got tired of "juggling all responsibilities" of a small business. I basically have crew chiefs who supervise mowing crews and my lawn care manager take care of ALL Lawn Care concerns. His duties include scheduling all rounds, diagnosing problems, contacting clients, etc.. He had 7 years experience w/ a competitor and ran maintenance crews for me for 2 years.

    Anyway here's what works:
    1. Your lawn care tech (lct) must know the mowing schedules so his apps don't conflict w/ them.
    2. your (lct) should be able to fill in new clients who want apps done properly (ie: make sure he's not going back to same neighborhoods 2-3 times per round).
    3. make sure your lct informs your maint crew leaders and crews how to identify possible fungus and/or grub damage and leave him proper notes to follow up w/ client.
    4. It is a good idea for you to have a book w/ a page per client for notes. The lct should be able to keep any notes to/from client in book as a reference in case there is a question/cocern down the line. It also works as a great reminder as you review the client history each visit.
    5. Make sure your LCT is a people person. He/She will have to be able to interact w/ your clients.

    Good luck.


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