My 11 tips for starting/running your business.

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Dontbthatguy, Feb 12, 2017.

  1. Dontbthatguy

    Dontbthatguy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    I recently stumbled on this site and have used to to do a ton of research to better my stump grinding business. I love reading through the business management threads and figured it was time to share what I have learned.

    A while back I wrote up some tips/lessons I have learned in the 3 years I'v operated my business for another website. I grind stumps, but the similarities comparing stump grinding and lawn care from a business perspective are one in the same.

    For those looking to start a business and have come here for advice, I hope my 11 tips help.

    First tip - Stick to what you know.

    I had operated a stump grinder before and have done tree work. I knew what the average stump costs and what it took to grind it. It wasn't rocket science, but it was easier for me to start this business being in the tree business vs say a paving business or something else that would require me learning additional skills. I also had some sales experience and knew what that aspect of the business would take.

    Tip 2 - Talk up your business.

    Early on no one knows who you are. You have to let family, friends, neighbors everyone that will lend an ear that you just started a business. Early on those were the people feeding me jobs. Adding to that I hustled. I talked to other pro's in the area. Landscapers, other tree pro's, general contractors, paving companies. I let as many people know I was in business and that I could be a strategic partner for them. When I found out one of the larger tree guys in my area didn't offer stump grinding I made it a point it meet him in person and pretty much ask him for an audition. It worked and he for the rest of that year fed me a quarter of my business. I want to emphasize on the hustle as it was so important early on. I was even cold calling some people which anyone who has done it before knows how dejecting it can be. I would be grinding at a job, notice the neighbor has a stump and would knock on their door. I hated doing it, but I forced myself to because I knew it would help me grow. If you cant see yourself doing this, rethink entering into a business because growth will become a challenge.

    Tip 3 - Adopt amazon's policy of customer service.

    Okay I don't know what amazon's policy of customer service is, but I know from personal experience that they treat the customer like gold, and they stand by their products. So that is what I did. I gave my work the white glove touch. I stood by my work, occasionally when you grind a stump you may miss a piece or leave an area high. If I found out that happened I came right back out and made it right. If I underbid a job, I stuck by my estimate and did the job for the quoted price. Early on I would even help people to get a better price. On a few occasions I bid large jobs that would be hard on my machine, but encouraged people to get other estimates telling them someone with a more powerful machine can do it better. Sure I could have "sold" them, but I knew if they found out they paid 100s more for a job, they may badmouth my service in the future. I treated every single customer like gold and it has paid off 10 fold in referrals.

    Tip 4 - Bootstrap, but know when to spend money.

    When I started, I fully bootstrapped the business. I spent 6200 on a used gas powered grinder with a trailer and 4400 on a used pick up truck. Plus another 200 or so on tools and I was in business. It was pretty much as little as you could spend to enter the space. I made money my few months, but recognized early on that I could make some purchases that would save me time which saves money. I purchased the 2nd most powerful chainsaw on the market which ran me 1,100 bucks, but it allowed me to cut down massive stumps making my grind time quicker. I purchased a commercial leaf blower that allowed me to clean up 10-15 min quicker. These purchases allowed me to take on more jobs per day which made me more money. There was stuff I wanted to make my life easier, but in the beginning I would only purchase stuff for the business that would increase my bottom line.

    Tip 5 - Constantly work the business.

    I spent countless hours staring into the abyss thinking of ways to retool the business. I constantly researched upgraded machines, new ways of operating, and new advertising techniques. I was a regular in the forums and talked to other professionals in the space. I set forth goals each year and smaller goals each month. I tested many advertising avenues and expanded the ones that worked.

    Tip 6 - Find what works and beat it to death.

    For me, I stumbled upon text message bidding and craigslist ads. People loved it, in the ad I explained that they text me a picture and I text back an estimate. It is a little challenging sometimes and 1 out of 10 I underestimate a job. But even if that happens time countless hours saved not driving to bid jobs far out weighs a biding error. I made sure to update the ads and renew them as soon as I was able to.

    Tip 7 - Ask for feedback and reviews.

    I always ask how a person hears about me. I need to know what marketing is working and what ones need help. In doing so one day, a customer told me he chose me because of my positive reviews. I made it a point from that point on to make sure I had more 5 start reviews than anyone else in my area. Also I found what people liked about me and made sure I kept doing it. I found that people love how responsive I was and easy to deal with. People loved that I actually answer the phone when they call and was punctual. I made it a point to keep doing these things.

    Tip 8 - SEO is important.

    A few months ago I set out to improve this aspect of my business. At the time I was doing a lot of business, but I wanted more so I set my sight on improving my web presence. I have no idea what I am doing and still don't as you can see by my website but just following the simple guides in this sub and on youtube I was able to get on the 1st page of google, and show up 1 on the google business map. This has been paying off big time the past month or two resulting in a boatload of leads.

    Tip 9 - If it was easy, everyone would do it.

    That became my motto on the bad days. There will be bad days. Hell I broke down on my very first paying job. Cost $1200 bucks to fix. I hadn't made a penny yet and I was shelling out what I had hopped to make that month. I could have quit that day but I said to myself if it was easy everyone would do it. Let the bad days remind you that if every day was great, everyone would try to do the business you do. It's the hard sifts out the hacks from the people whiling to put in the hard work and effort to make a business successful.

    Tip 10 - Look for the lesson in everything.

    From the first job break down, I learned tip 9 - If it was easy everyone would do it. From the job my rake broke and I had to leave the job and run to home depot I learned to carry a spare of vital pieces to my business. Even on the days where you have the worst luck, try to find the lesson in it. Let me tell you a story to explain. Early this year I had a godawful week. During a routine oil changed I discovered that the motor on my machine was in the process of a catastrophic failure. I sent it to the shop for what would end up being a $1600 fix. In the meantime with work piling up, I rented a grinder. I got it to the first job and it too broke down. Not a huge deal, didn't cost me money but it cost me a day of operation. While towing it back, my truck broke down on the highway. So if your keeping score, my grinder broke, rented grinder broke, and now my truck was broke. I felt pretty defeated that day. I shook my head when I got home and started the shower so I could wash off the stench of defeat. Standing in the water I chuckled as I attempted to hold my self accountable and see if I could learn a lesson from this. As I dunked my head in the cascading water asking could I possibly learn anything from this horrid day, it hit me like a ton of bricks. "you have to reinvest in the business"

    Tip 11 - Reinvest in the business.

    I was in year 3 when "the day of the break downs happened," but after that shower I had a clear understanding of the lesson. I let this happen. I had an old grinder and truck that I was squeezing every penny out. I know the business works, I had proof of concept and the profits to go with it. Because of this I purchased a new truck, trailer, and upgraded grinder. These purchases have kept me on the road, cut in half my grind time, and streamlined my operation. It has given me a more professional appearance, allowed me to be more competitive and most importantly allowed me to bid and get bigger jobs. If the business is working, reinvest and make it bigger and better.

    Looking forward to next year I am hoping to up my advertising budget, attract more tree professionals and take my business to a 50k gross. Anything more than that and I would have to hire someone which is a can of worms I am unsure of If I want to deal with.

    I hope this post helps anyone who reads it.

    Any feedback or questions for me feel free to ask. I will try to answer what ever anyone has to ask.

    Thanks for reading!
  2. Darr57

    Darr57 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 29

    Some good advice
  3. bswihart7

    bswihart7 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    Thanks for posting. My favorite part is if it was easy everybody would do it.
    Dontbthatguy likes this.
  4. Dontbthatguy

    Dontbthatguy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    The bad days can take the wind right out of your sails, but when they happen you have to think about all the good days, all the good jobs where you killed it. Those days make it worth it.
  5. Green-Man

    Green-Man LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,109

    Great great post. Lots to learn from and understand about business and it never stops. I like how you found one thing and are becoming the best and efficient at it.
    WarriorLandscaping and hort101 like this.
  6. MySprinklerMedic

    MySprinklerMedic LawnSite Member
    Male, from North Houston
    Messages: 94

    I'm trying to improve my website ranking, since most of business will be strictly sprinkler repairs, do you think youtube helped improve your ranking?
  7. Lovett

    Lovett LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 254

    Cool. I have a pretty decent eye to see a yard and figure a fair price. So I posted a Facebook add requesting pics of yard texts for estimates. I have zero expectations but am willing to invest 5 minutes into something I've never done just to prove if it works or not. Kinda don't want to ask the potential customers to go to far out the way like this but heck if they can have fun with it let's rock n' roll baby!!!
  8. Dontbthatguy

    Dontbthatguy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    I haven't posted a video yet.

    I will say my rankings seem to have improved when I started crossing googles platforms. I updated my google business info, made a google plus account, and starting an adword campaign. All that seemed to help obviously because I back linked to my site, but I have a conspiracy theory that the more google platforms you use, the better you rank. So youtube can't hurt, thats for sure.
  9. Eco Land and Lawn Care

    Eco Land and Lawn Care LawnSite Member
    Messages: 56

    excellent advise. A really great read as it pours rain down here and I wonder why the season is taking so long to get started
  10. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 15,169

    Retail items sold/shipped by amazon have a 200% - 400% mark up.
    It’s essy to have wonderful customer service when your margin in through the roof.

    Not so much when you insist your prices are low because you have “no overhead”, there’s no room for “the customer is always right” at that kind of pricing strategy.

    If you want to do business like amazon double your prices, because they do.
    And they have next to no employees (comparatively) for their revenue stream.

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