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New guy...maybe. Help?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Rhodester, Jan 17, 2003.

  1. Rhodester

    Rhodester LawnSite Member
    Messages: 48

    Hello everyone,

    I’m looking for a little advice from you professionals.
    The equipment I was using to take care of my one acre yard was getting a little tired, so last spring I bought a new Scotts/John Deere lawn tractor.
    It’s the L17.542. 17.5 Kohler Command, 42 inch deck, hydrostatic, with the bagger. I also bought a 6 horse Murray mulch/bag/push and a new Echo trimmer.
    I have a dependable one-ton, duel wheel, 8’x6’ stake body truck in good condition.

    This past September, as luck would have it, I ended my employment as the manager of mowing operations for a large turf farm.
    Part of my duties involved the upkeep of a large estate on the business property, but I generally just supervised that aspect of the job.
    The vast majority of my experience was with the big John Deere 6000 and 7000 series tractors, 22 foot rotaries and 7 and 11 gang reels.
    I know what good grass looks like, but other than the estate and my own yard, I have little experience mowing “lawns”.

    I’ve begun to think that maybe… if I picked up a good backpack blower, a trailer, a few other items and added some well directed advertising, I might pull the trigger on a small, solo (for now) lawn care business.
    I owned and ran a successful seafood operation for many years, so I have at least a rudimentary idea of how to run a business, however, that was selling a product, not a service.

    I’m 50 years old, 20 pounds overweight, have a trick knee, and I’m having a hard time picturing myself running behind a w/b ztr.
    Obviously, I already have the equipment I have.
    The market demographics of my area in southern Rhode Island look good, as the next biggest cash crop after turf, is upscale subdivisions with half million dollar homes.
    We have about an 8 month season here, if you include the cleanups.

    I own some rental property, so winters might be lean, but I can make it through them, I think.
    The problem is, as I sit here in mid January, I don’t have one single account and I’ve never bid a mowing job in my life. I also know that my mowers aren’t commercial grade, and that the 18” turn radius of the Scotts is going to add TIME to each job.
    I’m just wondering if it’s practical at all, to think I might be able to squeak by for a couple of seasons until I see that the business is taking off or not.
    Am I nuts or what?
    Any advice, comments or reality checks are most welcome.
    Thank you,

  2. Swampbeast

    Swampbeast LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 463

    Do you have a family? (wife, kids, etc) if so, you might wanna rethink this, but if not, go for it.
    Make the switch to commercial mowers just as fast as you possibly can. That Scotts wont hold up to commercial abuse.
    You have never bid a lawn before? Well, I never charge any less than $30, even if the lawn is tiny, the minimum is $30. The most I have ever charged anyone for a single lawn was $2500. (but that yard was freakin HUGE) so its really up in the air. Some guys here charge by the square foot, I just eyeball it and go from there.
    The best of luck to you.

  3. jkkalbers

    jkkalbers LawnSite Member
    Messages: 144

    I don't want to discourage you, but I think the amount of time it would take you to cut with the equipment you have, you would never make enough money to survive. My dad has the same mower you have, and I could cut his lawn 3-4 times with my ZTR than with his, plus it would look better. But if you keep your costs down to start and could find enough business that you can use that mower on you could make it.
  4. 65hoss

    65hoss LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,360

    welcome to the board. Those are very good concerns to have before you start.

    Start by reading thru tons of threads here. It will keep you busy for a long time. :D

    If things were to take off quickly you may not have to use that equipment you have for long. You could at least move up to a comm'l w/b with sulky pretty quick. Only you can decide if you can make it work. There are many 1 or 2 season wonders out there that didn't really ever want to do this business so they went out of business. They just heard that it has real good money in it. Whatever! Not in 1 or 2 seasons.

    If you truely want to be in this business and truely love the work, you can make it work. If its something you think will get you by for a while or a maybe then you will probably end up like tons of others. Finding a new job after a while. Just something to think about. Email me if you have anything you would like to know specifically from me. Good luck!
  5. Rhodester

    Rhodester LawnSite Member
    Messages: 48

    Swampbeast, others,

    I have a fifteen year old daughter, thats it.
    I have thought that if she doesn't want to be saying "You want fries with that"?... or "Will that be paper or plastic"?...she could push a mower for a few summers. So far, that sounds good to her.
    My house is paid for (thank God), but there's still the taxes, insurance, etc., etc.
    There is the rental income, but it's purely subsistance living, at this point. No frills.
    I have maybe, two or three thousand investment capital this year and beyond that it looks like "make it or break it" this season.

    Thanks everyone,

  6. 65hoss

    65hoss LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,360

    No better way to succeed than having no other choice. Failure is not an option, so only one way to go. UP.
  7. mklawnman

    mklawnman LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 634

    Hey Rhodester
    Welcome to the site, its an incredible site so have fun searching :)
    As far as your setup, look into maybe selling the Scott lawn mower?? Then look for either a good used WB or rider ZTR. If you are really daring go for buying a new ZTR or WB. You said you knee isnt the greatest so maybe a rider ZTR would be good choice cause its fast quick and alot nicer on your legs. Otherwise get a WB with a velkie that will keep ya going alot faster than the Scott lawn mower, cause that thing won't last too long under repetative use. You could also teach your daughter how to drive the WB and keep the tractor and then you could do some major lawn cutting with two people mowing.
    Good Luck with your choice.
  8. Rhett

    Rhett LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,071

    Go for it. Like Hoss says read thru the old posts and get what you can out of them. Sounds like you can add a few pieces of equipment and get a start. Replace the mower and home owner stuff as you start getting the accounts to justifie the cost. Just finished up my first year and I broke even. (Enough to pay for two mowers and a trailer) Good Luck with what ever you decide

  9. jlewis

    jlewis LawnSite Member
    Messages: 140

    I agree, read this site. I found it late last week! The info is great.

    I started with two yards last spring. More as favors for family than anything else. The one is small, I use a Yardman push mower and it takes me 1/2 hr to cut, edge, and clear the drive / walk. The other yard is a nightmare. I use my sister's Craftsman 44" rider. (her yard) it takes me 2 1/2 hrs for everything. My yard takes 3 hrs w/ a MTD 42" rider.

    I am trying to explain to my wife that w/ a WB, I can minimize the time spent cutting and increase family time. I have a FT job, go to PSU @ night and do handyman / home improvement (decks, basements, kitchens, baths etc.) on the side.

    I enjoy being outside and cutting the yards, but I need to start working smarter. Take it from someone who has been there for one season. Ditch the rider!

  10. MikeLT1Z28

    MikeLT1Z28 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,732

    i agree, you have to have a minimum price or you are beating yourself senseless. my minimum is now $35 to get anything off the trailer.

    swampbeast, is that supposed to be $250? or how freakin' huge was it for 2500??? :confused:

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