New Lawn Company Question

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Varsity L&G, Aug 11, 2005.

  1. Varsity L&G

    Varsity L&G LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 418

    OK, about 5 years ago I operated a lawn business but the wife at the time was taking all the money. She soon afterwards became an Ex.

    So here I am now working an IT job in a Cube Farm. I look forward to the days that I get out of here and get to go home and do something in the lawn. I get out of here at the end of the day and just go home and sit in the yard. Office jobs suck.

    So here is the question and the plan. Might be too late to start mowing this late in the year so I want to be ready for next year.

    When does the mowing season start and end here in upstate, SC?
    What is the best way to estimate mulch jobs?
    Is the company name Varsity Lawn and Garden, or something like that to played out?

    I know what I need as far as equipment goes but would like some suggestions.
    Currently have a 2000 4x4 expedition, a 16 foot double axle trailer, and an Echo wacker. I have a low budget of about 2500.00 to spend on the rest of the equipment (used). Was thinking maybe a 30"ish walk behind and a 60" and a push mower.

    I will be starting out Part time after I get off of work @ 5:00 each day. My plan is to take no money from the business until I have a nest egg of at least 20k built up. If I can save 20k and then make what I make currently then I will go full time during the first year, if not I will during the second.

    Would like to get a few large yards and then swoop in on the smaller lawns that I can knock out quick as the days get shorter.
  2. mcwlandscaping

    mcwlandscaping LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,163

    I don't mean to critisize but i don't think that you will be able to get the 30 somethin, the 60 and a push mower for under 2500 and you still need a blower. If you could, you would probably have to fix something on them. I would suggest just getting a 36" used mower and a 21" push and start from there. Then once you get some big accounts or start making a lot of dough, then invest in a larger mower. The 36 will allow you into most gates with greater efficiency then a 21". By doing this, you will be able to get a nicer, used 36. You will also have money for a nice blower. Good Luck, my 2 cents!
  3. Scotts' Yard Care

    Scotts' Yard Care LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 343

    Our area has a lot of gates which won't allow a 36 inch machine through. Do you folks have a lot of trouble that way in your areas?
  4. HometownLawn

    HometownLawn LawnSite Member
    Messages: 24

    32 inch seems to be the standard gate around me (florida)
  5. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Ok I am in Richmond Virginia and the temps are a BIT cooler now Our season starts AROUND 1.apr but this can vary by 1-2 weeks either way, I would say in your case be prepared 1.mar but likely by 15th march you definitely want your ad(s) out there. I could be wrong but not by much, still see what other ppls say.

    To ESTIMATE mulch is easy BUT it takes practice AND experience to be a pro with it, so I will give you the skinny:
    The problem is, I go with a layer of THIN mulch (less than 2 inches) to reduce cost. KNOW the saying about spreading mulch thicker is better is folklore - All it does is cost more money, it MIGHT prevent weeds some but it don't make up for the increase in cost AND it doesn't look better longer.
    I charge by the cu.yard, everything else doesn't matter, it's $45 / yard for me (that was as of spring anyway)... So the more cu.yards you need, the higher the price and the more ppls say NO. The THINNER you can spread it, the better but you DO have to COVER everything, there can't be dirt showing through, heh... Also, spray round-up to kill the weeds first.
    Now the EASY NO-FAIL method to estimate (and also the MOST expensive) is to figure 1 cu.yard of mulch covers the area of a CAR (yes, automobile). So what I do is I park cars in my mind, in the area to be mulched, then add that up. With this formula you will get at least a 4-inch cover. I find close to 9 out of 10 customers say NO here but it varies.
    The NOT-so-easy method (and far cheaper for the customer) is to figure 1 cu.yard covering the area of TWO cars and this is considerably more challenging but I find at least HALF my customers say YES here. With this method you get about 2 inches of cover.
    The HARDEST method is to figure 1 cu.yard covering the area of 2.5 cars, almost 3 (this one is really hard to do because the layer is so thin) and you get a layer about an inch to 1.5 inches thick and you could swear it's paper thin but the customers almost all of them say YES now.
    In the end, I'd rather get customers to say YES because it takes just as long to spread it thick as thin with a rake except the mental game is tougher with thin spreads - If you want to spread ultra-thin, then you have to spread by hand: Hands can spread far thinner than rakes. So it is a delicate issue, I usually like to overestimate ONLY a little tiny bit so as to make sure I don't have to spread too much by hand (I hate it, it hurts my back)...

    For starters, I'd say try 2 cu. yards per every 3 cars you can park and see how that works, then go from there.

    The company name Varsity Lawn and Garden sounds good to me.

    Hope your expedition is at least a 3/4 ton rate, if it's a 1/2 tonner, the transmission will suffer and eventually fail. Since it's a newer truck, if you drive it carefully, a 1/2 tonner's tranny should last 1 maybe 2 years AND you need to change the trans.fluid and filter every 10k miles - I do it on my d-250 as well, there are ALWAYS shavings in it from the pulling AND I only pull a 6x12 but it weighs 1,000 lbs. empty.

    The part with the money and saving gets a BIG thumbs up - The work is SEASONAL and you NEED the skill of save - Once you go full-time, you may find a business can have a dry spell which can last weeks, months, and even a year or two - Having the skill to save money will help you survive - Dry spells lasting a full year are rare BUT the weeks / months spells are common for me because like I said, the work is seasonal. If you can manage 20k, you won't need our help lol, but seriously, that is the recommended amount, even thou you can do it with 10k and I did it with 5k, I really wish I had saved more, I almost didn't make it.
    The less you have, the worse your equipment will be - A LOT of my stuff (especially the mowers) were so old, all it did was slow me down AND it cost me because my outfit looked bad (I bought a 1974 F-250, a truck that was 27 years old and had over 400,000 guesstimated miles on it, it was bad)... When you got bad-looking stuff, you won't get good hourly rates, period.
    On that note, it doesn't have to be brand-new but so long it isn't falling apart, the important thing is PAY for all your stuff upfront - Get the truck paid for, get the credit cards paid off, etc, etc - get that out of the way and you're well on your way to financial freedom (which is actually an illusion but that's another story) and you need a type of freedom like that in order to operate with power (yes because money IS power)...

    I hate it when I'm broke, there are ppls out there like vultures, I swear they can smell the desperation and when you're broke, they will take advantage of you in a bad way... I speak from experience, I've done more work for free (meaning dirt-cheap, barely covering cost) than I care to think about right now. The problem is, although you have work, this type of work prevents you from getting anywhere, much like working for someone else, lol.

    Another way to say it is:
    Somebody walks up to you on the street while you're working and they want you to do a TON of hard, dirty work (like brush clearing) and they don't want to spend much money.
    1) If you are broke, you will find your choices in this matter limited.
    2) If you have money, then you can think like 'I have 5 thousand in the bank says *I* don't do this kind of work !'

    You have no idea how much money rules - It's the golden rule - He who has the gold, makes the rules.

    And that, more than anything, makes all the difference in the world to me. It just rules to pay my car insurance in one lump sum for the entire year - And the kicker is, it's CHEAPER to pay it that way (yeah otherwise I wouldn't do it).
  6. Varsity L&G

    Varsity L&G LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 418

    These are all great Idea's. Thanks guys.

    So here is what I am looking for now.

    I think I have it estimated right.
    Power edger 400.00
    Backpack Blower 250.00
    32-36 Walk Behind Used (no idea)
    21" Push Mower
    Now for the push mower which is better to get and were and what should I expect to pay for the Walk behind and push mower
  7. Thirdpete

    Thirdpete LawnSite Member
    from Chicago
    Messages: 236

    32-36 used, bobcats, are between 1200 and 1800, but at 1800, they better be close to new. i would reccommend a stihl 420 back pack if you're just doing basic cleanup. runs between 360 and 420.
  8. Scapegoat

    Scapegoat LawnSite Member
    Messages: 249

    I got my 1999 JD GS30 36" W/B for $800. It was in great shape, just needed a new carb that cost $86 at the dealer.

    Look around on Ebay to get an idea on used mower prices.
  9. Gr grass n Hi tides

    Gr grass n Hi tides LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,020

    Don't forget to add advertising costs. 1000 door hangers & a sleeve of business cards isn't all that much but still..........together could be $250.

    Another thought - it is NOT to late in the season to drum up business. If you get that used equipment pretty fast I'd bet dollars to doughtnuts you'd have some clients this year, which of course gets you a better jump start next season.

    Also, forget the stick edger. It's nice to have, but you could use that money to get more mower for the bucks. You can edge with the line trimmer for now and be just fine. I've got my stick edger on the truck but it does not get used very often at all. Could pay for the advertising, too.

    One more thing - I'm not sure about the clients in your area but a back pack blower might be overkill to start with also. They're great if you've got huge business parking lots to blow but otherwise the handheld is just fine for resi's. That might save you close to 2 bills also.

    Good luck..........

    SHOWCASE LAWNS LLC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 238

    Try And Get Hooked Up With A Local Privately Owned Lawn Fertilization Co In Your Area. I Know Personally I Get A Bazillion Requests To Mow And Do Landscaping That I Neither Have The Time For Or Even Want To Be Bothered With. It Is A P.i.t.a. To Tell People I Dont Have Anyone To Refer Them To . I Would Love To Have More Mowing And Hardscape Guys To Refer To. Most Good Companies Around Here Just Cant Take Any More Customers.
    I Usually Hand Out A Guys Business Card A Few Months And Get The Omg Dont Hand Out Any More Cards Of Mine Call From Him Because He Is Now Overbooked.
    Give Your Cards To Other Landscape Guys, Real Estate Agents Or Even The Biz Card Board At The Local Bank/ Store. The Big Words Are Networking And Advertising.

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