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Open To Scrutiny - New Guy Here

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by JDInc, Feb 9, 2013.

  1. JDInc

    JDInc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    Hello All,

    I'm a solo operator with a full time job. I started out last season with a $280 Craftsman rider that couldn't keep a level deck and started when it wanted to (for my yard only). I sold that and bought a newer 42" Craftsman w/ bagger and decided to try servicing a few (patchy and unattractive) lawns for gas money. I was using my Homelite CURVED trimmer until it was stolen...from my yard- then got lucky on a Craigslist ad and bought a Stihl trimmer and backpack blower from a retired guy that was selling his small horse farm to move into a condo. I also picked up an MTD 21" off the Free Stuff on Craigslist. It was relatively new but the guy overfilled the oil. When it was spewing out black smoke and cutting off he bought a new mower. A quick drain and after cycling the excess oil out, I replaced the spark plug and was pushing two yards soon after.
    I traded the Craftsman 42", without the bagger, for an older 46" GT 6000. I used the GT for a couple of weeks then found a guy wanting to trade his WB for a riding mower. I called him and he was excited because he stated that he owned a GT 6000 like mine when he was younger and liked the idea of having one again. Long story short- after trading around and selling the bagger, I ultimately paid around $180 for a Snapper Pro 48" (belt driven) Walk Behind.
    I took on a couple of regulars and did a few one time cuts here and there with the Snapper, all residential. I had no clue what to charge and even used the homeowner's equipment a few times for a few bucks less- I needed the money. (go ahead, call me a lowballer, I've accepted that I WAS 'that guy')
    This season I want to be legitimate though. I'm keeping the full time job but I want to run a legal operation this year- taxes, insurance, etc...being the potential killer, I know, but even if I break even after it all this will be good experience in business. I won't pretend that this is a dream of mine, but I do enjoy it and, ultimately, answering to myself and not relying on a few apes to make decisions concerning my career and future are the biggest draws. Maybe it goes against some code somewhere, but I'm looking at this from more of a business perspective than just a "grass cuttin' guy" like I was last season. Mentally I'm ready to move forward, we'll see if I can walk the walk...
    Anyway- this is turning into a long post, so I'll stop delivering a speech and just say hello. I found this site by chance and I am very impressed with the help and mentorship this industry seems to provide willingly. I don't have any specific questions yet, I'm mostly looking for input from the more experienced folks out there.
    Thank you in advance. I'm enjoying and thankful to now be a part of LawnSite.

    48" SnapperPro WB
    4 x 8 Trailer w/ homemade ramp
    Stihl Trimmer
    Stihl Backpack Blower
    Sold the 21" MTD and picked up a Toro ProLine, 2 cycle (need to get it running again)
    Craftsman Yard Vacuum (needs carb rebuit, my fault)
    One hungry family that seems to be getting taller everyday!
  2. JSchwab

    JSchwab LawnSite Member
    Messages: 1

    Being that you have a full time job, you really have nothing to lose. I have done the exact same thing myself. Then best advice I can give you is to never lowball just to get a job. If you are asking a premium price, then you should deliver a premium service. If you do this, you will almost always get called back. Remember, word of mouth is your best advertising tool, so if you ever give a lowball price, expect all of their friends to call wanting the same deal.
    Best of luck to you.
  3. JDInc

    JDInc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    I learned that one quickly. I quoted a lawn for bi-weekly service a little lower than I should have because the homeowner was a Marine stationed elsewhere. I'm a vet, so after meeting with his wife and speaking with him on the phone I decided to go a little lower. One day a neighbor approached me and wanted a quote for her yard. I gave her what I thought was accurate based on the overgrowth and her immediate notion that regular cuts weren't absolutely necessary. Then, after turning her slight jungle into an approachable lawn again, the other neighbor called. This woman is elderly and tough as nails, but couldn't handle the cutting anymore. She offered me half of what the other neighbor paid, which was fine since her lawn was less than half the size. I told her upfront that for the amount she offered, I'd only go over it once and, since some spots were tall and uneven, it may not immediately look great. She asked why I would leave it that way and I explained that would rather not, but for what she was offering it wouldn't be feasible for me to spend the time it needed. She reluctantly paid a little more and I made it presentable, but then the extras came. A quick hacksaw to this branch, a pile of OLD dead grass she couldn't move without help, etc...
    On one hand I wanted to be respectful and show good customer service, but I saw the line where she was easing into taking advantage of a young, helpful guy. So I appeased her (it took about 5 minutes), loaded up and told her I'd follow up soon. The next time I went out to service the original customer (Marine & wife) the eldery neighbor wanted me to bag the clippings that she told me to leave the first time I was there, which she had piled sporadically around her yard. I gave her a quote and she actually looked hurt- as if she exected me to do it for free. I asked her to call if she changed her mind and...not a call or wave since. Not from her or the other neighbor.
    So ultimately what looked like a good Saturday's payday turned back into an after work during the week event, which is fine. Because the (Marine) wife is always pleasant, always has payment waiting, and hasn't complained once. And her husband thanked me for helping him out. Too bad they're moving...
  4. JDInc

    JDInc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    Just talked to one of my regulars- he bought a used mower, so that's one less customer this year. He does, however, want me to come service his mower and give him some tips.
    Does anyone out there do consultations? I suppose that's what I'd call this.
    Where should I start for pricing on something like this?

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