Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by johnc8407, Sep 2, 2009.

  1. johnc8407

    johnc8407 LawnSite Member
    from AR
    Messages: 15

    You could say I am just starting out. I helped my uncle mow for years when I was a teen. My wife started nursing school so our only income is my full time job. A few months ago I started trying to get some lawns for extra income and I have 8 as of now. I love mowing and take pride in my work. I want to expand and get more accounts and have been passing out business cards and flyers. Have some questions for the pros if you don't mind.

    1) Do you charge by the cut or do you offer a monthly rate? I have a couple accounts that I charge a monthly rate and collect at the beginning of the month and cut every 10 days. If its a $40 yard, I offer a monthly rate of $105 to cut every 10 days. Anyone have comments on this. Should I keep doing this or stop? Am I loosing too much money by offering this? My thought was the customer likes the DISCOUNT part and maybe helps me keep the account since they pay up front each month.

    2) Anyone offer any type of online payment? If so, what? Paypal or is there anything else? Do customers like this better than writing a check? And how long does it take you to get your money after they pay? Thinking about starting to offer this but want opinions from the experienced guys on here.

    3) Business Name - I went through a few names and decided on Cleveland Lawns. Other choices were Cleveland Lawns & Pressure Washing, Johns Lawn Care & Pressure Washing and others like that. My thought was keep it short for prospects/customers to remember easily. Anyone have input/thoughts on if its a bad idea to use any of MY name in the business name?

    4) Did you file as a LLC or anything like that? Should I? Why and Why Not. I am thinking of becoming an LLC. That way I am protected if I ever get in trouble or some a** hole wants to try and sue me saying I messed up his lawn just because he wants a new one.

    Any tips, help, advice and input is greatly appreciated. I do have other questions I will post soon, but these are some of the main ones.
  2. lawnenvy

    lawnenvy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 14

    1) Charge a monthly rate. And try to make them do an annual contract. We only deal with customers willing to do an annual contract paying a monthly fee at the beginning of each month (even in January). It establishes that you are a quality service looking for only quality clients

    2) I currently don't do any paypal or anything like that. I recommend my customers who like to pay online to pay me through their bank's online bill pay system. It is free for them, and no transaction fees are taken out of my check.

    3) Unless you're only gonna do this business for a little while as a hobby or something otherwise short term, DO NOT use your name in the name of the business. You want to build a reputation around your business. The greater the reputation of your business, the greater the interest of your competitors to buy you out. And your business should always be for sale, it just depends how much they are offering. They won't offer as much if you've got a name that is only known for the man behind the mower. Have your business name say something about the quality you offer.

    4) Absolutely. LLCs are not expensive to form and it is another layer of protection when somebody might want to come after you.
  3. coolluv

    coolluv Banned
    from Atlanta
    Messages: 4,514

    Hey Chris I have a question. You say you only take on customers that sign a contract. Well it has been my experience that most don't want a contract. I tried contracts or service agreements or what ever you want to call them and 99% don't want to hear about it. Now mind you most customers are cheap bastards, even the ones with money. I gave up on contracts. If I relied on only taking customers who signed contracts I would go broke. Not that I'm not close to that anyway.

    This business has been terrible this year. I thought it was bad in past years. Wow is all I can say. I received a call for an estimate yesterday. Strange as it sounds this late in the year. But it was down off of exit 10 on 400. When I got off the exit I had to go about 5 miles to the potential customers house. In that 5 miles I counted 15 landscapers. No joke. Evey thing from Paco the taco with a mower hanging out the back of his Honda accord, to hill billy Jim pulling a trailer, to a full fledged landscape outfit with a landscape truck. Then when I turned off and headed to the subdivision where the customer was, every street I looked down had a landscaper working there. When I got to the potential customers house guess what? Next door was a landscaper cutting the grass and trimming the hedges. I'm being totally serious. No bullshit.

    This area is saturated beyond belief. I see your in Cumming. I'll bet if you lined up all the landscapers in Forsyth county on 400, you could walk from Cumming to Alpharetta on the tops of their rigs and never touch the pavement. Contracts, I wish.

    Please tell me your secret.

  4. lawnenvy

    lawnenvy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 14


    There is no doubt that this year has been tough on all of us. The most important factor I would recommend to you is to saturate yourself in one area as much as possible. Do flyers, neighborhood newsletter ads, referral business, whatever you can to get a bunch of accounts lined up on the same street. You don't make any money for driving 5 miles off the highway to get to some small residential lot to only make $40.

    As far as contracts is not impossible. I sign new contracts every week, even on residential. The customer needs to see that you are a professional company that isn't going to disappear, and they will be more willing to commit. Sure, there are those people out there that will never sign anything. Don't worry about them. You're looking for a customer that wants a relationship with you for the long haul, not until they can find a better deal.

    The biggest "secret" in my business is to take care of customers as best as you can. They will be willing to pay more, and refer you to others because of the quality service you offer them.

    What's the name of your business?
    Where are you located?
    How long have you been in the industry?
    What are your goals for the upcoming year?
    What kind of equipment and rig do you run?
    Owner/Operator or do you have a crew?

    Glad to network with a local company. Thanks Dave.
  5. coolluv

    coolluv Banned
    from Atlanta
    Messages: 4,514

    Check your PM.

  6. SangerLawn

    SangerLawn LawnSite Senior Member
    from indiana
    Messages: 736

    There is very few post that I can say I disagree with almost everything in it but I think I found one.

    We do pay pal. Customers love it and don’t mind paying an extra $2.30 to pay that way. They really like it that through pay pal they can set it up to pay every week without worrying about it. Checks are always nice but you will find all banks charge a deposit charge unless you have mass amounts of money in your checking account. If a customer bounces a check the banks will also charge you a fee for it. High end or not, most places in the country you will find it is hard to find someone willing to pay you 12 months out of the year when you only work 8-10 months. Some of our commercial accounts are like that but none of our residential.

    I own 1 business and about to start another one. All I ever used was my last name and that is what I am going to stick with. I have more then enough confidence in my work to put my name on it. If I ever sell out it isn’t very hard to change names. If clients are lost because of a name change it is because they don’t like the new owner not because they don’t like the name.
  7. Ludicrous Speed

    Ludicrous Speed LawnSite Member
    Messages: 18

    I think what he meant by the name thing was that someone may be more willing to buy the business if it is "The lawn Artist" vs "John's Mowing"
  8. SangerLawn

    SangerLawn LawnSite Senior Member
    from indiana
    Messages: 736

    You are probably right but I am seeing a lot of post lately about names and people saying not to use your own name……kind of getting frustrating if you know what I mean. Personally, when I look for something in the phone book I always call the business with a persons name first. I am a strong believer in supporting the community and someone’s name for a business is much more appealing then a fancy name. Maybe its just me I don’t know?

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