Questions for a new startup

H & H

LawnSite Member
Location
Victoria, TX
I'm in the process of deciding whether or not to stick with my current job or make a move into the lawn and landscape business. Was hoping for some advice or answers from anyone in the know.

The job I currently have pays 60k per year, however for several reasons I am considering making the change, happiness is the main one. My wife, who also works, and I have done a good job saving and I am in the position to buy the equipment necessary for a one man business without taking out a loan. I've priced Deere zero turns, Stihl and Echo trimmer, edger and blower, a trailer and I have a truck that can pull it. Obviously there are additional equipment expenditures but those are the big ones I can think of right now.

Looking for advice on anything from equipment, to issues others have run into starting one up but I have a few in particular. How long, roughly, would you say it takes to offset 60k in net pay? How do you stand out amongst other established lawn companies? I see anything from 1 guy and an old mower to companies with 2+ crews.

Anything would be helpful. Thanks everyone
 

Mac-s Lawn & Snow

LawnSite Bronze Member
First, welcome to Lawnsite. We see a lot of questions like this from guys looking to get in the biz. The most common reply for someone with no experience is to go work for someone to learn the ropes. There is quite a bit to know about cutting grass. Also,you will need to master everything about running a business quickly to replace that $60k salary. Things like marketing, image, branding and most importantly sales. If people think you don't know what your doing you will have a hard time closing sales. You are going to need at least $100k in revenue to generate that type of salary. You say happiness is the reason for the career change and I think that is going the hardest challenge. This is how my last few days have been. Its rained all last week leaving me with a long list of clients that should have been mowed last week. Monday I started cutting these accounts at 8am and finished cutting at 8pm. I had 2 lawns left to get caught up and I get up this morning as it started raining again(over an inch again) I am very far from being happy lately and anyone around me knows it. Leaf season is about to start up and other than the money I hate leaf season. But it's my job and if I don't get out there and do it with a smile on my face and the appearence of a good attitude my customers will find someone else. So, good luck and if you have a business model yet I'd like to see it.
 
OP
H

H & H

LawnSite Member
Location
Victoria, TX
First, welcome to Lawnsite. We see a lot of questions like this from guys looking to get in the biz. The most common reply for someone with no experience is to go work for someone to learn the ropes. There is quite a bit to know about cutting grass. Also,you will need to master everything about running a business quickly to replace that $60k salary. Things like marketing, image, branding and most importantly sales. If people think you don't know what your doing you will have a hard time closing sales. You are going to need at least $100k in revenue to generate that type of salary. You say happiness is the reason for the career change and I think that is going the hardest challenge. This is how my last few days have been. Its rained all last week leaving me with a long list of clients that should have been mowed last week. Monday I started cutting these accounts at 8am and finished cutting at 8pm. I had 2 lawns left to get caught up and I get up this morning as it started raining again(over an inch again) I am very far from being happy lately and anyone around me knows it. Leaf season is about to start up and other than the money I hate leaf season. But it's my job and if I don't get out there and do it with a smile on my face and the appearence of a good attitude my customers will find someone else. So, good luck and if you have a business model yet I'd like to see it.
Thanks for the reply! I work right now for the family farm, the idea was to run it down the road, however you know how working with family can be. So I know all about rain and long hours, it's nothing to work 100+ hours a week. The benefit of working here is that I have learned a lot about growing crops, which translates to an extent to taking care of lawns and flowers. I understand the symptoms in plants and what to look for, although I realize it's not exactly apples to apples. I'm also licensed to spray pesticides.

As far as the business side I've worked sales before and studied business in school, so I have at least some sort of background in it although nothing beats on the job training. I have been trying to get back to my hometown to run around with some buddies that run lawn companies and spend at least a few days seeing how their day to day is.

As far as my business model here's what I have in mind, my plan is to focus more on the lawn care aspect of things in the beginning, mowing, fertilizing, pesticides. I think I start with that and try to build a customer base with lawn care and minor landscaping I.E. mulching, weeding. Now if all goes well I'm thinking within 2 years I would hopefully be able to have a base large enough to at least require an extra hand. At that point I would consider either continuing to build on lawn care or move into installing landscapes. I have family in the area that live in the "nicer" areas if you will. I'm hoping to get in there and be able to advertise those particular areas, as well as getting in with some of the beach rental areas if possible. I see a lot of guys running around with vehicles and equipment that looks unkempt, old, the workers themselves I feel don't present themselves as well as I would present myself. I don't want that to come across wrong, but I think that is a major part of building customers. Being polite, keeping your vehicle and equipment clean and maintained and showing up when you say you will or at least notifying the customer if a problem arises. I've dealt with people here in other lines of work that just don't show up and I know I've heard about it with various lawn care companies.

Sorry for the long response I'm just trying to get any replies to help give me a good start or turn me another direction if need be.
 
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Mac-s Lawn & Snow

LawnSite Bronze Member
Thanks for responding to my questions. They are good answers and my advice is pretty much the same: get a good website that will draw in customers, get a enclosed trailer and put a wrap on the truck and trailer, and work that farmer JD thing into your marketing as well. You said you know people in the business make sure you know your pricing model so you aren't selling short. Image is everything, if done right your goals are reachable.
 

Hayduke

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
Oregon
If you are wanting to replace a 60K a year job, keep in mind that with self employment tax you will need to net 65K to clear the same amount. Plus general overhead, which will be at least 10K just to get in the door, and that is a yearly recurring cost even if you are not licensed and insured and don't buy a bunch of nice equipment. So really you are looking at netting at least 75K a year before taxes and general overhead. That is at best, and will take several hard dedicated years to achieve. I have been doing this for almost two decades and I now make more than 60K a year. But if someone had handed me a 60K job twenty years ago, I would have taken it.
 

No gloves

LawnSite Senior Member
Location
California
don't put too much emphasis on "nicer" neighborhoods.ive learned as solo it's too time consuming.remember nicer neighborhoods have more plants=more pruning.i do half nice neighborhoods and half mow,trim,blow and go.make better profits on mow and go.
 
OP
H

H & H

LawnSite Member
Location
Victoria, TX
don't put too much emphasis on "nicer" neighborhoods.ive learned as solo it's too time consuming.remember nicer neighborhoods have more plants=more pruning.i do half nice neighborhoods and half mow,trim,blow and go.make better profits on mow and go.
Thanks for the info, I was under the impression that the nicer areas would be more willing to pay for their yards to be done and thought I could grow my base quicker there. I may be way off base though, so I appreciate the information.
 
OP
H

H & H

LawnSite Member
Location
Victoria, TX
If you are wanting to replace a 60K a year job, keep in mind that with self employment tax you will need to net 65K to clear the same amount. Plus general overhead, which will be at least 10K just to get in the door, and that is a yearly recurring cost even if you are not licensed and insured and don't buy a bunch of nice equipment. So really you are looking at netting at least 75K a year before taxes and general overhead. That is at best, and will take several hard dedicated years to achieve. I have been doing this for almost two decades and I now make more than 60K a year. But if someone had handed me a 60K job twenty years ago, I would have taken it.
Thanks for the reply, let me rephrase my info a little bit. The 60k is before taxes so coupled with my wifes income I need to net roughly 48k to offset my after tax income. Also to keep my household income at a level high enough to avoid digging into savings without changing our lifestyle I need to net roughly 2k per month. Now early on of course I would change my spending habits although we are fairly frugal, but I'm looking at this as what do I have to make to maintain status quo, I think I have to hit that or at least see it in the near future after a year or so to continue on this path. Is that something that is possible to hit within a year? At the very least the 2k per month.
 
OP
H

H & H

LawnSite Member
Location
Victoria, TX
Thanks for responding to my questions. They are good answers and my advice is pretty much the same: get a good website that will draw in customers, get a enclosed trailer and put a wrap on the truck and trailer, and work that farmer JD thing into your marketing as well. You said you know people in the business make sure you know your pricing model so you aren't selling short. Image is everything, if done right your goals are reachable.
I sure appreciate it, how do you feel about the door hangers for advertising I've been looking into various ideas. I don't want to go door to door ringing doorbells looking for work I think that annoys people too much and makes you look desperate. I've thought of door hangers and social media but have not looked into the website option as much. You must get some business through it to have offered that idea though.
 

Mac-s Lawn & Snow

LawnSite Bronze Member
Print is dead, I went to the funeral in 2007 and I cried. Starting out in 1996 it was a simple as phone book advertising. Still I would probably get a thousand door knockers printed up and maybe only canvas new developments where the home value is high enough to justify paying someone to mow. You will probably find if you hand out a thousand flyers you will get less than 5 calls and maybe land one account. You will need a good website and the first year I would be paying for SEO and google ads. I find that social media doesn't bring in the kind of customers for me that are ideal- but its necessary to help with SEO. Ultimately, you need to have everything dialed in with your local market long before you start and if you want to start earning the amount of money stated, people need to recognize your name and brand when they drive by your operation. One more thing- starting out I would try to mow in the afternoons and evenings when people are home. Anytime someone walks by find a reason to turn the mower off and grab the trimmer. Talk to them, learn their pets name and hand them a business card.
 

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