Sanity check needed

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by ThreeWide, May 6, 2003.

  1. ThreeWide

    ThreeWide LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,116

    This might be long so here it goes.....

    I'm a victim of the corporate layoff bonanza that has been going for the last couple of years now. Being from a big Information Technology company, I'm finding the job market almost impossible to penetrate.

    So now I'm taking a chance at following a passion which is starting a lawncare business. I know this story has probably been told many times already, but let me give you my stance for doing it.

    My lawn has always been the bar of measure for the neighborhood, as maintaining the Tifway bermudagrass with a 25" Trimmer reel mower is of my passions. Mowing it every 3 days during growing season, overseeding with different cultivars of ryegrass, topdressing, turf colorant, hell I've done it all. I was also the creator/author of a lawncare guide for the neighborood website. By the way that turf colorant for the winter is a great thing if you can afford it. My father-in-law applied that to my lawn a couple of years ago and it appeared very realistic.

    I live in an area where there are lots of upper income neighborhoods, most of which have bermudagrass fronts. Being a rare Georgia native, I know a lot about our climate and horticulture in general. Most people here are transplants who know little about what it takes to maintain our lawns, so they typically just hire services.

    I plan to start a service offering lawncare that is not the typical fare. My service is generally targeted at customers who have bermudagrass and want golf course quality apperance. I will cut with a reel mower exclusively except where fescue exists (normally in backyards) or yards overseeded with ryegrass.

    The hybrid bermudagrass needs mowing twice a week during the summer to keep the proper height, and there are people who will buy into that if I present it right. I'm not going into the long story on how hybrid bermudagrass should be maintained, but lets just say that in most situations it is not followed correctly.

    I'd like to perform overseeding in the fall, to keep the clients during the winter months as well. My take is that people who will pay for reel mowing will also be inclined to pay for the winter program.

    I've found that not many current companies offer this type of service, yet there are some who do. Even so, there should be more than enough demand to go around.

    I will offer other services, but the bread and butter will be reel mowing.

    My belief is that someone like me with a solid business sense, good people skills, and a passion for doing things right can succeed in this scenario.

    I just found this site today and have found it enormously helpful in my overall plan.

    I have a college degree in Computer Science (not worth much now) and have already ordered my course material from UGA to study for the CTP (Certified Turfgrass Professional) exam. I think this will help give me some amount of credibility with clients.

    I have an incorporated business already to work with, so that part is set. I don't have insurance, but will be getting that for sure. All I need now is some additional equipment (2nd reel, 2nd rotary, blower, edger, trailer, etc.) Luckily, I have the cash to purchase this stuff without going into debt.

    My marketing plan is to target some local subdivisions close to me where I can start doing my friend's yards to start. I think the appearance alone will get me some referrals. In addition, I have some postcards to target specific areas.

    I probably omitted some stuff, but I'm really trying to do this professionally from the very start.

    My biggest fear is underestimating the costs of maintaining the reel mowers (backlapping and sharpening) I've spent numerous hours today going through numbers in hopes of nailing down my pricing structure.

    Any thoughts from the expert panel???

    Do I at least sound as if I know what I'm doing??
  2. Mueller Landscape Inc

    Mueller Landscape Inc LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 489

    I would be interested in how this plays out for you. In southern Ca, the hybrid bermudagrass was very popular in the 80"s. It still exists in some of the older neighborhoods. Most people have given up on maintaining it and have allowed "low end" companies ruin it by cutting it with their 21" rotory mowers at 2 inches. Most people out here will not pay to have it done the way you describe. They rarely dethatch and occasionaly will overseed in the winter.
  3. ThreeWide

    ThreeWide LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,116

    The hybrids are virtually everywhere in my part of the state in terms of residential. Most commercial landscapes are done with fescue, which always burns up during the heat of the summer and requires overseeding every fall.

    There basically is no perfect grass selection for North GA, because of the transitional climate. Centipede is rare in this area, probably because of the potential of winterkill.

    In terms of dethatching, I've never had do to that in the 7 years of having this lawn. If it is maintained properly, thatch is not a problem. I do my own fertilizer apps simply because I like having full control of the situation. The "chemlawn" services do ok, but sometimes their timing is off. Our weather here is not always the same year-to-year so you have to adjust your schedule accordingly.
  4. Green in Idaho

    Green in Idaho LawnSite Senior Member
    from Idaho
    Messages: 833

    I think you are miles ahead of many other guys wanting to 'start a lawn biz."

    Knowing your target niche and knowing something about your customers and the specific turf is YOUR competitive advantage.

    Starting out as a one person using reel mowers ought to work out well.... would that be a gas-powered reel mower or foot powered? A frequent mowing cycle (3 days) means you only need half the usual clientele. Either way the unique service is the competitive advantage and most operators do NOT have one of those.

    Another unique service is golf green maintenance. Many high end customers are now going for their own back yard putting green. Check around your area for a contractor who installs the greens. Hook up with them and try to swing their customers for maintenance, since you already have the required reel mowers and the green maintenance schedule is too frequent for most other. In some areas green maint. is a biz all by itself.

    I'm envisioning a biz name of "The Reel Mowers" with a picture of the old style reel mowers, in a vintage style... old lettering and graphics. A 1936 ford pick-up towing a vintage looking plantation wagon (trailer). A fellow steps out with a wide brim straw hat wearing overalls... The 'ole traditional' Georgia... :) The image goes a long way!

  5. ThreeWide

    ThreeWide LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,116

    Thanks for the positive comments. I like to think my ducks are in order, but sometimes it requires second opinions.

    Only powered reel mowers will be used. I like the Trimmer brand personally.

    Hey, that is a great idea regarding greens. I never had thought of that angle before. Although maintaining a green is a whole animal within itself, it would be an interesting undertaking.

    I'd say that is a very exclusive thing, as the only people I know with putting greens have the artificial surface.
  6. Green in Idaho

    Green in Idaho LawnSite Senior Member
    from Idaho
    Messages: 833

    Yes, greens maintenance is totally different. That's why it's such a great niche market. Other operators are not going to be competing with you for basic $30 lawns. They won't have the mowers (which you may not either right now) or the knowledge or the schedule to accomodate it.

    I had two greens I maintained (used the homeowners greens mower) along with their regular lawn care. The home green is an emerging luxury in my area.

    What part of GA are you in?

    Study the maintenance of them, do some maint accounts and then maybe construction later as a second division for biz growth.

    The people you know with fake greens are probably like the people I know with fakies, too busy or too poor to afford a real one. And they would LOVE a real one if they could afford it. Look in the richest neigborhoods, the 'estates.'

    I learned a lot from one guy who maint. one for his boss. The guy was a personal gardener for ONE client. Maintained the estate and all the owner's 'other properties." $$$$
  7. Green in Idaho

    Green in Idaho LawnSite Senior Member
    from Idaho
    Messages: 833

  8. ThreeWide

    ThreeWide LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,116

    That's a good thread.

    I've owned a Trimmer for years and now feel even better about making it my equipment of choice.

    FWIW, I got a quote from a local pro on doing my yard with a reel and the price was $95 a cut. Even after doing some number crunching myself on determining rates, I was blown away by that.

    Its no secret that the cost of operating a reel is pretty steep, but I'm not sure if that kind of rate is realistic.
  9. Green in Idaho

    Green in Idaho LawnSite Senior Member
    from Idaho
    Messages: 833

    And they would be doing it the same way as you are doing it?

    Maybe they didn't want to it and priced high, or they thought it would be a pain= high.

    Remember if your target clientele is wealthy people they do not buy like you and I do. That's why they pay more to fly first class (the front of the plane arrives at the same time) and they don't mind paying for a $80,000 car (that doesn't even have a tailgate).

    What part of GA?
  10. ThreeWide

    ThreeWide LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,116

    Just North of Atlanta.

    This area now is nothing but bedroom communities.

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