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Starting out questions

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by jay31, Aug 18, 2010.

  1. jay31

    jay31 LawnSite Member
    from Fl
    Messages: 1

    Hello all, my name is Jason and I am looking into starting my own lawn care business. I have done some searching and such on the forum but have a few questions still, any help you guys can give would be greatly appreciated. If im asking something that has already been answered please let me know and I will do some more searching. Basically I am looking into starting my own lawn care business, this isnt something I am looking to start next week or anything like that. My wife and I will be relocating in about 9 months and thats when I would like to start the business. So I am going to use the next 9 months to my advantage to learn as much as I can. I am 26 yrs old and have done numerous jobs over the years, from renting jet skis to currently working in an engineering firm. I really want to work outside with my hands as thats what I enjoy the most. Sorry for the long post below are my main questions and I am sure I will think of more. Thanks in advance.

    1. How did you guys finance your business at startup? (i.e. buy a truck? trailer? equipment?)

    2. What did you start off doing? (just lawns? pressure washing? etc?)

    3. What do you find is the best way to obtain clients? (I have the know how to design websites, is that ideal? flyers? ads on craigslist? newspaper? logo and contact info on truck?)

    4. What insurances are required if its just me and my brother working?

    5. What methods did you use to start your client base, which ones worked the best and where the most effective?

    6. Also is there any type of certifications or classes or anything of that nature to learn about problem bugs and stuff like that? Things that will help the business grow?

    Any other info would be great. Thanks again
  2. Green Scape

    Green Scape LawnSite Member
    Messages: 79

    You are looking for trial and error answers. Most people spent years finding the answers to these questions. LOL I will say, get LICENSED. Start there.....marketing success and equipment come with time. There will be many mistakes, and head scratching, but learning from the mistakes will keep you going, and growing.
  3. Differential

    Differential LawnSite Member
    Messages: 135


    I can't necessarily say that my advice is the way to go, but I have learned alot, and maybe some of my comments will help you.

    1. I didn't finance anything. I took a little bit of cash, traded a gun for a used snapper 21" mower, bought an Echo curved shaft trimmer for $15 at a garage sale, and bought a new Stihl BG55 blower for $149 (that I'm still using). My edger was an old walk behind McClane that I got for free from my dad. I basically started by business with less than $300 cash, and worked up from there. It's not the equipment that's as important in the beginning, as it is the will to work, motivation, and doing good work with integrity. As the money rolls in, THEN purchase new stuff as you can afford it, and get the good stuff that that is dependable and performs. There's nothing worse than working in 100 degree heat and trying to fix something on location. Typically, handhelds are a good item to purchase new, vs. pre-owned. The good commercial handhelds are typically wore out if you buy used. In the grand scheme of things, the $300 trimmer new gives bigger ROI. Mowers are ok to buy used, as long as the deck is in good shape.

    Once I had my basics, I purchased a good set of hedge trimmers, polesaw, loppers, ladder, Kombi system, spreader, etc...Basically I keep a little money in the bank, and as I need something, I go and buy it. Some people say "have a backup trimmer, etc..." I would rather let the dealer be my "backup plan". If something goes down, I keep a little money in the bank and just go purchase it quickly.

    For me, I have learned that it's best to stick with one brand. Never buy from big box stores. Go to your local dealer where they sell the good stuff, pick out what you like, and buy the best you can afford with cash. Also, if you don't support your local dealers, they may not be there someday when you need them. Generally speaking, they are an important part of our business, and should be appreciated. They are independents just like you and me trying to make a living, but the MSRP on most of the stuff is set by the manufacturer. Try to get to know them as much as possible, schmooze them a little. It will go a long way when you need them.

    2. I started off doing 100% residential. I offered a good price for the work where I was still going home profitable.

    3. Build a website, Craigslist, Google Adwords, and search engine optimization have been my best lead generators. Handing out biz cards has worked ok in some instances.

    4. Commercial insurance. Call your agent.

    5. Craigslist has been hit and miss for me. Some of my best customers have come from Craigslist. But I also get alot of calls from people wanting a $15 mow. I simply say thank you for calling and decline them. Although you can't judge a book by it's cover, try to work smart, and focus on your customers who pay you regularly. I've found that my best client base are the middle income, salt of the earth kind of people. Some of my worst customers have lived in $200k and up homes. Also when starting out, be careful of customers that request monthly billing.

    6. I believe certifications depends on your state, but the best thing you can do is try to learn everything you can. Also, focus on services that YOU are comfortable with. Don't take a big tree trimming job if you've never run a chain saw. I recommend baby steps and learn as you go. This forum has TONS of great information.

    Other advice:
    You have to be committed. Working solo at the beginning is best. Learn how to estimate jobs, and keep all the profits. While it's nice to have a buddy work with you, they cost money.

    Take care of your stuff. When you get home after mowing, your day is not done. Do maintenance at night, and try to have everything ready to go so that in the morning, you can just run out the door and take advantage of the cool hours. Fill gas tanks, inspect, clean, rewind trimmer line, sharpen blades, etc...At night, I make sure I know where the next day's customers are, maintain website, do advertising stuff, etc...

    Efficiency and frugality is key. Try to schedule customers in similar areas on the same day. Pack your own lunch, get a water jug, and try to maximize your money. When you think about all the costs involved (gas, lunches, water, air filters, edger blades, etc...) you can quickly become unprofitable if you don't pay attention.

    Safety first. Always wear eye protection, boots, gloves, sunblock, etc..Hard to keep this business going if you get injured.

    Most importantly, enjoy yourself. We're not EMT's, we're lawn guys. Have a little fun, and enjoy being your own boss, waking up to smell fresh cut grass and gas/oil mix, etc...Walk away from lawns knowing that you did your job with integrity, and your customer is satisfied. Just like anything else, take breaks to enjoy your family and what's important to you. Being a workaholic can burn you out. Be profitable and enjoy a great business.
  4. CD_CLC

    CD_CLC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 78

    My company has used a combination of craigslist and word of mouth to meet potential customers. After that your best bet is lot of hard work and honesty. Trust me, we've been in business not even a whole summer, and the hard work and honesty thing has paid off, your customers won't get you referrals if they don't like your work. We've obtained several customers simply by providing a good product, even when it hasn't resulted in a new customers we've at least received compliments from the neighbors! Just know that integrity can't be underestimated.
  5. Patriot Services

    Patriot Services LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,360

    Hooray!! Another apprentice landscaper here in Florida to help ease my crushing workload! Yes, by all means use Craigslist and don't' charge more than 10.00 per cut. We can't have you raising the bar now can we. License, you don't need no stinkin' license. Finance the whole friggin' operation to the hilt at 29%! Be sure to pick a really cool name too like "Big Bubbas' Git'er Dun Landscape"" Where sobriety is our option!"
    Now do the direct opposite of the above and you might make it.

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