Starting over and dropping mowing

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by DiscoveryLawn, Mar 13, 2004.

  1. DiscoveryLawn

    DiscoveryLawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 408

    This thread is similar to another current thread but...

    I have pretty much made up my mind to get out of mowing and concentrate on lawn applications and landscape maintenance.

    Here is a little background...
    I lost my former company in my divorce settlement. I started that company in 1997 and struggled almost every year. Last year my revenues were a little more than $300,000.00 but because of the divorce and some poor management on my part, my profit margin was mediocre at best.

    I am starting over again with a new name, new equipment and new focus. In the past my primary focus was on mowing and landscape maintenance for HOA's. This time around I want to focus only on lawn apps. and landscape services for residential without the mowing.

    I would like to hear from those of you who have done this and share your experience or offer some advice. I would like to also hear from those of you who think I am crazy. My biggest concern is, I do not have enough applications customers to fill a route yet (I am only about 1/4 the way there). I would like to fill in the down time between applications with landscaping until I have enough work to justify going to two crews.

    Any thoughts?
  2. dougaustreim

    dougaustreim LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 488

    We dropped mowing about 8 years ago, mainly due to labor shortages. The only time, I have any regrets is when one of the mowing guys that also do landscaping pick up a nice landscape job because they are already on site with these people every week. We also have found that as more and more of the mowing guys are getting into chemical applications, we are definately losing out on the commerical lawn application business. Ten years ago, we had the commerical apps pretty well sewed up, at that time most of the mowers would refer the apps to us. Now the current group of mowers are going it themselves.

    Not always price competiton but just the fact that they are there every week.

    Austreim landscaping
  3. James Cormier

    James Cormier LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Ma
    Messages: 1,217

    After 9 years working for fert & squirt companies (never did mowing) I went on my own. That was in 94. I had no intention to offer mowing, my first year a big commerical contract wanted me to bid everthing so I bought a mower and did just that, 5 years later I found myself with 150 fert customers and 100 mowing customers.
    Every year all my time was spent putting out fires with the mowing crews, fixing machines, changing blades getting behind schedule when it rains, worrying about summer drought slow downs, early snow falls. Basicly a huge headache. I tried subing out the mowing one year but that didnt work, So I sat down with my Fincial advisor in 2000 and came up with a plan. Try for 1 year to sell off all mowing contracts with equipment and employees. After one year if I couldn't sell I was ready to walk away from mowing and concentrate on fert & squirt. And I was truly ready just to walk away from mowing, I was lucky enough to sell the accounts and equipment to a local company and they took on my old employees. I made some money but more importantly I got my life back.
    Right now I work alone, I got 300 customers, a nice office and I make a little more working alone then I did with 4 guys mowing for me. And because I do it all my self I got no headaches.

    I look back and say why the hell did I buy that mower
  4. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Messages: 8,745

    that is a great story James. I too have thought many times of walking away from mowing and just concentrate on aeration, landscaping maintenance, fertilization and pruning.

    The mowing cause you to run around too much. Now you got me thinking...
  5. Evan528

    Evan528 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,144

    There is nothing more Id rather do then get out of the mowing aspect.... But I know by doing that id loose 75% of my application, landscape design/install work and landscape maintenance work. Mowing seems to be a nessesary evil because this day in age homeowners want one company who can do it all. they dont want to have to deal with 4 diffrent companys to take care fo there yard.
  6. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Messages: 8,745

    that is true Evan. That would be my biggest fear, is that if I stepped out of mowing and only specialized in one aspect, that the homeowner would drop me and find a company that performed all of the services
  7. Evan528

    Evan528 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,144

    I forgot to mention that many of the accounts I have aquired over the past several years were not because the old company was doing bad was because they couldnt do everything and I can......
  8. James Cormier

    James Cormier LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Ma
    Messages: 1,217

    I was scared of that as well, however i was lucky enough to find someone to buy it and they signed a no compete that they wouldnt go after the fert end, and I signed a no compete saying I would go back after the mowing.

    2 years later I relized that was unnecccesry because there are more people looking for just a lawn treatment company than a full service company. Plus this is when your sales skills comes in to play. I tell people most mowing companies dont have proper licences or knowledge to do proper lawn treatments or they sub it out to people like me.

    It truley has been the best thing Ive ever done, if your a real fert guy you know the profit margins compared to mowing as soo much better.

    The funny thing was i was one of the highest priced mowing companies in my area, but you gotta do what makes you happy. The guy who bought my company loves mowing and having crews He tripled in size when he took on my customers and he still wants to grow.
  9. lawn8646

    lawn8646 LawnSite Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 23

    It sounds like you made a wise decision in your area but where I'm at most people want one company to do everything. Half of may accounts are from people who switched to me only because I could do everything for them. Of course many retired people here who want to deal with as few people as possible. I guess it really depends on what your market place will allow but most importantly how good of a salesman are you. Good salesman could sell anything, anytime, anywhere!
  10. James Cormier

    James Cormier LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Ma
    Messages: 1,217

    open your local phone book, Is there chemdog,lawn doctor,scotts or other big lawn care companies in your market. IF so then you can do the same. they do just fine without mowing lawns.

    Yes their is a chance you will lose some customers, but what I did was talk with as many current customer and explained to them why I was doing this and that even though they may have to write 2 different checks there service and results would be soo much better. I lost 3

    Commerical is a little different, I bid through the guy that bought the business, he subs me out. He also hired me to do his books for his company because i had all the systems in place.

    I started a small business doing just that for small landscapers.

Share This Page