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Starting over

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by ChadsLawn, May 10, 2001.

  1. ChadsLawn

    ChadsLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,110

    Well this has been the worst season i have had in 5 years.My income is at the point to where i might have to get a regular job and give up the lawn business.Im down to 11 accounts from near 30 last summer.Some were do to the drout,underbiding,Nevr paid.
    Houses are booming here,but they just dont want lawn maintenance.I know come June/July my work will build up again,But i dont think i can wait till July.
    Im not the only 1 down here in this situation.2 lawn buddies have already went out of business.1 went to bigger and better things,the other is in the same boat im in.

    Forgot my point..DUH
    Should I start over as far as renaming my business and a new look??

    Like ive posted before any advice is helpful.

    So much for my new Mower? ;) :mad:
  2. TJLC

    TJLC LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,308

    I feel for you. I'm in FL and your right, it is DRY. If it wasn't for my yearly contracts, I would be hurting also. Try to hang in there. Hopefully things will look up. Good luck.
  3. BigEd

    BigEd LawnSite Senior Member
    from MD
    Messages: 299

    Why would you want to start over or change your look? Did you earn your self a bad reputation,or piss someone off?
  4. Fantasy Lawns

    Fantasy Lawns LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,912

    First off ....your going to hear all sorts of opinions .....only you know what n' how you feel ......you can always sport a "new look" in fact any business is always changing .....open to new ideas ....BUT don't change your name ....you have 5 years with it ....like ED says above ?? ... but even if so ....than what ever may have brought the slump is more than lack of rain & dead beat payers ....

    first I'd get some cash flow going ....get a part time night job ....deliver pizza or some cash job ....what ever it take to get quick $$ in the home....this should give you time to reflect .....pull up the straps n' go out to hussle work ....you've read the routine ....door hang, select direct mail, ad's in local papers ...drive your truck around looking busy ....what ever with 11 accounts that has to go quick .....you're going to have to figure something than just pray for rain ....this is our 3rd year of below rain level's ....you've seen the competition ...even come July some work will trickle ...but even a sole needs 65 good accounts to make it .......Good Luck ;->
  5. Holloway Lawns

    Holloway Lawns LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 253

    Hang in there maybe you should get a regular job but keep on doing the lawns and when it picks back up then go back full time. I am doing just that I work for Texas Department of Criminal Justice and it is hard working that and trying to get more biz in lawn work also I am a licensed Private Investigator so all this is a bunch of work but I am trying to make a future for my kids. I just placed some ad's in our local papers two are for one month each and the other is for 2 months I am looking forward to some calls. My wife is a bit mad for spending the $$ for the ad's I hope I make it back or I will be in the dog house with our dog named Inspector Gadget he's a Boston Terrier. Man stay in there and keep trying your best. Good Luck to all of us.:cool:
  6. deason

    deason LawnSite Member
    Messages: 236

    Insanity - Insanity is Trying to achieve different results using the same plan. Want different results? Change the plan.
  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    I agree with Deason. I think maybe it's time to change the game plan a little. It's easy to blame it on the economy, etc. but the reality is it very well could be something you're doing. I know I am treading on thin ice by saying that and criticism is very hard to take. I know that. And I am not where you are so I say the following just as an example of what MAY be true.

    Anyway, at the risk of greatly offending you, I'll tell you what I think is SOME people's problem in this business. It may or may not apply to you.

    First of all, let me explain that I too have been in business 5 years. But within that 5 year time frame I have built a pretty good sized business. We know have 6 full time employees, 140 regular year-round lawn care accounts, and a good sized landscape installation business as well.

    Within that same time frame I have not only passed up other companies who started long before I did, but I also passed up two of my friends who started in this business about the same time I did. One of them is still struggling with 15 or so regular accounts, a few side jobs here and there, and is just getting by. We're in the same city, have roughly the same experience in the industry, have the same equipment, etc....

    But there are just a few things he is doing wrong that keeps him constantly just squeeking by. And I see these same things in other guys as well. I'll list a few of them;

    1) I think the biggest reason most lawn care or landscaping companies don't grow is poor marketing skills. Conversely, I'd say it's the biggest reason for my company's growth.

    Our company; we have our name everywhere. Our trucks are bright red with large white lettering that says our company name / logo, phone number, etc. You can't miss us going down the street. Our tailgates have this on them as well. It's also on the back of our trailers. When we are at a big job, we put a sign up on the sidewalk. After a big job we place a temporary sign in the yard. We wear bright red shirts with our name in giant letters on the backs.

    My friend: No lettering on his truck. He was tired of people calling him after he cut them off in traffic. He doesn't do any of the above. He has good "excuses" why not for every one of them. And he's just bull headed enough to insist on doing things his way.

    Other marketing:

    Our company: Yellow Pages, Sometimes newspaper, TONS of flyers, referral bonuses to our clients when they refer someone to us, Internet Yellow Page links, etc. Point is, I do tons of marketing and lots of different types.

    My friend: Takes out an ad in the paper for a few weeks. Puts out a few flyers for an hour or two until his knees get tired. Otherwise, no marketing.

    Some kinds of marketing are almost no-fail methods. For instance, flyers are so cheap you can lay thousands of them for under a hundred dollars. I don't care what kind of slump the economy is in, with 1000 flyers, you're bound to get at least 10 calls. It's just a numbers game. If I needed to, I could put out about 3000 flyers in a week and I guarantee I'd have lots of business.

    2) Answering the phone. I won't even go too far into it except to say that most contractors don't have a lousy system for answering their phone during business hours. If you want to grow you need someone answering the phone - LIVE! I find about 50% of the time if I don't answer the phone, people will not leave a message. You are losing TONS of business if you are leaving it to an answering machine.

    There are many different approaches to this. I prefer to take all the calls myself. So my business line is always forwarded to my cell if I am out. Other guys use an answering service. Some have someone else answer the phone for them. Doesn't matter how you do it - just THAT you do it.

    3) Professionalism. I'll put my money on a guy who looks and acts professional over a guy who knows landscaping up and down any day of the week. As soon as I could I began emulating what I saw the big guys doing. I answered the phone in a professional manner. I showed up with professional looking truck, company attire, and official estimate sheets.

    Before I go any farther, I should mention I did all of these things BEFORE I could afford to. Because I couldn't afford not to. I found ways to make these things happen. And when I couldn't do it 100% the way I wanted to, I came as close as possible until I could affort to.

    My friend: Answers the phone 60% of the time and answers it in a professional manner. But when he shows up, he is wearing an old T-shirt with his gut hanging out of it, in a junky truck that's missing a grill, a bumper, and has different color parts. (All of which I could understand for someone's first year or two, but not after 4 years). He writes his estimates on generic forms or a pad of paper, etc....

    If you are targeting the middle to upper class (which, in my opinion is who you should target in this biz), you need to look professional.

    4) A lot of guys take short cuts and do shoddy work. My friend, for example loves to take short cuts. There are more examples than I can list. But for starters, today he was mulching all of his lawns. Sure, it saves time. He had no grass at the end of the day today to haul away. But it's not professional and it's definitely the way most clients in this area want their lawn to be mowed.

    I made a decision a long time ago that I'd rather charge more for my service and do it right than try to beat everyone else's prices and then have to take short cuts to make a profit.

    5) Undependable. One of my friend's biggest challenges is he's not dependable. He changes his clients' regular mowing day every month or so. If it rains, he puts his lawns off for a day or two. Sometimes the next week. If he has truck or equipment problems he delays them as well.

    I'd sooner rent a truck or equipment and get back on the road than make a client of ours wait a few days for their service.

    And I should add that in this business, if you are extremely dependable you can often get away with mistakes more readily as well. There are a lot of people who love us for our dependable, unwavering service so much that when one of my guys accidentally scalps their lawn or something, they forgive us right away because of our track record.

    These are just a few of the reasons I see people falter in this business. Again, I have no idea if these apply to you or not. But it's something to think about. I am sure I could find another 5 or 10 things if I thought about it more but these are some that immediately came to mind.

    I know this; I would never quit this business because I was faltering. I'd re-evaluate, ask for help, whatever it took. I might ditch this business for another, more profitable business if I felt the urge. But I wouldn't give up on it. I am just not that kind of person.
  8. Island Lawn

    Island Lawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 632

    Thanks Jim!

    A lot of it can be shrugged off as common sense if you're not listening carefully.
    As w/ most things, success requires effort. Effort is easier said than done.

    Things are very tight here too! I'm banking on consistancy and
    Jim just gave me a kick in the arse, & I liked it!

    A old quote from a friend way back in HIGH school:
    "I tried lifting weights, But they were heavy!"

  9. Chuck Sinclair

    Chuck Sinclair LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 336


    Has spoke the truth i conduct my biz the same way the phone MUST be answerd LIVE!!:blob3: and market the heck out of your self.
  10. Twotoros

    Twotoros LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 494

    I am in the same boat. Down to 37 accounts from 57 at the end of 2000. All went with a cheaper service except 3 bi-monthly which I passed on as I only like weekly services. I will be in the market for a winter job for sure . A first for me in 16+ years. Except for part time orchard work for an uncle I have not had an employer since June of 1982. This will be a tough pill to swallow. I refuse to lower my price to pre-1990 prices which are prevalent here. :confused:

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