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Starting Up Soon Need some Advice!

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by software23, Jul 16, 2003.

  1. software23

    software23 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    I am going to start up soon and visited ALL the local lawn mower shops around. Every shop contradicted the other shop. We are looking to start with residential properties around 80' X 125' and some commercial if we are lucky. We want to buy the right equipment the first time, but don't want to go overboard with no accounts lined up. Most shops recommended a 36" walk behind mower so we can get in backyards with fences/gates. Some said to go with the 42"+ riders for $5,000 plus. We looked at Toro, John Deere, Snapper, Hustler.

    I am looking for some advice on what would be a good starter commercial mower and what brand. I read alot of reviews and they were mixed, most seemed to lean towards the riders which are not geared towards residential by themselves. I really don't want to start with a walk behind + Rider with no accounts but please give me your two sense.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Rustic Goat

    Rustic Goat LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,194

    Just what do you want to start with, with no accounts?

    Do you know specifically what are the gate widths for the properties you hope to be servicing?
    Seems that would be a good place to start.

    No accounts = No income.
    A w/b & sulky would come closer to making financial sense than spending even more. Actually, a 21" makes even more sense, but I guess you've got money to spend for these accounts you don't have.:)

    A w/b, probably 36" with a sulky would make as much sense as anything. It will not cost as much as an equal duty rider. It will get in and around more places than most riders. It's easier/quicker to learn cutting with a w/b. Not that a rider is any long challenge.

    You will also need numerous other pieces of equipment, have you shopped/priced all these different things as well?

    My preference would be a Scag, 36" belt drive, with a sulky, to start with.
    It will fit through a gate of 36".

    Once your business pays for this mower, and you want to expand, it will always be a good mower to have for many reasons.

    Then again, if you've just got money to invest and not worried about a brand new business paying it's own way, get a Dixie Chopper.
  3. harpoonalt

    harpoonalt LawnSite Member
    Messages: 55

    I assume since you said "we", there are 2 of you. How much money do you have? What are your plans for this business? Part-time? We need more info. With that size lot and the time of year, I would buy 2 21" quality mowers, a good trimmer, a handheld blower and a way to cart all the stuff around. Get some customers and then base your equipment purchase on them. You will then have two good mowers that will last you forever and a "right-sized" main mower. Now, if you've just won powerball, let me know and we'll fix you up with primo stuff.
  4. GeorgiaGrassMan

    GeorgiaGrassMan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 147

    I think harpoonalt has a good idea if the lawns are no bigger than the ones you mentioned. That's how I got started and most of the lawns I maintain are bigger than the size you mentioned. If your business is successful at all, you will quickly need to become more productive in order to take on more customers - especially if you start part-time. Be prepared (financially) to buy a bigger mower just as soon as you get "saturated" with the 21"s. You can lose momentum if you delay. If you are trying to build a business (any business) captializing on momentum and managing growth are critical and should be a much bigger concern than paying for one asset before you buy another. If you are part-time and want to stay part-time, this would be a decent strategy. If you can grow the business, manage the growth, control costs and price correctly, the assets will pay for themselves unless you go overboard which is not what we are talking about here.

    Starting my business this year with very minimal advertising (500 flyers), I reached the point where I could take no more business without a larger mower (and the increased productivity it will bring) in 2 months. If I would have known that the growth would come that fast, I would have bought a 36" walk-behind mower before I ever got started, but nothing will make you appreciate big mowers like starting with small ones. Don't expect to learn too much using a 21" that will transfer to larger mowers however.

    Speaking of momentum, nothing will grow your business like doing great work and the resulting word of mouth advertising. Nothing will kill momentum like tearing up a customer's lawn with a ZTR. Puts a real damper on things. I wouldn't tell you not to go straight to a ZTR, but I would say to be dang sure you know how to use it properly before you start using it in your business. The same really applies for walk-behinds as well. There is a dynamic to using large mowers that you never experience with 21" mowers and that dynamic is weight. There is virtually no thought involved with walking around behind a 21" mower. When you are new with a walk-behind or a ZTR, you have to do lots of thinking while you cut until you get like alot of the old pros on here and it becomes second nature. You see guys out zipping around on WBs and ZTRs and they make it look so easy that you assume they are just "steering." In actuality, alot of thought has to go into things like, "how do I cut this hill?" or "the grass is damp, what extra precautions do I need to take so I don't make a huge mess?" It's not rocket science, but it's not the same as a 21" either. I'm still learning myself, but my point is, you need to get to a point where you at least "do no harm" as the doctors say before you use one of these boys commercially or at the very least, go slow and be very careful initially. Remember, the idea is to have happy customers and that won't happen if you make a mess of things. My 15 year old son does a great job with my 36" walk behind, but I make him go slow and easy. He's trying to prove to me that he will be a good driver. :rolleyes: :D

    Anyway - I'm rambling here. Let me just say that there is probably no one right to go about this. Do alot of reading here and come up with a well thought out plan and you'll do fine. Good luck to you.

  5. software23

    software23 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    Yes there are two of us that are going to mow the lawns. We only have a few accounts lined up under 5, but we are going to spend a bit on advertising. We plan to do this full-time and hope to hit 50+ accounts fairly quick with the advertising. However as I stated earlier the accounts will mostly be residential at first and be 1/4 acre properties. Some will have fences I am sure, and we were told that a 36" walk behind could do the front & back quickly for almost any account this size.

    We almost purchased a exmark rider but then we could not get into the backyards and it may be just to big without a walk-behind? I have been looking at Exmark's 36" Floating Deck with ECS it is selling for $3295 locally and looks like a great machine.

    Wouldn't it take a LONG time to mow with two guys on 21" push mowers?

    We were looking to spend no more than $7,000 or so to start up the business
  6. GeorgiaGrassMan

    GeorgiaGrassMan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 147

    The property size you mentioned would be 6000-7000 sq feet of turf at the most and seeing how you are in S. Florida, 7000 square feet of flat turf at that. With 2 guys on 21"s, that shouldn't take more than 15 minutes. A 36" would be somewhat faster, but how much faster would depend on the landscaping. Two 21"s at 42" is more total deck width than a 36", but the 36" will allow you to go faster with a sulky IF the landscaping will allow that. Come to think of it, if all my properties were that small and I had 2 people, I'd be VERY tempted to use 21"s.
  7. harpoonalt

    harpoonalt LawnSite Member
    Messages: 55

    If your target properties are all going to be the same the 36" exmark would be a great mower. Having done it many years ago, the trick with 2 people is to both finish at the same time. Some properties have more trimming, some more mowing. You need enough equipment to both be able to always be doing something while you're on the property. I have a 48" TTHP and it's a great timesaver but it is a handfull when you're just starting out. it does take practice to "leave no trace". I wouldn't reccomend practicing on a customers lawn. As far as taking too long with the 21's, that only becomes an issue when you get more work. Buy the stuff as you NEED it. you'll have a better idea of what will work best for you after doing it awhile. What I wanted when I started and what I actually needed to do the job were not always the same. If you have your heart set on a bigger mower, I don't think you'll ever regret buying the Exmark. Just make sure you have lots of space when you first start using it. Good Luck!

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