Startup decisions

HamBarker

LawnSite Member
Location
Knoxville, TN
Way back when, I had a landscape business in Atlanta - we did some maintenance but mostly plant and turf installations. Now I’ve retired from a long sales career and am partnering with my son start a landscape business in east TN.
We’ve decided to start this business NOW - around the end of October. We need to make smart equipment purchase decisions right now and I seek input from y’all about that or any thoughts the following evokes from you.
Our current state of mind…
1. Right now all we have is a pickup truck, a Stihl Kombi system with any and all attachments, backpack blowers, pump sprayers, hand tools, Arbor ladder.
2. Knowledge-wise, I know a lot about plants and maintenance and a talent for landscape design. I’m also strong in sakes. We’ve got a few residential maintenance accounts that I’m servicing with a subcontractor until we’re ready to start. We’ve built some retaining walls, done some landscape jobs. We rented mini-ex’s and track loaders but I hated spending big $$ for deliveries!
3. Our plan is to approach the market with both maintenance and landscape services.
Our first goal is for revenue to cover costs and grow within that constraint.
4. As a startup business… we THINK we know what kind of business we want to be but we recognize that after a year or two that notion will likely alter to some degree.
Once we know our DNA, so to speak, we can clarify our vision, tighten our focus and aggressively capitalize our business. Until then we want to buy equipment that helps our short term goals but also that we’ll use for many years.
5. So for now, at this time of year, we’re thinking that fall cleanups, maybe pruning jobs are low hanging fruit that will engage us with customers and lead to regular maintenance customers for next spring and design and installation jobs.
6. It seems to that putting $50-60k in mowers, truck and trailer right now won’t start paying back until spring.
7. As a first mower purchase I’m thinking about getting a Ventrac Tractor; it’s very versatile and can serve both maintenance and landscape services with a big range of tool attachments. Plus our area is really hilly and the Ventrac is great for mowing hills twice as steep as a ZT mower. I’d love your comments in a Ventrac and your comments on steep hill mowing.
.
With all that said what first pieces of equipment would you suggest for us? Any other comments you would make?
 

Cut n Strut

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
Midwest
Way back when, I had a landscape business in Atlanta - we did some maintenance but mostly plant and turf installations. Now I’ve retired from a long sales career and am partnering with my son start a landscape business in east TN.
We’ve decided to start this business NOW - around the end of October. We need to make smart equipment purchase decisions right now and I seek input from y’all about that or any thoughts the following evokes from you.
Our current state of mind…
1. Right now all we have is a pickup truck, a Stihl Kombi system with any and all attachments, backpack blowers, pump sprayers, hand tools, Arbor ladder.
2. Knowledge-wise, I know a lot about plants and maintenance and a talent for landscape design. I’m also strong in sakes. We’ve got a few residential maintenance accounts that I’m servicing with a subcontractor until we’re ready to start. We’ve built some retaining walls, done some landscape jobs. We rented mini-ex’s and track loaders but I hated spending big $$ for deliveries!
3. Our plan is to approach the market with both maintenance and landscape services.
Our first goal is for revenue to cover costs and grow within that constraint.
4. As a startup business… we THINK we know what kind of business we want to be but we recognize that after a year or two that notion will likely alter to some degree.
Once we know our DNA, so to speak, we can clarify our vision, tighten our focus and aggressively capitalize our business. Until then we want to buy equipment that helps our short term goals but also that we’ll use for many years.
5. So for now, at this time of year, we’re thinking that fall cleanups, maybe pruning jobs are low hanging fruit that will engage us with customers and lead to regular maintenance customers for next spring and design and installation jobs.
6. It seems to that putting $50-60k in mowers, truck and trailer right now won’t start paying back until spring.
7. As a first mower purchase I’m thinking about getting a Ventrac Tractor; it’s very versatile and can serve both maintenance and landscape services with a big range of tool attachments. Plus our area is really hilly and the Ventrac is great for mowing hills twice as steep as a ZT mower. I’d love your comments in a Ventrac and your comments on steep hill mowing.
.
With all that said what first pieces of equipment would you suggest for us? Any other comments you would make?

Sounds like you have a pretty good idea of what your business will be about based on your personal/professional strengths. I highly doubt you actually need advice but are more so looking to be reassured. I think the best time to start a business is anytime you have the drive, knowledge and will to execute a solid plan.

I’d be careful going the “one machine does most” route when it involves mowing. The Ventrac is capable of quality mowing but what if you need that machine for a landscape project the same day/week? You can also maximize your man hours if for instance your son is mowing and you are using the Ventrac, skid steer, tractor, etc. to do some prep/dirt work at the same time. If you play it well enough, you can use your fall earnings to invest in the mowing side(residual $) for spring and rent whatever equip you need until the biz is generating enough cash flow and profit to buy the machine that’ll best fit your operation.

As far as the father/son “partnership” goes, just be up front and open with each other about who is/does what. Keep business, business. It’s not worth losing that relationship over $. I’d have a plan as to how long you each will be in the field. The sooner you guys are behind the scenes at the office and not in the field, the better in my opinion. Good luck!
 
OP
H

HamBarker

LawnSite Member
Location
Knoxville, TN
Sounds like you have a pretty good idea of what your business will be about based on your personal/professional strengths. I highly doubt you actually need advice but are more so looking to be reassured. I think the best time to start a business is anytime you have the drive, knowledge and will to execute a solid plan.

I’d be careful going the “one machine does most” route when it involves mowing. The Ventrac is capable of quality mowing but what if you need that machine for a landscape project the same day/week? You can also maximize your man hours if for instance your son is mowing and you are using the Ventrac, skid steer, tractor, etc. to do some prep/dirt work at the same time. If you play it well enough, you can use your fall earnings to invest in the mowing side(residual $) for spring and rent whatever equip you need until the biz is generating enough cash flow and profit to buy the machine that’ll best fit your operation.

As far as the father/son “partnership” goes, just be up front and open with each other about who is/does what. Keep business, business. It’s not worth losing that relationship over $. I’d have a plan as to how long you each will be in the field. The sooner you guys are behind the scenes at the office and not in the field, the better in my opinion. Good luck!
Thanks for that great feedback! I think our roles are fairly well defined but you’re right about relationship over revenue - amen that! your point about conflicting demand on the Ventrac is noted and I guess that’ll trigger that it’s time for another mower purchase. I won’t be in the field much at all - sales, marketing, accounting, admin. and hiring are my domain which allows my son to totally focus on operations and generating revenue. I have to teach him some but he’s a smart go-getter or I’d never do this. He’s working construction until we’re ready to hit the go button so I’m doing most of the grunt work getting things in place to get started.
 
Last edited:
OP
H

HamBarker

LawnSite Member
Location
Knoxville, TN
Sounds from what you will be doing a heavy duty dump trailer would be a good investment.
Thanks for saying so. That’s what I was thinking but I wanted to see what people would advise. I was also thinking a blower vac mounted on that trailer would make a big difference. How deep into winter months are you guys cleaning up leaves? What kind of revenue a week do you generate doing that?
 

grass man 11

LawnSite Bronze Member
Simple. None of the above. Maybe a trailer to help hold debris. Spend it on marketing. Mowing is the least profitable service you can offer and hand work is about the most profitable. You already have a lot of the handwork tools for things like clean ups and bush trims. Spend money on marketing to attract those type of clients for the quickest return.
 
OP
H

HamBarker

LawnSite Member
Location
Knoxville, TN
Simple. None of the above. Maybe a trailer to help hold debris. Spend it on marketing. Mowing is the least profitable service you can offer and hand work is about the most profitable. You already have a lot of the handwork tools for things like clean ups and bush trims. Spend money on marketing to attract those type of clients for the quickest return.
Well hell, I love simple! Nice to know about hand work’s profitably. Didn’t know that. What types of marketing efforts you recommend we start with?
 

grass man 11

LawnSite Bronze Member
Great website, door hangers and google ads. Pay someone to do it, don’t do it yourself. People will say you can save $10,000 doing it your self and that it’s true. You will cost yourself $100,000 in income from clients you never had also.
 

Mitty87

LawnSite Silver Member
A shovel and rake is the most used tool. Also good wheelbarrows are hard to find. I have amassed 14 spades, 10 flat shovels, 12 bow rakes, 10 wheelbarrows. I am very worried about running out and do daily inventory. Always pick one up when they are on sale. Occasionally someone will break one or leave one on a job site, those workers don't last very long. Good old shovel rake and wheelbarrow is the lifeblood of my business.
 

SouthEastTurf

LawnSite Member
Location
Macon GA
My .02, because you asked. I’ve been in and out of this business since 1993. Been full time, been no time. I have owned a retail shop and was a Stihl and Scag dealer. I worked for major equipment distributor in the Southeast . I have manufactured equipment used in the industry. The market is fluid with startups and shut downs, especially for those that just mow. My caution to you, is know the true cost of what you are doing. If you’re only making 20-25 dollars an hour, you are truly better off working for someone else. Don’t be afraid to ask what you are worth. On the flip side, always do your best work and provide value to the customer.

I think you have a lot of knowledge, but you should really think about what you want to do. I realize at first you might have to do all sorts of odd jobs to get going, but doing everything makes it hard to schedule. On the flip side, doing only one thing can become boring.

Mowing is saturated because there is low barrier of entry to the business. This board is covered with people who doing mowing as a side hustle. You have new people every year getting in the business. I would not suggest just doing mowing. But If you are going primarily do mowing, a stand on zero turn like the SCAG V-ride2 is what I would go with for flat or moderate hilly areas.

If you get a Ventrac, you could specialize in only mowing steep, hard to mow areas that you can charge a premium for. If you start bidding regular properties, you will get under bid by some guy with a stander. Ventrac looks great, never had one, but no way could it compete with a zero turn stander on the average property. And time is money.

I would also look into getting licensed to apply Herbicides and insecticides.
Fertilization and Pesticides is more profitable, the flip side is need to know what herbicides to apply, you need to be able to identify different grasses, weeds and insects. It’s a lot harder to learn, than mowing.

You could specialize in installation. The problem is your income is not always predictable, but most people stay booked.

If you do just installation or Just fertilization, it’s best to have a relationship with a few people that just mow. You will often be able to refer business to each other.

This brings me to my what I plan on doing. Others have mentioned this here, so not my idea. Have not done it yet on a large scale. Just thinking about it, and now I’m bouncing ideas off of you. That is where you do everything, but only for a few select, premium customers. You sell a subscription based model to a person where you do 100% of the work needed to their yard, for X amount a month. You pay me $500 a month, and you don’t worry about your yard or bushes, flowers driveway, pool, etc. Its always going to look great and if it doesn’t call me and I will be there within 24 hours.

And if they have a swimming pool, I would include basic care on it also for $90 a month or so. Pool care is easy. In my area people paying $70 a week for someone to add chemicals, clean the filters and back wash it. I can do it cheaper because I’m already there mowing the lawn. I used do just pools, the problems with pools is its seasonal and route density sucks. That’s why you have to charge 70 bucks for a 20 minute visit. But if you’re already on site, it’s 15 minutes of work for easy money and saves the client money. And if they are paying $280 a month just for the pool, the $590 sounds like a bargain. You would have to put a little effort into learning pool care, but it’s not hard.



So you will mow, trim , clean flower beds.
Replant annuals and replaced straw/mulch as needed.
Apply fertilizer , pesticides and herbicides on a schedule, spot apply as needed. Heck, spray for mosquitoes in the spring.
Balance the soil, adjust Ph – gives you something to do in Jan if you don’t have snow on the ground.
Do fall cleanup of leaves, check property regularly, remove fallen branches , litter during winter.
Take basic care of pool weekly. Open and close it.
Remove snow in winter if needed.

Downside of this approach is you need more equipment. Upside is since you have everyone on a yearly contract, you have a predictable monthly income and only dealing with a few , premium customers. That's what appeals to me. it's predictable, and the income is predictable.
 

Top Forums



Top