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These kids here! This is MY story on how I got started in this business

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Rons Rightway Lawncare, Dec 21, 2006.

  1. Rons Rightway Lawncare

    Rons Rightway Lawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,164

    Been reading some of these threads, and it is obvious that even though this site has THOUSANDS of members and twice as many vistors, a large majority of the posters here are just kids, most of them just starting out in this business or doing this as a semi hobby / alternative to working at Pizza hut etc...

    Have to say.... I am not sure what the best words are to use.... But I shake my head reading some of these kids posts here. Almost like they are experts and they are listing every darn rake and shovel and craftsman tool they stole out of dads tool shed in their signature line!

    So look, maybe todays world is different in 2006/2007, but let me share with you guys my experience starting in this business back in 1994 when I was more or less a kid.

    I was a highschool dropout, and would not respect my parents curfews and wishes, and was booted out of their house at age 18. I had to grow up very fast and learned really quick to provide for myself. I worked doing Pizza Delivery at night and off and on during the days at the local car wash. I made enough money to pay rent on a cheap apartment - maybe 350 to 400$ - pay for power and phone, and paid for my truck - 170$ per month for a brand new 1993 Toyota pickup - and insurance, and I had a little change left over to go " Party " on or take trips to the beach etc...

    I had worked at Pizza Hut for a few years, and one of the day shift managers quit his job and started a lawn mowing business. He came in one day and asked if any of us wanted a day job working for him and myself and one other guy jumped at the chance, as he was paying around 250$ a week.

    I worked for this guy for 2-3 months and saw how we as a crew of 3 guys were going out and knocking out 25-35 lawns per day with just a cheap old rundown Scag 48 inch and Encore 36 inch walkbehinds and the various 2 stroke stuff. I ran some numbers and thought even if I just did 10-15 lawns by myself I could make what I was making working much harder for him. I talked about this with another guy who worked with us off and on, just thinking outloud and this employee went right to the owner on the next yard and told him I was planning to quit and steal all of his customers - totally untrue - and as we were riding to the next lawn, the owner confronted me about it, was a prick and said I was fired, that this would be my last day.

    I will never forget that day as it was our last day working before the 4th of july weekend in 1994.

    I spent the whole weekend deciding if I really wanted to go for it and finally decided why not...

    I already had a little pickup truck and my dad had a old homemade 5x10 flatbed trailer he said I could borrow. I didn't have much credit, but did have one ace in the hole in that due to my making payments on time with my rent and my truck payments I had recently gotten my first credit card and with a 3 grand credit limit.

    That next monday, I went to a local lawnmower shop and bought a brand new Encore 48 inch walkbehind and velkie, and then went to homedepot and picked up a echo trimmer, edger, hedge clippers, and handheld blower, a cheap chainsaw and some rakes, shovels, tarps etc... Basically I maxed out my credit card, but had everything I needed to go cut grass and trim bushes etc...

    I sat down and put together a flyer on a piece of notebook paper, and took it to office depot type place to have it typeset and copys made. I then took my flyers out and stuck them in paperboxes in a few neighborhoods near where I lived and worked. I still worked evenings at Pizza hut and gave out flyers when I delivered pizzas. Before till summer was over I had a good 15 or so accounts.

    I cut my accounts during the day, worked at the Hut at night, and then afterwards went to the clubs till the wee hours of the morning - but that is another story not related to lawn cutting! I did this till winter when obviously I ended up having almost all my accounts put me on hold till spring.

    Well to side track, by that fall I had gone back to the dealer I bought my Encore from, and traded it in on a new 48 inch walkbehind, this time a hydro.... and also got a matching hydro 36 incher, a pair of backpack blowers, a bigger trimmer, edger, and hedge trimmers, all on credit I was somehow able to secure from a finance company through the dealership.

    So that winter I used what moneys I had to have thousands of flyers printed up. Then in Febuary I started hitting those paperboxes hard and must have put out 5-8 thousand flyers, maybe more..... And slowly I started getting calls off my flyers. I was earning the business of about 1/2 to 2/3rds of all the estimates. By the end of March when the lawns here really start growing I was over 80 weekly customers and several bi-weekly customers. I had to hire help, and had friends work for me, and we jammed that whole summer!

    Of course, I really didn't know squat about lawncare, and I was cutting way too low, was tearing up lawns with my tires in the quest to put in stripes, and just overall didn't know what the heck I was doing other than I was doing what I did with the guy I used to work for... mow, edge, trim and blow for 20-25 bucks a pop.

    Over the first few years I had a high turnover rate. I would loose many customers over the course of a season, and pick up new ones each spring. But averaged 65-80 lawns a week, most on a per cut basis till 1999 when I sold my accounts and moved to Florida to start up a lawn business there.
  2. S man

    S man LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,562

    Great story. Are you now in North Carolina?
  3. RedMax Man

    RedMax Man LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,051

    I'm sorry but i got a little lost in your whole story. So what are you trying to get across to everyone.
    Oh and just for the record all the equipment and tools i own is paid off by me not my parents. The trim mower that i have my dad bought for me to cut our lawn and then a few years later i used it for doing other lawns and now i a pay to care for it and use for landscaping. My parent have never loaned me money to get tools, i've just saved up and bought the best i could afford and payed them in full. Not trying to brag or be a showoff, just making my point.
  4. Rons Rightway Lawncare

    Rons Rightway Lawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,164

    So in 1999 I sold my accounts and bought a enclosed trailer and moved to Cape Coral Florida to live near my dad who had moved there a few years earlier and to hopefully have year round cutting and live the good life out on the water, etc... etc.... etc......

    I got down there and quickly discovered things are WAY different there, than they were here. First off, they didn't have paperboxes to put flyers in. So I advertised by placing a ad in their local freebie newpaper that got thrown in everyones driveway on Wednesday and Sunday mornings. My mistake was not knowing they have 2 seasons in southwest Florida.... The rainy - summer - season, and the dry - winter - season. I had moved there in November and the end of the rainy season, and the lawns there don't need much mowing in the dry season. Also mistake for me was a large part of the population in that area live there only part of the year and most go looking for new services just before they leave Florida to head home. So needless to say there was not alot of people calling off my ad, but I did manage to get 20-25 accounts with in the first month or two.

    I quickly got discouraged though, as people there simply would not pay like they do elsewhere. The going rates were 60-80 bucks per month for FULL SERVICE lawncare, and I was used to getting at least 100-120$ a month here in the Carolinas. I also had grown into quite the toyman before I moved to Florida and I had a expensive truck, wifes car, equipment to pay for, searay boat, harelydavidson roadking, 2 fourwheelers, creditcard debt, and on and on plus our house was over 1500$ per month. I quickly figured out there was no way at the rate I was going could I manage to stay out of the poorhouse cutting grass there, so I gave up my accounts to another lawnservice there I had met riding Atv's and got a job working for my father selling security systems for his ADT dealership.

    I worked for my father for about a year, but just couldn't get along with him and even there I just couldn't make enough money to support my lifestyle and pay my bills, so after a year I called it quits again.

    In 2001 I went out and bought another trailer and another big mower - I had sold my old mowers and trailer to a friend here in NC when I quit doing lawns a year earlier. I put another ad in the freebie paper, but had timing on my side and was able to drum up estimate calls left and right. I had by that time accepted that I wouldn't be able to charge the money I would make up here per yard, but since these were smaller lawns and normally easy yards to cut, I just had to do more of them to make the money I needed to live off of. I ended up with about 80 accounts by April and started another busy year of cutting grass!
  5. Rons Rightway Lawncare

    Rons Rightway Lawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,164

    I busted my butt cutting those lawns in that thick Florida heat and humid air all summer and to take a little break from it, the wife and I made plans to take our jet ski and come back to Charlotte to visit friends over the Labor day weekend.

    We had such a good time back with our friends and back on the lake where we spent our weekends every summer. We talked about how much we missed " Home " the whole way back to Florida. We decided to put our house up for sale and if it sold we would move back to the Carolinas. We waited a month to make sure we wanted to do that, and the day we listed the house, it sold a hour later!!! ( I guess waterfront property was a good buy, we bought the house for 150K in 1999, sold it for a good bit more in 2001, and today the same house is worth over 600K.... maybe we should have stayed just another couple years! :) )

    So we packed up our stuff, I sold the accounts to another company and we bought a house south of Charlotte, just across the stateline in indian land SC.

    I waited till April of 2002 to do anything workwise, having made enough off the sale of the house to pay off some debts and go without work for the winter.

    In April I had two large boxes made of flyers.... 10,000 of them to be exact, and got busy putting out flyers in newer neighborhoods in the south Charlotte, matthews area and before too long ended up with about 45-50 accounts.

    This was enough to work by myself, which was my plan at that point. After all the headaches when I used to work here 1995-1999 and needing someone to help to get em all done each week, and needing a helper in Florida for a day or two to get em all done, I figured my life would be much less stressfull if I just got 10-12 accounts to do per day, easy to do by myself.

    I kept on with it that whole year, and lost a few accounts, but had a steady flow of referals coming in from other customers. I ended up with over 60 accounts that first year back.

    Since then I have not had to put out flyers since, and have been able to keep 60-70 accounts through referals and people driving by asking for estimates, etc.... Heck I have two neighborhoods I do 9 yards each in, that I never put out flyers in, I got one or two accounts in each neighborhood through referals and then got neighbors that drove by and asked for estimates.

    So that is my story on how I started.... Not once, but 4 times!
  6. Rons Rightway Lawncare

    Rons Rightway Lawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,164

    Yes and no!

    I say I am from Charlotte NC, but truth is I live in Indian Land / Fort Mill South Carolina. Charlotte is right on the stateline and I am only about a mile from the stateline and Charlotte City limits, so I claim Charlotte as my home.
  7. Rons Rightway Lawncare

    Rons Rightway Lawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,164

    I don't really know what my point I was trying to make was. I was just reading threads were lawnservices were talking about this and that, and it became obvious to me they were just starting out, just kids. One of these has like 5 or 6 accounts and was hoping to find a way to get like 10 -12 accounts, and talking about his parents buying him a new blower, etc... I guess I just thought maybe some of these kids might want to read on how I did what I did.

    Like I said I am a highschool dropout, who got in his fair share of troubles, and who could just as easily turned out to be still working at Pizza hut making next to nothing. I am not the most successful person to mow lawns, but I have done pretty good for myself and have been living a great life thanks to mowing these lawns!

    And just to be clear, My parents didn't buy me squat! I was loaned a trailer, which was a help, but had they said no I would have bought or borrowed one from someone else. I did not pay cash for most of my tools, but did pay for them none the less! At this point, everything I use for work with the exception of my truck is paid for and has been for a the last 2 years. Everything I have bought in the last 2 years I paid cash for.

    I think maybe part of why I posted this story, was just partly to show that I did not know what the heck I was doing in the beginning, still to this day I will say I don't know it all... I wonder if I had been on the internet back in the mid 1990's if I would have posted like some of these kids post here. I just get a kick out of reading some of what I read on here!
  8. Uranus

    Uranus LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Mass
    Messages: 1,624

    RedMax- Hey your one of the "kids" of the site. But from what I know about you, your one of the few "kids" here that I respect. You may be young but you handle yourself like any adult. Keep it up and you will go far.
  9. Rons Rightway Lawncare

    Rons Rightway Lawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,164

    Yeap, I just looked at his profile.... wow, 1989 I was in Jr high school, 8th or 9th grade I believe. I think I may have already had my drivers license by 1989... I will check into that! ;)

    I am 34 now, was 22 when I started into this business.

    just found my first drivers license, issue date was 8-23-1988 Was sporting a Skater haircut and a peachfuzz mustache! Those were the days..... :)
  10. JDWalkbehind

    JDWalkbehind LawnSite Member
    Messages: 223

    I think ur talkin about me with the blower mom an dad wanted somethin for graduation an that's what i wanted, but everything else is mine, an payed off. except for the z dad made me have him pay have so he can kinda control me in the summer an the reason i only want 10-12 accounts [ well i want more after listening to you good story/ hard work pays off] it's because i do summer basketball on the weekends an don't have anyone to pull me, but in november i get my license.

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