Why Lawn Companies Don't Grow: Version II

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by mdvaden, Sep 27, 2006.

  1. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    After tinkering in a topic like this in landscaping, I decided to toss a version in Lawn Care.

    Why don't lawn care companies grow? Here's how I view it, partially. These are general, because some people can expand business whether they are competent or incompetent. These pertain to expansion or lack of it, that involves an income increase. Another form of successful growth, would be a business that triples size with no increase of income, but provides an increase for employees, like benefits, or payment for landscape college classes. That would be a growing productive business.


    1. The owner does not want the company to grow, and has it under control. Estimates may be raised or lowered to maintain the customer base. Advertsing may be increased, decreased, eliminated or maintained as needed.

    2. Economic hardship in the community, whether a poor local economy or environmental weather extremes.


    1. The owner failed to gain a proper education about soils, plants, etc..

    2. The owner started in business prematurely without acquiring 2 or 3 years of experience od training first ( and 2 to 7 years for landscaping).

    3. Too many employees may not speak English, or the main language of the neighborhood, irritating customers, who can't convey immediate concerns or warnings to workers on the property.

    4. Lack of organizational skills like scheduling, organizing paperwork, etc..

    5. Not adept at overcoming obstacles like increased workload, inclement weather or equipment breakdown.

    These are a few. I place 1. and 2. as the most important in the "B" category, because most lawn services cannot reasonable apply pre and post-emergent herbicides professionally without a very substantial amount of education or experience. There are hundreds of plant materials that should be learned, to adhere to the labels on pesticide products. Even in just the lawn and shrub bed car industry.
  2. traman

    traman LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 712

    you guys are missing the big picture ,the #1 reason why lawn companies don't grow is we all have ex wives who will take every stinking extra dime we make :gunsfirin :gunsfirin :gunsfirin
  3. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    I'm not disagreeing entirely but those are all issues that can and should be addressed and resolved over time.

    For example, I started with little to no experience or training, that didn't keep me from growing over the years. Granted, it would have helped, but 2-3 years of training with someone else, that is just as likely to put ideas in my head that later end up backfiring vs. using that 2-3 years to do it the hard way and learning it hands-on, is it not the same thing in the end? I dunno, but...

    Now if one fails to address those issues, then I agree that any of them can and will keep you from growing.

    Here's my number ONE reason why new businesses fail, and it's the flipside of having no experience: Because 9 out of 10 people out there do not and will not hesitate to take FULL advantage of the new Lco, and promptly rape and rip off and play their little mind tricks to get a better price and it never ends, the slew of folks who want something for nothing are literally a dime a dozen. Granted, it takes two to play the game and education comes at a price, plus if it were not for the roughnecks who take the new Lco for a ride we would be overrun, but man do the first years really have to be THAT rough :laugh:

    Even later they still come around but they're far further in between, one here and one there, but stop trying they never do.
  4. K.Carothers

    K.Carothers LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,124

    :clapping: :clapping: :clapping: :clapping: :clapping: :clapping: :clapping:

  5. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    Don't give it to your ex-wives. Start a corporation, and at least until a solution presents itself, stuff all the extra profit into the corporation saving and assets.

    Don't loose your money - become a President instead. :usflag:

    About the mimimal experience, I think that the bargain mindset of some customers, or low wages from some companies, don't leave a lot of incentive to stick with a service to get training.

    When I started out on golf course and university campuses, the wage was reasonable. I remained - intentionally - with experienced supervisors so that I could benefit from the experience and education that they could pass on; as well as my own college.

    My own opinion, then, was that nobody was of professional management-ownership caliber without 3 to 5 years of experience. The field of horticulture is just to big to aim for less.

    It's still my belief that LAWN-ONLY care can be professionally managed with 3 months to 1 year of experience. That's excluding trees and shrub bed care. If someone is consistent, and learns about fertilizers and the few grass types and weeds in their area, that's not too big of a task.

    But when they move into shrub bed care, or herbicide use around trees, that immediately opens-up upwards of 500 to 1000 likely genus and variety potentials. To apply herbicides right, the plants from that huge pool of plant material which are not on the label, must be avoided.

    That's why the turf care is simplified. Fewer grass genus, and not a radical volume of turf weeds to ID.
  6. Surf'n'Turf

    Surf'n'Turf LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 326

    Many LCO's are simply lacking in sales/ marketing/ managerial experience and have never run a business...
  7. lawnmaniac883

    lawnmaniac883 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,613

    Bottom line:

    Most LCO's dont grow because A) They never expand into and develop a fleet of vehicles/have a large worker base. B) They think it will be better if they have 60 lawns by themselves rather than 300 with 2 crews.
  8. nobagger

    nobagger LawnSite Gold Member
    from Pa
    Messages: 3,065

    Amen to that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Our business is now under my wife's name (all legit and all) but damn! I fork out 7 bills a month plus her PITA new husband makes probably 50k as a welder and she still works p/t at a big insurance firm. But I always still hear "its so hard" bla,bla,bla. Then don't spend so much money on getting your nails and hair done every week to the tune of probably 100 bucks. GOD! Grow up B1tch!:mad: Sorry for the vent, I feel better now.:drinkup:
  9. jake65

    jake65 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 75

    Well, on that note. My wife owns a salon\spa, so we welcome those ex-wives needing that $100 expenditure every week:laugh: Anyhow, for me I plan and i emphasize PLAN on jumping ship from my full time job into full lawn service next spring depending if the numbers I need to quit are within my projection. Is it going to be risky? you bet!!. I will be working a business plan this winter to give somewhat of an accurate idea what needs to be done before the spring (you know, the numbers) I do have a handful of accounts at this time. I have the equipment I need to start full time. I plan on just mow and blow for the first couple years. I have about 20 lawns at this time lined up for next year. this is without advertising - just by word of mouth. I plan on doing alot of direct marketing in late winter\early fall. I don't want to fall into the trap of spreading myself out to thin with other services and promises i can not honor. I will have some overhead. MY Gravely was purchased with a 90 week no payment no interest until March 2008. I plan on taking $15000 out of my 401 to supplement what i used to make at my current job. I have alot of horror stories of young LCO's out there going belly up after there first or second year. I am sure there are numerous reasons for failure. Probably to many to list. I do plan on working with other contractors who can do the jobs I have that I have yet no experience with. Not sure if I should just contract them out or refer them, hoping for the same in return. Many of the small LCO's (in my area) do not hav the patience to stay small. They want to grow big, fast. Growing your business is a good thing, but you have to know yoour numbers. you have to be sales\business man as well. I do not have pipe dreams. I know it will take persistance, hard work, a business sense - and of course passion. You can read all you want on these sites and retain all you want, but you will never know how to recognize your mistakes and improve on them unless you go through it yourself. its great to read all the valuable info here and the real life issues and concerns with other LCO's as well. Well, I ranted long enough. thanks for all the great posts:)

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