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NOTABLE! Starting a lawn care service business

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Johnny boy

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21 and currently selling cars at the moment. I’ve got some money to throw at something. I just bought a used trailer and have some lawn equipment.

Got a pro website, branding, and I have decent copywriting skills for posting ads. Started with craigslist, Google AdWords and I’m on yelp and google maps. I posted just a single craigslist ad and in a couple hours had jobs booked for $200 for a few hours of work. I got 4 of them within a couple hours. I did this to test my market. (I bought the tools and trailer after this btw)

I’ll be hiring on some young guy for a summer job. I’ve got the LLC, business insurance, and I’ll be picking up a cheap truck from an auction (working in car sales helps).

I did a couple jobs myself on my days off, just to see how long it took and if there would be any problems, it was easier than I thought.

Once I hire on the kid, I’ll go with him on my days off from work until I can justify hiring another person.

My goal is to take over the local market with superior branding, smooth and time saving process, reliability and quality, all while being a fair price. Not cheap, just worth it. The first place I showed up to said “wow, you’re the only person out of 5 that responded and actually came...and your name isn’t Jose!” Haha!

I’ve calculated with driving around and dumping out the grass and time for breaks, the crew will be bringing in about 300-600 a day in revenue while costing me 130-260 depending on if I’ve got 2 guys or just 1, including gas. Subtracting other costs like insurance and everything else like expected repairs, I should be bringing in at least 100-300 per day worked per crew. 5 trucks = $1000 profit per day.

I advertise for all sorts of services in order to justify a higher “full service” price and upsell people that just want their lawn mowed. “Hey that concrete looks kinda gross, we offer pressure washing..and have you cleaned your gutters this season?” It REALLY helps having sales experience as I get started in this.

I’m doing this because I’ve got the money and nearly everything can be sold for at least what I paid for it. I can take phone calls and schedule things at first while I sell cars. Most of the day in car sales is doing very little.

The goal is to have multiple trucks, a physical location with an office, and a team for running the business while I’m off somewhere else, checking in every once in a while. I will NOT turn out like the 50 year old losers still selling cars here at the lot.

Anyone else do the same type of thing here? Did you struggle with employees being shitty? Did you struggle with difficulty getting jobs? Any experienced people with advice is helpful.

Not looking for permission or approval..I’m either looking for advice from people who’ve done it already or just giving a couple people something to think about if they’re on the fence about doing something similar.
 

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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Update: We are growing. Just bought a 2017 Tacoma. I have two trucks and two trailers now. The one crew is me and an employee. I'll be setting aside the simple properties and having my employee take them over in the other truck by himself. I will hire another employee to work with me so I can train him and maintain some quality control for the more picky customers.

Right now, our one crew is at 8,000 a month for 12 month contracts.

I am running facebook ads targeting women aged 25 and up, top 50% of income and living in our service area. I have spent $341 in ads and have signed up a yearly total of $19,000 (1,600/mo) in contracts over the last two weeks . I like that a lot. 40 conversations turned into 10 new customers. I'm assuming an LTV of what we get from only one year to be conservative, when in reality, it's a lot higher. My ROAS is huge right now. Even if they all cancelled after one year, my return on ad spend is over 5,000% and my profit margin is 35% (assuming I pay twice as much in labor since I'm doing some of the work myself).

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We have 50 customers on contract in total so far.

My goal for this year is to get to have two crews working full time. That will net me 80k profit (around 180k revenue) this year and I'll be able to fund a 3rd and 4th crew much easier.

I think it's possible if I dump enough money into facebook ads and they can provide an acceptable return from now until July.

I'm just enjoying taking it one step at a time. One more customer. One more employee. One more crew. One more location. One more state. It'll take time but I'm not in a rush.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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It's been a little over a year since I had the idea to get into this business. It'll be one year since registering with the state for my business license on July 5th. So I'll say right about now has been a year since I started. (I'm getting a cake for my business' birthday party for July 5th)

A year ago, I had never started an official business. I had never hired an employee. I had never dealt with taxes aside from getting a return through turbo tax from my regular job. Before I started this business I sold cars for one year. Before that I had played college baseball for a couple years. But one year ago when I started this thing, I was living at home, using pretty much every dollar I had to pay for new equipment or pay for employees to do the work. Sometimes getting phone calls from the bank from a negative allowance, with a phone bill being threatened to be shut off, and nobody calling for work.

But, I've always felt extremely lucky. I've always stumbled upon great lessons early on and made the right mistakes to learn the best lessons from so I don't have to wait until I'm 40 to finally learn them. I may always stretch myself thin and take more risks than any normal person would take, but I know it's helped me more than it's hurt me.

The more I taste, the hungrier I get. I feel like my life is a tuned up car with 400 horsepower and I'm begging for a bottle of nitrous to go faster. My whole life I've always felt I was never where I needed to be. When I was a baseball player, I was just "playing baseball", but never felt like that's who I was. That feeling went with me everywhere and I felt like I was playing a role in whatever I did. Not with this, though. Took me a while to realize that I really was just made to be in business.

I never knew what I really wanted because no goal felt good enough. I wasn't motivated because the end result just didn't excite me. But what I'm doing now and the visions I have for it excite the hell out of me and fire me up.

And I'm so excited because what I'm doing isn't the type of path that creates quick returns and fizzles out, like a music career or a sports career. Be great, make a couple mil, fade away into obscurity... This isn't some quick scheme like throwing some cash into bitcoin. This is a business. A steady, long-term, compounded growth type of business that'll be so much less likely to shrink than other types of income. And damn it's fun.

I like to make decisions that I'll be proud of looking back, and usually that means disregarding fear. I started focusing heavily on making decisions that scared me a few years back and it has paved the way for everything. I'm extremely proud of trusting myself, walking confidently when I couldn't see where I was stepping, not listening to others and only listening to my gut, not losing confidence when there was zero evidence that anything would work, making the hard decisions when I had the opportunity. It just reinforces that nobody's voice will ever matter to me.

When you start out, there's a lot of things that you're afraid of that would "devastate" you. There's a lot of harsh things that are tough to accept. There's a lot of "worst fears" that you find out are completely true and I think growth is about being able to handle them. If I had known that yes, it will take tons of work and yes, I will have to dedicate myself fully towards this and yes, I will have to change everything about myself to accomplish anything...I might not have done it because those were my worst fears. Eventually the dream itself forces you to make a decision and change something, yourself or your goals. And I'll be damned if I ever change my goals. It's like my dreams have killed my old self. I won't let the reverse be true. I'll always try the easy way first because sometimes it works and you find a nice way of doing things, but if I have to, I'll do whatever it takes.

If I could say what I want from life, I want it to be visceral. I hate the mundane and routine. I hate the safe and ordinary. I want to almost die a few times. I want 200mph and I want the windows down as I do it. I want to do all the things others are too chicken shit to do themselves. I remember when I was very young and I told my mom I thought I was either going to be a millionaire or be homeless and nothing in between.

365 days. That's all it's been. I've got nothing but time but I'm not going to waste it. Just like climbing a mountain. One step. Then another and so on. 1 foot at a time. Stop and enjoy the view every once in a while. Take a rest for a bit and then it's right back to the trail.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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If anyone wants to become an expert in marketing and sales, try to grow a lawn care company in the winter...

That said, contracts are rolling in now and once the schedule is all filled up, I'll hire two guys and add on more workers after that.

Maybe we can get another truck or two this year. This is the year to get as many customers as possible, do a great job and after this year have 50-100 people looking to continue their contract, allowing me to REALLY automate and then scale things for the year after.

12 month contracts are so nice. Recurring payments are so nice. Cancellation fees are so nice. Repetitive work each week is so nice.

Why my competition sucks:

1. They don't realize TERMS are QUANTIFIABLE. They think a $50 job scheduled for biweekly services is the same as a signed contract for biweekly services that cost $50. It IS different. The opportunity for customers to say "I change my mind" takes away a massive amount of revenue and leaves your schedule screwed up.

2. They don't realize the value of repetitive work. Repetitive work means mistakes get fixed by the next week and less mistakes are made. So you can hire cheaper labor because it's simpler work. Bad employees are your fault. If McDonald's and Walmart can hire idiots and make billions, so can you.

3. They don't understand the value perception that happens when you spread payments out to a subscription service that never changes throughout the year. We'll spend 45 minutes at a place and take 37 trips there throughout the year for all of our services. So we are there weekly for most of the year, but we charge only $250 a month. But the grand total is $3000. That's $100 an hour but many customers would shit bricks if we told them that's what we were charging. It's about perception.

4. They think the "fix" to these problems is commercial work, skilled projects, and unique services that are "profitable".

5. They can't automate their business because of the above "fix", and therefore can't scale their business very large.

6. They don't understand marketing. Their community doesn't care about lawn care. They buy lawn care because they don't care about it at all. You're not going to get followers on your instagram page for posting pictures of only lawns. Local businesses need to market like they are the mayor of their town, or the most popular person in their city. I have a podcast show that brings on local influences and businesses, which siphons off the local following these people have onto my page that's more about me than the business. I plan to have a marketing manager for each location to be the face of the company in each city. I don't even think I want each location to have the same name. Local businesses only need to be known locally.

7. They also think the "fix" for having a shitty business is to take on any and all work. The problem is their acquisition of customers. "We can't only do one service because not enough people would sign up". Sounds like a marketing problem, you lazy loser.

8. They buy big machines and trucks. What's the ROI of a fancy truck? Does it help you get more customers because you look "official"? Get your 2018 F150, I'll buy a $4,000 truck with a good engine and dump the rest into facebook ads. We'll see who wins. And good luck trying to accommodate the customers that have walkways and gates that won't fit your mower that costs more than my truck. Also, how are you going to grow your business if you need way more money to expand. You need $50,000 to add another crew. I need like $7000.

9. They don't understand cash flow. My payments come in at the beginning of the month before any work has been done. Plenty of time to pay for things, pay employees, maybe add another crew... you think "the money is in commercial work"??? They slow pay like nobody else.

10. They didn't read TMF.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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lake.jpg

All customers are on signed contracts for regular services. I work 4-5 hours a day and I'm moved out. Living on Lake steilacoom in Lakewood, WA. Not bad for a 1st place at 22. Here's the dock and patio.

lake1.jpg

I will add on more customers, save up for an extra month, buy another truck, and hire on workers and use that month to add on customers to my own schedule so I don't do the same thing as last year; sit around and be lazy but feel cool for not working. It was just feeding my ego being only a boss, but it wasn't feeding my bank account or the growth of my business. There are not enough margins at the moment to have workers do everything, pay for me to live, AND grow the business. I need to kickstart it myself a bit more before I can purely manage AND grow it.

It's the mcdonalds of lawn care. Here's your mower, here's your weedwhacker. Go where the ipad in the truck says and do what the ipad says to do at that property. If it says you need to put down "ABC fertilizer" on setting "6", then you do it. I'll pay 15/hr for two people that can each drive if needed. Two people a crew means redundancy. At first the redundancy is just me, but it will work fine having multiple crews with 2 people in each. If there are absences I can offload a job from the light crew to the full crew's schedule.

As I grow, I'll have a secretary scheduling and dealing with customer service, scheduling, data entry, etc. I will eventually hire a manager for a single location and build up another location 15-20 miles away.

My goal is to build a chain out of this business.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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I violates the commandment of scale.
If 500 people called me and wanted to sign up, I could quote them online, collect their credit card info, spend 3 hours writing out the schedule for them, run their first payment, use that as a down payment with a private loan to purchase 14 trucks, trailers and equipment, and rent a empty lot to park everything, and I could hire the workers within a couple of weeks using temp agencies, Craigslist, Indeed, etc. And then I have a +1 mil / year business operating at a 40% profit margin. It would not be the easiest couple of weeks but I could do it.

But yes, ebooks scale better. I'll keep that in mind.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Update:

Lately we've just been getting work done and will be wrapping things up within the next couple months for the season. Will still be receiving regular payments from customers throughout the winter.

This has been the best year of my life. I've met with tons of people from this forum. I grew my business and maintained contracts that I signed up this spring. I spent many, many afternoons sitting out on a dock in sunny weather looking out over the water thinking about how lucky I am.

This was the year that I have "found" my purpose. It's not "mowing lawns", but I'm born to be a businessman. This shit gets me fired up and I'm addicted to it.

I am looking to scale the business up more since it has gone so well this year. I only need another truck+trailer+set of equipment (more would be even better). I've had to turn away customers and not scale up our marketing because I couldn't comfortably get 2 crews working without worrying about cash flow temporarily.

I would like to put out some feelers to see if anyone is interested in at least pointing me in the right direction to pursue funding options. The business is doing well, we have long term contracts with our customers, we have a dialed in online marketing strategy, and the business operations are surprisingly scalable. I can manage it without even leaving my bed 95% of the time if I choose to. Since the profit margins are relatively large, I am more than comfortable with a relatively high interest rate to attract investors. I have collateral as well if necessary.

Things have been great. I've been having an amazing time growing this thing. I appreciate the support I've gotten on here in just a year, and I'm looking forward to seeing many of you at the summit coming up.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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For the last couple weeks, I've worked about 4 hours each week while my employee worked. My business brings in enough to pay for expenses, an employee working full time, and all of my personal expenses. In the winter, I will have an extra 3000-3500 each month because I will have the same revenue without an employee or work to do so no gas or other expenses. That is if I do pretty much no work at all. I could just sit on the dock and relax all summer, get a second truck in the winter, sign up lots of customers and have two crews working full time next year and continue not doing the actual work. However, my brain gets weird when I don't work. It just turns off, gets foggy, and I become stupid and unhappy. It's funny that I'll dream about doing nothing like in office space, and then when I can do nothing, I hate it.

So instead of being lazy, I am going to sign up more customers, help my employee work and get done early in the day so I can make more money, get my blood moving each day, get done around 4pm and still get to enjoy the lake. I'll grow, have more money to save up for a rainy day and get to a second truck by this year possibly. If I can get to two trucks working full time, this winter will be quite an experience. It'll be more money than I've made in a year in a couple of months without doing hardly any work. I'll have 2 weeks off, then 8 weeks off just two weeks after that.

As I was writing this, I thought about what I'm going to do this winter and the answer is a rickshaw run . I like making decisions fast like that and I did the same when I decided to climb Mt.Rainier and bungee jumping so this is no different. It'll give me something to work towards and focus on.

another update: just paid for my ticket. I forgot you need a team lol.

image1 (4).jpeg
 

Ken Elshoff

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There was a dude in a facebook group I belong to and he owned a lawn care business.

He split tested yard signs, testing out 'pitches', then he tracked which sign generated the most calls. That became his control. So, he replicated it and then tested different 'offers', tracked results, replicated the winner and then split tested colors.

Anyway, this culminated in him creating the ideal sign based on all of his split tests.

Once he had the winning combination, he made a bunch of signs --replicas of the winning combination -- and placed them around town.

It resulted in 60 new customers in 4 days.

I'm going to try to upload it in this post so you can see the ultimate, kick-a**, winner of several splits tests, amazing, business generating sign.... :)

PS. He said the phrase "dirt cheap" DID NOT attract low-budget callers. In fact, I am pretty sure he quoted his normal prices to caller s....and almost no one realized -- or cared -- that he was charging MORE than his competitors. So, dont be a scaredy cat ...and at least test it out.

PPS. Yes, Dirt cheap is a pun relating to the dirty business of lawn care. That's clever.

PPPS Yes, the black and yellow color scheme speaks to the subconscious mind as being a legit business.....because people will relate it to the yellow pages.
 

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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Update:

I've created an automated sales process and will be relying on it from now on. Here is how it works.

New phone number, when you call or text the number, it gives a greeting and sends you an automated text message to visit our website for a "quicker quote that saves time". That's the number I advertise with. No random calls catching me off-guard at random times.

On the website, it has a simple page that uses social proof and good design to entice the visitor to click a button labeled "get started".

The button opens a popup quiz that segments the visitor based on what they are looking for and then sends them to a form to fill out their information for a "fast and easy quote". The information adds them as a contact in my CRM and sends them to a sales page based on their answers to the quiz, so each customer gets a sales pitch that sells to them differently.

They then get an automated email welcoming them and sending them a link allowing them to schedule a convenient time to schedule a phone call that has their quote and pricing information based on their square footage.

I get an alert that I have a sales call scheduled for a certain time and I take a look at their property on google maps to see what price I'll quote them. The customer is sold to in an efficient manner and I never have to waste time visiting them, remembering to save their info, selling our services to them. Only a 10 minute call on a customer that understands our services and is usually ready to buy. I can do this remotely. And since each customer signs up for a year long contract, I'm generating about $3,000 in revenue to come in over the next year in a quick phone call.

I use automated systems such as "survey slam" for my survey, "Active campaign" for my emailing, and "calend.ly" for my scheduling.

And since we only sell one service, I don't have to listen to their bs about how they want us to only come every other week, or that they just want us to mow and nothing else, or how they want us to clean their gutters too. Nope. We are a professional company and this is what we offer. When it is advertised that way, it seems the customer forgets all about the custom work they wanted and just says "okay, that's worth it".

The entire process is smooth, professional, and makes the customer think "this must be a very high quality company". It follows a similar process as large companies like Trugreen, Lawnstarter, Lawn Love, etc...

I can pay for ads, sit back and focus my energy on better things while automated leads are brought in and sold for me.
 

Ken Elshoff

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Also, if "bandit signs" (like the yard sign I posted above) are allowed in your community, then remember this hard lesson I learned: people LOVE knocking down your signs, especially if they are stapled to telephone poles (at busy intersections, of course).

So, consider using a tool like this: SignStapler.com so you can hang the signs high on poles, well out of the reach of pedestrians.

NOTE: Its not my company and i am not affiliated with them. Just know that they exist. You can build your own replica, too. I think there are instructions on youtube.

PS Also, most states/counties have traffic studies done every few years. They often post them online. Find the traffic study for your county so you can see which roads have the most average traffic daily so you can place your signs at super busy intersections.
 

million$$$smile

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I also had a lawn maintenance business for several years, so I'm going to throw in my 2 cents.

Yes, you can make a living in the lawn maintenance business, but it isn't as simple as it looks on paper.

Getting customers is not the problem. Anyone that has (a few) teeth and a mower can acquire customers, that is why you see so many 'gyppo' lawn maintenance guys running around. Most of them make a living, but a rarity if they are making a killing.

Biggest problems I ran into was help and the weather.

My business at the time was also in Washington State. Great to be mowing in June, July & August, no problemo. But anyone from the Pacific Northwest realizes that rain is the reason it is alway so green, (if you are west of the Cascades)

#1 Mowing in the 'wet' is a whole different game. If you don't mow in the wet, and you have considerable accounts ie. a schedule, you can get behind rather quickly. If you haven't tried blowing off wet grass from sidewalks yet or cleaning under the mowers from clogged wet grass, it is not what one envisioned lawn maintenance to be. It sometimes DOUBLES the time to mow the lawn and doesn't make employees happy campers, let alone the lawn looking like crap after the cut. That is one of the reasons it wasn't fun anymore. Workers not showing up due to the weather or showing up late or complaining and not having the best attitude. It is part of the job. Weather changes EVERYTHING.
Also, many customers don't like the fact that a lawn maintenance guy is pulling up at 7:30 at night when they are just sitting down to relax in front of the boob tube. with their favorite martini. Running a mower, blower, and weedeater outside isn't the way to make customers happy after 7. And when it rains for several days it backs up any schedule. Just a heads up.

#2. Anybody with an IQ of 30 can mow. The problem is keeping great help when you find it. Anybody worth their salt is going to have to have an incentive to work for someone instead of mowing their own set of lawns. I found it rather hard to keep good honest employees working for me. It can be done, but there is turnover. One of the two needs to be a responsible lead man and pay accordingly. He is taking on more responsibilities, ie. driving, and confirming everything was done correctly and will expect more. And that is if you can keep him. Also, I had the problem of one or two that would bid extra work from the customer on the side without telling me. I had one guy set up several accounts for thatching @ $100-200 a lawn and only found out by walking the lawn after the fact. How many he did, I'll never know, but I'm sure the rental companies recognized him.

Aside from those two issues, and knowing the correct way of mowing, you'll stay as busy as you desire.

BTW, there is usually better money in postage stamp lawns than large ones. I did extremely well in mobile home parks that specialized in retirees. All equipment off the trailer once and 6-8 lawns mowed saves a bunch of windshield time.

Good luck!
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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I've been lurking this forum for a little while, and I think it's more than just motivational. I need ideas too. I read the post on unsexy businesses, and I think lawn care qualifies.

I would consider this gold, however I think the idea proposed in this forum is a little optimistic, but achievable. I find it hard to believe someone with only car sales experience can suddenly jump into another industry, and find success in such a short period of time.

My approach is to spend appx 4k on a truck, appx 2k on a trailer, and 5k on used equipment found at auctions with cash. I won't launch the business until the spring of 2020.

I live in Michigan and wouldn't begin advertising until February. I would spend the next 2 months hanging bandit signs, knocking in doors, and cold calling. I would set up a website with paid ads, but nothing crazy. Possibly place ads on doors? I hear it's all about how effective the ad is itself


I would plan on operating as a sole entrepreneur for the first year to see how this goes. I would plan on getting 50 seasonal customers to keep me extremy busy the first year. 50 customers give, or take.

Hire employees if I'm winning after season 1?
My tips right now are

1. Recurring services only and make a “plan” they can sign up on

2. Contracts for everyone but make it a digital form they fill out and call it “terms and conditions” instead of shoving a 3 page contract in front of them and scaring them away

3. Use QuickBooks for recurring payments it’ll help make sure you have them by the balls because you’ll have their cards, and they won’t be able to ignore an invoice. It’s just automatically taken out.

4. Include cancellation fees in your contracts

5. The simpler the work, the less mistakes employees will make.

6. Get basic equipment like walk behind mowers. Less that can break. Easy to fix. Cheap, so it’s easier to grow to a second crew. Simple for the workers to use. Smaller lawns are more profitable anyways I promise.

7. You’ll feel like it’s impossible to sign anyone up and then boom, the grass starts growing and you get 10 calls every single day. Sign them all up. Don’t miss calls.

8. Craigslist posts and google is everything. Home adviser is good too but watch out for them sending too many leads at once you’ll have to pay for.

9. Your employee policy will be written from your first employees F*cking up in every way imaginable.

10. Your competition is mostly on the autism spectrum so be confident and keep your prices high. They’ve got few better options.
 

CPisHere

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Lawncare is a great little business that I think you could probably get to $150k/year revenue, with ~35% net margins only working 15 hours/week 9 months out of the year, but scaling above that is a challenge.

It's a mostly cash business, easy to start, and most of the competition is terrible. It's HIGHLY seasonal though, which makes employee management difficult. The main issue with scaling it are the logistics. Running 5 trucks/crews is NOT easy. Customers want to reschedule, employees calls in sick, etc.

Scaling obviously IS possible since it's been done before, it just isn't as easy as it might seem. If you don't scale, it's still a good source of income for not too much work, it just isn't worth much if you wanted to sell it.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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what is your winter / fall service? need something to do year round to combat crew turnover.......
Mowing (less frequently)
Leaf raking
Gutter cleaning
Pressure washing
Snow removal
Christmas lights

Good opportunity to upsell or keep customers too. Less difficulty acquiring customers if you sell to them year round.

Plus I can just hire a young guy or two that wants a summer job for the busy months and keep an older guy around to have a job year round.
 

Andrew W

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OK. First off, the most important thing not to do is weeding. Your employees will hate it, you will hate it (it will take forever to do correctly, more money out of your pocket), and lastly, there's no good way to price it aside from hourly work. It is just a really difficult thing to gauge how much work will be necessary to complete it.

The second things that you want to avoid are those overly crazy people who need their lawn "just so." If you come across someone like this, avoid the headache and just politely decline or something. Also insurance comes into play here, if the property is wealthy be sure not to break anything, it's risky man. Up to you though, some people like working until it looks perfect, if your workers are like that, more power to ya!

In general though, the most lucrative part of the business for us was just mowing. We offer a flat rate price at the beginning of the season specific to each customer's yard. Then we have a pay-as-you-go model, each time we cut, they would pay. The project work (weeding, mulching, etc.) are just not worth the time unless you can find some prices from some more established lawncare companies and see how they are doing it. Mowing is easy, weedwhacking is easy, and you can charge whatever you want. So say you charge $50, your people working the same yard at the same time can cut that yard in 1 hour and you'll be out of there quick and and ready for more lawn. You cannot do that with project work and slamming these huge numbers and project price estimates in their faces is a huge turn off unless you can back up your claims for that price.

Keep in mind, mowing is different from all other aspects of landscaping. Landscaping is to make the place look beautiful as the #1 motivator, mowing's motivator is time. People don't have time to mow so they'll pay you. Keep that in mind. Establish trust in your clients, if they ask something early on and they need it done ASAP, get your people there ASAP. You can slack later but the initial relationship needs that fire, if they think you are looking out for them, they will look out for you. GOOD LUCK WITH THIS!
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Update: victor did not let me down. The guy showed up, worked for 10 hard hours and didn’t complain.

Yes, the guy is a pothead loser, but I’ll be covered against theft or anything like that. Not too worried. He’s got a decent attitude though.

Today, the jobs brought in $525. My costs including every single thing (expected average cost of repairs over time, insurance, payroll, food and water during the jobs, gas, etc) were about $200.

Profit: $325 today. I did 30% of the work. Hiring on someone else I’d expect the productivity to stay the same though and costs to go up to $320 (payroll + rise of insurance). So my expected profit on a crew would be about $200 a day.

The problem: I work 5 days a week. I can only go with him on 2 days of the week. I do not want a worker doing it alone (especially this guy), so I’ll have to hire someone else if I want to bid jobs for more than 2 days of the week. I’ll have to be upfront that it will be only part time work for a couple weeks. The hard part will be finding someone to trust.

I still haven’t gotten a business only truck but that can wait a week. I am currently using an rough old highboy the family has owned for years.

All this and my LLC filing hasn’t even cleared yet. Once it goes through I can take online payments through my business accounts that I’ll set up so my employees won’t be handling cash.

Next steps:

1. Bid jobs for next week on days off
2. Buy a truck
3. Set up online payments/business accounts. Start bookkeeping for taxes.
3. Set up full insurance for equipment, truck/trailer, workers comp..etc
4. Bring on another worker to lead
5. Officially hire employees and set up payroll
6. Bid for days that I can’t be there and have workers take care of it
7. Reevaluate

Lessons so far:

1. Don’t break momentum by taking a day off
2. Fake it until you make it. Pretend to be big, schedule jobs you’re not sure you can even go to...just jump and figure out how to fly on the way down. It usually works out anyways.
3. Be a jack of all trades. I’ve been a graphic designer, a mechanic, a boss, a job estimator, a worker, a marketer, a salesperson...all this week.
4. Experiment with charging high prices (I charged $325 to do a cleanup this afternoon)
5. You have time. You don’t need a lot of sleep or time off.
 

minivanman

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The key to making more profit is to raise your price. And the key to raising your price is that if no one wants to pay your price, then stay out of that business. That has always been my way of doing business. When I first started in the carpet cleaning business I was charging $.50c a square foot. All the other guys in town were charging $.27c-$.32c a square foot. No one was charging over $.32c a square foot within several states. So basically I made over double the profit when all was said and done. I was a better salesman so I made more money. I went on every bid in person and that was part of how I was able to charge more. When I showed up, played with the kids and the dog while Bob the mower guy was only a virtual person, I charged more and got the job. Does it take more time to bid the job in person? Yes. Is it worth making double or triple the profit? Yes. Might you have to hire someone on commission to bid the jobs? Maybe.....

And to make a longer story as short as possible... the only way I knew what the other carpet cleaners were charging is because the guy I was buying my chemical from asked me what I charged and I told him. He thought I was joking at first. lol I've never went by any 'industry standards' in any business. I've always charged what I need to charge.... who cares what anyone else is charging?

Also, personally, residential is the only way to go. If you even think about commercial jobs, I'm with the guy above.... STAY OUT! Commercial is a bidding war to the bottom. Bigger mowers, big trailers, more fuel and... waiting 30-45-60-90-NEVER... on your money.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Just curious if you have a software for this, or if you manually optimize the routes/procedures.
I have 5 sections that shape my service area like a pizza and each area is serviced on a specific day. The properties only a couple of minutes away can be filled in any day to fill empty spots. So that optimizes routes pretty well.

The procedures are on an app called housecall pro. The ipad has it's own apple ID and email so its also the login email to an employee profile on housecall pro, so I can dispatch jobs to the ipad or whichever ipad is in each truck as I add more crews. And I can make the jobs recurring. I can also track the location of the ipad live and look at routes taken and track time on each job to see where there are inefficiencies or maybe the guys are wasting time. Each "job" can have notes and has an auto generated photo of the street view of the property to help identify the right house when arriving. I can include notes from the customer like if they want something done specifically during that visit or to make sure not to do something they don't want done. It's a better way to communicate with the workers when it comes time for that. It also helps having recurring services because workers will become more familiar with the properties and any errors can be corrected.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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@Johnny boy How important is a website in this type of service industry? I have found a niche in my local area that lacks good branding, website design, and general media presence. I know I could do much better than all of them.
Business is two things

Acquisition
Obligation

You get the work
Then you fulfill the obligation

A website is just a piece of the acquisition part of your business. It increases the conversion among people who become aware of your business and need the service. It will help you, but someone without a website could theoretically still kick your a$$ if they have other solid marketing practices.

In lawn care, people are desperate just to find someone who speaks English and has most of their teeth. You just need to throw up an ad on Craigslist and you’ll get work. Having a website is nice too. All that’s fine and dandy.

The secret is efficiently handling the “obligation” part of a lawn care business. Organizing the work to get it done efficiently and getting paid for the work on time. Your success will come down to whether or not you can have the right formula that will make you either a profitable company or a failing company. It has little to do with having a nice website. The simple decision to only take credit cards up front has been a hundred times more valuable to my bottom line than the quality of my website has. Think about that.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Update: customers stuck to their word and kept paying the whole winter without trying any shady shit like chargebacks on their credit cards. Had only a couple of issues but for the bulk of customers it was a very very smooth winter getting paid from everyone.

Currently in Bangkok. I've been traveling around a bit. I came to Thailand early December, went to India for a couple weeks in January (This is what I was doing... Rickshaw Run India - The Official Guide by The Adventurists), came back to Bangkok and heading to Honolulu tomorrow morning.

When I get back late February, I'll be starting up again with lawn care. I'll post the ads, hire the workers, and hopefully I'll have a 2nd crew out working soon.

I'm building websites to get enough cash for another crew. After the 2nd crew is out working a full schedule, I'll have enough monthly profit to add crews easily without any worry.

It's been a hell of a year. The summer was a fun time enjoying the lake, and I get to spend the winter in 90 degree weather with my girl. I'm excited to see how this season goes. Having lots of fun while still making progress towards my goals. I'm in no rush. It's a marathon.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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5 trucks is 12 to 14 employees.....

14 x 10 x 2 x 52 x 40 / 12 = 48.5 k rev needed per month......

Might want to put together a 12 mo P&L of 'running the company' in excel and test some of these assumptions before getting too far.....

It will help a lot.....
5 trucks is 10 employees. Paying them $12/hr for a month full time is 20,800. I expect a truck of two employees to get $400 worth of work done. Over 5 trucks that’s $2,000 a day. 20 days of that is $40,000 a month.

Each truck drives a max of 20 miles to and from the jobs (assuming I’m sending them to jobs that are nearby, and then a trip to the dump to drop off the lawn clippings for free) then that is 100 miles a day or 2,000 miles a month for 5 trucks. Let’s say gas is 3.50 a gallon and the trucks get 10mpg at worst. That’s 200 gallons and costs me $700 for gas. I think my rough estimate can include the machines too..considering they don’t use THAT much gas. Let’s be safe and round up to $800 a month total in gas.

Insurance on 5 cheap trucks is about 5,000 a year for liability. That’s under $500 a month. Liability for my employees can’t be too much from what I’ve been quoted by liberty mutual. Let’s throw in $1000 a month to be safe. $1,500 on the high side for insurance total.

I’ll have to pay depreciation for the vehicles and machines, unless I buy them for below market value used and keep them in decent condition. I can buy vehicles at auctions. I’ll expect to sell them for the same price I paid.

Repairs should not total more than an average of $200 a month. Even if an engine or two goes out on the trucks, it isn’t too much.

Let’s assume once every two weeks, an employee doesn’t show up and I miss out on one day of work. My revenue decreases by 8%. I’m bringing in 36,xxx a month.

I’ll want to advertise. I’ll spend $200 a month on advertising/branding/uniforms for my employees.

My costs are coming in under 24,000 and my revenue looks to be at 36,000. And that’s assuming only $400 a day of work done. If one truck of employees can hit at least one yard in less than an hour, factoring in breaks and traveling, I’ll assume they can do 7 in a day. Bi-weekly service for lawns should cost roughly $60 a session. That’s $420. If one person cancels a week then we are still over $400 average per day.

All I have to do is monitor my costs within a reasonable range of what’s expected, bid out jobs to be worth at least $60/hour of work for one truck of two employees, and be smart, I should be fine.

Some jobs are much better than a normal cut. For example, I’m going to mow down waist high grass for $200 this Wednesday. A machine I have should get the job done in 2 hours.

I’d only be charging people $120 a month for what I’m assuming in the above scenario. Some people I know well are charged $400 a month for services that only take an hour. Can you imagine the profit margins for that company?? The employees aren’t skilled either. It’s the same thing that I can offer.

To avoid overextending myself, I can sign up customers for long term contracts so I know I’ll have work to do.

It looks like a good business model.

Please tell me if my math was way off...

And of course I’ll be starting with just one truck.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

Platinum Contributor
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Update: currently booked up for more jobs than I can handle. I did a few jobs for practice and ironed out many things between theory and practice.

I learned it takes longer than expected for weeding and long grass, I changed my bidding accordingly.

Meeting a young guy today to hire on as a worker for $12/hr. He’s got 3 years landscaping/lawn care experience.

Will have to trust him for a week before I have the paperwork in place to officially “hire” him and insure him through the business. That shouldn’t put me at risk, just the customers and him. Having experience working somewhere similar helps with me trusting him a bit. I’ll call his previous employment obviously.

He’ll work part time until I’m fully booked. I’ll go with him on my days off and will show him how I want things done.

Still working at the dealership. I’m taking a “lunch break” to go to the interview today.

Will update more as things change
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

Platinum Contributor
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Lawn care or any other commoditized service is a great way to build up some savings to do something truly fastlane. It's better than most regular jobs (especially if you're younger).
I’m saving as much money as fast as possible. I just don’t like waiting around at work for customers to wander onto the lot, even if I am the best salesman.

Plus, I’ve never owned an LLC before. Now I have. Just like a couple years ago when I had never built a website before. Now I can build very very good websites in no time.

It’s about implementing ideas, adjusting, and moving quickly. That’s what I’m doing.

This business isn’t truly fast lane but it’s at least on the expressway.
 

minivanman

Platinum Contributor
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Sounds like you have a plan.... better than I had when I started. Funny I see this thread today because I was over in McKinney, Texas about 3 hours ago and saw a Citi Turf van. The owner of Citi Turf is THE man when it comes to lawn care marketing. So I drove on down the road and was going to stop and get me some chocolate milk (still a little kid inside lol) from the gas station. There were 2 lawn guys with trailers there so I walked over to one pickup that had his shirt hanging on his mirror to dry. I asked about Citi Turf and if it was hard to get business because of them and he said not at all. So I walk over to the other guy, ask the same thing and he said the same thing, not at all. I had several thoughts on this but I guess the main thing is that no matter how good you are at marketing and how good you try to make your company, in a service business, there will always be guys that can get just as much work as you.

Since you live very far away let me give you a little info about McKinney, Texas. It is one of the fastest growing places because of all the people moving to this area from all over the US, especially California. Very high priced houses. As for Citi Turf, you need to go to Youtube and type in lawn care millionaire. He also has a program called service auto pilot.... there are a few other programs out there besides his so don't just jump on what he has. There is one that I had thought about being a part of but decided not to but I'll be dang if I can't remember the name of it. His brother also has a Youtube channel. His brothers name is Andrew.

Now I don't know what all kinds of vehicles they have but I've been a van guy for YEARS and have tried to incorporate a van in about every business I've been a part of. So today when I saw his van, it has me to wondering if he tried a van because I had told him the benefits or for some other reason. Either way, I thought it was funny that they have vans to work out of..... no complicated trailer, easy ride for the equipment, easy access with ramps.
 

CPisHere

Silver Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
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Employees is definitely the hardest part of a service business. It took me a year to figure it out in my business. My turnover was insane, customer complaints were through the roof - now it's pretty smooth sailing!

First thing was I had get good at hiring. There's no simple answer here, it's just developed over time - spotting flakes, etc but the job ad you use also makes a big difference to who you attract. The second thing I had to do was get good at training/on-boarding, and I found the key was to create a bond right away & re-enforce why this was a great opportunity for them & our company values throughout the first week or two with lots of checking in. Once onboarded, it's easy to maintain that relationship & provide feedback.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Btw, I thought of a marketing ploy. Offer clients and their neighbors 5% off for each contiguous neighbor. That way you can do say ten lawns at once. The 5% is off each new price so for $50 full fee it would go
0 neighbors $50
1 $47.50
2 $45.13
3 $42.87
4 $40.83
...
10 $31.51 ea. Basically, you make $315 without having to move the truck
People don’t care about financial incentives like that. They tell their neighbor just because they like you and you speak English. Everyone gets a “discount”.

I used to think those incentive offers would help but I was overthinking it.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Applied for an EIDL (economic injury disaster loan) from the SBA the same day it went live. Now, I got approved for 24k over 30 years at 3%.

F6378A12-9158-4241-813E-A09984CCEDB1.jpeg

The loan was approved and I should be getting funds soon. I already have my second truck and trailer, and I’ll be putting a grand into the equipment for it. Then, I’ll be putting 2 grand into ads which are getting me a huge ROI. I should be able to fill up two crews worth of work and profit around 80,000 net 12 months from when they are at capacity. I’ll be able to take that and easily invest into a 3rd and 4th crew for 2021. At 4 crews I would net 200k+.
 

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