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Starting a lawn care service business

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Johnny boy

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Yes it is just wasnt sure about getting a $28,000 loan. I was skeptical about the possible hurdles that will have to be undergone each year for tax season.
It’s good for your business. It’s a “liability” that creates leverage to grow your business. Nothing better! If I could get into a billion dollars of debt I would
 
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Raja

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Bump!

Do you have savings or buffer for the business?
 

Kelvin Fernandez

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We offer a watering plan for an extra $30-$60/month for customers that don't have a sprinkler system that have smaller lawns. We bring in our own hoses, sprinklers and timers and set up the system to run automatically for them so they don't have to touch a thing and get a watered lawn all summer without paying for a sprinkler system. It's like leasing. The customer is responsible for damaged or lost equipment.

edit: everything is paid monthly for the whole year so nobody gets only a few months of our services. It's a full year paid at the beginning of each month starting in January. So even though it only needs water for a few months, it's being paid for the whole year. $350 a month for lawn care sounds better than paying $110 each time we come and most visits will be well under an hour.
Can you give me a picture of how the sprinkler system works? Do you dig trenches to install them? Or do you have surface sprinklers that you turn on and remove once it has been watered for the day?
 
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Johnny boy

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Can you give me a picture of how the sprinkler system works? Do you dig trenches to install them? Or do you have surface sprinklers that you turn on and remove once it has been watered for the day?
we don't mess with sprinklers anymore. Not enough customers care and it's been annoying for the ones that wanted us to turn on/off their sprinklers. We definitely don't install regular sprinklers. The original idea was to just have a timer attached to a hose splitter that has a couple of hoses that run along the side of the lawn and go to a couple of above ground sprinklers since it would be cheap, keep the lawn watered automatically, and would add some value to customers in a way that low-wage employees could do.

Here is our schedule for customers that are on a biweekly schedule (premium plan). These services are not mandatory for each month but on an "as-needed' basis.

Screenshot (8).png
 

afrankmore

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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.
I worked in yard service for many years, 90% percent of my co-workers were guys hired out of sober living houses or recovering drug addicts. Only maybe 3 out of maybe 20 are still actually clean, the others relapsed while on route..
 
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Johnny boy

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Love this thread!! OP Are you taking this winter off to travel?
No, I stayed in washington and got a night skiing pass so I could hang christmas lights during the winter months for extra cash and then go skiing in the afternoons. Thailand was nice and I got that out of my system for now.

I got a newer 2018 F150 so this spring I'll be going hard with the signups and we should double in size by june since we have the trucks and trailers needed.

I met up with David (aka gravy) last fall and we went over how to be as profitable as possible doing the christmas lights.

Now that the lights are done and our lawn services don't startup until mid February, I'll practice my skiing and get everything ready for the season to start.

The goal is to be around 24k a month by june with 4-5 employees and I'm doing 0% of the actual work. That would put my working hours at around 8 hours a week of doing only sales and around 8-9k a month in profit doing very little, which would let me put away enough money each month to grow very organically.

Up until this year it's been like this

Choose two:

a. Have other people do 100% of the work and have lots of free time
b. Make enough money for your lifestyle
c. Have enough money to grow the business

This year I'll be able to transition to having all three. I was sacrificing "a" by doing some of the work so I could save some money on employees and now I'll have enough full time crews to have the guys do 100% of the work while I handle sales.
 

JinderS

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I'm currently working on a side-business which requires a large amount of time upfront without any payoff for the foreseeable future. I'm thinking of copying your business model for Cleaning/maid Service in my town of 350,000 people in Sask, Canada. Have you considered offering cleaning services throughout the winter months?
 
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Johnny boy

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I'm currently working on a side-business which requires a large amount of time upfront without any payoff for the foreseeable future. I'm thinking of copying your business model for Cleaning/maid Service in my town of 350,000 people in Sask, Canada. Have you considered offering cleaning services throughout the winter months?
Two different businesses

Not in the foreseeable future no
 

Johnny boy

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Update:
2 crews rolling. I have 3 full time employees and some guys I had last year are coming back.

Last month (March) we signed up 22 people which added 4000 a month to our revenue in 12 month contracts (48k/yr)

The combo of having simple, black and white, repeatable systems with some elbow grease has been paying off. Customers NEVER complain and everything is dialed in.

From start to finish the customer experience is great. Great job on the phones, great job scheduling quotes, great sales process, quick and quality services, etc.

All of my employees are much higher quality than what I had before. I’ve become much more discerning in who I let into my company. Culture is very important.

We should hit 24-28k/mo at this rate of signing up customers.

Not too long ago it was getting pretty discouraging. Always remember that things get better, and results will lag behind the work you’re doing. And remember when things are better that they can just as quickly get bad again if you’re lazy. Always have the attitude that you’re broke and desperate. Work hard when you don’t need to or else you’ll eventually need to anyways. Just keep the momentum going.
 

Johnny boy

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Update:

21k/mo in revenue. I have 3 employees and I’ll be getting a 4th soon. Everyone’s working well and enjoying their jobs. I pay them 17-20 an hour and full time.

In May we will be trying to get to over 24k a month in revenue, and then replacing the least profitable customers with efficient small properties. We could likely get to 26k a month by summertime and all of our properties being easy with low maintenance easy-going customers.

At 24-26k a month our monthly profit should be anywhere from 12-14k a month. Plus, in the winter revenue stays the same and our expenses plummet, so for 4 months our monthly profit should be like 20k a month or so.

I’m estimating we are pacing a yearly profit of around 180,000 if we can get to our revenue goal which it looks like we might surpass it.

The goal for this year is to now just keep the customers happy and paying each month until next year, and then to double in size again. Next years goal is to get to over 48k a month in revenue, take home around 20-24k a month profit and finally purchase a commercial property for the business and put down some roots.

In other news I got some flying lessons and got to fly around the Puget Sound recently. Definitely worth it!



B2A8B708-A634-44E3-9C0B-6C0EFD5BFF31.png
 
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Brrr

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Not too long ago it was getting pretty discouraging. Always remember that things get better, and results will lag behind the work you’re doing. And remember when things are better that they can just as quickly get bad again if you’re lazy. Always have the attitude that you’re broke and desperate. Work hard when you don’t need to or else you’ll eventually need to anyways. Just keep the momentum going.
100% with you on this one, it's nice to see people grinding out an IRL business.

I'm also incredibly impressed with your profit margins, congrats on that. Excited to see how you handle the next phases of growth.
 

Johnny boy

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Swamped with customers and we are nearly at capacity for both crews. Sneaking up on 24k/mo revenue soon.

Now it's time to replace the least profitable customers.

Our dispatching software shows me how long the guys spend at each property. Factoring in driving time, materials, time spent at the property, and number of customer requests/complaints will help me decide who to remove from our schedule, and it gives me an idea of which customer types and which property types we should focus in on.

Our biggest sources of new customers have been an exceptionally high ranking on organic google search results, and then ads on thumbtack, craigslist, and facebook. Surprisingly facebook has been worse than last year. The secret isn't one place to advertise, it's about being everywhere. This time of year about 80% of people we gave quotes to have told us something along the lines of "I couldn't even get a call back from the 15 other places I called, you guys not only answered the phone, but a nice lady talked to me and scheduled a quote the same day". So the secret really is just answering the phone in this industry, which is only possible since we have repeatable, easily managed, scalable systems in place. I pay more than a car payment each month for software and systems for our phones, email, dispatching, billing, etc. Get a lot of customers, so you can be pickier and be more profitable, so you can pay your employees well and afford nice systems, so you can advertise and be available when all those customers call.

Growing something with employees is such a ride. I deeply appreciate everyone who helps each and every day with the business. I tell every person within our small company daily that I appreciate everything they're doing and I pay them above average and nearly all decisions I make are with them in mind.
 

sparechange

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Swamped with customers and we are nearly at capacity for both crews. Sneaking up on 24k/mo revenue soon.

Now it's time to replace the least profitable customers.

Our dispatching software shows me how long the guys spend at each property. Factoring in driving time, materials, time spent at the property, and number of customer requests/complaints will help me decide who to remove from our schedule, and it gives me an idea of which customer types and which property types we should focus in on.

Our biggest sources of new customers have been an exceptionally high ranking on organic google search results, and then ads on thumbtack, craigslist, and facebook. Surprisingly facebook has been worse than last year. The secret isn't one place to advertise, it's about being everywhere. This time of year about 80% of people we gave quotes to have told us something along the lines of "I couldn't even get a call back from the 15 other places I called, you guys not only answered the phone, but a nice lady talked to me and scheduled a quote the same day". So the secret really is just answering the phone in this industry, which is only possible since we have repeatable, easily managed, scalable systems in place. I pay more than a car payment each month for software and systems for our phones, email, dispatching, billing, etc. Get a lot of customers, so you can be pickier and be more profitable, so you can pay your employees well and afford nice systems, so you can advertise and be available when all those customers call.

Growing something with employees is such a ride. I deeply appreciate everyone who helps each and every day with the business. I tell every person within our small company daily that I appreciate everything they're doing and I pay them above average and nearly all decisions I make are with them in mind.

I've had thoughts of being pickier with my own business of delivering my products, apartment buildings give me business PTSD when trying to dial the wrong numbers on an order form on the keypad or getting no answer.

Residential is simple, type in the address on my phone and drop off the package and vanish like the wind, but the waiting in apartments is a hassle. Funny little story, I was doing sample runs and arrived at an apartment around 8 or 830pm ish.

Buzzed the apartment building and let them know I have their order, they said try again tomorrow we are just getting ready for bed. Yes thank you for making me come all the way down here to give you a free sample at my own cost for materials, delivery and more importantly my time.

Good job on your success man, how much time do you spend personally on admin stuff? Seems like you are fairly hands off and ''divorced'' from the business in terms of time.
 

Johnny boy

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I've had thoughts of being pickier with my own business of delivering my products, apartment buildings give me business PTSD when trying to dial the wrong numbers on an order form on the keypad or getting no answer.

Residential is simple, type in the address on my phone and drop off the package and vanish like the wind, but the waiting in apartments is a hassle. Funny little story, I was doing sample runs and arrived at an apartment around 8 or 830pm ish.

Buzzed the apartment building and let them know I have their order, they said try again tomorrow we are just getting ready for bed. Yes thank you for making me come all the way down here to give you a free sample at my own cost for materials, delivery and more importantly my time.

Good job on your success man, how much time do you spend personally on admin stuff? Seems like you are fairly hands off and ''divorced'' from the business in terms of time.

In the mornings I get up, have some bacon and coffee, and make the schedule for the day. Takes about 5-10 minutes. I check emails, enter in new customers into the system, charge their cards, put them on our recurring billing system, etc. that takes about 3 minutes per customer.

Then, I head out and go to work. I drive one of the trucks and train the newest employee and make sure everything looks good. I have the more complex jobs on my schedule. Once I purchase a 3rd vehicle (or fix up my old car) I’ll keep the 2 trucks parked at the lot and the guys will be working alone.

I then give quotes from 4-6pm and come home around 6-7.

So right now I work 10-12hr days. I’m not trying to 4-hour workweek this thing right now. I’m busting my a$$ at the moment.

But pretty soon it’ll transition to where the guys work alone and there’s nothing left to do but make sure employees are happy and the work is getting done.

Theoretically once I have another vehicle to drive as my personal car and the guys work alone, I will work for probably an hour a day and make like 13-17k a month.

With that said, I still have no problem heading in to cover someone who couldn’t make it in that day. Life happens and people aren’t machines.

So no, right now I am not a passive owner but that’s because I need to go buy another truck.
 
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Johnny boy

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Just purchased a third truck. At least I think so. CarMax says I’m approved and I’ll be signing papers in a couple weeks when the truck gets here.

We hit our monthly revenue goal already and it’s not even June. We are at 25k a month in contracts now and still giving quotes. We are currently replacing the least profitable/complaining customers with more profitable easier jobs. I think 26/mo will be close to our max. So we are now pacing a smooth 300k in yearly revenue.

We have 4 good full time employees now. With that 3rd truck on the way I should be able to step back and let the guys work. And use that truck as my personal vehicle so I don’t need to be driving around anymore.

My typical day will be about 2 hours of admin work once that truck gets here. I’ll be able to spend more time in the gym, and taking care of all the little things I’ve been putting off for too long. It’ll be nice to not have to put on boots everyday. It’ll be me and my girl sitting on our dock drinking mojitos again.

I should be profiting around 14k a month with very little management since the guys are trained up. That’ll put me in a good spot to start putting some extra money away instead of always having 0 savings.

Next year the goal is to get to 4 crews and 50k a month in revenue and get our first real commercial property where we’ll have enough room to grow more and have more control.
 

Itizn

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Great work.

Let me ask you this. For a business that has a pretty low entry barrier, to what do you attribute your explosive success?

I feel like you'll say what separates you from the competition is your no-nonsense, customer-centric approach all the while ensuring that your employees, equipment, prices, and the actual job done is top shelf.

Have I got the gist of it, or am I off-base?
 
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Johnny boy

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Great work.

Let me ask you this. For a business that has a pretty low entry barrier, to what do you attribute your explosive success?

I feel like you'll say what separates you from the competition is your no-nonsense, customer-centric approach all the while ensuring that your employees, equipment, prices, and the actual job done is top shelf.

Have I got the gist of it, or am I off-base?
I say NO to a lot of stuff

I am not customer centric. We are not top shelf.

We use $400 mowers. My guys are 19 years old and experience is not necessary.

We do small properties, residential only, very quick jobs, lots of them a day, and we charge a lot of money. The work comes out to an effective rate of a couple hundred bucks per hour. I am a reseller of labor. Buy it at a low price and sell it at a higher price.

I am scalability centric. We are the McDonald’s of lawn care. We will be ubiquitous as them too in the US hopefully.

We have a customer service person, run great ads, have a great site, and a great salesperson. That helps too.

also, I would not call this explosive success. It’s been three years of busting my a$$. I don’t even have a million yet. I am practically a slowlaner
 

Johnny boy

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Over the last month we have been replacing the least profitable customers and increasing profitability. Staying right around 24-25k a month but all properties are great and customers complain very little. The guys work fast and it's low stress. They get paid well and enjoy their jobs. I think you need to give people a reasonable standard that's 'good enough' and not focus on squeezing every ounce of profitability out of employees. Have good systems and your employees will like working. One thing we do is if they finish all the jobs early, they can head home. They get paid for the full 8 hours though, as long as there isn't a trend of customer complaints. They think I'm the most generous man alive, when in reality they are just becoming more profitable and are attributing it to my kindness. I still spend the same on payroll either way, whether they are hourly and working slowly with no accountability, or they are incentivised and work faster. I could stuff their schedules and leave 0 margin for error and make them hate their jobs, but then the business is at risk of employee turnover, falling behind on the schedule and pissing off many customers.

With that third truck I'm able to just let the guys work. I set up the schedule each morning and make sure everyone's off to a good start and then I say to my girlfriend "hey babe, what should we do today?"

My job is to be ready for problems and respond to them, and be the backup person to cover in case of emergencies.

I'll continue to put the money I make back into the business. Making sure things are well-oiled and running well. I'm not going to let my lifestyle creep into being more expensive for a while. I still have to save to get to 4 crews running next year. Why spend money today when my income could be doubled next year if I continue to be patient?

I've been using my free time to go to the gym, tan, clean up some stuff around the house and have more mental space cleared up to just think about what I should do next with the company. Working ON it, not IN it.

Thinking about hiring someone part time and having them work doing some other random service they could use their own truck for and do it under a different business name, that way if I need a guy as an emergency I could call him up and say "hey, no pressure washing today, we need you mowing lawns". Then we are not at risk of having any guys missing from the crews. Long term I could see that being a strategy as well. Have one crew that isn't meant to be very profitable, just there doing one time jobs that we can pull guys from to be on our full time maintenance crews if we are down a guy or two. Then we can have more flexible schedules and let people call out sick or take vacations without stressing about it, and without having extra people on payroll that are purely an expense.
 

Private Witt

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I love your when the work is done can go home policy and still get paid 8 hours. Your employee loyalty is probably way above the norm. As a former 9 - 5er I remember sitting there thinking what the hell am I doing here when it takes me 2 - 4 hours to get my tasks done 100% properly and spending the rest around the water cooler BSing the day away.

Not to be a downer, but I was a big get tan guy in my 20s when I lived in Hawaii and looked way better than the ghost I am now, but the skin cancer surgeries I now have to get in my late 40's has turned me into a vampire and avoid direct uncovered sun contact to the skin at all costs.
 
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Brrr

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Nice one, I found a really similar thing with my production guy, he's made the business twice as efficient on production and so I am happy to pay him the 40 hour week even if it was 35 in reality. Just as long as the work doesn't get sloppy.

We have a lot of variance in work demand and lots of teenagers working a few days a week and I've just started using some software called RotaCloud. On top of the usual rota, it lets you create "open shifts" that anyone can "claim" after they get the notification. It's made it really, really nice to manage people's hours and everyone is happy to pick up extra work here and there. I think the girls can also swap shifts with each other on the app and it tracks the hours they've worked at the end of the month.

Might not work for you, but I would recommend something like this if you know people that want to do work every now and then but where it is not practical to employ them fully.
 

Johnny boy

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Not to be a downer, but I was a big get tan guy in my 20s when I lived in Hawaii and looked way better than the ghost I am now, but the skin cancer surgeries I now have to get in my late 40's has turned me into a vampire and avoid direct uncovered sun contact to the skin at all costs.
yeah just trying to get rid of the farmers tan lines is all lol.

We have a lot of variance in work demand and lots of teenagers working a few days a week and I've just started using some software called RotaCloud. On top of the usual rota, it lets you create "open shifts" that anyone can "claim" after they get the notification. It's made it really, really nice to manage people's hours and everyone is happy to pick up extra work here and there. I think the girls can also swap shifts with each other on the app and it tracks the hours they've worked at the end of the month.
I will keep that in mind. Things change with size and it may be something we use in the future.
 

Johnny boy

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The goal is to be around 24k a month by june with 4-5 employees and I'm doing 0% of the actual work. That would put my working hours at around 8 hours a week of doing only sales and around 8-9k a month in profit doing very little, which would let me put away enough money each month to grow very organically.

As of now:

4 employees working full time, 2 crews.
I have worked a couple hours the last few weeks. Employees doing 100% of the work
Revenue is 25.5k a month in contracts (275k a year)
Business expenses are roughly 12k a month.
13k a month profit roughly. Saving money for taxes.
Next year we want to hit 4 crews and 50k a month revenue.

The only thing I would've changed would be going back in time to tell my 18 year old self to focus on building credit. I would really love to waltz into a bank and get a 100k credit line and scale the business but I have to do much of it organically. Very annoying.

The plan is to just add more crews, secure a better business location where we can control the whole property and have an office there for customer service employees to work (should happen next year). Then we can get to around 8-10 crews within a year or two, I'll hire a manager, get another location and repeat the same thing a little more north towards Seattle. Then we'll keep adding locations. The Mcdonalds of lawn care. I always do the math in my head and it keeps me focused. ("1000 customer is 12 crews, 12 crews is 72k a month profit. Just a thousand people would make me 864,000 a year. There's gotta be 1000 people around here that need their lawn mowed")

Lots of people think the answer is to create some software, make it an app, advertise nationally and sub out the work to contractors. There are a few companies that do this and they suck. It's because this type of work needs to be done by trained employees, by a solid company that has good systems and built on a foundation of rock, not sand. We are not an app or a lead gen business, and that's why we will succeed long term. These uber of ____ businesses are stupid and cannot thrive long term.
 
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Metz

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As of now:

4 employees working full time, 2 crews.
I have worked a couple hours the last few weeks. Employees doing 100% of the work
Revenue is 25.5k a month in contracts (275k a year)
Business expenses are roughly 12k a month.
13k a month profit roughly. Saving money for taxes.
Next year we want to hit 4 crews and 50k a month revenue.

The only thing I would've changed would be going back in time to tell my 18 year old self to focus on building credit. I would really love to waltz into a bank and get a 100k credit line and scale the business but I have to do much of it organically. Very annoying.

The plan is to just add more crews, secure a better business location where we can control the whole property and have an office there for customer service employees to work (should happen next year). Then we can get to around 8-10 crews within a year or two, I'll hire a manager, get another location and repeat the same thing a little more north towards Seattle. Then we'll keep adding locations. The Mcdonalds of lawn care. I always do the math in my head and it keeps me focused. ("1000 customer is 12 crews, 12 crews is 72k a month profit. Just a thousand people would make me 864,000 a year. There's gotta be 1000 people around here that need their lawn mowed")

Lots of people think the answer is to create some software, make it an app, advertise nationally and sub out the work to contractors. There are a few companies that do this and they suck. It's because this type of work needs to be done by trained employees, by a solid company that has good systems and built on a foundation of rock, not sand. We are not an app or a lead gen business, and that's why we will succeed long term. These uber of ____ businesses are stupid and cannot thrive long term.
Keep killin' it, dude!

I'm curious (and apologize if you've already answered this) but how do you break down your profit? For instance, how much do you reinvest back into the business vs. how much do you pay yourself with? Are things like advertising and your own salary built into business expenses or how do you structure that?

Just wondering because I'm all about all the math you do so I wonder how you calculate that out.
 

David Fitz

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Jan 30, 2020
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Ireland
Nice thread and great progress over the years.

Are you the guy MJ mentions in his book about having monthly subscriptions for customer to cut their grass?

Also, what do you do in winter?

I have a cleaning biz here in Ireland and winter gets pretty rough and business dips a lot.
 
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