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NOTABLE! Starting a lawn care service business

minivanman

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Dang, you won't disclose a state yet you want him to bake you a cake and eat it for you too?
 

Carlitos

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Dang, you won't disclose a state yet you want him to bake you a cake and eat it for you too?
I am not sure what the issue is but I happened to make 2 different posts to 2 different members. Fairly I believe I gave OP enough points with me currently working in the industry to help him out, not sure what is OP going to loose with not knowing where I currently reside which I decided to disclose it now.
 

Veloman

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I just posted a Craigslist ad and threw up a number of two months revenue. Assets were equipment, brand, customer accounts which were not under contract, web domain name. I had a lot of responses. Even with no employees. About 120 accounts, basic lawn mowing. Mow edge blow.
I met with the buyer a few times and worked a few hrs with me then decided to purchase. We filled in a generic purchase agreement which had payments in installments over 3 weeks that he and his helper worked with me.
We weren't too formal with it all. I had been doing it for 2 years.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Okay, believe it or not I have some experience in this field. I have been running a relatively successful lawncare business for a while. It is not really a business so to say, it is more of a side job that I operate with a buddy of mine. If you have any questions about the actual work end of the spectrum (i.e. mowing, weeding, mowing in rain, etc.) don't hesitate to ask. I have a few seasons of this under my belt. Shoot away and I'll answer as soon as possible. Like I said though, I can't really help with the business end of it, but perhaps I can help with the amount of work, and what you're looking for in a client etc. Cheers!
What did you stop doing that you did when you initially started?

Example: “I used to do large jobs but found small jobs to be more efficient” or “I used to take most jobs but changed to only taking certain types of jobs”.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Update: a kid replied to my job ad and said “I will not let you down”. He’s kept in touch. I’ll be working all day Thursday and told him I’ve got $100 waiting for him if he can come work. He’s got experience in landscaping and he needs a job.

I’m checking out a used truck for $2000 tomorrow. Should be decent for what I need. Gotta use my lunch break to go to the bank tomorrow.

Already have the trailer and equipment for a small team. Bought the more expensive stuff used.

On “job” days I do the lawn business from 7pm-9pm after work and on my “off days” I work from 8am-9pm for the lawn business. I’m working 80 hour weeks right now but let’s be honest, you don’t do much work as a car salesman. Still, I’m busy to the point where I often forget to take off my shoes before falling asleep..not good haha.

If the kid follows through on his promise to “not let me down”, I’ll have no problem scheduling more jobs next week. I can spend my off days bidding and looking at jobs in person instead of working my off days. We’ll see...
 

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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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!
So true with the weeding. My second job I did was weeding. I spent 4 hours on it and said “F*ck this”. It seemed like a somewhat hard job but at least I charged $200 for it. I’ll have to finish up on Thursday and I’ll be bringing an employee to do it with me.

And I’ve been getting mostly people that just “need a mow”, no crazy people yet thankfully.

I’m getting insurance for up to 1,000,000 in coverage in liability, as well as workers comp and vehicle insurance for the truck/trailer. So rich peoples houses are going to be an option for me.

Thank you for the tips.
 

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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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.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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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.

My post says a dollar amount ($30) and says I’m having a “sale” only for (insert where the ad is posted). It’s killing it. I still bid very high but close them with “I’m insured, you don’t want to run the risk of your property being ruined or someone getting hurt, also, we are satisfaction guaranteed”

Works like magic.
 

minivanman

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Good opportunity for someone to make some money from the sign stapler guy. He needs a good website that will actually show how the thing works. :)

Yes, I like doing all my bids in person too. Hopefully the lawns are no bigger than ours here in Texas for $30.
 

minivanman

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Ours are the size of a closet. Some of the houses here are so close I bet they have to share property taxes. :)
 

Lex DeVille

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That sounds impractical and pointless
Impractical, maybe. But the point is to solve your problem, which you haven't done.

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.
You assumed you could just hire anyone who wants a summer job. Impractical and pointless ..

Meeting a young guy today to hire on as a worker for $12/hr. He’s got 3 years landscaping/lawn care experience.
Either he couldn't make it happen on his own or he is someone else's reject. Impractical and pointless.

Update: hiring people feels like a joke after today. 3 people scheduled and 2 of them completely flaked with no message. The 3rd is having car troubles. Feels like trying to meet up with a tinder date...
You have no system for getting good people so you're wasting time and putting stress on yourself. Impractical and pointless.

Update: a kid replied to my job ad and said “I will not let you down”. He’s kept in touch. I’ll be working all day Thursday and told him I’ve got $100 waiting for him if he can come work. He’s got experience in landscaping and he needs a job.
Doing the same thing you already did and wasting more time and money ..

It will probably work out this time tho.
 

CPisHere

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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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Awesome thread man!

I do have a question though.

How would you guys go about naming a company like this? It sounds simple like "so and so Lawn care or so and so Landscaping" but what about offering other services down the road? If you end up offering sod installation, gardening, tree trimming, weeding and other services then one of those names can hurt you cant it? But at the same time if you're too vague then I would assume that it could also hurt your business.

What do you guys think?
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Awesome thread man!

I do have a question though.

How would you guys go about naming a company like this? It sounds simple like "so and so Lawn care or so and so Landscaping" but what about offering other services down the road? If you end up offering sod installation, gardening, tree trimming, weeding and other services then one of those names can hurt you cant it? But at the same time if you're too vague then I would assume that it could also hurt your business.

What do you guys think?
The name is “(huge region) Home Services” and it will last me for a long time.
 

minivanman

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19+ years in to it and most of my customers still didn't know the name of my cleaning business. lol We used to get checks made out to The Cleaners, Merry Maids, The Maids, Cleaning Company.... with the IQ of the general public nowadays I'm not sure they will remember anyway. Let me ask anyone that is reading this a question..... if you have ever had.... a lawn service do you know their name? How about the service before the one you have now? How about a mechanic? Unless you take your car to a dealership, do you know the name of your mechanic's shop? How about the people that cleans your windows on your house? If you have a handyman, do you know the name of his company right off hand? If you've ever had your roof replaced, what was the name of the company? Do you know the name of your pest control company?

In my opinion the biggest thing you can do is set yourself apart from all of the green advertisers. I understand all of that type of work is green but that doesn't mean your advertising has to be. Personally as far as SEO goes, I like to have the www in line with what people are going to type in..... that's just me and it seems to be working really well the way I do it. For someone else it might not work, who knows.

I do understand where you are coming from and that is why I have always tried to leave my company name kind of open so if we decide to add services on, we can. This small business that I am in right now, I market totally different than the registered name but if we decide to add things on in the future.... we are all set for it. Even though the odds are slim to none that will ever happen. Like the boy/girl/lesbian/gay/snow flake/tomboy/ scouts say.... be prepared.
 
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NateTheGreat

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I look forward to seeing your progress. Sounds like you have a good plan forward and are working towards your goals. Hopefully with a solid employee, you can begin to get your footing.

Good luck!
 
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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.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Update: definitely staying well away from weeding jobs as much as possible. Had to tough it out this morning and wasted a whole bunch of time.

Clean up jobs for overgrown yards pay really well and make driving further worth it. Plus I bought a machine that paid for itself in time saved very quickly. It’s a stand behind trimmer mower. Makes quick work of tall grass.

First employee is working out, just gotta get a reliable truck. Too many jobs to handle...
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Update: still trying to find a truck for employees to drive.

My brain is fried from keeping track of people emailing me to be hired, people emailing to get jobs bid, people emailing me for trucks I’m trying to buy and people emailing me to talk about buying a car from me (as a car salesman). Every day I’m talking to 20 new people.

I’m going to pay a virtual assistant to deal with uploading customer information into our business software so I’m not losing jobs by being forgetful.

Company polos are being made this week.

(Have fun bidding jobs for people from India. They negotiate mowing jobs just like how they buy cars)
 

ZCP

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systems, procedures, follow through ........ the key to your next stage of business..... keep chopping wood ....
 

CDNY

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I've built and sold a lawn/landscape maintenance business that did close to 100k per month at the time I sold it. Personally, I would advise against going into this field. Without going into a long-winded rant, the main reason is low barrier to entry = low profits. I could talk to you for days about all of the "cons" of this industry.

If you decide to continue growing it, I'd be happy to answer any specific questions you might have. Just list them out for me.

Two tools I'd definitely recommend include:
1. Service autopilot to keep track of everything
2. findlotsize.com to measure properties online and not have to physically visit them

Queensboro was also the cheapest I found for embroidered polos.

And again, I can't stop you from going into this field but I can assure you that the chances of it giving you the life you want is slim.
 

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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