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NOTABLE! Starting a lawn care service business

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CPisHere

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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.
Every industry has pros & cons. A service business is a great way to go from worker bee to entrepreneur, even if the upside isn't as high as some other models.

Did you charge more than your competition? What are you doing now that you are out of lawncare?
 

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CDNY

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Every industry has pros & cons. A service business is a great way to go from worker bee to entrepreneur, even if the upside isn't as high as some other models.

Did you charge more than your competition? What are you doing now that you are out of lawncare?
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 charged significantly more than my competition and, in my opinion, it still wasn't worth it. Simply put, prices continue to decline while cost of gas, equipment, labor, materials, etc all rise. Raising prices is easier said than done when most services require little skill.

I've decided to move into ecommerce with a collection of premium products. Much more scalable with a higher barrier to entry.

If you have any other questions, just let me know.
 

CPisHere

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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 charged significantly more than my competition and, in my opinion, it still wasn't worth it. Simply put, prices continue to decline while cost of gas, equipment, labor, materials, etc all rise. Raising prices is easier said than done when most services require little skill.

I've decided to move into ecommerce with a collection of premium products. Much more scalable with a higher barrier to entry.

If you have any other questions, just let me know.
What kind of gross margins did you make? Net?

I would think, relatively hands off & charging above market rates, gross > 65% & net about 20%. I wouldn't expect e-commerce to be higher than that unless you created your own unique product. And barrier to entry for most of e-commerce/products is dropping quickly.
 

CDNY

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What kind of gross margins did you make? Net?

I would think, relatively hands off & charging above market rates, gross > 65% & net about 20%. I wouldn't expect e-commerce to be higher than that unless you created your own unique product. And barrier to entry for most of e-commerce/products is dropping quickly.
The business was anything but hands off. Sure, I didn’t have to do the physical labor but there’s a whole world more to it than that.

I sell my own unique products and I’d agree that with solutions like Shopify it’s easier to get going. However, being successful is a whole different ball game.

To bring things back to the original topic here, my opinion is that these types of businesses (most are jobs not true businesses) should be used to generate cash for better opportunities. It’s important to realize what they are and not get trapped in the industry like I see most contractors do.
 

CPisHere

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The business was anything but hands off. Sure, I didn’t have to do the physical labor but there’s a whole world more to it than that.

I sell my own unique products and I’d agree that with solutions like Shopify it’s easier to get going. However, being successful is a whole different ball game.

To bring things back to the original topic here, my opinion is that these types of businesses (most are jobs not true businesses) should be used to generate cash for better opportunities. It’s important to realize what they are and not get trapped in the industry like I see most contractors do.
Most contractors don't know how to get out of the weeds & create a business that runs without them. It sounds like that was your problem. It is probably a bigger issue in service businesses, but not exclusively & it isn't insurmountable.
 

sparechange

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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)
lol the part bidding jobs with indians,

i did a $15 job i think but had to haggle & negotiate from $20 (guy had $20 in hand and wanted $5 change back)

ah good times, million dollar house in burnaby bc (near vancouver)
 
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Johnny boy

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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.
 

CDNY

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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.
You’re absolutely right. Best of luck!
 

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!
 

sparechange

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You lost me.... you did a $15 job?
it was a quick acquisition (door to door) was just a small portion of the lawn took less than 30 mins.
 

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sparechange

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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.
have you looked into car flipping?
 

Rich Wood

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Things to consider if you plan to grow and become an official, law abiding and sustainable company.
Liability insurance, workers compensation insurance, un-employment fees, paid time off, social security match, and taxes. Will you W-2 or 10-99 your employees. If you control their schedules then they will need to be W-2's.
How will you manage quality and consistency?
You should look at getting payment via credit cards and do recurring charges, so your billing is easy and up-front, you don't want to collect, it is a big hassle.
Also, the real money is in new landscaping, commercial properties (offices, retail, etc). You can make thousands per property, and keep your team busy for hours and days, not bouncing from job to job making 40 bucks or 100 bucks a pop.
Also, be careful asking your employees to travel for free, technically you need to pay them starting the moment they enter your company vehicles.
Also, be careful not to offer salaries to employees who do manual labor, they need to stay at hourly per the law, or you could get in legal troubles later with employees who may require overtime.
Over 40 hours a week requires overtime pay, or over 12 hours a day requires overtime pay.
You'll want to include maintenance costs for your equipment, and also consider storage locations that are secure. Be sure to insure your equipment.
Lastly, you should consider becoming a rep for sprinkler supplies, and fertilizers etc. The mark-up on small items can be very profitable, and sometimes as valuable as lawn maintenance itself.
Best of luck!
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Things to consider if you plan to grow and become an official, law abiding and sustainable company.
Liability insurance, workers compensation insurance, un-employment fees, paid time off, social security match, and taxes. Will you W-2 or 10-99 your employees. If you control their schedules then they will need to be W-2's.
How will you manage quality and consistency?
You should look at getting payment via credit cards and do recurring charges, so your billing is easy and up-front, you don't want to collect, it is a big hassle.
Also, the real money is in new landscaping, commercial properties (offices, retail, etc). You can make thousands per property, and keep your team busy for hours and days, not bouncing from job to job making 40 bucks or 100 bucks a pop.
Also, be careful asking your employees to travel for free, technically you need to pay them starting the moment they enter your company vehicles.
Also, be careful not to offer salaries to employees who do manual labor, they need to stay at hourly per the law, or you could get in legal troubles later with employees who may require overtime.
Over 40 hours a week requires overtime pay, or over 12 hours a day requires overtime pay.
You'll want to include maintenance costs for your equipment, and also consider storage locations that are secure. Be sure to insure your equipment.
Lastly, you should consider becoming a rep for sprinkler supplies, and fertilizers etc. The mark-up on small items can be very profitable, and sometimes as valuable as lawn maintenance itself.
Best of luck!
They’ll be employees once I’ve got my EIN (I started this thing like 2 weeks ago it’s not even filed with the state yet). It’s going to be done the right way. Workers comp and all that, yes.

I just got done paying my insurance bill 20 minutes ago. Once I’ve got the truck I’ll get a policy for that as well.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Update:

Consistently hitting $400-600 in revenue daily with only 1-2 guys (sometimes me working lazily)

I can expect $600 with two employees.

First guy hired is doing well and works pretty hard usually. Today he’s more lazy. His job is easy to replace.

Second guy hired for a lead position seems smart and has common sense enough to take care of business.

Today they did pretty much all the work. But I had to go with because I don’t have a business truck for them to drive.

Last night I had a full load of dirt and was going downhill in an old high boy with drum brakes and they started smoking...I felt pretty dumb for that.

Still looking for a truck that’ll work well for a good price.
 

CPisHere

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Consistently hitting $400-600 in revenue daily with only 1-2 guys (sometimes me working lazily)
Assuming 5 days/week, that's about $10k/month of revenue, which is AWESOME for just starting out. You should be grossing at least 50%, so once you get your equipment/truck/etc you are really going to be in a great position to quit your job.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Assuming 5 days/week, that's about $10k/month of revenue, which is AWESOME for just starting out. You should be grossing at least 50%, so once you get your equipment/truck/etc you are really going to be in a great position to quit your job.

I don’t gross 50% exactly because I pay my employees well, buy machines and pay for insurance and gas. It’s pretty close though.

Also, I do pretty well at selling cars (one of the top guys)

The point of doing this is to make 5k a month while being able to work at my other job to save up a pile of money.

They’ll do the jobs and contact me while I’m at the dealership. Make money while I’m making money.

I just don’t like sitting around at the dealership because nothing happens 80% of the time.
 

Arun Siva

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but scaling above that is a challenge
^ This.


unfortunately, unless you are willing to play russian roulette and hire "undocumented workers" F*ck it i aint trying to be Politically correct, ILLEGALS, your labour costs will not be shortened for scalability. Lawncare is good seasonal revenue as it is a lot of work but buying good second hand equipment is good too. You are attempting to pay 12$ per hour for local help? be wary, i have had buddies here in the south, (different climate i get it) that have had no choice but to resort to the russian roulette latter, because quite frankly the local populous was not willing to show up on really hot and humid days in terms of landscaping cutting, bush whacking, weed removal etc fertilizer spreading etc etc. Hopefully you have better options in your locality.

will be interesting to see how it pans out in your market.
 

Arun Siva

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also since you are knowlegable in selling cars, i hope you research and find out the intricate details of lawn equipment (commercial equipment) whole different ballgame in terms of the second hand market. You will find some steals, i recommend government auctions or construction auctioneers they often have top of hte line equipment that need some mechanical work that you can grab at a steal

for example

Construction & Heavy Equipment Auctions, Truck Auctions | Used Construction & Heavy Equipment, Trucks for Sale | Martin & Martin

| Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers

Search Results | Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers
 

ZCP

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take your profit .... .set aside for taxes in a separate account. split the rest 50/50. invest half back into this business to make it more efficient. put the other half in your 'invest in other stuff' account.

don't get too far ahead of yourself with a lawn business. it has scale problems that come up. farm this for a while. get through a winter. then see where you are.
 

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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Update: Got a new lead man. Sent the guys out for their first job alone. Worked out great. They did a good job and finished on time.

Legal zoom is still keeping me from getting my documents back from the state. They gave me a $500 refund for the hassle. Total bullshit but I spoke with my insurance company and they said I’m still covered. Who knows...Likely a huge liability problem but it’s temporary.

I’m scheduling jobs for Thursday (one of my days “off”). That way they can work and I can go bid jobs and check in on them.

Now that I get a little bit of time to breathe I’ll use it to tie up the details and make the process more efficient.

I’m taking tomorrow off. Heading with a girl out to do some cliff jumping and light off some fireworks.

It’s funny that people say working as a car salesman is tough. No it isn’t. It’s about 40% as hard as what I’m doing in total.

So far, what would I have done differently?

I would’ve started in March/April so that loose ends are tied up by May/June.

I would’ve done the filing with the state myself.

That’s about all I would’ve changed.

I bid jobs at $60 an hour minimum and higher if I can get away with it. It’s working out well.

As we get rolling I’ll have to focus on redundancy so that we always can get the work done without hiccups.

My goal is to fill up my employees’ schedules ASAP.

Currently reading up on taxes. Looks like my business will be taxed as a pass through and I’ll pay taxes like it’s personal income.

Do I write off all expenses (labor/gas/etc..) and only pay taxes on profits? I must have dropped out of commmnity college before I took the business tax avoidance class.

Going to speak with an accountant this Thursday evening.
 

Paleo

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You should be keeping all receipts and entering all your expenses in a bookkeeping system.

Anything connected to your business should be expensed: labor, equipment, parts, repairs, tools, fuel, office supplies, software, regulatory filing fees, legal and accounting fees, training/educational materials, travel mileage, travel expenses, customer meals, organizational dues, online subscriptions, taxes, marketing materials, postage, shipping costs, damage payouts, everything.

You should interview any accountant you are considering hiring. They vary a lot in how helpful they are. Especially since you are new in business you need an accountant who is willing to give you advice and help you shape your tax strategy. An accountant who has experience in handling contractors would be strongly preferred.



 

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You should be keeping all receipts and entering all your expenses in a bookkeeping system.

Anything connected to your business should be expensed: labor, equipment, parts, repairs, tools, fuel, office supplies, software, regulatory filing fees, legal and accounting fees, training/educational materials, travel mileage, travel expenses, customer meals, organizational dues, online subscriptions, taxes, marketing materials, postage, shipping costs, damage payouts, everything.

You should interview any accountant you are considering hiring. They vary a lot in how helpful they are. Especially since you are new in business you need an accountant who is willing to give you advice and help you shape your tax strategy. An accountant who has experience in handling contractors would be strongly preferred.
This is a pretty good list, so I won't clutter the thread with too much extra here.

Are you running payroll for your guys? I think you'd have trouble making the argument that they're independent contractors given your level of control.

Do you have a separate bank account for the business? You may have mentioned this earlier, but I didn't check every post. That will make things much easier at tax time.
 

minivanman

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They can't be independent contractors. He tells them when and how to do it, then furnishes the equipment for them to work with.

I used to be like that.... until I figured out I could make WAY more money by hiring independent contractors most of the time. If I can't make someone an independent contractor I try every way possible to pay them on commission. I was always a worry-wart but that has changed. I learned.... it is, what it is. That is what allows me to be invested in many small businesses. When I first started my own business I thought I had to micro-manage. Now I see that I can make way more by being a part of 40 businesses and never having a worry than being the life-line of 1 business thinking I need to know exactly when everyone's heart is beating. But, it is HARD to let go at first.
 

Paleo

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I use an independent contractor for my vacation rental cleaning business. I get the customers and tell her when and where the jobs are. She runs her own crews which she hires, fires, trains and supervises. She provides her own tools and cleaning supplies. I pay her; I have no idea how much she pays her crews. She also works for other people, which solidifies her independent status. I do an occasional inspection after the cleaning is completed but mostly not anymore since she does an excellent job.
 

minivanman

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Nothing stops them, but a lot of times, guys usually in this case, do not like dealing with a lot of customers. They just want to do the work and get paid. LOTS of guys HATE dealing with 10 or 25 or 100 or 250 customers.... they just want to mow.

But let's flip your question.... what is going to keep an employee from stealing your customers?
 

Geekour

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Nothing stops them, but a lot of times, guys usually in this case, do not like dealing with a lot of customers. They just want to do the work and get paid. LOTS of guys HATE dealing with 10 or 25 or 100 or 250 customers.... they just want to mow.

But let's flip your question.... what is going to keep an employee from stealing your customers?
That's true. Gotta love service businesses. Any ways to prevent that or do you just accept the losses.
 

minivanman

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You just accept it. In the house cleaning business I only had a few girls that stole any accounts. I always figured the time I spent on messing with them taking accounts, I could go get more..... but I never told anyone that...ssshhhhhh
 

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