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NOTABLE! Starting a lawn care service business

Ken Elshoff

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You could buy up a much better buisness than landscaping, just a thought. Very over saturated market and your not gonna be making fast lane money , not worth the headache
Its not really landscaping. Strictly mowing. And if he has over 30 customers from word of mouth, I suspect I could blow it up with some targeted marketing.
 

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sparechange

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Think i did, thanks. Dont do landscaping anymore, to hard on the body
 

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Think i did, thanks. Dont do landscaping anymore, to hard on the body
You had 31 paying customers (at the same time), but couldn't hire it out?

My point is that if it's so easy to create the system and not worth spending $20k to buy one that's already set up, what stopped you from getting to that point yourself?
 

Real Deal Denver

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Considering the work load for pocket change Id rather focus on something that can actually retire me in the next few years then barely get by
I REALLY like the way you think. But. Why not do both? Hey - I on the outside looking in - so I'm hoping those with more experience can clarify things for me.

For a simple subject like lawn mowing, this is a fascinating thread!
 

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Considering the work load for pocket change Id rather focus on something that can actually retire me in the next few years then barely get by
The OP here started his thread at the beginning of June 2018 - June 4 to be exact. That's pretty much exactly 6 months ago.
On June 8, 4 days after starting this thread, he had more work than he could handle and had already hired his first FT employee.
By June 21 (16 days for those of you keeping track at home), he was making $400 - 600 in revenue per day and he's doing a minimal amount of the actual labor work.
By September, he's looking at his current progress and projecting over $300k in revenue for 2019. He no longer mows lawns and just manages leads and does bids.
By November, he's automated his lead generation and bidding process and doesn't need to visit homes in person to bid. $3,600 in annual revenue takes 10 minutes.

So okay, maybe $20k isn't worth spending on a business with 30 customers because, according to this thread, you could get your 30 customers in a matter of weeks. I'm not really seeing him "barely getting by" nor breaking his back mowing lawns, though...
 

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I see this thread has escaped the purview of the mods.

Congrats on your traction and automation, at least marked NOTABLE, perhaps GOLD as we consume more.

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.
This is awesome. Should be a base structure for any similar service based business and small company.

However the only problem I see is the ability for the client to talk to someone.

Is there any way however for the customer to talk to a live person? A checkbox? Something?

I might be old school, but I don't think I'd be hiring anyone without speaking to them first.
 
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Johnny boy

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I see this thread has escaped the purview of the mods.

Congrats on your traction and automation, at least marked NOTABLE, perhaps GOLD as we consume more.



This is awesome. Should be a base structure for any similar service based business and small company.

However the only problem I see is the ability for the client to talk to someone.

Is there any way however for the customer to talk to a live person? A checkbox? Something?

I might be old school, but I don't think I'd be hiring anyone without speaking to them first.

I see if they haven’t signed up online and call them back. I’m seated at a computer so it’s more professional (I follow my phone script).

I can’t afford a call center or a sales department yet so I’ll have to still talk to customers for the time being.

And they do speak with me if they register online, because the auto responder email they get says “click here to schedule a phone call. We’ll have your custom quote ready to go!” I use a “calend.ly” link for that and it’s great.

The only time I don’t speak with them is when they initially call because it’s usually at a bad time and I don’t want to be taking calls all the time on my cell phone like every other Joe Blows lawn care company out there.

Since nobody is actively “searching” for lawn care in the area, the AdWords ads and Craigslist ads (passive ads) are doing terrible. I have to rely on more aggressive advertising. I’m going to be playing with Facebook ads a bit more. Right now I walk around town every day and hang 100 door hangers for a couple hours rain or shine.

Oh, and thank you I appreciate the compliment. With the little extra time I have in the winter I’ve been advertising as a “web development and marketing agency” that says “look what we did for a local lawn care company” and I sell the service to businesses. Not other lawn care companies of course.
 

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User62861

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I do logo design and branding for companies, can you show me your logo, etc.? maybe I can help you improve it even more (if needed of course).
 

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2 zero-turn mowers, two push mowers, two blowers, two weed eaters, the trailer, and 32 existing customers on annual contracts (worth roughly $31k gross)....all for $20k.
put a spreadsheet together to see what assets you are buying and what revenue stream you are buying. see how long until you get your money back.

then ask yourself (not others) if you could spend $20k to get you off your a$$ and running a business or if you have the personal motivation and skill to get all the equipment and 32 contracts yourself. How long will it take you to get to that level? what would be the $ and time invested to get to the same point?

Would the profits for that period of time pay for you to buy the business?

either way .... start or buy/run a lawn business and get going. quit wasting time.
do something now!
 

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to continue ........ my kids and i bought several vending routes. we could have started and set them up ourselves over the course of a year or so. our spreadsheet said that for a little more than it would cost us to do ourselves, we could buy instant profits and still have a sellable asset. we pulled the trigger and bought existing routes to save TIME

also .... negotiate with the seller. lower number, rolling buyout, systems, other items they can throw in, any spare parts, other lists, other products, the knowledge of what they would do next to grow the business, etc. .... all worth something

and @Johnny boy Great F*cking job, dude!! Keep slaying it!
 

Gidoza45

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Would a lawn service be considered a fast lane business. If not, I feel like it could be a good vehicle to get you closer to a fast lane business. I feel like this would be much better than regular job trading time for money.
 
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Johnny boy

Johnny boy

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Would a lawn service be considered a fast lane business. If not, I feel like it could be a good vehicle to get you closer to a fast lane business. I feel like this would be much better than regular job trading time for money.
If you're looking for cash to use for a business idea, I would get into sales. Unless you have some other special skill or unique situation like owning some income-producing asset, sales will be very useful. I did well. My best friend just made 10k a month ago and it's his first year selling cars. He is using sales to get money to get into real estate and that's his goal. He said he could be happy shooting for 50 million. That works for him. I just feel like I'm choking if I'm not doing something that really pushes me. It just depends on what you really want.
 
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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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minivanman

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Although I have money and time invested in businesses that do commercial work, I have never been a proponent of getting commercial work. I've went out of my way to avoid it. You are preaching to the choir on this post as far as I'm concerned.
 
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Johnny boy

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Update: Even with the systems I've set up there's still almost too many people reaching out for lawn care. Only signing up people for year-long contracts. I have to get a new place this year too.
 

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Lex DeVille

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Update: Even with the systems I've set up there's still almost too many people reaching out for lawn care. Only signing up people for year-long contracts. I have to get a new place this year too.
Can you automate the response to outreach, put them on a waiting list and raise your prices?
 
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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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Go where the ipad in the truck says and do what the ipad says to do at that property.
Just curious if you have a software for this, or if you manually optimize the routes/procedures.
 
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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.
 

CareCPA

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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.
Awesome. You seem like the kind of person who would automate/optimize where possible, so I would have been surprised if you were manually doing it.

Also, just saw this:
If McDonald's and Walmart can hire idiots and make billions, so can you.
Definitely makes you think about what's possible. I keep thinking it's too difficult to teach my employees what I know (and thereby free up more of my time). But that's ridiculous, since I learned it somewhere.
 

The Abundant Man

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How long have you lived in Lakewood? I'm just wondering what the old Hollywood Video got replaced with?
 

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