How to deal with seasonal out of state mulch suppliers and installers.

There are competitors in the lawn care business everywhere. From small start up companies to large corporate sized ones. But what would you do if you found yourself having to compete with an out of state competitor who was marketing to your lawn care customers and offering to do your job for a cheaper price than you could? This is a very interesting situation we discussed on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. You might find yourself dealing with this situation and if you do, you may want to consider these options.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I have spent plenty of time competing with other local lawn care businesses to get customers but now in the Fall, I find myself dealing more and more with out of state competitors as well!

This is the time of year when we are doing our mulching, nuggets and pine needles. I have already lost a few of my yearly lawn care customers to the guys that come from out of state with their tractor trailer loads of pine needles. Last year, I was cutting my own throat selling the material at costs with no extra delivery fee. I spoke to one lawn care customer today that I have been dealing with for many years to try and schedule this year’s needle service on his property. He normally uses 100-110 bails. It just so happens he got a door hanger the other day from this out of state competitor and the price was a lot cheaper than mine. He said that he could save $50.00 by using the other guys, but yet he still wants me to do the fertilization etc…

I had another guy that I mow for year after year just call me and say that he has a bunch of needles that he wants me to put out. I do not want to because of where they come from and declined the job.  I told one other lady who mentioned these out of state suppliers, that I refuse to compete on price or buy from them. I explained my opinion to her and what they do that effects us local lawn care business owners it seems to no avail.

I always buy from the local landscape supply stores to help there businesses. Yeah I could also buy bulk from those guys, but in the long run, we the local landscapers and business owners suffer.

From what I have seen, these out of state trucks park on off ramps near the major highways, sometimes two and three to unload their supplies or they get another central location. They also use scouts who come into the area a month or so earlier to distribute door hangers in the higher income areas. They line up a lot of orders this way. Then they come back later and install the pine needle mulch for a $1.90 a bail. I can not make a profit installing pine needle mulch at a $1.90 a bail.

I am just not sure what to do.”

A second lawn care business owner said “while it’s great to support the local economy, we live in a global economy. Competitors can and will come from anywhere. My advice would be to recognize this threat, accept it, and adapt your business practices to compete with them. Those who adapt to a changing market, will succeed. Those who don’t are destined to fail.

With any job you bid on, you need to make sure that you stay profitable. While you may try to get as close as you can to their rate, if you can’t make a profit on the job, don’t do it. Another thing you could consider doing is working with them. Work out a deal where you could actually sub-contract them. Either have them just deliver the mulch material to your customers or deliver and install it. With the economy as it is, people are cutting back and there is not much we can do about it.”

To learn how to better price your mulch jobs get the GopherHaul Topsoil & Mulch Estimation Calculator that works on Android.

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