If you are a lawn care business owner you would probably agree with me when I say no matter where you go there will most likely be heavy competition. This is a discussion we were having on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. Another business owner shared “I feel this is correct. Where I am, it’s all about equipment, quality of work and word of mouth, price is not always the deciding factor.
Unless you have a hundred grand of cash to invest, in my city, you will probably starve. You need to build relationships with paying clients and your company has to be structured to attract them. With my business I found a niche above the small businesses and below the big companies. I found there is money to be made in the middle ground. I proved this to myself early in my business which is growing at an insane pace.
I had worked as a banker for close to 15 years before I started this business and I can tell you I have never seen a company turn a profit as fast as this one has. But it didn’t happen by accident, it has taken contacts, capital and a very strategic target market.
I have been researching other was to differentiate my business from others and I have come up with a plan of attack. Phase two, next year will take my business into some interesting areas. I will become certified to install septic fields. In my area, it’s considered a license to print money. The training course is very tough, very few companies are certified but I will not be daunted by this. Plus I will offer complete new home residential construction (turn key) from clearing your driveway of trees and rocks, chipping, building your road, clearing for the house, grading, septic system and then landscaping and spraying. The average cost around here to perform these services is around $80,000 per lot.
I am not worried about finding the business. I have the contacts and have already been contacted many times to perform such services. At the time, I simply did not have the gear but I do now. I had to keep my eyes open and figure all this out before I bought the proper gear. Patience is critical. Various laws on new construction are on my side also if you want to get a mortgage.
I had considered offering snow removal. Yes there is money in it but once again it depends on the equipment and client list. This is a service I sub-contract out. I do this for all but 9 very close lots. I am personally not interested in working out in the cold. We do offer mowing and have around 50 locations we mow however that is not where the money is, in my experience.”
I bet a lot of new lawn care business owners are sitting here reading this post and wondering to themselves how the heck can I find a niche?
What would you say to them? Do you feel there is some sort of filtering process you must use in order to find a niche? Or is a lot of it simply luck?
“Luck has nothing to do with it. You have to be innovative and have a bit of an eye for detail. The trick to it is you have to see what the customer might want. How do you do this? Simply ask the customer what is it you do that is a pain in the butt? When they tell you, respond by saying, I might be able to help you. It may sound corney but asking such questions and responding has grown my company.”
What is your view on what lawn care business owners should do who find themselves in situations where the competition is heavy and they don’t have much funding? Does it then come down to a long process of chipping away at market share or is there more that should be done?
“That is not an easy answer. There are so many factors from quality, sales skills, marketing and of course access to capital to set yourself up and go after it. Personally I am not interested in chipping away. Instead I ask what can I offer that others do not. It doesn’t take a big investment to get the market, youjust have to make a plan.”
That is a very good point. It explains why some entrepreneurs toil their entire lives with little to nothing to show for it, while others can hit on something rather fast and just take off.
I think a tough part about this is when you are getting your first business started, you tend to have little to no business education. Because of that, you don’t know even to consider planning. You have no idea what to plan for or what to even consider. You don’t know what you are doing.
Many feel if they can simply wake up in the morning, get out, work a bit and keep themselves busy, enough to cover their expenses, then they have done enough.
But there is so much more. Planning seems to me, like a very high level term not often utilized. I would even venture to guess, if you asked the average entrepreneur, what is their plan, they would have none but if you pressed them, they would say something to the effect of, ‘well my plan is to hopefully make more money this year than I did last.’
What’s your view on that?
“That is part of it. You have to remember that lawn mowing is a cheap business to get into. It takes many skills to make money and your potential depends on many factors. You should ask yourself, what are your personal strengths? What financial resources do you have? What is it the client wants, you could possibly do or buy the equipment to do that others will want.
One other thing that comes to mind is, if you can get equipment that sets the bar higher than the competition, then you will reap the benefits. I understand it takes money to make money and one should be careful going hand over fist into debt, but there is a fine line. Education and knowledge is power. I am not saying you have to be the smartest person on the block but I am saying you have to do your research and have a plan.
The Internet is like having the world’s largest library at your finger tips. Use it! Personally I have set the bar quite high compared to my competition. I have the gear to do what they can’t or won’t. My staff does outstanding work and I am very fussy. I am not afraid to take on those projects that have risk. Risk could be the home on water frontage, very tight areas etc. We run into this a lot cutting trees near power lines. We have the gear and trained staff that to us there is little no no risk however the money you can make is nuts.
Search out what the others are not doing and the customer wants and go after it. You will win. If you try butting heads with the competition offering similar services and undercutting their prices, in my experience you might make a living but you will bust your butt doing it.”