We talk a lot on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum about how when you do something good for the community, you can get a lot of attention. Especially when you let the media know what you are doing. In a recent article on CNN it talked about a lawn care business owner who was offering free lawn mowing for single moms. It made national news, but was it worth it? That is the questions I asked and I got a lot of great responses on it that I wanted to share with you.
- “I don’t mean to be a wet blanket, but this is a one time promotion gimmick. I remember back in the late 60’s (showing my age) when a man sold everything he had and invested it in the NYS lottery. He spent almost $60,000.00. He won about $12,000.00.
Entrepreneur Magazine Gave him the “Biggest Loser of the Year Award”. They also gave him the “Biggest Winner of the Year Award”! Although he lost $48,000.00, he received over $100,000.00 in “guest appearances” on shows like Johnny Carson. He did it, and it was big news and was in demand and he profited from it. He had just received his masters in business marketing degree and he “leaked” his story to the National Media.
His “calculated” plan made him a lot of money, but it was a one time shot. Anyone following his lead, did so without getting the needed publicity!
What this lawn care business did was a marketing act of Genius, but it’s just not repeatable. It’s already been done and therefore not news.
Although ’single moms’ are sometimes very needy, there are other groups that don’t get nearly as much governmental support. Seniors who have lost their spouse and disabled Veterans come to mind. My wife is a pediatric critical care nurse and also a certified forensic nurse. She is always volunteering my services to sexual assault and domestic violence victims. I give discounts to veterans and special discounts to spouses left behind and especially to disabled vets. I don’t seek publicity but I do make some very good friends along the way.
Community service builds a quiet reputation. Respected and remembered.”
- “I’ve always believed being entrepreneurs gives us special privileges (and special responsibilities). We meet many members of the community and our eyes are opened to people who genuinely need a helping hand.
I was involved today with a group who helps disadvantaged widows in the local community. The lady we helped today is elderly and on social security. Her roof has been leaking for a few years and she does not have the wherewithal to have it fixed. A group of 12 of us did a complete tear off and re-roof today…completely free and no gimmicks.
Though my intent was not to benefit from the work I did today, I ended up making some amazing contacts in the local community. It always amazes me how kind deeds always seem to benefit both receiver and giver.”
- “This is kind of my dilemma. I do free cuts for elderly and disabled people that can’t afford it. I get accounts from word of mouth as they are always telling friends and neighbors how I help them. Something bothers me about telling a news person about it, even though I could really use more accounts and things are hard now. My intentions started by just trying to help someone, but when it started getting me business, well, I guess my motives aren’t so “pure” sometimes. Its kind of like putting a hundred dollar bill in the offering basket at church and then telling everyone how generous you were. I may not be explaining it well, but its kind of a moral dilemma I suppose. If I’m helping people out so I can make more money, it takes something away from it don’t you think? Then again, people in need are still getting their yards mowed for free, and the more accounts I have, the more I can afford to help even more people.”
- “The single mom thing is out of the question for me. 90% of my business is single moms. There’s a sort of “man pride” in taking care of your own yard, like changing your own oil, so homes with a man are a lot harder to come by. Instead of the single moms, I would choose to help elderly and the disabled without the extra income because they really don’t have a choice other than have a family member come help. With my first free yard, it was that family member that paid me to do her own yard right after I took it over. The key is having someone refer you to someone in need.
At first, instead of advertising in the “household services” section of craigslist, I put an ad in the “free” section looking for people. I did get 7 referrals, and 3 people that referred wanted me to mow their own yard for money, but I also got 2 people asking to mow their own yard for free, and in nice neighborhoods, and I was too skeptical to reply. Everyone’s going through tough times and I’m not going to mow an able body person’s yard for free because of a layoff or something. I decided to stick to referrals.
The best way to avoid being taken advantage of is having people refer others in need to you, and not “volunteering” themselves. I got stories of recent widows in their 80’s who spent their life helping other people, etc. I’m in this business so I can provide for my kids and I, and to give me the free time to be with them as much as possible, but when a little old lady is shaking my hand crying, and saying that I’m the angel she’s been praying for (those were her exact words) there’s no question I’m doing the right thing. There are just lots of issues to balance when offering free service.”
What’s your view on this, I’d like to know. Post it on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum here.