Getting back at a former employer.

We all have crazy situations we find ourselves in from time to time. Here is a great example of that from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum where one member discusses how he wants to take his revenge on a former employer by stealing his accounts. Should you ever do this? Should it ever be done? Let’s take a look into this further to see what happened.

One lawn care business owner wrote “last year at this time I took a job working for another local landscaping company to get my feet wet in the industry. At the end of the season I quit. I didn’t leave on the best of terms and I think that made him mad.

When I opened my own business and began to market my services to property owners in the area, things were looking good until my past boss started to focus on stealing my customers to knock me out of business. Thankfully a few loyal clients stayed with me. I went from my 10 mowing accounts down to 3 because of him.

Now that it is mid season, I am finding it difficult to get more clients. It seems that everyone who needs a landscaper has already got one. So now I want to get back at the owner for stealing my clients. He is totally screwing me over here. I told him to lay off my accounts but I don’t think he is going to listen.

I know where a lot of his customers live in my area. How can I get his customers to switch over to my company?”

A second lawn care business owner said “you really need to stop focusing on trying to take customers away from your old boss because that is starting a war. I do not try to take customers from anyone. I believe hard work and doing a quality job will bring customers in by word of mouth which is the most powerful form of advertisement.

I would rather have friends in the industry than have enemies, there are plenty of potential customers out there, you just have to word hard and prove yourself.

As far as getting customers mid-season, here are some things to think about.

People get hurt mid season and need someone to mow their lawn. People buy houses mid season and need someone to mow their lawn. People get divorced mid season and need someone to mow their lawn. People move to new homes mid season and need someone to mow while their old home is on the market. People get old enough mid season to say Screw it, I’m done mowing and need someone to mow their lawn.

The above, are all examples I am dealing with. There are many reasons why people look for lawn care service mid season. They just need to be able to FIND you.

If you are concerned about losing customers to sneaky competitors like this, why not do what the cell phone industry does? Use contracts. Contracts are like gold. I use them as incentives for my customers and the ones that sign them always take priority over my non contract customers.

Contracts are easy once you get the hang of them. The trick is showing them how you can save them money by signing with you. You show them how it will benefit them. You also show them how you will be bound to the contract and the work will be guaranteed.

We have bills all year long, so ensuring that money is coming in all year long is VERY IMPORTANT! You will work your butt off in the summer months to ensure that the money will be coming in all year long. However, in the fall and winter is when you get a good break. You still make the same paycheck for less than half of the work.

When it comes to advertising, I tried passing out 300 fliers when I first started. I got 1 job from it. The sooner I realized that I was selling myself instead of a service, the faster I started growing. Start with friends and family and from there ask them to tell their friends about you. Get some cheap business cards and before you know it word of mouth will be all you need.

Most people in the lawn care business have no background in marketing or business. Most of them go along with what they see other companies doing. The way I have brought in all of my business is from networking and meeting new people every day. The more outside the box you get the more business you will get.

Don’t worry about your previous boss giving you a hard time. Your goal is to build a good business and make a name for yourself. You don’t want that name to be drug through the mud. Be the bigger man and if he won’t leave you alone then contact the police and let them know what he is doing.”

A third lawn care business owner added “I picked up a new mowing customer today because she was growing increasingly unhappy with the service being provided by her now former lawn guy.

He would show up with a zero turn and mow her small lawn, tearing up the grass when he turned on the hill, and leave clippings all over. He wouldn’t even do minimal line trimming.

She was paying him $14 per mow. I told her I couldn’t do it for less than $25 and I would mow with a push mower. It would look a LOT better when I was finished as the lawn wouldn’t be all torn up. She was agreeable.

You see, people are often willing to pay more for better service. Those who are not, are not worth having as clients to begin with. This woman is going to be paying nearly double what she had been paying. I didn’t ’steal’ her away - her previous lawn care service provider pushed her away with shoddy work, and poor communications. Never did he return her calls.

If this guy is stealing your clients by offering lower prices, they aren’t worth having, so don’t sweat it. If he’s offering, and PROVIDING better service, well you may need to look at yourself and see if you need to improve upon anything.

I had a neighborhood with 9 properties in it. They were very high class but smaller yards. We offered mowing for $35/yard which was our minimum. Some kid came through and offered to cut all of our yards for $20/cut. He wasn’t paying taxes like we were and he didn’t have a business license or insurance like we did.

At first I was pissed off and was going to approach the kid and possibly turn him in for running an illegal business. I quickly realized though I could make much more money buy taking on bigger accounts, instead of wasting my time with $35 yards. We did have a few of the yards stay with us but ultimately we decided to drop the whole route. It wasn’t worth it. Instead we went out and signed a commercial property that we cut twice a month. It pays over $1,000/month. It takes us two in a half hours to cut it.

The longer you run your company the more lessons like this you will learn. All of the guys I know started out rough and learned along the way. Always do right and you will be rewarded for it. Maybe those accounts he is trying to steal from you aren’t worth your time to begin with. How much is your time worth? Only you can answer that. I think mine is worth a lot and so I ask a lot for it and people pay it.”

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