Getting your lawn care business started can be very frustrating.

It can be very frustrating trying to get your lawn care business started. Unless you are 100% focused on making it work and have the time/funding to support your new business, the small problems can quickly become bigger ones and end up driving you crazy. Here is a story about how things can go wrong from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum in hopes that you can learn from this experience and make your situation go right.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I need encouragement. My husband and I have a landscaping company that employees just the two of us, really just my husband. We both work full time jobs but my husband loves doing the landscaping on the side. We have 25 residential customers. Our invoices range from $35-$125. My husband does all the work by himself using his buddies when they are available. He does cutting, edging, weeding, flowerbeds, mulching, cutting down trees etc. We have been unable to find reliable help so that we can expand.

Both of our credit is tarnished. I have tried to get credit in our business and have only been able to secure a credit card at one local big box store. We have a walk behind mower, several smaller mowers, and he has recently acquired through one of our customers a tractor. We really need one as we live on 5 acres. He can use this on the yard of one of his customers as well.

The issue is, all the money that we make we are buying more material or using it to catch up on bills. We are making a profit but everything we get we have to use it and at the end of the season we are no better off than we were at the beginning of the year. Last year we made an additional $15,000.00. We would like to get one good commercial customer that would generate at least $5-$10,000.00 monthly. The hope would be if we could secure a commercial account we could advertise and hire help.

Getting residential customers is an issue. All of our customers from last year have returned. My husband works really hard and is a good guy, it just appears it is hard to really get a break. To get the jobs done faster, we need a zero turn mower but are not able to afford it. I am hoping that this business will work but again just need some encouragement and any advice would be welcome.

We are at some point looking to do this full time. We have not yet decided when. We really have to be financially ready. We actually probably have all the equipment we need for now. The problem is having to turn away business because we can not find any good help. I guess we will continue to plug ahead and hopefully the right thing will come at the right time.

Update. After a couple of months of dealing with all this, well we have decided to give up all of our customers. We had 25 really good customers but we were doing them a dis-service. My husband is a correctional officer during the day. His days off use to be Friday and Saturday. His days off changed, he is now off on Sunday’s and Monday’s. We could not find good help and every lawn mower we have broke down around the same time.

It has been an awful season. Our customers were really upset because we do excellent work we just found ourselves in situations where we were not giving our customers the customer service they deserved. It was a very difficult decision but I think it was the right decision. We are not giving up all together, we are just going back to the drawing board and will revamp our business plan. Hopefully we will be ready to dive back in within the next two years.

We are struggling financially right now as we have two mortgages. One in Florida and one here in Maryland where we live. The bottom line is we have really crappy credit. Can’t get far enough ahead of the ball game to save extra money to purchase equipment and we need good help that we can pay minimum wage. My husband has 4 more years before he can retire and really put the energy and time into that is needed.

We did have a partner that purchased brand new equipment but that partnership did not work out so of course there went the equipment. I have in the past invested in real estate and did pretty well. I am now trying to find a couple of deals that are good enough to flip in order to get some cash quickly. I inherited the house in Florida with a mortgage. The neighborhood is terrible and can’t get a buyer. Had a renter but I had to put her out for not paying rent. Just giving you a snap shot of how things happened.”

A second lawn care business owner said “I know exactly what you are talking about. I have had similar problems. I have my own lawn care operation and work a full time job also. I just started out and have picked up a couple of accounts and just started on a major general clean up job. I work by myself because my wife is pregnant and due any day now. In the past 2 years we have had several medical issues. I have had 9 surgeries alone in the last years. My credit was perfect before this but now it is not too good due to about $60,000 in medical bills now on my credit.

I only have a lawn tractor, blower, a little self propelled mower, and a echo weed eater. I really need to get a zero turn also but I can not afford it right now nor can I finance one. All I can tell you is just hang in there and things will work themselves out for the better. I think if you really try to focus on that one big commercial account you can land it. And when you do, just set some of that money on the side each month and don’t touch it if possible. In a few months you will have saved enough cash to go out and pay cash for a good zero turn. just remember to keep your head up and things will hopefully get better. Good luck. I hope it all works out for ya’ll in the future.”

A third shared “it’s tough when you start out, I know. Start up costs and equipment costs mount up. Repairs, fuel, and everything is so expensive and on top of that there are so many competitors out there that it’s more competitive than ever. Or you could just attribute it to - times are tough and customers are being more thrifty. Lawn care as an industry is certainly not in it’s money making hay-day right now so getting a new company up and running is a little harder, but it’s do able.

Trying to grow too fast can make it hard on your company financially and I think I’m bordering on some of the same problems, but I’m looking at it like this. I’m making enough to survive and feed the family from the business now. The extra money I pump back into the company will come out as increased profits later. So it’s worth it to me. Watch your bottom line, know your expenses. Keeps tabs on your business. When trying to grow, you tend to want to bid a little low to get the job, that’s dangerous. You can be busy, have cash flow, and still not be making any money. If you don’t know your figures you may not catch this little problem until you run yourself out of business or burn out. Keep your head up!

I would say growing the business a little smarter and slower is important. I started with a tractor and when it was time to upgrade, if I had it to do again I might have bought a 36″ or 48″ stander rather than a full blown 52″ zero turn.

When I bought that 52″ ztr I didn’t realize I would have to turn potential customers away because I couldn’t get in their gates and stuff. I can’t fit a smaller ztr or stander on my trailer with my current ztr so to upgrade now I’d need a 2nd mower and a new larger trailer. If I had a smaller mower to start with, adding a 2nd slightly larger model wouldn’t be a problem. But as far as equipment needed, that can vary by your market and the target clientele your going for.

I would say not tracking where my clients were coming from close enough was a mistake I made. I ran an ad for a month or 2 in one publication, spent the next 6 months running ads elsewhere and then realized about 70% of my growth came from an ad I hadn’t bothered to run in 6 months.

Watch your books! Be a business owner who happens to own a lawn care business, not a guy who cuts grass and happens to own the company.”

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success