Do you ever wonder what it takes to grow your lawn care business from a one or two man operation up to a 20 man company? There is more to it than you might initially have thought. To grow to that size, it’s not simply a matter of just adding more customers, it’s more a matter of adding the right lawn care customers for the right reasons. Check out this insightful discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum on how one lawn care business owner was able to scale up and find success where many others failed.
He wrote “I have been in business for 10 years now. We currently serve over 50 lawn care accounts a week. Which includes 47 commercial lawn care customers and 3 residential lawn care accounts.
The business initially started with only lawn maintenance. Offering such services as design, mowing, trimming, edging, hydro seeding etc. From there as we grew we added dump truck services. We have 12 semi dumps now and also offer rental services with loader / excavator / backhoe and bobcat services. During the winter, we keep ourselves very busy by handling the snow plowing for accounts which include over 2 million square feet of asphalt.
If you are looking to grow your lawn care business, I will tell you in this economy any growth is positive growth. Having the right people working for you is a very important key to handling growth. But growth brings along with it a new set of problems. In my time of running my business, I have seen a lot of companies want as much business as they can get and service those customers when they can. Then one day, they find they took a step just too far and begin to take on too much business. After that point they begin to fall into disarray and realize they can’t service all their customers in a timely manner and begin to lose them due to poor customer service.
I have seen the importance of scaling your infrastructure up around you as you grow and take on new customers. To be successful you need to take the customers wants and needs into your planning. You need to plan your mowing and property care schedules to be there when the customer wants you and NOT when you can be there.
Sure, a lot of lawn care businesses can be around for 10 years or more with one or two guys running it because of how good the company runs with their one employee or because of how many customers they can keep on their list into the following years. I would say though a lot of people don’t realize when growing from a 2 man lawn care business to a 20 man lawn care company is when things really change. As you get to be this size, when you bid something, you need to take into consideration all of your expenses such as the equipment drivetime and labor costs involved, not just labor alone. You need to realize it’s your equipment and your employees that makes you the money along.
I would have never made it in the business this long at the size I am now cutting yards for $5 to $10 dollars a lawn, if I had to run one of our $13,000 mowers, along with a $15,000 truck and a $2,000 trailer. That’s $30,000 of equipment in total which is losing me money at every account.
To grow to this size, your whole way of thinking needs to change. I’m not saying the simple act of charging more would solve your problem but you have to make your living in better places than $5 to $10 dollar lawn mows. We service 47 commercial accounts that average $75-$1,500 a cut.
When you bid lawn care jobs at this size, you need to make sure your equipment has a budget in that quote and your employees expenses and everything else before anything extra goes towards your profit.
I see companies implode all the time. I can look around me and see which lawn care companies are missing the service and quality aspect and find themselves losing control of their operations. They begin to panic and lowball big commercial bids, just to get in for 2 years and then be gone forever because of poor quality.
I can drive around my area and keep track of which bids I will win next because of the way the current lawn care business is hurrying the job. When they take it to the point of racing across the customer’s lawn, blowing grass clippings everywhere, it’s only a matter of time before they are going to lose the contract and have to close up shop.
Commercial customers want quality service. Most commercial customers in my area like their lawns to be mowed with stripes left on the lawn and bagged grass. I know this because I talk to my customers and ask them questions. I do whatever it takes to get the job done right.
I think commercial lawn care contract work is the best especially for a business this size. To be successful at it you need to set yourself a budget and a price and then do the work you contracted out to do. A lot of businesses don’t do that because they aren’t sure they’ll make it to the next season. Since I do this all the time, I know how much work load we will have for the upcoming 2 to 3 seasons.¬† And I try to stagger the contracts so they don’t all end at the same time.
These are just a few tips to help your lawn care business grow beyond a 1 or 2 man operation. With some of what I shared with you, it should give you a heads up to be wary of the dangers you may face as you grow and what to look out for.”
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