Ever sit there and wonder what those larger lawn care businesses know about operations and success that you might not now? Maybe a few small suggestions could really help you take your mowing company to the next level. In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, we hear from one entrepreneur who has really found his stride and shares some tips with us on how he did it.
One lawn care business owner wrote “business has been booming since I last have been on the forum. I have expanded into snow removal, tree service, and just recently purchased a bucket truck. I also have been doing trenching and excavation work on the side.
I got my foot in the door at a lake community here in town and may be taking over their lake maintenance. We were there last week installing an aerator pump and lines and will be hopefully applying bio-organisms on a bi-weekly basis starting this summer.
Business has been great and I have had to hire part and full time help just to stay afloat. Just went LLC with the business last month. I’m hoping to steer more towards all commercial accounts and away from the residential ones as I am able to make more in less time.
Now that I have become more established and with the economy in a rut, I am beginning to see more and more 1st timers trying a go at it. In my opinion, I think one of the worst mistakes for a new business to make is to go out and purchase all new equipment. Each spring I see a handful of ‘newbies’ with brand new tandem axle trailers, towing brand new $14,000 zero turns. I think to myself they have set themselves up for failure from the beginning. They don’t even have a stable customer base yet.
This is a very competitive business. You have a large potential customer base out there, but a customer base that knows what they want and are hesitant to just hire someone with a mower. Just because you have a shiny mower, doesn’t mean you’re gonna get the job. If you want to succeed at this business, you have prove yourself and be competitive. You have to pay attention to what the other lawn care businesses are doing and adjust your routine and methods around that. You have to be more professional and do a better job.
As a rule, consumers focus on two main factors when choosing a new lawn care company, how much is this gonna cost me and what am I gonna get in return for my hard earned money? In my five years of going professional, I have never advertised. All of my customer base has been from word-of-mouth.
To build this customer base, I live by these simple rules:
- You can never be too picky with your work.
- When you are servicing any account, always keep in the back of your mind that somebody is always watching you - whether it be your current customer, competition, a possible customer, or a past customer that may have let you go for some reason.
- Your work is never good enough. Trust me, your mow lines and/or stripes can always look straighter, and your trimming can always get better. If you can take a 8′ by 8′ square of turf that hasn’t been mowed and trim it with a weedeater, and when you’re finished, you can’t tell if you mowed it or used a trimmer to cut it, you’re getting good enough to be considered intermediate.
- You never know everything there is to know. Everyday is a learning experience and everyday you will pick up a new method or trick.
- Always treat your customers like they are family. If they ask for a small favor, do it and don’t charge them for it. Don’t be a greedy ass. Be friendly, smile a lot, and always thank them and tell them to have a great day when you leave.
- Be honest. If a customer asks you something and you don’t know the answer, tell them you don’t know. Then tell them you’ll spend the time to find out for them.
I also have my own industry standards that are absolute rules in my business.
- You NEVER discharge clippings against any structure or onto any neighboring properties. Neighbors hate this and you may lose a potential customer over this, not to mention cause tension between your current customer and their neighbor. You also don’t blow clippings against trees or shrubs, and especially not against air conditioner units.
- When trimming, you NEVER leave a blade of grass uncut. This looks very sloppy. Your competition may do this, but you don’t. A good rule of thumb is to trim the areas around obstacles and trees/shrubs at the height of the mower’s cut, and turn the weedeater sideways and ‘edge’ sidewalks and driveways.
- Your mowing lines or stripes are always straight and neat. Don’t embarrass your customers by making it look like you were on an all night drinking binge the night before.
- ALWAYS keep your blades sharp. If half your deck is cutting the grass and the other half is beating the grass, you need to quit right there and go sharpen your blades and then come back. You will greatly impress your customer when you return and they ask you why you left and you explain to them the reason.
- ALWAYS blow the clippings off the sidewalks, driveways, and street. This is another major factor in being a professional.
If I haven’t hammered this home yet, remember these three major things:
- YOU ARE REPLACEABLE!
- ONE HAPPY CUSTOMER MAY GET YOU TWO NEW CUSTOMERS. ONE UNHAPPY CUSTOMER MAY LOSE YOU TEN POSSIBLE CUSTOMERS.
- IF YOU ARE DOING YOUR JOB CORRECTLY, YOUR COMPETITION IS NO THREAT TO YOU.
If you want to be taken seriously, you need to be serious. If you want to be professional, you have to look and be professional. Get yourself licensed and insured and do this right. With a license you gain the customer’s trust that you aren’t just a fly-by-night outfit. With insurance your butt is covered and you don’t lose everything when you hurt someone.
I think the best way to get past potentially problem customers and enjoy your business is to always be sure you know EXACTLY what the customer expects of you and your business. Don’t just assume they want their lawn cut the way you do it to all your other customers. Ask lots of questions, make sure you can even live up to the expectations of what they want. Find out what the other guy did that they didn’t like. A good rule of thumb is to ask them if they would walk the entire property with you and show you some of the things they like about their lawn and things they don’t like. Make conversation about the good and bad and offer remedies. This will give you a better idea of what they are looking for and also gives you a chance to find out if their expectations are even realistic.”
Read more about Lawn Care Business Bidding Tips, Upsells, And Disasters To Avoid. Learn how to improve your bidding process with this book and be prepared before hand by knowing what you should be looking out for before a problem occurs.ā€¯