How do I run my part time mowing business while I’m at my full time job?

Having a full time job and trying to get a lawn care business up off the ground is possible, it’s just tougher for a number of reasons. You only have so much time in your week to apply to your business when you are working full time elsewhere and that can cause many headaches as we will see in this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. Knowing what you are up against can help you avoid those problems and find success despite of them.

One lawn care business owner wrote “how do I run my part time mowing business while I’m at my full time job?

I’ve gotten to the point that I would like to take on more work. I have a full time job so I’ve been mowing yards after work when I get off at around 2:30 in the afternoon. I would like to employe a crew and have them work during the day. I’ve got enough work to keep them busy for 2 full days. Has anyone done this? If so can you give me any insight on how you made this possible. What complications I may face and so on?

I opened a business to run, manage, and grow the business. I didn’t open it and start it to do the all the labor. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy getting out there and doing the labor but that’s not what I want to do the whole time. I am at 20 hrs a week mowing with 2 people right now. As far as billing, maintenance, and marketing goes, that is taking many many more hours. My plan for the business is to grow it so that I can step away from the field and manage the business. During my time that I spend working for my lawn care business I would like to be meeting with business owners, marketing, accounting, all of the other stuff.

As far as overseeing the work product, I figured I would come up with something. I’ve got a college student that works for me now and he knows that I am wanting to grow it. He appreciates the work and wants to end up getting more hours of work. He does a fantastic job. I have spent a lot of time teaching him the right way to do the yards.

I’ve thought of a few ways to do keep tabs on everything.

  1. I can get a gps unit put on truck. That way I know how long the crew is at a job site.
  2. Hire good, honest people and pay them well. I feel if you treat them right they will be less likely to take advantage of you.
  3. Have them take pictures of each yard they do. You can see the quality in a picture. I use to work for a guy in college where we would have to do this on foreclosed homes we would go in and mow and clean up.

Those are just some of the things I have thought about.

Part time lawn care business.

Part time lawn care business.

I’ve got to the point that I would like to take on more work. I would like to employee a crew and have them work during the day. Has anyone done this? If so can you give me any insight on how you made this possible. What complications might I face and so on?”

A second lawn care business owner said “many moons ago I began my business while working full time also. I worked from 5pm-1:30am and mowed grass all day and then went into work and built my business up that way. Been there, done that, and I commend you for working your tail off.

I look back at photos from that era and I have some nasty bags under my tired eyes! If you are at 20 hrs / week running w/2 guys with your lawn care business and working full time at another job, I’d agree you’re about maxed out. Knowing what I know now and looking at the fact that you are looking toward managing the business and not being the labor, here is probably what I would do.

First, if you aren’t ‘official’ with insurance and having registered some sort of corporation, you might as well go ahead and do that. You already have 2 guys working with you, if you trust them, take the leap and let them do the actual work themselves and stay in the background as much as possible. Keep a close eye on everything. Try to manage it and start slowly.

Use this season to wean your way out of actual mowing. Keep picking up accounts, keep your day job, still come in if needed at 2:30pm and help out here and there but I would just keep doing what you are doing. I don’t think you will pick up a ton of business overnight and the biggest problem I had was finding reliable help, so keep the day job, grow slow, make the business, pay taxes, get an accountant…..all this will eat up some profit but don’t rush. Slow and steady always wins the race. Stay in the black. Start collecting from customers as you cut (if you’re not already) and you should be able to stay profitable.

That transition period is a tough one for anyone who has been in your shoes but keep the day job (unless you seriously don’t need it) until your business is paying you adequately after all those lovely expenses that come from hiring people.”

A third lawn care business owner shared “if you don’t have enough work to keep your employees busy for a full week you might have trouble keeping someone that would be reliable.

I myself work full time and mow about 25 yards a week. Some are bi-weekly. I have two days off from my full time job. I use one of those to cut lawns. Sometimes it doesn’t work due to weather. I have brought people on to help me when I am really busy or in a time crunch on a job. I also hire people during plow season. I do get stuck at work sometimes because I am an essential employee for the state. This happens a lot during snow storms.

I have learned no one does the same job you would expect of yourself and also no one will know your equipment like you will. Case in point, the first snow storm of the year dropped 30 inches of snow. It took two days to snow plow out all the customers. Two of my trucks never left the lot because of break-downs with the four wheel drive. One was not engaged properly and the other, the driver activated the shifter but not the locking hubs.

I highly recommend using GPS in your trucks but I also recommend going with the crew once a week surprising them different days each week to make sure the jobs are done right. Let them do it and then critique them at the end. You still want your customers and employees to know you’re involved. A lot of companies have issues with employees using the company equipment to make side money with neighbors of your customers and what not. Just be careful. Stealing gas can be an issue too. GPS will solve most of this but one day a week with the crew and spot checks on job sites should eliminate that.

I too hope to set this up to become a massive landscaping company where I work when I want and can focus primarily on the paperwork / estimate part. I will still do fieldwork for call-outs and vacations as well to spot check employees. I plan on doing it when I retire also as I will retire young. It’s not easy but I smile all the way to the bank, I like being outside, and best off I have no BOSS!”

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