How far is too far?

Getting that first call from your first potential lawn care customer can be very exciting. It can make you feel like your entire business plan has now been validated. But what should you do if your first potential job is outside a reasonable service area? That is what one lawn care business owner was dealing with when a call came in for work and was 350 miles from his home. In a discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, we look into whether or not this job is feasible to take on.

One lawn care business owner wrote “so here I am, finally getting my lawn care business started. All of my equipment is together. I have began marketing, and getting the word out about my business. You would think, I am all set to take off right? Then I got to thinking. Where do I want to take with my business? Do I want to mow residential customers and have some one at every home, or did I want to go commercial and….. well you get the idea. After weighing a bunch of options, I decided to focus on mowing foreclosed homes. I have a few family members who are in real estate and they turned me on to doing this.

They suggested I begin by sending out emails and calling all the local Realtors. About 5 minutes after I sent out my first email, amazingly enough, I got a response. A real estate agent in another town replied and said that he had at least 7 properties that needed my lawn care services. WOW that’s great right? Well… this town is about 350 miles away from where I live. The trip would take nearly 5 hours! Fuel would be the most expensive part of doing this job. I have an older dodge pick up and average around 9 mpg on the freeway. It would cost around at least $200 in fuel alone.

On a positive note, I am thinking that this lead could bring me more customers and more homes. This agent said they have over 40 homes that need maintence but they already have someone taking care of 33 of them. They told me they were considering someone new though. Now I feel like I am really in a spot here, should I take the accounts or should I look for others closer to home?”

Another lawn care business owner said “That seems too far in my opinion. Your travel and maintenance costs would be very high and would certainly eat into any profits you could make cleaning up those properties. My lawn care customers are all within a 45 min circle from my house and I have no problem turning away jobs that are farther out. To me, anything beyond 45 minutes is just too much travel time and too much cost. You really need to set a boundary, a line in the sand, that is reasonable & don’t cross it.

I would imagine if you spent a little more time marketing locally, that you would be able to find plenty of work in your area.

Another thing to think about is getting paid. I have worked on foreclosed homes and found that getting paid is often a challenge. Here, I can easily file a lien on the property owner to eventually get paid but because I have gotten burned before, I tell all the real estate agents up front, that I get paid by the 15th of the following month or I file a lien.

In your case, that 350 miles to the job site would also be a 350 mile drive to file a lien. Further more it would be a 700 mile round trip that you can’t get reinbursed for.”

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