How to compete with illegal lawn care businesses.

The lawn care industry is relatively easy to get started in. Because of the low barrier of entry, many new business owners get started without being licensed or insured. Such unlicensed or uninsured businesses can operate with a competitive advantage due to their lower overhead costs. This then presents a problem to those business owners who operate legally. What can a legitimate business owner do compete in a such a market? That is the question discussed on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

One lawn care business owner wrote “there are A LOT of illegal lawn businesses being operated in my area. They advertise that they can mow a lawn, including ALL services, for only $20. HOW can I compete against them? I need a lot more than $20 a lawn to survive.”

Some options other lawn care business owner suggested are:

“This goes on in my area too. What I did was make a flyer. On it I posed the question, ‘is your lawn/landscape service licensed? Insured? Find out. If they aren’t, you will be liable for any accidents or injuries they cause. Even to themselves, while working on your property.’

When people realized that their landscaper was not insured they went looking elsewhere and guess who they called. They had my number on the flyer.”

“This has been going on here in lawn care for as long as I can remember. This is why I decided to get away from offering t push mowing. There is simply no money to be made in the residential side of this service.

However, these trunk slammers can’t get commercial lawn care jobs because they are not registered, licensed or insured. Since I know they can’t get such work, I look for commercial jobs. I do see some of these unlicensed business in the landscaping field but their work leaves much to be desired.

Every once in a while I will have a few pressure washing estimates where the potential customer tells me another company offered to do the job for $xx.xx, and then ask why am I so much higher? I simply reply we are licensed, insured, registered, and pay tax. If you are willing to gamble and hire an uninsured business, that risk is on you. I certainly wouldn’t want them on my property. After pointing this out, most accept my bid.”

“I have sent out flyers too warning potential customers about uninsured businesses. This works great. I also have another flyer that ask them if they are happy with the quality of work and communication with their current landscaper. I have picked up several clients who were tired of the trunk slammers not returning phone calls. They tend to stop showing up after a few weeks or do a quick crappy job and when the client calls they don’t call back. People get tired of them quickly and you can get them if you do it right.

I have a client who wanted a patio put in his backyard. He asked me if I could give him an estimate and so I did. He also got estimates from three other companies, two of which I know are illegal and not licensed. My estimate was the highest of the four. My client asked me why I was so much higher than the others. I told him because I am licensed, insured and guarantee my work. I told him if he wanted the job done right then let me do it. If he wanted to go with the others that was fine with me, just remember it will cost you double when you call me back to fix their work.

He had one of the other guys do it and it took them almost 2 weeks to do it. I just shook my head as I watched them work. In just two months time the concrete was falling apart and large cracks began to appear all over. The patio is not level and the water is running under the house into the foundation. He can not get a hold of the company that did the work for him as they have changed their number.

Well next week I will be redoing his patio which is fine by me because it is now more money for me than the original job would have been. On top of that, I got a great story and testimonial for my future marketing, from this customer. Just hang in there and you will get the clients if you are legitimate and do quality work.”

“We have to deal with illegal businesses quite often. It does get frustrating at the amount of illegal competition we have around here sometimes but we use that to our advantage. We always remind new customers of the fact that if an accident were to occur while using an un-insured contractor that their homeowners insurance would be liable.

I ask them what would happen if a mower slings a rock and heaven forbid it hits a child in the eye. I remind them that while taking care of a lawn may not be rocket science it does involve working with dangerous equipment. That in itself is enough to usually sway a potential customer our way and if it doesn’t and they still go with our illegal competition then we don’t want them as a customer anyway.

A high amount of illegal competition in your area can work to your advantage. You need to be what they are not or can’t be. I can’t tell you how many customers we have added on because they couldn’t communicate with their last lawn care provider, due to a language barrier.

Illegal competition does irritate me if for no other reason than it brings the industry as a whole down. The ones spraying chemicals without the proper licenses really bother me, but even with all that going on, we are as busy as we want to be so we don’t have the time to worry about it too much.”

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The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
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