I am going broke bidding on commercial lawn care jobs.

It can be tough enough trying to get commercial lawn care accounts but when you add to it the skill set needed to bid them accurately, it’s no wonder so many new start up mowing business owners stay clear of them for at least a year if not more. If you are trying to figure out the key to making commercial lawn care customers work for you here are some very important tips from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum that will help.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I’m new to the lawn care business I’m running into a problem. There are two huge lawn care companies in my area that have 80% of all commercial mowing customers around here. Because of this, it has been hard to get any commercial work. When I get a chance to bid on a job, I try to shoot for a price where I can make money but not bid too high where my price will scare the customer away. So far I have been striking out.

I have bid a few local hotels and never heard anything back from them. I know the price was lower than the big landscape companies so why am I not getting the jobs ?

Yes I am licensed and insured. Yes I have uniforms / shirts, hats, hoodies with logo so I look like a pro. I just don’t know what I am doing wrong.

Another issue I am having is how do you know where to bid or how to place a bid for places like strip mall stores, big box stores, doctor offices etc? I have called and emailed many potential commercial properties and no one will tell me anything. People seem to not like change around here. This is my 1st year in business and I don’t want it to be my last.”

A second lawn care business owner shared “the advice I have to offer you is this:

  • You know what you need to bid on a job to make a profit. Stick to this. Don’t fall into the trap of wanting to land a large commercial account so bad that you lose money (or not make enough to make it worth your while).
  • Keep a positive attitude (and image) and keep hanging those door hangers, flyers, etc. The calls will come.

You are right that some people/companies don’t like change. If the larger lawn care provider has been servicing them for years and are doing a good job, these properties will be hard to land. Instead of worrying about competing with the big guys, instead concentrate on the smaller accounts and build your reputation. I know there is more money involved with larger accounts but in the mean time, you can feed your family and keep your head above water doing more smaller accounts.

You can’t compete with the big guys yet. They have stability, name, and price working to their advantage. Commercial lawn care accounts in my area aren’t even worth bidding for my company. The competition is so fierce that prices have dropped through the floor. I stick with residential. If I get a call for a bid on commercial mowing, I will submit one, but I don’t market to them.

Commercial lawn care bidding.

Commercial lawn care bidding.

Have you followed up with these companies on your bids. What did you include in your bid package? You are probably not getting the jobs for a few reasons. One could be an incomplete lawn care bid package, or they are happy with the company they have and are just accepting bids to pressure them to lower their prices. It could also be your bid was too high or low. A good property manager knows the time and money it will take to maintain his property. As a new company they may be worried about your reliability. They may wonder if you will show up in mid-August when it is 100 degrees out. Also they may be looking for a company to provide complete property maintenance and you may not offer the services that they need. These are just a few possibilities.

I would start by following up. Call your contacts and find out. In addition you have to sell your work. You don’t just want to send a email with a few word docs and call it good.

I would start with residential lawn care customers. The money is better, there is less competition, and you have a better chance of getting the work. It is still going to take work and time, but it isn’t unreasonable to get 15-20 residential accounts in your first year. However it typically takes the season to amass that many and depending on your marketing tactics say @ $2000-$2500 in marketing costs. These are just ball park figures. I have seen guys start on a shoe string and get more clients. On the flip side I have also seen guys who spent twice as much and were out of business before the end of the season.

When it comes to commercial lawn care bid submissions, here is what I do. Typical a bid package of mine might include a color folder. Inside the folder would be my mowing bid /estimate, a letter to the property manager /contact, probably a copy of my contract, brochure, basic information on my business, business cards, copy of my insurance and any licensing documents and a copy of my satisfaction guarantee.

I don’t give coupons to commercial lawn care bids. I may offer a discount wording in the bid, but coupons are reserved for residential lawn care customers only.

I would suggest that you start marketing to residential mowing customers first, by either making or having made some flyers or door hangers and handing them out to subdivisions around where you live. I would highly recommend getting a website and online advertising. I have pretty good luck with adwords and my google local listing makes the phone ring.

Some guys have had success with craigslist and other free online sites. I am not a fan. Direct mail for me has been hit or miss. It really seems to depend on the offer and when you send it not to mention the list. Personally I am going to target new home buyers this year with some post cards and letters. Ultimately, it’s all trial and error.”

A third lawn care business owner added “bidding is only about 1/3 of actually GETTING a commercial mowing account. It does take some foot work, along with phone calls, face to face meetings, etc etc. My suggestions for you to get commercial lawn care accounts are:

  1. Call and find out if the property you are after, is taking bids… (if they are, or aren’t go to step 2).
  2. (If they ARE), go and walk the property, look for issues the current maintenance company is fouling up (trimming, edging, mowing, etc.).
  3. (While still on the property) go into the office and PUT yourself in front of the PROPERTY MANAGER (not the manager on duty. If they aren’t there, find out when they will be and GO BACK! Make sure when you go in, you GIVE THEM SOMETHING. Usually a brochure with basic information about your company is good, and a business card, or a FEW.
  4. (While talking to the manager) Ask them what kind of service are they looking for? (Full Maintenance, just basic cut, edge, weed and blow?) Ask how much they are paying now, and what kind of savings they are looking for? (It is your right as a vendor to know, or ask to see a past bid). When do they accept bids? How often do they take bids? (Most commercials ask for new bids at the start of the season and in the north they take separate bids for snow plowing, BE ON TOP OF IT!)
  5. (Making a bid, planning and executing) Information to INCLUDE WITH YOUR BID!
  • Local Business Registration.
  • All INSURANCE PAPERS.
  • Paper work to show you do/don’t have workers comp.
  • The BID/Proposal.
  • Itemized list of services you will provide with an hours break down of how long it will take (ie: Cut - Hours?)
  • Thank you letter - mention ONE thing you noticed on the property that you can do better.

I have WON and LOST MANY bids… MANY MANY MANY!

I prefer to WIN…You can win more bids with the right preparation, presentation, and persistence.”

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success