Any lawn care business owner that can make it through their first year, is going to learn from a wealth of experiences. When we research lawn care business failure rates, the toughest year seems to be the first one. But can you imagine how much you would learn after 20 years in business? We got lucky to hear some business insight from such a veteran on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.
He shared with us “I have been servicing lawn care customers for over 20 years now and I have learned so many lessons over the years, some good ones & some not so good.
The first lessons, that stands out to me is to buy the best piece of equipment (mower) you can afford to from the start. Do not go so far as to finance your entire equipment line as this is very risky for any new business. Get one good piece of equipment at a time. Budget for additional equipment needed. Then add to your equipment line only if you can afford to. Make it a part of your schedule to frequent your local pawn shops, craigslist, yard sales etc. for small equipment like blowers, trimmers, edgers etc. Many good deals can be had through such avenues.
Rent equipment whenever possible for jobs that are not part of your day to day operations. Buying equipment that sits idle most of the year, does not benefit you and will become a drain on your resources. Not to mention it will not start when you have the occasion to use it. Such idle equipment will become a maintenance nightmare.
From equipment to the field to the office there are so many considerations that are overlooked or just not done. From the office aspect, those pesky little receipts you get from the gas stations etc. that are thermally printed, make a physical copy and attach the original receipt to it. In about 1 years time that receipt is going be faded to the point that it is unreadable. The IRS doesn’t accept a blank receipt as a deduction and that receipt is your proof should you get audited. Making copies of the receipt also helps to prevent loss. Keep your receipts in individual folders marked accordingly (IE gas, meals, repairs etc.) This makes the accounting process much more organized and easier to understand for both you and your accountant.
If you do not have a copier, get an all in one printer, that will do what you need, copy, fax and print.
Use the lawn care business calculators available on this site. I wish something like this had been available to use when I first started out. These calculator do not cover all considerations in the bidding process for a job but do give a great starting point. Use them.
When it comes to growing your lawn care business from residential accounts to commercial one, a lot of issues can arise. My biggest hurdle when getting into commercial lawn care work was not having enough equipment and personnel to get the job done properly and efficiently. It takes time and experience to be in the position to take on a commercial accounts and service them properly. So don’t just jump into a huge commercial property bid. Take it step by step and scale up the size you service.
You also need to make sure when you service commercial properties that you build a rapport with the property owner/manager and keep in contact with them. After getting the account, the easiest mistake you can make is also the worse one to do and that is to fade into the background by just showing up to the job. Showing up only to do the work and limiting your interaction with the customer only to sending an invoice is a quick way to lose your accounts. If you find yourself doing that, you are out of touch with your business and your customers. Customers who feel out of touch with their lawn maintenance provider will more easily switch to the lowest bidder when their maintenance contract ends.
So to sum up my advise in a nutshell, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Stay within you work capability and don’t misrepresent your capabilities.”