Lawn care business lessons from a 20 year veteran.

If you have been in the lawn care business for 20 years, you must be doing something right. That is how long a new member of the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum had been in the business for. I had an opportunity to talk with him and learn some of his secrets that have kept him in the game and I think you will really benefit from them.

I asked, 20 years in the lawn care business is a long time! Do you feel you were able to learn a lot from them? Do you have a top 5 list of lessons you learned about running a lawn care business? If so, what would be on that top 5 list?

He responded “I would say that of all the things I learned, here is a top 5 list of what I now use as a standard formula. This is how I approach every job.

1. The customer is always right.
2. While the job will never be perfect, when finished it should be as close to perfect as possible.
3. This is one you will see at the end of the year. On purchasing materials, set a goal on each job to try and save 10% and during the job try to save 10% more. You have to think a little more, but I’m telling you it works.
4. Volume, when you go into a neighboorhood, you should always think about owning it, even if it just starts with one street.
5. Overhead costs should be viewed monthly. The economy has changed, a lot of contractors are one step away from the curb on any given day.”

What is the logic behind the 10% rule? So for instance if you were doing a landscape job that required 10 bushes, would you try and only purchase 9?

“The theory in it is if you save 10% on each job, whether it be materials, labor, having materials delivered, working late, etc. you will end up saving money. Every contractor out there can look at every job from the previous year and say ‘ if I did that differently I would have saved an extra $100.00.’ If you do that 20 times in a year, that’s a $2000.00 savings at the end of the year.”

What is your suggestion to practically do this? Should you first figure out what you need for a job and then go through it and total it up. Then say, how can I cut 10% from these costs and go with that?

When you look back at jobs you have done, were there places you almost always could save money on? If so, what area stood out?

“I have found having materials delivered is a big savings. It saves not only on time and fuel, but also wear & tear on the vehicles. When I have a large planting job I fax the list to 3 suppliers, this always saves money. I also post left over materials on craigslist for free. It is a great way to save money at the landfill, usually this is helpful on hardscape jobs, where there is always a 1/4 pallet left over. People reading craigslist will usually show up an hour after posting to pick the items up.”

Is it ever worthwhile at all to charge for these left overs or is it just better to get rid of them?

“Unless you are going to continuously use the same materials, I suggest to just get rid of them. There’s no way to order an exact amount of pavers so if you finish with a 1/4 pallet left over, home run, just give the rest away to someone who wants them.”

What is your suggestion on how best to go about owning a neighborhood? And do you mean for lawn care maintenance or other services?

“The only way to own a neighborhood is by offering lower prices. But since your dealing in volume all you have to do is keep going from house to house without the unloading, loading, and driving time. The more houses you mow in a neighborhood, the more they will call you for other services.”

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