Lawn Care Business Tips Track #9 added

Lawn Care Business Tips Track #9 added today.

There is a lot of great content in here. Remember to “Listen while you mow, to help your business grow.”

Download the mp3 file and full book here for free.

General Lawn Care Business Tips.

  • Suggestions on how to learn more about this industry before I quit my day job?

Kevin wrote us and said “I have really been thinking about this business after seven years in corporate America. Even thinking about getting a part time job to learn the ropes. Would this be advantageous to possibly running a small maintenance business in the future?”

Joel LaRusic of said “Kevin, it is a huge advantage to know the technical details and some of the tips and tricks of the industry before starting your own business. A lack of this type of knowledge or failure to pay attention to details has killed many a business. I myself worked for a year before starting out on my own and can say it would have been extremely challenging without that experience.

So work part time or find a friend or relative who is in the business, who can help train you. But training is a very good idea. As well, after a season in the field you may decide it’s not for you and it’s good to realize this before dropping 1000’s on equipment, vehicles and stuff.

My book is packed with great advice that you will find very valuable as you are starting out. Many of your questions will be answered… let us know if you have any other questions.”

  • Must you grow or can you stay the same size year after year?

Can a business stay the same size over time and should it? Or do you feel if a business isn’t growing, it is shrinking?

Joel LaRusic of responded by saying “It’s true that the common conception is that ‘If you aren’t growing, your dying’. Perhaps in the multinational global economy this is true. In small business - in the landscape maintenance business - I would disagree completely.

How far and how fast you grow your company is entirely up to you and will depend on your lifestyle preferences and your personality. I know of many companies who happily run 1 or 2 crews and have for years and years. They do very well having streamlined their operation over the years to maximize their profit and build up a group of preferred and loyal customers. Likely the owner of this type of business prefers a simpler lifestyle. On the other hand I know of companies who grow to 10+ crews and are always looking to grow more. There is nothing wrong with this. Obviously the owner of this company is a business person at heart and loves the challenges of building the enterprise.

Some people are perhaps not sure which way to go. My own personal experience illustrates this. I started small and grew my company over the years. After about 5 years it had grown and I was operating several crews. However, I realized that I enjoyed my life much more when I was running just 2 crews. So I down sized and stayed running either 1 or 2 crews since then. This allowed me more freedom and less stress.

So, I say, if you like it small… stay small. You may be surprised at your profit (4 crews does not necessarily mean twice as much profit as 2 crews). You are not dying. You are enjoying a lifestyle that combines satisfying work, a healthy lifestyle and good money. And what’s wrong with that.

It’s worth noting, however, that not growing in size does not mean being stagnant. You should always be looking at new technology that can help your business, new services to offer and new ways to wow your customers. If you fail to do these types of activities regularly… then you are dying.”

  • One hit wonder or try try try?

Some business owners feel you need to hit on something right away and if you don’t, you are a failure. Others feel you have to try many things, you may fail at many, but some you will succeed with. Let’s look at what some of our forum members had to say.

“Windmill” said “As far as new customers are concerned I get 90% through word of mouth. Those are by far the best customers as they generally stay with me.

If you are referring to business expansion, for me it is try. Although I am pretty much as busy as I want to be with my one employee (sometimes four), I am always looking for a new aspect of business that might work.

My business is primarily back yard tree spraying and weed control. I have been thinking that next year I might venture into vacation mowing. Grasshopper (my son) mows lawns and gets the odd call for vacation mows, because his schedule is generally full he can’t always do them. I’m thinking this will be the same for most of the companies in town, so I will be adding a vacation mow bullet to my “yellow page” ads.
Now I can hear you already, what if you get one mow and it is way out of the way. My thoughts are:

1. A mow that might regularly be charged at $25.00 will be a minimum of $35.00
2. If the mow is out of any of the routes we normally do it will be higher.
3. I will probably want cash in advance.
4. The lawn must have been cut the week previous or the cost will be higher.
5. Perhaps splitting the profit 60/40 with my employee and paying this money out as a bonus at the end of our spraying season.

As this is only a developing thought I will probably think of more things as time goes by.
If people want to go on vacation they will have to pay that extra $$$ for that select service.”

Joel LaRusic of said “I am definitely of the try, try and try view.

In my business, over the course of 10 years, there were lots of things that worked and some that did not work, but overall the business was successful and we learned from our mistakes.

For example, when we decided to expand our aeration operation we bought a Ryan LA28 which was a sizable investment for us. We restructured the company and re-designed a lot of our marketing. However, it paid off in that we used the LA28 to sell a superior aeration job and we were able to do them more efficiently. It was a great success.

We took this one step further when we invested in a marketing campaign to sell our aeration services to other lawn maintenance companies with the idea of sub-contracting to them. This failed dismally as we found, at least in our area, that lawn care operators want to do their own aeration.

You definitely have to keep trying new things all the time. Watch for new technology, improved equipment and the industry as a whole and look for new opportunities. Not to say that you should throw caution to the wind and buy everything that comes along. Of course you must do your research, count the cost and plan how you intend to make it successful. If it is not as successful as you had hoped or if it fails all together then at least you walk away wiser. Chalk it up as a learning experience.”

  • How to deal with rising fuel expenses.

Joel LaRusic of shared this insight with us. “Lawn care operators and professional gardeners get a little nervous as the gas prices creep up because it means their bottom line is creeping down.

No one is immune to the rising cost of energy but our industry is affected to a greater extent because we provide on-site service which entails driving trucks around. How can the average LCO reclaim lost profit due to dramatically increasing prices at the pump? What can you do to reduce the energy costs in your business? This article will look at several ways we can do this.

1. Raise prices - The obvious answer is to increase your prices to recover profit lost to the increased cost of fuel. In fact, according to the Lawn & Landscape 2005 State of the Industry Report, 69% of contractors did just that last summer by building their fuel costs into their service pricing or adding a fuel surcharge onto certain jobs. If you are not already considering the cost of fuel in your 2006 pricing, you should be. Having said that if you are a new company trying to break ground or if for some other reason you feel you cannot raise your prices for some of your customers you may have to absorb the extra costs. If you do this it should be part of a calculated business plan and not done haphazardly.

2. Efficient Routing - ‘Windshield time’ is always a killer of healthy profits but now more than ever is it important to ensure your job routes are efficient. Take a hard look at all of your routes to make sure that there is as little backtracking as possible. As well, have a look at a city map to avoid taking ‘scenic routes’ to your jobs. Can you juggle your routes so that you are avoiding high congestion areas at peak periods? Can you leave earlier in the morning to avoid rush hour traffic? Make sure your staff understand the importance of always taking the most sensible route. Consider using route analysis software to help with the task of routing.

3. Focused Marketing - Along the same lines as #2 try to build tighter routes where the properties are close together. A great way to achieve this is through focused marketing. Pick some neighborhoods that you are interested in growing into and hammer them with your fine marketing. Not just once but again and again. Be consistent with your message and this will build confidence in your company. If you have a property in the neighborhood see if you can get permission to put a tactful sign somewhere in the yard for a limited time. Eventually you will build super-efficient routes that require very little fuel.

4. Driving Habits - Studies show that driving at 55 mph is about 20% more efficient that driving 70 mph. Avoid rapid and/or jerky acceleration and use cruise control whenever possible. Don’t use the air conditioner unless it’s really necessary. Shop around for the best gas prices and take advantage of gas station loyalty programs that can save you money. Maintain your vehicles so as to improve gas mileage – this means regular tune-ups. As well, check tire pressure and alignment which can also affect mileage.

Don’t drag a truck full of equipment (and perhaps even a trailer) around when you do your quotes – you’re flushing money down the drain. Of course, there are times when you’ll need to do quotes during the work day and you must use the truck, but try to avoid it. Consider getting a more fuel efficient car or even a motorcycle/scooter to do your quotes. If you thoroughly analyze your driving habits you may surprise yourself at where you can cut a few corners that can make a difference to your bottom line.

5. Equipment Tips - Tune-up your equipment. Smooth running equipment will not use as much fuel so keep your engines under a tight maintenance schedule. Consider 4-cycle engines where it is practical, they burn less fuel (and are more environmentally sound too).

6. Offer Great Customer Service! - We are not the only ones effected by the higher costs of energy. Our customers drive too and they have to heat and light their homes. An ABC News Poll reported that 45% of Americans are cutting back on purchases in order for them to recoup from higher fuel costs. If you are making your customer feel important then you will not be on the top of the list of things to cut from their budget.
Do you have any fuel saving tips or other thoughts on the rising cost of energy these days? Post to the forum by clicking the link below and let us know.”

  • What are the biggest hurdles you face in trying to grow?

Forum member “daren_r” said “Having a full time job not related to the green industry. As much as I would love to up and quit sometimes, it is just not feasible. I need to depend on that income so I can purchase and pay for the equipment I need for this business while it grows. The problem is that I am growing to a point where it is getting hard to take care of the lawns I do when the days get shorter but can’t give up the day job.”

Joel LaRusic of said “I sympathize with daren_r… I remember when I first started my business. I too was working full time and squeezing my customers in after my day job and on weekends. I was working in the green industry and when my boss found out he felt it was a conflict of interest and let me go (even though I never stole his customers or used his time for my work).

Anyway, point is I never looked back. I had to hustle for work and had to count my pennies for a while but overall it turned out to be a good thing. I’m not advising you quit your job because I don’t know your situation but if it is a challenge to keep up with the work you get now it will be difficult or impossible to grow (as you stated).

I found the biggest obstacle to growth was maintaining profit and quality as you hire staff to do the work.”

Forum member Impact said “I would have to say manpower. I am actually down sizing our business (in respect to services offered) this fall for next spring as a result of a very shallow labor pool here. It’s amazing how many people say they want to work until it’s presented to them. The last guy that wanted a job wanted Fridays off each week, and requested at least $ 6.00 per hour to start. I offered $ 9.00 to start, but told him no way on every Friday, and he passed on the job. I asked why he needed every Friday off, and he said so he had time to party and recover by Monday…Nice.., huh? We’re buying bigger and better equipment, replacing the need for 2 extra laborers. The equipment never calls in sick, has fights with it’s girlfriend, or shows up hung over.”

“Muddstopper” said “Laborers, without a doubt. I can’t seem to find any that has drivers license or who will work for more than a few days. Like impact, I keep changing equipment to make the work easier and faster so less manpower is required. Even still, I have to have licensed drivers to move the trucks.”

  • Can’t get your footing?

Simon wrote us “this past season has been really tough on me. I have had a difficult time getting new customers and there seems to be a never ending flow of new companies mowing for less and less. I can’t compete with them on price. What should i do next season? If I cant figure something out soon I might just throw in the towel with it all.”

Joel LaRusic of said “Sorry to hear that your year was that tough. Competing with low prices is an issue everywhere as some new companies tend to undercut to get new business.

Try not to get discouraged though.

Usually a cheaper prices comes with a sacrifice of some quality. You have to brainstorm and come up with ways to build value in the services you offer and, perhaps try to add some profitable services that the others don’t have. How can you set yourself apart? Can you pay more attention to detail? Offer a full compliment of services? Try to exceed the expectations of your customers.

I have found in most areas that there are always people who will take quality over a cheap price. The trick is to build value and exceed expectations.

Have you read Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson? In it are great ideas for cost effective marketing. My own book has lots of tips including ‘10 Ways to Exceed the Expectations of Your Customers’.”

Forum member “Coastline” wrote “I just moved to Virginia two month ago from New Jersey. I am trying to get my business back up and running down here but no advertising is working. Newspapers no good, Flyers getting no response, direct mail was a waste and I have called every apartment complex and nothing. All I have left is to try tele-marketing to banks and other small commercial. If that get nothing I’m not sure what to do. Anyone have any ideas? Any help would be considered gold at this point.”

Tiedeman responded by saying “1. Perhaps start to hit up some of the other local landscaping, irrigation, and nurseries. Ask them for referrals or some work

2. Start to attend local meetings; townships, city, county. Also attend perhaps some home shows and just network. Really try to push the networking put of the business

3. Go door to door to local homes and businesses and introduce yourself. Try the personal approach and really introduce yourself, tell that you just moved into the neighborhood, and are looking for new customers

4. Try putting up door hangers at residents.

5. Put your name and phone number on your vehicle for people can see it when you are traveling down the road or doing work.

6. Ask to insert your business cards with other local irrigation or landscaping companies mailings (offer to split the cost of the postage if they let you)

7. Offer referral discounts to your current customers

8. I know that it is too late, but advertise in phone books with yellow pages. I personally have had great results with yellow pages

9. Put up your flyers and business cards in local businesses or on their bulletin boards.

10. Join a local green industry organization. Might be a way to network and pick up new work

11. Look around for bids that cities, companies, or other places are offering up to bid. They are usually located in newspapers or even just contact the city and ask to be put on the notification list.

12. Put signs on the back of your trailer or the back window of your truck for people behind you can see your name and number

13. Talk with other friends, family, co-workers for referrals. Give them a cash bonus for helping out

14. Participate in a local trade show with a booth

15. Offer a free presentation of your service

16. Join the local chamber. Network with them and put fliers in their monthly newsletters. Also attend their meetings.

17. Billboard signs along the side of the road

18. Make lawn signs to post in customers properties why working on their property.

19. Talk with real estate companies about whether they need to have some properties maintained

20. Read all trade magazines, participate on every forum, and get educated in what you do.”

Chestin of responded by saying “Coastline, Starting over can definitely be frustrating. It sounds like you’re doing a lot of different things to get business and that’s a good thing.

In addition to examining the activities you’re doing, you might consider these ideas:

- Who are you targeting? Are they qualified prospects? What this means at the most basic level is do they have a need, can they afford your service, and would they typically purchase lawn care service?

- What message are you delivering? Are you talking about your business and how you’re starting over and really need customers or are you talking about how beautiful their lawn could look when you’re done with it?

- Are you using direct response marketing instead of image advertising? What this means is are you delivering your sales message then telling them exactly how to respond? If you’re just listing your services without presenting them with an offer they can respond to, you’re losing a lot of potential business.

Use these questions to examine your marketing efforts and if you’re not already doing them, apply them and I’m certain you’ll quickly generate some business.”

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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