It’s relatively easy to paint yourself into a corner when it comes to the way you run your business. If you have done things one way for a while or only see things one way for too long, you may feel you only have one option. In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, we hear from one entrepreneur who just can’t seem to find a way out from dealing with only cheap mowing customers. Some advice he is given, helps broaden his perspective and find ways to grow beyond his initial limited scope.
One lawn care business owner wrote “last year was my first year in the yard care business. It was awesome to see how quickly I could go from not having a single client to getting my name thrown around left and right until I was busier than I could imagine. Now that winter is in full effect, things have definitely slowed down but I have high hopes for spring time.
My problem is this, I found that most of the people in the area I service are either low income, elderly, or they have property but have the equipment to maintain it themselves. The people who maintain their own property are not my biggest struggle. I saw last year that people I thought I wouldn’t get work out of had jobs that they would rather not do, so they called me. It’s the ones that are on a TIGHT budget that get to me.
I am the type of person that would try to help someone out no matter what, so then add in me trying to take care of a customer and you’ve got low profits… The thing I am contending with is out of work people who are driving around with a lawn mower and a weed eater and charging $10/hr to do the same mowing services I offer. (I have to say that I give them props for not just sitting on their butts collecting unemployment, but common guys…)
I do have more lawn care equipment than most of them and can tackle jobs that they can’t. I literally told a potential customer who happened to be a widowed elderly woman that I would do basic lawn maintenance on her yard for $15 (I was only charging $15/hr last year because of competition) which included mowing, edging, and blowing walks and drive. It would probably take about 45 minutes but I have a one hour minimum charge. I thought at $15 I was doing her a favor and still not losing money. However, she said this was too high and that she had someone do it for half. Needless to say, she will not be my customer until she changes her mind…
So what the heck do I do? I mean don’t get me wrong, I get the occasional ‘wow, that is an awesome deal’ every once in a while but most of the time asking for money is like pulling teeth. The thing they need to understand is that by paying some guy $10/hr to mow your yard typically means you will have some new guy there every year who has to learn everything about you as a customer as well as your property. Most those guys don’t stick around very long. Meth abuse is HUGE out here and most of them make enough to get their fix and you’ll never see them again or they can pay a little more and have a reliable company take care of them year after year.
I guess it’s just one of those things that my business will hopefully outgrow. I just don’t want to get caught in low balling as I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being able to pay the bills with little money to get me through the winter. So how do I convince my mowing customers that it is worth paying more for a company who will stick with them?
The two main guys doing yard care in my area both do the work themselves with no employees. They charge $20/hr and $25/hr. I will be charging $20/hr this year as I feel much more knowledgeable and experienced as opposed to last year. Not having many customers makes me want to take EVERY job but would I be better off refusing the jobs that I will break even on or make a tiny profit or are they worth it to make a customer happy and encourage referrals? I guess you wouldn’t want the customer telling everyone how dirt cheap you did their yard though…
I don’t know guys, a little friendly advice would go far. I guess I’m just getting discouraged with it being winter and me spending to much time sitting and not enough time making money. Thanks for anyone’s response!”
A second lawn care business owner added “Wow, I thought I had it bad with prices in my area, $20 to $25 is an hour is extremely low. The low guys in our area are around $50.
You first really need to figure out what your costs are, and what your break even is. Then what you want your profit margin to be.
There are many different selling points you can use to sell your services though and get that extra buck. Things like:
- You support the local community.
- You have insurance, while the others don’t. So if they get hurt on the client’s property, the client could have to foot the bill.
- Promote if you have any certification or training in your field.
- You are reliable, and not going to be here one year and gone the next.
Those are just four ideas off the top of my head. I know if I took some time I could come up with lots more. I would personally start out with the insurance first. Perhaps have a type of information sheet or flyer to give to potential clients telling them ‘You’re liable if a contractor gets hurt on their property, and they don’t have insurance’ something along those lines.”
A third shared “the average here is $35-$75 an hour (depending on equipment). I try to be between $50 & $75 depending on what type of work I am doing. Do not try to compete on price - someone is always willing to do it cheaper. Offer higher end or niche services other guys are not offering. Emphasize the quality, reliability, and knowledge of the work that you do. Market to the people that you think can afford your services.
Don’t be afraid to drop low profit or pain in the ass lawn care customers.”
Read more about Lawn Care Business Bidding Tips, Upsells, And Disasters To Avoid. Learn how to improve your bidding process with this book and be prepared before hand by knowing what you should be looking out for before a problem occurs.ā€¯