My business got too big and I shut it down. Where I went wrong.

Most every new lawn care business owner has the goal of creating the biggest lawn care business that ever existed. Along that journey, many things can go wrong. Here is one business owner’s story about what happened to him. Maybe the lessons he learned on his business adventure will help you avoid the same issues. This is what he shared with us on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

He wrote “I had a lawn service business about 12 years ago and have done different things since. Lately I have been driving a truck. I don’t like being away from home and was thinking about the business again. I had since moved from where I originally had my business so I will have to start from scratch not having any of my original customers around.

You might be wondering why I would simply walk away from a business that I had started and poured my heart and soul into for many years. I guess the simple answer to it is that I got too big too fast and went in too many directions. I started mowing, then tore out someone’s landscape and re-installed it with new design and next thing you know it I was getting lots of landscape installs and design projects. I never really felt comfortable doing it and had to learn as I went. I just didn’t seem to be able to say no.

At my breaking point, I had many landscape projects going and lots of yards. I just got completely overwhelmed. When a really good job offer came up I guess I decided it would be simpler to just work for someone else and I sold the business.

Now I am living in another state and not sure how business is here. My plan is to restart the business and keep it simple. I am going to just focus on maintenance.

Here are some of the mistakes I made during start up.

When I first started I had little experience with planting and installing landscapes. I wanted to start maintenance only. When someone asked me to put a garden in, I agreed and started reading some books as I did it. The project came out pretty well so I started getting into it more and more. Meanwhile my advertising was kicking in for maintenance and I was getting accounts too.

What I learned from all that was to pick something and stick with it at first and resist going in too many directions. Keep it simple. Start with basic equipment and focus on advertising the services you decided on. Once you are comfortable with a steady cash flow, then if you want to learn something new, go ahead and offer it to your existing customers. They will be more forgiving if you mess up. Later advertise those services to the general public.

After working on a few projects you should feel comfortable and need to hire a trustworthy person or two.
I took things on way too fast and was always freaking out cause I didn’t have any confidence in what I was doing. Basically I was trying to fake it till you make it.

I went through a lot of homeowner equipment that first season. I remember running to a big box store in the middle of a mowing job to grab another mower. By the end of the season I had to finally replace all my equipment with commercial grade equipment. I lost a lot of money doing it that way. This time around I will start with commercial equipment.

I was always stressed by having to replace and fixing cheap equipment and needing help before I could afford it. I spread myself out too thin. That caused me to burn thru my profits. By end of first year I had a lot of good equipment and a new truck but had monthly payments to make with no money in the bank.

A job sounded easier, so I sold everything. I am now sorry I did that. I should have told my customers I’m only doing lawns by myself and started over. I am nervous about trying to start now as we are well into the season. It’s so hot now the grass is barely growing. I am unemployed and don’t want to drive a truck and really want my business again.

Here are some of the tricks I learned.

The best thing I ever did was to get friendly with the local nurseries that didn’t offer landscape services. I asked them to recommend me and they certainly did. There was one nursery in particular that most of my business came from. Even if someone bought say a tree they would need someone to plant it for them. Then once I was there I could pick up the yard maintenance from them as well. Upsells were very important. Get your foot in the door with a small job and look around for more services you could offer.

The only other advertising I did was an ad in the local paper, which also worked pretty good. From there the rest of my jobs came from word of mouth. The trick to being successful with word of mouth advertising is to always ‘do what you say you will do and add a little more at first.’ Even if it takes longer to do or the customer is a pain in the butt. Impress whoever you get and word of mouth advertising will just happen.

In the end, you have to scale up your management skills as your business grows. You need to grow with your business and rise above it. Watch your cash flow and make sure you are profiting. Don’t let yourself get stressed out because that will lead to burn out.

Once you get to the burnout phase, your business will suffer and you may be looking to sell out like I did.

Steady business growth should be a life long goal. Take growth on slow and steady. In the long run you will benefit from it.”

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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