Questions and lessons from a previous lawn care employee.

You can learn a lot by listening to your lawn care employees. If you don’t have any yet, here is an entrepreneur who recently quit his job as a landscape laborer and shared with us some of his insights. In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, one member talked about the biggest errors he found his employers committing. Knowing what they are can keep you from repeating the same problems.

One new lawn care business owner wrote “I had been a landscape laborer for years and recently decided to start my own company. I have been doing side jobs for the past couple years all by word of mouth. I feel going through that process allowed me to get my feet wet in the entrepreneurial world.

I would say being a lawn care employee has taught me quite a few lessons I plan on using as I look towards future growth with my company. From my perspective, I saw quite a few re-occurring themes in the companies that I worked for. They would all be trying to grow too much too fast and putting way too much equipment on credit. This was the downfall of the last company that I worked for.

I saw the writing on the wall before the owner did. When I realized they had $150,000 on credit in trucks, $50,000 in mowers, and lots of other money spent in other ways, I knew it was time for me to go. This was happening with a company of 15-20 people.

The tipping point for it to all come crashing down was when their biggest client signed with someone else for the next year. That one client left them on the brink of bankruptcy. This was the biggest lesson for me as I started my own business. Don’t let any one customer become so big that they can make or break you. Also as I buy equipment, everything is paid for in full.

In the past, I never did side jobs for the customers of my employer. Although at times, I was tempted. I found customers through people I knew or lived near. The company I was with didn’t pay their employees well. This led to a lot of churn in the employee roster. People were constantly coming and going. I also saw others do side work for the customers we provided services to. I thought that was a big mistake. From that experience I learned to find good employees, and pay them well. They’ll respect you more, and be more loyal to the company.

As I move ahead, I do have a couple of questions that I hope I can be helped with.

  1. I’m looking to pass out flyers for next year’s spring season - mowing, trimming, edging, mulching, etc. Will I be likely to get any customers late in the year or should I just wait until next year?
  2. In my first year, I will only be servicing residential clients only. No commercial jobs. Should I use contracts? I have a contract written out, but I am worried that it might scare some potential clients off. What is the norm for residential clients?”

A second lawn care business owner responded “spring time is a great time to get lawn care customers, but start it is always better to take advantage of the time you have. If it is Fall, start your ground work now, don’t put off for tomorrow what you can get done today. Get out and meet potential customer in your area. Get your flyers designed and printed. Make a craigslist ad and start testing your marketing message. Now is the time to do it. Come spring, hopefully you won’t have the time because you will already be too busy with the clients you gained over the fall and winter.

I am not big on forcing the 85 year old widow down the road to sign a lawn care  contract. I would say whether you use a contract or not is a personal call on your part, if you can trust the people you work for. 99% of my customers pay when I mow. The rest, the monthly payers, I keep on a short leash until we have built up a relationship.

I do use contracts with my commercial customers though.”

A third shared “I agree. The elderly widow isn’t the problem, but watch out for tenants. I use contracts for a lot of my residential just so everyone was on the same page with service frequency, payment terms (make sure to have a late fee and a returned check fee policy because that will come up and why should you have to pay your bank for a returned check) and in the event of damages. You can’t go wrong with mowing contracts. I haven’t scared anyone off with them and if someone was a little questionable with it, I just said it was for liability purposes (which for the most part it is).

When it comes to marketing and what times are the best to do it, generally people don’t care about landscaping until after the holidays. Actually the first day it hits 50 degrees everyone goes crazy around here. They all wash their car and call to start mulching. So in my experience, if you were to send out lawn care flyers in the fall, it might go in a pile of paper work or sit on their desk until Feb.Instead, try promoting seasonal services that people can use at the time they receive the flyer.

Try to hook up with a residential property manager, they usually have multiple properties and in my experiences pay the bill then get reimbursed by the tenant so you don’t have to track down someone that moved out of town.”

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.

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
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A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
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