Continuing on from part 3 of my previous blog article on lawn care business lessons I have learned, here are more insights one lawn care business owner learned from his experience of getting his lawn care business started. In the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, he shared with us his thoughts on annual lawn care contracts and on handling your back office and how that can truly be the key to your success or your businesses demise.
A big time important issue that so many new lawn care business owners fail to do is also painfully simple and often overlooked. The issue is, remember to answer your phone.
There is a guy in town, I learned this from, who mainly focuses on irrigation systems. I personally don’t have the time for that, and since he is the go to guy in town everyone seems to know about, I stay away from offering those services, but I have refered a few people to him and he has done the same for me.
Recently I ran into him at the gas station and he came over and we got to talking about business. He told me how early on, when he got his business started up, he struggled with answering the phone to talk to the new customers calling. He found if he lets their call go to voice mail, the people would more often than not, move on, and find someone else. On the flip side, if he answers the phone, he would look around the truck and grab some old paper and jot down the information.
He said he would always get out to give his estimates and do the work, but when it came time to send a bill, that old envelope would be long gone.
This would drive him crazy because he felt he just couldn’t win and the more customers he got, the more of a mess he found his business in. To resolve this issue, he told me he hired his mom, and said it was the best decision he ever made. She was then able to answer the phones. She would have a copy of his schedule, and know roughly how long each job should take. So when someone new called in, she could send him a message with the details and log all the information. After he finished his estimate, he calls her up, gives her the details and its all saved.
Taking this step really allowed his business to grow and helped get a handle on all the new customers that would call daily.
At a certain point ever lawn care business owner is going to find himself overwhelmed with managing everything. Instead of hiring a helper for the field, you may want to consider hiring someone to help manage your back office first.
It also can be really helpful if you can focus on offering a niche service as the business owner I mentioned, focuses mainly on irrigation systems. Even though he didn’t start of like that, he found it was a needed service and became the go to guy for it.
Another tip I have to offer is by listening to your customers, you can find new marketing angles, you might not have initially considered to be an issue. For example, I have gained a bunch of new customers this year from people who complained that they were in an annual lawn care contract and had to pay even when the lawn never got cut. They felt this was a HUGE rip off.
So now taking that into consideration, I have changed the way I operate and market my services. If for some reason, I show up and find they don’t need their lawn cut, I will look around their yard and find something else that could use some attention. It’s also not uncommon for me to have a cup of coffee and shoot the bull with a client if they are outside. I consider all my clients to also by my friends. I listen to them, care about what they say and feel this attitude will take me a long way. Quality customer service seems to be dieing fast in our country. It’s my view that the only businesses that are going to survive the long haul are the ones that not only care about their work but also the ones that care about their customers.”