One business owner shared with us, on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, his thoughts on the importance of talking to your local competitors. He wrote “When I think about the importance of talking with my local competitors it kinda takes me back to when I was a little boy and a lesson I learned then. One day my brother and I were fighting over the same toy and my mother told us to share. I think it’s a great lesson and it is as important now as it was back then. Furthermore it will actually help all of us who do it in the long run.
It’s kinda like with parenting. If you’re on the same page you are better off but when your not, you struggle more. I actually talk quite frequently to a few lawn care businesses around my area and we have a great relationship. Heck one of my competetiors is my best friend.
I think one of the things you will learn from talking with competitors is that what services you offer is a little different from what they offer. Sure some things are the same but the way you run your business and the way they do really depends on how busy you and they are. The lawn care business owners who don’t have a lot of customers will probably be trying to expand and offer more services to get more customers. While the busier ones will be focusing more on a niche or services they have found to be their most profitable ones.
The other thing that me helped out was how others were pricing their services. I have found that everyone who I’ve talked to is within $5 apart on hourly and minimum charges for lawn care. My friend and I talk all the time about different jobs. We always help each other out and compare bids. We try to keep our prices the same, that way if the customer tries to go anywhere they get the same thing.
Before I started talking to my competitors, I found I was underbidding most of my jobs. I was probably off by about $10 per lawn when I first started. If you multiply that over a week’s worth of work, that ends up being a lot of money I was losing out on! I wasn’t aware of my overhead expenses either and they helped teach me about that. As soon as I talked to my buddy and asked him how much he was charging, he taught me that it really depends on you overhead but he was charging $50 per hour. He said the lower you keep your overhead, the less you can get away with charging and still make a profit.
Another larger competitor in the area sends me a lot of what I would call the back flow. Sometimes they just get too many people calling and they can’t handle them all so they pass the jobs onto me. Also there are some customers who can’t afford their prices so they go to other places, like me.
After you do this for a few years, you will find that you learn a lot of the ins and outs. Over time, you may find yourself dealing with a situation you have no idea how to resolve. Or maybe a job is just too big for you. These are times when you can call in a competitor for help or simply pass the job to them as a way of paying them back.
On the flip side, just because you know how to do the work doesn’t make you a good business person. There is always so much to learn. The help from others when starting out and the advice really helped me make the correct decisions. For anyone starting out I’d suggest you need to listen more and talk less. Especially make sure your pay attention to someone who has been around the industry for a while.
So the next time you are at the gas station filling up and see a local competitor, be friendly and say hi. You never know when you might learn a thing or two and maybe even get a job out of it.