Why one entrepreneur may be done with the lawn care business.

At times things can seem real tough. The economy can be bad. Injuries can occur. Customers can leave. But if you keep focused and run as lean an operation as you can, you can make it through. Here is one entrepreneurs story that he shared with us on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum about the problems he has been running into.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I am not sure how to word all this, but I hope you get the idea of what I am saying. The past couple of years have been pretty bad for me in both my personal life and my business. Although my personal life is getting better, my business isn’t do so well.

Clients have been going with cheaper lawn care operations in the area or they have started mowing their yards themselves etc. So I started working for my step dad this past winter installing propane tanks in the ground. The pay sucks and very seldom do I get a full 5 day work week. But I look at it as it’s helping with the bills and I’m learning the business, which I enjoy. He makes anywhere from $80k to $100k a year doing this work. He has been having some bad health as of late. Diagnosed with throat cancer and it’s come back 3 times already. Hopefully it is gone for good this time. I know I’ll get the business if he decides to give it up or something happens to him but that’s not going to be good.

So anyways, the lawn business sucks and work for my dad has been good. I only have 2 mowing clients left who are doing very well financially. But due to the fact I am working with my dad 5 days a week, I’ve had to mow them on either Saturday or Sunday. One client said to give it a break and that he’s gonna mow in September. The other said NO mowing on Sunday. So for the past week I’ve been doing a lot of thinking what I should do.

The lawn business is sucking. I’ve had to move into an apartment. My trailer is staying at a friend’s house until I can find a place to keep it. My equipment stays in storage a few miles from home and a few more miles from my trailer’s location. I finally decided I should give the lawn business a break and see how working with my dad goes.

After talking with my neighbor about what I did, he thinks I made a bad move. I’m having second thoughts…

Here are the negatives for working for my dad.

  1. It’s a 100 mile round trip from home to his house.
  2. The pay is daily pay and it doesn’t matter what time we are done.
  3. I leave at 5am and a lot of the time I don’t get home till 8 or 9 pm.
  4. He’s very moody and doesn’t seem to give a crap if we fall over dead or not. It’s very hot in the area we work and nothing helps to make it any better.

Now for the lawn business side.

I’ve been in and around this business for 15 years. Although for the first 5 years I didn’t care much about being successful. I did a lot of partying and skipped work for sleep and play. I ended up getting really sick because of all that and was in the hospital for 2 week’s with pneumonia. At the time I had no one I could count on to take care of my clients. My wife called most of them, they either stayed or left. Well most left. So after I recovered we were forced to move in with her parents. I kept the few I had and got a part time job with her step father. That job ended up being full time. Until I became a manager. Long hours and crappy pay. I got into a fight with my boss and got fired. So back to the lawn business I went.

I was out of it for almost 5 years and didn’t know how the business would do in the county we now lived in. I made 1,000 fliers. Passed them all out in the area I wanted to work in. Got a few calls. Landed about 1/4 of those calls. The problem was I was priced too high.

Well crap. I’m using the same pricing I was using 10 years ago. But anyways a few months go by and I do another 1,000 fliers in some new areas close by. I got a few more accounts. The most I had was 18 customers in this area. Still I was pricing too high. But I refused to lower my prices as I thought they were low enough. My price range was from $85-$110 a month for 1/4 acre lot including hedges and weed control yearly.

The downfall this time started around Halloween. That is when I fell through a window and cut up my arm pretty bad. I Had to have a lot of stitches and could barely bend my wrist. But this time, my brother helped me out (when I could wake him up.) I lost a few more customers from that injury due to not being able to depend on my brother. I had enough work to keep me busy for 2 full days. The other days, I either worked with my dad or looked for a part time job. I had n0 luck on finding a part time job.

Then working with my dad one day, I injured my knee. I had to wear a motionless brace for 3 weeks. But I only used it for a week. I had to get back to work. So I bought a decent brace and went mowing the next day. It took me forever to mow, but I got the job done. During that time, I lost more clients…

This is pretty much where I stand now. I’m not mowing anymore, but working with my dad isn’t a full weeks work. One day a week I go out job hunting, but that’s getting tough as well with the gas prices as high as they are. I still want to do the organic fertilizing, but don’t have the start up funds to do it. I’m just kinda stuck right now, not knowing what to really do.

Work for another lawn care operation? I’ve been to every lawn care company around. None are hiring. Maybe because I have too much experience. I dunno. I don’t lack any equiptment. I have it all. From a 52″ ZTR to small hedge clippers. Although my 36″ walk behind does need some welding. My injuries to my knee are stable now. But I still take it easy. No more running around for me.

Lawns in my area are going for $60 a month. That’s $15 per cut. I won’t go any lower than that. But I also haven’t tried getting clients at that price either. I have about 250 fliers ready to go. I’m just not sure if anyone is going to be looking this late in the season for lawn care. I think what I really need is a good business plan.”

A second lawn care business owner said “we are in a tough economy and I for one do not look for it to get better anytime soon . If you are a smaller company that does excellent quality work, you will survive. If you have a nice sized ztr you can take work from bigger companies that are mowing larger areas because your overhead will be cheaper than theirs.

One thing you cannot do is be wishy washy with the mowing. Either you are in or out and the customer will know it. Build relationships with clients. Stop wasting your time working for other businesses that want to use you up for profit. I believe if you follow these guidelines you will make it. I, like you have never had it easy but we will make it.”

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
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The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
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