There can be a lot of barriers to getting your lawn care business started, especially if you live in an area that is governed by a local home owner’s association. Another issue we will see in this discussion, from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, is how having a criminal record can potentially effect your ability to get customers. But none of these issues are deal breakers. Taking the proper steps can help you avoid entanglements early on and let you get your footing to grow to the next level.
One soon to be lawn care business owner wrote “I’m a single, 38-year-old guy, currently working in I.T. for a small software company. I’ve been thinking about switching to a field where I can have a little more job variety, see the sky, and work for myself. I am leaning more towards lawn care but I do have a few concerns.
The first is, I will come right out and say, I’m a convicted felon. I won’t go into any details except to say it was a non-violent offense. It happened about 8 years ago, and I didn’t do any jail time. This is my main reason for wanting to switch careers. Job opportunities in the corporate world are extremely limited when you have a record, and expungement is not a realistic option in my state. With all this being said, I am VERY lucky to have my current job for a small company, who performs no background check. The bad part about it is we’re losing clients and I fear we won’t be around for too much longer.
My work record is spotless, but I’m terrified at the idea of having to look for another job in this economy given my criminal record. I would much rather find a line of work where I can be my own boss. So my question is, will having a felony conviction be an issue for me in lawn care as far as finding work, obtaining licensing, insurance, etc?
My second concern has to do with equipment. I own a townhouse, so I have none. The HOA takes care of landscaping, snow removal, etc. I have no driveway or garage to store anything, although I do have a small fenced back yard. I’m guessing I would either have to buy an enclosed trailer and park it on the street or get an open trailer and rent a storage unit someplace. That’s a pretty big expense considering I’m not even sure I can make this work. Eventually I would probably buy a house with a garage, but that’s a little ways off.
I have a lot of other concerns as well. My lack of knowledge of the lawn care business, my physical ability, income potential as a solo operator, etc….but for now those are the big two.
On the plus side, I have good credit, no debt besides my mortgage, no family to support, and enough savings to take some classes, buy some equipment, and perhaps get a business started in the next year or two.
So far my plan is to see if I can get a job working for another lawn care company part-time this coming summer, while keeping my full-time job. Basically see if I like it before I make any big investment in equipment or schooling. Does this sound like a decent plan? Any suggestions?”
Another lawn care business owner suggested “it seems like you are going at it the right way. I don’t know how much your criminal record will effect things, but I can encourage you to take this chance. Depending on the insurance company you go with, it may come up for commercial work. If I do work for the city or any government agency, I have to maintain background checks on everyone. So keep all that in mind and maybe stick with residential customers for quite some time until you get your business stabilized.
Home owner associations are notoriously picky when it comes to anyone doing anything out of the norm. I have a feeling if you park any commercial vehicles on your property or in front of it, someone is bound to complain. So if you go that route, make sure you have a ‘plan b’ just in case.
You may find it is best to get a storage unit. Or maybe you have a friend in the area that has a house and some property where you can store your equipment?
Something you could consider doing is offer some gardening services to your HOA for free. Maybe at the entrance of the area? Look for ways to get involved and experiment. This could lead to more work from them down the road but it would certainly allow you to get your feet wet before you start to sign up customers.
You might want to get a push mower next and see if you can line up any family or friends as your first customers. As you scale up, see how you feel about being in the lawn care business.
Since I live in a HOA as well, I don’t have a trailer because I couldn’t leave it outside, but I do have push mowers, trimmer and blower that I got all off of internet classified ad sites and all used. Each day, I just load them and unload them from my truck. I don’t leave the signs on my truck when it is parked in front of my house on account of HOA rules, but since they are magnetic, I can put them on before I leave and take them off when I get back home. I currently keep all my equipment in my garage, but getting a friend who may let you store them at their house would be the next cheapest option.
The investment to get your lawn care business started is very minimal, but if you are unsure if you would like to run this kind of business, then you might want to work for someone else first as you stated. Although, part of the joy of me running my own business is the knowledge of knowing that I own my own business and you won’t get that feeling working for someone else.”