Would you let a homeowner help you with a landscape project?

A novel method to making your landscape customers happy and getting them to talk about you and your business may be to get them involved in the project. Everyone loves operating machinery but should you get your customers this involved? That is the question asked on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum. Sure it might get a lot of referrals, but is it worth the risks?

One lawn care business owner wrote “I’ve found when I am short employees on a site I can train the client to help. I have actually done this a few times, had to again today. This client never sat on a tractor in his life and within 10 minutes, he was operating like a champ and loved it, while I loved the free labor.

I am certified to train people on compact utility tractors, excavators, and skid steers. Trust me though my eye is on you at all times when I am training you to use my equipment. I can read people and can quickly get a feel for who I can work with and who I can’t.

I find this to also be a marketing tactic. Not that I market ‘you can play on my tractor’ because if I did every guy on the street would be calling. By training a customer and showing them a good time by allowing them to take part in the project, you can pretty much guarantee they will tell all their friends and neighbors about us. You can not believe the referrals you will get doing this. You all of a sudden become the best person in the world.

Landscape customer operating tractor.

Landscape customer operating tractor.

I was at a another job site early this year. The elderly father of the client lived with them. I think he was 80 years old. He seemed to not have anything else to do but watch us work, so I called him over and said ‘I need to show you how to operate my excavator so that I can do…whatever it was.’ I helped him up in the seat, gave him basic instructions, I forget what it was but I know it was a task a kid could do. From that he told everybody he knew about his experience and man the calls for work just poured in.

I will also give every child on a client’s site, a shirt or hat. I gave the client operating the tractor above a hat as well. I have a box of kids shirts, boy’s and girls behind my seat and all kids get a ride. This is great for public relations.

I have yet to run into a boy/girl/man/lady, who, although they might not admit it, would throw their suit in the corner jump on a machine and get dirty. I think for the most part it’s the kid in us all, which is why I love my work so much. I play in the dirt every day and make money at it.

If I was doing a job at your house and showed you how to help me, say use my excavator to do something….my network just increased as I know you would tell just about every person you know.”

A second lawn care business owner said “I would never let a client run a piece of my equipment, no matter how short of help I was. I won’t even let a new employee run anything but a weed-eater or a snow shovel until they have proven themselves to me.

If we aren’t working than I am not making money. I have a time-line for each job and try to give a little leeway in my time-line for that job. I map out each week Monday to Friday. and in that week, each job is allotted so much time. My guys know this and work hard to stay within the plan for the week.

Letting a client on a piece of equipment might put a smile on their face but it’s going to slow me down. And I don’t care how well you watch someone, it only takes a split second to have an accident. I would hate to have to explain to OSHA that I was letting an unskilled client run a piece of equipment without proper safety equipment, insurance and training.

My clients hire me for three reasons:

  1. They don’t want to do it or they don’t have the time to do it themselves.
  2. They don’t have the equipment to do it.
  3. They don’t have the skill to do it.

I don’t mind a client watching on what we are doing or even asking to change something, but if they come into the working area then work stops. It’s simply not worth the risk in my book.”

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