What happens when a lawn care business owner dies and leaves the business to a spouse?

No one ever thinks about contingency plans to continue running a lawn care business if something bad were to happen to the owner/founder. But maybe it would be better if a little planning were to be put into place. Here is a story from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum about what happens when the owner/founder of business dies and leaves the day to day operation of running the company to a spouse untrained in how to do so.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I’ve had a few years experience at another company, and this year I decided to start my own. I want to use marketing/advertising as a competitive advantage in my highly saturated market. I’d like to start sending out newsletters (or E-newsletters) to existing clients with the basic idea to reach out monthly to my customer base providing basic information/tips that clients could do themselves to help their lawn, while at the same time subtly advertising my own seasonal services.

From my previous experiences I would say I learned a lot in terms of doing the work correctly. I learned how to manicure a lawn. Compared to other companies I have observed, my previous employer was much more meticulous and because of that they delivered a superior service. The employees were trained to complete the lawn care process in a certain way, and we did not compromise this standard of excellence. This is something I am carrying over to my own business.

As for what I am doing differently, the biggest thing is paying closer attention to customer service. A few years before I worked for the other company, they were very successful. However, the original owner passed away unexpectedly and it was left to his wife to manage the business. Unfortunately, she did not have much of a hand in the business before this. Instead of hiring someone to deal with certain parts of the business, she preferred to manage the entire 300+ client business herself. Her inexperience with customer service, estimates, and the basic operation of a landscaping business in general worked against her. Over a few years I saw how her lack of attention to detail, and especially her lack of concern to gaining new clients and nurturing the existing ones, brought her business down to a single 3 man crew (and it still sliding further down hill).

Seeing the downfall of this lawn care company and knowing that there was no opportunity for me to help the company grow has brought me to where I am today: starting my own business. There were at least 5 to 10 customers dropping off the roster each year, and none were there to replace them. I knew that just a little bit of time spent nurturing these customers would have kept them happy. So I plan to focus on keeping my existing clients happy, while at the same time obviously working to gain new ones. Sure it is very obvious stuff, but it’s very important nonetheless.

In reality this mess was her husband’s fault and a lesson for us all to contemplate. He only had her taking care of the billing and payroll. Everything else was handled by him. So when he passed, she had to try to run a very successful business, which had expanded from lawn care to landscape design, paving, concrete, site work and excavation. She was never trained in any of this, and her husband never really trained anyone else to fully take over portions of the business. He did it all….

As for what she should’ve done differently, I’d say she should’ve at least had a better rapport with her existing clients. Maybe contacting them a few times throughout the year to make sure everything was alright, or sending out client satisfaction surveys. To gain new clients, she could have at least had some flyers made up and paid her workers to put them out.

Her husband provided her with a very comfortable lifestyle and once he was gone, she still wanted to drive that Land Rover and vacation all the time, not run a landscaping and construction business.

When I started my lawn care business a few months ago, I vowed that once I got to a certain size, I would hire and train people to handle certain aspects of the business instead of trying to do it all myself. If I ever get married, I don’t want my spouse left in that position should any tragedy befall me.

I’m pretty sure this guy had amassed at least a million dollars in savings over the years, but he had 4 kids who also had an appetite for luxury. The wife’s attorney should’ve advised her to sell the business from the beginning…it’s a shame to see such a good business dwindle to nothing.

I know at the time of his passing, the client-base of the business was much larger, the equipment was in great shape, and the company’s reputation was impeccable. Without any real numbers, I could safely say the value of the business was much higher than it is today. Selling it now would be almost pointless when compared to it’s prior value.

I’m not surprised by this at all. But that’s because I’ve known the family for many years. If the situation involved people I didn’t know, I’d say I’d very surprised they didn’t look to the employees. However, the wife is a control freak who thinks no one except her knows how to do anything….too proud to admit she can’t do it on her own…you know what I mean?

I think it’s a personality trait. If you’ve always been a control freak, it might not even cross your mind that you shouldn’t be that way. Oh well it’s a life lesson I went through and hope it can be a learning lesson for others.”

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
A rebellious teenagers guide to starting a landscaping & lawn care business
The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success