Why lawn care businesses fail.

Here are some great insights from a business veteran on why he feels so many new start ups fail and what you can do to prevent it from happening to you. In this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, he also talks about ways he has been able to not only survive, but thrive in the competitive lawn care industry. By paying attention to certain details, he has gained an advantage over competitors.

One lawn care business owner wrote “as I reflect on the years I have been in business, I have seen a lot of start ups, fail. There are lots of factors and reasons for it. If I was to say the main reason they don’t make it, is because they try to get too big, too fast. They want to have all of the fancy equipment, new trucks, etc. They end up getting loaded down with debt, and then struggle to make payments. Don’t get me wrong, some debt is good, but you really have to figure out whether it’s worth it to purchase that $9,000 zero turn, or could you get away with the $4,000 walk behind instead.

To stay on top of my game, I am constantly changing my business year after year based on the market. Perhaps it’s adjusting prices, marketing efforts, or the type of services that I push.

For example, when I started out, 90% of my business was lawn mowing. When I saw that the market was flooded in my area with other lawn mowers, I decided to completely sub out my lawn mowing, and it’s only about 10% of my business revenue. From there I decided to go bigger with pesticide applications are that is the majority of my business, around 65-70%.

If I had to give one definite word of advice to improve your chances of success in this industry, it would be to plan ahead with the upselling. Constantly sell, sell, sell to your current client base. Always put something in front of them. Walk their property to find things that need to be fixed, and offer to fix them.

My other advice is that you have to get back to the customer as soon as possible. I know when I first started out, the client worked around my schedule and I had a huge ego, but soon I realized in order to stand out you have to offer an exceptional, unique business that no one else can touch. Go over the top with the customer service. For instance, return the garbage cans back up to the house. Does it really hurt to prune one additional tree for them if you are doing the entire property?

If you are going to be late, or need to reschedule work for later in the week, call the customer. Respond quickly to customer requests. I can’t believe the number of times that I landed a client just because I was there the same day of the requested quote.

Coming up with an upsell plan really depends on the type of clients you have. I lay out a marketing calendar a year in advance, based on last seasons services. Let’s say for example surface feeding insects were horrible the previous year, I make note of it, and push that service for the coming year because more than likely they are going to be bad again.

When I am actually on the property in front of the client, the main thing I do is listen to them, but also look around their property as well. You can constantly find things to sell them on. Are the shrubs pruned? Do the gutters need to be cleaned out? Are there weeds in the lawn? Any dead or diseased shrubs on the property, etc. The list is endless.

The other thing to think about is sometimes you may have a set plan, ahead of time, in regards to what products you want to push out for that week or month. If you have a large quantity of a certain fertilizer, or extra mulch on hand, you want to may try and get that inventory out so it’s not just sitting there collecting dust. There is nothing I hate worse than dead inventory.

I am also a big fan of Kaizen strategies when it comes to just in time inventory. I was actually introduced to Kaizen back in the mid 90’s from my brother. He gave me a Kaizen book for a birthday present, and it was one of the best things I had ever read. In fact, he ended up taking the book back from me years later and insisted that it was his!

Today we refer to Kaizen as ‘lean management,’ which is basically a technique to constantly improve anything and everything for the better.

I read about it all the time today in the business news. Back in the 80’s, the Japanese adopted these techniques and made them popular in the auto industry. If I remember correctly, the Japanese have been using these techniques since after WWII.

Even though a lot in the green industry promote lean management, I would highly recommend reading about how the Japanese introduced it and used it in their companies.

For example, one of the best stories regarding Kaizen was during lunch breaks, the Japanese auto workers would go into the lunch rooms to eat and drink coffee. The cafe workers would set out pots of coffee for the workers at each table. Always at the end of the day there would be wasted coffee in the pots. So the cafe workers began to track the tables, and how much the workers drank from each pot. They then filled the coffee pots with just enough coffee, based on their research for each table, how much each table drank. This way there was no longer extra coffee wasted.

Just think about how simple as a pot of coffee can save you in money!

There are tons of things of ways you can apply these business principles. For example, when I put together my letters to clients, I reduced the size of the logo on my letterhead to save on ink!

It’s also about motion waste too. So in my office layout, instead of putting the filing cabinets down from the desk area, in which I would have to get up, I put them right behind me, now all I have to do is swivel the chair around, and they are right there.

When I first started applying these principles, I actually took the time to set aside an entire day, going through everything to find areas I could be better at. But now, there are things that pop up still to this day that I never noticed before.

I really wanted to streamline everything, make things not as complex, just keep it simple. Things even as simple as putting files on my computer in a specific folder so I don’t have to look around for them.

Time is money so I try and manage my time and be as profitable as I can be. You can do this too.”

Read more about Lawn Care Business Bidding Tips, Upsells, And Disasters To Avoid. Learn how to improve your bidding process with this book and be prepared before hand by knowing what you should be looking out for before a problem occurs.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Check out the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum for great prices on new and used lawn care equipment:

Chain Saw


Garden Tools

Hedge Trimmer

Lawn Aerator

Leaf Blower

Leaf Vacuum

Mower Blades

Mower Ride On

Mower Walk Behind

Multi Attachment Trimmers

Pole Saw

Pressure Washer

Salt Sand Spreader

Shop Tools

Snow Blower

Snow Plow

Stick Edger

String Trimmer

Stump Grinder


Tractor Attachment


Trailer Landscape Racks

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