Starting your own lawn care, landscaping or irrigation business can be a great decision. It can reap financial benefits – as well as give you the freedom to be in charge of not only your schedule – but ultimately you have a stronger role in the outcome of your future. However, just like the majority of things in life, preparation is key to success.
Mistake #1 – Creating too much overhead, too soon
Lawn care is a temperamental industry. When I started Johnson Lawn Solutions, our first and only mower was a 1983 Allis Chalmers 811 with a 42″ cut. It was purchased for under $400. Sure, we could have gotten a loan, or investors. We could have went out and bought a huge package of equipment and been tied into a monthly payment. But we didn’t – and that decision paid dividends in the long run.
A mower the same age as myself. That was our starting point. Soon after, before the snow had yet to disappear in West Michigan, I bought a weed trimmer and a blower – both from Craigslist.com – both for only the fraction of the cost of new machinery. Around the same time, my parents gave me an old push mower that I remember using when I was a little kid. It wasn’t new, but it got the job done. That spring, my Grandma gave me a trailer that my Grandpa built from scratch. It was in great condition and perfectly built as far as the frame of it goes, but I had to put new wood on the sides and paint it to make it a bit more presentable, seeing as it was probably around 40-50 years old.
To make a long story short, I didn’t go beyond my means to furnish my company with ‘modern’ equipment. To be quite honest about it, my equipment wasn’t ideal for the job. I didn’t let that bother me though. The goal was always to simply always do as good of a job as possible. Despite the fact that other companies had newer, nicer things – I just stayed determined to out work them. We kept overhead extremely low and made up for it with a higher set of standards and a work ethic that is hard to find these days.
By taking out loans or bringing investors on board, your not only paying them back every dime you have borrowed, but your paying interest. In an industry as crowded as the Lawn Care and Landscaping Industry, you need to do everything you can to keep cost low. Not paying interest on loans is one great solution to increasing your profit margins without raising your rates.
Mistake #2 – Marketing Techniques
As a new company, I would estimate that over 80% of our work came from Craigslist.com. We would post several times per day to the service forums in Grand Rapids as well as Holland, Michigan. There were other options, but none proved to be as efficient and cost effective as Craigslist. We created several accounts in order to post several times. Our ads encouraged viewers to not only call us, but also to visit our website, where we had a automated “free estimate form”, submitted to our email accounts.
We have tried fliers, we have tried other techniques. But at the end of the day, we provide a service. This service isn’t needed by everyone. We could spend countless hours and dollars on printing and distributing fliers, but in reality what percentage of the recipients are even in need or searching for a lawn company? With Craigslist, we simply post the ad and let people of interest come find us. You will be amazed with the results you will see.
Mistake #3 – Upgrading Equipment
If you are fortunate enough to avoid mistake #1, you are undeniably going to need to upgrade your equipment in the future when your time and savings account allow you to do so. Before upgrading equipment, its important to analyze your situation.
Is the new piece of equipment going to allow you to do better quality work? Maybe, but I doubt it. Quality of work is more of a refection of the equipment operator than the equipment. For anyone that disagrees, I’m more than willing to prove it to them with that 811 I previously have mentioned.