Lawn care and landscape professionals speak out

SangerLawn: I just wanted to take a moment to talk to the new people who are losing interest or simply having problems getting started.

Years ago I lost my job; I was a local quad axel dump truck driver. I just bought a new truck, had a house payment and a family to take care of. I was stressing big time. I was sitting around the house one night trying to figure out what to do and it hit me. After high school I went to work for a chemical lawn care/mowing service and quickly became a service manager. That was many years ago, but I thought what the heck? I don’t have anything to lose, so I started going door to door.

All I had was a $100 junky push mower from Lowe’s, a trimmer and a broom. Yes, a broom. To top it off we were in one of the worst droughts the state of Indiana had seen in years. This is no joke, when I would stripe the lawns the stripes would be gold and dark gold.

My first two or three weeks I didn’t pick up a single customer. Finally I got my first one; I told him I would mow it for free as long as I could use his lawn to show other possible customers. Now remember, I was going door to door every evening, passing out flyers during the day and now the only lawn I had was a freebie.

After about two weeks I got a phone call from someone saying the guy whose lawn I was mowing recommended me. That was the first paying job I received. That same week I ended up getting two or three more. Things were starting to look up. I continued to get at least one lawn a week for a few weeks. Then, out of nowhere I couldn’t get any more customers. Things came to a complete stop as far as new lawns go. I think that year I gained something like 15 lawns.

The following spring I was shocked that every one of my customers wanted me back. I started passing out flyers about one week before I planned on mowing. The phone started ringing. Within a month I was able to afford my first commercial mower. It was a very used 36-inch Scag hydro. By the end of that year, I had around 45 customers and I bought a zero-turn mower to go along with my Scag. Two years later (present day) I have several commercial mowers, employees and turn down work because I am so busy.

Here is the point.

I never once looked at what other companies did. I knew how I worked and I was determined to make lawn care work for me. Why did this work? Simple, I know how important a person’s reputation is. In four years I haven’t lost a single customer due to dissatisfaction! I know, and my customers know, I will do my best every time with no excuses. It is that reputation that landed my first paying lawn, and every lawn since then.

I know getting started can be frustrating and can even cause a person to get discouraged. Don’t give up and do every job in a manner that your kids would be proud to say their dad/mom did that job. If you stick to that standard it will not be long until customers will seek you out because they know and see the job you do for their neighbors, friends and family.

MowHouston: This is something that every person starting up or interested in starting up should read.

A lot of us got started this way. I remember having all of my equipment piled up in the back of my Ford Ranger and feeling nearly embarrassed when I would pass someone with all that fancy equipment.

It doesn’t matter. Do what you have to do to get the work done.

SangerLawn: The first commercial property I got was given to me from a friend who was under contract and got sick. Of course I couldn’t start small! I still mow this property now with a 60-inch mower and two guys trimming. It takes four and a half hours for the three of us. When I first mowed it I was using a 50-inch mower. I rigged up mud flaps to make a homemade striping kit. Doing it myself it took all daylong.

Anyway, on the corner of this property there is a McDonald’s. It seemed like everyday all of the lawn services in town would go there to eat. I could feel every one of them talking about me as they stared; funny part is a few of them are out of business now.

STIHL GUY: This is a really good post. For all the new guys, make sure you keep a positive attitude. It may take some time, but soon enough you will have a well-built business if you play your cards right.

Scag413: Great post! I have an ad in the local newspaper and, yes, I got enough work from it to pay for itself very quickly, but most all of my customers come by stopping and knocking on the door. You have to go to them. Especially if you are already in the neighborhood. You can knock $5 to $10 off your price and that makes a huge difference. But the key is to actually make personal contact with people.

SangerLawn: Another very large tip: I see posts on here all over the place where people are wanting to get bigger mowers and equipment they don’t need. Don’t do it! I made a major mistake my second year and financed a lot of stuff that I did not need simply because I had seen the money coming in. I am still trying to pay things off. Don’t get me wrong, I am still making a very good living, but I had one year of stupidity in financing and I will be paying for it for a total of five years. Do your best to save and pay for everything with cash.

gmeeks: This is a very good post. This year is my first also and it is very slow. I have two full-time accounts that are very satisfied and I have done a few here and there for people that are going on vacation and their mower broke down, but that’s it. I have had a couple of landscape jobs though. I would love for my business to grow and prosper.

Horticulture Goddess: I think that is so incredibly nice that you took the time to post this. I lost my job as a project manager after 11 recently. I took this opportunity to start my own landscaping company, a dream that I didn’t know how I would ever fulfill. My love of plants and horticultural knowledge has grown steadily over the last six years. I have only been in business for five months, but in that time we have gotten 25 regular lawn clients and have done three designs. I bought a truck, have two commercial mowers, an edger and more. I have one part-time employee and my fiance and myself do the bulk of the work. It’s tough, but it’s rewarding, and nothing makes us happier then when we finish a job and the customer is beaming. And word is spreading. We get referrals constantly because people love our work. I would say to anyone that they should not give up and keep working at it because it is so worth it.

danddlc: Great post! I also lost my job this year. I had two lawns I would cut weekly after work, which I still have, I also picked up seven more lawn accounts at the start of the season. I also wonder if it will ever really take off, I am usually pretty good with people and take a lot of pride in the work I do, so I am going to keep plugging away at it and hopefully one day I will be telling my story to the new guys. Sometimes a story like this is all you need to keep going after your dreams. Thanks again.