Lawn care businesses face a lot of challenges and the owner of such a business needs to have a solidly laid-down process in order to ensure that the business runs smoothly. You have to provide top-notch services, communicate with your customers, and keep your team in the loop. Truth be told, there is a lot to do in the day to day management of a lawn care company. It goes way beyond just mowing lawns. So as the owner of a lawn care company, how do you ensure that your operations are smooth?
According to the 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are nearly 1.25 million people employed as grounds maintenance workers. Even better, the projected employment is expected to increase by another quarter of a million by 2022. This means that the BLS expects demand for grounds maintenance workers to increase by 20% – faster than the average for all occupations.
No matter what business you choose to go into, you need to be sure to plan out your strategy or success will not come as easy. A lawn care business, just like any other, must be organized and operated in the most efficient manner to bring in more profits. The following are 50 tips and tricks that would help your lawn care business become a success.
50 Best Lawn Care Business Tips and Tricks for Beginners
Choose a name
If you are thinking about starting a lawn care business, you should have a name. The name that you give your lawn care business is a very important aspect of the business and should be taken very seriously. You should go for a name that identifies what you do and is also broad enough to let you expand. The name that you can go for does not have to be too fancy, it just has to be memorable and give an impression of what your business is about.
2. Identify Your Goals and Create a Mission Statement
Identify exactly what you want to accomplish with your new lawn maintenance business. Exactly why are you starting this lawn maintenance business? Do you want to work part-time? Full-time? Manage a team? How big do you want to grow? Are you prepared to manage the business aspects – invoicing, taxes, legal, sales and marketing? Also, what differentiates you from the competition?
Do you have monetary goals for Year 1? How about Year 5? As you start defining your goals, start thinking about creating an internal mission statement that helps you clearly define who you are and why you’re creating this business. Your mission statement should be designed to help you give a purpose to your business.
It may sound like a waste of time and a little bit too corporate, but every time you make a decision, you can look at your mission statement and ask “Am I living up to my mission?” And remember that, like the Constitution, your mission statement can be a living, modifiable document.
3. Develop A Detailed Business Plan
If you fail to plan then you have already planned to fail. Without a business plan, you may find yourself struggling in the beginning. The fact is, this written plan will allow you to work out all aspects of getting your new business off the ground, including the financial aspects and how you plan to market your business. If you lack experience in writing a plan, the Internet has many free templates available that can be used or you may even find someone to assist you with this task.
4. Figure out the Finances
When creating your action plan, you should be able to determine how much money you will need to get started. Much of the equipment for your business may be purchased second-hand, but even so, it can still be a huge expense.
If you need to get a loan to get your business started, your written business plan will help the bank get a better idea of how solid your idea is and will help to determine how much of a risk your business may be. The main thing to understand is to not borrow more than you can afford to pay back.
5. Hire a lawyer and pick a business structure
Though you can do all the legal work yourself, hiring a lawyer makes sure you are compliant with the law in every aspect. Ask around for a competent business lawyer to help with your business. You will then have to choose a business structure. Your business structure is how you legally file your business.
You have several options, including a sole proprietorship, partnership, and a LLC. You file these documents with your state, generally accompanied by a filing fee. A sole proprietorship means you own the company by yourself, and you are held responsible for any debts the company incurs.
Partnerships generally work the same way but with more people, though sometimes they work more like a limited liability company. A limited liability company (LLC) means that you are separated from your company and its debts. In other words, the assets that you own personally cannot be seized to pay the company’s debts, usually, as long as you are abiding by the law.
6. Pick a dealer not a brand
A lot of brands like green works, Ryobi, Sun Joe, Honda, Toro et al. produce lawn mowing equipment and the truth is that a lot of them are good. However, even though equipment are important, dealer support is more important. You can have a good equipment but if the service that your dealer provides is sub-par, then there is a problem. Try as much as possible have a good business relationship with your dealer.
7. Be the best in at least one thing
A lot of times, newbies in the lawn care business try to do too much at once and the end up over-extending themselves. Some lawn care businesses even go as far as claiming that they can handle all your outdoor needs! This is just too broad.
Become known for being the best at a particular thing. You can do this by focusing on that particular thing. For instance, you can be the best at residential lawn care in your area, the best flowerbed transformer et al.
8. Figure out your pricing
Before a lot of your potential customer will commit to your service, they will want to know how much the job will cost. You will need to provide an accurate but fair estimation of your work which will include materials, labor, equipment and overhead.
9. Wear a uniform
A uniform helps to identify you and your brand. When you step into a client’s property with your uniform on, they know that they are not just talking to a “lawn guy” but to a company. It also helps to boost your confidence and gives you a sense of pride in your work. Getting a shirt that has your logo on it is very cheap these days.
10. Create continuity in your equipment
For simplicity, it is best to commit to one brand of producer. Research brands in general, make a choice and then stick to it. This also makes it easier if you want to get replacement parts in bulk.
11. Use technology from the first day
The use of technology cannot be overemphasized and it goes without saying that it makes the job a whole lot easier. Routing, scheduling, interaction with clients, payment of bills, sending out invoices among other things can be made a lot easier with the use of the appropriate technology.
12. Price “extras” high
If you are doing a lawn care business, you are most likely going to be offering other side services such as hedge trimming, pine straw/mulching installation, landscaping, fertilization et al. However, these extras do not have to be underpriced.
For instance, if you make $90 in 30 minutes mowing a yard and you decide to offer hedge trimming for $20 and it takes you half an hour, then you have lost out in a lot of profit. You should try to make your extras as profitable as your mowing. If you are getting $90 for a man hour of mowing, you should also get just as much or even more for a man hour of hedge trimming. It is never a good idea to underprice your extras.
13. Do not stop learning
There are a lot of resources such as YouTube, Google or even people in your area who you can key into in order to upgrade your knowledge about the lawn care business. Make your research and seek out advice from others in order to keep learning.
14. Carry out maintenance from time to time
If you fail to have a scheduled servicing and maintenance of your tools and equipment, then they will break down more often. You should have a schedule written down for when you should change your air filters, the oil and hydraulic et al.
15. Order parts ahead of time online (if possible)
There are a lot of websites where you can easily purchase spare parts of your equipment. Most a times, these online stores sell the parts at a cheaper rate when compared to the normal brick and mortar stores. So save some money by getting it online.
Sometimes however, you may need to replace a part of an equipment immediately making ordering it online out of the question. However, if you have some of the parts that are usually replaced at hand, it can go a long way.
16. Learn how to say no to customers
People start their own business because they want to be the boss but a times a customer could end up bossing them around. If you have an insatiable customer that complains a lot and gives you countless headaches, you can let them go in a polite manner.
17. Wear a big hat
A lawn care business involves a lot of outdoor time and as such you needed to protect yourself. A hat protects you from the heat and also the long term effects of constant exposure to the sun. Also you should remember to wear sunscreen. Even if it’s overcast outside, you’ll be outside for most of the day, so keep your skin protected with SPF and a hat.
18. Don’t work on Sundays
No matter how much work you have you should set a day aside (preferably Sundays) to unwind, visit friends or spend some time with your family.
19. Don’t give up your hobbies
Don’t let your job consume you. While a lawn mowing business is a great business that can give you a sense of satisfaction, but you still need to hold on to your hobbies and make out time for them.
20. Hire someone if need be
When you start you lawn care business, you may be your only staff, but as time goes on and you get more customers, the need may arise for you to get an employee to help you out. Once you are sure that you need an employee and that your resources are enough to take care of an employee, get one.
21. Don’t take it personal if you lose a customer
Most times, the reason they are ending the relationship has nothing to do with you or the services you provide, it may be due to some internal issues. Business relationships start and stop all the time and the worst thing you can do is to take it personal and lose sleep over it. Be professional in your approach because even if the relationship ends, it does not mean that it has finished. Their new lawn care guy can be terrible and they will come back to you.
22. Learn how to do simple lawn care equipment maintenance
You don’t need to be a mechanic to learn how to do some simple maintenance on your lawn care equipment. This will help to increase the life span of your equipment and also save you cash that you would have otherwise given to a mechanic.
23. Write down the serial and model number of your equipment
Unfortunately, lawn care equipment are a big target for thieves so if your equipment is stolen, you should have the serial and model number in case it turns up in a pawn shop.
24. Be friendly to your competitors
Do not view them as your arch enemies because you can learn a lot from them. You may be competing for the same customers, but there is always enough to go round.
25. Don’t buy more equipment than you need
Start up with a few equipment and then upgrade when you have more customers. You don’t want to put a lot of strain on your business by having equipment that do not bring in money.
26. Write down your goals for the next 5 years
This includes your number of clients, number of employees, how much you will be worth, your gross income, your net income etc. These goals will help you to have a clearer understanding of where you want to take your business to in the future. Understand where you want to go and make a plan to get there.
27. Scheduling and organizing the team
An organized team is at the core of any successful lawn care business. As your business grows you will come to see that you cannot do it all on your own so your goal should be to get as much work done as efficiently as possible, all the while continuing to provide high-quality service.
Of course, you need to consider your customers when scheduling, but you also need to factor in what works for your company. Your schedule should be set up in such a way that maximizes efficiency and profits. You can do this by;
- Grouping your clients and schedule based on their neighborhood or location: By focusing on a particular area, on any given day, you’ll cut down on driving time during the day and your team can focus on getting their daily work done.
- Focus on repeat business: Repeat business allows you to create a predictable schedule that maximizes efficiency for you and your crew(s).
- Communicating with your team: Your work takes place out in the field and you may have crews at different locations. This means you’re often communicating with your employees without the luxury of face-to-face conversations.
Find ways to improve your internal communication process so everyone on your team (including yourself) has the information required to get the job done.
Your first step in improving your internal communication process is identifying what you need to communicate: schedule changes, upsell opportunities, job delays, etc. You want to identify areas that require communication but you don’t want to create unnecessary back-and-forth and noise.
Once you identify the right information, put together a process to make sure everyone follows through. High priorities will often require immediate communication, like a phone call, but a lot of information can wait until the end of the day.
28. Communicating with your clients
So you’ve developed a great process for communicating with your team, but you also need a plan to effectively communicate with your clients. If you want your customer service to stand out, it’s not enough to just communicate with your clients when they sign up for your services and when it’s time for them to pay. You need to communicate with your clients at key points before and after the job.
29. Appointment reminders
Start by sending your clients appointment reminder emails or texts. This will go a long way to prevent last minute cancellations and your clients will appreciate it. This is also an opportunity to provide special instructions. Is it important that your clients don’t water their lawn before you arrive? Are your services based on good weather? Make sure you use appointment reminders to communicate these important details.
30. Follow up with your customers
You often complete your work without interacting with your clients. This is where follow-up emails can help. One of the easiest ways to improve your customer service is by sending your clients a follow-up email when a visit is complete.
31. Dealing with the weather
When businesses talk about weathering the storm, the usually don’t mean it in a literal way. But in lawn care, weather is a real factor for your business and something you need to be prepared for. There’s nothing you can do to change the weather and you’ll often have to postpone or reschedule jobs. But you can be proactive so that weather has a minimal impact on your business.
- Have a policy: Make sure you have a policy when it comes to weather that impacts your work and make sure to communicate this policy to your staff and clients. It’s one thing to casually say to your clients that “you don’t work in the rain” but it’s a completely different thing to properly communicate your policy. Include the policy in your quotes, estimates, and in your appointment reminders. Properly communicating your policy will help clearly set expectations with your clients. This will help reduce unnecessary questions and will keep your clients happy.
32. Have a system
One of the main challenges lawn care businesses face when postponing or rescheduling services is keeping track of the changes. This is where a good scheduling software comes in handy. With such a software, you can reschedule all visits from one day, with or without impacting future visits.
Also, because job details are directly associated with invoices, you’ll avoid double entry. The software should be able to remind you to collect payment for a visit and you don’t have to worry about accidentally double charging a client. Put a system in place and you’ll reduce mistakes when rescheduling because of the weather.
33. Make the most out of your rainy day
Being rained out from client visits doesn’t mean you can’t be productive. Make the most out of your rainy days by being prepared to complete tasks that don’t normally get your full attention. Take a look at any feedback you’ve collected from clients. How is your team doing? Look at your current clients and schedule. Are there any upsell opportunities?
A rainy day is the perfect opportunity to make sure your equipment is operating smoothly. Make the most out of bad weather by looking at your business and finding ways to be more efficient.
34. Define Your Services
Before you start offering your services, you need to assess your skills so that you know what you can and cannot do and make sure you only offer the services you are capable of providing. Don’t offer a service if you don’t have the equipment or experience necessary to perform it.
(You don’t want to get sued for accidentally damaging a client’s property while performing a service you’re not prepared for.) However, the beauty of the lawn care business is that you can build upon your list of services. You can always expand your services with the more equipment and funding you have as well as skills you can develop in the future.
35. Hone and Expand Your Skills
Truth be told, anyone with a lawn mower can cut grass, so if you want to charge a professional rate for your lawn care services, you’ve got to prove you can do better than the neighborhood kid looking to add to his allowance. You will also have to prove you can do the job better than the homeowners themselves.
You’ll need to build up your skills on mowing, trimming, and edging. This includes learning how to mow in patterns and how to best handle cutting grass on steep hills. If you want to get serious about your business, take a lawn care class at your local community college or ask around at greenhouses for classes and tips. It also wouldn’t hurt to learn a few things about general plant care. Clients might ask about tending to their gardens, shrubbery, or even plants they have for display indoors.
36. Know Your Climate and Know Your Plants
You don’t need to become a climatologist to professionally maintain lawns, but reading up on the seasonal climate conditions of your service area will definitely help you keep clients’ lawns in top-notch condition. Various kinds of grasses will respond differently during the changing of seasons, and thus might require different techniques to keep them healthy all year long.
With this knowledge, you can produce healthier, greener lawns, and you’ll have more repeat customers as a result. If you want to expand your services to bush trimming, you need to know how and where to properly trim the bushes so that they don’t lose their appeal. How about gardening? Knowing how to tend to the soil and the plants will help. The more you know, the better.
37. Get Proper Licensing
If you are going to start a business, you’ll need to get all the necessary permits, licenses, and tax registrations. These types of requirements will vary from city to city. To make sure you are starting your business off on the right foot, ask the local county clerk, tax revenue office, and state department what type(s) of licenses you will need before you get started.
38. Get Proper Equipment
When starting your own lawn care business, you have to prove you can do better. This also includes the equipment you use. A regular lawn mower and clippers might suffice when you’re starting off, because you’ll probably have a limited budget. But once you have established your service, you’ll want to consider investing in commercial-grade equipment for you and your staff in order to perform higher quality work.
Those regular at-home lawn mowers that many families use are designed for occasional usage; they’re not meant to be used day after day or weeks upon weeks. By investing in commercial-grade equipment once you have established your business, you will produce higher quality results for your clients and you’ll save yourself money in the long run.
39. Advertise Yourself
Of course, if nobody knows about your services, nobody will come to you to maintain their lawn. You can take out ads or you can create your own and just pass them out to people in your neighborhood. Don’t forget about car decals and window decals–even small investments such as these can help potential clients remember your name and services.
If you can afford it, making a pre-recorded radio ad and paying to have your local radio station play it can also help boost traffic for your business. The most important thing to remember is to budget accordingly. The next step is creating a brochure for your lawn care business and the services you can provide to your clients. Keep these brochures handy and make sure you leave a few at some of the local gathering places in your community.
You will also need business cards for your business and, like the brochures, keep extra with you at all times. Give them out to everyone you know and, again, leave them at places where those in your community are known to gather.
40. Insure Yourself
Before you expand your company, you should strongly consider taking out a small business insurance policy. Policies will vary depending on the provider, but you will want to take out a policy you can fall back on in the event of an accident.
Commercial lawn equipment isn’t cheap like home lawn equipment, so you’ll want to find some means to lessen the cost of repairing or replacing it. Not to mention you are required to have a business insurance policy in case your employees are injured while on the job.
41. Plan for winter
In most parts of the country, business for lawn care companies will decline during in the winter months, unless they also offer a snow removal service. If you do not offer a snow removal service, you can take off these months until spring as long as you are financially prepared.
42. Stay Updated on the Industry
The lawn care industry is dynamic, ever growing and developing. New kinds of technology, fertilizer, and techniques are being developed all the time, and if you want to continue offering unique, above-average services, you’ll want to stay updated on the industry. To stay educated, you can subscribe to lawn care magazines and websites.
If you do not have much experience with operating your own business, consult a professional tax person who can help you to set up your books. You will need to keep track of everything you make, as well as keep it separate from your personal finances. If you do not wish to retain a bookkeeper, you will find a lot of great options in financial software. Just be sure that the one you choose is easy to use and you will be able to keep your finances organized.
Don’t just keep your paperwork in one pile, make sure you have a filing system where you can keep track of receipts, contracts, and everything else pertaining to your business. Your organizational skills will play a very important part in your success.
44. Mailing list
You should try your best to have a mailing list. The benefits of this are numerous. You’ll inspire a new standard of customer service with your client base. You’ll set the necessary expectations to save you both time and stress during the day. Finally, you can easily enact an email-based marketing system. You can do all of this by collecting customers email addresses, and sending out periodic newsletters.
Of course, there’s an art to this. You don’t want to appear like a spam message. So make it personal, anecdotal, interesting, and useful to the customer. Ask yourself, “why is this important to the customer?” You can also use email to offer deals to drive sales.
45. Gather customer feedback
Make no mistake, good customer service is indicative of a good overall approach to marketing. This goes beyond common courtesy and reliability, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to do. It’s simple: talk to your customers. Regular surveys of satisfaction can drastically improve your customer retention as well as word of mouth referrals. It also gives you, the business owner, a first-hand look at what’s working and what you need to change.
Technology has made this easy to do. You can make use of surveymonkey.com to draw up a couple of questions. What do you want to find out? Make the survey concise so it doesn’t waste your customers’ time, but long enough to get some solid information. You can also do this with a paper and a pen, over email, or even over the phone or in person at your next service. Sometimes, the old fashioned (read in person) way is the best, because it is personal and says that you care.
46. Identify Your Target Market
Identifying your target market is based in part on your goals and mission statement. Are you targeting corporate office lawn maintenance? Are you going to maintain lawns in your neighborhood? Are you going to open a chain of lawn maintenance businesses throughout the Midwest?
If so, what niche are you looking to fill? Do you want to be the low-price leader like Wal-Mart? Do you want to go organic like Whole Foods? Your target market is just that – the people you plan to target with your marketing efforts.
What does your ideal client look like? Many marketers choose to develop something called a buyer persona – a short paragraph or two – that provides a snapshot of what your ideal buyer looks like. Developing a buyer persona can help you create targeted, effective marketing campaigns.
47. Build a Team You Can Trust
At some point – either initially or as your business grows – you’ll need to start putting together a team to help you run your business. Whether it’s a part-time office worker to manage your lawn maintenance business’ scheduling and billing or a full-time field technician, who you decide to hire can have enormous consequences. However you have to choose trustworthy staff that will not steal from you or bring disrepute to your business.
- Perform a background check – there are a number of companies like Verifications, Inc., HireRight, FirstAdvantage and Sterling – that can perform an in-depth check for $100 or less. Also, ask for references. There are great solutions like Net Reference and Checkster that automate the entire reference check process. And give you a good indication of how reliable an employee is.
48. Leverage Your Clients
One of the most cost-effective ways to grow a new business is through word of mouth. Don’t be afraid to ask customers to write a testimonial or even use social media like Twitter and Facebook to tell their friends about you.
Most clients will take time to recommend you if they’re happy with your work and you ask them face-to-face. You can take it a step further by spending money to generate referrals. Hold a contest to see who can generate the most referrals and give them a gift (iPads or Android tablets are a great idea).
49. Set up A Work Area
While the majority of your work is going to be done at the homes of your customers, you are going to need a workspace to keep all of your records and make phone calls. Set up a small office in an extra bedroom of your home or even out in the garage.
A computer can help you to keep organized records of all of your financial matters, as well as help you to market your business. Once you get everything in your area organized, keep it that way and you will find your business will become a success.