How you doing? My team at Service Autopilot put up a blog post today. They were asking lawn care business owners, what are the top three problems you experienced in the first year of your business. They had asked if I had to answer this question as well, and do so on video. I’ve got my three questions for you and I’m going to answer each of them in this video. The first question was, what’s something you wish you had been told when you started?
The thing I wish I had been told was to be far more focused. I jumped around. I did a lot of different things, a lot of different services, served a lot of different areas, served a lot of different types of clients. I also had a couple other businesses at the same time in completely different industries.
I have a theory that I was probably given the advice to be more focused, and I just didn’t listen. It took me, probably another four years after, if not five years after I started the business, to get very focused. I mean, when I got very focused, everything in my life got better, not just business, personally everything got better. By focused, I mean, I went down to just working on one or two businesses. I know that still sounds like a lot. I got down to just a few services in a smaller service area, serving one type of client. The same type of equipment, same type of trucks. Simplification across the board. Standardized pricing.
Number one would be, I wish I had been more focused. I wish I had listened to that advice. I wish that I had taken that advice, because that focus would have made my life so much easier, and it wold have made everything go so much faster. I’m gonna guess I would have been a lot more profitable. I absolutely would have been happier.
The second question they were asking other lawn care companies was, “What’s the biggest mistake you made in your first year?” It’s probably what I just said around focus, but I’ll give you a different answer. In fact, I’ll give you two answers. One is that I wish I had served a smaller market. I assumed that by serving a bigger market, because I had opportunities to get properties all over town in the Dallas Fort Worth market. I started out by the way in commercial. I had opportunities to win these bigger commercial properties all over DFW.
What happened is, that meant we had to do a lot of driving. Our crews had to do a lot of driving. I was inspecting all the properties. Sometimes I’d have to go out to a property and let’s say spray fertilization weed control, or I’d have to go meet with the property manager, or I’d wanna get more properties in the area, so I’d have to go to that part of town and sell, or I’d have to deliver flowers or mulch or something, or take a [inaudible 00:02:31] weed eater. You kind of get the idea. I’d have to run clear across town and it could eat up and hour, and hour and 30 minutes of my day in traffic.
Bouncing all over town, I believe hurt our quality, hurt our customer service, it cost me a ton of time. It didn’t add to the quality of the business. It didn’t add to the quality of my life. Would have been much better off serving a much smaller market, and really focusing on that marketing, focusing all my sales and marketing dollars in that area, and trying to own that area, versus spreading out.
The other one, the second item that I would say was a big mistake was that I was in landscape. That’s sort of unique to me. I didn’t have experience … Really, I didn’t have experience in anything. I didn’t have experience in maintenance or landscape. However, I was more interested in the maintenance side of the business. I didn’t really know my plants and my grass types, and my trees. I didn’t know the best way to install landscape. I didn’t, for example, know how to correctly install a new flowerbed, things of that sort. What happened, is that led to a lot of callbacks. It led to a lot of frustration and stress on my part. It led to a huge learning curve, which took up a lot of my time. I under priced, because I didn’t know what I was doing, so it took a while to figure it out.
Some of that’s normal. That’s just part of building a business and figuring it out. Normal stuff. However, sort of back to that focus thing. I would have been much better focusing on the maintenance side of the business and the recurring revenue, and not doing that plus the landscape side. The landscape side was again fighting for every project, going out and getting the next project. Would have been much better if I’d just done the one thing, which was maintenance.
Later in the business, several years later, I got out of landscape. One of the best business decisions I made for me and for the company. The third question is, “What’s the worst piece of equipment you ever bought?” The first thing that comes to mind is this, Cushman lawnmower. It’s this big riding lawnmower. I sort of inherited it, when I bought some accounts. The real answer would be, any piece of equipment that I bought, that was used and older. Meaning, I once bought a used [inaudible 00:04:45] that only had a couple hundred hours on it. That was a good buy.
I can’t remember what we paid, but it was a good value. It lasted. It was in great shape. It was low hours. We didn’t have many problems with it. Any equipment that I bought that was older, that had a lot of wear and tear on it, or a lot of use, even though I was getting it really cheap, or at a really good price, it always ended up costing us, in terms of it needed a lot more repairs, and the parts and the breakdowns, things of that sort, just didn’t make sense.
We would have been much wiser … We figured this out really quick. We would have been much wiser to just buy new equipment. Buy quality equipment that was reliable and that would work. It required less repair, less maintenance, and therefore in the long run, it was actually much, much cheaper to own. It didn’t come with all the downtime, which was a huge waste of the labor, the individuals we were paying out in the field. Whenever the equipment’s down, we were wasting payroll.
Those are the three things that come to mind for me. You might share yours below at the bottom of this video for others, and everyone can learn from it. Thanks a lot. By the way, I put a link down below this video of the blog post on the Service Autopilot site, so you can see what our team wrote about, that they learned from other companies. Hopefully that’ll help you out. Have a good one.