What Is The Importance Of Strategic Business Planning?

In order to grow a super successful company, you must understand the importance of strategic business planning and goal setting.

This month’s Service Autopilot Academy session is about strategic planning and goal setting. Every month we cover a topic to implement in your business. Most months we’re giving you a system like door hangers, or post cards, or web marketing, or review system. We’re giving you employee ads and something to implement in your business.

This month it’s a little more conceptual. I’ve got a point here, and it’s strategic planning and goal setting. I’m working on this and I’m getting a little concerned thinking, “Gosh, I hope that everybody in Academy sees the value in this, because I’m not necessarily handing them a door hanger per se. I’m concerned. Will this be a let down to them?”

I’m recording the video because I’m working on Academy right now, but when I think about this and the reason we’re doing this, I feel that goal setting and strategic planning is actually one of the absolute most important things to be doing in your business. For example, if you don’t do this, everything else you’re doing is busy work. The way you win against everybody else is having a better plan and then executing that plan. Time, setting aside time to actually think and say, “Okay, what is that next action that I should be working on?”

Think about this, you’re running a bigger company, you have a payroll of two million dollars a year. Are you directing your two million dollars a year in payroll in the right direction? If I’ve got two million in payroll and you’ve got two million in payroll, and I’m moving mine in a better direction, we’re working on the bigger and better projects. In this case I’m not talking about an installation project, I’m talking about marketing projects, web projects, employee hiring projects, processes in our company. If my company has spent more brain power thinking through it and saying, “Where is the future of the market going? What’s important? What are our risks? Where’s technology going? Where’s marketing going? What should we be doing?”

I’m thinking those things through and then I’m taking my list of five million things we could do and I’m saying, “These are the top ten priorities,” and then I’m divvying those out to the most appropriate people on my team and we’re focused and working, and we’re reporting in goals and accomplishments every week, and we’re making forward progress. If you’re taking your two million dollars in labor and employee expense and you’re sort of just working on whatever pops up on your plate, whatever that next fire is, whatever that next thing is, you happen to read a book that said you should be doing social media. Then you go to a conference and they say, “Whoa, you need to be doing this email marketing thing,” and now you’re off on that thing. I’ve lived that life of bouncing around.

If that’s what you’re doing because you haven’t sat down and created a strategic plan and set some goals for where you want your company to be and then backed into those goals with a plan, and then broken that plan down into action steps, and I have, I guarantee you I’ll win. You think about how Apple works, who dominates everybody and makes all the profit. They’re very, very focused. They have very specific plans. They have just a couple priorities that they’re focused on at any one moment. The entire company is marching in that direction. That’s powerful, and that’s what strategic planning and goal setting is. It’s not just conceptual, it’s not just a feel good, motivational kind of thing. It’s legitimately powerful and the best companies in the world are strategic. They know what they’re doing and they’re executing a plan.

If you haven’t ever tried it, if you haven’t ever just got away from your business for a day to think about, “Where do I want to go? Why and how?” I’d really recommend you give it a try. I’d recommend you buy a couple books on planning and strategy and see if it might reshape the entire future of your company. See if five years from now you might be way ahead of everybody you’re competing with because you moved in this direction, whereas all of your competitors were just letting life and business happen to them.

My Number One Business Owner Tip

Follow this business owner tip to free up your time and keep your company moving forward.

I’m sure I’ve recorded several videos about this topic, and I know I’m repeating myself but, it’s an incredibly important message to hear. It’s one that I have to remind myself of, and if you saw my white board in my office, I have the numbers 10, 100, 1000 and 10,000 written on my white board to remind me that I need to be working on 1000 and 10,000 dollar an hour work.

Let me explain. I’m going to keep it really simple because this is critically important. It’s January. You’re setting the tone for the whole year.

If you’re doing a task that you can hire someone to do it for $10 an hour, then you’re only worth $10 an hour and you are now a massive bottleneck in your company. If you were the guy that could launch this company, start it, get it going, and could make it happen and keep it running, then you’re obviously not a schmuck. You obviously have some skills and abilities and you’re willing to learn and do what it takes to get your company and yourself to a certain level.

So why are you still doing $10 an hour work? You are much better.

I don’t mean that as a negative to somebody doing $10 an hour work. But, you have a bigger skill set and your company needs you to be doing that bigger skill set. You want to spend as much of your time as possible doing the really expensive high-dollar stuff.

The same is true of $20 an hour. If you could hire an irrigation tech for $20 an hour and I’m out there doing irrigation work, I’m only worth $20 an hour to my company. But what if I was working on a marketing campaign, or an employee procedure, or advertising campaign for getting more employees? That’s work that maybe you’re uniquely suited to do. When you’re doing irrigation work, or lawn work, or whatever, that you could hire somebody for 10, 15, 20 or even $25 an hour to do it, then that’s all your worth and you’re letting your company down. You’re not moving your company forward doing the 50 and 100 and $200 an hour work.

Consider putting a note on the desktop of your computer, or on your white board, and just write the numbers 10, 100 and 1000. Maybe you don’t yet know what $1000 an hour work looks like, but keep that in your mind in everything you’re doing. Look at that white board and say, “Okay where am I playing right now? Am I playing in the $10 an hour work category or the $100 an hour work category?”
If all of that is too much to imagine, then write $10, $20, $50, $100 and $200, smaller numbers, and ask yourself every time you’re doing something which type of job are you doing and try to get that smaller stuff off your plate and try get it to somebody else.

Two Ways to Maximize Your Lawn Mowing Profits

Watch this video to learn how to maximize your lawn mowing profits.

When I got into the residential lawn mowing business, after about a year or two, I wasn’t seeing the money. We weren’t making enough money and I contemplated getting out. I just didn’t think it was going to be that great of a business. But, I kept running the numbers and I thought, you know what, there’s something to this. I want to stick it out.

There are two keys to making money in lawn mowing. First, you have to keep your service market as small and as tight as possible. Be die-hard about not expanding that until you absolutely have to…until you can’t easily continue to grow within your current market. The smaller you make it, the tighter you build your routes, the tighter your density, the more profit you will make because you’re driving the non-billable time out of your business. Every time you’re moving the truck, every time they’re driving, every time they’re loading and unloading, that costs money. That’s non-billable time. When you eliminate that, that money you recover is pure profit.

For example, if you are driving 10 minutes between jobs, that’s non-billable time. All that drive time, all that labor time, all of that is non-billable. Now you start to watch for that 10-minute period that you used to lose to driving. That labor you were spending to drive was a sunk cost. Now when you go sell a $20 job to fill that 10 minutes, that $20 is essentially pure profit.

Once you work really, really hard on optimizing your routes, building really deep density, the second thing you want to optimize is non-billable time. You want to drive non-billable time out of your company. You want to optimize your company to eliminate non-billable time. At CitiTurf, we’ve used functionality to track non-billable time: drive time, load time, maintenance time, filling the truck, getting ice, getting gas, maintenance…you can go down the list. Then, when you figure out which one of those things is your biggest offender, for example, your mowing crews’ biggest non-billable area is fueling the truck, then you focus on that as a company. How can you change this? Maybe you could get gas at night instead of getting gas in the morning. Maybe you could get an ice machine because that’s one of the reasons they have to go to the gas station. If we have an on-site ice machine, they can bring their own snacks and food for the day. Suddenly you greatly lower the amount of payroll that you’re paying and the amount of wasted, non-billable time.

You go through those things one after another. You look at maintenance. You look at filling the truck. You look at loading. You look at unloading. You look at all of these different non-billable areas. You start with the biggest offender first. You fix it, then you move to the next one and you fix it. Work on this company-wide. When you do that, your profits go up really fast because that’s where all your profit is trapped. That’s where there’s a lot of money seeping out of your company. Focus on those two things: the tightest route you can possibly build and then be ruthless with getting the non-billable time out of your business.

Getting Started: How To Break Into Your Market

Are you having a hard time getting started in your lawn care business and breaking into your local market?

Watch this video and learn how to get lawn care, landscape, tree care, irrigation (and any type of) business in the area you serve.

This is one of the more important questions that I’ve probably ever answered because, I believe it’s on a lot of people’s minds and, I believe it is a huge misconception.

The question is from Andrew. He wants to know how to break into a market that is controlled by industry veterans. They have been in the lawn care business for 5 or 10 years. He’s just getting started and the veterans have all the jobs and their customers aren’t willing to switch. Andrew goes on to say that from a money standpoint he has a small budget so, it makes it even more difficult to break into this market.

The way it is right now, and I think this is an important mindset, no matter what business you start, it is going to be in an industry that is insanely competitive. It is a rare business idea that there are not a lot of people already serving that market. In fact, if there’s not many people in that business or serving that market, it’s probably a red flag.

First and foremost, forget the idea that you’re going to find this thing that is not going to have a lot of competition. The alternative is that you invent something new, which tends to be in technology right now. In technology, yes, you could invent a new concept. The problem there is that you need an insane amount of money to educate the market, to get traction, and to get people to buy into what this thing. That’s usually not a good game to play either, unless you can go raise a ridiculous amount of money.

Let’s just take it off the table and just say, no matter what you’re going to do, it’s going to be ridiculously competitive. Once you get that in your mind, you no longer have to have that conversation. Now, you can focus on how to solve the problem. You’re the new guy coming into a market that’s crowded. A crowded market is a good sign.

Now, think about it from this standpoint. Think about all of those retail stores, restaurants, and service providers that you use personally in life. Think about how difficult it is to get a return phone call or to have someone follow up with you. Think about how difficult it is to get somebody to actually send you the estimate when they say they will. Think about how difficult it is to get good service, a quality product or solution. Think about the employees that come to your home to provide a service. How many of them seem knowledgeable and actually like their job as opposed to going through the motions to earn his 12 dollars an hour? That’s the typical experience. There are some great companies out there that don’t deliver that experience at all, but if you think about it, this is the experience you receive from a lot of companies.

The idea that in your market place, you’re coming into a market with tons of veterans, and all these veterans happen to be on top of their game…there’s no chance. The reality is that the majority of your market is under-serving the market. The majority of your market is filled with competitors that are less than awesome, and so, it gives you a tremendous opportunity. Marketing is the right way to think about this. I would add to this though, that when you think about marketing, my marketing education gave me more than a sales and marketing education, it gave me a mindset education.

The mindset education is this, think about everything from your client’s perspective. As an example, if you’ve identified that you want to be in this certain neighborhood, imagine their world and life as it is for them. Think about their wants and needs. What would be their ideal outcome of working with somebody like you? That really shifts everything. When you start to think about things from that standpoint, then you start to be able to figure out how to break into the market.

Now, I will say that in the very beginning of getting started, what I’ve observed in most businesses, they usually are a little bit of a slow start. You have to figure out what language to use, what the opportunity is, what the core market is, and what your niche is. Then, you can capitalize on that. But, it takes a little while to figure that out. You’re looking for that crack. Yes, you are coming into a big market. And yes, you are coming into a market with tons of competitors and seasoned competitors, but there’s a crack.

There are a lot of things that are happening. You’ve got guys that have made it and now they’re comfortable. You’ve got guys that have been in business for 20 years, but they got there slowly over time by of word of mouth, not because they were great. Then, you truly have some great competitors. So, where are your cracks? Assuming that maybe 20% of your competitors are great, that leaves you 80% of the market. Excellent service is key.

Now, if from day one, you provide ridiculously good service, making your clients feel cared for, wanted and valued, it doesn’t immediately mean that you will have great success. It’s an investment that will yield results over time. If you only have four clients, you’ve only got four clients to preach your message. When you have 500 clients, now you’ve got 500 clients talking about you.

That’s an example of how it takes a little time to reap the reward of providing great service. You can’t necessarily feel the benefits of it day one. It’s something you stick with and it yields results over time. That’s a core element, I believe, of eventually breaking into your market. So many of your competitors, as I said, have become complacent at customer service and that leaves you this huge opportunity. Focus on that area.

Number two, from a marketing standpoint, you’ve got to be seen. That means, if you’re serving a big market, you don’t spend all your money from a marketing standpoint, to try to be seen throughout the entire market. Rather, you focus on one neighborhood or small section of town. Yes, you hope to get work all over town, but you concentrate your small pile of marketing dollars on one small area. You want to be seen all the time. You knock on doors, put out fliers, send out postcards, and do whatever you can to be seen in that area. That means your trucks need to be painted and must stand out. You need to look the part. You need your potential clients to feel they see you all the time.

You also need to be different. If you want to break into a crowded market, you can’t look like everybody else. It’s very rare that you see a company that stands out. Customer service will make you stand out, but it’s a slow road to travel. Look at Zappos. In the beginning, when they ran out of money, all they had left was this idea the idea that they wanted to become the best customer service company out there for selling shoes. That became their angle and that became the thing that spread word of mouth. They had a client base to do that with. You don’t have that yet if you’re just starting out and you don’t have many clients.

Service alone won’t propel you to be a great company. That’s why you have to  use marketing. You need to be different. You have to look different, appear different, act different, talk different, and everything needs to be different. Just think about what you see out there in the market place and who stands out, and what they’re doing that makes them stand. If everybody’s truck is white, then yours should be pink. If everybody puts their employees in a brown uniform, then you should be in a blue uniform, a pink uniform, a light green, a neon yellow, I don’t care, but different. If everybody sends a marketing piece that looks one way, yours should look different. If everybody puts a door hanger of a certain type that says a certain thing, your should be the opposite. Think about different because different matters.

You also need to take away clients’ risk. It’s all about risk reversal. If you want me to do business with you, and you’re an unknown commodity, what is it that you can say and do that will get me to give you a try. I don’t have a freaking idea who you are, I’ve never heard of you, I’ve never seen you, but you want me to give you a try. You’re a little more risky than True Green or some of the other bigger names, because they’re a known company. With you, you could be just like all the other guys that have been a bad experience. They eventually quit showing up, they never close my gates, they always blew grass under my garage door, they whatever. They gave me the low price and they were only worth keeping for one season and then I had to go re-shop it.

You want to make sure that you take the risk away from your prospect. You’ve got to consider their fears, frustrations, and all the things they hate about companies like you. Then you reverse that and do what’s called risk reversal in marketing. You use testimonials, marketing copy, and guarantees to overcome their fears.

For example, I think it’s Benjamin Franklin Plumbing that uses the guarantee that if they’re late, they pay you. I might be getting the company wrong, but I think it’s them. Well, it’s genius. What did they do? They took the most common complaint about plumbers, they are late or give you a huge window of wait time, and made it part of their guarantee. That is now what they are known for, and that one thing just so happens to be the biggest frustration of most consumers that use plumbing.

Think about it from that standpoint. I’ll give you another one. Wow, One Day Painting I believe is the name. It’s the guy that founded 1800 Got Junk. Great company. I don’t know if you’ve ever been through a situation where you have had your home painted. My home, to paint it, was a multi-week project. In fact, I just had the downstairs portion of my house painted and it took two weeks just to paint that. It’s a fairly big house with a lot of rooms and we used different colors in each room. On top of that, when you consider the rounded edges where two colors meet, it adds more time and difficulty because of the attention to detail that it requires. There’s a lot of little challenging things. It was a hard job.

We had to live through the smell, having rooms taped off, and the guys coming in and out of our house. The guys were awesome. But, I really used them because I like them. It was not a great experience but, we knew the contractor. If it weren’t for that, we would have used somebody that could do this faster.

Think about it. If the common experience for the consumer is a feeling of dread, frustration, and inconvenience because of how long it takes to complete the job and the lingering paint smell, think about how powerful their name and marketing is.

Everything about that company communicates that they are going to solve my biggest concern and frustration.

One company guarantees that they’ll be on time for plumbing or they’ll pay for every minute they’re late. The other one says that they will paint your entire house, not matter how big, in one day. They both answered the biggest problems in their market. That’s great customer service. Then they also address my point of being seen. Both of these companies have painted their trucks and included their guarantees on their trucks. They’re also different. They’ve completely differentiated themselves from everybody else in the market.

Using guarantees, they are capturing testimonials. Think about it. If you go in, you answer the biggest objection, the biggest frustration, and then you capture testimonials from clients talking about how great it was to get their house painted in a day. How incredible it was that, my gosh, the plumber was on time. He’s always been on time for the last five years I’ve used him. Then he was actually late for four minutes one time and he paid me for the four minutes. I didn’t even care about the four minutes, but he paid me anyway. Think about the power of that testimonial.

You have tons of these and you take all of that to this really competitive market where half of the guys you’re competing with are lackadaisical and apathetic because they’ve been doing this for so long. Really, they’re bored with their businesses and you’ve got all this energy. You enter the market and you do all these things. I think you could be extremely successful.

I guess my last point is a point I made earlier. Think from the perspective of the buyer. Think about what they want, what they’re going through, and what challenges they are having. Think about what they don’t know that they need. For example, you might be in a market where a lot of guys are using the same people over and over again. The reason they’re using the same people over and over again is because nobody has told them there’s something better.

If you drive around an F-150 pickup truck all the time because you can buy it for 30,000 bucks, and you’re thinking, for that price it’s the best truck you can get. Then, one day somebody comes to you and says, “Hey, you can buy a Ford Raptor, that’s normally 60,000 bucks for 30.” You never knew that before. Wouldn’t you suddenly say, “Screw the F-150! I’m not buying that. I’m buying the upgraded Raptor from now on.” Until you found out you could buy a 60,000 Raptor for 30 grand, the F-150 was satisfactory. It was good enough and you were happy with it. One day when somebody tells you, “Hey there’s a new world you don’t know about. There’s this new thing you can get. There’s a new way of doing things.” Suddenly then you’re looking and you have a need. Before that, you just assumed that’s how it was.

That’s how it is for a lot of your clients. They’ve tried other companies, done business a certain way and that’s just what the lawn care market does and how lawn care guys do it. If you’re different, they don’t know you’re different. You’ve got to tell them your different and you’ve got to show them you’re different. When they find out there’s something better, there’s another way, they will give you a try. But, you’ve got to do all those other things I talked about.

When I started my lawn care company, I guess about eight years ago, I was a nobody. People have been mowing their yards forever. The market fully existed and was insanely competitive even before we started up in 2005. Nothing has changed, it was that way in 2005, and I started as a nobody. Now I have, I guess, the biggest residential lawn care company around my market. I just did what I talked about.

Now, I didn’t do it in the first couple years because I didn’t know better. My business wasn’t growing fast enough and it wasn’t very profitable. I had to start searching for ways to do it differently. Everything I just told you is what I did.

If you follow that model, do some research and reading, and thinking like the buyer, you will totally break into your market. One day, you’ll wake up, after a whole lot of struggle and frustration and pain because, keep in mind, that’s where learning and breakthroughs come from, and realize you have created an extremely successful business. It happens over time. The key is you have to make the right moves every day. You must be doing the right things to end up with that type of business. It is 100% totally possible, no question. No market in the United States, Canada, Australia, or anywhere that you cannot break into. Be confident of that, and do the things that make you different than everybody else. In five years, your business will be really interesting. Good luck.

“Who Else Is Afraid to Start a Lawn Care Business?” – Advice to Make It Happen!

Advice and Encouragement to finally Start a Lawn Care Business.

Video Transcript

The question is from John and he is asking for encouragement on getting started with his lawn care business so let’s talk about that. I’m going to read his question. Hey, Jonathan we plan to use your software in the future. My wife and I are in the very early stages of starting our lawn care business. We haven’t even purchased a used truck or any of that equipment that we need yet. We have saved up one year of living expenses but I need to muster up the courage to leave my job. Do you have any words of encouragement?

First and foremost, saving up a year of money is a big so that’s awesome. That is a huge deal that isn’t entirely necessary to launch your business but man what a pad that that gives you. Now, with that being said I do think that there’s a risk of saying to yourself, based on what I just said, well you know what, I’m going to save for the next couple years and then I’ll start that business. Here’s your problem, you probably never get to it. Something else always happens. There’s always another reason to plan a little more. Get just a little bit more prepared. Have a little bit more money in the bank. Wait just a little bit longer. The longer you put this off, the longer it will be till you get any benefit, any of the benefits that come from owning the company. You’re going do your time so in terms of giving encouragement let’s be factual first.

Starting and building a company is hard. It’s a lot of work. It will not be easy. It will absolutely be at times like, why in the world am I doing this. It would just be easier to do what I used to do or go back and get a job or whatever the case maybe. That’s part of it. That’s going to happen for two reasons.

One, it’s just fricking hard. There’s a lot of stuff you have to do and you got to wear a lot of hats. You got to do a lot of the activities because you don’t have enough money to hire people yet. Two, there’s something going on that’s bigger than just building a business and it’s that you as a person, you’re growing, because it doesn’t matter if you’re running a $50,000 a year business or a $10 million a year company. At every stage and there’s all these stages as you’re growing this company, you have to develop into a new person to get that company over the next hump to the next financial level. There’s a reason why most guys hit a wall at $300,000 or half a million and just never get past it.

It’s a little bit to do with the challenges of the business. It’s mainly to do with the stuff in their head. It’s we are and I am my limiting factor. I know that and so we are the ones that hold our companies back. We either delay hiring more people because we don’t have confidence. We don’t spend the money on marketing. We don’t know what to do so we never take action because we’re not willing to learn whatever is we have to learn. We’re not willing to spend the money to consult with the guys that have already been down the road ahead of us. We’re not willing to read the books.

Oh, I’ve got a family and I’ve got kids and I just don’t really have any time. Oh, I’ve got all these other commitments or I have all these little things that I have to do in my business and we put all that other crap in front of what we’ve really got to get accomplished. Don’t take that wrong. I’m not saying you don’t spend time with your family or kids. I’m just saying if you want to be successful you figure it out. You create a plan and you make it happen so that they get time and your business gets time. When you’re working on your business you’re focusing on the right stuff and you’re not wasting time on anything you don’t have to waste time on so that you can be learning and educating and growing your skill set so that you can have breakthroughs in your business and get you past those humps. This is tough. It’s a tough business but that’s also the exciting thing about this business or any business to that degree.

When you as a person, you go through this pain and you develop your skill set, your ability. You have this confidence and you know that if it all falls apart you can take that skill and you can go on to the next thing, the next business. Where after you build this business, if you build it to a certain size, you can do it again maybe in a completely different industry. There’s real power that comes with that and that’s exciting but you got to go through a bunch of pain to do it. That’s part of the process but it’s totally worth it. You’ve got to just, I guess you’d say, dig deep and stay the course. It will payoff if you’re getting an education and doing the right things and learning. I say doing the right things very intentionally because you could do 10 years or 20 years and get nothing because you’re doing the wrong things or you’re thinking inaccurately.

You can tell yourself all kinds of stories and say, well if I just do this or that or if I just market this way or marketing doesn’t work. There’s a million things you can tell yourself but if you’re wrong you tell yourself this story well marketing doesn’t work. I’ve just did my market got to go slower and got to get my business through referrals because marketing just doesn’t work here. The clients in my market they don’t ever use the internet. They don’t find companies like us on the internet or in my market direct mail doesn’t work or whatever the case maybe. You could be telling yourself that story and hinder your growth but you could be dead wrong. You’ve got to make sure that you’re thinking accurately and that comes from educating yourself. Surrounding yourself with people that have done it so that’s first.

One, it’s going to be hard. Two, you’ve got to develop yourself. Not developing yourself is going to only let you get so far. You may become a million dollar company but you won’t become five. You may become a $500,000 company but you may not become a million because you didn’t develop your ability enough and so you were the limiting factor. The next point I’ll point out so I’m giving you all these negatives first but let me. I hope there’s some encouragement here. As you develop yourself that is huge. That is just huge. Would you want to go back and be a 15 year old kid again and not know all the stuff you know now and all the dumb things and all the stuff you could’ve avoided or done better? Probably not.

It’s the same kind of thing after you really develop your ability and your skill set and your know how. You don’t really want to give that up because it’s so incredibly valuable and you realize how few of your competitors and how few people actually will do what it takes. You put tremendous value into that ability that you’ve invested greatly and gone through a little pain to gain. There’s tremendous value in satisfaction. It comes from that so let that be a little bit of encouragement. You are going to go through some stuff but on the other side you will be a totally different person and it’s nice to be a totally different person than everybody else. It’s nice to have confidence that you can take care of your family or you could go build the next thing if the whole world or your whole business falls apart. It’s nice to know that you can make it happen. That’s big. That I hope is a huge encouragement for you.

Next to be living in the world of reality, if you’re married, if you have a spouse. Your spouse has to be bought it. This is not a scenario where you start a company and next year you guys are living in a big old huge house, driving awesome cars, and taking vacations anytime you want. This is an investment. You both have to believe together that look we’re going to have to spend some time investing in this thing, building it but on the other side it will be big.

In the short term yeah, we’re going to go through some pain here but on the long term, for the rest of our life, we’re going to have this thing that takes care of us and provides for us financially and gives us and maybe our kids totally different lifestyle than they could’ve ever got. Where if you have kids, shows them a completely different example of what is possible in life. What they can become. What they could achieve. How maybe they can live life on their terms versus what everybody else says they have to do in life. The way everybody else says they have to act and conform. Going off slightly here but maybe that’s a bit of encouragement. Think about that.

One, it’s hard and your spouse has to be bought it because if he or she is not then that’s going to be a massive drain on your mental capacity because you come home at night and there’s all this stress and you’re not both moving together down the same road. That’s tough. You’ve got to have that support and you both need to be realistic. This is going to take a number of years. It’s going to take a number of years to get comfortable where okay, we can kind of breath a sigh of relief here. We’re okay. We’re not getting rich but we’re okay. Then after that it’s going to take a number of years of additional investment to really get the business to a point where it’s doing really really well.

Let’s say five years. Let’s say it’s five years before you’re really rocking and rolling. It takes time and five years may sound like too long of an investment. Well, if you’d rather be an employee or you’d rather do whatever your doing now, that you dislike, because you’re not willing to do five years  of time. Well, then that means that whatever this thing you’re doing now, that you don’t like, you can do it for the rest of your life because you weren’t willing to do five years of pain. I’m not even saying it’s going to be five years of pain. I’m just saying it’s going to take a number of years to really get this thing rocking and rolling. You’re going to go through some period of pain. Heck you could be making $400,000 a year take home and you’re going to go through pain because you’re going to be getting your company to the next level and dealing with some of that problem.

This stuff never goes away you just encounter new challenges. Go into this with your spouse knowing that this is going to take years of investment but on the back end we’re building something big here. Let that be encouragement to you but also be realistic about it. Have that conversation with your spouse. Together you guys will have a far better life in the long term by doing this together and pushing through and knowing that it’s going to be challenging, maybe a bit scary.

Next, I would say in terms of giving yourself encouragement or giving you encouragement the way you’re going to get confidence to do this is you’ve got to learn sales and marketing. I have this thing that this conclusion I’ve come to and that is that marketing know how, real marketing know how, is confidence. Confidence let’s you make big decisions. It gives you again, the confidence to go hire somebody so office help or office secretary, an operations manager, an assistant. Go ahead and hire another person for the crew that you think you might start in a couple months.

You don’t have that confidence if you’re not certain you can drive new business, get new business. You’ve got to become a marketing expert. You don’t have to be the best you just need to learn this stuff because then you know you can bring in business. Then you know you can spend money. Then you know you can hire people. Then you know you can invest in your business. Then you know you can do all these things that make you better than all of your competitors but if you don’t know where the foods going to come from tomorrow because you don’t know where the new clients are going to come from or if your clients are going to come back, you have no control. Therefore, you have no confidence.

It all goes back to marketing so to encourage you here if you and don’t wait to become a marketing expert. Don’t do that first before you start your business. Do it at the same time. So start your business but start educating yourself at the same time on marketing that way you have the confidence to build this thing. That should be big encouragement. That’s the secret. If you will learn marketing then it will change everything and you will be ahead of everybody else so do that. Educate yourself. Spend the time and you will be successful.

The reason most people fail is because they can’t get enough business. If they can get enough business, the next reason most people fail is because they can’t cash flow that business. They run out of money. They overspend. They live too big of a lifestyle. They don’t manage their money properly and they didn’t price right so they don’t have enough profit. There’s a bunch of scenarios but the first one is you got to drive business. You’ve got to bring in business. That’s your marketing. That breeds confidence so solve that problem. Then the next hump is cash flow and profit and correct pricing. If you’re on top of that one, you’ll get past that hump too. You’ll be successful. So know that you will be successful by learning marketing so just do it. There is no alternative.

I’ll end with this. No amount of planning, that means no amount of writing a business plan that I think is pretty close to a complete waste of time but most people disagree with me. This over planning stuff. This I’m going to save a little bit more money stuff and there’s some value in saving money. Don’t get me wrong there because having a pad and not running yourself into big debt, that’s a big deal. It’s so easy to tell ourself a story and say, oh, if I just get this one thing right or if I learn this one more thing or if I just prepare this thing or if I just write my business plan a little bit better. By the way, the reason I dislike business plans. I don’t mind having a plan. You should have a plan but you don’t need a 20 page business plan because you’re not going to follow it.

Day one, it’s all out the window. You do whatever you got to do to eat so you can have a plan and you should make notes about your plan but you don’t need an official business plan. Total waste of time. Don’t get caught up in the over planning. Do it. You can plan, read. You can do all of that all day long. The day you start the business again all out the window. Everything will change.

You’ll quickly realize that wow, all the advice I’ve been getting from guys that have little bitty businesses or have never done it. All the books I’ve been reading. Ah, you know what, that was helpful but it’s not really. It’s not a big help. That stuff will resonate with you. That learning will most resonate with you when you’re in the middle of having the pain growing the business. I can have you read a marketing book right now but until you experience it. Until you do it. Until you grow your business to a certain size where you’ve got to actually solve that problem. You could reread that same book and suddenly something resonates. You read that before but it never meant anything to you. Now you’re in the middle of it. Now you’re dealing with it. Then you read it, wow, it’s the answer.

Some of this stuff that you’re going to read and plan for are going to be meaningless till you’re actually at a point where you have pain and you need that help. Then when you read that stuff it makes sense so you can’t just read and consume information in advance. You’ve got to get started. You got to do it. If you don’t do it you have no hope of ever learning the lessons you’ve got to learn to get past the first several years that are a challenge so just do it. Go for it. It will change everything.

The encouragement here is you get to run the show. That means you have a lot more responsibility than going to a 9 to 5 but that’s also kind of cool. You will grow your ability, your skill set, yourself as a person, in a massive way. That’s awesome in my opinion. You will have the potential to maybe make more money. You will have and hopefully so if you build it right you will. You’ll have the potential to eventually take better care of your family and take more vacations. All of these things are possible. Money is just a part of it. It’s all the other stuff that I think is super exciting. It’s the who you become in the process. Knowing that you are in control. Knowing that you are guiding your future. You’ve just got to do it and I hope you will because it will absolutely totally change your life. Good luck.

Is Age a Factor When Trying To Grow a Lawn Care Business?

Transcript

The question is what is the best way to keep a customer that seems to want to let you go for price or because they’re wanting to do it themselves? Is there a certain thing that I could say to keep my clients as I do a fantastic job?

I’m 20 years old and I live in Australia, I own my business and it seems to be … and there seemed to be a lot of clients that do not like a young guy maintaining their properties.

I wouldn’t … my first impression would be that there are a lot of people that would be bothered by having a younger person maintain their property. I supposed I could be wrong on that. I think there could be a perception that if you’re younger, you may not be unprofessional. I mean clearly, you have advantages as you build a bigger business because there’s a perception of … well, because you have a lot of trucks, you do … people see you … I wouldn’t call it building a brand, but you’re sort of in a way building a little bit of a brand, there’s at least maybe a little bit of brand recognition.

There’s probably a perception that you’re more professional and therefore you’ll show up and that you have insurance and things of that sort. You do probably battler a few challenges there.

At 20 years old though, you can start to put in place the elements within the business that make you look like a bigger business and make you look like a professional business. I totally think that can be overcome. I don’t see that one to be such a problem, just make … so if that’s a concern to you, make sure you’re looking at this from your client’s perspective and what are they seeing. Are they seeing a very professional … a very professional website? Are they seeing professional trucks? Do you handle yourself very professionally? Do you dress in clean clothes when you’re dealing with the clients? Are your invoices professional? Is everything that you’re doing look like a more professional established business? You don’t have to fake it and go over the top but does everything you’re doing in communicating and the way you speak look professional? I don’t think 20 years old is problem for you if you’re doing those thing.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 20, 40 or 60. If you’re not doing those things, you’re going to have all the same problems and I’m not insinuating that you’re making mistake any of those areas, but it’s definitely something to think about.

Generally, when you’re 20 years old and you’re learning business and you’re kind of bootstrapping your business, you probably are doing something a little different than you will be doing in 5 years when the business matures a bit more. Just think about it from the client’s perspective and think about the other companies that they hire, what are they doing that the client might appreciate? Make sure you’re mimicking those things.

If a client wants to cancel and do it themselves, if there’s a money issue, it’s very difficult to overcome that. If they simply do not have the money, you’re going to have a very hard time overcoming that. If they want to maintain it themselves because something in their life has changed, they have a kid at home, that they want to teach now how to be responsible or they have a kid that wants to do the lawn to earn some extra money or maybe it’s something that they enjoy and there was a period in time when they traveled a lot for work and now they’re not traveling as much and they can take the mowing or mean it’s over, well that’s very hard to overcome.

More often than not, what you’ll see with a lot of individuals like that is that they might let you go because something has changed in their life or they think they would like to mow or they think they’d like to maintain the property or trim the shrubs and then when it starts to get hot, that motivation slips or the kid, the child and their … the kid and their family that was going to mow the lawn, he starts to fizzle out, it’s not happening. Of course you can try and should try to keep the work and you should try to get to the root cause of exactly why they’re cancelling, because a lot of home owners do not give the real reason why they’re canceling.

The other side of that is that once you get to the root cause, if it makes sense and they are cancelling for good reason, as I eluded to a lot, will eventually no longer want to mow the lawn. The child, the kid, the teenager and the family mowing the lawn will as I said fizzle out and so you, once you lose the client need to stay on top of the client, somehow stay in front of them. If that’s e-mail marketing or every week or every 2 weeks or once a month, I’d probably say at least every 2 weeks minimum, you’re somehow in front of that client and I won’t go into details on what you can do, but just you’re staying in front of them, you’re … maybe you’re mailing to them periodically.

If you’re in front of them, when something in their life changes again and they’re ready to hire a service again, you want to be the first one that they thing of and they come back to you.

In some cases you can’t keep them but you can put yourself in the position to get them back later.

All I Have Is A Lawn Mower And Trailer — How Do I Start A Lawn Care Business?

This is Jonathan Pototschnik. I got the question, “I have a small trailer and a push mower, I believe it is a 21-inch push mower. What’s the best course of action and what’s my next step?”

Really, if you have that type of equipment, I think that you really want to look at residential. Residential is really your market because that’s where you’re going to find the most properties, from a maintenance standpoint, that need your services. In this market, you can be competitively priced and can make some good money to buy the bigger equipment and make the bigger investments.

You can do so quite quickly. Fortunately, the small tools are not that expensive. For about $3,000 you can fully equip a truck, generally, and have everything that you need to go out there and be highly competitive.

You may have heard me say it before, if you have an interest in commercial, this is a nice time to experiment with some really small commercial properties…maybe properties that are about three times larger than your average residential.

In commercial, look for properties that lend themselves to being done with a push mower or self-propelled mower. Then, you’re still able to have a competitive bid. You will also get a little experience dealing with a commercial property, how they are used to getting quotes in the marketplace, how to communicate with them, and their mindset in terms of choosing a vendor because it is different than the homeowner that takes more personal involvement in their property.

Even though the smaller commercial properties may not have the official, multi-page legal agreement stating everything you’re going to do, you will still learn the flavor and feel for what’s involved in commercial. Everything in business is all about doing it that first time and getting over that fear of the unknown. You will gain confidence for the next opportunity and confidence is what helps you sell.

That’s why I encourage you to go ahead and take that step right now if you think you may be in commercial in the future. Just start small and don’t be tempted to underbid.

I would encourage you to focus almost exclusively on the residential approach to build up your business and your cash. If you want to move into something else, do it later as you have the ability to afford the bigger equipment and the better marketing.

Thank you.