Just Do It: Hire an Office Assistant ASAP

Why You Must Hire an Office Assistant as soon as possible.

A question that I receive fairly frequently and that I’ve answered a lot, especially in some of the round table consulting groups that I do periodically is, when should I hire an office person?  Let me read you part of an email and then, I will answer this.  This is about hiring an office person…how to get the confidence and the courage to do it and when to do it. 

In this message, it says, “My true talent is in pushing production, getting projects done, and sales as well. I hate being at the PC which is why I love your software.  I feel that as the marketing picks up, the situation will only get worse and at some point, we all have to bite the bullet and hire a non-billable person to help out.  Please explain how you would do it if it was your first office assistant.”

Okay, so a couple of key things here.  The word non-billable. I want to talk about that and I want to talk about how you figure this out because this is critical to scaling your company.  The first hump you have to get over is getting yourself out of the field.  The next hump, often times, is getting that first assistant in the office to take stuff off of you.  I’ve probably said this before, but it’s so critical to pound it into your mind.  If you’re doing something that you could hire somebody else to do, whatever that dollar figure is, it is worth it to go ahead and hire someone.

Let me say it a different way.  If you are doing something a $14/hr person could do, you are wasting your money, big time. For example, if you are scheduling work in a software system, taking a billing phone call and receiving a credit card payment, taking a phone call and emailing an invoice, or sitting in front of your computer to type out an estimate for 20 minutes, you are essentially making $14 an hour.  That’s really what it comes down to.  You’re doing something that a $14 an hour person could do. 

You’re the owner, the guy that made this thing happen, the guy that started it and that took all the risks.  You’re the individual that if it wasn’t for you, this thing wouldn’t be here. You have a unique set of capabilities that a lot of other people don’t have.  You have a level of dedication, courage, and perseverance that many people don’t have and you need to make sure that you’re working in whatever your unique ability is. 

In this email, it was mentioned that his true talent was pushing production, getting projects done, and sales as well.

Two points here.  One, that’s exactly what this individual needs to be doing all the time because, everything else they’re doing is a waste of their talent and it’s hurting the company.  He also mentioned that he hates being in front of the PC. That means that he’s probably not doing his best work.  There’s somebody out there that loves being in front of the PC.  They don’t want to sell. They don’t want to talk to the customer on the phone all the time. They don’t want to manage projects or be outside. They want to be in front of the computer and they love that stuff.  Therefore, give it to them. With your training they will do a better job.

Your only chance of scaling the company is to stop doing the work that doesn’t pay you much money. Get yourself, as fast as you can, to a point in the company where you’re doing only the work that you’re the very best at, and hire other people to do the other stuff.  One of the things that I’ve come to realize is I grew up thinking that I had to work really hard, which was right. I believe in that, and I’m teaching my kids to work hard.  Get the work done, work really hard, and do things differently than everybody else. But, at the same time, you can take that too far. You can condition yourself to think that if I just work a little harder, push a little harder, then I will make more money and become successful. That’s not actually always true.

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out.  It’s more about doing the right stuff and getting as much junk out of your life as absolutely possible.  For example, when you’re not working I believe you shouldn’t be doing anything work related. You’ve got to give yourself a moment to rejuvenate, a moment to think, and time to recover.  If you’re not doing that, your business will never be great.

As fast as you can, you’ve got to be putting yourself into a place where you’re getting some time to recover, and you’re giving other people things to do.  If you’re like me, and you feel like you can just push through and work harder and therefore will be more successful than everybody else, it’s actually a bit of a hindrance. Because, then you’ll never let yourself give stuff to other people.  You’ll never let other people take things over because, one, we’re afraid that we can’t afford to hire the person.  Two, we’re afraid they’re not going to do as good of a job as us. And three, subconsciously, there’s an element of guilt with business owners and entrepreneurs when we take a break. We worry that we’re not working as hard as everybody else.

You really have to buy into the concept that number one, if you’re not working in your greatest skill, there’s probably somebody who can do it better than you.  Number two, if you’re doing something that somebody else could do for less pay, you’re wasting a lot of money and you’re slowing down the growth of your company. If you let them do it, you’ll be freed up to do something bigger that moves the company forward faster.  Three, if you’re not letting other people take stuff off your plate, you won’t have time to rejuvenate and then you’re never going to move your company forward. 

The fastest way to move the company forward is to make sure that, of the five million things you need to be doing, you’re working on the three most important right now.  You have to make time to think through what the three most important things are. Otherwise, you will end up at the end of the year and you’ll wonder why your business is only a little bit bigger.  It’s because you didn’t work on the most important, biggest activities that would have the biggest effect on moving the company forward.

You’ve got to create that time for you to think through that.  You’ve got to create a little bit of calmness in your life so that you don’t feel constant stress every time something goes wrong. You have to be strategic.  Yes, you may have other problems, and yes, you’ve got other fires.  You will deal with them, but they are not going to distract you from the big focus. I believe the only way to get to that point is to get stuff off of your plate.

It all goes back to hiring an office person. It may seem scary but nobody has ever come back and told me that they regretted following that advice.

I’m telling you, if you get stuff off your plate, your mind will be freed up, you will have new ideas, you’ll have new focus, you’ll see things in a different way, and you’ll be working on the more important stuff.  This new outlook and new freedom will allow you to create the new work that will easily pay for that new person and more.

You’ve got to get all the non-billable junk you’re doing out of your life and give it to somebody else that’s far less expensive than you. You need to be free to work on the big stuff.  Then, if you imagine a set of stairs and you’re starting at the bottom, doing all these small things. If you hand those to the person below you to take them over, it frees you up, to move up one step.  Then you’ve got these new things, and one day you realize, here’s a bunch of stuff I’m doing that I could give off to somebody else. So, you hand that off to a person in your organization or hire a new person.

Now, you get to move up another stair, and another stair, and you keep doing higher level things in the company. You have to continue to do this to break through the million, five million, even the $10 million mark.  There are all these bottlenecks that you’re going to hit, and the only way you get past them is to educate yourself on new things and then to delegate them to your staff. You will be freed up to do all the new things you’re learning to take your company to the next level.

One final thing, there’s a reason why only 9% or 10% of this industry makes over a million dollars a year.  It’s not because of low-ballers. It’s not because of too much competition. It’s not because the industry’s too hard or because it’s a bad industry.  It’s generally because you’re not working on the most important things to move the company to the next level.

We as the business owners are usually the ones holding up the ship because we’re doing too much stuff. We become the bottleneck in the company and we’re slowing it all down.

When you start to get yourself in a position where you’re no longer the bottleneck, things go faster and faster and faster.  Every time you educate yourself and move to the next level, you pass stuff on to other people and move onto the bigger and bigger stuff.  A really, really important topic.  Good luck.

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.

Why Most Door Hanger Templates Don’t Work

 

This video is about door hangers, so take a look at my screen and tell me which door hanger jumps out at you.

The point I’m about to make is how I started in the business and why things didn’t work for me.

If you look at this, doesn’t every door hanger on here sort of look the same? I don’t know what jumps out to you, but for me there’s really one exception on this page and that exception is right here on the right. It’s this white one with a lot of text.

Otherwise, for the most part just about every other door hanger on here looks just about the same. They’re very comparable. They’re all basically green with maybe a little bit of yellow. They don’t have many words and they’ve got some picture related to lawn mowing, probably a dog or maybe a baby.

I’m not knocking any of that stuff. I’m not saying a dog or a baby or green and yellow or whatever is bad, because I think I’ve pretty much used all those things. My point is that everybody looks exactly the same. That’s the big problem.

As you create your door hangers, direct mail pieces,  and your marketing pieces, the thing that you need to be really aware of is how do you stand out.

For example, the typical homeowner doesn’t receive all of these door hangers in their mailbox at one time, where flipping through them you just totally blend in. But, if you think about what’s going onto the door if you’re putting out door hangers, or if you think about what’s arriving in the mailbox, how do you stand out? How do you get noticed in a stack of mail? How do you get noticed when there’s four other door hangers on the door?

Then, deeper than that, when there’s a lawn care door hanger or a business card on the door every three days, how is it that your piece happens to grab their attention? That it happens to stand out?

I would encourage you that as you’re designing your door hanger, as you’re thinking about door hangers, go out to Google and do a search on door hangers and look at the images. You might already do this to get ideas. The problem is that with that approach, which does not work, is you’re copying other ideas that don’t work. This is kind of what got me into marketing in a big way back in 2005, 2006.

When I started my business, I looked at all the door hangers I was getting on my door and I looked all over for ideas on putting together door hangers. I then had a designer create me something that looked really nice. Then, I sent out a lot of door hangers and postcards and it didn’t really work that great. I got business, but it wasn’t that great. I didn’t get a great result. It was going to cost a lot of money to build the business that way.

I started researching marketing because I had experience selling and growing the business through sales, but not really through marketing. So I started to study and learn marketing and got really interested in it. The point there is that it’s really key that we don’t just, look at these door hangers and copy what somebody else did because most of this stuff does not work. A lot of this stuff is produced by companies that sell door hangers. More importantly, sell printing.

Have they tested it? Does it really work? Yeah, it might work a little bit, but does it work as good as it can? This stuff can work really, really well if done right. Copying what everybody else is doing won’t work. The take away on this video is, how do you look different? How do you stand out? This is a world that we have to stand out.

I think it’s a combination of words, selling and telling the client exactly what the value is that they’ll get, what the problem is and what their fears and frustrations are that you will solve. Give them a compelling offer, why they need to do business with you right now. Create risk reversal so that they don’t have risk in doing business with you. There’s a bunch of other component parts to that. You have to have all of that wording. You have to have the right message. You have to tell the right story. You have to convey all of that.

Then you also use imagery. If you think about Pinterest and Facebook, that stuff is heavily driven off of imagery. So, there’s an imagery element to this as well. Whatever piece it is that you put together, think strongly about your imagery.

Interestingly here, look, this house right here and that house right there. They’re so close it could be that house right there. They are very similar.

Then, there’s a lawnmower that’s used, it’s like a red push mower that everybody uses. There’s all these images that everybody’s using over and over. Therefore, the results are less effective, less exciting.

I wanted to make the point that if you look around and pay close attention to what everybody else is doing, what is coming in the mailbox, and how to make yourself stand out, that’s the key to making this stuff work.

 

How To Market Your Lawn Care Business Without Money

Interview from 2009. Patrick Dougher of Doer Success TV interviews Jonathan Pototschnik about how to market and grow your lawn care and landscape business when you don’t have any money.

Tip To Make Selling To Commercial Customers Easier

How To Make Selling To Commercial Customers Much Easier…

Watch this video to learn the 1 simple trick…

This one concept will greatly simplify selling commercial work to large companies.

This tip will make marketing and selling to commercial clients so much easier. I am constantly asked questions about selling to commercial clients. There’s a huge intimidation factor. It almost feels, to many, like this giant unknown. How in the world do I do this? How in the world do I approach it? I’m going to give you one single concept in this video. It’s a mindset concept, but it’s critical to your success in selling and marketing.

The reason why I feel that I can actually answer this question is, for years, I was a partner in a commercial cleaning company. The only thing we did was sell to commercial clients. Not little commercial clients. Massive corporations. That was our focus. That was our niche. Some were public companies, some were privately owned, and some were owned by holding companies.

The point is that we had to get through all the layers of management to sell. That’s quite intimidating. Our clients all had properties all over the United States. Many had basically a footprint in almost every state within the United States. Again, huge companies.

Also, in the landscape business, I’ve had experience in selling to commercial properties. In this business, I’ve had to sell to smaller properties, property managers, HOAs, condominiums, bigger companies,  and things of that sort.

Let me give you the key that makes it all so much easier. When you drive through your local market and you see the mall, and you see apartment complexes, and HOAs, and you see the big, multi-tenant buildings, and the multi-story buildings, and you look at that, at some point you decide that you want your lawn care company to land that property and all the maintenance needs surrounding it.

You’re picturing that outdoor building. Somewhere within that property is a guy that’s in charge. Let’s give him a name. Let’s say his name’s Larry. Or, the same could be true, you’re selling to Starbucks. Starbucks is this massive, somewhat faceless corporation that’s all over the world. There’s a Larry somewhere in Starbucks. There’s a Larry somewhere in this big six-story building.

Larry is not that different from you. Larry’s married. He’s got a wife. He’s been married for a number of years. He’s got two cars. He has a mortgage payment. He probably has a mortgage on at least one of his cars. He’s got a couple kids. One of his kids plays sports. Maybe one plays a musical instrument.

They really want to take a big vacation this year. They’ve got a mother-in-law that is ill that they’re helping to care for. He’s got some brothers and sisters that live in other states that they don’t see very often. He goes to church. He’s usually really busy on Sundays, and Saturdays are all about doing chores around the house, and doing the family thing, and going to all the kids’ sporting events. Then Monday through Friday, it’s back at the grind.

Then, Monday through Friday, when he’s at work, he’s got stresses. He’s got a boss. He’s got all these employees that cause him some headaches. He’s got things that are falling through the cracks. He’s feeling ridiculous pressure, because everybody’s giving him too much work. Everybody wants one more thing. He’s got to sit through one more Monday meeting. He’s got to answer one more stupid question from the boss that he halfway feels might be slightly incompetent.

You can just imagine what goes on in Larry’s life. It’s just like everybody else. There’s all this junk going on. He wants his life to be simpler, better, easier. He wants his work life to be better. He wants to get all kinds of nightmares out of his job. If he could get them out of his job, things would be better.

I’m painting a long, detailed picture, but you’ve got to think about your client this way. If you focus on dealing with Larry and not Starbucks, or the HOA, or the six story building, it’s so much easier to imagine selling to this person.

It’s so much easier to imagine putting together a 12-month marketing campaign where you’re mailing things to him and following up with phone calls to him. It’s so much easier to take a personal approach in both your conversation and in your marketing when you’re talking to Larry. Larry’s not that much different than you, or maybe not that much different than some of your friends that are very close friends. When you picture it that way, you can get in the door so much easier. You can make your marketing work.

For example, if you’re sending a marketing piece to Starbucks, how do you write that? A lot of people write it as, “Hey Starbucks, we’re great. We’re wonderful. We’ll guarantee your satisfaction. You’ll love us. Do business with us here at Total Landscape. We’ll solve all of your needs.” That’s boring. That’s corporation-to-corporation speak.

If your marketing is personal … and imagine that you find out who Larry is, and you find out that his son loves baseball, and Larry played baseball all the way through high school … what if you initially send Larry a FedEx letter? It’s something personal, something that you wrote directly to him. It has your name on it. It’s Jonathan, in my case, writing a letter to Larry about how we can make his life better. It’s written in a personal tone, not a corporate-speak, business-speak tone.

Then, you follow up with a phone call. Of course you get his voicemail, so you leave a nice message. Then next month, you follow up with a lumpy package, maybe a box. Inside that box, there’s a baseball, and it’s got a signature from somebody that is a popular baseball player, maybe in the local minor league market. Then later, you can send him a ticket or two to the local minor league game. I’m might be giving you a bigger example than what you’re willing to spend money on, but it’s that kind of a concept.

What are you doing here? You’re now marketing to Larry. I’m doing something personal. We’re connecting on a personal level. Corporations don’t matter. The corporate level doesn’t matter. We’re connecting as people with common interests. That’s how I get Larry’s attention, because the other 20 guys that are trying to get his attention are using all this business-corporate speak.

In our commercial cleaning company, we grew that company 100 percent with relationships. We took guys to baseball games. We gave them football tickets to games in their local market. We flew them out to trade shows. It was very common to have trade shows in Vegas, so we’d fly some of our clients out to Vegas. We’d buy them dinner. We’d take them to shows. We sponsored their kids’ baseball games. We did a million different things, because it was all relationship-based stuff. The conversations all started, and we worked all conversations to get in the door. We tried to turn those into personal relationships.

Sometimes they didn’t turn into personal relationships. Sometimes we got the business because we had a personal relationship with somebody else who highly recommended us to their coworker that managed another property. Maybe we never developed a great personal relationship with them, but the core personal relationships through these companies are what got us in the door. Your core relationships with your property management company, or the person at the property management company, are going to spread you through the property management company, or at least give you the opportunity to bid a lot of work.

The key to everything is to think in terms of a person. When you’re writing a marketing piece, you are imagining a person and what their life is like, and what their day looks like, and what their weekend looks like. You’re writing something from you to that person. You’re imagining them. Imagine your closest friend, if you were sitting down writing them a letter, and trying to get them to use your service. How would you talk to them? It’s totally different than how you would talk to Starbucks. This completely and dramatically changes your marketing.

Then, the same is true with the person selling. When you walk in the door and you’re trying to meet with someone, it’s far less intimidating when you’re thinking about that one person and not the company. Yes, Larry works at this big, giant company, Starbucks, but honestly, Larry’s life isn’t exactly as exciting as it may seem. Larry goes home and has all the exact same problems that everybody else has. Yes, he works at this giant company, and maybe he’s the big purchasing manager or the facilities manager, or maybe he’s got a C-level title. Who knows what the case is. But, at the end of the day, he’s a guy. He just happens to have done the work to be running the business. He’s still a guy with all the same stresses and concerns.

When you think about it that way, dealing with him is so much less intimidating. The idea of asking for the opportunity to talk to them, the idea of mailing something to them, the idea of following up with them is much less intimidating. You’re just following up with some guy. He’s not super special. He’s just some guy.

Think about everything from that direction. I think in your mind, it will simplify this task of breaking into the commercial market. It will simplify getting commercial accounts. Then, it will guide the way you speak, and talk, and present, and act. The relationship of it all is how you grow this business. That’s why it’s an investment. You don’t suddenly start a commercial business, and tomorrow have 10 million dollars in commercial work. You make an investment in people, an investment in relationships. It starts out slow, and if you work those and invest, in time, the whole thing blows up into this big company.

The very, very, very best sales guys have a network of relationships that they have spent an incredible amount of time developing that they can go back to. That’s why, in the commercial business, when you’re hiring commercial sales guys, you have to get the guy that has the relationships. You go get him. He’ll cost you a lot of money, but he will grow you far faster than the guy that’s just starting out, that’s never done it, that doesn’t know anybody, because he has no network. He has no relationships. You have to build that. This is how you build it. Good luck.

Why Are My Lawn Care Business Profits Shrinking As My Company Grows?

Learn why your lawn care business profits will shrink as your company grows…

The culprit of declining profits is almost always one of two things:

1) increased overhead you didn’t expect and therefore budget for or

2) incorrect pricing of the work you sold (often because you are unaware how much overhead cost you will incur to perform the work, especially as the business grows)

The good news is your lawn care profits (profit margin of your business) do not have to decline.  You can protect your margins by understanding overhead and how overhead will change as you grow your company.  With this understanding in mind you will be able to price work correctly to maintain your desired profit margins.

Watch this video to learn how to avoid the trap of declining profit margins.

Video Transcript

Hey, it’s Jonathan.  I get this question, but it’s never specifically asked the way I’m about to say it.  It’s just asked in all kinds of different variations.  Basically the question is, “Why is it that as my company keeps growing I’m becoming less profitable”, or “Why is it as my company keeps growing I have less and less money”.  Let me give you some numbers first and set this up and then let’s talk about it.

There’s a lot of reasons why this might be.  The one I’m going to point out, in this video I’m going to talk about is specific to overhead.  Let me give you an example first just to build up a scenario and then let me talk through this.  Don’t get caught up in my numbers.  Don’t get caught up in the numbers being perfect.  Don’t get caught in the math, it’s just for the sake of an example.

Let’s say that you make $10.  We could even say $10 a year.  However you want to think about this, you make $10 a week.  Let’s use you bring in $10 in revenue.  You start out in your company, you’re out there doing the work, you’re spraying the lawns, you’re mowing, you’re doing whatever, you make $10 today.  Let’s use a daily rate.  I made $10 today.

If I’m spraying lawns I had $2 in material cost, I had some gas in my truck, I had a few costs and I had $2.  At the end of the day I have $8 left over.  I made $8 today.  That’s 80% on my $10.  In gross revenue I made 80%.  Good day, I made $8.  Obviously it’s not a good day, but just for the sake of math.

You start growing the company a little bit more and you start selling a lot more accounts and now you need some help.  You still make $10 a day, but now you need somebody else to go do the work for you.  You’re not on the truck, you’re sending somebody else out to do this work for you.  You have $10 in revenue for the day, you have that same $2 in cost as when you were doing the work, but now you have $5 in cost to send somebody out to do that job for you.  Now you have $3 left over.  That’s 30%, 30% is awesome, that’s a great margin, again oversimplification here.

Then you start going a little bit more.  You get more accounts, you get a few more employees, you keep adding to it, and then you have to go get an office.  Then maybe you have to hire a salesperson and then you’ve got to hire an office manager to work the phones.  You’ve got to get an accountant, you’ve got to buy some computers, you’ve got to do a million different things called overhead.

Now that same analogy.  You make $10 bucks for the day, you have $2 in cost, you have $5 in employee costs, but now this overhead.  The people answering the phone, the cost of the office, all this other stuff, a truck for you the manager.  Once you divide that out you figure out that it costs me, with all this overhead that doesn’t produce revenue.  Overhead is what it takes to run and make the business function and operate.  It’s not producing revenue in my example here.

Once you figure it out it costs me about $1.50 a day in overhead.  Now take that $1.50 out.  So $10 you made today, minus $2 for costs, minus $5 for employees, minus $1.50 in overhead, we’ve got 50 cents leftover, that’s 5%.  You can quickly see how in a business if you price…  For example when you first get in business and you go out and you price a lawn and say I can make a lot of money.  I’m mowing the lawn, if I do 10 of these lawns a day or if I spray 10 of these properties a day based on what I’m charging, I’m going to make a nice living.  It’s definitely better than the living I used to make when I worked for somebody.

Then the business, because you’re pricing your work really well, very competitively and you’re doing a great job because you’re the guy, you’re the owner, you’re all invested, you’ll do whatever it takes, business starts growing.  Then you have to start having other people do the work for you and they don’t work quite as fast as you work and there’s all these other factors.

Now you need to build some infrastructure in your business to support them, again called overhead, then you start adding all of these costs, but yet you’re still pricing exactly the same way when it was just you and you had virtually no costs.  You can’t, with that old pricing model, absorb all of the costs in your business that has now been created to run this bigger business.

I think of True Green as being a highly inefficient business.  I don’t know, I’ve never worked at True Green.  I could be crazy, maybe they’re not.  I view them as being a highly inefficient company.  Why does True Green have to charge more money than most other companies and even companies that are a good size?  It’s all because of the layers of overhead.  It’s the offices, it’s the management, it’s the layers of management, it’s all the overhead.

They’ve also become a real organization.  They have laws to comply with.  They have legal concerns.  They have all kinds of business risk that they’re trying to mitigate and eliminate and they have to put more people in place.  They have to cover their butt.  They’ve got to do more paperwork.  Now they have to hire more people to do that paperwork.  They have to make sure that they’re doing their safety meetings because they don’t want to get sued.  They’ve got to make sure that they’re taking every precaution with their chemicals.

This stuff just keeps adding up and adding up and adding up.  Also as you get further down the food chain from the owner, who was all in on this company, this is his baby, you bring in other people that are a little less passionate, work a little less hard, aren’t going to do 70 hours a week because this ain’t their thing.  They’ll work hard and they want your company to do well, but at the end of the day they’re not going to do what you were willing to do.  Why should they?  They don’t make or have the potential to make the kind of money you have.  You get a little less efficiency from all of those people and that costs your company money.

You can see how all of these little things add up.  The point I want to go back to, and all of that’s overhead, the reason that a lot of businesses get themselves in trouble is when they started they priced their business one way.  Yeah, they took a little bit of a price increase here or there, or maybe they only took a price increase on new clients.  You cannot generally follow your pricing levels from when you started your business or even a couple of years into the business.  Those levels have to evolve, they have to change and they have to go up.

There’s a reason that bigger companies price higher, they have to because they have all kinds of overhead to run a company of that size.  If you want to build a real company some day with a management team, maybe even a president that runs the company for you, you better price in a lot of overhead because it takes a lot of people to do that, to build that kind of a company.  You can’t operate off of yesterday’s pricing models.

This is one of the dangers of a lot of guys that get into business is they don’t understand up front all of the costs that are coming down the road.  There’s no way you could.  If you read and think about it, yeah you can project a few, but you’ll never fully be able to project all future expenses.  Given that, you want to, when you start your business, don’t underprice the market.  Do not.  Price, if at all possible, from day one just like you have all the overhead.  That will leave you more margin in profit to grow the company faster and reinvest.

Price like the market, at least at average market price, from day one in my opinion.  That way you have the money there and your contracts and work that you’ve already sold is priced correctly to allow you to grow.  What happens is a lot of guys start and they have all of these customers and they made a bunch money and as the company grows they become disenfranchised with their original clients because they don’t make enough money on them.  Then they start to neglect them, that hurts your reputation.  You don’t want to do that.  You don’t want to play that game so price it right.

Later you only have two choices, you fire that client or you raise their prices.  At some point you’ve got to get your prices right or you’ll never have profits in your business and you’ll wonder, “Why is my business not doing very good.  Oh, it’s all the low ballers, oh it’s this, it’s that.”  No, it’s just that oftentimes you didn’t know better.  I didn’t know better.  We didn’t know better.  When we started our companies we didn’t know exactly how to price and we didn’t price in all the overhead that was coming down the road to grow a real, sustainable, great business.

As your business grows you’ve got to consistently re-price work, sell it at the right prices.  You’ve got to pay attention to that.  Then you might have to go back to old clients and raise the price.  That’s the only way around it.  If you don’t you’ll slowly put yourself out of business.  It’s an invisible thing that’s happening.  As the business gets big it’s really hard to figure out where the leaks and the problems and the holes are where the underpricing is at.

This thing creeps up on you and it’s something to be very aware of.  This is how you end up with a low margin, low performing business, that you’d like to sell or get out of at some point because it’s not producing what you thought you could produce or what you experienced when you first started the business and then chose to grow it bigger because you thought, “Oh this is going to be great.  I’m going to make a ton of money.”

That’s how you look at it.  If you’re aware of that you can solve this problem or you can prevent this problem altogether as you grow.  Good luck.

Mistakes To Avoid: Advice on Buying Equipment & Lawn Care Marketing

02:14 – Lawn Care Equipment Advice
03:05 – Remember: You are In the Business of Selling Time
04:20 – Marketing Campaign / Direct Mail Advice – Tips to consider
08:50 – How To Know when you absolutely should not buy a new piece of lawn care equipment
13:32 – Snow Plowing Business Advice (should I be in the snow business?)

Video Transcript

This question is from Matt.  It’s a long question.  I’m going to read it, it’s about five questions in one and then I’m going to break it down.  The gist of it is, he’s new in business, he’s about to do his very first marketing campaign, marketing mailer, he has small mowers but he’s thinking about buying some bigger equipment so that he can mow some bigger properties and he’s also asking about snow plowing.

Let me read the question and then I’m going to break it down.  I started a lawn care business in July of 2013, by the way, I’m recording this in January of ’14, I have 22 inch Toro self propelled and love it.  I took your advice, I have five or so properties, not very big.  A fellow landscaper friend has a 31 inch mower for $300, he’s going to sell it to me.

However, I got Dan Kennedy’s magnetic marketing and from that I have got a first of three letters written and I have contacted a mailing list agent and they are charging $150 for 3,000 names.  I’m going to mail 100, maybe 200 out on February 12th.

My friend who owns a two acre lot said he would like it if I took care of him. I can’t take care of him with the mowers I have, the guy who has the 31 inch mower said I should stay away from small lawns now.  Excuse me, stay with small lawns now.

If I got a bunch of great properties that would be financially to get the bigger mower, the 48 inch mower, but really not until then.  I have someone that would help me financially, however 7,000 or more for a new mower seems steep.

Jonathon, I’m really excited about the upcoming season, I want to take advantage of the beginning of the season rush, do you know anything about snow plowing with you living in Texas, I would think not.  It’s snowing like crazy here and I wish I had a four wheel drive with a plow, maybe next year.

I would appreciate any information you can send my way.  Matt.

2:00:00  –  All right, so I wanted to read the question so you got gist, this video is going to be just a bit longer but I want to break this down into pieces, moving from the top to the bottom.  Matt says he’s got five properties, he’s using small equipment and he’s got a friend that will sell him a 31 inch mower for $300.  I can’t really comment on that, $300 is not much money so assuming that that piece of equipment isn’t going to constantly breakdown on you then go with it.

I’ll say this to you that with our small equipment, this is something we’ve done as we’ve become a bigger company.  With our small equipment, we sell it off every single year and just buy brand new equipment because the real cost is in the breakdowns and the loss of productivity.

Your biggest expense in your business because keep in mind you’re selling time, is your labor, the people you’re paying or if it’s you by yourself, it’s your time.  You’ve got to value your time, it’s worth a lot.  Because with your time, you’re going to build your business.  If you eat up all your time doing dumb, small little things, you aren’t going to grow your business because you’re not going to have any time.

Think about production, you’re selling time.  Every dollar, every minute, every hour you lose.  Let me say that again, every minute or every hour you lose is money you’re losing.  You can buy a $300 mower, that’s cheap today.

Tomorrow, next week when it breaks down, you’ve got the repair bills, you’ve got the parts.  You’ve got the time that was lost, you have the client that you made unhappy that now might not recommend you to someone else.  There’s all kinds of invisible little things that happen downstream.

The game is we’re selling time.  You want to maximize the amount of time you can sell, so you have minimize downtime.  I’m not saying that a $300 mower for 31 inches is short sighted, I have absolutely no idea.  I’m just saying make sure it’s one that will hold up, it will last.  Otherwise, you’re better saving your money and buying something better or buy it, use it just as long as need while you’re building money.  Sell it and then buy a better piece of equipment.

There’s several strategies here, but just remember the business you’re in.  You’re selling time, production is everything and downtime is a killer.  That’s called unbillable or unproductive time, it will ruin a business, sucks all the profits out of the business.

You bought Dan Kennedy’s magnetic marketing system, that’s great.  That was something that Dan built back years and years ago and it’s all still applicable.  A great little lesson there.  Some of the stuff that’s 20 years old, I’ve gone back and read marketing books from the early 1900’s and I’m amazed that they read very similar to the marketing books that I’ve read that were written two years ago.

Guys are regurgitating information.  People are still people.  All the same selling techniques to some degree work, it’s all still based on psychology so on and so forth.  Don’t ever discount the fact that something’s older, such as Dan Kennedy’s  magnetic marketing, I don’t know how old it is, maybe 20 years but great system.

Also recommend you buy all of his books on Amazon, especially all the ones that say “The Ultimate something” or “No BS”.  When you look on Amazon, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

You’ve built your first three letter campaign, you’ve never done this before so you’re probably not going to do a very good job at it.  No shot against you, you went through Dan’s stuff, you’re writing your first series of letters.  They may or may not work.

A couple of points here on this one.  You’re going to mail 100 to 200 of these on February 12th.  First thing I think of, February 12th so what does your letters say.  All right, so does your letters say, “I’d like to mow your lawn.”  Let’s just assume it does.

On February 12th, is the grass growing?  Are there any weeds popping up?  Is anybody sitting inside their home watching the Super Bowl thinking, “Man, I need to get out there and mow my grass” because if they’re not, don’t send those letters yet.  They will work best when your prospective client has pain.

When he gets up in the morning, goes out, gets in his car, pulls out of the driveway and looks at his yard and says, “I’ve got to do something about this today or my wife’s going to be all over me” or whatever the case might be.  He’s got pain, that’s when you want  your letter or your door hanger or your whatever to show up in his mailbox, on his front door, whatever.

Make sure for maximum results that you get this piece to him when he has pain.  No sooner, no later.  Timing is a challenge in direct mail but that’s the key.

You’re also starting out, doing your very first campaign.  If you mail too early, mail too late, mail to the wrong people, it doesn’t work, you might think, “You know what, this marketing thing doesn’t really work for me.  Jonathon, his company, they’re just getting lucky over there.  They’re Texas market, that’s different.  Not as much competition, plenty of employees”, who knows what you might imagine.  You’ll be wrong.

Everybody makes this mistake or most people do.  They think that because it doesn’t work for them, somebody else is lucky.  It works and I’m not saying that you’re thinking this way at all.  I just want to give you a little encouragement here, especially starting out.  Right now, it is critical, critical that you get some wins and you get some success that will build your confidence and you’ll keep plowing money into it and you’ll keep going.

I want you to be super successful with this.  Mail it when they have pain.  If that means you can’t time these at first then walk to 200 doors and put them on the door.  Get them out at the right time.  Two hundred is a very small number.  Two hundred could potentially yield you zero results.  I know that’s not exciting to hear but when you’re mailing, there’s so many factors in play.

Are the people that you’re sending these to really buyers?  Are you sure that these are people that buy lawn care service?  Of the 200, you’re mailing might 150 not really even be buyers, only 50 really hire out your service.  That’s critical because if you mail 200 and only 50 are really buyers then you only have an opportunity to sell at best case, 50 of these people and of those 50, only so many even need you right now or are even thinking about it or are even unhappy with their current company.

You’ve got to be really careful in this area.  Make sure the timing is right, make sure it’s going to the right people that are potential buyers and make sure that you’re saying the right thing.  You don’t know if you’re saying the right thing and you won’t know that until you try a few things.  I like that you’re doing a small amount, a couple of hundred but then you want to tweak it maybe a bit and do a couple hundred more.

Focus first on your headline, but you’ve learned a lot of that from Dan Kennedy, I’m sure.  Keep that education going, buy the rest of his books.

Then you go on to say that I have a friend who owns a two acre lot, he said that he could take care of me or I could take care of his property.  The problem is you need a 48 inch mower, I know very little about the situation here but my first thought is do not do that.  Bad idea.

Your advice that you got from another landscaper that says focus on the small properties.  I don’t know your market, I think he’s right.  It is by far the best, best, best, best scenario is to focus.  I’ve been incredibly guilty of not focusing in the past and what I’ve learned in every business system, the more you are focused, the more money you make.

The less focused you are, the less money you make.  Happens 100% of the time.  I believe it without question.  I’ve gone down the wrong road to know so focus is everything.  In my market, I’m 5,000 clients and my market, I have everything.  I have acre properties, two acres properties, huge commercial, small commercial, big residential, small residential, you name it, we’ve got it.  We’ve got a lot of it.

We’ve got a million competitors but we have decided to focus on very specific residential properties under a certain size and ignore everybody else and I am a bigger company.  Focus is still absolutely critical to my business.  Imagine how critical it is to your business, you have five clients.  You’re just getting started.

When you have 100 or 200 then think about maybe going to a different market.  I call a different market, bigger properties, different type of clientèle.  It’s not a totally a different business but it’s quite different.

Here’s the dilemma.  You’re going to go out and drop thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment to mow one lawn.  Let’s say that one lawn pays you $150 a week and that’s probably being generous.  How long is it going to take you mowing that one lawn to get back your 7,000.  Hypothetically, 7,000 because you mentioned that in the message.

Now that 7,000 could have been put to all kinds of other use.  It could have bought you a couple more small mowers, it could have when your truck breaks down get you out of a bind so you can keep the truck, the company running.  It could have done a bunch of marketing.

Let’s just focus on marketing.  What if your 200 mailers you sent out work but you went and bought a 48 inch mower to mow the one property you’ve got and now you have no money to send out 200 more mailers.  Now that’s a bad plan.  You just screwed up your whole season.  You really want to focus on optimal use of your money, which is how you’re thinking about this and the recommendation you’ve got from your friend was dead on.

Focus on the small stuff that way you can keep your equipment small, you can keep your costs down.  You can really learn how to do those properties just right.  You can learn how to exactly bid them, you learn all the new onsets, you know what those kind of clients care about, what they worry about, what they want and you can talk their language and you can get in and get out fast on those jobs because you know them.  Instead of being all over the board.

Get a bunch of those and then one day you say, “You know what, I’m so confident in my marketing and I’ve got a base of money that’s coming in that’s financing my business.  Now I’m going to get into the bigger stuff and I’m so confident in my marketing and my ability that I know that I can go get a bunch of big stuff to keep this $7,000 piece of equipment I bought running all the time”.

There’s nothing worse than buying a $7,000 piece of equipment to run it for two hours a week.  That is a horrible use of money.  You want that piece of equipment running eight hours a day, 10 hours a day, every day of the week.  At least five days of the week.  That way you’re totally utilizing your asset, your piece of equipment.

If you’re not utilizing it, you’re burning money, you’ve wasted money.  You might as well go rent that thing once a week somewhere and mow that property and then turn it back in because that would be a better use of $7,000.  Think about it that way.  I’m saying don’t do it, focus on the little stuff, go crazy with that.  Market to those clients, blow that business up then think about diversifying.

Moving on.  I’m looking at your notes here.

I made the point use your money to grow.  I think that’s a big, big point.  Anytime you can avoid spending the money, delaying the spend on the money, putting it off into the future that gives you flexibility, that gives you freedom and that’s what you’re trying to buy because you’ve limited capital.  Keep your money free because you never know what opportunity might show up.

If you put that money into a $7,000 piece of equipment unnecessarily, tomorrow a big opportunity shows up maybe a guy wants out of the business and he’ll sell his accounts for $30 an account, you can’t buy them, you have no money.  You want to always be liquid enough with your money that you can take action on opportunity and so delay expenditures to the last minute.

It’s easy to run down the street and buy a piece of equipment.  You can buy it in an hour so hold that money to the last minute.  That gives you the most opportunity.

Your last question, snow plowing.  You’re totally right.  I know virtually nothing about snow plowing.  However because of service autopilot, we have a lot of clients that plow snow.  I’ve spent a lot of time talking to them, even have been to Chicago and flew … Or brought a bunch of companies in, flew in some clients, put them up in hotels, spent a weekend with them and learned about the snow business so that we can build snow portion of our software.

I’ve learned about snow but I’m in no way a snow expert.  What I’ve learned, it’s a hard business.  Most everybody I talked to hates the business but it makes them money.  Almost everybody I’ve talked to would love to not be in the business but it provides consistency throughout the year.

You have your mowing season then you have your dip, snow provides consistency.  Huge value but a hard business.  I would say to this one, it’s the same answer to everything I said before, focus as long as you can.  When you start building employees, you’re going to have to find something to keep them busy so you can retain them.  Snow might be that thing.

If you’re going to have to go out and buy a bunch of equipment, four wheel drive truck, a plow.  How many accounts can you realistically sell?  If you can’t sell a bunch then don’t do it.  Here’s what else could happen to you.  You could go out and spend all this money on this truck and this equipment, you can only sell a few of your own accounts so then you subcontract to somebody else to keep yourself busy and then you start living on that income that you’re getting as a contractor.

You start depending on it and then the next thing you know, you are practically an employee because they keep you so busy, you don’t have time to build your own business that’s a trap.  Be careful on that one but you should probably put off the snow for a bit, a period of time.  Focus on the lawn side and then diversify into snow when you’ve got some capital and you’re ready.

Hope that helps you out and I will also send you my ebook on how to start a business, a lawn care company.  I think that will give you some more clues here on what you might want to do.

Thanks Matt, 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.

How Do I Know If The Area I’m Targeting Is Big Enough To Support My Business?

Transcript

This question is: How do I utilize my license to spray more lawns with fungicide, weed control and insect control? I live in a town of 8800.

This is a tough one here. This one is really talking to an issue of the market that you serve. I’m going to probably take this in a little different direction than you’re asking. That is, there’s only 8800 people. I’m going to guess of the 8800, being a small town, there’s a large number of those people that would not pay for these services. They’re just not interested. They don’t have the money. Let’s just say only half are even buyers of the service you’re providing. If you got 10% of the market, that would be 440 clients. You might be happy, maybe 440 clients would be a good business for you. But that’s 10% of the market.

Your first challenge is you have a small market. 8800 homes. A town of 8800, that may be 8800 people, now that I’m reading this again. Let’s just say it’s 8800 homes. If it’s 8800 people and there’s 2.3 people per house, and there’s apartment buildings in your area, I’d be highly concerned. This is a very small market. Again, you’ve got to know that a good number of people in your market are not even buyers.

Let’s go with 8800 homes. Half the market is a buyer, that may be overly optimistic. You could achieve 10% market share. That’s pretty good. That’s really good. That means you don’t have much competition. You get 10%, that’s 440 homes. Your first question is: Is this market big enough for you? To me, the answer would be no, unless you’re comfortable with a fairly small business that’s probably just you. And if you are, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with that being your goal and being what you want.

If you want to build a bigger business, just based on doing the numbers, you’d have to move to a different market. You can not build much of a business with employees in this market. In fact, I’d probably say you can’t build a business with any employees in this market. I could be wrong, but I would be surprised. It’s probably a business of just you.

If you want to utilize your license and spray more lawns and build a bigger business, I’d highly encourage you, if you’re dedicated to building a bigger business that will make you a lot of money and that will give you a nice standard of living and let you feel like you’ve really accomplished something by building something that you own, that can take care of you for a long time into the future, then I would highly encourage you to move to a market where this is significantly more homes. Significantly. Tremendously more than this number. Even if there’s just tons of competition in that market, you need a volume of buyers. You need a volume of people that want what you have to sell and can afford to pay for it. You need to go after that market and be better than your competition.

In this case, I would probably say I’m sure there’s room for you to get more people. You’d use all these same methods that I talk about throughout this site about getting more clients. You would do that in your market here. But if you want to be more, you might look in a different market. 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.