How do you know what the optimal lawn care crew size is? In this video, Jonathan gives you some factors to consider whether you are just starting out or simply trying to become more efficient.
What factors go into determining the best lawn care crew size for your company?
I believe it’s really important to know that as your company changes, your crew size will change. A company that’s just getting started that has 1 crew and grows to 2 to 4 crews will change just as a company that has 10 crews and grows to 20 to 40 crews.
“I’m new to the industry. How do I learn to price lawn mowing jobs so that I can win bids and be profitable?”
Pricing is really difficult. When I got started in the business I didn’t have the faintest idea how to price commercial or residential. I was clueless. I remember the challenge and the difficulty. I remember struggling to figure it out.
Here are Jonathan’s top 4 tips from his How To Start A Lawn Care Business eBook.
Several years ago, I wrote an eBook titled, “The Real Facts About How To Start A Lawn Care Business”. If you’d like it, you’re welcome to have it for free. I’ll put a link at the bottom of this video and you can click that and download the eBook for free. There’s truly no catch. I’ve given it away a lot of times and you’re welcome to it.
A couple quick thoughts on getting started in the business, just based on a few things I’ve learned in working with others over time. Hopefully they’ll be of help if you’re just getting started. One is, I would really recommend that you just go do it. I see so many people wanting to put together a business plan or think through everything, that’s great, the exercise of thinking through it’s fantastic but that’s something that can keep you from getting started and it can make you wait one more year and then one more year and then basically you wake up one day and you’ve never started the business. You’ve got a family and a mortgage and everything else and you just never got it done.
My argument is, just go out there and get started. Go make your first thousand bucks. Go do it part time, whatever you got to do. I’m not a big fan of doing it part time long because I think that it makes it easy to kind of throw in the towel when you have a backup plan. But, I’m saying just go make that first thousand bucks, do it part time, get all your ducks in a row so that when next spring rolls around you are completely ready to go and you’ve already learned some lessons, and there’s nothing to keep you from getting started.
Second, keep it simple, just focus on a few core services to get started. Don’t try to provide every other service like all of your competitors who have been doing it for ten years. You don’t have to do all that, yeah in time you might want to but just keep it simple. That’ll give you a better chance of being successful, you are more likely to make it, there’s less stuff you have to worry about, and the fewer things you do, the better you’ll do them and you’ll make more money at it. Trying to do too many things is absolutely not worth it.
I would say number three is, remember what your number one goal is. Your number one goal is to sell. Your number one goal is not to build processes or procedures or think through what might happen in six months when you hire a person. It is not to get all your ducks in a row for when you hire a manager someday or think about all of the types of equipment you could possibly need. Your job is not to optimize your business and think through all of the potential problems and risks and things that might come your way. Your only job is to sell and then when you sell, do a really good job performing that work. Everything else will fall into place. It’s going to be messy, it’s not going to be perfect, it won’t run perfectly. If your personality is where you have to have everything perfect, your ducks in a row, and you’re very process oriented, you have to fight that tendency and you just have to know that your only job is to sell because selling and making money is survival, everything else doesn’t make you money. It just optimizes the business and trims costs. Do that later. First, you sell.
Fourth, and I’ll leave it at this, think about cash flow. Most of the industry generates the invoice at the end of the month and they get paid thirty days later. How can you do that different? My opinion is charge credit cards, the day of service or the week after service. How can you speed up cash flow? Most companies fail for one of two reasons. One, they don’t have enough money, generally in the form of not getting paid fast enough, meaning they have slow cash flow, too much money is going before the money comes in so they can’t keep up, they can’t make enough money. They never have enough money to grow. That’s the first reason most companies fail. The second is they don’t sell and market. They never learn how to market their business and grow. Solve the sales and marketing thing. I mentioned that just before and now focus on cash flow. How can you get paid the fastest way possible? A lot of really smart people could have much bigger businesses if they’d solve their cash flow problems. But they don’t.
They continue to say it doesn’t work in my market. “I can’t charge clients credit cards in my market”, or whatever the story is, but unless you solve that problem you will never be able to grow. I’ve seen it over and over again. You’ve got to have as much free cash as absolutely possible. Figure out how to get paid in advance, figure out how to get paid on a credit card, figure out how to speed up that cash flow. Plumbers have figured it out, HVAC has figured it out, house cleaners get the check left at the house each day when they clean the house. Every other industry’s figured it out, so don’t follow the norm in the industry and it will help you get to where you want to go way faster. If the eBook’s of interest, download it. It’s free, there is zero catch. I hope it helps.
Jonathan shows pictures of his first truck and lawn mower to show where he started and how he grew his business.
In a recent video I made mention of how easy it is to get discouraged when you look at somebody else who’s talking about how great their business is. Maybe they are giving you ideas about how to grow yours and you’re looking at the scale and the size of their business. Maybe you’re thinking they’re lucky, or wondering how in the world do I ever get there, or thinking they must have had some advantage that I didn’t have. Who know what you and I probably have thought over the years when we see somebody else that’s way down the road way ahead of us.
I thought it would be interesting to show you a couple pictures of where I started. This would have been about late 2004 and I don’t have the exact pictures. I really regret that I didn’t take pictures of the team and of our set up in the very beginning.
For those that know me, I was in the lawn care business from about 15 to my freshman year of college. I got out and I was out quite a while. I got back in the business in late 2004. The truck you’re seeing on the screen was my very first truck and the piece of equipment here, the Cushman, was my very first piece of equipment. They did not look good.
Now, these two pictures I didn’t take. I went and found a couple pics on Google that looked very similar to what I had. The way I ended up with this set up is, I bought this equipment off somebody just to get started and that was 10 years ago now and it looked old back then. You can only imagine how we first looked.
Then a little later we took over a, basically there was a big commercial property that we took over and they were doing their own maintenance and their maintenance team took care of 9 properties. We took over all 9 of those commercial properties. They were doing it in-house and we bought their trucks and equipment.
My second truck was a beat up F150 that had just been beat to death and it had about 150,000 miles on it. The interior was covered in dirt and grease and I’m sure they smoked in the truck. It was a mess. It had a giant dent in the back tailgate from a trailer and then on the side it had a dent behind the opening third door, I guess you’d call it, because it was an extended cab.
That’s where I started. Nothing was wrapped, nothing was painted, all my trucks were junk. Then I went to another used truck which was an older F150, like an old body style F150, 3 generations ago now and that was my third truck. After that with the 4th, 5th, 7th truck that’s when they started to get better. I was still buying used but they started to improve.
That was the beginning of the business. That’s how I got started and I so wish I had the pictures now because people that come on to the team now have no idea what it was like in the beginning. All they see now is a big organization that runs pretty well. It’s not perfect but they don’t know what it took to get started. They don’t know how hard it was, they don’t know what we went thorough, they don’t know how we would grind it out, they don’t know where we started with hardly anything.
When we had a little bit more, we bought a little more and we kept making incremental improvements. Now what you see is a pretty interesting organization but it took a long time to get here and there was no way I could picture this. My early team, there’s no way they could picture this 10 years ago and say this is what it’s going to look like someday. We didn’t even know how we were going to get here. At first we just wanted to get to 1000 clients and that seemed like this insanely monumental task of how am I ever going to do that. Because there were hardly any companies that were that size in our local market so it just seemed really ambitious. The way it happened, we could see as we slowly made more and more progress, as we had a little bit more money, as we had a little bit better people, as we had a little bit better equipment, it’s like “Oh, I can see how I can get to the next level and then the next level and the next level.” One day you look back and you’re like wow, I cannot believe where we came from.
Most of us that weren’t handed a whole lot of money in life and didn’t have some form of advantage all started with the pretty boring uninteresting set up and we progress from there. That’s how it happens. The guys giving you advice, and the big companies you’re looking at, some have few advantages, but most probably didn’t and they just did the time and they did the work and they reinvested and worked their butt off.
Be optimistic and make it happen.
Question: “I’m just getting started. How can I create immediate income in my lawn care business?“
One of the great things about the landscape industry is that you really can create immediate income.
You can go out and get work versus waiting for it to come to you. As a result it is possible to find work quickly.
All you have to do is walk down the street, knock on doors, introduce yourself and tell the story of your company. It takes a small bit of courage, but it works!
If you are selling commercial, you walk in the door and ask for the business. You ask to bid the property.
If they don’t need you now (most won’t), find out when their existing agreement expires or when the contract will go out for bid. Put that date on your calendar and follow up months in advance to ensure you have an opportunity to participate in the bidding process.
Don’t forget to ask for the name of the person who will make the decision.
These are the three fastest ways to get immediate income:
1) Knock on doors.
2) Put out door hangers. If you don’t have money, pass them out yourself.
3) Build a high quality website and run PPC ads. Google the term Adwords to learn more.
Let’s assume during the start up phase you are in the field 40% of the week. You don’t have enough work to fill up an entire week. So, the other 60% of the week you need to spend your time prospecting for new business.
I’ve heard many say when you are starting out, price low. Then, once you earn some business and your customers trust you, raise your prices.
Start out pricing yourself near the middle of the market or higher.
If you price too low, as you start growing, you will not have any money to hire help. You won’t have money to buy good eqiupment. You won’t have money to advertise your business.
You will get trapped in the field if you don’t have money.
Long term, the only way to make a lot of money is to get yourself out of the field and pay others to do all of the field work.
As you grow you will have less and less time to focus on sales and marketing. You MUST constantly replace yourself in the field by hiring help.
Doing so frees up more of your time to seek out new business.
If you stop marketing and selling, your revenue stream will dry up.
Each time you replace yourself in the field, resume exactly what made you successful in the first place…knocking on doors, distributing door hangers, online marketing, asking for referrals, etc.
As you hire ‘guys’ to help, demand hard work and quality. Don’t accept poor or slow work. If you look at an employee and realize that you could do that job in 30% the time it takes them, you’ve hired the wrong person.
There are plenty of great guys. A lot of those guys will surprise you by out-working you.
Don’t settle for mediocre people. It will kill your business and burn you out.
Once you hire your first foreman and have successfully replaced yourself with a self-operating crew, you have accomplished a major milestone.
Repeat this several times, price correctly, and you will find you have the money to hire an operations person to help you run the business.
Once you reach this point you are well on your way.
You will be ahead of most of your peers in the industry.
Go make your first sell. Not next month. Now.
Learn why your lawn service prices should fall in the top 20% of your market.
I get the question all the time: How much money should I be charging for my services? How should I price my services? I’m not going to directly answer that in this video but I do want to talk about a concept that I think is really important.
I have been studying marketing since around the end of 2005. When you start studying marketing, you get introduced to a lot of really interesting people and they obviously teach on subjects other than marketing.
I noticed that what a lot of the gurus in the marketing industry tend to teach is that you should price your services at the very very top of the market. You should be the highest priced provider in the market for whatever it is that you want to sell.
I don’t really agree with that for the service industry and for my service business. That’s the point I want to address. As you’re learning how to price your services and you are working your strategic plan to get to the price point that you want to be in the market and be able to sell a lot of work at that price point so that you can make a good amount of profit, what I believe you want to try to accomplish is you want to be in the top 20%.
If you were to look at the pricing in your marketplace, whatever the service is that you’re selling, look at 50 competitors and write down the cheapest price somebody in your market charges to provide that service, and then write down the highest price that someone in that market would charge to provide that service.
Let’s just use fertilization and weed control. If someone for a 5,000 square foot property would charge $25 to do fertilization and weed control at that property, and at top end of that market somebody would charge $75 to do that service. If you picture that on a whiteboard or on a chart, you want to be pricing in the top 20% of the market. If you were to plot all the lawn service prices for everybody in the market and you were to divide that into 20% chunks, you want to see what the pricing is at the top of that 20% chunk.
I don’t know what that would be in your market, but you want to slowly figure that out over time. You’re not going to figure it out when you first get in business. You’re not going to figure it out on day one. You figure it out over time and as you figure it out, you start to price at that price point.
Now obviously, your service quality, the quality of your people, your customer service, everything has to improve and grow and get better so that you can get those prices. But, I believe that the sweet spot is in that top 20%. Why is that? Because if you’re the highest priced provider in your business, you can’t really build a big business.
If you know me, then you know that my whole concept is to build a business big enough to have somebody that runs it for you. Then, you also have to have a couple of layers so that even if that main person leaves, it wouldn’t all end and you’d have to be the guy running it again.
You want to build a business big enough that you can afford to have people to run the company for you, and that takes a while to get to that point. To get there, if you are the highest priced provider in the market, it’s hard to get enough business, enough volume of business, to build a business big enough to do that.
If you’re too cheap in terms of pricing, you can never hire the right people, the best people. You always have equipment problems and truck problems and employee problems, and you can’t afford to market. You can’t afford to do anything, so then again, you can’t build that business.
That top 20% sweet spot to me is the point that gives you enough money to grow a great company that can run itself and that will allow you to take a lot of money out of the business, and it will allow you to build, again, a big enough business to accomplish everything that I just said.