How to start a lawn care business

How to start a lawn care business

The lawn care industry offers a unique opportunity to a small business owner because of the level of commitment it requires. Like many other service industries, an entrepreneur can get involved in a lawn business by simply printing business cards and distributing them throughout the neighborhood. Such shoe-string operators, by using a push mower, weed trimmer, and broom can often keep start-up costs under $500. On the other end, established lawn care businesses with established clientele can be purchased for many thousands of dollars.

Regardless of the level at which a lawn care operator starts up, there are major considerations that must be addressed to prevent future failure.

What is my product or service?

Before a lawn care operator can start, he or she must know what they are willing to offer.
Most people who use lawn care services expect a full range of services. These services will often include lawn maintenance, sprinkler maintenance, landscaping, fertilization, and weed control.

It is important for the lawn care business owner to know what direction he or she wants the business to go. Many lawn companies do strictly mowing, or strictly weed control. Some do most of the services excluding one or two. Some, of course, do the full range. If the full range of service is more than a business owner wants to bite off, it is customary to simply refer to the services that the company doesn’t do to other contractors that specialize in it.

Who is my market?

From the very start, a lawn professional must decide if they want to work strictly with residential accounts or business accounts or both. For most who are starting from the ground up, the choice is both. If the business owner is willing to pay for a list of clients, that upfront capital investment provides more choice.

What type of equipment should I use?

The question of equipment is not so much what type, but can I service it if it breaks down? If the lawn care professional is not mechanically inclined, the service department of a wholesale lawn equipment supplier is much more important than the sales department.

How much should I charge?

Do the research. A savvy lawn care company will know: what their competitors are charging; what the industry standards are; and what operating costs they will need to cover and exceed.

How should I bill my customers?

Payments for services can be billed prior to services or after. If the lawn care owner requires payment in advance, it must be made convenient for both parties. The client can often forget to set the money out and, thus, not get the service they expect. In the same vein, the lawn company has wasted time driving to the location, expecting payment when neither the client nor their payment is present.

If the lawn company does not require payment prior to service there is always the chance that they will not ever get paid for the service they perform. The headaches that collection can cause are numerous and frequent.

A lawn company may prefer to use an internet billing service such as paypal. Such services provide verification of payment through email. A simple bill reminder can be sent by the company in advance of the services being rendered. The client can then pay for the services in a paperless fashion, and do not have to be present when the work is completed.

Lone Eagle or employees?

Whether to expand the income potential by hiring employees is a tough call in the lawn business. It is not essential to have employees, but by having employees it frees up the time the business owner has to manage and sell the business as opposed to doing the business by him or herself.

On the other hand, management of employees, the tax implications, the need for workman’s compensation insurance, and all the legal ramifications that employees create can drive the lawn care owner to run a one-person shop.

The ultimate determinant is “how much money do I want to make, and how much stress am I willing to take on in order to make it?

Taxes, Insurance, and Licensing

Even if a lawn care owner simply throws business cards around the neighborhood, eventually he or she will face the legal and business aspects of running a small business. If the lawn care owner is not business savvy in these areas, there are consultants who eagerly await his phone call.

There are also non-profit organizations such as the Small Business Administration, who can assist the business owner with these matters.

These non-profits will also assist the small business owner in writing a business plan. The business plan is vital, especially if financing for the business is required.

How should I advertise?

Advertising is very subjective. Some business owners swear that word of mouth is all that is necessary. Others contend that all advertising media needs to be used. Again, look at the financial goals of the company. Is the amount of expense worth the potential for growth in business volume? If a lawn business owner intends to advertise, consistency is important. It is better to have a smaller advertisement on a regular, on-going basis than a huge advertisement, one time.

These questions are just the beginning for establishing a successful lawn business. Answering them can get the ball rolling for a lawn business owner, but many more questions and issues are guaranteed to follow, and success will likely follow, as well.

These questions

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