The Ultimate Guide to Launching and Maintaining a Successful Lawn Care Business
By Ryan Pfeifer
Want to learn how to run a successful lawn care business?
Then you’re at the right place! This guide will explain everything you need to know about launching a successful lawn care business and managing its day-to-day operations.
But before we dive into the details, I want you to know that today’s lawn care industry is more competitive than ever before as there are over 604,163 landscaping companies in the U.S alone.
So if you want to succeed in today’s competitive market, you have to take all the fundamental steps the right way. You cannot afford to mess up on even one of the fundamental steps. Otherwise, you risk ending up just like the 80% of lawn care companies that have no option but to close shop within the first year.
Now, I bet you’re thinking, “What are the fundamental steps? And how can I ensure that I don’t mess up any of them?”
That’s exactly what we will discuss in this 5-chapter guide. I have dedicated one chapter to each of the five fundamental steps as each one deserves a thorough explanation.
So without further ado, let’s get right to it!
1. Laying the Foundation
Before you buy equipment, print out business cards, or rent a billboard, you need to first set up your business right — I am talking about the paperwork.
Now I know paperwork sounds boring, and it is, but it’s also essential. Without it, you can’t start your business and even if you find a way to do so, you will run into a lot of trouble.
So what kind of paperwork will you need as a lawn care business owner?
There are four main things you need to set up your company as a legitimate business. In this chapter, we will discuss each of them at length.
1. A Tax Entity
Consider this scenario.
You run your lawn care business under your personal name. Things are going well and you’ve got good money coming in as you have a decent clientele. So you hire a few employees. Everything’s going better than you could’ve ever imagined.
However, it all turns upside down when one day one of your customers enters your property, slips, and falls down. They get injured and sue you. Unfortunately for you, they win the case and everything you own is at risk, including your car, home, and bank accounts. On top of potentially losing all your assets, you also have to fire all your employees because you can no longer afford to run your business.
Sounds like the worst scenario ever, right? Well, fortunately for you, there’s a simple way to avoid all that trouble. Just file an LLC tax entity to run your business as a corporation instead of under your personal name.
What is an LLC? Basically, it’s a legal documentation that allows you to be seen and more importantly treated as a corporation.
So how can you set up an LLC? It’s pretty simple. Go to your state’s official website, search for a company name that’s not already registered, and then click the provided link to set up your company’s LLC under the name you chose. You will have to enter a business address and a title for yourself, such as Your Name, CEO — Your Company Name. Once you’ve entered the details, you will have to pay a setup fee which is less than $200 in most states.
After paying the fee, your official documents will be available online. Download them, print a copy, and take them to your bank or insurance company and then to a courthouse to get your license.
2. An Insurance
As a lawn care business owner, you will want to get two kinds of insurance.
The good news is that most companies offer both of them — meaning you will have to deal with only one company which is much easier and more efficient in my opinion.
So, the two insurance you will need are:
- Insurance for work vehicles: You will need insurance that provides coverage for all work vehicles, including your truck and trailer.
- A liability policy: You will also need a decent liability policy. One that covers at least $500,000. I know that sounds like a big expense, but a half-million-dollar general liability policy will probably cost you less than $500 per year.
Furthermore, I also recommend getting comprehensive coverage for your truck and trailer. Why? There are two reasons. First off, if any of your heavy machinery gets into an accident, your valuable equipment will be covered and you will be able to replace it quickly. Meaning no big expenses after an accident.
Second, with comprehensive coverage, you will get protection against the other driver (or drivers) who can get greedy when they see they’ve had an accident with a business.
3. A Corporate Bank Account
Although it may not seem necessary to many of you, setting up a corporate bank account is a crucial step you don’t want to miss.
Why? Well, let me ask you a question, do you want to keep your business money separate from your personal money? If you do, then you will need a corporate bank account for your company.
Furthermore, having a corporate bank account will allow you to enjoy the tax advantages that every corporation is privileged with.
So how do you set up a corporate account? Simply go to your bank, fill in your company’s information, and pay the setup fee. In other words, follow the same process as you would when opening a personal bank account.
The only difference between the two is that you’ll probably have to start with a $100 opening deposit on a corporate account. Also, many banks have a minimum balance requirement of a couple of grand. If you don’t have that much money to deposit, don’t worry. In that case, they will just charge you 10 or 20 bucks a month.
4. A Business License
Last but not least, you need a business license. Well, actually you don’t need a business license as it’s not always a compulsory requirement to open a business. In the United States, some states make it a legal requirement and some don’t. So you will have to check the laws of your state to find out if it’s a necessity for you.
If you live in a state where it’s not a necessity, it’s worth considering that some people believe a business license is just a way for your city to squeeze out some bucks from you.
So the question is, should you get a business license if you’re legally not required to?
In my opinion, you should. Why? For two simple reasons; it’s easy to get and it builds credibility. With a business license, you can put your license number on contracts, signs, and even business cards. It legitimizes your company and makes people feel more comfortable hiring you to maintain their lawn.
Plus, as I said, it’s really easy to get. All you have to do is go down to your local courthouse, file a license request, and pay the fee. For the license request, you will just need LLC documents and a legal address for your business. In most cities, the fee is under $100. But it may be higher for you depending on where you live.
See? It’s a simple process and trust me, it’s more than worth a hundred bucks and an hour of your time.
2. Gearing Up
After finishing the paperwork, the next step is to gear up for business. Here’s a list of the tools and equipment — along with their approximate cost — that you should buy:
- Truck: $10,000 to $50,000
- Equipment trailer: $1,000 to $5,000
- Riding mower: $1,000 to $5,000
- Push mower: $200 to $1,000
- Trimmer: $50 to $300
- Edger: $80 to $350
- Hedge trimmer: $50 to $300
- Leaf blower: $100 to $500
- Blade sharpener: $20 to $400
- Gloves: $10 to $30
- 30-gallon lawn bags: $5 to $20 per 10 bags
- 5-gallon gas containers: $20 – $50 per container
- Oil containers: $5 to $20 per container
- Eye and ear protection: $5 -to $20 per employee
- A small tool kit that contains tools like hammer, hand saw, and drill: $20 to $100
- Assorted lawn tools, including spade, hose, pruners, shears, and rake: $10-$50 per item
Let’s talk a bit about the items on that list that cost over a thousand bucks.
To transport your equipment from one location to another, you’ll need a reliable and powerful truck.
Obviously, you have a plethora of options to choose from and each truck has its own advantages and drawbacks. However, whichever truck you choose, I recommend making sure it has the following:
- A locking toolbox
- A strong engine
- A sturdy structure, such as a flatbed
- A good MPG (miles per gallon)
- A dumping mechanism that will allow you to unload topsoil without shovels
Furthermore, I think it’s also in your best interest to buy a used truck. Now, before you say no, hear me out. Although trucks that have been in use for three to five years are sold for significantly lower prices, they are virtually in the same condition as new ones. So three to five years of use is the sweet spot you should be looking for.
2. Equipment Trailer
Although it may not seem like it, an equipment trailer is a necessity for a lawn care business. Why? There are two main reasons. First of all, it provides extra carrying space.
Second, when you don’t want to place some of your heavy equipment like your mowers on the truck, how do you move it from one location to another? You guessed it: haul it onto the equipment trailer!
Now that we’ve cleared up why an equipment trailer is a necessity, let’s talk about what kind of trailer you should get.
Generally speaking, an ideal trailer is one that meets the following two requirements:
- It’s large enough to fit and support all of your tools and equipment.
- It has a strong ramp that easily drives your mowers up onto the trailer.
Just to be clear, you shouldn’t make a decision based on those two requirements alone as there are several other factors to consider. But most of the other factors vary from person to person.
To sum it up, the ideal truck for you is one that meets the two requirements we just discussed and best fits all your other specific needs as well.
3. Riding Mower
You will need one or more riding mowers to trim the already small or medium-sized grass on lawns.
Since there are a wide variety of brands and styles to choose from, you should carefully consider all your options to figure out which riding mower will work best for you.
When purchasing your riding mower, I suggest that you carefully consider these key variables:
- How many acres on average will you mow using the riding mower?
- Will there be a lot of obstacles in the lawn?
- Do you want to be able to add attachments to your mower?
Once you have answered these questions, you will find out which riding mower best meets your specific needs. In other words, you will be ready to make the right purchase.
But before you make a purchase, I think you should consider the following two points:
- Get a used mower: The point I made about used trucks applies here as well. So to get the best bang for your buck, look for a riding mower that’s three to five years old.
- Get at least one high-tech mower: Did you know there are several types of mowers available from ride-on mowers to walk-behinds and even a combination of both? Every lawn care company is already using those high-tech models because they come in handy during various situations. So to ensure you’re not a step behind your competition, invest in a versatile robotic lawn mower. Start off with at least one high-tech mower and invest in more as your clientele grows.
4. Push Mower
I know a push mower does not cost over a thousand bucks. But I believe it’s still worth talking about.
For those of you who don’t know, a push mower is a machine necessary for smaller lawns and regions of the yard that cannot be accessed with a riding mower.
Like every other item on this list, push mowers come in a wide variety of brands and styles. So to find out which one will be ideal for your specific needs, you will have to spend some time carefully evaluating your options.
That being said, if you don’t want to spend time finding the best push mower for yourself and just want a recommendation, then I recommend any push mower that’s durable and self-propelling. Those two qualities are really all you need in a push mower.
5. Assorted Lawn Care Tools
Assorted lawn care tools include:
- Digging tools
- Cutting tools
- Grading tools
- Measuring tools
- Marking tools
If you plan to keep your business strictly centered around lawn care services, then you probably won’t need these tools. However, if you plan to eventually develop into a full-service landscaping company, these tools will come in handy later on.
3. Pricing the Lawn Care Services
Setting the right price for your lawn care services is the key to running a successful business.
You need to set a perfectly balanced rate. One that’s neither so low that you end up facing losses instead of profits, nor so high that it leads to a significant reduction in your clientele.
To find the ideal rate for your lawn care services, follow these three simple steps.
1. Calculate Major Expenses
Calculating all of your company’s expenses is the first thing you should do. By expenses, we mean all operational costs, including but not limited to the following four.
Since you’re offering a service (not a product), you need to hire labor to get the job done — and for most lawn care companies, that’s the biggest expense.
To calculate how much labor will cost your company, you have to know the completion time for each job.
While calculating the completion time for each job may seem simple, it’s actually a bit more complex than it seems as there are two (not one) determining factors.
So what’s the factor you’re missing?
Employees per job. That’s right. You need to know how many employees are required to get the job done efficiently, and then factor in their combined time.
Here’s an easy formula to calculate the completion time for a job: Time Per Job x Number of Employees = Total Completion Time.
To understand how this formula is used practically, consider the following example.
Let’s say for a conventional, mow and blow of 20,000 sq. ft., it takes two employees around 60 minutes. In this scenario, you will be paying for a total of 2 man-hours (60 minutes x 2 employees = 120 minutes). Now let’s say this was in the United States. So you would have to pay around $20 per hour to each employee, meaning the total cost for this job would be $40.
Now that you know how to calculate the completion time for each job, use the formula we just discussed to calculate the cost of labor for each service you offer.
This may come as a shock to you, but fuel is a big expense for most lawn care companies.
Unfortunately, many inexperienced lawn care business owners believe that cost of fuel isn’t an expense big enough to be considered. That’s one of the many mistakes that lead to their downfall.
So don’t be like those arrogant rookies. Instead, find out exactly how much fuel your vehicles consume to get from point A to point B. You can do that by using this online calculator. Simply check your vehicle’s miles per gallon (mpg) and then check how much fuel it consumes on the calculator.
Once you’ve got an estimate of how much money the fuel will cost, factor it into your total expenses.
For equipment, you have to consider two costs: one for purchase and the other for maintenance.
To be as accurate as possible, you should factor in all maintenance costs. However, maintenance cost is a bit tricky and there’s simply no way to be 100% accurate.
That’s why I recommend overestimating a little rather than underestimating because when you overestimate, you won’t have to face unexpected losses later on due to a minor error in your calculations.
4. Drive Time
Time is money.
As we’ve discussed earlier, you have to calculate the time it takes your employees to get the job done. But what I didn’t mention was that it includes the time taken for your employees to get to the property.
So every minute your employees are driving or stuck in traffic takes dollars out of your pocket. And that’s exactly why you need to keep your routes tight and dense.
After you’ve got an estimate for the four expenses we just discussed, just add them up for every service you offer and you will get an accurate idea of the cost per service.
2. Research Your Competition
Great! You’ve got enough information to calculate the amount each service you offer costs. Now, all you have to do is put a few extra bucks on it and make loads of profit, right?
Not so fast…
Before you set a price, you should check up on your competition and see how much they’re offering for the same services. The amount you’ll get will (of course) vary depending on your location.
3. Set an Ideal Rate
Once you’ve calculated all expenses and checked out the prices your local competitors are charging, set a rate that is:
- Profitable for you
- Affordable for your clients
- Based on your local market rates
Voila! With this simple three-step formula, you can calculate the ideal price for each service you intend to offer.
4. Acquiring New Customers and Keeping them Satisfied
Now that all the simple stuff is out of the way, it’s time to address the biggest part of any business — the customers!
I know this seems like the most daunting part of the business, and it is. Everything we’ve talked about so far is pretty straightforward. However, if you follow the guidelines I’m about to share, I guarantee that you can find, acquire, and keep great customers.
All you need to know is that there are four main cornerstones of customer relations:
As you can see, the first two are about reaching out to customers and closing deals with them, and the next two are about keeping them satisfied with your service.
This chapter will dive deep into each of the four cornerstones to help you understand how customer relations work.
To market your business to potential customers, I recommend using these three promotional strategies: Social Media Marketing, Door Hangers, and Company Branding.
Let’s talk a bit about each one, shall we?
1. Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is a great way to advertise your service to the masses at a low cost. But not everyone can be successful at it. The reason is simple: most people don’t even know what social marketing is all about. They think it’s all about touting what they do and how great a business they’ve built.
But that’s a recipe for disaster.
People are now more conscious than ever about promotional tactics. They can instantly distinguish an empathetic message from a desperate sales request.
That is why you have to first gain the trust of your audience and then promote your services. A great way to do that is by implementing the 50 to 30 to 20 social media marketing rule.
Let me explain how the 50/30/20 marketing rule works.
50 percent of your posts should be top funnel and aim to engage your audience. This should be content that talks about issues that affect your clients daily. For instance, articles like “Top 3 Tips to Mow Your Lawn Quicker”.
Just to be clear, you don’t need to own this content. You can just find valuable content for your clients on the internet and share it with them. Doing this will build trust by ensuring your clients that you want to help them.
The remaining 30 percent should be middle funnel content that aims to inform and educate your clients about your services. This content should be owned by you and crafted in a way that doesn’t make you come off solely focused on selling.
Now, the remaining 20 percent of your posts should be bottom funnel and focus solely on selling your service.
So that’s how the 50/30/20 rule works.
Besides following that rule, I also recommend taking some time to engage your followers by:
- Sharing their content.
- Answering their questions.
- Responding to their concerns.
These simple acts are super effective at building trust and winning clients.
2. Door Hangers
Sounds like an old-school strategy, right? But you know what they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
So print out hundreds of business flyers and spread them in neighborhoods where you believe you have the most chances of landing clients.
I guarantee that after a couple of hundred flyers, you will be receiving calls from lots of potential customers.
3. Company Branding
Would you buy a car from Ford or JAC?
I am guessing you would go with Ford because you’ve never heard of JAC. That’s the power of branding. When people know who you are, they are much more likely to buy from you.
That’s why you need to focus on your brand. Here are some steps you can take to build your brand:
- Keep your website up to date.
- Add only immaculately written and well-designed content to your site.
- Make your official site mobile-friendly because over 50% of people surfing the web are mobile users.
- Add your company logo and phone number to your equipment, including trucks, mowers, and trailers.
- If you rent a billboard, make sure that it’s visible from all angles.
To take your branding up a notch, I recommend consulting an expert brand ambassador.
Once a customer reaches out to you for information about your service, it’s up to you to close the deal.
To close the deal, you should first explain all the benefits the customer can enjoy by hiring you. Tell them how your service will make their life easier and their lawn well-maintained 24/7/365. Then, quote them your price and answer their queries.
If possible, give them an extra incentive to hire you right away like a limited-time discount.
The third step of customer relations is to ensure that your employees are performing their work as promised. All lawn services should be performed on time, with proper measures, and in accordance to the specific needs of the customer.
A job well done will not only keep your customers satisfied and loyal to your business but also help you get more customers.
You read that right. Happy clients equal more business for your company.
How? By word of mouth. When people are happy with the lawn service they are getting, they tend to tell other people who need help maintaining their lawns about your service. So it’s a sort of automatic referral marketing. You do a good job for your current customers. They stay with your company and refer people they know to your business. It’s a double win for you!
4. Building a Relationship
One thing I’ve learned from running my own business is that life is all about relationships. Be it with a significant other, parent, friend, employee, or business acquaintance — and your customers are no exception.
When your relationships with your customers are good, you can expect them to stay with you and as we discussed earlier, refer potential customers to you as well.
So in other words, strong customer relationships will be the fuel that will drive your success.
Here are some great suggestions for building customer relationships that neither cost a lot of money nor time:
- Christmas cards: What’s the best way to remind your clients at the end of the winter season that your services will be available in spring and summer as well? A small holiday card with a message wishing them and their family happy holidays and thanking them for their business. At the end of the card, you can mention that your services will be available in spring.
- Repay for damages: Always be extra careful. But if something gets damaged by your employees, contact the customer and let them know right away. Offer to repay for the damages or make it up to them another way.
- Go the extra mile: Going the extra mile every now and then is a great way to earn the loyalty of your customers. By going the extra mile, I mean offering something a little extra. For instance, spraying the weeds in their beds every other month for free or offering a discount for trimming overgrown bushes. These small gestures are really effective relationship builders.
- Offer solutions: If you see a problem in any part of the customer’s property that you know the solution to, tell them about it. Doing so will not only earn you their gratitude but also help you become a reliable advisor who’s more than just a grass cutter.
- Request feedback: Every month or so, ask your customer how your employees are doing. Ask if there’s anything they would like to see improved on or if there’s a service they would like to add. Then, take measures to meet their requests immediately — as long as they’re within reason of course.
By taking those easy steps, you can let your customers know that you care about them and that their satisfaction is your top priority. As a result, they will appreciate your hard work more and put in a good word of mouth to their friends and neighbors who’re looking for a lawn care service.
5. Managing the Day-to-Day Operations of Your Business
Managing the day-to-day operations of a lawn care business can be tough, especially when you’re new to the job. From handling all the paperwork to answering the clients to checking on employees, there’s a whole lot you have to be on top of all the time to ensure everything runs smoothly.
That being said, managing the operations of your lawn care business doesn’t have to be all that hard.
Now, I could give you a ton of tips that will help you run your business more efficiently. But employing all of them is near impossible. So I’ll save you the trouble and only share the one tip that can make your job 50% easier! It’s easy to employ and every top lawn care company is already using it.
What am I talking about? Getting a lawn care management software service to enjoy the following benefits.
1. Simple Dispatching
Thanks to lawn care management software, you can simplify dispatching in no time and without any effort.
With software like Nektyd, you can dispatch hundreds of routes to mow lawns, trim shrubs, or blow leaves according to the weather with real-time updates.
But that’s not all. You get a lot more. So let’s take a look at the entire set of features of Nektyd that can help you simplify dispatching with little to no effort on your part:
- Use Anywhere: You can use Nektyd anytime, anywhere. Whether you’re an admin or office worker, you can have full access to all the data on your phone.
- Live Data and Live Changes: If you change a route during a storm, your workers will automatically be updated within milliseconds.
- Unlimited Workers and Routes: You get to manage as many crews, routes, and services as you want.
So you save time, stress, and potentially even money by simplifying dispatching with the help of an all-in-one management software like Nektyd.
2. One-Click Documentation
Gone are the days when you had to document everything on paper. All you need now is a reliable management software like Nektyd that documents everything in one click.
Since you get to document everything online, you don’t have to worry about losing your register anymore. No more lost pages to add more burden.
Everything is saved online to be accessed by you or your employees anytime, anywhere.
On top of documenting everything, Nektyd also:
- Tracks email data.
- Stores all documents and contracts automatically.
- Streamlines estimates, scheduling, and invoicing for your operation.
- Provides all the data you need to increase your profits.
- Provides unlimited storage for saving clientele contact details.
- Offers you templates that you can use to send service requests to your clients.
So with Nektyd, you can enhance your brand, reduce stress and liability, and save time.
3. Automatic Invoicing
Sending invoices is a big hurdle for lawn care companies because it takes a lot of time, especially for big companies who handle hundreds of clients.
With management software, sending invoices takes little to no effort. In fact, it becomes so easy that invoices don’t even seem like a part of the job anymore.
However, that happens only as long as you use reliable and extensive lawn care management software. A software that at least has the following three features:
- Automatic Billing: It should automatically send all invoices at the end of the month, or whenever you send your invoices usually.
- Flexibility: It should provide flexible invoicing for your entire lawn care operation. Whether you bill per inch, bag, gallon, tonne, T & M or anything else.
- Unlimited Automation: It should send as many invoices as you want to send on time, every time.
With Nektyd, you get all that and then some more. Oh, and did I mention that Nektyd can save you over 90% of your time spent on invoicing?
I am not kidding. You can get a demo with us and find out for yourself!
By following the advice shared in this guide, you can launch a successful lawn care business and maintain its day-to-day operations as efficiently as possible.
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and implement everything you’ve learned from this guide to start your journey to running a successful lawn care company!
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