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Starting a Lawn Business

Jun 9, 2008
Several times a year I meet someone who is sick and tired or their corporate job, and longs to earn their living amongst the fresh air and sunshine. These folks are looking to start their own lawn business.

Before starting your lawn business, you need to decide which type you will operate; a mowing service, or fertilizing and weed control service.

The mowing service
This is the primary lawn business people think of when striking out into the green industry. There are no specific licenses needed to cut grass, and very little if any outside training is required. The initial investment for this type of lawn service is fairly high, considering you will need a truck and trailer, as well as commercial lawn cutting equipment, trimmers and a blower. A quality commercial walk-behind mower can cost as little as $1500 for a 22" cut, and up to $8000 for a 54" cut. Keep in mind the wider cutting area mower will save you time and allow you to cut more acres per day, bringing in more revenue.

The lawn spraying service
Treating lawns with fertilizer and weed control is a more involved process and requires training, licensing and permits, as well as quite a bit of experience spanning seasonal changes. It is best that entrepreneurs interested in starting this type of business work for one of the large commercial outfits like TruGreen or Scott's to get some good training and experience.

One positive to starting this type of lawn business is that you can begin with just a truck, a fertilizer spreader, hand can and a few bags of fertilizer.

Starting a lawn business is a difficult job, but also a simple one.

The difficult part:
Once you decide between the above, you now begin the hard part; getting customers. The lawn game is saturated with companies doing the same thing you will do, and all have their individual niche as well. Some offer bagging, others mulching. Still others take pride in striping the lawns like a baseball outfield. Needless to say, marketing and creating brand awareness will be a difficult task. Whatever you do, don't go out as the "cheapest game in town." You will regret that as your business grows and costs rise.

The simple part:
The good news is that lawn businesses are simple. You basically do the same thing for each customer, each time and on a consistent basis, creating predictable revenue. Predictable revenue means you can forecast your growth and control your expenses, thus keeping your business in the black.

The drawbacks
Your customers will be your greatest asset and your biggest headache all at the same time. No matter what you do, you will run across people who are never satisfied. In addition, you will find those who won't pay their bills on time, creating a collection problem for you. This can sink a new business that has limited cash flow.

One strategy that works well to combat this is to ask your customers to pre-pay for services. Give them a hefty discount for paying up front. Another idea is to utilize computer software that stores credit card or checking account information and automatically bills customers on a monthly basis. This will offer a nice convenience to them as well because they don't have to chase down invoices and stamps.

Whatever you decide to do, realize that the green industry is full of tradesmen professionals who take pride in caring for green spaces. You never know, that guy you see pushing a lawn mower across your neighbor's lawn could be a former accountant who just got fed up with life in a cubical. Just remember to keep your business honest!
About the Author
Al Haneson blogs about Illinois issues and life at Ambit Energy Chicago Illinois and Lawn Care Tips
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