How do you run a lawn care business? Your immediate reaction is probably something like, “Take my lawn mower, cut their grass, clean up a bit, and collect my money.” These are certainly the basics of the job, but they don’t begin to describe the way you run a business, lawn care or any other. If you feel you’re going to be doing what you did as a youth, you’re not even half right.
There are basics to be considered when you’re trying to figure out how to run a lawn care business, but they are not much different from the necessary steps it takes to run a retail store, an auto-repair shop, or a delivery company. As the owner of a lawn-care business, you may have some downtime during the winter. However, you’ll be extremely busy the rest of the year, from April to October.
Every business has a few separate parts that must be coordinated in order to achieve success. Cutting grass, raking leaves, etc. are just one part of this process. If you’re just in the planning stages of getting this lawn-care venture going, you should make a major decision from the beginning.
Are you going to operate a lawn-care business, or will this be a grass-cutting company? This is an important distinction. If you advertise “lawn care” you may find yourself getting requests for much more than keeping the lawn trimmed to a certain height.
In a medium-sized community, you may eventually be mowing lawns for 10, 15, even 20 homeowners. If you limit yourself to cutting and cleaning up grass clippings, you should have enough time to work with this number of clients. But, if you also advertise services such as fertilizing, application of special chemicals, trimming by hand, etc. you will have to take a different view of your business and what you charge.
Lawn care services that involve fertilizing and chemical application can be quite different from a grass-cutting service. In most locations, you will need to be certified or licensed to handle these chemicals. This should certainly be a key part of your pre-business planning.
Ask yourself if you’re going to offer other services, such as shrub trimming or hedge trimming. If so, you should plan your time and your billing differently to take this into account.
You definitely need to take your equipment costs into account when you’re learning how to run a lawn care business. Larger properties will require a riding mower and a push mower. You’ll need edging equipment, trimming equipment, pruning shears and so on, if you include these services in your offers. Of course, you’ll need to plan for time to keep your equipment in top condition.
People who are just starting a lawn care company sometimes leave this important step out of their time plan.
One of the key factors some new entrepreneurs miss involves the management of the business. When you plan to take on one client or a dozen, you must allow for time to prepare invoices and keep records. In essence, you must treat this as a business, not as a summer job.
So many new businesses fail because the owner is the only person actually doing the work, but they don’t devote enough time to working on their business rather than in it. If you truly understand the difference, you will be a giant step ahead of many others who have tried to “be their own boss.”
Getting started involves a lot of small challenges, and one or two larger challenges. One of the most important steps you can take involves figuring out how much to charge each client. It’s not an exact science, but if you take the time to walk a property and listen closely to your clients, you should be able to come up with numbers that will cover your expenses and pay you a bit as well.
There are some applications available that can help you determine how to charge, and how much to charge. You are strongly urged to make use of these, and to follow the advice of those who have been working in this field for years.
The subject of pricing deserves an entire article of its own, but there are two ways to figure what to charge – per hour and per square foot. Start with what you know – your own lawn, and build from there.