|Photos Courtesy of Precision Lawn Care.
|Precision Lawn Care co-owner, Angie Eichhorst, mows a customer’s lawn using one of the company’s
four Dixie Chopper zero-turn mowers.
Beth Gaines and Angie
Eichhorst, owners of Precision Lawn Care in Iowa City, Iowa, want their
company to stand out from the competition. Not because they are women
working in a male-dominated industry, but because they are committed to
quality, and to running a professional business.
“This is a business where customers tend to turn
over lawn care companies, but our retention rate is very high,” says
Eichhorst. “If we lose a customer, it’s usually because
they’ve moved away.”
Gaines (with Eichhorst as a silent partner) started
the business in 2001 after gaining some experience in the industry.
“When I was in school at the University of Iowa, I worked a summer
job with a local lawn care company,” she recalls. Realizing she would
have an opportunity for greater income running her own company, she started
Precision Lawn Care (www.precisionlawns.com). “I didn’t know anything about the business, I
just knew the physical labor end of it,” she admits. Fortunately,
Eichhorst, who joined Precision Lawn Care full time in 2003, has a
master’s degree in business administration and could focus on that
important end of the operation.
“The first thing I did was place a small
classified ad in the local newspaper and that drummed up about 10
customers,” says Gaines. In the years that followed, Eichhorst adds,
“We knew we needed to do a little bit of advertising, so we put ads
in the Yellow Pages. We also have the phone number prominently on our
trucks.” Since that time, she says, word-of-mouth marketing has been
the most important factor in the company’s growth in the community of
fewer than 100,000 residents (including students at Iowa University).
Precision Lawn Care has grown steadily since its
inception, expanding its client base an average of approximately 25 percent
per year. “It’s been a good progression,” says Eichhorst.
“We had some numbers in mind that we wanted to achieve, and
we’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to do that. Given
that we try to do very high-quality work, the growth doesn’t surprise
“Given Angie’s business background,
it’s very important to her to watch the numbers and chart our
growth,” adds Gaines. “I’m more of a ‘go get
it’ kind of person, and I just keep trying to get bigger and
Currently, the company provides mowing, weed control
and fertilization services to about 300 customers weekly. The service area
has been broken into four regions to improve scheduling efficiencies and
minimize driving times and distances. There are six employees (in
addition to Gaines and Eichhorst), five of whom work with the owners in the
field and one who runs the office operations.
In most cases, the mowing teams work as two-person
crews. “We like that arrangement a lot, although on some of our
larger jobs we will have two different crews meet up,” Eichhorst
explains. She runs the mowing operations, while Gaines works full-time on
weed control and fertilization. “We do five applications on most
customers’ lawns every year, so as soon as I finish with one round of
applications, I immediately start on the next round,” Gaines
The existing customer base is about 70 percent
residential; the remainder of the accounts are commercial, including
condominium associations. Both offer the opportunity to build rapport and
spread the Precision Lawn Care name, says Gaines. “I think all of our
employees enjoy meeting and talking with homeowners when we’re
visiting their properties, and on commercial jobs, our trucks and employees
are seen by a lot of people. So, both help to build word-of-mouth about the
During the busy season, mowing is usually performed
six days a week. “The schedule is pretty tight. Any rain days
typically push us into the weekend,” says Gaines. “It’s
not something we ideally want to do, but that’s sometimes what we
need. We don’t like to be on customers’ lawns on the weekends,
but most of them are very understanding.”
This season, rain has been particularly problematic as
Iowa experienced storm after storm after storm. In fact, Precision Lawn
Care’s 3,000-square-foot shop with overhead doors was flooded.
“We had about 3 feet of water in the building,” says Gaines.
“Fortunately, we were able to pack all of the equipment and inventory
up and get it out before the area was evacuated.” The only casualties
were some basic shelves inside and a large pile of bulk mulch outdoors.
|Out in the field, Co-owner Beth Gaines focuses on services such as weed control, fertilizing and aerating.
As women working in the almost exclusively male lawn
care profession, both Gaines and Eichhorst say they have been well received
by the local community. “I think sometimes it surprises people,
especially when we first started the business,” says Eichhorst.
“Most people know us now, and it’s been a positive
experience.” Employees, as well, have been respectful of their roles.
“We work just as hard, if not harder, than they do to set the
standard,” she adds. Precision Lawn Care is also helping to introduce
more women to the lawn care business: three of the company’s six
employees are female.
|Precision Lawn Care uses matching silver F-150s and company uniforms
to present a professional image.
|A 3,000-square-foot shop helps the company store and maintain its fleet of equipment.
Precision Lawn Care runs Dixie Chopper zero-turn
mowers, as well as Toro walk-behind units and Lawn Boy push mowers for
small, tight turf areas. The company uses Echo two-cycle trimmers, hedge
clippers, blowers, etc. Fertilization and weed control services are
provided using a 200-gallon, truck-mounted sprayer, a PermaGreen ride-on
spreader/sprayer from Lesco (now John Deere Landscapes) and Echo backpack
All equipment is purchased rather than leased because
the intention is to maintain and keep it as long as possible. “We
haven’t really turned over any equipment,” says Gaines.
“I self-taught myself how to maintain it after learning very quickly
that it can take a long time to get your equipment back when you drop it
off for servicing. I’ve found that doing as much maintenance as
possible myself has saved money and downtime. We have four Dixie Choppers,
including the first one I purchased when starting the business in 2001, and
they all still run great.”
Precision Lawn Care uses QuickBooks for billing.
“We send invoices monthly, and give customers 30 days to turn payment
around. We really try to stay on top of that, and that’s one of the
main tasks for our employee in the office,” explains Eichhorst. On a
few occasions, customers have paid via credit card using PayPal, but she
says the company hasn’t opted to offer credit card payments because
it’s not something that customers have voiced interest in.
For Precision Lawn Care, everything is about serving
the needs of the customers in a professional manner. Employees arrive on
job sites in matching Ford F-150s, all silver with identical logos.
“We also have a very strict dress code for employees. Everyone wears
the company uniform with our logo,” says Gaines, who feels that
presenting a professional image is an important first step in doing the job
“We’ve instilled in our employees to take
pride in what they’re doing,” adds Eichhorst. “Our
customers are paying for a service, and our work should look more than
good, it should look excellent.”
Patrick White is a freelance writer and editor who is
always on the lookout for interesting and unusual stories.