Lawn care and Landscape Professionals Speak Out

2ndNature: “My partner and I have been mowing for only one season. Last year was pretty good for us; we learned a ton of valuable lessons and are looking to grow this season.

“What do you all recommend for a nice mix of commercial to residential customers? My partner would like to focus mainly on commercial accounts. In fact, he mostly just crabs about the small $25 to $35 residentials we do.

“I would rather have nearly all residential. I like the strength in large numbers of many small accounts, as well as the personal contacts we make.

“Obviously a blend is probably ideal. What are your thoughts?”

GreenIndustryAssociates: “Every company does it differently. I know some really successful companies that won’t touch commercial, and others that won’t touch residential. But, I’d say just starting out, concentrate on whatever you can get.”

KS_Grasscutter: “Why don’t you run a crew doing residentials and let him run a crew doing commercials? Best of both worlds.”

Tyner Lawn Service: “I’ve always liked residential mainly because the commercial goes so cheap on bids. I’m amazed at what guys mow commercial accounts for these days. I’m not saying all are that way. Also, hope the partnership works out, most don’t.”

2ndNature: “So far we have been real fortunate with lots of biz, so our partnership is doing great. We just are trying to figure out in which way to grow.

“Our landscaping blew up last season, but we both believe that the foundation of our biz needs to stay in mowing.”

kilgoja: “I’ve always heard that commercial was a bad thing because you may have the account one year, and the next someone will come along and underbid you. Residentials seem to stick with who they know and are more loyal; they don’t drop you for someone else just because they charge less. At least this is my experience, but I guess both is a good thing. Personally, I stick with residentials. All the commercials around here seem to have someone already and I’m not the kind of person to go around ‘stealing’ accounts. Same with residentials. I only get accounts that don’t have someone already, or that are dissatisfied with their current lawn care person. I never try to undercut anyone or steal their customer – even people I know. My neighbors all use another guy that they had before I went into business; I’m fine with that. I don’t expect them to drop him and hire me. That’s just wrong.”

Integlawn: “I’ve been in business for 27 years and I agree with who said commercial accounts are going cheap. I lost three commercial accounts last year that I had taken care of for 10 to 12 years. I lost them by 40 percent. But, to answer your question, you have to find out what works well for you (find your niche) and give it 110 percent, 110 percent of the time. Also, a joint business adventure isn’t worth losing a friend over. I’m not saying not to, just be careful, and if it gets bumpy, bounce out. Remember, keep the green side up!”

aced76: “Well, I have only been in business for eight years, but have learned a thing or two.

“I used to do residential, but gave up 125 weekly accounts and stuck to commercial mostly. I have two residential accounts; both have heavily landscaped (did ourselves) yards, and they pay about $750 to $1,000 per month.

“I have commercial accounts that are year-round and albeit the basic maintenance, seems to be on the low side of revenue. I make up for it with add-ons.

“Residential has its advantages if you have good people skills and the mental capacity to handle all the chiefs that go with it. I have never had loyalty issues with commercial, however I have lost many residential lawns to little Johnny next door that needs the money in the summer who can do for $1.95.

“I also capitalize on the fact that my crews(s) don’t need to drive as much, don’t spend one-third of their day driving a residential route, wear and tear on trucks, gas, etc. So I guess lots to think about.

“Some companies prefer residential due to the fact they think they can do business without appropriate comp and liability insurance.

“I do believe the door is open for upselling the residential accounts if you have the real skills to do the work correctly. I emphasize correctly. Example, licensed spraying, good sprinkler tech skills (I mean serious troubleshooting; not remove and replace) and the like.

Pardon my long-winded response, but I couldn’t resist. I like the idea of doing two crews, one residential and one commercial. Look at your hard costs and the decision will be obvious. Who knows?”

andyslawncare: “Do both. We do residential and commercial maintenance and installation, which is where most of our business is. Maintenance is my play money, and covers the bills during the winter. By all means, I do not suggest trying to start installing things that you don’t know about. Do it two times at least to learn before you state that you are an installer of anything.”

“In Your Own Words” is contributed from the lawn care and landscape forum at www.lawnsite.com, which has been named one of 10 Great Media Sites by Media Business magazine and has been chosen as a winner of the Most Engaged Media Brands for 2010 by min, a firm that tracks the media industry. Visit them, and join in the discussions.