A business program with preset goals
Picking your markets and planning your growth are essential to growing a business according to DJ Carroll, owner/operator of EasyPro Property Services, LLC of Carrollton, Ky. This 20-year-old entrepreneur is passionate about business, and that shows in every aspect of his young and growing company.
He started mowing lawns as a senior in high school. During his first summer, he only offered lawn maintenance, but quickly added landscaping to better serve his existing clients and reach new ones. Already looking to expand his range of services, he picked up pressure washing, operating it as a separate business called Scrappy’s Power Wash, and then expanded into roof cleaning, again as a separate business, EasyPro Roof Cleaning.
Seeing the potential synergy of these services, he brought them all together under the name EasyPro Property Services, filing for his LLC in September 2008. He says, “Putting everything together gives me the opportunity to market additional services to each client. I added snow removal this past winter to make it a year-round operation. I’m at our lawn care properties every week for most of the year. If I notice pest damage, overgrown shrubbery, fading mulch, black streaks on the roof, mildew on the siding or stained concrete, I can talk to the property owner about it on a more personal level and recommend our other services or vice versa. Multiple services give me an ‘in’ with my current clients, which helps decrease customer acquisition costs.”
He targeted high-end residential accounts from the beginning, including condos, homeowner associations and apartment complexes, as well as single-family homes. These now make up 80 percent of the business. He also works with commercial accounts and municipalities, broadening his overall client base.
He’s essentially a one-person operation, though he has access to experienced mower operators through a local temp agency when he needs them. “I’ve worked with several different individuals through the agency that do the level of work that fits my standards. I can request them by name, and usually at least one will be available. That gives me the flexibility I need at this point. The agency deals with the payroll and workers’ comp issues, so I have a set cost per hour.”
Carroll plans ahead to maintain flexibility where it’s most beneficial to overall growth. Mowing can be shifted by a day or two when necessary, so he’s established a relatively full schedule of clients. Snow removal has a much shorter time frame, so he limits those preset clients to the number of sites he can clear effectively before the start of a normal workday. “If I have additional time for snow removal, all I need to do is drive through uncleared areas,” he says. “Potential clients can easily spot the phone number on my truck. We can set up the details and negotiate the costs in minutes. Obviously, it’s a supply and demand issue, with those in snow-packed situations willing to pay a higher rate for immediate service.”
He’s built a network of companies that supply specialty services, such a tree removal and excavation, and he’s willing to subcontract segments of a large project when necessary. “I’d rather subcontract than turn away work if we can work together to cover it effectively, but if a project is more than we can handle or beyond the scope of our services, like exterior painting, I’m honest with my customers and usually can recommend a qualified company.”
Along with all this, he’s studying business management full-time at Jefferson Community College in Carrollton. He crams 12 credit hours of classes into one full day, plus an additional evening. “Knowledge is power,” say Carroll. “I’m willing to invest whatever time it takes to learn everything I need to know to operate my business successfully.”
|A roof beforecleaning services …and after.|
Carrollton is a small town with a population just under 4,000. There are only a few competitors in either the lawn care or cleaning services within the town or the other small towns nearby, but larger markets are accessible since Carrollton lies halfway between Cincinnati and Louisville, and just 20 minutes from Oldham County, the richest county in Kentucky and in the top 100 nationwide. Obviously, the competition is greater in those areas.
“Everything is marketing, and marketing is everything,” he says. “I’m using the Internet to be accessible to potential clients 24/7.” He’s his own Web site developer (www.easypropropertyservices.com), continually updating the look and content to make it more appealing and customer friendly.
He’s developed a second Web site (www.cheappowerwashing.com) specifically for the Louisville market. It has a different look and style, with more focus on value. It names EasyPro as the service provider, and all links go directly to the company’s primary Web site.
He uses other marketing tools, too, including direct mail targeted to specific neighborhoods. Carroll says, “I track each of these mailings and follow up with a postcard two to three weeks later for those that haven’t responded. I’ll send a second postcard two or three weeks later. Those not responding are filed for follow up the next year, after I’ve established a track record for service in that neighborhood.”
He also places door hangers at the houses to the left and right of each residential client, and on the three homes directly across the street. He keeps printed brochures for each of the services in his truck, along with business cards. “You never know when an opportunity will pop up,” he says. “I noticed the dirty concrete at the restaurant where I stopped for lunch after servicing a client in Louisville. I asked to see the manager; introduced myself; told him what I’d noticed; and asked for his business. That’s now a contract client, scheduled for cleaning on a 30-day cycle, year-round.”
Carroll computerizes wherever he can. Requests for quotes come via e-mail from the Web sites, and he has the basics for each estimate packet for his services on his desktop computer and on the tablet PC that travels nearly everywhere with him. When meeting with a client, he can pull up an estimate form, and customize it for that property.
Understanding that cash flow is the lifeline for a small business, he uses QuickBooks for his accounting. Established client invoices are prepared for e-mailing or mailing.
He uses Realtime Landscaping software for computer-generated designs, along with an estimate for landscape services. The size of the project determines the terms of the payment. It may include prepayment for the materials with the balance due once the project is completed; more involved projects may be set up on a three-payment basis, or as monthly payments.
Working the plan
EasyPro Property Services is built on three basic principles: quality, professionalism and customer service—before, during and after the sale. Carroll has a plan for growth in 2009, 2010 and beyond, with a definite benchmark to hit by the time he turns 30. “If you don’t set goals, there’s no real push for you to achieve something and to measure that achievement,” he notes.
Part of that growth includes investment in the future. If net income is $100,000, he’ll operate on $60,000 and invest $40,000. He says, “The total EasyPro package gives me a balance of high volume, low price with the basic mowing and lawn care services, as well as low volume, high price with the specialized services. The income from mowing and other lawn care services covers the overall job costs and operating expenses for the company, allowing me to invest the profits from the specialized services back into the business.”
Carroll says, “If you let people know you can supply the services they need; treat them right when you earn the opportunity to serve them; and operate your business efficiently and effectively, your company—and your profits—will grow.”
Suz Trusty is a partner in Trusty & Associates, a communications and market research firm in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She has been involved in the green industry for over 40 years.