Leaf removal services have a way of marketing themselves, especially as they pile up on the ground and property owners ponder the prospects of picking up a rake, says Alex Nickens, owner of Nickens Lawn & Landscape in New Athens, Illinois. “We have yard signs that we put up for four or five days when we do a leaf removal job, and we have a sign on our leaf trailer. Obviously, everyone notices when all the neighbors’ yards are covered in leaves and that one is all cleaned up, so we get a lot of referrals that way,” says Nickens. And he’s found that few clients question the price for leaf removal. “Every once in a while someone says ‘No,’ but nine times out of 10, I get the go-ahead. People just don’t want to mess with the leaves,” he says.
James Michael, owner of Landscape Solutions in Blue Ridge, Virginia, says he used to put up signs in neighborhoods, but had many ($600 or $700 worth) stolen, so now he relies on signs on the sides of his trucks to do the marketing while crews are out in neighborhoods clearing leaves. “It’s a lot of word of mouth, and right now we have all the business I can handle,” he says.
Leaf removal can be a great way to keep employees on during what is normally a slow time of the year. “It keeps my guys busy and keeps them employed,” Michael adds.
Nickens agrees. In fact, as much he likes the income and the new clients it brings in, the best benefit of providing leaf removal is the ability to keep his employees on as long as possible because that helps him retain employees from season to season. “They don’t want to be laid off; they don’t want to go three or four months without a check. With leaf removal, it extends us at least two months,” he explains. “Last year, we did leaf removal from September until after the first of the year.” At that point, there’s sometimes snow removal work to do and his employees are only off for about five weeks before spring work begins. “And by then they are eager for a break,” adds Nickens.
Nickens says there aren’t many other landscape companies offering leaf pickup in his area (not far from St. Louis in southern Illinois), which he finds is surprising, as everyone he’s spoken to with a leaf vacuum has found it to be a big benefit for business. He guesses that it’s the upfront investment in a vacuum that dissuades more companies from jumping into leaf removal.
“They don’t know if it’s going to pay off,” Nickens says. “Plus, everyone is so burnt out after mowing lawns all summer that they enjoy the break.”
“I tell my friends in this business, ‘there’s green in those brown leaves.’ But they just don’t want anything to do with leaf removal,” says Michael. He says part of that may be due to frustrations from working with the wrong equipment, including using leaf vacuums that are too small for the job. “With smaller machines, you can spend hours just vacuuming up one pile of leaves and having problems with clogging,” he says. So while the investment in larger equipment is a big upfront expense, it pays off.
“Leaf removal is not necessarily glamorous work,” Nickens concludes, “but it keeps the guys going, it keeps the equipment moving, and it keeps the money rolling in.”