So, you’ve quit your job and have decided to start a lawn mowing business. You love the idea of being your own boss, choosing your own hours, working outside in the sun and making an immediate difference to a customer’s lawn (and life).
But your budget is low – you can’t afford to buy a Jim’s Mowing or VIP franchise – so you have to figure out on your own how to build your business in the lawn mowing services industry. You’re hungry for success tips and you desperately want to avoid typical lawn care business mistakes.
Well congratulations, you’re in the right place. Here are 10 mistakes to avoid when starting a lawn mowing business on a budget:
1. Breaking the bank to buy a lawn mower, car and trailer
Your lawn mower, car and trailer will probably be your three biggest starting expenses. Don’t let them break the bank. Customers will not ask you how old your equipment is, so don’t let ego cloud your purchasing decisions. Consider buying these big, three essential mowing business items second-hand, then upgrading once cashflow allows. It will give you more breathing space at the beginning and ensure you don’t lose sleep over your credit card payments at night.
2. Not answering the phone
Yes, it is tricky to mow, drive and answer the phone at the same time. But lawn business expert Andrew Pototschnik says that not answering the phone is the number one reason that lawn business companies don’t get big. Because if you’re not answering your phone, you’re probably losing customers faster than you’re gaining customers, plus, wasting money that you’ve spent on marketing to get those customers. If you don’t know how to answer the phone while mowing the lawn, try these 3 ideas to improve your lawn care business.
4. Mowing outside of Council hours
Each State in Australia has official noise restriction times that must be adhered to in order to avoid an on-the-spot Council fine. On weekdays, you can start mowing in some States at 7am (except in one state where you can only start at 8am). On weekends, you can mow from 8am in some States, but 9am or 10am in others.
Therefore, unless you want to face an abusive neighbour or get slapped with a $1000* on-the-spot Council noise fine (an example from the Gympie Regional Council in Queensland), it is important to know your State’s noise restriction times.
3. Believing everyone will pay you
We’ve talked to hundreds of lawn mowing guys and every single one of them is chasing past due invoices. It’s their biggest headache and they hate it. The professional mowing franchise owners are not immune either – we’ve talked to Jim’s Mowing guys who said they too are always running behind because some customers refuse to pay on time and some refuse to pay completely.
Like any small business, it’s important to be smart about who you take business from, develop a system or checklist to keep an accurate track of who owes you money, and be quick to consider cutting ties with customers who just don’t pay.
Example: One mowing provider we talked to recently was complaining about a customer who has not paid for three months, but whose lawn he keeps servicing. If you were that customer, would you be motivated to pay if the mowing guy just kept showing up and mowing anyway?
Maybe there are just some mowing jobs you should run away from…
5. Offering cheap lawn mowing
Whilst it might be tempting to try to undercut all of your lawn care competitors, think twice before delivering 10,000 flyers that promote cheap lawn mowing services. You may think that cheap lawn mowing is the best way to get started in the lawn care business, but do your sums and remember to consider your personal labour time (and lost opportunities with higher paid jobs), business reputation, equipment fees, longer-term ability to raise your prices with those same customers, and the quality of customer you might attract by offering the cheapest lawn mowing price. Is it really in your best interests to offer cheap lawn mowing from day one?
Useful read: How much do I charge for lawn mowing?
6. Not maintaining your lawn mower
If your livelihood depends on your lawn mowing equipment, it’s a no-brainer that you need to look after your equipment. Lawn mower maintenance typically costs less than repairs, both because nothing has ‘broken’ yet, and because you’re not desperate when you visit the repair store so you have time to can shop around for the best price.
The added beauty of maintenance over repairs is that you can schedule maintenance when it suits you (so you’re not losing business) rather than needing unexpected repairs when you least expect it (so you usually do lose business).
Lawn mower repairs can take 1 week or more for lawn mowing pros (or 2-6 weeks for residential customers). So, keep a maintenance chart for each piece of your equipment and be sure to DIY the simple maintenance (see 6 Best Ways To Maintain Your Lawn Mower) then book your equipment into the lawn mower shop regularly for the more complicated maintenance that’s better for a mower repair expert to do.
Useful read: Interview with a lawn mower repair expert
7. Waiting for customers to come to you
When you’re just starting out, sitting at home and waiting by the phone is a lonely game. Successful lawn mowing professionals – when they’re not out mowing lawns – are always actively finding ways to spruik their services. Whether via the Internet, the phone, advertising, in-person visits or more, the pros know that even the best service in the world won’t succeed if no one knows about it.
Useful read: 20 Ideas to Get Customers for a Lawn Mowing Business
8. Ignoring lawn mower safety
You might be Superman to your kids, but when it comes to lawn mower safety, you’re fully mortal. A lawn mower is a powerful piece of equipment and it needs to be treated with care and respect, in order to prevent (as much as possible) any injury to yourself and/or to bystanders when you are mowing a lawn. Be careful and consider taking our public liability and personal accident/sickness insurance.
Useful read: 10 Important Lawn Mower Safety Tips You Need To Know
9. Not knowing legal requirements
Legal red tape may be a nightmare, but do you really want to tempt fate with the even worse nightmare of being in trouble with the law and attracting harsh government penalties because you did not follow legal requirements?
That’s why when you start a lawn mowing business in Australia, you need to be aware of important legal requirements before you start, so they don’t bite you in the butt when you finish. Here’s a list of government websites by State that can help point you in the right direction early on.
10. Trying to do it alone
Like any small business, the key to success might be to build relationships not only with your customers, but with your allies too. In this case, your allies might be your peers in other home services businesses.
For example, could you become friends with complementary business owners (such as house cleaners, carpet cleaners, pool maintenance crews, rubbish removalists, landscape pros and specialist lawn sprayers) and agree to cross-refer between your business and theirs? This helps customers who might need more than one type of service, plus helps you and your new friend’s business as well.
Got mistakes to share?
Leave a comment below!
100 lawn care customers in the first 7 months
Finally, if you’re looking for some tips for starting a lawn mowing business, take a look at this video from Jason Creel in Alabama, United States. Jason talks through some things he learned and gives insights on what helped him get 100 customers in his first 7 months.
ps. We’d love to include more videos of Australian lawn care pros. If you’re an Aussie who is keen to share your lawn mowing tips, feel free to produce some videos and send them our way!