They say that you’ll always remember your business’s first customer. We certainly will! Here’s the story of our GreenSocks’ first lawn mowing job…
The surprise phone call
It was Wednesday 8 April. Richard and I had busted open our laptops and were working our way down our to-do list. GreenSocks had not officially launched. (We had a website up, but it was not ready for customers and didn’t even have booking forms yet.)
However, one of the requirements for making our site secure for customer payments was to list in the Yellow Pages (so we could qualify for SSL – the Secure Sockets Layer). Much to our absolute
surprise shock, a few hours after our Yellow Pages listing went ‘live’, we got a call for our first lawn mowing job!
A quick word on our business model
Our business model is to introduce people who need lawns mowed to people who mow lawns. Not for us to go out and mow lawns ourselves. (Not that we don’t like mowing lawns. It’s just that it doesn’t make sense to be mowing lawns when we can add more value in other ways.) So, the business model needs lawn mowing providers.
As part of our customer/provider validation process, we’d talked to a few dozen lawn mower guys but we hadn’t signed any providers up yet, because we didn’t want to risk them losing interest and momentum by the time we launched. This meant that when our first lawn mowing job came in, we went to mow the lawn ourselves.
Before we showed up with our lawn mower and whipper snipper, we thought we’d scope out our first job with an innocent drive-by. Our reasoning was that whilst we’d come up with a draft price from the details she gave us on the phone, we wanted to eye her property ourselves before giving her our quote. (We knew this was not a scalable exercise for quoting, but because it was our first lawn mowing job, we wanted to test some of our assumptions without showing up to give the traditional in-person quote.)
The trouble was, we couldn’t find our customer.
Her Buderim (Sunshine Coast) street address suggested she lived in a big home on an acreage property. But we couldn’t find her street number. After several drive-arounds and the feeling that we were completely lost, we ended up needing to call her for clarification of where she lived. It turns out she lived behind some shops on a main road, nestled in between industrial sheds, and surrounded by car yards that resembled graveyards!
All we could see on arrival were damaged cars sleeping on long grass, scattered around old sheds. There were no property numbers to be seen and the area felt completely deserted. (It was around about then that I started wondering if Richard’s car would be the next one sleeping on the grass!)
Thankfully, whilst we were still not at the correct address, we were very close. The stranger who came up to ask us why we were on his property soon directed us to our customer’s property (on the other side of the industrial shed).
Trouble is, we couldn’t see her lawn to do the quote. And if we were to mow it, we couldn’t figure out how to even get into her property. All we could see were tall padlocked gates keeping in her house and a bunch of wrecked cars. There didn’t seem to be any way in or out.
We were starting to wonder if we were on Candid Camera. Especially when she didn’t answer her phone when we rang again. We genuinely wondered if the job was real at all.
The mad mowing scramble
The good news was that yes, the job was legit. The customer called us and explained the hidden back entrance and we made a time to return later that afternoon for the mowing job.
But before we could return, we had to madly scramble to:
(a) Buy fuel for the lawn mower (yes, it’s true, the mower was out of fuel!)
(b) Buy flowers for our first customer
(c) Pack the lawn mower, whipper snipper, rubbish bags etc into the car
(d) Change into lawn mowing clothes aka Clark Kent and Lois Lane (we can dream, can’t we?)
(e) Rip open and proudly wear our first pair of green socks
So, what was the job like when we got there?
Kids’ toys and rubbish littered the yard, and bags of overflowing food rubbish bags were giving the area a distinctive scent. But the customer was a mother of five (she needed the superhero cape) and if I was her, I too wouldn’t be concerned about toys left on the grass – and I wouldn’t have enough space each week in my rubbish bins either!
We worked hard for two hours: I weeded the lawn and gardens and Richard mowed and whipper snippered a combined area that was (sloped, uneven, overgrown and) 3 – 5 times the original area quoted. Not because the customer asked us to, but because we offered – in an effort to impress on our first job.
We were also testing some business assumptions. Plus it was a beautiful day to be outside.
The biggest lesson learned from our first lawn mowing job?
We learnt a lot on our first mowing job, but the biggest lesson we learnt was that it was okay to jump before you are ready.
It might be a bit of mad scramble (and a little bit out of your comfort zone), but if we could figure it out, you can too.
Be brave with your startup business or lawn mowing business.
And good luck with your first customer!
Note: Since our first job, we’ve had more Sunshine Coast lawn mowing jobs and Brisbane lawn mowing jobs come through (even though we’ve neither finished our site nor officially launched yet). We do have lawn mowing providers signed up now, but we’ve still some mowed lawns too. It’s such great exercise, why don’t you try it?
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