New Blades

try ebay for your blades and more
Running your lawn mowing or gardening business can be very rewarding, and but there are lots of little tips you will pick up as you go to make your life easier and your business more profitable.

If you are already up and running, you may have a bit of a relationship with one or more of your local mower retailers, and you may be purchasing your blades and trimmer cord from them too.

If you want to keep the cost of doing business as low as possible, have a look on the net for some lawn mower blades for your machine.

You can usually find them a lot cheaper than what a retail store will offer you, but who knows, you may be able to do a deal with your local retailer if you buy your blades from them in bulk.

What type of trailer to buy?

When I started my lawn care business, I was fortunate to have a friend with a 7x5 cage trailer who donated it to me. I attached it to the back of my family sedan and went to work.

As I would drive around I would see guys with their purpose built lawn mowing trailers, and their trucks or utes and feel a sense of jealousy or inferiority. I hoped one day to earn enough money to get the nicer equipment.

As time went on, I would bump into different contractors and learn about their businesses. People are only too keen to share advice or lend a word of warning. Everyone had a different opinion, so I had to weigh things carefully.

What I discovered, was that most of the guys that had the purpose built mowing trailers were unable to do much of the gardening work I could do with my versatile cage trailer, and they generally had to either fork up a ton of cash or go into debt to get the great big set up.

Upon further inquisition by myself, I discovered that most of them were charging prices from the 1980's and earning a lot less than I expected.

I carried on with my simple set up, eventually buying a ute for $1500, and another trailer for $1600 (another cage one) when I had the money in the bank to do it. I was now thankful that I wasn't in debt every time I saw a flash ute and trailer go past me on the road.

I didn't find that the extra expense to get the flash trailer would have paid for itself. Thus, I recommend anyone starting out to get what you can afford. As long as you can get a mower in it, you'll be fine.

Where Did You Get Our Number?

incoming call
Keep the phone ringing
You can't fix what you can't measure.

A really important habit I had while running my lawn care business was to ask every single person that rang where they got my number from.

By doing this, and making a note of it, I was able to determine where I was wasting my money and where I should spend more with respect to advertising.

I discovered that my online Yellow Pages listing was a waste of money, and I cancelled it saving myself a lot of money each month. I also found out what worked the best for me too... flyers in letterboxes and my website. (More on all that another day.)

The same goes for every other area of your business. If you measure it, you can improve it.

Fear of Failure

The most common reason people don't start their own business, or try something new is fear... fear of it all not working.

You've been wanting to start your own business, or perhaps you've been wanting to try something new in the business you are running but you just haven't been able to bring yourself to make the jump.

That's ok. Just confront your fear. Think through all the worst case scenarios.

For me it was... No-one will want their lawns mowed, and I wasted my time handing out flyers and wasted a few grand buying some mowers. Then I will have to just go and get a job.

Errr... That's not so bad. I can live with that.

Now, what's the potential upside?

For me it was... I get to be my own boss, make my own schedule, possibly earn more money than a job, and try something new. I might even be able to help others and offer them a job.

That was enough for me to stop wasting time being afraid and bite the bullet.

It was harder than I thought, but it was more rewarding than I thought too.

I often wonder where people get their stats about failed businesses. You know the ones, where we are told 99.999% of businesses FAIL in the first 5 years. You have to remember, lots of business names and company names get registered and de-registered every year and it's usually just a tax minimization strategy. And then a lot of small business owners simply decide to stop their business because they have had enough and want to try something new, a freedom that they get to enjoy. Just because they do that doesn't mean they are not making any money.

In fact, of all the friends and family I know that have put their hands to starting their own businesses, probably only 10% closed because they weren't profitable.

Could you imagine if all the job statistics read like business stats? 90% of all employed people don't have their job in 5 years! Of course they don't, they have a better one.

The door might be closed, but it's not locked.

Day of Rest

Once your business is up and running, it's hard to say no when people
"need it done by Monday". They have urgent rent inspections, or
rellies visiting or some earth ending emergency that requires you to
be the hero and give up your family/personal time on the weekend to
get them out of a pickle.

But keep things in perspective. You're not a doctor, and even if you
were you would still have boundaries.

I personally decided when I started my lawn care business I decided I
would NEVER work on Saturdays. I'm not Jewish, but I like to keep the
Sabbath and that was a boundary for me that saved my family from me
becoming a workaholic.

I had plenty of opportunity to do extra work on Saturday, and at times
the money was tempting. And when the work load banks up because it's
been raining all week and then the only sunny day is Saturday it
really tested my resolve.

But I kept my rule, learned to say no, and I don't regret it. I always
knew I could rest on Saturday, I could switch off one day a week. No
mowing, no book keeping, no quoting, no paperwork, just whatever I
want to do.

Decide before you get too busy to book in a day off that can NEVER be
interrupted. And don't choose a day you already have a tonne of
commitments on. It needs to be an errand free day that you can lock in
and enjoy every week.

Listening to Customers

One of the greatest appeals of a Lawn Care Business is the fact that you don't need to have much interaction with people. You usually mow a lawn and leave, and the noise of the mower tends to keep meaningful conversation to a minimum.

But I strongly suggest that while you are trying to grow your business, you invest a bit of time whenever the opportunity presents itself to have some quality conversation with your clients or potential clients. A professional but friendly bond will go a long way to helping you retain your clients for the long haul, build trust, and gain referrals.

I'm not suggesting you tell each client your life story. Just remember this small bit of advice that will always serve you well: People like to talk about themselves. So ask one or two probing questions and then shut up. Let them share as much as they feel comfortable. Don't pretend to be interested, ACTUALLY be interested in what they are saying. Ask them to elaborate. If you sense they don't want to talk to you, no sweat. You saved time any way. But most people love the opportunity to share their story with someone who might actually be interested. You may be looking at your watch thinking it's costing you money, but in the long term you will have a bunch of clients that feel they know you and can trust you implicitly, even though all you have done is spent a little time listening to them.

The Tax Side of Things

I know you may seem too busy to have a discussion with an accountant
about a simple Lawn Care business, but I cannot recommend it enough.

Knowing what your options are in terms of protecting your existing
assets and reducing your tax burdens is something I only wish I had
done sooner.

After doing some homework and meeting with an accountant, I learnt
about family trusts, Pty Ltd companies and felt like most of the world
didn't know about a secret most wealthy people had known about for

Everyone will tell you tax laws change all the time, and vary from
country to country (and state to state). And having someone
professional and trustworthy handling your tax affairs gives you the
same sense of relief your clients get when they come home and see
their lawn freshly mowed.

Mowing First or Snipping First

Simple lawn mowing tip here.

Some people will tell you to mow first, others to snip (edge) first.

Here's what I discovered after a couple of years of trying both.

There is no rule.

The advantage of mowing first, is that it sets the height for you to
snip, and snipping is then also easier to carry out.

However, if you snip first, and then mow, you pick up all the crap
left behind by the edging (snipping).

My preference was always to mow first, so what I would do is this:
Mow. Snip. Blow. Mow around the edge one last time to pick up debris if needed.

Hope that helps you out.

BTW I rarely used an actual edging machine, just a whipper snipper.

Surviving the Heat

I started mowing lawns in Feb in Australia. We had a heat wave and a
large number of 40+ degree celsius days (very hot) in a row. I
survived that, but learnt the hard way on a few areas. Here's a few
keys to get you through the heat that helped me.

1. Stay off the coke. Drink water. You crash after those sugar drinks.
2. Eat small regular amounts.
3. Sit down for 5 or 10 minutes regularly. You get on a roll sometimes
and have no-one to tell you to have a break. Time yourself and make
yourself rest.
4. Wet your shirt... and hat. Makes a huge difference. Even if you
need to do it every 30 min.
5. Know your body. Build your fitness up, don't be a superhero.
Clients understand if you need to knock off.
6. Don't push your staff. Make sure they know they need to rest. Have
some standards or systems in place.

Should I Do Other Things Too

When I started out in my lawn care business, I was keen to do whatever was needed. Gutter
cleaning, gardening, retic repairs, palm pruning... whatever.

But once I had filled my round, and really couldn't do much more, I
found it hard to say no to the clients I had previously done certain
jobs for. The reality was that the jobs just weren't as profitable or
desirable as what I preferred to do... just mowing lawns.

Decide as soon as you can EXACTLY what work you are going to do. If
you decide you won't do pruning or gardening or dethatching or
gutters, find some people who ONLY (so they don't steal your mowing
work) do those things. Get some of their business cards and give them
to your clients when they ask for those extra services. Your clients
will appreciate the fact that you cared enough to help them out, the
job will be better because it will be done by someone who specializes
in that work, and you will be less stressed.

Spray the Weeds

One tip I wish someone had given me at the beginning of my venture
into mowing lawns, would be to spray the weeds at each job, and
include it in the original price you quote.

I came from a retail background and thought "add on sales" means more
money. But I ended up with some clients who wanted weeds sprayed, some
who didn't, some who complained if it cost more, some who would never
get them sprayed until their were too many to kill in one go.

I would have to leave jobs unsatisfied with how it looked, but being
proud of your work is half the pleasure of working with your hands.

So I eventually realized it wasn't worth the hassle trying to add on
sell the weed spraying. I would do a quote, say $55 to Mow Snip Blow
and Weed Spray every 3 weeks, and that's what was included. If some
weeks only needed a tiny bit of roundup (non name brand of course)
then so be it, if they needed more, no worries.

After a while, my job got easier as it wasn't too hard to keep the
weeds at bay, rather than deal with an overgrown jungle. The client
was happy because the price was the same each week. And I could be a
little happier knowing I was improving the place each visit.

Of course, I hate poisons and if someone gives you a natural feasible
alternative go for it.

Grow or Stay Small

One of the biggest challenges I faced running a lawn mowing business
was growing it beyond just me.

It seems that there is a scale of economy that is achieved when you
have 5 or more people working for you. And it's easy to manage when
it's just you. But in between is tricky.

Having 1 or 2 people working for you creates all the headaches of
having staff, but not enough money to justify the time and paperwork
to manage them.

So decide early on if you are going to venture this path. If you
aren't, be content by yourself and look for ways to improve your
income by being fussy with your customers, raising your prices, or
streamlining your route.

If you plan on growing it, ensure you have the capital behind you to
take time off the tools yourself to sort out stuff ups, do extra
quotes, hire new people, inspect your staff's work, handle complaints,
manage the superannuation, insurance, occupational health and safety
guff, inspect the first aid kits, repair the equipment they keep
breaking, fill in for them when they don't show etc etc etc.

It can be quite rewarding growing a business and hiring people. But a
lot of people start a business mowing lawns because it's less
stressful than other things they have done. Putting on staff quickly
removes that benefit.

The Best thing about a Lawn Mowing Business

One of the best things about having a lawn mowing business, is that
once you get the hang of the work, and have a bit of a routine going,
the entire day can feel like time to yourself.

Working in retail, or on a building site, or in an office usually
involves having to interact with other humans all day long, and while
some of us are built for it, for most people with families it usually
leaves you wrung out at the end of the day and unable to socialize
with the people you care about the most when you get home.

What I would do to enjoy the day is load my iPhone up with podcasts
and audio books, run the headphones up my shirt and into my ears, and
put my ear muffs over the top to drown out the mower.

I would basically be in my own world all day long, either entertained
with the adventures of Robinson Crusoe or educating myself with a book
from John Maxwell. I could be listening to the latest Business Daily
podcast from the BBC, or perhaps hearing Bill Johnson preaching the
gospel. I actually looked forward to getting into my day for this very
reason, and I got paid the whole time AND was as fit as I have ever
been. I also loved "This American Life" and "Freakonomics".

Did I mention that most of the stuff I enjoyed listening to was free?

Typing this is making me miss my lawn mowing business.

Keep your blades sharp

Keep your blades sharp.

They aren't expensive, and the difference sharp blades make to a lawn
is very noticeable. I was guilty of pushing my blades to the limit
when I started out, but I soon realized that for the small cost of
replacing the blades regularly, I could keep the lawns looking sharper
than expected.

Which brings me to my next point: when choosing a mower, make sure the
blades are easy to change, and cheap, and readily available. I loved
the Honda as non genuine blades were extremely common and very
affordable. I ran 2 blades instead of 4, it just seemed to cut better
that way. And when I kept them fresh (new blades every 2 days or so) I
was a lot happier with the finished product.

I never actually bothered to sharpen the blades though. I have heard
of guys doing this. I preferred to replace them as the time taken to
sharpen them (say 20 min) wouldn't be worth the $4 it cost just to
stick new blades on.

Less Customers, More Money

If you have been mowing for a while, and can't seem to keep up with
all the work you have, then you are faced with a couple of choices.

You can continue to try and grow, put on staff or contractors, and go
hard. This can be very rewarding, but in my experience most people who
started a lawn mowing business did so to get away from all the
headaches of managing people.

So here's something I did.

I worked out who were my biggest headaches, or the most out of the way
clients, and sent them a thank you card saying "thanks for your
business, but sorry we can no longer service you".

The other time I had an effective reshuffle in my business was the day
I decided I would no longer use the cylinder (reel) mower. I found the
customers that wanted this mower tended to be fussier and slower
payers, so it was a win win. I had less equipment to cart around and
maintain, and less stress dealing with my clients.

However you go about reducing your workload, it's worth developing the
ability to say no to work that isn't the most efficient use of your
time. (unless you enjoy it of course.)