Posts in Growth
How to grow your lawn mowing business client base
grow-client-base-lawn-business.jpg

No longer loving your job, but you've always loved keeping the lawns looking like an Olympic bowling green?  It sounds like you're one of the hordes of people considering leaving the rat race behind and jumping aboard the ever more popular world of lawn mowing franchise ownership.

You may be put off because you've heard that a successful lawn mowing business is like nurturing a perfect patch of green Kikuyu grass.  In other words, seriously HARD.  But as long as you treat that lawn mowing business like the real business it is rather than a throwaway weekend hobby, you can definitely make it survive and thrive.

You'll need planning, support, business know-how, industry know-how, equipment, the financial backing, and good old elbow grease.  But you knew that already. What you'll then need to think about is how to grow that business - because if the phone isn't ringing off the hook and your client list isn't ever expanding, you're not going to build the momentum to one day sell up and retire.

Want that lawn mowing business client base to grow?  Here's what to know:

 

1. Don't mess it up

To get your lawn mowing business into the growth phase, first you need to make it stable.  You've done the groundwork: acquired the know-how, established a routine and got a good bunch of clients who always use you.

Now don't mess it up!  Avoid racking up too much credit card debt, don't start sleeping in and missing appointments, go above and beyond client expectations, and - most importantly - treat every client's garden as though it's your beloved Mum's!  Get the basics right and the rest will follow.

 

Small pot plant

2. Start small

If you're struggling to get a decent list of clients up and running, you're not going to grow - it's just that simple.  So before stressing that you don't have enough clients, think smaller.  Get SOME clients, and then go from there.

Got a good group of supportive family and friends?  What a perfect place to start - now offer to do their lawns.  At the very least, you'll get something ticking over and valuable experience and confidence at the same time. These people will serve as the foundations for very loyal clients, who will hopefully sing praises to their friends as well. 

 

 

3. Boost your customer service

Never forget who pays the bills - it's your clients. You know you have to be friendly, but there's a difference between 'I'm friendly because I need to be friendly' and 'I'm friendly and I'm passionate and I'm trying to do the absolute best job for you'.  Trust me - be the latter.

It's not just a smile, it's how you listen.  It's how you react to and process criticism.  It's how you follow up on even the smallest of little problems.  It's the stuff that really makes the difference. 

If customer interaction is something you struggle with, thankfully with the Crewcut franchise system, you'll learn all the tricks of the trade during your training process. Good customer service doesn't need to be difficult. 

 

4. Keep your clients

If you've got any chance of adding to that list of clients, you need to treat the ones you do have on the books like Kings and Queens!

That's because the vast majority of your work is going to be coming from a much smaller percentage of your existing clients.  So that means nurturing great relationships.

So just like revving up your customer service, nurturing your client base means touching base.  It means asking for advice about how to improve.  Because if you become known as the friendly, attentive, can-do lawn mowing guy, you will have the foundation upon which to grow. All Crewcut franchise owners are given seasonal door hangers which thank their customers for their patronage - but also reminds them of all the garden services on offer. It's a win-win for both parties, and is one of the things customers remember and will keep coming back for.

 

 

5. Work hard

Green work harder neon sign

Now, anyone who has mowed lawns day in and day out knows that it's no walk in the park.  But it's not a weekend paper round either.  You need to go the extra mile, and it takes a lot of planning.

Growing lawn mowing businesses are the ones that work the hardest - it's just that simple.  They research the best times of year to market the hardest.  They leave no stone unturned when it comes to getting the word out there.  They think outside the box.  They look professional at all times.  They're self-critical and open to change and improving.  They're highly organised.  And they think every extra daylight minute is another opportunity to make a lawn look lovely.

 

6. Target your clients

Now that you want to start seriously adding to that client base, know who you're targeting.

Yes, all sorts of people turn to lawn mowing businesses to get their gardens looking spick and span, but as you grow, start to hone in on a niche market.  Affluent people who are willing to spend a little to make their homes look a lot better are always up for it, as are those with moderate incomes but limited time.  Then there are developers, builders and investors who truly know the value of curb appeal. 

Targeting your clients may even mean targeting an area where the majority of your customers live. While in the beginning it may be an option to do your round all around town - but this is not a sustainable business run. Instead choose a few key suburbs and maintain the clients in that area. You'll soon become the 'local go-to lawn mowing person'. 

 

7. Reach your clients

Now that you know who you're targeting, it's time to go out there and get them!

You know your potential clients' ages, incomes and locations, so now match that up with their habits and relationships - and promote your business.  There are all sorts of advertising options and promotional opportunities, and plenty of hours in the day to pick up the phone, attend meetings, and line up partnerships with like-minded people and businesses.

This is a whole lot easier with Crewcut, as most of the leg work and effective marketing is already done for you. But this shouldn't stop you from approaching locals in the community when they're at home or in the garden themselves. Just remember step 3 "boost your customer service", everything else should just fall into place.

 

Man in long grass looking into the distance

8. Think outside the box

As your client base starts to grow and that growth becomes growth momentum, that's when it all starts to happen.  But don't rest on your laurels!  Keep doing what you're doing, and THEN start thinking outside of the box as well.

Need an 'outside the box' idea?  How about getting yourself into the news?  Journalists are always looking for something fresh to report on, so think about whether there's an angle that might excite them.  Something you've seen on your grass-filled travels?  A special person or organisation you've helped?  A cool local sports team you've sponsored?

Once you start thinking outside the box, it will be hard to get back in there at all!

The final word: Keep chipping away. Yes, just the idea of sustaining (let alone growing) your business can be daunting, and the lists of things to do and ideas for improvement seem to keep growing just as fast as that Buffalo grass.

So here's the final tip: don't be overwhelmed.  Keep reading.  Keep learning.  Keep your mind open.  Keep mowing grass.  And keep the dream alive.

 

 

 

If there's anything else you want to learn about owning a lawn mowing business, be sure to contact the friendly team at Crewcut. We're always on the look out for fresh, new franchisees who want to begin their own success. 

 


Related Articles

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17 ways to make more money in your lawn mowing business

By David Serville - founder of Crewcut lawn and garden


So you want the direct path to wealth and happiness in the lawn mowing industry ? 

 

Founder of Crewcut, David Serville - against blurred background

With 30 years now in this industry, I have seen almost everything on the subject of profitability for a residential lawn mowing business. While I mowed lawns predominately in Auckland (most of that within a lawn mowing franchise system), I have also mown lawns in many New Zealand cities and a couple in Australia. I have bought and sold hundreds of private and franchised lawn mowing businesses and advised many lawn mowing owners how to improve their businesses. These are the key habits and tricks to making better money than your competitors. 

 

Most of these tips are either good tips to improve operational efficiencies or habits that need to be formed to improve profitability. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. In my experience, it's failing to practice these simple habits that stop hard working lawn mowing franchisees and operators from realising the true potential of their businesses. 

 

1. Start early, finish early

This is especially important for running a lawn mowing business in main urban centres to avoid traffic. The early bird catches the worm, so find the lawn suitable for early starts. Usually it's a commercial client that will not impact on late sleeping clients and neighbours. Finishing early means you have more time in the evening to get your admin sorted as well.

 

2. Sell excess lawns to develop a compact lawn mowing run

You don’t get paid for travelling between lawns. A little known fact is that your body tends to get stiff and cease up the longer you sit in your vehicle in-between jobs. The shorter the travel time, the easier it is to keep your momentum moving forward. At Crewcut we buy back excess lawns to facilitate less travel for our franchisees. This means you can really condense your patch of clients into one or two key areas and boost profitability. 
 

3. Pricing for profit

This is a whole article in itself, but it's not hard to work out that not all lawns are as profitable as others. My advice - during spring, put the price up for the twenty percent of your 'less than profitable clients'. This will groom your clients annually to improve your profitability. If you do this in spring you will be less likely to lose clients. 

 

4. Not all types of mowing are profitable

Purple Crewcut ride-on lawn mower

The main types of mowers you'll see are catch, mulch and side-deliver. In a perfect world we would side deliver, side throw (or a Crewcut mower) on all our lawns. These types of mowers are by far the fastest and easiest. Next is mulch mowing. It's both quick and very good for most lawns. So it's a great environmental solution. Catching is one of the slowest and even if you start charging more, it's always harder to recoup all your time and effort. The best catcher is a Reel Mower but this is really for the flat lawn that will be kept in the best shape. Again you will have to charge a premium. By encouraging your clients to mulch you will be both fast and environmentally friendly. Just remember that the client is always right, so do what they want, but it doesn't hurt to sell and promote mulching. In the end, it does grow a healthier grass, which is something all clients want.   
                                                               

5. Mow in the rain

Do a weather check each night and unless it's a flood or your lawns are far too soft to walk on, then commit to mowing in the rain. This is more about work ethic and motivation than anything else. But lawn mowing contractors that are unstoppable make more money. Customers like knowing that no matter what, you'll give 100% to their lawn despite the weather.
 

6. Have a strict payment policy and system

All Crewcut franchisees have a well developed client Terms of Trade form which is printed on the back of each client statement or invoice.  Train your clients to pay monthly or every two lawn cuts. Cash flow is the life-blood of your business and good cash flow will mean that you never have to worry. Remember that planning customer payment methods is far easier than trying to claim their debts - it just gets too messy for what it's worth.
 

7. Mow early in the height of the season

Every week or 10 days, change clients from fortnightly to weekly for the growth season. Often they will agree for short periods of time. Not only does it increase your chances of profitability, but it will make your customers feel like your schedule is based on their lawn growth - one way to make them feel important!
 

Crewcut business owner maintaining his lawn mower

8. Run your equipment like a Formula One pit crew team

At the end of each lawn mow, check your line trimmer cord and top up all machines with gas. Your flow and rhythm is essential to good, profitable days. It's also a good idea to check under your mower and clear out the clumped grass - it will help you mow a bit faster. 
 

9. Walk fast all day

This might seem a bit of a basic tip, but lawn mower operators that make the most money always walk fast. Your profit is connected to your average speed. 
 

Further Lawn Business Ownership Reading

 

10. Do not run extra staff in your own vehicle

This is unless you have a business designed to take them, and you have some experience in how to manage them. In a residential lawn mowing business, often two people in the same vehicle don’t make double the money, as you have to pay them while you're travelling from lawn to lawn. That said, it can be suitable if you use casual labour for gardening as these jobs are typically longer at one address.
 

11. Always own good quality, well maintained equipment

Do not hold onto old equipment as it's a false economy. Equipment, like anything else has a life. Budget for replacement. Depending on your maintenance and care, often equipment will need to be replaced every 18-24 months.  
 

12. Set you van truck and or trailer up, well

Boots covered in grass clippings

This is about flow and process and making sure everything works well when it comes to access, storage and speed. 
 

13. Wear good protective footwear

Unfortunately the jandals have to stay at home when you're mowing lawns. Make sure you wear comfortable AND protective footwear. Not only will they make you faster, the'll prevent any risk of injury from mowing over your foot or getting cut by the grass. 

 

14. Pre-plan for the next day

Order your run at night for the next day and prepare equipment so you're ready to go! This might seem simple enough but it's one habit that will make you money every day. Generally when you first wake up it can take time to get your brain into second gear. If all you have to do is jump in your vehicle, look at the first lawn job and get mowing, this will mean your day will flow much better. Simple ways to prep your equipment include cleaning your gear and filling the mower and line trimmer with petrol.
 

15. Claim your petrol tax

You don’t pay for money on any petrol machines that aren't being used on the roads. This is free money and for a residential lawn mowing operator, this can amount to quite a bit of coin. 
 

16. Have a back up plan for when things go wrong

Especially during the warmer months, your equipment and vehicle will be going gang busters. It's often the worst timing, but things can break down. Organise a supplier that will lend you loan equipment while they repair yours. Preparation for these events will minimise your down time. 
 

17. Buy a Crewcut lawn mowing franchise

Many independents will read this and ask why. The simple fact is that we supply our franchisees with a steady flow of qualified leads. Which means we continuously attract people who want our mowing services and pass them on to our lawn mowing franchise owners. This is a huge advantage over a private business. Marketing takes experience and time which many lawn mowing independents don't have. So maybe they have bought a lawn run and it's all they need, but again how do they condense travel time and develop the business further? The selling back process and personalised marketing package each Crewcut franchisee gets insures that their business will always improve in profitability and revenue. 
 

Smiling Crewcut operator in front of his ute

Finally along with the above, at Crewcut we live with a set of company values. By following them we always succeed, no matter what the situation is.

Crewcut's business goals






Be your word- We do what we promise
 

Create raving fans - We care about our clients happiness
 

Stick top the plan - We follow the Crewcut system to success 

 
 

If you or someone else you know might be interested in a Crewcut lawn mowing business, be sure to contact us on 0800 800 286. Check out our list of available lawn mowing franchises for resale as there may be an opportunity in your neighbourhood.


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Money, GrowthDavid Serville
Grow your lawn mowing business like a pro

By David Serville, Founder of Crewcut Lawn & Garden


A picture of me back when Crewcut was the new lawn mowing franchise on the block

A picture of me back when Crewcut was the
new lawn mowing franchise on the block

I worked as an independent lawn mowing contractor for about five years before I started the Crewcut Franchise Group. During this time I was building lawn lists into scalable lawn mowing businesses and then selling them off. 

 

So when considering building your own lawn run, what is the cost? Your time is definitely worth something, so how much of it do you have? 

 

To build a lawn mowing business, you must have free time. How much is your time worth? If you’re working in a highly paid job that you want to leave, building lawn lists full-time may not be the answer for you. You may want to consider purchasing a private lawn round or a lawn mowing franchise, because building a lawn list has an actual cost, and it's not cheap. 

 

But if you have lots of spare time and are up for the challenge and commitment, then building a lawn client list could be a good solution. The cost is pretty simple to work out. To keep it simple, let's just put a cost for a month of your time. If you decided your time is worth $30 per hour, then one month of constant work is worth $5200. If it takes you three months of full-time work to build a small chunk of work, then the cost is $15,600, less the cost of the work completed and invoiced for. 

 

So how many months will it take to build a lawn list? This will depend on the marketing skills you have. You may already have the knack of marketing along with a great network, like being an active member of a local sports or community club. This will help a lot in growing interest in your business. But practically getting the first cluster of clients is the hardest. I would, however, set your own goal and establish a forecast and an actual number you hope to achieve per month. You may need to consider how to supplement your lawn mowing startup with a part-time job.

 

Five Necessary Skills

To be a successful independent lawn mowing business owner, you will need these five skills:

 

  1. Sales - Be willing and enthusiastic to improve your selling skill. (see sales skills)
  2. Marketing - This is essential, and some basic understanding is an absolute requirement. Do a lot of reading online before you start your business.
  3. Good health - As long as you don’t have old injuries or ailments, then becoming mowing fit takes 6-10 weeks.
  4. Record keeping - You need the discipline of record taking
  5. Organisation - As a business owner this is essential to be able to balance your time between mowing lawns, marketing, sales, and bookkeeping.

 

Start before Spring!

One bit of sound advice I can give here is time your start well. To maximise your business building, you will want to be ready just before the highest growth season, spring. Do all your research, make your lawn mowing business plan, and consider all the issues that may arise. The people that do well in business always do thorough planning.

Again, have this plan completed in winter so that you’re all ready to start in the high season, Spring. In New Zealand, I would have the preparation and planning stage completed by the end of August. That includes marketing materials, policies, your vehicle, and all the equipment. 

 
Crewcut business owner blows away grass clippings in driveway
 

 

Now we have established a start date, let’s consider
a timeline to get to the first milestone.

 

Stage One (part-time)

Crewcut operator pushing a lawn mower in grass

Residential lawn mowing is different in every town. In small towns, the land packages are large, and in large urban areas the land size is small. At Crewcut, we have some small towns (Bay of Islands) where it is a requirement for everyone to have a ride on mower. That said, most of this article is written for the average start-up in large residential areas. 

So let's say you want to initially build a part-time business of say 20 regular lawns to cut per week. Based on the fact that most lawns get cut on a fortnightly basis, that is around 40 clients. Let's say the average lawn cut is $30, you could plan to have a revenue of $600 per week. A lawn may get cut about 22 times per year, so in regular lawn cutting terms that’s $26,400. You would or could also do other property maintenance work. So let's say through referral and off that client base, you could earn an extra $4000 with some preparation for slow months. In total you could earn $30,400. 

The point I’m making here is that you need to establish your goals. Do some back of napkin planning. Do you need to keep your current job for a while until you can go full time? Obviously, if this is your retirement project, you are going to view it differently.

 

Stage Two (Full Time)

Auckland Crewcut operator stands in garden with line trimmer

Let's say full-time businesses start at about 80 lawns. In Crewcut, we start franchise owners with 60, but that is to get them mowing fit. Newbies to lawn mowing businesses need to get their line trimming skills up to a speed that can accommodate 80+ lawns. A skilled lawn operator can mow more than 100 lawns on their own. I have known operators that do far more than 100, but this is all about skill and experience.

80 residential lawns is a sweet spot, and a great goal for a lawn builder or lawn mowing business start-up. We will assume you have gotten to 40 lawns already and now you are planning to build a revenue of $60k and upwards. The thing to consider is getting slowed down by winter. In New Zealand, there are dramatic differences between the South Island and the North Island. It obviously slows down to a holt if there is snow on the ground. Again, make a winter plan. 

In some parts of Winter, you will have little more than seven hours of light. Before you drop off in income, consider broadening your service offering. This can backfire though as people will want these tasks done at the height of the season. Tree lopping, gardening, hedge trimming, gutter cleaning and water blasting, to name a few.

From 80 lawns, it is very easy to build to 100+ as the referral work from a solid base should be quite steady, as long as you are a good service provider.

 

 

Learning to quote and price lawn mowing

This is pretty straight forward, so consider what hourly rate is expected by the market. Some suburbs and towns have lower lawn prices than others. You may decide that you want to achieve $50 per hour when mowing lawns. You will be pricing lawns against competitors, so you will soon learn where you’re positioned. You may lose a few potential customers until you grow in confidence.

 

Sales Basics

Crewcut business owner talks to his male client

At Crewcut, we teach you basic sales skills to convert clients. First Impressions count for everything. It amazes me how independents and franchise owners alike get this first sales tip wrong. But it’s key to basic sales. The first three tips are all about that first 30 seconds you have to leave an impression. Get all of these right and you are 80% of the way there.

 

  1. Turn up on time as agreed. You have your work cut out for you if you don't keep your word. In a busy world, a customer’s time is valuable, so don't fail on this one.
     
  2. Be presentable - Clean, tidy, fresh, and smell nice- uniforms and brand help build credibility, and demonstrates that you can easily be found and are accountable. If you turn up in an unmarked shirt and shorts (even if it’s tidy), you are deemed as a nameless person that can easily hide if something goes wrong. Look like you mean business.
     
  3. Smile and make eye contact. Let them know you’re keen to help. A smile and friendly greeting are free. Before you leave, give them a genuine compliment.
     
  4. Listen carefully to their requirements.
     
  5. Up-sell if you can and advise them of additional work they may want to consider. 
     
  6. Then ask for the business.
     
  7. To close the sale, remind them that you can do the lawn immediately. If they hesitate, throw something in for free. Remember you should have extra time to do this. I never used to leave the property until I closed the sale.

 

 

Sales recording client details

This is your database. If you have ever sold Amway or Insurance, then you know what to do here. Make a list of all your friends and let them know yours in the business. They may end up mentioning it to someone. Use your social media and mention it from time to time. You have a community, but you have to let them know. If you don't want to do this then sadly building a business from scratch is probably not for you. Maybe you're more suited to buying an established mowing business.

 


Read more lawn mowing business advice:

 


Marketing Tools

Very few Traditional Marketing techniques work anymore, but here are a few tools that you may want to prepare before starting your lawn round. 

 

Business Cards (essential)

A Crewcut business card

There is no point in printing these if you forget to give them out. It may seem like a small point, but get into the habit of keeping them on you at all times and giving them out. For most people, this has to be practised. 

 

Web Page - This does not have to be expensive but is really important.

 

 

How to market

When I started my first lawn mowing business years ago, it was all traditional marketing. Distributing pamphlets, placing adverts in local news papers and advertising in the Yellow Pages. It's pretty safe to say these are all dead, apart from networking. 

Marketing is all about digital. If you want to be found, then you must have an online presence. A web page does not have to cost a lot, but is your most important tool. Apart from choosing your name and getting a simple logo designed, I would advise this page to be designed, written and online as early as possible. You should have this is completed months before you launch your business. There is a real art to writing, but you may enrol a friend or well-priced copy writer to help build the content on your webpage. 

Images are also really important. My recommendation is that get some good help from a small webpage and SEO company. How much will this cost? Depending on where you go and what you want, this could cost as little as a few hundred dollars to many thousands. Working on your web page is something that should be done regularly. Focus on the locations and details that will build your lawn mowing business in your geographic area.

 

Book Keeping and accounts

Phone with Crewcut app on screen

If you don't send an invoice then you won't get paid. Certainly in the beginning, you will want to be paid at the time you mow a lawn. But as you grow, this is pretty much impossible. You have to develop a good rhythm for sending out accounts. Usually, people don't like paying small accounts on a regular service. When you’re setting your terms of trade policy up, I have found that if you mow twice and get paid from a two cut monthly invoice, then everyone is happy.

At Crewcut, the software we use to distribute work to our franchise owners includes an online accounting package, but you may want to collect all your receipts and learn to run software like Xero. If you’re not organised and hate book keeping then you will need help here. 

 

The most important habit to learn is to keep your receipts and keep your expenses recorded well so that your book keeper or accountant’s work is easy. Make it easy for them and get a cheap bill from them. Make it difficult and it will cost you.

 

 

Health & Safety

Health and Safety are important and needs to be considered before you start your business. It also might seem complicated, but you will not attract any commercial clients without a thoughtful Health and safety policy. At Crewcut to make it easier for our franchise owners, we use a product called Safety Work Kits. Safety work kits is a templated system to help you start on this journey. While you still need to think carefully about hazards and how you manage these, it will give you most of the forms and polices to help you form the habits required. 

Image of Safety work kits orange cone

 

There are many other things to consider when building an independent lawn mowing business, but I have covered off on the key ones. Independent lawn building is well suited to people that don't follow systems and have some great marketing and business skills under their belt. At Crewcut Franchise Group, we enjoy great relationships with independent contractors. If your business proves to be successful, then please keep us in mind when you want to eventually sell your business. We purchase a lot of these, so this may be a viable and quick way for you to also exit the industry.

 

For more info on starting a lawn mowing business, please have a read of

How to start a lawn mowing business in 12 easy steps’ 


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