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The "Corporate" type: 101- 2 guys and a truck

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by Macomb-Lawn, Feb 3, 2006.

  1. So.. I keep getting asked about how size and management comes into play with our business, so I thought I'd share. I hope nobody takes offense to anything I'm going to say. It's just things I've learned the "hard way" over time and what has helped us grow into large commercial management and such.

    MISTAKES:

    1. Professionalism- When soliciting business, regardless of it being residential or commerical, it's important to have a professional "look" about your company. First off, you see a ton of "lawncare" or "landscaping" trucks on the road. A lot of them are 2 guys in a old truck with old equipment, and a magnetic sign on the side. THAT is a HUGE mistake, especially when soliciting to large coporations or professional corporations like banks, corporate owned franchises, etc. These companies demand professionalism, and to them 2 guys in a pick up with a magnetic sign isn't it. Keep in mind, that your customer, especially large corporations has been in business alot longer than you have. And chances are, they have already dealt with "2 guys in a truck" in the past, and got burned. It could be the last guy who is screwing your opertunities up because of what he did. They might have done a bad job, didn't show up, caused damages, or just weren't professional enough to keep around. Keep in mind, larger corporations DO MIND looking out their window and seeing some hippie wearing a tank top and jeans cutting the grass, especially while the CEO is in his office having a meeting and wearing Armani. As petty as it sounds, if you don't have a professional look about your staff and company, chances are large corporations won't even entertain your bids.

    2. The Telephone- Again, back to 2 guys and a truck. Do you honestly think that a large corporation is going to give their business to a company who's main telephone line is a Nextel? Home phone? The purchasing dept. of Corporation X doesn't want to talk to Grandma before she can get you on the phone. So, if the phone isn't answered correctly, they will think your a joke. Better yet, a toll free number and an automated system does wonders for apperance. Hell, for $100.00 up front, and $40.00 a month you can set up an 800 number, with automated system, voicemail, etc. If you want to know how, just let me know and I'll show you. It takes about 30 minutes and it's all done online.

    3. Liabilities- Insurance is key in soliciting corporate business. They want to know your covered incase the worse does happen. To them, if two guys in a truck pull up, chances are they aren't insured to cover any damages or injuries that could occur. These large companies have money, so if your mower causes injury to someone and you don't have insurance, guess who ends up in court. It won't be you.

    4. Quotes- When you show up for a quote, what do you wear? A suit and tie? You should be. It is a proven fact, that if you want to "play" at "their level" then you have to be at their level, and the first time you meet with the "buyer" is your ONLY chance to work your way into their payables department. Showing up in boots, jeans, and a tshirt makes you look like a grunge worker to them. So don't do it. Show up wearing your best suit. It sounds stupid, but the more professional your company looks, the more likely you are to get their business. Then, after the quote, send a professional "thank you" letter for the oppertunity to quote them for their business. Wait a week or two, and send it out. This way you refresh their memory, and you make your business look more professional.

    5. Employee Uniforms- Again, you have to look professional. No bank, corporation, etc. wants to see people work on their grounds wearing tank tops and shorts. It doesn't give your company a professional appearance. Companies like Cintas are their for a reason. The $20.00 a week per employee WILL make a difference. It made enough of a difference that our company pays for them.

    6. Equipment- ALWAYS keep your equipment and trucks clean, and the newer the better. There is nothing like having "top of the line" equipment and making sure your customers see it. Especially in commercial. When you go solicit a Walmart, or a company of that nature, they don't have to want to worry that your equipment will fail mid job, or you look unprofessional. Those large companies have enough problems. The last thing they want to have to worry about is if your company has the equipment to handle a facility of their size. Keep in mind they have their own liabilites, and if their lot is plowed on time, you are putting them at risk.
    If they have to second guess your capabilites, then chances are you won't get their business. This goes back to the company before you that was doing the job that you took over for. A majority of our business came from customers that were tired of companies not showing up, doing a terrible job, or having break downs that couldn't be fixed within a reasonable amount of time. For instance, just this year, I got a call from a local small bank. They have 5 branches. They've had the same lawncare/snow removal company since the day the bank opened it's first branch over 9 years ago. Well, the company they had started screwing up. They were always late, or didn't show. Then they had some equipment stolen, and skipped 3 weeks of lawn service because of it. Well, the bank doesn't want to hear all that. So, they moved on.

    Technology- Here's the topics of websites. As we all know, there isn't a damn thing that isn't on the internet. So, if you don't have a website, then you are losing the cheapest advertising you can get. If you set it up right, the $15.00 you spend a month on site hosting will be the best $15.00 you ever spent. This is because of Google, Yahoo, etc. If someone is looking for service, chances are they are looking online before they go to the phone book. If you aren't there, then you don't exsist and the company that does have a site is taking your bid oppertunites away. Then, corporate email makes a powerful statement to your customers. A yahoo, GMAIL, MSN, etc., email address looks unprofessional when dealing with large companies. Everyone has websites these days. Having a corporate email address makes you look more professional, and it doesn't cost a lot of money. Infact, $13.95 will get you started.

    I could go on and on but that's a start. Like I said, I'm not knocking anyone. These are things I learned over the years, because I've been there. We were "2 guys in a truck" at one point. Then, the school of hard knocks lead the way and we learned what it takes to move on to bigger and better things. If you want to chase the all mighty $, then you have to chase it the right way. If you want to sell BMW's, you can't do it in a place where a Dodge barely belongs if you get my analogy. The higher you hold your head as a company, the bigger you'll get with time. Don't let the whole "cutting grass" part of the business get in your head. You are a professional corporation. Act like one and watch how fast you start climbing to the top. Hell, Waste Management is a bunch of garbage men. But, they are also a multi-billion dollar corporation.

    Keep in mind that the bigger the company, the bigger the grounds, and the bigger the budget. 1 semi-large corporation = 50 residential accounts when it comes down to money. Especially when they are happy with your service, and sign multi-year contracts. If that happens, you can take those contracts to the bank and do some receivables funding, but that's a whole nother topic.
    I hope nobody got offended. If anyone has any questions feel free to contact me via email, or just post here. I have a ton of tricks I've learned to help you out.

    d.daogaru@macomb-lawn.com
     
  2. bigjeeping

    bigjeeping Senior Member
    Messages: 676

    very nice....

    nice post. definitely agreeable

    can you send me some info about the 800 number setup!
     
  3. TLS

    TLS PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,425

    While I agree with a lot of your information, there are some parts that generalize too much and therefore may not be best for all situations.

    Thanks for the write-up though. You spent a lot of time on that!
     
  4. www.gotvmail.com
     
  5. itsgottobegreen

    itsgottobegreen PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,351

    this is to true its scary. :D
     
  6. I was just getting started :D :drinkup:
     
  7. I got a couple emails asking how big of properties are we actually talking about here. Well, I pulled up some old pics of the property (apartments) I was talking about in my first post in this thread and a different thread.

    58 Buildings Total, all one property. As you can see in the pictures, this place is huge. It is over half a mile long and takes up one whole side of the street. In one of the pictures, you can't even see the end of it because it's so long I couldn't fit it in the picture. We cut and plow this place.

    Here's some pics:

    CIMG0787.jpg

    CIMG0786.jpg

    CIMG0785.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2006
  8. Dave Ott

    Dave Ott Junior Member
    Messages: 6

    Is that 16 and Harper area?
     
  9. me1223

    me1223 Member
    Messages: 70

    thanks for the info. Do you hire out most of the services (uniforms, voice mail, etc.) because it is cheaper or because its one less thing to worry about, or both?
     
  10. Yup. We have another one of 16 mile and I94 where that strip of apartment complexes are off the freeway.
     
  11. Both. The phone service I listed above is only for "start up" status until you reach alot of call volume. Then you need to go to the regular systems from the phone company, but the link above works awesome unless your getting alot of calls a day.
     
  12. PremierLand

    PremierLand PlowSite.com Addict
    from detroit
    Messages: 1,572

    Must have taken a while to type all that up?

    Thanks for sharing that, its some very vauleable information.
     
  13. Grn Mtn

    Grn Mtn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,644

    Mark did you change your avatar?

    On that complex I hope some more interesting landscaping is in the works. How often do you trim the 'Taxus'? Have you thought about using growth suppressant?
     
  14. ksland

    ksland Senior Member
    from ma
    Messages: 420

    Amen Brother,

    No seriously... Good post. I agree 98% with everything you say, and practice it as well.
     
  15. Jpocket

    Jpocket Senior Member
    Messages: 302

    I am finding that alot of Property managers are jus "Average Joes" in jeans and a polo shirt. They want someone down to earth that they can relate to and deal with. Now im not saying go meet them in a smoking rusted out pick-up. Im just saying you don't wan to overwhelem people either.

    Myself I wear clean boots, pressed jeans, a company Polo (with my name on it), and I drive my personally truck 2005 Chevy. If you relate to people and give them a good feeling about you, and Get your bid right you'll get the job.
     
  16. go plow

    go plow Senior Member
    Messages: 322

    same here!! most times i dont have time to go home a change before i go and look at a job, but i try to clean up a bit before i go... i think personaly that if i show up in a suit and tie it makes me look like i just bid the jobs and then let high school kids do the work, i tell every one of my clients that im on every job im hired to do !! and all of them like it that way !!!i think that if a client doesnt think that my services i provide are of quality due to the fact that my pants have grass clippings on them when i bid a job, do i really want them as a client (pita) ? does the auto machanic wear white when he/she changes your oil????
     
  17. Scottscape

    Scottscape Senior Member
    Messages: 662

    yes I 2nd that also. I dont necessarily agree with the "best suit". I think you looking professional and dressing appropriate is a great. My grandfather is a real estate investor and has 73 residential homes that he owns and leases out in columbus, and he would laugh if a grounds maintenance contractor showed up in a suit.
     
  18. Guys, I wasn't necessarily talking about "small business" type customers. I'm talking Corporate. Places like Walmart, and large corporations.
     
  19. lawnboy

    lawnboy Junior Member
    Messages: 23

    good post. I got one to add to your list.

    Be knowledgable- this will help you not get burned, and will keep you from sounding like an idiot when talking with customers. If you dont know how to do something dont just wing it. Do some research, it will save you money and time.

    Ill never forget the first time i did a landscape for a "garden geek" and i was calling the plants the total wrong name. lol
     
  20. MD Power Plow

    MD Power Plow Senior Member
    Messages: 151

    Good Post

    Thanks for the info It was very helpful:drinkup: