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Established lawn care co. plowing for first time...

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by mnlefty, Aug 27, 2010.

  1. mnlefty

    mnlefty Senior Member
    Messages: 980

    Ok here's the setup with a copy/paste from an equipment related post:

    I bought a lawn care company this spring. We mow approximately 130+ accounts in an affluent suburb. Our mowing routes have great density for maximum efficiency. The previous owner has never been interested in plowing, to the point where he referred customers to a plow company who is not a lawn competitor... he didn't want the hassles of subbing it out, just handed them off, approx 90-100 of our customers are using this plow service. Well, I want that business. I do have plow experience from another company, but all commercial, mostly office and warehouse space. However, I don't want to be just another plow company. We are a high end lawn service, and our customers will expect a high end snow service as well...

    I will be blowing drives, either with the tractor/inverted blower setup, or with a toolcat/blower/backblade combo. The efficiencies of the setup should allow me to give a better finished product for the same, or possibly even less price than the reputable plow guys in my area. My questions are on the best approach to take to take with my customers.

    - I know I should have a feel for my customers, but I just don't know how many to reasonably expect to sign up with me. Like I said the previous owner just referred the customers to another company and they made their own arrangements without my company's involvement. Most are happy with that plow service. On the other hand, with the level of maintenance we are at, many customers would prefer an all inclusive service provider. If they can have the same guys for lawn AND snow it will make their lives just a tiny bit easier. I'm just having a hard time wrapping my mind around how many of MY customers I could or should expect to land starting out, and whether or not I need to offer any type of incentive to switch their plow service to us?

    - Not knowing what to expect from my current customers also leaves me wondering how much to advertise to non-customers. We have a marketing list of approximately 700-800 residences, all in and next to the neighborhoods we currently service. For instance we have one neighborhood of approx 50 homes where we currently do about 22 lawns. The rest of the homes in this neighborhood are on the target list, as well as the next street over. Throughout our entire service area there are 3-4 companies that I feel are of similar quality and price as ours. I'm comfortable that we can do well at the prices THEY charge, and again because of the efficiencies of equipment possibly even charge slightly less.

    Is it fair game or dirty pool to advertise something along the lines of "we will match your price from last year or beat your quote from this year by 5% from any of these companies..."

    abc lawn & snow
    xyz services
    efg outdoors

    I have been researching, lurking, and reading here for well over a now. I am the anti-MICHPLOWER if you will. I am confident that I can DO the job, I know we can move snow. Now I am looking for a little advice on how best to put the plan into action.
  2. Longae29

    Longae29 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,953

    I would start off with a phone call to your current customers and gauge their interest, push hard on the "year round provider" offer them a 12 month contract....if you are high end and provide quality service, remind them of that, if you are happy with the lawn service we provide, give us a chance on the snow. I've never been an advocate of saying 5% lower, then again, i sell to strictly commercial for snow.
  3. buckwheat_la

    buckwheat_la 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,254

    sounds like you know what you are about, my first action would be to send out a letter to all my current clients informing them about the change in service and that you well be offering snow removal services now....don't expect all of them to jump ship from the other guy, especially if he has done a good job, i am guessing 30-40% well respond favorably. i wouldn't get too crazy into offering a discount just yet, especially in a recession, this could very easily get messy. Why not do a "earlly signing discount"? send your letter out right now, and suggest that anyone signing before sept 30 get a 5% discount. sounds like you have most things under control, feel free to ask any questions of me if you need any other advice.
  4. TCLA

    TCLA 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,707

    Great questions!

    First get rid of your doubts...they are unacceptable.

    Apply the old truism ~ A battleship is safe in harbor...but that's not what it's made for.

    Get as many as you can...you'll figure out how to get them done. You will not fail if you really have the can do/will do attitude. Push yourself. You're teetering.

    I highly doubt they will all jump ship and flood you with too much work, or more than you can handle.

    Not a big fan of advertising "beating anyone's quote". You're not separating yourself at all from the masses...you're joining them. You seem better than that.

    buckwheats early signing discount is a good idea.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2010
  5. forestfireguy

    forestfireguy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,276

    I did resi plowing for a few years when I had my own business, now all we do is commercial lots, except a very few residentials we do for our estate clients. Having been around this biz for 20 yrs now I can't see how a blower can compete with a plow in respect to time. Quality wise, I can see, nicer finished product, no big piles encroaching the driveway etc, but speed of the job, which roughly equals efficiency, which definitely affects cost. So to say you can do it better, I'd beleive, but to say you can do it cheaper and still make the profits you should make seems like an ideal..........

    Now I am show a little bit of ignorance here mind you, I've never personally used a blower that wasn't a walk behind, so perhaps I'm missing something.
  6. mnlefty

    mnlefty Senior Member
    Messages: 980

    I'm talking about a setup something like this... The video is 4 minutes long and shows 4 drives start to finish with a 5th at the end basically done...

    <object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/PuI9zcWKs2Q?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/PuI9zcWKs2Q?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2010
  7. forestfireguy

    forestfireguy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,276

    I admit I didn't think it would be that quick, BUT, those drives are teeny tiny. What are yours like, and in that video it looks like he's blowing an inch, maybe 2. Besides, you've got trucks, a plow is much much less expensive than a set up like that. Unless you've already got one, in which case I'd imagine that blower is probably a little bit more money than a plow anyway.
  8. TCLA

    TCLA 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,707

    Those stakes and tractor sure look familiar.

  9. Camden

    Camden PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,604

    Nice post! You're quickly moving up my list of favorite posters. A few more like this and you'll be ahead of MICHPLOWER in no time :D
  10. mnlefty

    mnlefty Senior Member
    Messages: 980

    TCLA, thanks for the nudge! As I read your post I was thinking you must be psychic or something, as I didn't think my insecurities showed as prominent as what you picked up on. You are 100% right, I need to just get out there and get em. The plan is to require full seasonal payment up front (most of the serious plow competitors already do this). That coupled with an early signup discount should give me a better idea of what I need to service, and still have time to secure additional equipment if needed.

    The people that really get ahead in this world don't do it by doing the same thing everyone else is doing. That's probably where the insecurity comes from... I wonder if any of the inverted blower manufacturers have ever shipped a blower to MN? The blower method is tried and true for many, I don't need to wait to see somebody else do it here first, I need to be the first and let them copy me. I was surprised to see that Neige doesn't get THAT much more snow than we do here. Somewhere he posted 80" in 18 events with a 2" trigger. Our averages here are 56" with 17 1"+ events. (my area is a 1" trigger kind of area). I was expecting to see his averages at least double what we see here.

    Again, thanks for the advice!
  11. mnlefty

    mnlefty Senior Member
    Messages: 980

    That video almost single-handedly was what made me think "I need to do this."
  12. TCLA

    TCLA 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,707

    There...fixed it for you!

    Good luck to you sir! :salute: