Running a Successful Lawn Care Business: How to Manage the Day-to-Day
Let’s face it—there is a lot to juggle when managing the day-to-day operations of a lawn care company. Running a lawn care business isn’t easy, but there are a few tricks of the trade that can help you out.
Having solid processes to ensure your business runs smoothly are essential. But that can be tough when you’re managing crews, moving from jobsite to jobsite, or are interrupted by uncooperative weather.
We’ve surveyed our community of lawn care entrepreneurs to help you out!
Here are the areas that you can focus on to improve your business and team operations:
- Understanding your service offerings
- Planning ahead
- Planning efficient routes
- Getting your team organized so they work effectively
- Getting to know your clients and leads
- Communicating with your team and clients well
- Adjusting your pricing
- Having weather policies in place
- Equipping your employees to do good work
1. Understand Your Service Offerings
‘Spray and pray’ rarely works––in fact, it can do more harm than good to your business model.
If you’re going to be the best at what you do, then you’ll have specialize or reduce your service offerings to get there.
Focusing your areas of service to narrow things down can bring a lot of order and organization.
If you’re ready to focus on a client niche or area of service and don’t know where to start, think about:
- What you are genuinely good at
- What services are in need in your city
- What you’re passionate about
- What you can reasonably accomplish with the resources and labor you have
- What you can cut based on profit margins and profit monster job opportunities
Understanding the answers to these points will shed light on what equipment you need, what work needs to be done, how many staff you actually need, who your competitors are, and what you need to have the upper hand in the market.
Justin Pitre, owner of Just In Time Yard Services explains:
“Once you start working in the field, pay attention to what services your clients are asking for most often. Avoid taking on any work that you can’t handle.” This will reflect in your quality of service down the line whether you like it or not.
Jason Creel, owner of Alabama Lawn Pros recommends “buying the equipment you’ll need for your service offerings: a truck, maybe a trailer, a hand push mower, and a backpack blower, for example.” Only buy what you truly need to help you reduce service offering bulk.
Having focus can help cut down on overhead, while helping you maintain customer service.
2. Plan Ahead
One of the biggest keys to running a great lawn care business is being organized and thinking forward.
Start thinking about your business long term right now––even if you’re a year (or five years) in.
According to Adam Sylvester, CEO of Charlottesville Lawn Care, thinking long term will help you effectively run your lawn care company.
It helps you set the foundation for a sustainable business and work-life balance as your company grows.
Adam recommends thinking long term from an operations, financial, and labor standpoint.
“Start by creating a separate business bank account and then take an Owner’s Draw starting the very first month… even if it’s only $50 a month.”
“Most people wait too long to pay themselves, or run out of money on expenses before they pay themselves. You can always increase the amount you pay yourself over time.”
The point here is that you’re creating the right conditions for sustainable growth over time, which will help you run a business long term.
Adam explains that you also need to start thinking about how large and how fast you’d like to grow your business.
“You never want to be the bottleneck of your own business. Force yourself to replace yourself in the field much earlier than you feel comfortable. Employees cut into profits, but long term it’s worth it. Especially if you want to build a business that doesn’t rely on you for regular operations.”
“Work on the business instead of in the business. You simply can’t do that when you’re spreading mulch.”
Always think about how you can evolve your business in six months, one year, two years, and beyond. This will help you set the stage for larger decisions as time goes on.
READ MORE: How to write a lawn care business plan
3. Maximize efficiency by planning efficient routes
Edward Ramsden, Owner of Enviromasters Lawn Care explains how important route density is for efficient workdays.
“Try to minimize windshield time with route density. But, it’s okay to drive half an hour to your route, so long as your route is tight.”
If you’re trying to increase your route density, Ed recommends using lawn care flyers to bulk up.
“You can take a tool like Darkhorse. Put your client postal codes from an excel spreadsheet and it will map out your heatmaps for you.”
“We took our customers and broke them down by neighborhood and ZIP code. This helped us figure out what our route density per neighborhood was so we could improve that with flyers.”
Ed would do flyer drops to hand-selected ZIP codes based on his existing customer list to see how the route density would change with new leads. Then he used route optimization software to make sure the route was efficient.
By focusing on a particular area you’ll cut down on driving time during the day and your team can focus on getting their daily work done.
Always remember that there are always going to be low- and high-end clientele, but for weekly mowing, you’re charging relatively the same price for both.
If it’s just you, you might not want to travel as much. In this case, try and build up clientele on the same street, rather than “big ticket” clients. Ten houses at $40 in a row is much more efficient than ten houses at $70 but spread around the city. This can save you a lot of money over time.
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4. Get your team organized so they can work effectively
It feels like your crews are everywhere, but you’re not sure where “everywhere” is. Communicating properly with your team properly is the only way to avoid that.
Everyone on your team (including yourself) must have the information required to get the job done right. Plus, they need to share that with the team so no effort is lost (or duplicated).
Your first step is to pinpoint important information, then learn to communicate with minimal back-and-forth.
Schedule changes, letting your clients know you’re on your way, upselling opportunities, sharing delays, and sharing client information like gate codes, pets, and moving furniture are good examples of what everyone should know about.
You could use run of the mill options, like texting, email, and even Facebook Messenger to get the job done.
But integrating it into your spreadsheets or files will slow things down and increase room for error.
Using software to empower employees to add notes and photos to jobs, adjust job line items in invoices and quotes, schedule follow-up visits, and check on client history can make all of this a breeze.
If you have ten people with ten communication lines then that’s so much one-on-one communication.
Lawn care software like Jobber makes it simpler: one person sends something to Jobber, and everyone knows about it.
5. Get to know your clients and leads well
Building your client base through friends, family, and word of mouth isn’t easy. But, getting to know who these people are, what services they want, and what type of service they like can really help you out.
Brian Boase, owner of MIL-SPEC Landscaping and expert on using tech to boost lawn care businesses, suggests the following:
“Try working on weekends and evenings when people are actually home so they will see you in their neighborhoods. Working while everyone is at work is useless when you’re trying to grow your customer base.”
You have a chance to meet your clients, say thank you, give some free advice, and give them some of your time.
Brian says, “you’d be surprised at how much traction that gets on the neighborhood private Facebook pages. It’s just plain ‘ole fun to go have a thank you day.”
6. Communicate with your clients
Maybe your team communication is nailed down. Can you say the same about your client communication?
If you want your customer service to stand out, you need to go beyond sending an invoice. You need to communicate with your clients at key points before and after the job.
Appointment reminders and following up are some of the best ways to do that.
Start by sending your clients appointment reminder emails or texts. This a great way to prevent last minute cancellations and decrease obstacles that get in your way while working. Your clients will also appreciate it!
For example, is it important that your clients don’t water their lawn before you arrive? Do they need to make sure the dog is indoors? Do you have to reschedule because it just started raining? Don’t forget to remind them.
You could manually send them a message before you head over, like this one:
Hi [client name],
This is a friendly reminder from [your company name] that we have an upcoming service appointment on [the date of the service appointment].
Please do not water your lawn on the day of your service. Please note that our services are weather permitting. If we are delayed due to rain, we will contact you with details on rescheduling the service.
Please contact us with any questions. Thanks and have a great day!
[your company name]
[company phone number]
But, if you’re not keen on manually providing great service through communication, consider automating it.
Automatic appointment reminders and on my way texts can help you look like a pro, and make things move smoothly without even lifting a finger.
If you complete your work without interacting with your clients, then follow-up emails can help you out big time.
One of the easiest ways to improve your customer service and cash-flow is by sending your clients a follow-up email when a visit is complete for an invoice or a quote.
While you can do this by hand for every single client you visit in a day, you can also spare yourself the hard work and use Jobber’s quote and invoice follow-up features to automatically send notifications to your clients.
If you would rather do it by hand, here’s an example of what that could look like:
Hi [customer name],
Our team has completed [description of job/work here]. If you have any questions about the work or service, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
[your company name]
[company phone number]
Pro tip: Use follow-up emails to improve client retention. Try special offers and customer referral discounts for future appointments.
7. Always adjust your pricing
Your prices will fluctuate over time for a lot of reasons:
- Changes in the economy
- Some services were underpriced (or overpriced)
- You didn’t factor in overhead properly
- Some services sell better than others
- You want to start creating package deals
- You want to start upselling your services
Tracking your sales, invoices, and quotes and constantly revisiting your numbers is absolutely necessary.
If you do, you’ll learn which customers are more profitable, and which services you should double down on, and which ones you should cut.
Start by tracking things in a spreadsheet, or use your lawn care software reporting features to know what jobs are the biggest money makers.
If you’re just starting out, then you may not be able to be too picky with which types of customers you narrow in on.
However, still make a note of which customers bring in the most revenue. That way you can make changes down the line.
Making a lawn care pricing chart can help you look at this from a high level and make smart decisions moving forward too.
8. Have a policy and system for the weather
Your staff and clients should clearly understand what happens when it rains on a service day.
Ed Ramsden included his policy in his terms and conditions.
“My approach was to hand the client a quote with a line at the bottom that says ‘By paying this quote you’re accepting our terms and conditions.’ I would send them a copy of our terms and conditions too. We would explain our rain and cancellation policy there.”
There are plenty of opportunities to share your policy with your clients and your staff. Start by making it a part of your employee training. Next, include a line or two about your rain policy in your:
Communication is so critical in your client relationships. Give them a heads up and explain how you’re solving the problem.
Don’t be afraid to send your client a message on a rainy day to explain that you won’t be by that day, but you’ll be by when the weather subsides.
The [company name] team is supposed to come every [number] days, but we’re backed up because of the weather.
We’re going to come on [date] instead.
Thanks for understanding. Please let us know if you have any questions.
Have a system
When it comes to postponing or rescheduling services, you’ll have to keep track of the changes. This is where scheduling software like Jobber comes in handy.
With Jobber, you can reschedule all visits from one day, with or without impacting future visits.
Also, because job details are directly associated with invoices, you’ll avoid double entry. Jobber reminds you to collect payment for a visit and you don’t have to worry about accidentally double charging a client.
Put a system in place and you’ll reduce mistakes when rescheduling because of the weather.
READ MORE: Wrap up your jobs with work completion forms
9. Equip your employees so they do good work
Your staff are a huge part of the success of your business so it’s important to hire wisely.
Empower them to be good at their job and make them feel like they are part of a team. If you don’t, they may cost your bottom line.
Your staff should be part of your business plan and have input on it.
For example, if you want 30% more customers next year, talk to them to see how they can get more work done in a day to reach that goal.
Making a more efficient business is a team effort that requires buy-in and respect.
The reality is that your staff have a lot of ideas. Any time you empower your staff, you get surprisingly great results. They care about doing a good job and they care about feeling valued.
- Maybe they have ideas of how the truck layout can be improved to speed things up
- Maybe there’s a tool they’re missing that can help them make equipment repairs on the jobsite
- Perhaps they want garbage bags for fertilizer in case it rains
It doesn’t matter what job you work at, what you truly want is input in what you’re doing.
You want the ability to offer suggestions, and so does your team. Use them to your advantage and see how they can help you run a more efficient lawn care business.
READ MORE: How to hire lawn care employees: 5 steps