Lawn Care and Snow Removal - Small Business Profile of M & R Lawn Service
Lawn care, snow removal, yard clean-up and other landscape maintenance services can be difficult and dirty work. These type of service providers really earn their money. Nevertheless, it's one of the small business ideas that many people think about starting. I spent time recently with M & R Lawn Service of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and I'm here to tell you about this impressive operation.
What a pleasure it was to learn about an enterprise that's serious about providing great customer service and treating their employees right.
I am very pleased to introduce you to Mike Van Der Hoeven who is the man at the helm of M & R Lawn Service in Cheyenne. I found Mike to be an all-around great guy. I think you will too.
Mike is open, friendly, a wise businessman, a kind heart in the community, and a good shepherd of his hard working staff. Seems to me that this is a perfect combination of qualities for success in a small lawn care business. Let's look at the success that Mike's approach to business management has created.
You've seen two guys and a pickup truck, and perhaps they have a trailer as well. You've also seen a bunch of kids with lawn mowers and snow shovels. Toss those images aside and get ready to learn about a full service lawn care and landscape maintenance provider that offers snow removal as well.
This is a skilled outfit of well equipped and hard-working individuals that are focused on quality lawn care and related services. If it has something to do with mowing, landscaping, aerating, power raking, tilling, yard cleanups, fertilizing or snow removal - commercial or residential - then you can bet that the good people at M & R Lawn Service in Cheyenne can handle it.
Photo left is the entire staff of the company getting ready to head out for the day.
For yard work, there are typically 3 three-person crews. For snow removal, there are typically 4 two-person crews. Mike is shown above with his arm around Doty, his wife and crew lead, so you know that this is a close knit organization.
It all started when…
With more than 20 years of experience in lawn care and landscape maintenance, Mike joined forces with a partner and started M & R Lawn Service, LLC back in 2006. We're only talking about a short time in business, yet Mike is already seeing tremendous success.
Their share of the lawn care marketplace has grown remarkably in only the first two years of business. He has also seen nearly a doubling of the business each year. That type of incredible growth isn't something that just happens - you've got to make it happen.
How the business grows…
In many smaller communities, word of mouth is key to success. Such is the case here with nearly 75% of new customers coming from word of mouth referrals. Understand that just because someone knows of your lawn care services, that doesn't mean that your business will grow.
People are almost 10 times more likely to pass on negative comments about products and services than they are to pass on positive comments. So in order to get nearly 75% of your new business from referrals and sustain phenomenal growth for multiple years, you really have to be doing something right - it isn't going to happen by accident.
For our featured lawn care entrepreneur, the key to success is attention to detail and a deliberate focus on satisfied customers.
And, it's not quite as simple as it might seem. Remember, this enterprise has multiple crews and a wide range of service offerings that span all seasons.
Their lawn care and snow removal services also require close and regular interaction with the personal property and lives of each customer. It speaks strongly of how well and how consistently this business is operated.
Benefits of the business…
There are several benefits to a lawn care business. First, if you like to work outside, this is one sure way to get all the outside activity that you can possibly pack into each work day. There are only a few lawn care related tasks that require inside work - everything else is out of doors.
Second, this type of business gets you into a personal business relationship with your customers. You're not just cutting grass or cleaning up the yard, you're taking care of the appearance and value of someone's private property. Be it a home or business, it often represents a large and important asset.
Third, you get to build the "service philosophy" from the ground up. This allows you to differentiate yourself from others in the lawn care marketplace that just "provide a service". Mike believes that customer satisfaction is paramount, and going the extra distance helps set them apart from others and helps bring happiness to their many customers.
Resources you’ll need…
If you're thinking about starting a lawn care business, Mike advises that you'll have to put together a good business plan in order to get adequate financing for all the resources you'll need. Mike has done just that, so he's well equipped and ready to tackle jobs both large and small.
That means specialized equipment, backup equipment, spare parts and a host of other considerations. Let's look at some of the resources that are part of the lawn care and snow removal service offering of M & R Lawn Service in Cheyenne.
We're all familiar with lawn mowers and string trimmers and blowers. What about power aerators, close clearance riding mowers with broad mowing decks, power rakes, snow throwers, hydraulically controlled and lighted snow plows, wide and long equipment trailers for transport, and serious trucks for equipment, supplies and personnel?
Specialized riding mowers with close clearance for larger mowing jobs.
Lawn aerators used primarily in the spring to promote good health and growth.
Hydraulically operated snow plows with lights.
Walk-behind snow throwers for walkways, sidewalks and small areas that require snow removal.
We're talking about a considerable investment here. Remember, this is a serious full time endeavor that both residential and commercial customers count on.
The equipment required for success is expensive, specialized and it requires good care and regular maintenance to provide the reliability you'll need in order to provide the service your customers will require.
Okay, now comes the fun part. After all the hard work is done and we've showered off the grime from a hot day in the sun, let's talk about gross income potential from a lawn care enterprise.
As you can imagine, the range of income will vary greatly with the type of services offered. For a lawn care business making in the $300K to $500K range, you'll need to be a mature operation that is up and running with a solid chunk of the marketplace and good strong customer relations.
But not so fast. Let's remember that what appears to be a large amount of money is really only gross revenue. That means it is the "before expenses" number. Keep in mind that the following is just a short list of what has to be taken out of this gross income before you get even a nickel of it in your pocket:
- employee benefits
- office and warehouse rent
- loan payments on vehicles, trailers and equipment
- maintenance and repair of equipment
- advertising costs
- business fees
The insight here is simple; lawn service is one of the small business ideas that is both capital and overhead intensive.
Challenges to overcome…
In a business such as this, personnel will always be your largest challenge. We're talking about selection, training, performance and retention. Let's look at each of these to get an appreciation for what we're talking about.
- Selection - not everyone is cut out for this type of hard work. You'll have to find individuals that have the skill, strength and stamina for outdoor work.
- Training - even with cutting grass, de-thatching and yard cleanup, there are right and wrong ways of doing it. The inexperienced need to be trained, and the experienced need to learn your way of doing it.
- Performance - a key to good customer relations, repeat business, referrals from satisfied customers, and low "rejection" rates is high performance from employees.
- Retention - a key to hanging onto the investment you've made in selection and training of staff. Treating employees right will be important to retain quality staff in this world of hard work.
If you can meet these personnel challenges, then just about any type of business will run much more smoothly.
It's clear to me that M & R Lawn Service has a good many achievements to be proud of, and many of them go "unsung" for the most part. We've already touched on those that you would expect: nearly 100% customer satisfaction; taking good care of their skilled personnel; and, going the distance to address customer needs.
I'd like to focus for a moment on special achievements associated with community involvement that one wouldn't normally expect from a lawn care service organization. Believe it or not, M & R Lawn Service provides basic lawn care at no charge for selected individuals who need it but can't afford it.
It's amazing, but true. There are nearly a dozen "customers" that are on limited income or otherwise have special circumstances that compell Mike and his team to provide lawn care at no cost. This is really remarkable. It speaks volumes about the business and its relationship with the community.
Special message from our featured entrepreneur…
Mike wants you to know that it's important to "always put the customer and their wants and needs first" because having a job depends on it. "Provide your customers with the best service possible." This make a lot of sense, no matter which of the small business ideas you're trying to implement.
He also advises to "purchase top notch equipment" as this will give you longer service, superior reliability and much better return on investment.
Lastly, he wants you to know that "quality service and an honest relationship with your customer" is something that will not go unnoticed by those you serve and those who are in need of your services. That's good advice from someone who has a successful track record to prove that it works.
No matter which of the small business ideas you select, you're going to be much more successful if you focus on quality and honesty.
Done with Lawn Care, take me back to Small Biz Profiles