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Hello everyone,

I have a quick question. I have been considering starting a lawn care business doing fertilizer and weed control in my area.  I used to work for a big corporation doing this, so I already know how to do the work.

The problem is I have zero capital to put toward the starting of this business. I project that to start with the right equipment and product I would need about $7,000-$10,000 to do the job.

I know Dan says I can start small and go that route, but we live in a growing, fairly affluent area around Indianapolis with new and large houses going up daily.  I know I could grow quickly if I start now with the right marketing plan.  

I have been learning a lot about sales, marketing, and advertising from Dan, Joe Polish and Dean Jackson, and many others.  But I was just listening to Christy Wright on the Business Boutique podcast and she interviewed 2 women who had asked customers for pre-orders to start their businesses. Having no money to start and no product on hand, they needed those pre-orders to get the ball rolling otherwise they wouldn't have been able to start making and selling.

Do you think this might be something that I could possibly offer? My plan would be to go door to door, do door hangings, put up fliers, etc. and offer 15%-25% off if they pre-pay the entire year and give them the exact price it would be.

I would have the full intention, if I don't raise enough money with the pre-paid accounts to give everyone a 100% refund.

Thanks for your feedback. I also sent this to askdan@48days.net so he could possibly respond on the podcast as well. 

Justin

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Justin,

Love your out of the box thinking on this. This actually might be a great discussion of the marketing group - feel free to post the question in there. Here is the group link:

NEW - Marketing for Entrepreneurs

If it were me, I would be looking for ways to get around this. For example, can you start small with a lawn mowing business - used or borrowed lawn mower that will start building up cash. From there you can build your client list and start by offering the fertilizing aspect. At 20 lawns a week times $40 a lawn that is $800 a week. After only 10 weeks you would have $8,000 earned.

Another option would be to start off smaller with the fertilizing - can you do a backpack system and hand spray. Again, this helps you build your client base and brings in cash to help you save for bigger equipment. 

There is always more than one way to skin a cat. Borrowing money against a business before you even have your client base built up may seem easy in the short term, however think in the long term, building your business while you are building you cash reserves would equate to better sustainability in the future.

Best wishes on moving forward. 

I'm wondering if you can do a pilot program in which you get the prepaid subscriptions, but instead of having to get enough clients to cover all of your start-up costs, then get enough people to cover the rental of the equipment for a weekend. Do the paid for clients and give them another discount for referrals that sign up. Word of mouth can be a great way to grow your list quickly.  I'm a little concerned about your paid for customers having to wait. They will want to have the services performed soon after the payment, and I think you will find it hard to get people to commit to using a company that might do the work if enough people sign up for the service.

Thanks guys, and gal.  You've given me a lot of good ideas so far.  I'll also post this in the group you suggested Jen.  Thanks.

Justin,

You sent me a note on this for my podcast as well - and I did answer it on tomorrow's episode.  

I think this would be a really tough model to make work.

Justin,

Love your tenacity. In my experience that model works with products much better than it does wit services. The expectation of a service is that I can pay for and schedule it right away.

I am also not so sure you can't get started for less money.

If you are in an affluent neighborhood I am sure there are houses with great, well maintained yards that perhaps struggle with their roses, need irrigation maintenance or could use some minor painting and repair.

These services cost very little to provide, have the potential to make you the money you need for your equipment and put you in the lawn care category with your potential clients.

Hope that helps,

Take care,

John

I just re-read this because of Plasticine's response below.  I had a previous idea years ago to just offer bed weed control, whether that be spraying or plucking.  Not sure how I would charge for that, or if it would even be a thing people would want.  But yes, great ideas and insight on more affluent neighborhoods already having nice lawns. . . because the HOA makes them. . . but struggling in other, smaller areas that may get overlooked.  Thank you.

I agree with several of the other posters that taking prepaid orders for a company that provides a service, not a physical product.  This is especially true when it is a seasonal service, like lawn care, pool care, or a snow company in Indiana.  I like the Iron Jen's suggestion of providing a less equipment-consuming service in the beginning to save up for the equipment you need.

I guess I should say I got the idea for yearly prepay from my time working for Scott's Lawn Service. Although, yes they are a huge brand that people know and trust, they did offer a prepay for the year and receive a percentage off.And had a good number of prepaid customers. But I also know I cannot compare my non-existing business to such a large brand. Thanks everyone You've given good ideas and insight.

Justin, now that you mention it, it does make sense for a lawn service to offer prepaid services.  I also agree with you that, with maintenance services like lawn care, roof repair, or snow removal, reputation counts for a lot so it would be hard to get a lot of prepaid business when you are a brand new company.  John, great idea about starting small with something like roses.

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