As Autumn draws on and the green
leaves of summer turn to the golden colors of fall, this is an exciting
time for anyone in a lawn care business.
Leaf raking is a big profit point in
the lawn care industry. Damp leaves left clumped on a lawn can damage
grass. They clog gutters and down spouts. They also make flower and
shrub beds look untidy.
With all the potential problems that
leaves contribute to, homeowners will soon be calling you for leaf
We are often asked by lawn care
companies: "How do you estimate leaf raking for a new client." We
tackle the estimating process in our business course. But in this
week's tip I want to caution you about taking on new customers at this
time of year.
This is a true story that happened to
me in my first year of owning a lawn care company. A new customer
called to get an estimate for raking the yard and cleaning out gutters.
He had several large trees in his yard. Although his yard was covered
with leaves more than half of the leaves were still on his trees. Since
he had a mulching area to keep me from having to haul off his leaves, I
gave an estimate of $150. He did not want to spend that much and said
that if I would do it for $110, he would let me cut his yard next
summer. The leaf job went well and I collected my money and went home.
The next day he called to say that I had not raked all the leaves and
that I needed to come back by. I explained that the leaves in his yard
had fallen after I had finished and that I was not responsible for those
leaves. Not wanting to lose his business next year, I went back and did
a quick touch up job which took an hour. Still, I was satisfied as it
was a big yard and I would get to do his yard all the following year.
When Spring rolled around, I took my
equipment to his house and was told that someone else had already been
contracted to mow the lawn for the season. I reminded him of our
agreement and he said that the other people were doing it for $5 less
than my estimate.
Though it made me mad, I didn't think
too much about it until the next fall when he called and said that his
other lawn care company had quit and he wanted me to rake his leaves
again. My response was to remind him of our previous agreement and I
told him the price for leaves alone would be $250.
Lessons learned from a problem lawn care
1) I did not have a signed agreement
- You should be very careful about taking a customer's word that they
will let you do their lawn "next season" in return for a cheaper price
today. If the agreement is verbal it is very easy for a customer to
back out of the agreement.
2) Price each job as an individual
effort - If a leaf job is worth $250 to you then bid it accordingly. Do
not let the potential of other work influence your price significantly
downward. That other work may never materialize.
3) Explain to the customer that
leaves on the trees are not included in the price - Leaves continue to
fall through the entire season. If you contract to do a leaf job, let
the customer know that any leaf droppage that occurs after the job is
done is not covered under the quoted price.
When we consult with new lawn care
business owners, we often tell them that leaf pickup is very easy to
under price. A job which looks like it should take less than 1 hour can
often wind up taking 4 times that long.
This Autumn, when your phone starts
ringing with new customers looking to get a great price on leaf
management work, take extra caution when giving estimates.