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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Mar 2017

    Taking over family business

    My younger brother had a stroke & passed away in January. I purchased the business from his wife. (its on a percentage of business basis). I'm eager to get started.

    I worked with my brother (part time) for the last 20 years. I know most, but certainly not all of his customers on a first name basis. Letters were sent to all customers, explaining the circumstances and that I would be taking over the day to day business operations. Only 1 customer is not interested in having me continue the service. He is going through a divorce, and lawn care is very low priority at this point.

    My "real" job was that of a logging subcontractor. I have no plans of any future logging endeavors.

    The business has many facets. In spring, there is about 1 1/2 months of yard cleanup work. Add another 2 -3 weeks of fall cleanup in late Oct early November. Caretaking & property checks took place throughout the year. The summer months see lawn mowing, tree removal, and storm cleanup. Lastly, firewood sales generally take place from June - December.

    The area is very upscale. The typical customer's home is there 2nd or 3rd house, with nearly all being over $500K homes. All residential. Nearly all lake homes.

    3 or 4 part time workers help out during the spring/fall cleanup periods. 1 full time june/july/august employee. Generally, firewood is purchased from loggers by the semi load, and then its cut to length, split & stacked for seasoning.

    My business plan is to pretty much follow the success of my brother and evolve it a bit when it comes to cleanup & lawn care by purchasing a riding mower & installing a lawn vac. In the past, all the cleanup work was accomplished using shoulder mounted blowers & hand loading leaves/pine needles onto pickups. I prefer to invest in equipment that significantly increases productivity, and involves less "grunt work".
    One of my buds, who worked as a caretaker at a huge area resort is encouraging me to buy a commercial grade Kubota zero turn mower. The price is a huge shock to me. I really don't know exactly how much summer lawn care is involved. My brother repeatedly told me he didn't make much money mowing lawns. He used John Deere residential mowers and did none of his own maintenance. I tend to think he underpriced his lawn care services. Its an area of concern to me. I actually have little info to go on regarding how my brother priced some of his services. Even his wife is in the dark. My intentions are to get away from any type of per hour pricing and do as much as possible by the job.

    I will be getting busy in mid-April with spring cleanup. I am very well aware that this will certainly involve 60 - 70 hour work weeks during the busy times. If this type of work were easy, everyone would be doing it.


  3. #2
    LawnWorld Support Catherine's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2015

    Re: Taking over family business

    Welcome to the forum. I'm so sorry to hear about your brother.

    I'm going to move your thread over to our commercial and residential lawn mowing section. It's a good place to start.

    LawnWorld Support

  4. #3

    Join Date
    Mar 2017

    Re: Taking over family business

    I'm settling in to the rigors of a new business. Lawn cleanup, mostly leaves & pine needles is about 80% of the work load in late April through May. Lawn mowing will likely be about 1 day per week. The remainder of the business in the summer months is tree/brush removal. Seemingly, many property owners in this area wish to change there forested property and transform it into a manicured city park.
    I purchased a Gravely zero turn 48" deck mower. Also purchased a Cyclone Vac. I'm experiencing a learning curve on the Cyclone Vac. Its painfully obvious the Cyclone Vac works best on dry leaves. This area has many lawns with pine trees, which means pine needles & pine cones, which basically are matted into the ground from months of snow cover. Frankly, the Cyclone Vac is a disappointment as it only picks up 90% or so of the yard debris. One of my buds who has used a cyclone Vac for close to 20 years suggested using a dethatcher attachment.
    Time will tell what happens.

    I recall my brother telling me he never made money doing lawns. He said it kept him busy. Now I am finding out why he never made money. There were 3 customers he did gratis.
    One customer in particular was a very attractive female. He did her lawn for $25. About a 50 minute job for 2 people. His helper did weed eating and my brother mowed with his John Deere 42" garden tractor. He paid his helper $20/hour. By the time he paid for the fuel, I figure his profit was around $.35. And of course we all know this doesn't include wear n tear on the mower/weedeater/pickup. I spoke with this woman and told her it would run $60 per mowing. Point being, its not an easy task telling someone there new fee will be roughly 2 1/2 times what it was. I still don't know if this person wishes to have me do her lawn mowing.

    Purchases I am considering. 14' low profile dump trailer. Cost about $6500. Probably won't happen anytime soon.

  5. #4

    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    United States

    Re: Taking over family business

    Quote Originally Posted by Hoopjohn View Post
    My brother repeatedly told me he didn't make much money mowing lawns. He used John Deere residential mowers and did none of his own maintenance.
    There's the problem, I can set aside what I believe to be an overpriced brand however I can't let go of not doing your own maintenance.
    That's just a huge money sink, in addition to doing all of my own maintenance I also procure pretty much all my own parts (this isn't as easy as it sounds).

    Probably best to take it all one day at a time.

    It took me years of shopping around and twiddling with the wrenches to become intimately familiar with the mowers and the parts.
    It also takes quite some time to get all the tools needed, best here to start with the basics and expand from there, slowly, methodically.
    Brand loyalty has been a big help, most of my earlier mowers are Toros, then came a couple different brand Z's and later I got into Honda 21's but between that and the Stihl hand helds...
    The only 'residential' grade mowers I have are the 21" Hondas, I don't use them but in backyards where the gate is too small...
    The 10-gauge deck on the Flatlander concerns me as well however Dixie Chopper does claim that Ztr to be commercial grade...
    Everything else I run are commercial grade Toro mowers with 7-gauge steel decks and frames.
    Brand loyalty helps considerably in terms of cross-referencing, parts and trouble-shooting, so for now you may wish to stick to the JD's but more than anything I would suggest becoming intimately familiar with the machines.
    Then, start learning how to service them and where to acquire the parts.

    For further reference a 7 gauge deck and frame is made of 3/16" thick steel, they are extremely durable.
    10 gauge decks are made of 9/64" thick steel, this is much thinner and bends far easier.
    That is one of the biggest reasons residential mowers are cheaper, steel is very expensive when you get into stuff that's nearly a quarter of an inch thick.
    I've hit solid obstacles at top speeds of 7-10 mph and 7-gauge never dents or cracks (actually once in 16 years it did bend a piece).
    You might say I should be more careful but it's not your own lawn you'll be mowing.
    Time is money and obstacles can appear suddenly in thick grass, bending a deck is an expensive parts and labor-intensive proposition.
    Why I pay careful attention to the thickness of the steel that the deck and frame are made out of.

    I became self-employed in 2001

  6. #5

    Join Date
    Mar 2017

    Re: Taking over family business

    The Gravely zero turn pulling the Cyclone Rake showed its shortcomings yesterday. The mounting bar ripped apart the metal shroud on the Gravely. Basically, the Cyclone Rake, especially when loaded, puts massive stress on the mounting bar. I know a talented welder that can fabricate a capable setup.

    I'm thinking that a Cyclone Rake is far better suited to a garden tractor, given the absence of occasional jerky movements inherent in zero turn mowers.

    I have a much better understanding of what the Cyclone Rake is (and is not) capable of in regards to performance. They work terrific in dry leaves. If conifer trees are prevalent, its almost a certainty one will have to go behind & do a final cleanup with a leaf blower, as the Cyclone Rake doesn't pick up pine cones (especially smaller ones) all that well.

    More & more quote requests for mowing/weed eating services are coming in. I'd like to expand this part of the business, but obviously don't want to take on any unprofitable jobs. I turned down quoting on 2 jobs this week. One was a very steep hillside with lots of decorative stone barriers, which meant completely shutting off a push mower & lifting over the barriers. The worst lawn one could imagine. The other was a horrendously bumpy/ uneven ground lawn that screams "mower blade replacement inevitable). I sure don't expect every lawn to be perfect. I happen to think "boneshaker" lawns should be avoided, due to massive maintenance.

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