If you want to know how to run a lawn care business, you will have to get your scheduling system down.
In the landscaping industry, one free tip to start a landscaping business is that you will have two types of work:
- Recurring work
- One time work
Recurring work I define as lawn mowing, pruning, weeding, fertilizing, etc that is done routinely throughout the season on a recurring basis. For this type of work, you will have to come up with a schedule for your customers. For the most part we are referring to lawn mowing here, so that is what I will focus on.
When I first started, I allowed my customers to dictate their schedule. Ie, I would like my lawn done every 2 weeks, or every ten days, or once per week. Fairly quickly, I started to realize that catering to my customers’ scheduling demands was not realistic for me.
Very quickly, I started to realize that 10-day schedules would not work because there was no regular pattern, the 10-day mows would end up rotating onto random days of the week each week which would make it near impossible to develop a consistent schedule.
Weekly, or bi-weekly, on the other hand, occurs the same day each week, so you are able to have a Monday route, Tuesday route, Wednesday route, etc. If the bi-weekly accounts are distributed on opposite weeks, it is easy to also stack regular routes. The ten-day route was quickly eliminated.
In the beginning, to keep track of these, what I would do was create a spreadsheet in excel, which would list all of our clients in a list by the day of the week. So I would have a list, in driving order, of all of the Wednesday customers. When I completed the property, I would put the date next to the customer. By the end of the month, I would have all the dates the customer was serviced in the columns to the right of the customer.
This old, simple scheduling and billing technique can be downloaded here.
Nowadays, I use software called Service Autopilot– which is a much more streamlined and efficient solution.
In the beginning, we would mow lawns Tues-Friday, which, again, was determined by our customers’ requests. Most people wanted to be serviced at the end of the week, so their lawn would be freshly cut for the weekend. Typically, if we get rain, everything gets pushed back on day. Ie, Tuesday lawns get mowed on Wednesday, Wednesday lawns on Thursday, Thursday lawns on Friday, and Friday lawns on Saturday.
The only problem here, was that if we got rained out during the week, we would end up working Saturday. Not the end of the world, but what if we got rain two or more days in a week? We didn’t want to work Sundays too, so we would end up dragging the schedule out to the next week. Now, we ran into weird scheduling in that if the lawn is due to be mowed on Friday but we got rain and can’t get to it until Wednesday, so we mow it Wednesday and then again on Friday, or do we miss a mow? Sound confusing? It was.
Tips for a lawn care business: To solve this problem, borrowing the idea from another landscaper, we pushed the schedule back to Mondays, using Friday as a make up day. If we get rain during the week, no problem, we work Friday instead and still get the weekend. More than one day of week, maybe we work Saturday. But it rarely messed up the schedule into the next week. Just like telling our customers we would no longer do ten day mowing schedules, we had to tell them that we no longer mow on Fridays either. Did we lost a couple customers over it? Sure. Not a significant portion. And it made our scheduling flow much easier.
One Time Work
One time work refers to fall cleanups, spring cleanups, landscape installation projects, mulch, etc. Any work that is done once in a season and does not recur.
For this type of work, I would also keep a running tally in excel for the job and the time frame requested. We would fit these jobs in where the schedule allowed, usually on Fridays to fill the empty time slots when we were not mowing.
However, now, since we have grown to four crews, we have one crew that is dedicated to producing these more skill-based projects, and the other crews just do the mowing.
Invoicing Landscaping Work
After performing the estimate, I will offer my customers a couple of different billing options. The first and most popular option is to bill at the end of the month for services performed that month. The second option is to give them equal monthly bills, so they know what to expect.
For the most part, I will bill at the end of the month for services I performed that particular month. Billing does take a while (about three hours for 65 customers), so I try not to do it more often than I have to. It also costs
Some customers used to try to pay me at the door after we mow the lawn- I refuse to let them pay me that way for three reasons. postage and takes more record keeping, which is why I choose to bill once a month rather than more frequently.
- It is easy to lose the checks when you are on the job
- It is harder to keep track of and
- It slows you down waiting for them to write the check etc.
The second billing option I recently have begun to offer is breaking down the billing into even monthly payments. If they hire us for spring and fall cleanups, as well as aeration and lawn mowing, they don’t get slammed with a large bill the month of the service. Instead, I will add up the total cost of all the services they want, and divide this by 6 to come up with 6 easy monthly payment plan for them.