Lawn care

Supplement - Profit Boost Guide

Going into lawn care with a plan – and a general interest in the practice – is the best way to assure a healthy profit.

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March 17, 2011

Of all the ways to add lawn care to a landscape maintenance company’s service mix, Maurice Dowell doesn’t recommend trial-and-error.

Dowell, president of Dowco Enterprises near St. Louis, basically felt this way when he first started offering the service more than 20 years ago as part of his one-man operation.

He quickly realized that licensure and a plan were essential to his operations.

As Dowell surmised, it can be a real business booster to add lawn care to the service mix to become a full-service operation. But to really excel at the service, it helps if you truly enjoy the work and understand that it’s a different animal than turf maintenance. 

“Lawn care is huge because it isn’t just turf,” Dowell says. “It’s trees, shrubs, feeding, the IPM (integrated pest management) aspect, proper advising of watering times and soil. Lawn care encompasses a lot.”

Find lawn care technicians who are interested in the work and are willing to stay up on continuing education credits, Dowell adds. On the business end, treat it like any other service offering and have a strategy to maximize results.

“It’s not any different than any (other) profit center,” Dowell says. “There’s certain equipment you need, but there is for every service you offer.

You need crews, but it’s like that for everything. You know what your goals are; you know what your objectives are. Just go out there.”

If you’re already offering lawn care services, there are always ways to step it up. Start by taking stock of your current situation, Dowell says. Look to the portion of the client base that isn’t using the service.

“That is your first opportunity,” he says. “Sell to them. We always believe in retention. Let’s solidify those relationships.”

Upsells are a big part of continuing to grow profits with existing clients, he adds. And to garner new customers, Dowell advocates communication and outreach.

“Ask for referrals. Those things will garner you market share and make you extremely profitable,” he says.

Dowco also does a lot of knocking on people’s doors. The company uses a marketing system called the Haines & Co. Criss+Cross directory.

The idea is to focus efforts on small regions – such as subdivisions – where the company already does well.

It’s also vital to keep tabs on bid versus actual cost, Dowell adds. How much product is supposed to go down, and how much actually does? How many man hours does it take to do a route? Dowco personnel monitor these numbers daily.

“Manage what you measure,” he says. “It’s about watching numbers. Let people know you’re watching, put them in charge and make them accountable for what they do, and you’ll get results.”