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Features - Formulas for Success

Mike Stewart, Jr., is already tuned into winter weather forecasts for 2013.

December 5, 2012
Lawn & Landscape Staff

Mike Stewart, Jr., is already tuned into winter weather forecasts for 2013. It wouldn’t take much for the conditions to be better for his business than earlier this year, which brought a cold “drought” to much of the country, including the Columbus, Ohio, area where Stewcare services commercial clients.

Crews went out a handful of times to plow snow. And right out of the gate, 2012 revenues were way down. To top that off, at hot and dry summer slowed down mowing crews from their usual cut cycle to servicing clients every two to four weeks.

Stewart’s No. 1 goal for 2013 – a goal he sets for every year, actually – is to simply better the revenues from the previous year. “Coming off of a season like this, I don’t think that will be hard to do as long as we get the weather,” he says, noting a 17-percent decrease in revenues in 2012 compared to 2011 as of October. That number actually looks 3-5 percent better than it did before fall services kicked in and gave the company a shot of business.

But as Stewart says, much of his goal for 2013 depends on what winter 2013 will bring. He’s read good things (for snow guys anyway) – snowfall, cold temperatures, icy salting conditions. “That would help us recover from 2012 and get us going on the right foot in 2013, hopefully moving us toward my big goal in 2013.” That goal: To add a fourth two-man cutting crew to his team. This requires approximately a $50-60,000 investment in two reliable workers, two commercial mowers, a truck, trailer, string trimmers and edgers, and other tools. Most of all, it means Stewart needs to attract more business.

As for increasing sales, Stewart says efforts to ramp up the company’s website and social media presence have paid off with incoming phone calls.

Then there’s the investment in adding the crew – and Stewart has figured a way to make this happen by summer 2013, he hopes. Generally, the company retires one of its mowers at the end of each season. The machine is refurbished and sold, and proceeds go toward purchasing a replacement. But the commercial cutter that’s up for retirement still has a lot of life left in it, so Stewart wants keep this machine in service. “That will get us one step closer to having four crews,” Stewart says.

Meanwhile, fall services have been a success thanks to a core aerator the company purchased in 2012. Stewart wants to expand this service with the addition of that new mower and an aerator attachment for that machine. “That makes us more versatile and able to do more aerating,” he says.

Reaching these goals will depend largely on weather, Stewart says. And you can’t control what nature brings. But Stewart has set realistic goals. “You have to start small and work your way up,” he says of the way Stewcare has grown during its 35 years in business. “I’d stress patience.”