A drive through Holmes County, Ohio, about 1-1/2 hours south of Cleveland, will turn up all sorts of interesting sights. This Mecca of tourism will introduce visitors to one of the largest Amish settlements in the country and an attendant array of shops and restaurants, enough to keep even the most avid visitors busy all day. What the locals can't provide is bestowed by Mother Nature, a geography of beautifully rolling hills and steep valleys.
There are differences- manufacturers produce a product (a machine in our case) and landscape maintenance contractors primarily deliver service, yet many aspects of business development, operation and management are the same. The similarity is particularly striking when it comes to the kind of customers that are the foundation of the business and are highly sought after as the most necessary ingredient to starting and sustaining a business. Here's the kind of customers we both want:
John Allin, president of Allin Companies, Erie, Pennsylvania, shrugs his shoulders when asked how his maintenance division is doing. "Last year, I would have told you not so well," he relates. After suffering through what the owner considered to be several sub par seasons on the maintenance side, Allin Companies wiped the slate clean and this year started over again, with new people and a new attitude. The results have been encouraging. Profits are up and employee attitude is better all around.
For Liz and Grant Monette in Guelph, Ontario and Bessie and Mike Krsovan in nearby Waterloo, being married is more than sharing a life, it's sharing an occupation, too. Both couples operate landscaping companies.
When you've been in business only four years and you're looking grow, what's the best form of advertising? Mike Stegner, owner of Image Lawn and Landscape, Belton, Missouri, believes it's the work you do. In the "show me" state, seeing is believing. When prospective clients pass by Image properties, Stegner wants them to see the best. And they do.
For people starting out in lawn maintenance, and even for veteran professionals, one of the biggest hurdles is figuring job costs. Oftentimes, it's a Catch 22: You can't bid accurately until you know your costs, but you can't determine the costs until you get the job.