Scott Schwartz Mowing Inc. was right in the path of Hurricane Ian’s assault on Venice, Florida, last September. The slow-moving storm unleashed 130-mph wind gusts for seven hours and dumped over a foot of rain. As nerve-racking as the experience was, Scott Schwartz made the most of it.
“Our home is newer so it is hurricane-resistant,” Scott says, “so we just rode things out. In a strange way, it was kind of nice to have an excuse to just sit around drinking coffee all day.”
That is because Scott mows seven days a week. “I don’t have a choice because there are only so many yards I can get through in a day,” Scott says, adding that he and his three other mowing crews service around 320 properties.
Scott’s day of rest came and went, though. Then it was time to start cleaning up the mess Hurricane Ian left. Fortunately, Scott’s home didn’t have much damage. Neither did his mother’s. Scott Schwartz Mowing’s shop was also spared, which is remarkable considering how the business right next door had its doors ripped off.
Some of Scott’s other neighbors and customers weren’t so lucky. Many absorbed significant roof and water damage. The number of uprooted trees was way beyond counting. Water, mud, and debris were everywhere.
“It was really spooky the day after the storm,” Scott relates. “We have a bunch of Florida Oaks that have these small, hard leaves. With all the rain and wind we got, those leaves were all down. Everything was covered in this black, sooty kind of film.”
“Once things started to dry out a little, we put our mowers to the test,” Scott continues. “We were mulching up stuff I don’t think the Walker Mower was ever designed to handle, but it did. The yards we were going into were just incredible with the amount of leaves, twigs and other debris. We chopped it all up like there was no tomorrow. We had to keep sharpening blades, but we also had to keep going.”
Within a few weeks, things were looking pretty well back to normal, aside from the piles of brush and debris staged in front yards out by the road. But lawns began perking back up, and Scott Schwartz Mowing kept right on mulching.
Freshly-Cut Grass is Better than Paint Fumes
Scott Schwartz used to own an automotive custom paint and body business. He enjoyed fabricating and doing body work, but loved the artistic side of the business even more. Some of his work was even featured in a prominent publication.
Scott got out of that business when he moved to Florida in 2004 to be near his mother. Eight years later, Scott and his wife, Regina, decided to build a new home in a gated community. Their son, Devon, was four years old. Scott was working full-time for an exterior door company.
Once in their new home, Scott got a Lawn-Boy push mower so he could take care of the lawn. It wasn’t long before a few neighbors noticed what a nice job he was doing and asked Scott if he could mow their lawns, too. He enjoyed working in the yard, so he agreed.
Scott’s side mowing business soon grew to seven lawns with the opportunity to add several more. But he had a problem.
“Using my little push mower was absolutely killing me,” Scott relates. He knew he needed better, more productive equipment in order to keep up. He also knew he had an opportunity to turn his side hustle into a full-time business. After talking things over with his wife, the couple decided a career mowing lawns in Florida was worth pursuing. So Scott went in pursuit of a more productive mower. He found it by accident.
“I used to make deliveries on Casey Key, an island with a lot of multi-million-dollar homes,” Scott says. “I saw all of these Walker Mowers on all of these properties. I figured the Walker Mower had to be something special.”
After checking out some machines firsthand at an area dealership, Scott bought his first Walker in 2014, a B18.
“It changed my whole mowing world big time,” Scott says. “It’s crazy how you can handle everything with the tips of your fingers. I can mow a quarter inch away from stuff all day long. It’s just so precise. And the low center of gravity is a plus, too. I use the Big Tire Fork Kit on my mowers. I can handle some serious hills, get down in ditches, and really mow in some tough conditions like construction lots and pasture grass.”
Once he got his first Walker back in 2014, Scott started accepting all of those additional requests for service that had been coming in. Soon his account list grew from seven to 70, and before long, it was up to 100.
To keep up with the growth and continue chasing more of it, Scott quit his job at the door company. “It was scary at first,” Scott says. “But I had to do it so I could go to mowing full-time. My wife was totally behind me so I knew I could make it work. Still, going from a little $200 push mower to a brand-new Walker Mower was sort of a tough sell at first. I could have bought any riding mower that would have made me more productive. But I didn’t want to settle for less. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.”
Scott says it took a little while to get some growth momentum going. But once he got up to around 100 lawns, growth picked up quickly because Scott Schwartz Mowing started to become a household name. That’s when Scott started hiring employees and buying more Walkers. He purchased a B23i in 2017, another B23i in 2019, a B27i in 2020, and another B27i in 2021. He has four 42-inch mulching decks, a 48- inch and a 52-inch mulching deck, and a 56-inch side-discharge deck.
Scott has really taken a liking to the 52-inch mulching deck. As long as a property doesn’t have a narrow gate he needs to get through, he has found the 52 to still be very nimble, but much more productive. “I can put my 52 anywhere my guys are putting their 42s, and it always saves me a lot of time,” Scott points out.
One-person, One-Walker Crews
As pointed out earlier, Scott Schwartz mows seven days a week. He doesn’t expect that much from his employees, though. They mow five days a week. But boy, do they mow! Each of Scott’s four main Walkers is racking up 600 to 700 hours a year. His fifth mower, the original purchase, is kept as a backup.
Scott Schwartz Mowing runs four one-person mowing crews, one of which is Scott himself. Each mowing rig consists of a compact enclosed trailer, a Walker Mower and some handheld equipment. Each rig services 15 to 20 lawns per day. Scott says he likes to keep his mowing rigs focused on mowing, edging and blowing. That’s why he also has a separate two-person “cleanup crew” that handles shrub trimming, weeding, mulching and other detail-type work.
“We’ve found that one-person mowing rigs really help productivity,” Scott says. “In certain circumstances that might require more manpower, it’s easy to double-team a property if we have to. But for the most part, we like having one person service a property on their own.”
Scott also likes mixing up the routes once in a while. Yes, mowing the same properties over and over can help develop efficiencies. But mixing things up helps establish an extra degree of quality control and accountability because everyone is seeing each other’s work.
That’s not to say Scott Schwartz feels like he can’t trust his employees. It’s the exact opposite. He says he has the five best employees he could find, which makes running a fast-paced lawn maintenance business a lot easier.
On the day Walker Talk visited in early November, another storm watch was issued for the Venice, Florida area. Fortunately, Tropical Storm Nicole just ended up dumping a bunch of rain a couple of days later. “We were out mowing the very next day after the storm moved through,” Scott says. This time around, thankfully, all the Scott Schwartz Mowing crews had to deal with was some soggy grass.