Eliseo Mauricio, owner of Mauricio Lawn & Landscape Maintenance in Amarillo, Texas, learned the proper way to mow lawns at a young age. He helped out in his father’s lawn maintenance business for a whopping $40 a month. “As a kid, that seemed like a lot of money,” Eliseo relates.
More importantly, Eliseo got to work with his dad. He was also able to discover how much he enjoyed working outside and making people happy by making their lawns look beautiful.
Eliseo had a second passion, though: math. Much like how he and his father “spread the joy” of having an enviable lawn, Eliseo wanted to spread the joy of math. “Well, at least as much as the average person can find math to be joyful,” Eliseo says with a grin.
After mowing lawns with his father through high school, Eliseo decided to attend college. He continued mowing while earning his degree in mathematics. Upon graduation Eliseo became a high school math teacher, but he continued mowing a handful of lawns for a little extra money.
“I was a teacher for 10 years,” Eliseo points out. “My side mowing business started with around five customers. Then it grew to 10. My intention was to keep it there, but then I decided to just let things go where they wanted to go. Right around the mark of 30 customers, I decided that I wanted to go ahead and take the plunge and do this full-time.”
That was 2017. Today Mauricio has roughly 60 customers, primarily average-size residential lots he can service in 30 to 45 minutes. “I do have one commercial property,” Eliseo adds. “It’s a warehouse. The only reason I do it is because the owner is one of my residential customers. I’ve tried getting into some commercial work, but my bid was always too high. But like I’ve told my wife, Adriana, I’d rather be too high and not get the job than be the lowest and not be able to do a good job.”
Following the Pattern to Success
For his first several years in business, Eliseo worked alone and preferred it that way. Over the past couple of years, however, he has started to evolve his mindset.
“As I’ve been full-time in business for five years now, I’ve realized that I don’t need to keep all of the money to myself,” Eliseo says. “What good is having all of this money if you’re too exhausted to do anything after work? Working so much was definitely starting to affect my health, and that was starting to affect my wife and three daughters.”
As nice as it has been to have a seasonal helper these past couple of years, Eliseo stresses the fact that he will only hire someone he can count on to uphold the same standards he obsesses about. It is those high standards that have helped build a business without any advertising. Eliseo’s truck and trailer have no branding. He doesn’t even have business cards. Everything happens through word of mouth and from people seeing the work he does on neighboring lawns.
“I take a lot of pride in what I do and don’t want to just mow,” he says. “I think that is what has added to my customer base. My customers all expect and value quality, and are very kind and loyal. Proper weeding and edging play a part in that. But one thing a lot of customers don’t know much about are the patterns I put down on their lawns. I alternate four different patterns: parallel to the house, perpendicular to the house and two diagonals. Customers just love the way that looks, especially the ones who are big baseball fans. This machine (Walker Mower) is awesome at putting down those stripes.”
To help keep things straight, every lawn gets the same pattern every week. When Eliseo gets on a property, it’s not unusual for him to spend a few minutes looking for the stripes left behind from the last time he mowed that pattern. If the sun isn’t shining just right and he can’t find them, he just starts over. Either way, the customer gets the gorgeous checkerboard pattern that prompted them to hire Eliseo in the first place.
Amarillo is a really hot, windy environment. Eliseo says the lawns he mows are all well-irrigated. They are also well-fertilized, often by Eliseo himself.
“A good 85% of my customers have me do both the mowing and fertilizing,” Eliseo says. “Most of the products I use are granular. I have a spreader attachment for my Walker that I like to use, if possible. My Mondays and Fridays are usually a bit lighter. That’s when I like to set up my Walker with the spreader. This past spring was unusually rainy, though, and I was often playing catch-up. So then I just put a walk-behind spreader in my trailer and do the applications that way. One thing I’ve learned in business is that you have to learn to adapt.”
Adept at Adapting
Speaking of adapting, the scorching Amarillo climate can even be punishing for someone who grew up in Texas. Eliseo has become regimented about chugging a liter of water every time he arrives at a property. He has also taken a liking to his back-vented, long-sleeve polyester shirts with UV protection that keep him cooler and safer on the job while looking professional.
Eliseo is also learning to adapt to scorching gas prices. When asked what impact that has had on profitability this year, the mathematics maestro pulls out his smartphone, swipes the screen a couple of times and says, “It looks like fuel is running about 5.5% of sales so far. Not the end of the world.”
One thing that has helped is the move to battery-powered handheld equipment. Eliseo even has a battery-powered 21-inch push mower for those few times his Walker Mower can’t squeeze through an especially narrow gate.
“I invested in battery equipment two years ago,” Eliseo tells. “We haven’t had any problems. I have plenty of backup batteries on the trailer. The only time we had an issue was when I forgot to recharge the batteries overnight. Just to be safe, I do keep some gas-powered tools on the trailer as a backup. But we’ve had a lot of success with battery, aside from the debris blower. To really move a lot of debris, especially leaves, we stick with a gas-powered backpack blower for the extra power.”
Going forward, Mauricio is hopeful that he won’t forget to charge batteries overnight. In fact, he’s hopeful that he won’t even have to try and remember. He has recently invested in a kit to install solar charging panels on top of his enclosed trailer. This will allow him to recharge batteries right on the trailer at the job site, all while he is manicuring those four-pattern lawns with his Walker.
To be specific, Eliseo has more than one Walker. The first one he purchased was a Model C back in 2010 while mowing part-time. He bought his next machine, a Model T, a few years later to get a little more horsepower. Two years ago he bought a Model B and began adding mulching into his repertoire.
“There are a lot of contractors with Walker Mowers in this area and most do a lot of bagging,” he says. “Bagging always leaves a really good quality. But in the summer when things start slowing down a bit, I’ve started mulching. Customers really like the look that it is leaving. A lot of customers can’t even tell the difference. That’s a testament to the quality product Walker is putting out there. At the same time, I’m able to provide a good product, too, because I’m able to return some of those nutrients back into the lawn at a time when it is hottest and the lawn can get the most stressed.”
“Stressed” is a word that owner/operators like Eliseo Mauricio can come to know all too well.
“My wife still thinks I work way too much,” Eliseo says. “But really, I’m just blessed. My wife has supported every decision I’ve made. The only thing that held me back from going full-time sooner was the income. I was making pretty good money as a math teacher. We knew the income from mowing would eventually be there, just not right away. That’s why it was so important that we go into this business debt-free. We sold everything and have been living the RV life for a few years while we build our new house. We’re 80% of the way there. We are just so blessed.”
In Amarillo, that math of mowing lawns has definitely added up for this entrepreneur.