8 Ways Lawn Care Businesses Can Stay Afloat in the Off SeasonLandscapers from across the country offer their solutions to keep cash flowing when grass stops growing.
No matter how busy owners of lawn care businesses may be in spring and summer, they know a down time is coming.
Chances are you’ve devised your own revenue-generating strategies to survive the winter — but there may be some ideas you’ve missed. Here are solutions other lawn care businesses have found to keep revenue flowing when the days become short, the air turns cold and the grass stops growing.
Arbor-nomics, a lawn care service in Norcross, Georgia, requires an annual contract based on seven visits seven weeks apart. “The contract covers 49 weeks and is great because you’ve got cash flow year round,” said CEO and president Richard Bare.
For small lawn mowing companies, creating a program of year-round contract-based services “will make the difference between making it and not making it,” said Bare. Whether those services are applying pre-emergents, pruning or snow or ice removal, they need to provide real value. “If you’re just blowing leaves and trying to look busy, people will quit the service in the winter.”
Chelsea Gardens in Lawrenceville, Georgia, does 12 months’ same payment, according to co-founder Jamey Whitaker. An annual residential contract features 42 visits and includes weed control of beds and hardscapes, shrub and tree maintenance and edging in addition to mowing. With 42 visits, customers are billed some months when crews aren’t out. But the equal payments make it easy for homeowners to budget the cost of the service.
Spacing of applications
Environmental Turf Management, Inc., in Loganville, Georgia, spreads lawn applications across 12 months. “Even though some customers may be finished before December, others may not finish until late December or early January,” said co-owner Laura Kurt. Of course this strategy won’t work in colder climates.
“For areas that get lots of snow and ice, salting, snow plowing or snow shoveling are great, easy ways to earn revenue,” said Bill Hausbeck, North Division vice president for TruGreen in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Winter is also an excellent time to talk to current customers about securing a contract for the following year, he added.
Something a bit more outside the box could be helping clients hang holiday lighting and install yard displays or even delivering and setting up Christmas trees, noted Hausbeck.
Installing holiday lights and decorations are also among the off-season services recommended by Ryan Farley, co-founder and chief operating officer of LawnStarter Lawn Care, a startup based in Austin, Texas, that connects consumers with lawn care professionals. Others include removing leaves, applying pre-emergents and conducting winter pruning.
Another strategy at Environmental Turf Management, Inc., is to reallocate some technicians to the warehouse, where they rebuild or refurbish company trucks under the supervision of a chief mechanic. This keeps employees working and heads off maintenance problems during the busy growing season.
It’s been so successful that co-owner Kurt is considering offering the service to other companies as a way to generate additional revenue. Small lawn care companies could use the same model to provide mower and small equipment repairs and service.
Bed work and other winter projects
Jim Mumford, owner of Quality Landscape Services in Loganville, Georgia, stays busy in cold weather because in the summer he makes a list of winter projects for each property. In the fall, he shows the property owner the list. They almost always give him an OK to proceed, he said. His winter project list can include creating new beds or improving old ones, building/repairing hardscapes and moving trees and shrubs.
Small operators whose basic services are cutting, edging and blowing can keep revenue coming in winter by expanding into other landscape services. Don’t have those skills? Don’t panic, said Mumford — this is the time of year when plenty of good help is available.
“There are a lot of experienced planters looking for work because the bigger companies don’t need as many people in winter,” said Mumford. How does he find these workers? By word of mouth from others in the business and by keeping a list of people he’s used through the years.
One way some companies in the Rocky Mountains stay busy is by providing services that help homeowners get grass, trees, and shrubs through the notoriously dry winters. “Some of the ways that we generate revenue during the winter months, especially in the frigid Colorado weather, is by focusing on winter watering services and winter tree care,” said Laura Simis, an inbound specialist at American Turf and Tree Care in Greeley, Colorado.
“We also work with a digital marketing agency year-round, and in the winter they focus on generating qualified leads through organic Google search results and AdWords advertisements.”
Discounts for prepayment
Offering discounts in colder regions has proven effective for Weed Man USA, which has 450-plus locations.
“For Weed Man owners in the Northern climates, we recommend to our owners that they offer customers 10 percent discounts in the fall in exchange for paying for a year’s worth of service,” said chief operating officer Jennifer Lemcke. In the spring, that discount slides to 7 percent.
“We have found that 15 percent of customers take advantage of the fall discount and about that many sign up in the springtime. By the time we set foot on the lawn, we’re close to 30 percent of customers that will prepay for our services.”