ASK AN MBA: Starting a Lawn Care Company

ASK AN MBA: Lawn Care Company

I want to start my own lawn care company (grass cutting, leaf removal, snow removal etc.). Any guidance on how I can get started?

- Ricky L.

Here’s what I would do to get your business started with minimal investment

First, many people underestimate the importance of having DIRECT experience in someone else's business, which will save you time, money and headaches when you start your own company. 

"Learning on someone else's dime" is the best way for you to see how they run their operations. As I'm sure you know, there are multiple facets to EVERY business which go beyond the actual work you perform. So learn about their marketing efforts, how they interact with customers, how they keep their books, etc. -- keep mental notes about anything you can observe, including their mistakes and how you would do things different.

So if you aren’t doing it already, get a job working for an established lawn care company. Do that for at least 6 months. You will dramatically increase your odds of success if you do this. And If none are hiring, volunteer to do a few jobs for free with no strings attached. Its short-term financial pain, but in the long run its invaluable experience. And ASK QUESTIONS.

Of course, make sure that company you volunteer for isn’t in the area you want to start your lawn care business -- because if you take any of his customers, it will be messy and that's not how you want to start a business.

Next, do your friends and neighbors lawns for half the price of what someone normally charges them. Ask to use THEIR lawn equipment. – DO NOT BUY YOUR OWN. If someone doesn’t have equipment, ask another customer to borrow theirs for a day for a small rental fee. 

If you have to, rent equipment for a while. You do not want to commit to a huge capital expense without first building a decent customer base.

Next, we recommend going out and getting a few t-shirts made with your company name e.g. "Gary's Lawn Service". There are many websites that will make customer tees for you for less than $20 (vistaprint is one we've used) . You don’t need a fancy logo or fancy print. The branded tee is just enough to show your customers that you are serious about this. And it's a good marketing/awareness tool for your business. And if you can come up with a cool slogan for the shirt even better. Off the top of my head: "We'll give your lawn a kick in the grass".

When you build up some goodwill with customers (hard to say when that is exactly, but if you are seeing regular work after a couple of months with a particular client, you probably have it), then politely ask them for recommendations, which they can write on Yelp or Angie's List. Send them an email with a link and don't be shy about following up. Just say you'd appreciate if they could take less than 5 minutes to endorse you. Every online endorsement is like gold.

When you reach the point of goodwill , then you will see that customers will recommend you to friends and family. The ultimate aim for any small business is word-of-mouth marketing. It's free and you have a trusted bridge built for you that doesn't come with cold calling for jobs

Before you know it, you will build a customer base.  Don’t wait any longer. Go out and get it!


ask an mba


Evan Hoffman4 Posts

Evan is a Columbia Business School MBA and sales executive who's sold over 25 million dollars of technology services in is his career. Evan has expertise in sales, marketing, and leadership development.


  • TommyGun

    Mon, 12/12/2016 - 09:16

    Good lessons here in not spending $ before you make $.

  • Lucy

    Mon, 12/12/2016 - 09:27

    Agree. I made that mistake before. All about testing things and keeping costs down.