The best way to grow a lawn maintenance business is to start thinking like a big company even when you’re still small.

Hey Clippers! Dave Tucker here to talk about business growth and the mindset behind it. As you know, I’m all in favor of starting small. I love telling the story about my nephew, James, who started his business with a borrowed mower at the age of 11, before he could even drive!

But the most beautiful thing about the beautiful business is the freedom it gives you when it grows.

First, let’s talk a little business terminology

Two guys named Michael E. Gerber and Anthony C. Bass wrote a book called The E-Myth Landscape Contractor. In that book, they define the  three levels of being your own boss:

  • A job. You work for yourself, by yourself. It’s just you.
  • A business. You work for yourself and have a few employees.
  • An enterprise. You work for yourself and have employees at multiple offices. An enterprise can be limited to a single county or spread worldwide.

When you first start out mowing lawns, you’re going to be at the Job level. And what a great place to be! There’s a lot of fun and freedom to be had in working for yourself. But when you’re at that level, you’re only earning money when you’re doing the work. And my vision for you is to get to a point where you can keep earning even when you step away.

Leveling up to a business

There are three things necessary to reach that second level:

  • Employees. You need reliable, responsible people to get the work done when you’re not around.
  • Systems. You can’t get by with spreadsheets and sticky notes forever. And as your business grows, you can’t handle every little thing on your own. Good software will take your operations to the next level and handle the details for you so you can handle growth with grace—and without getting overwhelmed.
  • Mindset. Let’s dig into this one a bit…

The right mindset to grow a lawn maintenance business

If you’re going to successfully grow your lawn maintenance business, you’ve got to get your head on straight first. You can’t just fly by the seat of your pants. I’m going to share a few key mindset principles to get you started on the right foot.

Don’t grow in order to make a profit. Make a profit, then grow. 

In other words, if you can’t manage to turn a profit now, you need to focus on that before you grow. Scaling isn’t going to magically change your business model. There are three things you need to know to make money and profit.

Stick to what you know

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Mow, blow, and go. Saying yes to every specialty job leads to a world of hurt. You’ll spend a ton of time quoting complex projects. You’ll end up buying a bunch of fancy equipment that you rarely use. You might not have employees who can do the work, or you’ll need to train people. It’s a mess. Keep your service menu simple and straightforward, so your business can run smoothly.

Know your customer

You should have a crystal clear picture in your head of who your ideal customer is. This will make it much easier for you to keep your eye on the ball.

Know your boundaries

Boundaries are important in many contexts, but in this one, I mean it literally. You should know the exact geography of your target clients and focus all your marketing in that area only. If you spend a ton of time driving to far-away jobs, you’re going to lose money, so don’t say yes to stuff outside your boundaries. This is another place where your software is going to come in handy: CLIP can help you plan the most efficient routes.

A word of caution

Do not go into debt if you can help it. Let’s say you decide the beautiful business isn’t for you and you’re ready to shut down. If you have no debt, you can do this quickly and painlessly. Just inform your customers, maybe sell your equipment, and go on with your life. But if you owe money, you’re still on the hook to pay that down. And if you do stay in business, that debt is just going to slow down your growth. Make smart decisions and grow sustainably.

If you can master these business basics, you’re well on your way to growing a lawn maintenance business that can run without you.