Strong systems, organized records, and documentation can help keep your lawn maintenance business running smoothly. Today we’re talking about estimates, agreements, and contracts, as well as the importance of trust.

Hey Clippers! Dave Tucker here with a little Paperwork 101. We’re going to talk about the purposes and differences between certain types of documents that you’ll share with your lawn maintenance customers. You don’t need a legal degree to understand how all these things work, but you do need a little background to get started.

Lawn maintenance estimates

Last week, we talked about one of my favorite strategies for finding new customers: the $20 first-time cut. So let’s say someone takes you up on your offer, and you cut their grass. Now what?

Here’s what’s so great about the $20 first-time cut: Now that you’ve actually cut their grass, you know how big the yard is, how long it takes to mow, how much time you have to spend cleaning up toys and hoses and whatnot before you get started. In other words, you have all the information you need to calculate a fair price for your lawn maintenance services and write up an estimate.

An estimate is a document that tells your customer how much you would charge for a certain job. As long as you put “Estimate” or “Proposal” at the top of the document, it’s not legally binding. It’s just information for your customer to consider and makes it easy for them to get in touch if they want to hire you.

Here’s what your estimate should include:

  • Logo and contact information for your lawn maintenance business
  • Your customer’s name and address
  • The amount you are estimating for the job and any information about payment plan options
  • Any additional notes about extra services, caveats, etc.

Lawn maintenance contracts and agreements

The first thing to note: I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t pretend to be. It’s never a bad idea to consult briefly with an actual lawyer on this subject. But I’m going to share what I do know about lawn maintenance paperwork.

Unlike an estimate, a contract is a legally binding document between two parties: your lawn maintenance business and your customer. As a result, contracts come with many liabilities, very little wiggle room, and the possibility, however remote, that you could end up in court if something doesn’t go according to plan.

In my opinion, there’s not much need for contracts in the beautiful business. They’re more intense than is necessary.

I prefer to conduct business with agreements. An agreement is a document that actually has the word “AGREEMENT” across the top, in big letters. It’s like a contract in that it creates a record of what each party is agreeing to—services rendered, amount to be paid, etc.—but with more room for modification. So, for example, you can stop doing lawn maintenance work, or your customer could stop paying, and you’d be pretty safe from legal action.

In my experience, agreements are more than enough to get the job done and keep everybody happy. Here’s a simple example.

A note about trust in the lawn maintenance business

The whole point of contracts and agreements is keeping people honest and making sure they do what they said they’d do. And, of course, you need these documents to protect your business. But it’s just as important to do work with honest people.

Let me tell you a short story: One of my employees went out and sprayed five lawns with what he thought was fertilizer. Turns out it was Roundup. It was an honest mistake, but as I’m sure you can guess, every single one of those lawns was wrecked, and it was our fault.

We decided to call up those five customers, tell them what happened, apologize, and offer to replant their lawns in the spring for free. Now, those customers would have been well within their rights to be upset with us, and perhaps they were. But they also appreciated our honesty and our offer to fix the mistake, and we were able to keep them as customers. Why? Because we did the right thing and earned their trust.

At the end of the day, a beautiful business is best when you work with honest, trustworthy people. You want to find customers who are a good fit for your lawn maintenance business. If you do good work, keep your promises, and trust your gut, you’ll attract good people, and your beautiful business will grow.