More about GreenPal
2

Getting geared up

How to buy your lawn equipment
with little or no debt

Chapter

Now that we’ve established Mean Green Landscaping and have made it official,
it’s time to set yourself up with the equipment you’re going to need in order to
get the jobs done. Makes sense, right?

I’d like to point something out now before we get started.

It’s possible that you may already have some of the equipment you’re going to need for your business. You may have a mower, weed whacker, edger and even a leaf blower. Maybe you’ve even got yourself a truck. That’s great… but you’re going to want to get yourself your own set of dedicated commercial grade gear for your business.

Here’s why…

To best answer this, let’s go over a quick list of things you’re going to need in order to perform your lawn care tasks effectively:

  • Mower

  • Weed whacker

  • Edger

  • Leaf blower

  • Transportation for the gear like a 6 or 8 foot ramp trailer

  • A truck to pull the trailer

  • Extra fuel cans – one with two-stroke gas and oil mix for the
    trimming gear and one or two with pure gas for the mower

  • Protective clothing – gloves,
    headphones and rain gear

  • Mower

  • Weed whacker

  • Edger

  • Leaf blower

  • Transportation for the gear like a 6 or 8 foot ramp trailer

  • A truck to pull the trailer

  • Extra fuel cans – one with two-stroke gas and oil mix for the
    trimming gear and one or two with pure gas for the mower

  • Protective clothing – gloves,
    headphones and rain gear

Okay, sure… if you’ve already got a weed eater and a leaf blower you can certainly use these in the interim before you purchase the more reliable and heavy duty versions sold for commercial use. In the case of the mower, however… that’s a whole different story.

SIDE NOTE: My favorite brands of smaller equipment are and and for mowers are and

A critical key to you making money with your landscaping business is efficiency. It’s not enough to just get the job done, you want to get it done fast. If you’ve ever chased a Snapper 21” self-propelled bagging mower around a standard sized yard, then you know that a weekly mow can run well over an hour or even two once you factor in the trimming and continually emptying the stupid bag.

That’s not what the big boys use and for good reason. A quality commercial mower like those made by Scag with a 48” cut will dramatically cut down your mowing time. Like that pun?

Here is a good example of what I'm talking about...

Not only does the wider 52” cut chew up more grass than the standard 21” size of the traditional lawn mower, it has several other features that make your life easier.

For one, these babies are much faster. You can put your big Scag in high gear and would have to literally run behind it to keep up. (you’ll want to add on what's called a velky which a little thing you ride.)

So you can not only cut more than twice as much grass on a single pass, you can also cut it 2 or even 3 times as quickly.

Another big advantage of the commercial mower is the mulching feature. Rather than bag up grass clippings in a nylon bag that has to be emptied every fifteen minutes, the commercial mower chews it into tiny specs and just leaves it in the lawn. This can actually act as fertilizer and also eliminates the need for cleanup.

So imagine cutting your 100 by 75 foot lot with a 21" Snapper bagger. Even in high gear, with the constant dumping of clippings and even at higher speed, it's going to take you something like 90 minutes or so to cut that lawn.

With a 48" commercial mower, you can literally reduce your cut time by 5 times – maybe an 18 minute cut. If it takes you another 12 minutes to weed eat and edge and then to blow, you can easily do 2 of these lawns in an hour.

Also, the standard lot size for newer subdivisions is about 50 x 100 feet, and even alone you should be able to bang one of these out in 20 minutes. The whole idea is that you want to be able to do 10 to 15 lawns every day Monday through Friday. After all, if you recall, we’re after $5,000 a month take home pay.

How many lawns do you need to cut?

Btw... Google Calendar https://calendar.google.com/ is a great way to keep your schedule organized when you're getting started.

Let's pause for a moment and take a look at some numbers. If your goal is to make $5,000 a month, then we need to consider a couple of things.

First, that $5K figure is after taxes and expenses.

So let's say you need to make $7,000 each month in order to clear $5,000.

For the moment, I'm just plucking these numbers from air. As we move through the blueprint, we'll examine these figures in a bit more detail.

For now, let's also assume that you're able to bill your customer $140 per month to cut their lawn each week for their standard 5,000 square foot lot.

That's $35 per cut, which includes weed eating, edging and cleanup.

Okay, so if we're trying to get to a gross income of $7,000 per month,
then Mean Green has to do 200 cuts each month:

$35 x 200 cuts = $7,000

Okay, and if we figure about 30 minutes per cut, which includes the services and maybe a little driving time, then you're spending about 25 hours each week cutting your 50 weekly lawns. Not bad, right? I mean that's earning $60,000 take home pay each year working part time!

To make a point... Imagine if you were using a residential-grade mower? Even one with a big cut radius and quality engine? It still might take you 3 times as long. Hell, even if it took a little over twice as long, you're still looking at 50 – 60 hours per week… not so great now, is it?

And remember, you're running a business here. You've still got to put in 10 hours per week or so doing back office stuff, talking to customers, performing maintenance, yadda, yadda, yadda.

So obviously, it's in your best interest to get the right tools for the job.

T or F?

So now let's think about the old debate…

Buying new or buying used?

When it comes to equipment, the same logic that applies to buying a vehicle applies here too. You've probably always heard that it's better to buy a used car than a brand new car, right? There's a good reason for this.

When you buy a brand new $35,000 truck, let's say, two things happen.

  • 1

    You get a loan at X percent interest for Y years. Let's say 7% for 60 months. That means that by the time you pay the truck off, you'll have paid something like $55,000 in principle and interest.

  • 2

    The value of the truck drops by 30-40% as soon as you drive it away. So imagine that, you already owe $35K on something that's immediately only worth about $25K!

See how much money you can lose?

On the other hand, if you buy a truck that's maybe 2 or 3 years old, it's going to run you about $22,000. Yeah, with the same terms it's going to cost about $35K to pay it off, but when you drive the truck away, it's still worth $22K.

You give away less money in interest and your monthly payments are lower, for that matter.

This same logic applies to your equipment, too. Why buy a brand new Scag or Exmark mower when you can grab one that's a year or two old for half the money?

See what I mean here? Check out that price difference?

You might say, "well, Gene, it's true that used is cheaper, but it's easier to finance new and I don't have a ton of bread to get this baby rolling right now."

Okay, that's a point. However, there's always more than one way to skin a cat, and you don't have to go to your local Dodge, Ford or Chevy dealer and get money from them. There are lots of ways to raise cash, which we'll discuss later on.

Don't fall into the trap of taking on too much debt to start your new lawn care business

Obviously our goal here is to get Mean Green Landscaping, LLC up and running as quickly and for as little money as possible. We also want to limit your expenses as well. After all, if your goal is to take home $5,000 each month, then the less money that goes out to bills the better, because it means you can reach that goal sooner and with less effort.

Where to find good deals

When thinking about a work pickup truck, there are lots of places to shop around and find a good deal. That does include the dealerships, too. Most dealers will have pre-owned vehicles there you can pick up for a fair price.

The trick here is to find something that's both affordable and reliable. While you don't want to go after a brand new $40,000 quad cab, you also don't want a 1995 rustoleum special with 350,000 miles on it. Go after a truck that's between 2 and 4 years old and that's still in good shape. It should run well and look good as well.

After all, your image is important. If you look like a crappy low rent operation, people won't take you seriously. You can apply this rule of thumb to finding a trailer as well.

I mean… which one of these would you hire?

See what Im talking about...

Thanks to the internet, we've got a lot of options for locating great deals on equipment and even vehicles. Look on Craigslist, Ebay and Facebook's marketplace. You can also find deals for trucks, trailers and even whole lawn care setups.

Sure you may have to drive a dew hours to pick up the gear… but it's going to that that kind of hustle to get started without financing brand new equipment that's going to lose half its value in your first season.

Put another way… you cant afford to take that kind of hit when you're first getting rolling in the lawn mowing business.

Some commercial mower dealers will have pre-owned equipment too. However, you're probably going to find what you're looking for in the suggestions above. Again, be cautious. You want something that's more on the gently used side as opposed to the rode hard and put away wet category.

As for the small equipment, you're probably going to want to get brand new here. These items don't cost a whole lot and they get pretty abused, so you might as well start with brand new Echo, Stihl, or Shindaiwa equipment.

Operational expenses

Another factor we need to talk about, and we'll do a bit more in the bookkeeping chapter, is your weekly / monthly expenses. In particular, you're running a bunch of lawn equipment and it all needs gas and oil.

How much is going to depend on how much work you're doing. While there is a lot of driving involved in running a landscaping business, it's not long distance driving. As you get more in tune with your customers and where they live, you'll be able to set up a mowing schedule that takes advantage of geography also known as route density.

You want to schedule each day so that you travel the smallest distance to cut the maximum number of lawns. This is one reason why we're going to talk about cultivating new leads in neighborhoods you already work in when we get to the marketing chapter.

Let's figure for now that between your truck, mower and hand held equipment, you're burning through about 50 gallons of gas each week. Just for the sake of example, let's say that gas is $2.50 a gallon.

So…

50 gal. X $2.50 = $125 per week

Or to put it in terms of monthly expenses…

$125 x 4.3 = $580

Why did I multiply by 4.3? Well, because there aren't exactly 4 weeks in a month. It averages out to about 4.3. You can also do it like this:

$125 x 52 / 12 = $580

So if you're ever figuring out a budget and want to know what you're really spending on a monthly basis based on a weekly bill, this is how you get an accurate answer.

One other thing... Your equipment is also going to need routine serving, oil changes, blade sharpening etc. The good news is that this is not as big of a deal when you are getting started as it matters more when you mowing over 20-30 lawns a week. So that said... We will dive into your equipment maintenance routine in the next intermediate guide. For now... We are concentrating on getting rolling from scratch.

So let's review what we know so far…

Chapter Review

When purchasing big ticket items like your truck, trailer and mower, it's best to buy pre-owned. Purchase these things in good condition because you want both reliability and to appear as a quality company.

Buy weed eaters, edgers and blowers new. They're not that a expensive as the big and you get what you pay for here.

So where are we in terms of the money you need to spend? If we take the example figure above of getting your truck, trailer and mower combo for $22,000 and add it to the paperwork costs, here's where you stand right now:

  • $22,000 equipment cost

  • $1,050 setup cost

  • Total cash needed so far: $23,050

But we should also look at your monthly costs, too. After all, that's what we have to subtract from your gross earnings to get to that $5,000 take home pay, right?

So far, we've got $150 per month in insurance and $580 in gas. Yet what about that $22K? That must come with a monthly payment, too, right?

Well, if we figured that $48,000 was the cost of everything brand new and we also figured that would cost you about $700 per month.

So let's figure that the $22,000 is going to run you about $350.

So…

  • $150 in auto insurance

  • $580 in fuel

  • $20 in oil for the small engines

  • $350 loan payment

  • Your total monthly expenses:

    $1,100

What's that mean? It means that you have to earn $6,100 each month in order to take home that $5,000.

Or to put it another way, at $35 per cut, you need to cut at least 180 lawns each month.

Not bad, right? We already talked about doing 200 part time.

Of course… there's a catch. There's always a catch, right?

There are more expenses to be factored in. We've got to actually get these customers, after all. And on top of that… you have to pay taxes, too. We'll get more into that later, though.

For now, let's move on to chapter 3 and talk about how to attract the first 20 customs Mean Green is going to need to get rolling!