Growing A Lawn-Care Business

by Rich Bradley on March 24, 2010

We had an interesting guest on our radio show today ( who gave us some insight into growing a business.

Ok, maybe I should choose a word other than “grow” since our guest — Adam Horning — owns a lawn-car business. The reason I think Adam’s story is inspiring not just because he has managed to grow (there’s that word again!) a business in these troubled times, but he’s managed to do all this in a rather crowded, you-can-do-it-yourself business.

If you think about the lawn care business, it’s really pretty simple. In fact, almost anyone can do it. All it takes is a mower, an edger and some time (and according to my neighbor, the perfect time to cut his lawn is at 8 a.m on a Saturday…but I digress). Anyway, Adam started his business after getting out of college and earned a whopping total of $13,000 his first year as the lone employees.

Five years later, his billings are closing in on $1 million a year, and employs up to 35 people during the summer months. Now, you can credit all of this to an incredibly strong work ethic (which he has, no doubt!), but Adam has a lot more than that going for him.

First, Adam knows the power of marketing. He told our audience that he was constantly making and distributing flyers touting his business. He also would make point out his strengths (or his competitor’s weaknesses) on those flyers. How did he find out those piece of info? Simply by asking!

His customers told him things that his competitors didn’t do well — returning calls, leaving the area clean when they were finished, etc. — and his flyers made a point of saying those are things he did. “All Calls Returned”, “We Clean Up After Ourselves”, etc. Pretty brilliant stuff.

The second thing that Adam said was helpful in his growth was establishing a employee handbook and manual — before he even had employees! The procedures in his book are based on each experience that either he or his employees has had. The thinking behind this was so that any time something happened, there would be a frame of reference in writing for the next time it happened.

The example he gave was a rock going through a window. If that were to happen, he wouldn’t have to deal with a panicked employee wondering how to handle the situation. Instead, the situation and solution were already in writing, so the on-site manager knew exactly what to do.

In case you’re curious, the manual is now 243 pages. And growing.

If you’re interesting in learning more about Adam, go to

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