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Business Lessons

Saturday, July 31, 2010

When I was 15 years old, I started a lawn mowing business with a good friend of mine. We had a mower, a weed eater, and a desire to make money. We were in business.

We started out by walking door-to-door in my neighborhood passing out flyers. The name of our business was "Mighty Mowers". I made a black and white flyer featuring two buffed guys mowing a lawn. I wasn't buffed then (nor am I now) but the idea of two buffed guys mowing lawns was sure to land us a bunch of accounts.

The flyers worked out really well and we started getting accounts. At first we would literally push our lawn mowers up and down the streets in our neighborhood, going from house to house cutting the grass. Soon, it became too much work and my Dad joined our operation as the driver. We put the mowers in the back of the truck and would drive to each house.

As our business started to pick-up, we needed to get a trailer. My friend's dad had an old trailer that we fixed-up and painted. The trailer had to be red because my Dad's truck was red... it was really cool. When I turned 16 my Dad officially retired from the business and I started driving to all our accounts. Our first year in business was very successful. We made a lot of money and were having fun!

The next year began much the same way. We made copies of the flyer and passed them out door-to-door. We had almost all the accounts from the first year. With good word-of-mouth (and my great flyer), we added more accounts to the route. We started to get really busy. My Dad came out of retirement and started helping us again. We also put a couple of our friends to work 3-4 days a week.

The money was rolling in. It was a great business. I continued to own and operate the business through the summer before college. Then, after my first year in college, I was too busy playing baseball to continue operations. So, I gave the business to my cousin. He ran the business for about 2 months. Ultimately, he lost all the accounts and Mighty Mowers went into history as a great business that was ruined because of bad customer service.

Looking back, I realize what an awesome business I had! It was all cash, the revenue was reoccurring, our customers loved the service and it was scaleable.

You might ask: "Why not start another lawn mowing service?" Well, I have thought hard about it. However, there's a number of reasons why I didn't do it again. When we first started Mighty Mowers there we only 3 or 4 lawn mowing companies in town. Now the competition is fierce. Today the licensing requirements are very strict. And, there's not really a competitive advantage. But the number one reason is the amount of competing lawn mowing companies. There are simply too many.

When you're looking to start a business, or buy a business, you need to look hard at the competition. If there are too many competitors--even it you're the best--it's harder to win.

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