It’s the end of May, prime season for lawn care companies, and we’re five months into our small business adventure where we are running an organic lawn and yard care business called Whole Yards. Here in Colorado our lawns are finally turning green (if they’re not greening up yet, they’re not going to be green). I’ve been at this try-out-being-a-small-business-owner since January and I’m starting to get the hang of it. I’m figuring out what I like and also what I don’t like about “controlling my own destiny” (to borrow an overused phrase from the NFL playoff commentators).
Here’s what’s going well:
- I love my customers. They are smart, savvy, kind, caring people. Probably because our lawn business is an organic lawn business, I have some customers who see the world the way I do. Most of them aren’t overly concerned about a few weeds here and there. One of them is even happy to leave the dandelions on her lawn for the bees until some other flowers start blooming, so that the bees have a source of nectar in the early spring. These are the kind of people I like to be around and I’m happy to work for.
- I am doing something that makes a difference. I’m getting lawns off of conventional fertilizer, I’m educating people about how and why to make the switch to organic. I’m making the world a better, cleaner place. For me, that’s almost as good as life gets.
- I’m gaining confidence in a random variety of areas. I now feel comfortable around small engines (like the kind that runs our spray pump). I also know how to manage my customers’ information in my CRM software. I’m getting better at using spreadsheets (always a weakness of mine). I feel confident in my ability to diagnose most common lawn problems (it’s all about the soil, friends). Also, I can figure out how to get in and out of most driveways without getting the truck stuck in reverse (which it is prone to). It’s amazing what you learn when you are running every aspect of a business – any business, I’m sure.
Here’s what I’m not thrilled about:
- In order to make money in this business, I need to triple the number of customers I currently have (or raise the prices so high that I’d be embarrassed to send out an invoice). If I triple my customers, I won’t be able to spend as much time as I currently do with each customer and I won’t be able to do the thorough job that I think my customers deserve. I’d hire someone to help but, as all business owners know, nobody is going to treat my customers and their lawns the way that I do. Plus there’s that part about paying an employee… Some people have encouraged me to find a business partner. It’s a great solution, but only if I really love what I’m doing, which brings me to number two.
- The amount of time I spend on the lawn business takes away from what I really love – writing and being creative. Working on this dresser a few weeks ago was such a liberating creative release at exactly the time that I needed it. I don’t feel like myself without the opportunity to be creative and I’m really missing that.
- I’m beginning to think of summers as the only extended time that I’ll be able to travel with my kids. They’re getting older (Brynn is starting middle school in the fall) and they won’t be able to miss school without consequences like they have in the past. Unfortunately, summer is also an important time to be around if you’re running a lawn business. I can’t be an absentee business owner. I’m too controlling and too much of a perfectionist, and not in ways that I think I need to change. Not in overbearing ways, but in ways that ensure that my customers get what they deserve.
That’s where I am for now. Mixed feelings for sure, but learning a lot at the same time. And learning is always something I’m happy to do.