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Business Owners & Managers

When to Drop a Lawn Care Client

Running a lawn care business efficiently demands more than sturdy equipment, experienced staff, and careful bookkeeping and scheduling. It requires the ability to make difficult decisions, such as how and when to drop a lawn care client.

Anxiety is a good word to describe what many owners of service businesses experience when considering how to part company with a client. In lawn care, this is especially true if you like the homeowner or the company you need to cut from your list.

But unless you are just getting started and can't afford to let go of any clients, there are many reasons why you might need to say goodbye to a client.

Reasons for Dropping Clients

Each time your company mows a lawn, it invests labor, time, and overhead for gas and equipment. One major reason why grounds maintenance entrepreneurs drop customers is because they aren't earning enough from those clients to make a profit.

Sometimes this occurs because a lawn care service doesn't initially price a contract correctly. Other times, it may be due to the client being a long-time customer who isn't friendly toward fee increases, so the business owner bends rather than losing a contract.

Other reasons why it's sometimes necessary to let a client go may involve reasons like:

  • A desire to grow business by making room in the schedule for more lucrative contracts

  • Business growth to the point where you can't maintain your standard of excellence

  • Clients who develop unrealistic expectations and become an emotional and financial drain

  • Family issues or health problems that make part-time hours necessary

  • Impending retirement that also may require a cutback in hours.

To avoid costly mistakes and injury to business reputation, it helps to develop a client rating system and a considerate process for letting clients go.

Client Rating System

Landscape Management magazine proposes a decision-making matrix to review the quality of clients annually. The factors it suggests considering are:

  • Account size

  • Gross profit

  • Sales of services and goods beyond the base contract

  • How far you need to travel

  • The client's connectedness to other potential clients

  • Whether the client is unreasonable.

Set up a simple rating system, such as "1" being poor and "5" for great, then tote up the numbers for each client.

If a client's poor rating is mainly based on low profitability, the magazine says to check whether changes in how the job is done can result in a better return, or if you should pitch a price increase.

Customers would often rather adjust payment than lose a trusted lawn service.

Dropping Clients Tactfully

Be respectful even if you are giving the boot to a homeowner or client company that is abusive and makes unreasonable demands. That's the word from Business News Daily, which says that avoiding conflict helps in limiting reputation damage.

Also, instead of making the client feel "fired," the magazine reports that it's better to be honest about problems and work toward a resolution.

Finally, no matter what reasons you may have for dropping clients, you will win good will by referring them to other lawn-care services that are seeking contracts.

How do you deal with letting clients go - are there ways you found work really well? Join our forum to share your tips or ask other pros for advice.