Common Weed Story Extra - Doing Business

Lawn & Landscape, February 2008

Crawford Landscapign of Naples, Fla., offers tips for selling and managing weed-control services.

In addition to its regular maintenance crews, Crawford Landscaping employs a flower technician, who strictly performs flower bed installation and maintenance. The technician visits every property with flowerbeds on a biweekly basis to take care of deadheading, replacements, and pest and weed control. A former member of the lawn maintenance crew, the technician receives additional training on various types of annuals, weed controls and chemical safety, says Blake Crawford, CEO of the Naples, Fla.-based company. 

Flower tech visits are part of each client’s total lawn maintenance package. The visits primarily aim to prevent problems in flower beds, areas that require different expertise than the company’s lawn maintenance crews can provide.

“We’ve learned over the years that the expense to provide preventive services outweighs the cost of having to deal with an issue after the fact,” Crawford says.

Crawford has also learned that some problems require more attention than others so his technicians make as many visits, or “retreats,” as necessary to maintain the site free of charge.

“Some companies are contracted to come out only a specific number of times and then they start charging for every additional visit,” Crawford says. “But weeds down here can take over if we’re not careful, and it feels good to drive by a site and see it looking the way it should look.”

Most of Crawford’s clients opt for full maintenance contracts, so selling the company’s weed control services is relatively easy. A technician will often upsell the client extra applications of both fertilizer and a preemergent, or upgrade their spring fertilization program and have the preemergent added to their fertilizer.

Crawford makes an effort to educate his clients about the company’s pest and weed control services and what they entail. The company’s quarterly print and e-mail newsletters answer frequently asked questions in a clear, concise way. They are currently produced in house for little to no cost. His technicians also strive to have face-to-face conversations and phone calls whenever possible to let clients know how and why they are treating their lawns.

“There is a lot of sophistication in the lawn care industry that homeowners may not be aware of,” Crawford says. “It takes a lot of expertise to do it correctly and we try to inform our clients of that.”  

Lawn care can be a pricey service to offer if done the right way. Crawford estimates spending $50,000 to $60,000 per year on equipment and materials for his two-man lawn care crew. Materials include pre- and postemergent products, herbicides and fertilizers in both liquid and granular form. Equipment includes typical handheld spreaders and sprayers for smaller jobs of a few acres, and a gator, or an all-terrain vehicle, for properties 10 acres or larger. Crawford is looking into investing in another gator with better turning radius in 2008.

“We never hesitate to invest in new technology or equipment,” he says.

Crawford uses CLIP software to organize his client base into a standardized system and help keep track of each property. It includes not only the client’s location and day of treatment, but also a history of the property’s problems and solutions. One of the software’s features creates routing schedules, which Crawford says helps his crews cover the most area using less fuel in the least amount of time. He can also store notes like if a client prefers organic products and when is the best time to reach them. The system cost the company about $2,500 back in 2004, Crawford says. 
The software also comes in handy when determining pricing. Unlike many lawn care companies that price their services by the square foot, Crawford prefers to price per man hour plus material usage. The program ties all of a property’s information – like grass type, size, layout and specific problems – into a matrix that evaluates how long each job should take.

At the end of the year, Crawford is able to evaluate the program’s estimations to see how accurate they were. From here, he is able to make necessary adjustments. This feature is particularly helpful because the company treats a variety of properties ranging from quarter-acre single-family homes to 20-acre homeowner associations.

“Properties with pools and other intricate spaces may have less area, but the jobs can actually take longer if done the right way,” Crawford says.