Here in Georgia, 2007 has been a dry year thus far, but the past 2 weeks has seen a good bit of rain (thankfully! & raining right now!). This is by far the driest season I have seen since I went full time into the lawn service business. We have been blessed with above average rainfall in 2003-2005 and 2006 was a little dry but average overall I'd say. I do mainly maintenance (mowing) on residential accounts with no contract. That is standard for my area, you like us , we like you. It would be nice to have a contract but I do not see it in my area. There are too many options (service providers), and many are part timers who can be very flexible in pricing and scheduling. So homeowners have the advantage of picking and choosing the options they want, which is good for them. Were I doing a business, a contract would be necessary to make sure all the basis were covered, especially if I were doing a year round service deal.
Of course different regions will require different schedules for maintenance. I have 3 different options.... weekly, every 10 days, every 2 weeks. The 2 week schedule is for "country yard" that get no fertilizing or sprinkler watering. The 10 day is a good "in between schedule" for lawns that get some watering and some fertilizing but not from a regular fertilizing company. The weekly schedule obviously works best for me since it is easier to maintain and produces more income. Any lawn that gets regular fertilizing needs weekly service in my opinion. A lawn with a lot of rain and fertilizer on a 2 week plan can make you have a long day!
When it is raining regularly I have had no problem getting new customers and keeping old ones. This season has been different, a few dropping off and not nearly as many new clients calling. Homeowners who want a super nice landscape will stay with the service, but some that see us (LCO - lawn care operations) as a necessary evil. And when that necessity runs out in the form of a drought they might drop you. They just want their grass cut and when it is not growing as much they don't see paying someone to cut what little growth they have. However that is a double edged sword. When it rains 2 or 3 time weekly and you have to double cut some of the grass to spread out the clippings, you can't charge extra can you? I can't. So I see it as a trade off. I will skip a weekly client's lawn if it is too dry and move back a 10 day plan to 2 weeks when needed. But a lawn on a 2 week plan has to be REALLY DRY to skip it. It is vital to explain this to the client when you first get them on board, especially if you don't have a contract. So at least when you have to drop habitual skippers from your schedule they will have been told the deal from the start. In short let them know that you are the decision maker when it comes to skipping because of dry weather not them. If it were left to some people they would let it get 3 ft tall then just call you up on Saturday and say , " the grass needs cutting now". Most people I deal with are great, really good people but you will run into people (& I have :) )who will take advantage of you. Without customers we are nothing, but there has to be guidelines or your business will fail.