Business best practices: Adding aeration

Updated Aug 30, 2018

It’s in demand. Here’s how to profit from this add-on service.

By Jennifer M. Holloway

Aeration is the most requested turf care service following mowing and trimming, says Jody Kerr, national rental sales manager for Husqvarna.

While it’s difficult to build a profit off of this service alone, aeration may allow you a larger margin than mowing. “Mowing is ultra-competitive,” says Will Coates, president of Billy Goat. “The advantage of aeration is that not everyone does it.”

1. Estimating. Before pricing this service, calculate your overhead and cost structure to understand what you must charge to stay in the black. Consider: labor costs, time to perform the service and equipment costs, whether rented or owned.

2. Pricing strategies. Some landscapers offer a set price per square foot with an upcharge for additional acreage, while others offer aeration as a package along with overseeding or lawn renovation to provide added value to a homeowner.

3. Size-up competition. It’s also helpful to understand your competitors’ pricing. But don’t be tempted to bid lower than you can afford. Building trustworthiness in relationships with customers will take you further than undercutting the competition.

4. Prepare for the unseen. Ensure homeowners provide an as-built map of sprinkler heads. Also be aware of utilities and other unforeseen obstacles. “Contractors lose money there,” Coates says. “You can bid any job you want, but unforeseen cost of repair may cause you to give up all of your profit.”

5. Educate your clients. Understanding customers’ knowledge of aeration is important when introducing this service. Kerr, a resident of Denver, Colorado, where water restrictions abound, says people in her area think aeration may shock or damage their yards because they can’t water them often. However, aeration can actually help.

“Imagine your yard having thousands of little cups so the water you use goes directly to the roots,” she says. Sharing this knowledge can help educate customers and gain jobs.

Timing is key

Spring and fall are generally the best times for aerating turf. But frequency is dependent upon the soil condition, turf use and maintenance practices, says Emeka Okoli, business segment director for the Ryan and Classen brands of Schiller Grounds Care.

Sandy soils suffer less from compaction and require infrequent aeration, whereas clay soils fall need regular attention. “Compaction is going to drive the answer to when you should aerate,” Coates says.

To get the best results, the yard should be watered one or two nights prior to the service. Mowing just before is also recommended.

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