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Case study: Slick service

May 15, 2015 -  By
Joe Flake, owner of Target Lawn Care Photo: Target Lawn Care

Joe Flake, owner of Target Lawn Care Photo: Target Lawn Care

A Kansas landscape company adds value by offering oil clean-ups.

After cleaning up an oil spill from a car accident one day, firefighter Joe Flake had an idea. He often saw oil spots on drive-thru lanes and on residential driveways while on the job for his full-service landscape business. But he didn’t know of anyone who offered oil clean-up as a service. It’s a simple idea, he says—but that’s why he liked it so much.

“I’m a big believer in simple,” says Flake, who has been a firefighter for 25 years and owns Target Lawn Care in Paola, Kan. “Oftentimes the good ideas are the simple ones.”

Adding the service was simple, too, Flake says. There was minimal investment. A typical job requires an oil absorbent product (like those found at an auto parts store), a broom, a shovel and possibly a metal scraper (if the oil is really caked on). Manpower is the biggest investment, but Flake says it’s almost always a one-man job.

LM0315_066Casestudy_REVIEW Graphic: LM Staff

Graphic: LM Staff

“It’s a good profit margin—probably around 75 percent,” Flake adds. “And there’s really no competition for this in our area. There are some companies that powerwash, but we really discourage clients from using that for oil clean-up. Not only is it blowing around the mess, but it also allows the oil to run into the storm sewer. One of our big selling points is that our clean-up process prevents that oil from getting into the sewer.”

Flake says his primary customers are banks he already provides landscape services for. For example, he may mow weekly and do the oil clean-up once a month. For commercial clients, he calls the service “lane clean-up.” It also includes picking up debris such as crumpled receipts or pens that have fallen out of vehicles in the drive-thru lane.

Flake says there’s a significant difference from lane to lane when it comes to clean-up needs. The primary lane is always the worst, so Flake charges the most for that lane. The second lane is typically priced a little cheaper—and if there’s a third lane, even cheaper than the second. Of course, the ATM lane is often priced higher as it gets a lot of traffic. Flake didn’t share his pricing strategy, but he says lane clean-up pays more than a typical one-man service call does. Overall, the service makes up about 1 percent of the company’s $300,000 revenue.

“It’s definitely a small service, but it makes us more valuable to clients,” Flake says. “Any service you can offer that others aren’t ties you a little tighter with the client.”

Oil clean-ups are easy to add on, requiring little equipment and training. Photo:©

Oil clean-ups are easy to add on, requiring little equipment and training. Photo: ©

While Target Lawn Care mainly serves commercial accounts (about 80 percent), Flake says there’s also a market for this service on the residential side. He has done oil clean-ups on driveways, particularly for homeowners who are looking to boost their curb appeal.

“If someone is looking to sell their home, cleaning up oil spots can instantly make their drive look a lot better,” Flake says. “On occasion I’ve inquired about houses on the market and offered this service. But for the most part, people find out about it on my website or by word of mouth.”

From an execution standpoint, it wasn’t difficult to add this service, he says.

“Honestly it’s something that anyone can learn to do, but it’s one of those things nobody really wants to do,” Flake says. “Services like this tend to be easy to add on and popular with clients. It’s amazing what you can find out there to do for people if you just look. It’s usually the simple things.”



Payton is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.

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About the Author:

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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