E.T. Lawn Care Service stays a cut above

By Gabe House

It has been 15 years since Elmer Taborn had a realization of something seemingly simple.

“I was thinking, ‘You know what, I made good money cutting grass as a kid.’ I thought that would be a good way to make some extra cash,” Taborn said. “I started out with six yards and the next thing I knew, word of mouth started spreading, I did a bit of advertising and it just blew up from there.”

“Your weed-eating and trimming really sell your job,” Taborn said. “It’s like getting a haircut without a good line. Without a good line, it’s not a good haircut.”

Taborn, the owner of E.T. Lawn Care Service, took what is commonly seen as a kid’s game – mowing a lawn or two – and turned it into a full-fledged business. In almost two decades in lawn care, he’s gone from mowing up to 30 properties almost daily with three full-time employees to a more trimmed down approach with just himself and his two sons cutting on the evenings and weekends.

“I have a full-time job besides this (with the state), and it became stressful to have a couple crews running during the day, and then having to go over it in the evenings, so I thought I’d streamline things and just do it myself,” Taborn said.

Taborn said he has built a loyal client base, but he also acknowledged that his time in the lawn care business is a definite asset. The landscape has changed and competition in the area is fierce. A simple Internet search for lawn care service in Springfield turns up a multitude of varying businesses from larger outfits with nurseries and landscaping to more specialized enterprises such as Taborn’s.

“For a guy just starting out, it could be very painful,” Taborn said. “You’d have to cut yourself a little short (on pricing) to get started out, because everyone is out there cutting. It’s become dog eat dog out there, with everyone cutting grass and doing landscaping.”

Taborn typically stays away from landscaping – “but I’ll do a little bit for long-time clients” – due to its time-consuming nature. Tree trimming is also off the table once trees reach a larger size.

“I’ve gotten a bit older and smarter,” Taborn said. “I don’t do the big trees; I’ll farm those out to friends with tree services.”

E.T. Lawn Care Service is also a truly seasonal venture. Unlike many local businesses who supplement their income during the winter months with snow plowing and removal, Taborn decided against it for a couple of different reasons. He cited Illinois’ unpredictable winters as a reason not to spend the money on plowing equipment.

“Many businesses don’t want you to plow unless there are two or more inches of snow, so it wouldn’t really be a money-maker for me,” Taborn said. “And with the exception of the past winter or two, we really haven’t had more than dustings.”

Taborn keeps it simple with E.T. Lawn Care; he cuts grass and he cuts it well. He recalled a time he had simply edged and weed-eated a yard before beginning to mow, and the client was overjoyed. She paid him for a full cut, and told him that was enough right there.

“Your weed-eating and trimming really sell your job,” Taborn said. “It’s like getting a haircut without a good line. Without a good line, it’s not a good haircut.”

Aside from clean lines, Taborn has also learned what hardware to use. Residential mowing equipment is not in his employ. He said it is just too prone to malfunction with such a high volume of lawns to maintain. Taborn said one also needs a reliable truck and trailer to haul equipment, which for him includes multiple edgers and weed-eaters, a walk-behind mower and a larger riding mower.

As far as being a minority business owner in Springfield, Taborn said he has only occasionally run into issues of discrimination.

“It’s sad to say, but we still have some negatives with people who are still stuck on what color skin you are,” Taborn said. “There was one apartment complex where a manager flaked out when she realized we were a minority-owned business, saying we worked too fast and missed things ... but for the most part, I haven’t had much trouble with that.”

Gabe House works in the lending department at United Community Bank. He can be reached at 217-787-3000 or [email protected].

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