Gussos sharpen skills with lawncare business

Jill Meier/BV Journal 
Matt (seated) and Mitch Gusso are honing their business skills through their business, Gusso Brothers Lawncare.
Mitch and Matt Gusso were 15 and 12 years old when their dad, Jason, suggested the brothers take their first step into the world of entrepreneurship.
He encouraged them to mow lawns.
“That’s what he did when he was our age,” Matt said. “At first, we were a little hesitant, we weren’t tuned to it.”
But the brothers heeded their dad’s advice, initially landing a couple of accounts.
They soon realized the gig was a pretty solid job for a couple of high school kids.
“You get to work your own hours and you get to be your own boss,” Mitch said.
Since launching Gusso Brothers Landscaping five years ago, Matt said they’ve continued to double their business each year, and have been able to do so by diversifying their services, which as of this year, includes landscaping.
“We’ve done quite a few landscaping jobs this year and already have quite a few planned for next year,” he said.
In the summer, they stay busy five days a week with 15 weekly mowing jobs, 90 percent of which are commercial clients, along with a handful of “every other week” and “one-time service” clients. As for landscaping jobs, they landed
10 this summer alone.
As the temperatures climbed into the 90s and grass began “browning up,” mowing duties have lessened.
But thanks to adding landscaping to their roster of services, the brothers are staying busy while Mitch balances work with his senior year of college in Brookings and Matt’s senior year of high school at Brandon Valley.
Their landscaping endeavors vary with the customer. 
“Usually what we’ve been doing is if you have older rock … people want us to remove the rock, put a new tarp down or put new rock in or some people like to put mulch in and new plants. It really depends on the client,” Mitch said.
“Mostly it’s been landscape renovation,” Matt adds. “Take what you have, take it out, put new in – spice it up.”
Matt sketches out designs for clients, providing a rough outline of the home and the bed of landscaping. The sketches, he said, are based off of discussions he has with clients.
“I’ll talk to them to see if they have anything in mind, and if they don’t, then I will recommend,” he said.
The brothers market their business on Facebook and through word of mouth, which their dad, Jason, initially helped them do.
“At this point, he’s completely out of it and I work with the property managers,” Matt said.
Word of mouth, they agree, has served as their best advertiser.
Presently, Mitch and Matt are 50-50 business partners. That will change, however, as Mitch pursues an internship for his college degree in ag business next year. 
“I might be stepping back a little bit,” Mitch said. “We have a younger brother, Andy, who is in the eighth grade, and he’s supposed to be picking it up more because he’ll (Matt) be going off to college next year and so then it will all be
on the little brother.”
The brothers plan to share 25 percent of the business with Andy.
As an ag business major, Mitch said he enjoys that aspect of their joint venture.
“We’ve both learned a lot, about business, running it yourself, keeping track of what money we take in and what we’re paying out, so it’s not just a rough guess,” he said.
Matt said they’ve perfected their business model through the years.
“The first couple of years we just took a shot, but now we have it detailed, list exactly what expenses we have, what income we have, how much we’re going to be making and go from there,” he said.
The two admit they enjoy seeing the bank account grow.
“It’s motivating,” Mitch said, “because we have certain goals. We had a goal but then caught wind that we could probably do even more and passed our original goal and just kept going.”
Although Mitch is the ag business major, it’s Matt that handles the company books and client meetings.
“I sharpen the blades and make sure the oil is good in the mowers and stuff,” Mitch said. “It’s worked out well, so we’ll see what role the younger brother takes.”
The brothers started out using their parent’s mower and vehicles to tackle their jobs.
“We had a standard lawn tractor, a trimmer and blower. That did us fine for the two jobs, but I wouldn’t say we knew what we were doing back then compared to now,” Mitch said.
Three years ago, they upgraded to a commercial-grade zero-turn mower, which ended up failing them by the end of the year.
“We bought it used,” Mitch said.
Instead of purchasing another used mower, the brothers invested in a new commercial zero-turn mower.
“It was a package deal,” Matt explains. “A guy was going out of the mowing business, so it was an enclosed trailer, trimmers, blower, the racks, everything that you need, he had it all. It was a really good deal and we were lucky we
ran into him and we still use everything.”
The Gusso brothers also “graduated” from using their parent’s vehicles to purchasing a pickup they use to haul to their enclosed trailer and equipment.
“Every year, we take a certain amount of our income and plug it back in the business,” Matt said. “Every time we get an upgrade, it’s like, ‘How did we do it before this?’ because now we’re able to get stuff done quicker and are able
to take on more.”
With the addition of landscaping to their roster of services, the brothers have had to hire extra help. Oftentimes, they look to friends.
“Our friends like to help out and work because we pay pretty good, but they work hard,” Matt said. “If they were to slack off, I would feel comfortable telling them they need to pick it up.”
“I think they like the pay,” Mitch said.
Along with investing some of the profits back into the business, the brothers are also watching the fruit of their labors grow in the stock market, also another suggestion of their dad.
“We’re kind of penny pinchers,” Mitch said. “For better or for worse, we don’t like to spend our money. We are saving it for future things, like a new car, for a house … so to have that money there, starting now, I think is good.”
Mitch and Matt say they’ve always worked well together.
“We’ve never really gotten into many fights,” Mitch said. “We get into disagreements about certain things at times, but overall, I think we’ve always worked together well. I’d say the best part is it’s somebody you can rely on. If I’m at school and something has happened, I’m just a text away and it’s your brother so he’s not going to let you down.”
Matt said he enjoys the companionship.
“A couple times mowing by yourself, it’s kind of boring,” he said. “Being able to drive in the car from place to place, work together with your brother, there’s a lot of good times together. A lot of quality time.”
To learn more about Gusso Brothers Lawncare, call (605) 413-7393, email or check out their Facebook page.


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