How to Start a Landscaping Business
By Matt Smolsky
, last updated July 27, 2011
If you've got a green thumb, a great eye for design and are ready to work hard, a landscaping business might be for you. There are plenty of rewards. You get to be your own boss. You’ll have more freedom to create landscapes you believe are attractive and functional. There are also downsides, such as managing employees and clients who don't pay on time. Here are some guidelines on how to start a landscaping business.
If at all possible, start small. You can do this by offering niche services such as lawn mowing, aeration, fertilization and snow removal. All of these are fairly inexpensive when it comes to capital investments. The advantage is that you can begin to build a client base by offering services that are in the highest demand. This way you can keep cash coming in while you expand the reach of your business.
There are two important elements to keep in mind if you want to grow. First, do a great job for your customer. Put in extra effort, especially as it relates to landscaping. If a shrub, plant or tree looks distressed, give the client free advice on how to fix the problem. You never know, they might just ask you to not only fix that problem, but others as well. The second is to sell yourself. Once you have a good rapport with your customers, let them know you offer other services, and be sure to ask for referrals. In fact, make asking for referrals a number 1 priority.
Whether or not you start with lawn and landscape related services or decide to jump right into landscaping, try to identify some areas of expertise. Do you solve drainage problems with landscaping? Water is a major problem for homeowners and businesses. Do you build ponds? Having one or two areas that you're especially proficient at can get you jobs that other landscapers will have to turn down because they don’t know how to do them.
Expand Your Business
As you build up a small but satisfied client base, start looking for ways to expand. First and foremost, of course, is drumming up new business. Try office complex management company, real estate agents, apartment managers, and canvass homes in expensive neighborhoods that all but require exquisite landscaping.
Operating Your Business
As the owner, you'll likely need to spend some time in the field. When you're just starting out, you may find yourself doing much of the work. As you expand, that will simply be impossible. You'll have to hire employees you can trust to get the job done when you're not there. Much of your day will be spent making sure all the details of your jobs are coming together and being executed properly. You'll also need to allot a portion of your week towards prospecting new business.
Start Up Items
You’ll definitely need a business plan. Even if you don't plan on borrowing money, you may in the future. A business plan also forces you to look at your market, prospective customers, your competition, your profit/loss scenarios and other important issues relating to your business. You'll need a truck with four-wheel drive, a powerful engine and towing capabilities. You’ll also need landscaping tools and supplies to fit the services you'll offer, licenses and insurance, a working relationship with local suppliers, and office equipment, supplies and software.