Landscaping is an $82 billion industry, making it an attractive option for aspiring entrepreneurs. In addition, it offers the opportunity for people to work outside, improve the look of homes and local businesses, and even improve the environment. If you’re interested in getting started with your own landscaping businesses, here are some important steps to take, along with insights from industry groups and landscaping business owners.
Starting a Landscaping Business
Gain Experience in the Industry
Before actually jumping into business ownership, it’s a good idea to actually learn the trade. Find a job working with an existing landscaping business so you can hone your craft, see how the business side works, and make valuable connections.
Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs at the National Association of Landscape Professionals said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “I would suggest that anyone with a passion for working outside and working with people and the environment should explore this industry. There are incredible career opportunities available. So if you’ve not yet worked in the industry but are interested in learning the skill set and how to manage a business, go and work with a landscape professional who really understands the business so that you can hone your craft, find a mentor, learn and soak in all of the intricacies that go into running a business in this industry.”
Learn About the Business Side
It can also be beneficial to do some extra research before actually jumping into business ownership. You can do this by talking to other business owners, reading online resources, or taking business courses.
Jim McCutcheon, CEO of HighGrove Partners in Atlanta, GA said in an email to Small Business Trends, “I have always considered myself to be a life-long learner so I decided to speak with someone smarter than me about business. He is the father of one of my friends who was a very successful businessman. He had me develop a list of all the things I did know and felt confident about. But, the most valuable part was developing a list of things that I did not understand about running a business. Of course, he had to give me most of the list. From there, I developed a plan to learn about each of those things. I gained the knowledge through studies on some and hard knocks on the others.”
Get Licensed and Insured
The licensing requirements for landscaping businesses vary by state, with some also required at the federal level depending on the actual services offered. But Henrickson acknowledges that most businesses will need some type of licensing, with some even requiring ongoing certification. She also says that business and liability insurance can be beneficial.
Secure Equipment and Financing
You may be able to get by early on with just a couple of lawnmowers, a truck and a few other small tools. However, if you do want to make a bigger investment, it could be worthwhile to build relationships with bankers to secure financing for those items.
Shayne Newman, founder of YardApes, Inc. in New Milford, CT said in an email to Small Business Trends, “When starting off, I worked with a banker to secure capital for investments in equipment and vehicles. It takes cash flow to grow a business, so a solid relationship with your loan officer is very important.”
Determine Your Rates
You also need to determine what you’re going to actually charge for your services. Several factors go into this decision: how much time will a particular job take you, how much should you make hourly, what do you pay employees, and what equipment is needed. But just make sure that your rates are going to allow you to continue to operate and grow while actually earning a profit.
McCutcheon says, “Running a landscape business is first and foremost a business. You must understand the foundations of a successful business and give it equal footing to the landscape work you want to do. This means you must make money. You must understand how you make money and make decisions about estimating, pricing, hiring, operations, etc. accordingly.”
Consider a Specialty
Some landscaping businesses choose to have a very particular specialty, like lawn maintenance or landscape design, while others offer a wider array of services. According to Henricksen, this decision ultimately comes down to the entrepreneur’s preferences, experience, and access to the equipment necessary to complete each type of job. In some cases, businesses might even choose to start out with just one type of offering and then add in other services as they’re able to pay for the equipment and bring on employees with the necessary skills.
Join Trade Associations
Getting a landscaping business off the ground requires a lot of resources and expert input, from employee training to marketing plans. One great way to get access of those resources is to join some trade associations.
Newman recommends, “Join state and national trade associations like The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). NALP has been instrumental in the growth of my business and has given me and my employees the guidance and courage to become true professionals. The association also provides templates for training, safety plans, marketing and PR ideas, human resource help, legal advice and much more. Being a member of the NALP has also offered unbelievable networking opportunities. My employees and I have met so many passionate and experienced landscape professionals who share the same struggles that my company has experienced, is experiencing or will experience in the future. This type of networking is invaluable to a small business owner.”
Create a Marketing Plan
Marketing your business is essential to growing your base of landscaping customers. The actual tactics you take can vary based on your resources, target customers, and specialty. You might focus on local SEO or put up some flyers around your community. But whatever tactics you choose, make sure they’re consistent so that potential customers can recognize your business across platforms.
Newman says, “Marketing and branding should be consistent and constant. If potential customers don’t recognize you, it’s hard to develop new leads.”
Develop Relationships with Customers
Once you start to actually build that customer base, you need to actually build relationships with those customers to keep them happy and make sure that they continue to utilize your services.
Build Your Team
To scale your business, it may also become necessary for you to bring on some employees. But Newman cautions business owners to only hire and keep the employees that show motivation and perform up to your standards. It may be difficult to turn down or let go of team members, but in order to be a successful landscaping business, you need to have the right people in your corner.