Starting a new business can be an experience that will make you sleep, and starting a new landscape business is certainly no different. It takes time, money, stamina and sometimes good luck.
One of the frustrations I hear from landscape founders is that money runs out faster and faster than it comes in. Fresh-fashioned landscape professionals complain that every time they turn around. They have to buy something to get the job done.
My answer to all the challenges and problems that can arise when founding a new landscaping company is the same for each new owner. Take time to create a good landscaping business plan.
Many problems can be avoided if you know at an early stage where your new business will go and what it will cost to get there. The good news is that if you are willing and able to start small enough. You can set up a landscape business for little money.
Survival guide for landscape business owners:
We stuffed our tools, plants, sacks of soil or mulch and everything else we needed into our two cars and let it work. Great on old cars not afraid of dirt! We were strong, we were eager, we were happy and it did not matter that we did not have the tools and equipment that the bigger companies had.
That’s how we worked together for a whole year. We were in the pig heaven! And I’m sure that part of the reason we were alright was that we were cheaper than the next one. In fact, we were often chosen because we cost less than the big ones. We also had a niche!
Looking back, I see how naive we were. We still had so much to learn so much. We were 100% committed to learning from our customers and doing the right thing. We did not have to make any upfront work to get started. Often, customers had to buy the materials directly. We just had to show up, get the job done, and keep our passion alive.
This story is not unique. It’s one that I’ve heard over and over again in my career. I hear it today in my practice as a corporate coach and have heard it throughout all the years in which I’ve worked with a variety of landscape professionals. While this is a possibility, it is certainly not the only or even the best.
Let’s take a more systematic approach that will save you time, money and headaches. Here are some key elements to consider when starting this adventure called Landscaping:
You may not get along sooner or later, but you will definitely think about a truck. As you do so, check your door-to-door requests for this shiny new monster with chrome and custom graphics, and take a close look at what you can really afford and what most of the work will do for you. I started in 1984 with a used Ford Flareside pickup.
A common strategy for start-ups in the countryside is to stay relatively small and flexible – a pick-up, a trailer and a few small equipment to start. As you identify more and more needs, you can access the tools you need to solve them. Simple, right? Just be careful. If there is no plan on how much money you will spend on tools and equipment at the beginning of the year, you can turn up at the end of the year if you spend way too much and undermine your profits. Or worse, you have no more money to pay your taxes!
2. Working sets:
What you need to charge your customers for their time is always a touchy subject. If you’ve been working for another landscaping company for a year, or maybe even ten years, you know what you get as an employee for each work hour.
Before you set an hourly rate, you want to know what it costs you at the end of the year to have run your business for this year. You need to understand your overhead burden and incorporate that number into your work rate. In other words, how much does it cost you to run your business for a day or even an hour?
It goes without saying that the construction or renovation of a landscape costs a lot of money. To get a job done, you need to spend money in advance to get all the products you need to actually build that landscape. It even costs money in advance if you operate a maintenance company – mulch, fertilizer and plants, just to name a few.
The landscape industry has a long tradition of providing its customers with unrestricted plant guarantees. The big stores have made it difficult for smaller nurseries and landscape businesses. “Guaranteed all plants, no questions asked” is a hard promise. You want to tell me if a customer buys a plant and dies – regardless of whether she has planted it or cared for it properly.
Plan your work and work your plan:
What you can not do is build a landscape business this way. I know, because I did it for about 10 years. It was a hand-to-mouth existence, professionally and personally. I woke up one day and realized that this is not a way to live and I wanted something different.
It costs a lot to operate and build a landscape business.It is a labor intensive profession. But if you can do it all, just make the commitment to make a solid plan, know your costs, be responsible and responsible, and then act.