Recently I asked landscapers in both the softscape and hardscape community a simple question about their business. This is a question that I knew I would get some great responses that would really provide some great value to anyone wanting to start their own landscaping business. That question was:
What was one thing you wish you knew before starting your business?
I want to take this post to talk about the responses that I received from these landscapers and what they mean to you starting your business or continuing your business. There is a lot of value in these responses that at the very least will reconfirm what you were already thinking.
I wish I could have foreseen the labor shortage.
Invest in tools that make the process faster, easier, and more profitable.
Get an accountant before you do anything.
Do market research.
Do not grow too fast!
The importance of knowing what my overhead costs are.
Calculating 15-30% in expected time.
I wish I knew about systems.
I should have started my landscaping business a long time ago.
This is not the case in every area, but it most certainly is the case in my area. I did not know if other people were having the same problem outside of my area, but it turns out that they are. The labor shortage is real. Finding good workers can be the most difficult thing for your landscaping business.
Fortunately there are some solutions. Posting on classified ads and on places like Facebook are a completely free way to get some candidates. There are also some paid options out there, but the free way is the best place to start. Also, if you are from an area that you will not be working during the winter you can benefit from student labor. Students in university are always looking for work for their four month summers which works perfectly for a landscaping business.
The problem with the labor shortage is finding good labor. Somebody with access to a vehicle who can meet you on job sites so that you do not have to take the time out of your day driving around and picking up your laborers. Somebody who is willing to work hard and does not call in sick often. You want that reliable person who will be there at the time you need them. These laborers should be paid good money if you want to keep them on. Unfortunately it seems there are less of these each and every season.
This is why I worked to make myself the most knowledgeable and skilled person I could so that I know I can get the job done. I see people online talking about and taking pride in not knowing how to landscape yet running their own landscaping business. I think what if they lost all of their employees. They would be out of business. Then what would they do? Always make sure you know your stuff whenever entering into any industry, then surround yourself with people that also know what they are doing or that you can teach.
Efficiency on site makes your jobs more profitable. Things move faster and you are able to get in and out quickly with the right tools and equipment. Starting out it can be difficult to get the right tools for the job, especially if you are starting your business with no money.
However, investing the money that you do have or that you make into the right tools and equipment will save you time, money, and your back. Using a shovel and wheelbarrow in the beginning is fine, but once you can invest in a powered wheelbarrow or a small piece of equipment that can be used on every job then you should do it.
Work smarter not harder is the saying that is passed around often in this industry. I stand by it. Save your back because you only have one and longevity is more important.
Accountants are so useful when setting up your business. If you have a question related to money including taxes, payments, paying employees, loosing money, making money, and so on, an accountant is who you need to visit. You will get the greatest advice from a good accountant and a good accountant should be able to make you more money than they cost.
There are however best practices for you and your business as far as bookkeeping is concerned and you should work to keep track of everything your business does including mileage, receipts, taxes collected, and any money moving in and out of your business. We will be covering a bookkeeping crash course in a future post.
Whenever you are starting a new business it is always a good idea to do some market research. Draw out a business plan that talks about what your business will be doing, how you will obtain leads, who your competitors are, what your competitors are doing, and so on.
Include the best areas for you to get jobs, suppliers that you can sign up for their referral system, people you have talked to, and people you can talk to. Market research will provide you with the insight to be more prepared by the time you launch your business and allow you to get the ball rolling with some leads and eventually clients.
So many people skip this step because they see somebody out there making money that they think they can do. They start their business and they do not know the first thing about getting their first client. Do not be that person. Preparation is key to any business.
This is so true. I have seen so many people start their business and try to get too big too fast. They take on employees that they cannot afford to pay, equipment with loans, and jobs that are way out of their skill set to complete. Keep your overhead expenses like loans and employees as low as possible when you are first starting. Once you get some more cash flow into the business then you can start to increase this overhead to increase your efficiency and bring more money into the business.
If you are starting out and trying to gain experience, stick to the jobs that you know you can do. Sure that massive job looks good on paper and the dollar signs are making you drool, but if it is way out of your realm of expertise it is better that you do not take it. You could end up with more problems and headaches that you are just not ready to deal with. Send that lead to one of your competitors that you know specializes in those higher price range jobs and maybe they will send you some leads from the lower price range that they just do not want.
The best thing about this is that a lot of the landscaping companies do not even want the small jobs. They either pass them up or they way overprice them. They overprice them because they do not want the job and if they do get it for that price then they are more than happy to do an overpriced job. This is good for you for two reasons. You can get your foot in the door in the industry with these small jobs that are actually perfect for starting out. You can also get good money for them because likely the quotes they are receiving for the job are astronomical.
Overhead costs are the expenses that you pay to be in business. You want to figure out what it costs for you to be in business each day. This includes business liability and auto insurance, rent if you have a shop, loans you are paying down, employee payments, and other related business expenses for your business.
You need to know how much money you need to be making per day in order to pay these off and put some money into your business including owner’s profit. You need to know what it is costing you to be in business.
In addition, you need to keep track of your number through every part of the job including everything that is going into that job. You need to keep track of how your numbers are doing until it is too late. I was once told to make sure I am making money every week. Too many times I hear people waiting to the end of their season to calculate how they did only to find they did not do anywhere near what they wanted to be doing.
Scheduling is the most difficult thing when you are beginning to get leads. A customer does not like when their project is delayed. When you get a lead and you are providing a quote, you are likely going to be thinking about how long this is going to take you to complete. Once you arrive at that number, it may not hurt to increase that number slightly because there are going to be unexpected things that come up that put you off schedule which increases the headaches.
Rain derails a lot of plans to complete a job on time. Other things like unexpected problems on the job site or losing a laborer in the middle of a job can really increase the time on a specific job. Make sure you calculate for these problems that will arise.
Systems are great to have in place. Whether it is keeping track of your bookkeeping to save your time or a system you have in place to keep you organized and knowing what to do at the beginning of each day. That could mean hiring a secretary when your business gets to that stage who can keep track of these things for you. Or you can find online systems that keep your business organized and running smoothly.
I had the exact same thought and it was great to be able to share this with someone else. It can be scary starting your own business and it definitely is not for everyone. The fear can be a lack of security, start up costs, not having a client base, or many more personal things that are a barrier for you to start your business.
All I can say to that is that if your really want it, then you are going to go for it. I have provided advice earlier in this post about getting started and a previous post about getting started with no money. There are ways around these barriers. You will be saying the exact same thing once you get your business up and running.
There is so much that you can learn from those around you and those that have gone before you. Learn from their successes and most importantly learn from their mistakes. There is a wealth of knowledge in people that you meet at conferences, online, or through this website that you can ask questions and come out better prepared when you start your landscaping business.