Your Roadmap to Building a Landscaping Business that Lasts

Do you love the smell of newly cut grass? Are you an outdoor person, happiest when working with your hands and feeling the fresh air on your face? If so, breaking into the lawn care industry with a landscaping franchise might be the perfect fit for you; it’s an incredibly robust industry, one that employs more than 1 million people and, according to recent reporting, generates annual revenue of $99 billion. Best of all, depending on where you live, landscaping franchise opportunities can mean year-round work as you beautify neighborhoods and help property owners make lasting first impressions.

Starting your own landscaping business, either on your own or with the help of an established franchise brand, is a terrific way to break into a rewarding and exciting career. It will allow you to be your own boss, take pride in ownership, and capitalize on a recession-resistant industry that’s thriving. But how do you start one? What are some of the considerations you’ll need to make? How much equipment will you need and what kind of services do you want to offer? Here, we’ll answer these and other important questions as you learn more about how to build a landscaping business that lasts!

Is Landscaping the Right Fit for Me?

Before we go further, it’s important to take a moment to make sure becoming a landscaping professional is the right move for you. After all, not everyone is cut out for it. There are a lot of moving parts to owning a lawn care and landscaping company, and that can mean wearing many different hats. You’ll be meeting with clients, walking properties, generating estimates, and, depending on how quickly you grow, overseeing a team. And that’s just to start! You’ll want to market your business, create growth goals, stay on top of industry trends and technology, and more. You’ll also have to decide just how hands-on you want to be. Some owners want all in — they oversee all operations and are the face of the business; others act primarily as investors and allow a trusted general manager to oversee day-to-day operations. Either scenario is fine, although both require a commitment. You simply must decide which one is right for you.

Having said that, there are certain characteristics that define a typical landscape professional. These include:

— A love of the outdoors: It’s pretty safe to say that people who gravitate to landscaping and lawn care franchises like being outdoors or at least have a genuine appreciation for it. Green industry professionals enjoy the fresh air and don’t want to be stuck behind a desk as part of a white-collar 9-to-5 grind. They aren’t challenged by the heat or the cold, or any other elements the seasons might throw at them (think snow), and see a lawn care and landscaping career as one that will allow them more freedom to live the kind of life they want.

— An attention to customer satisfaction: Landscaping and lawn care are services, which means customer care is of the utmost importance. People who thrive in the industry understand that attention to the customer experience will go a very long way toward growing a landscaping business, so they make it a priority.

— A passion for making a tangible difference: Landscape and lawn maintenance franchise business owners understand that their efforts go a long way toward not just beautifying a property but in improving communities, one lawn at a time. They know how important first impressions can be, particularly if they’re responsible for regular upkeep of commercial and residential properties. To them, it’s more than a job; it’s a calling.

Ultimately, people with all kinds of backgrounds and interests join the landscaping industry. But most of them do so because it appeals to them in at least some of the ways we’ve outlined.

Doing Your Due Diligence

Ok, so you’ve established that you’re a good fit for the industry. Now what? It’s not enough to simply hang an open for business sign. You’ve first got to dig in and do a little research. Define your target market, scope out the competition, and make sure there’s a demographic for what it is you have to offer. You also must decide what services you’d like to offer and to whom. Do you want to focus exclusively on residential clients, commercial clients, or both? How comprehensive do you want your suite of services to be? Will it include offerings like hardscaping, irrigation, and snow plowing? Doing your homework and making some decisions before laying the groundwork will go a very long way toward setting yourself up for success.

Many entrepreneurially minded individuals love the idea of doing all that work and decision making themselves, learning through trial and error, and establishing their landscaping businesses from scratch — and there’s a lot to be said for independent business ownership. You don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself and can forge a path where one may not have existed before. Nothing has preceded your efforts, so you can establish your own brand voice, come up with your own logo and other proprietary materials, and decide on your own suite of services to meet your own goals and your community’s unique needs.

Other future business owners might be more motivated by the fact that half of all new businesses fail within the first five years, and will partner with an established landscape and lawn service franchise to tap into important resources. A key advantage of such a partnership is that it has the potential to simplify things. That’s because franchises have already done a lot of the due diligence, have refined a business model (more on that in a minute) that takes advantage of the industry, and have a vested interest in your success. Industry leading brands will help potential business owners, or franchisees, define their demographic and establish themselves in a territory that can support what it is they have to offer. Brand partnerships often bring valuable insight and proven systems and procedures into the equation that can better your chances of success.

Are you ready to find out more about how to start your own lawn care business with U.S. Lawns?Learn More

Setting Up Shop

Setting up shop to prepare for business is one of the most exciting and demanding aspects of starting your new landscaping company. There’s a lot to think about and plan for. Below are some of the more important steps you’ll need to consider.

Equipment

It goes without saying that you can’t run a landscaping company or lawn treatment franchise without tools, both big and small. You’ll need to buy or lease essential equipment like trucks, mowers, small machinery, hand tools, and more. These items will be at the heart of your services, so it’s essential that you not only acquire them, but keep them regularly maintained and in good working order. If you’ve decided to do business as part of a franchise brand, you may benefit from established vendor relationships that can make acquiring this equipment easier and less expensive.

You’ll also want to make sure your crew looks polished and professional at all times. That means establishing and maintaining a dress code and providing staff with uniforms that are well-fitted and that feature any logo or branding you’ve established for your business. The uniforms your crew members wear will speak volumes about the way you conduct business, so it's important that you don’t overlook this important step.

Staff

As a landscape business owner, you’ll need a team of people to help you meet the needs of your customers, so it’s essential that you hire and keep crew members you can trust to get the job done right. Let’s be honest: the wrong employees can drive a business into the ground, so it’s important to not only find qualified, committed staff, but to treat them right, because when you do, they’re not only more likely to stay, they’ll also take pride in their efforts and work hard to keep your customers happy. That’s a win win!

So, what are some ways to find qualified staff? You can advertise positions on job sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, and others, and post openings on your social media platforms. Networking is also a great way to find good candidates — talk to friends and other business owners who you trust and ask them if they know of anyone who may be interested. Once you begin speaking to applicants, it’s important to lay out your expectations from the beginning and let them know that customer satisfaction is a high priority. Having said that, it’s also important to let candidates know you’ll have their back.

What does that mean? It means, simply, that you’ll value them. Business owners don’t work in a vacuum. They need help. If you recognize that the employer/employee relationship is a symbiotic one, you’ll go a very long way toward building not just a successful company, but one that people want to work for. Competitive pay, periodic raises and bonuses for good work, incentives and perks like ongoing industry and safety training, paid vacation time, and other rewards are meaningful ways to recognize your crew members and keep them feeling appreciated. The bottom line is, when your crew feels valued, you add value to your business.

Technology

It’s not enough to show up at a property, eyeball it, and quote a price off the top of your head — not if you want to grow your business and stand the test of time. You’ll want and need the right technology at your fingertips to help you scope out the unique parameters of a job and help you create accurate estimates, proposals, and invoices, all part of being an industry professional. These days there are robust computer programs that can help you do that and more — plan schedules, keep track of staff, adjust for contingencies, and monitor deliveries, among many other important facets of doing business.

Oftentimes a brand partnership with a lawn franchise comes with proprietary technology that will allow you to manage most of the important aspects of running your business, including the ones mentioned above.

Getting Down to Business

Doing business starts with doing the work to find and retain customers, and chances are before you land your first job, you’ll have done a lot to make that happen. The fact is, building a portfolio of clients is an ongoing process, one that, as a good business owner, you’ll never step away from.

Finding Customers

Finding and connecting with your best customer is one of the most important jobs you’ll have as a landscape business owner. This will involve a variety of efforts on your part, including networking with your community to let members of it know all about your landscaping business and its suite of services. You’ll want to stay active on social media platforms and pay attention to what new businesses are moving to town and what neighborhoods may benefit from your services. Identifying potential customers, developing a database of prospects, and communicating with your leads with the goal of converting them into customers is the number one priority of a new business owner — and indeed, it will remain a top priority for the life of your business.

Estimating and Bidding

Your success will depend very much on having the processes in place for estimating the cost of a job and creating an accurate and detailed proposal for its scope. The importance of this can’t be overstated. Too often, landscape and lawn care providers “guesstimate” the time and resources necessary to complete a job. They either don’t have the experience or the technology that allows them to accurately generate an estimate that factors in the true cost of completing the job. This can be devastating, especially when you’re first starting out.

In this instance, as in others, partnering with an established franchisor can be of real value because they’ve likely already established the steps you’ll need to take to generate accurate proposals, bids, estimates, etc., and rely on industry-leading technology to help you do so — saving you valuable time for other essential business-building endeavors.

Closing the Deal

Ultimately, a potential customer needs to feel good about doing business with you. They need to trust that you have their best interests at heart and that you know what you’re doing. You’ve worked hard to prepare a proposal and create an estimate that reflects an honest and accurate appraisal of the work at hand. Now, you’ll need to close the deal. That means reassuring your client you’ll show up on time, that your crew is professional and responsible, and that customer satisfaction is your number one priority. In other words, you’ll want to treat your clients the way you’d like to be treated. Doing so will help you build a reputation that’ll go a long way toward growing and sustaining your business.

Are you ready to find out more about how to start your own lawn care business with U.S. Lawns?Learn More

(A Business Plan vs. a Business Model)

Scaling and Sustaining Your Business

Once your landscape business has been up and running for a while and starts seeing growth, you’ll need to make decisions about how you plan to sustain it, how you may want to scale it, and what your long-term goals are. For instance, will you want to add to your suite of services or keep it more narrow in scope? Do you want to stick to one area or territory, or break into others? How large a crew will you need if you’re planning on exponential growth? These are questions that are best asked sooner than later, so you can plan accordingly.

One way many new business owners manage these questions is by following a business model that fits their vision and allows them to quickly adapt. Once you’ve been in business for a time, you’ll realize the importance and value of a business model that is scalable and flexible, and that can help you respond to challenges as you grow. If a business model has been defined and refined correctly, it will act as a dynamic tool that allows you to stay competitive. A good business model will have contingencies for:

  • Onboarding additional crews
  • Expanding into new territories
  • Growing to meet demands of larger clients
  • Maintaining cash flow

If you’re operating as an independent owner, it’ll be up to you to define a business model well before your doors open. If, however, you start your business as part of a franchise brand, you should have access to a tested model that will help you navigate the industry, tap into important resources, set growth goals, leverage income streams, define marketing strategies, establish a company culture, and much more.

Growing your business quickly has its merits, but it doesn’t mean ultimate success. Long-term, what any business owner really wants is growth that can be nurtured and sustained, which means having the resources and infrastructure in place to support that.

The Importance of Marketing

It goes without saying that getting the word out about your business and its services and staying in front of your best customers at all times is crucial to success. These days, that’s much easier to do, thanks to the internet.

Today, most consumers start their search for products and services online. They compare prices and reviews, and make decisions based on them. For this reason, a robust, informative, and engaging online presence is essential, and that starts with a good-looking and informative business website that contains everything your customers need to know about you and your services. Once you’ve set up this website, you’ll want to be sure it’s easy to find, which means making sure it’s SEO-optimized so that it ranks high in searches. Your online presence should also include regular social media engagement to promote your brand, offer discounts and specials, and share success stories.

Branded Opportunities
Trucks that may feature your business’s logo, uniforms that sport brand colors and insignia, signs, mottos, taglines, and more are all part of branding efforts that can go a very long way toward marketing your business and keeping it in front of your best customers. If you’re not comfortable coming up with designs, brand colors, verbage, etc., on your own, consider hiring a marketing agency or a design firm that can help you establish and articulate your branding. Good branding — efforts that immediately identify your business and solidify it in the public’s memory over time — are worth the investment.
Word of Mouth
Networking in your community, joining your Chamber of Commerce, and encouraging happy customers to leave positive reviews online are also important and effective ways to market your business. In fact, of all the marketing tools available to you, word of mouth may be the very best because it’s based on the genuine satisfaction of customers, which makes it reliable, and it’s free! Customer satisfaction should be the goal of every business owner, but it’s not always easy to achieve consistently because the infrastructure may not be in place to handle jobs expertly or to address complaints quickly and professionally. The ripple effect of an unhappy client can be expansive, so it’s vital that you make the customer experience a priority with every job you take.

Start from Scratch or Partner with an Experienced Franchisor?

As we’ve just discussed, there are a lot of moving parts to starting a landscaping business, most of it pretty straightforward, some of it more nuanced. It’s helpful to know that once you’ve decided on this career path, there are a couple of ways to get there: you can start from scratch and open your business as an independent owner, or you can partner with an established and recognized franchise brand like U.S. Lawns.

Since 1986, the U.S. Lawns business model has allowed hundreds of franchise owners to meet the challenges and rewards of business ownership at every turn. From hiring the right people to utilizing best practices to initiating effective marketing plans, our business model takes a lot of the trial and error out of running a landscaping business, allowing our franchise owners to feel knowledgeable and prepared every day.

Whether you decide to do business as an independent owner or partner with a brand, either way it’s an exciting journey, one that promises plenty of challenges and rewards. Are you ready for it?

To find out more about owning a commercial landscaping business with U.S. Lawns, get in touch today!

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