The Ultimate Guide to Running a Lawn Care Business
Homeowners take great pride in their lawns, and lawns require constant maintenance to keep that lush, green look that makes them happy. With the average American’s busy schedule, lawn care services are in high demand, and that’s not going to change any time soon. So if you are thinking about starting your own lawn care business or landscaping company, the good news is that there is plenty of money to be made. With all of the competition out there, however, it is important to start your lawn care and landscaping business the right way.
Advantages of Running a Lawn Care Company
Besides the obvious benefits of being your own boss and getting to spend time outdoors, there are numerous other advantages to running a lawn care or landscape business. Here are some of the primary advantages that assist in everything from hiring to marketing to growth.
As we all know, lawn care is a never ending job, so repeat business is the name of the game. Most clients — whether residential, commercial, faith community, etc. — want their yards and landscaping maintained weekly during the spring, summer, and autumn, providing you with a steady source of reliable income. If you demonstrate your skill and knowledge to your clients by keeping their lawns, flowers, shrubs, and other landscaped areas looking beautiful, they will stick with you for the long haul.
When you are starting out in the lawn care industry, you don’t need a lot of money or equipment to get off the ground. Many lawn care companies even start out as a one-person show using their own home equipment in order to keep costs low and build a customer base. Once your business starts to expand and grow, you can reinvest some of your earnings to hire additional help and to purchase more equipment.
Another primary benefit to running a lawn care or landscaping business is scalability. You can start small as a sole proprietorship or limited liability company (LLC) and offer one or two basic services like mowing lawns or raking leaves. From there, you can gradually add on other services (and employees and equipment) such as tree trimming, gardening, weed control, fertilizing, aeration and overseeding, and detailed landscaping to meet customer demand.
Little Experience Necessary
As the owner of a landscape or lawn care business, you definitely need to know what you’re doing, but when you need to hire employees, they don’t need any special skills or experience. While it’s nice when a new hire has experience with equipment and knowledge of the industry, on the job training can quickly get them up to speed as lawn care professionals.
Disadvantages of Running a Lawn Care Company
While there are plenty of pluses to running a lawn care business, there are some downsides as well. Here are some aspects of the job that are less than ideal.
Lots of Competition
Chances are that there are several companies that offer lawn care and landscaping services in your area. Before you get started, do your research to see what services are already being offered. Do some research on pricing as well, but keep in mind that if the only way you try to compete is by lowering your prices or cutting costs too significantly, it will be very difficult to make any money. Instead, find a niche that works well with your values of skillset. From offering organic services to carrying general liability insurance, there are plenty of ways to make your business stand out from the rest.
In many parts of the country, people don’t need lawn care services during the winter months. For many lawn care and landscaping providers this means a significant loss of revenue and a blow to hiring. One way many companies make the winter work is by offering additional services such as snow removal. However, this can require different types of equipment and training and should be factored into any business plan.
Quality Workers Can Be Hard to Find
As a lawn care business owner, your employees will be the face of your business. They’ll also be doing most of the work. While you can certainly provide them with the training they’ll need to be skilled at maintaining lawns and providing excellent customer service, finding reliable, hard workers can be tricky. Paying a competitive wage, and if you’re able, offering some form of health insurance can assist in getting quality hires.
So you’ve decided you want to run a lawn care business. What do you do first? What about second and third? While the specifics of each of the following steps can be more complex (or less) depending on where you live and what your goals are, they still provide a road map for getting started:
- Decide on the services you will offer
- Determine what equipment/training you and your employees will need
- Determine pricing and costs
- Think through funding (personal loan? bank loan? investors?)
- Determine how you will register your business (LLC? self-employed?) and what licenses you might need to operate where you are
- Get the business infrastructure in place (e.g. purchase equipment, put up a website, get a business phone number, etc.)
- Purchase insurance
- Get to work
Of course, running a lawn care business is more than just starting a lawn care business, but a lot of the business operations that will keep your company running will be part of the business structure from day one. Here are some common questions — and their answers — about running a lawn care business.
What Are the Startup Costs of a Lawn Care Business? What About Ongoing Costs?
One advantage of the lawn care business is that it is relatively cheap to get started, so long as you aren’t overly ambitious right out of the gate. New owners can often get on their feet for not much more than $20,000 — even less if you already have a truck and some equipment. Start up costs — and ongoing costs — include the following:
Business License and Insurance
Most municipalities require a business license and insurance in order to start a new business. If you plan to offer pesticide and herbicide services, special certifications and permits may be required. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce to find out what is required in your area. You can expect to spend around $100 for a license and business insurance. Make sure you find out how often you will need to renew your license, as well as the ongoing cost of insurance, so you can factor both costs into running your business.
Lawn Care Equipment
When you start out, you don’t need much more than tools and a way to get them to the job site. You can expect to spend around $20,000 on the following:
- Commercial grade lawn mower (approx. $8,000)
- Used Truck ($8,000 or more)
- Trailer (approx. $1,000)
- Additional equipment including trimmer, leaf blower, edger, push mower, string trimmer, etc. ($1,000 – $2,000)
Keep in mind that the equipment costs of running your business will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to):
- Equipment maintenance
- Your pace of growth (or lack thereof)
- Fuel prices
- Number of employees, plus any benefits provided and labor market conditions affecting hourly pay, etc.
- Tax rates
- Price of insurance and types of coverage (e.g. liability, workers’ compensation, etc.)
Whether it’s a lawn care business app, employee management software, a CRM, or just QuickBooks, software can make running any kind of business a lot easier. While software isn’t necessary when you’re just starting out, as you grow, you’ll want to streamline and automate any processes you can to save money and time.
There are several different apps available that can help small business owners with scheduling, invoicing, communication, time tracking and more. Automating your business helps you stay organized so you can grow your business more efficiently.
Marketing and Advertising
When it comes to marketing and advertising costs, there is no consensus as to how much money a lawn care business or landscaping company — or any small business for that matter — should spend when starting up. Nor is there any consensus around how much marketing and advertising will cost across the course of running such a business. (F That being said, you should probably expect to spend something if you want to be successful — even if it’s just on business cards and flyers to put up around the neighborhood.
As you’re considering how much you can afford to spend on marketing efforts, keep in mind that there are some excellent free tools to use for owners of smaller operations and for those just starting out. Here are some of them:
- Social media: Instagram and Facebook, because they are more visual, can prove especially useful, and a good Facebook business page can function similar to a small website in terms of visibility.
- Google My Business (GMB): Signing your business up so that it shows up in Google’s local search results is free and extremely important for landscaping and lawn care service companies to do, since all the work is local to somewhere.
- Free website: Many of the popular website builder tools offer free templates for anyone who wants to build a website. While free plans usually won’t include a domain name and often also include some ads on the page, for someone just starting out or for a business owner who needs to keep costs low, it’s still a good choice.
Whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do your bookkeeping, this is a cost that is often overlooked. As your business grows, you will probably need a professional to take care of payroll, taxes, and more. Keep in mind, too, that if you do all your own bookkeeping, doing so is a real time commitment that will take away from putting your time to other parts of your business.
How to Raise Money to Start a Lawn Care Company
If you don’t have the cash to start your new lawn care company, there are other options to raise startup capital. Consider a small business loan, personal loan, home equity loan, credit card, or you can always seek out investors or borrow from family or friends. For help with writing a business plan, finding a loan, and many more resources, visit the Small Business Administration (SBA) website.
How to Find New Customers
While customer retention should certainly be a focus of your business, finding new customers is key to any growth. Here are some tips on acquiring new customers.
Advertise Your Lawn Care Business
Customers are, of course, the lifeblood of a successful lawn care business. In addition to the recommendations above, be sure to consider the location of your business (whether it is an office or your home) and how far you can realistically travel when you select your distribution area for flyers, radio ads, and social media ads.
Speaking of social media: Social media ads on Facebook, Instagram or Nextdoor are another great way to target homeowners, renters, businesses, faith communities, and the like in your area.
For lawn care, client referrals are a key way to generate new business, because they cost you nothing and they hold a lot of weight with potential customers. If you want your business to grow by word-of-mouth, treat your clients like you would treat your friends or family. Always offer excellent customer service. That means being responsive, attentive, getting the job done on time, communicating well, cleaning up after yourself and always being kind and patient when dealing with your customers’ concerns. Always encourage happy customers to refer you to friends or write a review online.
Common Questions About Running a Lawn Care or Landscaping Company
How Many Hours Should I Expect to Work?
Like any new business owner, you can expect to put in long hours when you are starting out. In the first year, when you are hustling to generate new customers and serve your existing ones, you may work as much as 70 hours per week. As you grow your business and hire employees, you can gradually cut back your hours to a more manageable amount. However, as the boss, there may always be times when you have to put in extra time.
How Do I Find Good Employees?
When interviewing candidates, look for someone who enjoys physical work, who has a positive attitude, and who loves the idea of making a yard look beautiful. They should have good references that speak to their work ethic, attitude, and their willingness to learn. Once hired, be sure to train them properly and monitor their work to ensure it is up to your standards, offering additional training as needed.
If you want reliable employees who work hard, treat them well. Pay them a good wage and give them the kindness and respect they deserve. If you show that you care about their best interests, they will care about your business.
How Profitable is a Lawn Care Business?
As with many things: It depends. If you’re working by yourself, it will depend on the amount of time you actually spend on the business, but individuals can expect to earn between $5,000 and $50,000 a year depending on the time they put in. Small to mid-sized lawn care businesses that can have a solid profit margin that can allow for reinvestment in the business and higher pay for the owner and employees with some landscaping company owners earning six figures and up.
How Do I Make My Lawn Care Business Successful?
Here are some rules to follow if you are serious about making your lawn care company a success:
- Get proper licensing. If you are applying commercial grade products to your customers’ lawns, you need to carry the proper accreditations to do so.
- Make customer service a priority. Happy customers are repeat customers and they can lead to new referrals, which are like gold in this (and almost any) business.
- Hire the right people and treat them with respect.
- Always communicate with clients about appointments and follow up after a job is complete.
- Do not neglect equipment maintenance. A properly maintained lawn mower and other equipment will last for years and get the job done right.
- Pay attention to the weather and how it may affect your schedule.
- Learn all that you can. Educate yourself about the different types of cool season and warm season grasses and how to properly maintain them. Educate yourself about lawn pests, weeds and diseases that are common in your area. If you are knowledgeable about all aspects of lawn maintenance, you can keep lawns green and healthy and offer additional services to your clients as needed.
Running your own lawn care business can be exciting and highly profitable when you do it right. To stand out from the competition and grow your business it takes hard work, knowledge and excellent customer service.
Are you interested in exploring different options regarding the ownership and work related to your current landscaping or lawn care company? Find out more about how Green Group helps companies just like yours who are ready to go about work in a different way.