View Full Version : Full service landscaping company PLUS large excavation - Can it be done?

03-29-2005, 11:59 PM
Okay guys, I've got a question here. My dad and I have been disputing my future for some time now. Next fall, I plan to go get at least a 2 year degree in business management from a community college. What I would like to do after that is take a 1 year diesel mechanic course to get a better understanding of diesel engines. What my question is how many of you guys run a full service landscaping company (lawn maintenance, complete landscape design and installation) plus run somewhat of an excavation business? I think the demographics here could support such a business, but does it financially make sense? Right now we do everything landscape oriented and have almost doubled our revenue since last year and this is our 2nd full season in business since August 2003. In short, our company is and will be successfull over the course of the next 3 or so years while I'm away at college. My lifetime goal is to run some sort of excavation business, that's really what I enjoy doing, running equipment. But I want to keep the landscaping business going as well because it makes a pretty good amount of money. I would like to do equipment work and Ksss, you come to mind when I think of what I would like to do. Have a couple skid steers, maybe an excavator or 2, and a couple trucks to do equipment work. I could see myself doing retaining walls, foundation work, underground utilities, site prep, road building, demolition work, etc. but I'm curious as to if this is feasible to even bother with while running a full service landscape company. I'd like some opinions guys, my dad says that it's pointless to even bother doing equipment specific jobs, says there's too many guys out there running around with backhoes that will work for cheap. Right now I would love nothing more than to be able to have at least one job a week that would require stictly skid steer work, we're setup for that with our 216, but my dad says it's a "waste of time" and he says "that's not the business we're in" Anyway, opinions would be appeciated. Thanks

Green Pastures
03-30-2005, 12:59 AM
The short answer is......

You can do anything you set your mind and heart to do.

I sure hope it's possible cuz I just spent $50K on a skid steer, some attatchments and a trailer to haul it around on. I already had a full service landscaping installation and landscape maintenance company up and running.

Truth is the skid steer was bought for making the landscape installations go easier and quicker and I realized I can do minor excavation and grading work with it as well.

God bless!

03-30-2005, 01:32 AM
best money maker I seen was a guy with a mini ex that went around the differnt areas where they had run water lines down the rd and the older houses had the option of tapping in. The guy would dig the trench from the main to the house and do 9 out of 10 house on every street. He then went back and graded the areas and reseeded them. Been doing it now for 4 yrs and this will be the 5 summer. Wish It was me!!! lol

03-30-2005, 08:25 AM
First make sure you will be able to get the work needed to cover your nut then sum! and go into it slowly, I find that my case 580 backhoe sit's more time then it's working I end up renting mini excavator, or skid steers to do the jobs I need the case is to big on most job's.

03-30-2005, 09:17 AM
It can be done. There are a few companies out there that do it, but the one that comes to mind is Landscape Concepts of Illinois. (They're all over Illinois... their earthmoving is based in Wauconda; their other branches elsewhere.)

They do both excavation and final landscaping (er, mulching or pruning trees et al) and also lay sod. Unfortunately. (:)) they run 85XTs and not S250s. Ah well. :)

03-30-2005, 06:34 PM
Sure it can be done. We are a full service landscape business and also offer excavation. We do work for a lot of builders where we give them a site package, excavation, utilities, foundation, landscape, paving, and concrete work. It seems to work well for us, because they only deal with one contactor instead of 5 or 6. Just start out small and work your way up.

03-31-2005, 02:19 AM
Thanks for the opinions! Sounds like it can be done, but I get the feeling that if I'm a "jack of all trades", part of my business will not be as "top notch" as the rest. Hopefully by then we will have a good foreman that will be able to run the landscape installation crew by himself alone. In 2 weeks our foreman starts working. He is completely in-experienced in the field from the standpoint of the service provider, but has done this type of work for friends, family, etc. He realizes that for about 3 months the crew will know more about the work we're doing than he will, but he's about 38 years old and willing to learn. He is one of my good friend's dad and that I've known for years and I trust that he will work well for us because he quit a very good job working in an autobody shop for 10 years that paid him benefits and a pretty good chunk of change a year just to be able to work outside for us. I anticipate that in 4 years he will have this business figured out and I will be able to dabble around with different markets, etc. The way I figure it, once I'm out of school my dad will still hold the company for at least 4 years, that'll give me some time to figure out where exactly I want to take the company. Heck, who knows. At the rate we're growing a year by that time we could be grossing well over $1 million a year, wouldn't that be nice. Thanks for the opinions!

03-31-2005, 09:31 AM
I agree with everything that's been said...you can do anything you put your mind and heart into.

I like playnindirt's idea of trying to leverage your existing landscaping business and the relationships you have into a full-service site preparation contractor.

Also keep in mind, as aries pointed out, that "big" jobs require big equipment. Once you have bigger equipment, you need bigger trucks and trailers to move it around. Digging house foundations and site prep is likely going to require bigger equipment than is needed for landscape installs.

You mentioned that you are "already setup" for going after some excavation work with your 216. Why not start trying to get your name out there and see what you can find. I'm sure that if you can bring the business (and the profit), your dad won't see it as a waste of time...


Krois Landscaping
03-31-2005, 07:47 PM
I don't want to burst any bubbles, but in my area all these landscapers are all "excavating contractors" now. Most of these people never worked for anyone else to learn anything, most just went out and bought machines and thought they were big time contractors. Whenever i look in the yellow pages under landscaping, all these landscapers list "excavating" as a service.

I'm just wondering if you plan on working for anyone first, or just making it up as you go? Theres a lot involved in excavating, not just digging holes. I don't do any type of landscaping or mowing at all anymore, i want to go into excavating for myself in a few years and devoted my efforts to working for an excavating company so i can learn the trade before i jump in. I want to be liscensed in most aspects of the trade such as demolition, sewer/water lines, septic systems, etc. Theres a lot of knowledge needed other than running a machine.

In closing, yes it can be done. If you want to do excavating, spend a summer working for an excavating company, learn to read blueprints, run machines and take up as much knowledge in as you can. There are some companies who do both excavating and landscaping and are good at it, so yes it can be done. You have a skidsteer now, so you have an piece of equipment to start with, if you get a job, rent a machine until you can justify purchasing one. But please, get experienced in the trade before you jump in. It would pretty embarrassing to go onto a jobsite and be clueless.

04-03-2005, 04:05 AM
Krois makes several good points. There is a lot to learn. I would start by getting a mini excavator. It can be used in the landscaping operation and used for more dedicated excavation jobs. The smaller equipment will keep you from getting too far over your head. The biggest thing is if you don't know the answer find it, don't wing it. Befriend several area excavators and tap their knowledge. Water line installs, spetics, and sewer installs are fairly easy. Preparing building pads is easy. Preparing concrete subbase is easy. Demolition jobs can be iffy depending on the job. Nothing your going to do with smaller equipment is difficult. Bid the smaller work and gradually bid larger jobs as you gain more experience. The biggest hurdle I see you having is adding the needed equipment. You'll need a 10-12 yard dump truck, the mentioned miniex. It doesn't all have to come at once. I would scale up your skid steer when its time to trade perhaps to a 236-246. Get a used mini excavator and shop for a tandem dump truck. The equipment added over the next several years would position you nicely when your ready to expand.

04-04-2005, 03:49 AM
Thanks for the replies guys. Ksss, you point out exactly where I want to take this thing. I've talked to an excavation contractor that I know very well and he keeps telling me there's too much at stake, he's telling me stay with smaller equipment as well. Ideally, a 10-12 yard dump truck, 10-11K lb mini excavator, and for skid steers our 216 plus a 248 would be about all the equipment I would need. I decided yesterday that I'll never be without a skid steer that is only 5 feet wide, our work gets us too close to buildings to be using a larger machine. I see the need for a larger skid later on, but we will always need something a little more compact to service the folks who are building houses on lots that are worth upwards of $800,000 for a 1/4 acre waterfront lot.