View Full Version : Starting a landscaping business from scratch
Green from the Ground Up
08-07-2009, 07:58 PM
Hey guys, first time reader...first time poster. I've been in the landscaping business for a few seasons now, working for several different companies. I've always gotten compliments on my mowing abilities, and quite frankly, I am tired of working for other people.
I want to start my own landscaping business. I've saved up a nice chunk of change so far, and I am waiting until the end of the season to try and pick up some stuff on end of season clearance and all.
What I am looking for is some general advice in getting started. What brand of mowers do you guys recommend? Blowers? Trimmers?
Should I try to find low-hour used equipment, or splurge on the new stuff to start? I have good enough credit to take out a small-business loan, but I would rather do as much of this on my own dime as possible. What is the best way to go about getting business to start with? I was thinking of offering free "mowestimates", a one-time free cut to try and get customers at the start of next season (I live in New England).
I have a lot of ideas about how to make my company stick out from the rest. But I could use some advice on getting going from scratch.
08-07-2009, 08:33 PM
As far as equipment goes, I say buy USED. There is really no need to go spend 10-20K when just starting (in time you might work your way up to this).
Keep your eye on Craigslist, especially at the end of the season and in the winter months as many will decide to get out of the business or various other reasons and sell their equipment at a much lower price than new units. With the $$$ you save here, you can put it towards other points of your business.
08-07-2009, 11:13 PM
I'm in the same boat as you buddy except I've been doing side work for the past few years. The only equipment I've used on the job is Exmark mowers and echo blowers, trimmers. We have hardly any problems with them.
I've been lurking on craigslist all year and right now the used wb mowers are the lowest I've seen. They wanted 1000 for a 36 or 48 belt drive at the beginning of the year and now there are some as low as 600. I don't think I'll be buying one right now though, I can get by with a 21.
Check with your states small business bureau, they offer free counseling on starting a small business. I will be working with mine this winter for sure.
I would love to get my ducks in a row this winter and maybe snatch some of the commercial accounts I work on now. That would be the best revenge for working my finger to the bone, never getting any raises, having hours on my checks shorted, and just putting up with a poorly managed company and all that other bs.
08-07-2009, 11:16 PM
One thing more I missed, don't give anything away for free. This is a hard business to make money in, if you give one thing away for free they will expect more and maybe threaten to go to another company. The place I work for gets suckered into that every time.
The only exception to that rule for me is a long time loyal customer who lets me do snow cleanup and mowing, I might do a couple small things for free if it only takes a minute.
Another rule to follow, it's better to underpromise and overdeliver than it is to overpromise and underdeliver.
08-07-2009, 11:51 PM
I would look in local pawn shops for great deals (if available). All ways got great deals.
Green from the Ground Up
08-08-2009, 03:38 AM
How about potential pitfalls? I know I need to keep a lot of stuff in stock to make sure my equipment is up to snuff. What is something I need that I might not consider the first time around?
How about finding customers?
I've heard a lot of people say it is hard to make money in this business, so I want to come talk to the people who are already making money to find out how they did it. My college degree isn't worth much these days, and I prefer being outside to an office anyway.
08-08-2009, 04:58 AM
Avoid debt and look for good used deals. Save as much of your money as possible and instead use that for advertising in the spring. An ugly, but reliable, old mower will cut grass fine. A nice and shiny new mower wont cut anything if you don't have anyone's grass to cut. If your not already mechanically inclined, learn the basics on how to service your equipment and make minor repairs. Without a warranty you want to avoid having to pay the $50+ per hour to have something simple fixed. Don't give your service away for free. Your in business to make money, not run a charity and the more you tend to give away, the more your potential customers will expect you to give away. Charge a fair price and be consistent and confident (even when you have no clue what to bid right away) when you bid so that you portray professionalism to your customers and give them confidence they will get what your promising.
Spend a lot of time reading up on this site and use the search feature. Pretty much anything you can possibly think of has probably already been discussed in 50 different posts here.
08-08-2009, 10:14 AM
going into debt is not as it used to be. many Co. now offer low to NO interest.
however I would get customers 1st
Durham is a great town. Plenty of high-end residentials and plenty of small to medium sized commercial properties as well. I think first and formost, you have to decide what kind of company you wnat to be. Do you see yourself doing residentials and staying a fairly small contractor? or do you have aspirations of growing into a million dollar+ operation? Once you decide that, you will have some direction as to how and where to market your services.
Join the local Chamber of Commerce. Don't just write the check...make sure you go to the weekly breakfasts. You WILL make great contacts there. In CT, we are coming upon the bidding season, we have already started to get requests in for snow and 2010 maintenance. So make sure you've got some great looking bus. cards and get out there and start knocking on doors. Call all of the property managers in your area. By mid, Oct. it will be pretty hard picking up work for next season.
If you need any help with anything, don't hesitate to ask. Good Luck.
Green from the Ground Up
08-08-2009, 11:12 PM
I have high aspirations. I work for a guy who works as hard today as when he first started his business 25 years ago. He makes good money, but works too hard IMO.
I am not ready to put bids in yet. I haven't even bought my first mower. I want to start out residential mowing at the beginning of next season, using an advertising-blitz in March-April (question; should I start trying to find customers even sooner than that?) By the end of next season though I'd want at least one decent-sized commercial account, and build up from there.
How well do you guys get to know your customers? How do I approach potential clients? I've already thought about putting together a good brochure, but is there a follow-up method that seems effective?
Though we don't do much residential, I do believe you can get away with marketing in the early spring, but I dtill recommend youstart in the fall. You will be able to get to talk with residents that aren't happy with their present service. Yo might even be able to pick up some fall cleanup work. This is a great time to get your website in place and looking the way you want it. Since you have no job, you can use stock photograpy.Your website should be your brochure. I think you will be dissapointed if you wait til the spring to start getting work. When is the Durham Fair? Maybe you can get a cheap booth there?
08-10-2009, 12:47 AM
go with used commercial equipment and there is no need to start with a ZTR if you dont have any accounts yet. i suggest a small WB
08-10-2009, 11:39 PM
1- Take the time to develop a business plan. What is your target market? Regardless of what some may say... not all business is good business. Some people take any business that comes their way, thinking that is the way to grow. It doesn't always work that way.
2 - If at all possible don't go in debt, even a Zero interest loan. Payments are payments and you will have to make them in the months the grass doesn't grow.
3 - Develop a good business plan. Did I say that already? A business plan is not --- Buy a mower, buy a WB, buy a couple trimmers and a blower, buy a trailer and hitch it to the truck. Print some flyers, some business cards and take out an ad. Answer the phone and mow for whoever calls. That might have works for some, but is the plan for disaster
4 - Work YOUR plan, don't work my plan or some other plan, work yours.
5 - Do quality work, talk with your customers, make recommendations to them and remember the 3 foot rule. Anyone within 3 feet of you is a potential client. (if they fit your business plan)
08-11-2009, 01:23 AM
Network with some other service companies in your area like pest control, cleaning, window cleaning companies. See if they would be interested in referring each others services to their customers.
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