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mcw615
10-27-2009, 10:10 PM
I have been in business for 3 years primarily doing lawn and landscape maintenance contracts. That division is solid. I am ready to become a landscape company. I have learned my lesson from trying to push the business to grow too much trying to take 10 leaps at a time vs. one step at a time. I have layed low this year and plan to gradually come out of hibernating next year and make 2011 a fireworks show explosion of "Where did this company come from?!?"

I am working on getting my contractors license, I am working on studying for my certified horticulturist, and I am going to study and further my education and knowledge of the landscape/horticulture industry over this winter and throughout next year to prepare for 2011. Another reason I have laid low is because it is hard for me to get financing to cover mowers etc. I turn 20 years old next month, I have a great credit score and the whole 9 yards but get turned down because I don't have a lengthy credit history (because of my age) and also I have not had a solid 3 consecutive years in business. I don't want to push landscaping, hardscaping and everything else and not have a really good knowledge of each before moving on to the next and not have the financial power as a resource to be able to finance things as now I just have to pay everything in cash. The main thing is I want to have all licenses, certs, and become members of organizations and have a good knowledge of the horticulture industry and feel good with my skills and know what I'm doing (I know a lot I will learn in the field) but I have learned you only get one FIRST IMPRESSION and you really want to knock the socks off of that prospect with your knowledge, and passion for landscaping. I want to work on projects, and not low jobs. Be a respectable company for doing great work. You don't want to look like an idiot trying to push your landscape business and not know what your talking about then come back a year or two later, you have already used up your first impression with that person.

Where I am getting to is I would like some advice from some Landscape Company Operations of some of the things I should be working on right now to help make things run smoothly when I market all these services?

With my lawn and landscape maintenance I have relied on word of mouth advertisement to get my business to where it is today. Do you get a lot of GOOD work to pretty much keep you going from W.O.M?

What would you recommend for when I get ready to start trying to pick the landscaping up to do such as marketing...PROFESSIONALLY??? To get the lawn side going I passed out thousands of cards to get full time, but that was before I was a professional in the overall landscape industry business

And just any regular input/advice/recommendations?

THANKS!!

mcw615
10-27-2009, 11:16 PM
*********** my title i meant to say solid, not sold ***************

White Gardens
10-27-2009, 11:21 PM
First off, you really don't need to finance anything.

If you've got a successful maintenance company then you should be able to cover the costs of the minimal equipment needed to do landscaping.

1.) Take Deposits from your customers for each project. Keep using cash. There is no reason to over-finance yourself just to operate.

2.) Get a tax ID number, even as a sole proprietor and find some local companies that you can open a credit account. Try not to use these accounts if you can to minimize your debt, but it will be good standing account on your credit report.

3.) Until you establish you landscaping division, I wouldn't by any big purchases and when you do, find used to start out with. Even if that means well used, and you can fix it up.

4.) Rent machines for jobs until you can afford them. Example, You don't want to by a tiller (a good used one) until you use it more than X amount of times a year. Or, don't by equipment until the cost to rent in one year equals 2 years of payments on that machine.

After four years of establishing my biz, I might be able to finally drop the money on a mini skid. Even then I'm not sure if I should wait one more year.

Maintenance is good income. With the handful of yards I mow, and my bi-weekly landscape maintenance accounts, I've been still able to operate as a business without raking up debt when I go through a lull between landscape installs.

As for marketing. I do fliers when ever I'm slow and out of 1000 I've past out, I've gotten 10 customers. I did also just join a local BNI group in Bloomington Il, and that has been great so far.

mcw615
10-27-2009, 11:31 PM
We are a full company, incorporated, insured, I have 10 employees, 3 maintenance trucks and an "enhanced" truck which I use for doing the pruning, mulching, fert, aeration, irrigation install & repair, winterizing irrigation etc. I have just always focused on staying in maintenance so far because I am very good at it, train my guys to do GREAT work and it's guaranteed income which is good when you have a building to pay for, utilities, insurance and everything. We own a wide variety and assortment of equipment, the main thing I am trying to seek is marketing specifically for landscaping, and key things I need to learn to make other processes go easier. I plan to just rent equipment on an as needed basis per job, and when it seems to be feasible to purchase equipment I would start with a used bobcat, used mini ex, and a mini skid. Those seem to be the most used equipment.

AGLA
10-27-2009, 11:43 PM
Rule #1: Don't expect your equipment to get you work (see on 3-4 on White Gardens post above).

mcw615
10-27-2009, 11:46 PM
Rule #1: Don't expect your equipment to get you work (see on 3-4 on White Gardens post above).

Yes that is very true and never have thought that way, but thanks. Unfortunately there are people out there that think they just need to buy a commercial zero turn mower like "the big guys" and go knock on some doors and they will be making money.................... bottom line - NOT HAPPENING

AGLA
10-28-2009, 12:03 AM
When you really think about it, construction can have less overhead than maintenance unless you get really tool horny. Shovels, rakes, brooms, wheel barrows and some non-power hand tools can get most of it done. Granted, you can move a lot more earth a lot faster with a machine, but you don't need a Dingo and an auger to plant 2 gallon shrubs.

mcw615
10-28-2009, 12:06 AM
Less overheard, not really any equipment maintenance such as sharpening blades, and everything else, plus your billing your hourly rate straight vs. having employees drive from location to location, so you have a MUCH greater profit margin with landscaping and again much less equipment overhead

ryde307
10-28-2009, 12:07 AM
mcw was/am in a similair situation.I am in a partnership corporation all legal and well. Been doing the lawn work and irrigation for 6 years. We stayed away from landscaping didnt feel comfortable offering it to compete with others. I spent alot of time with friends who are full time landscapers learning every thing I could and try to learn every chance I get. That said we moved into landscaping slowly last year much more full time this year. To start it all came through word of mouth and through existing clients we have a good trust with. It's slow but was the pace we wanted. I still bring in outside people to help if I ever feel I am not capable of doing A+ work. I also am part of a BNI group like white gardens said.

mcw615
10-28-2009, 12:29 AM
mcw was/am in a similair situation.I am in a partnership corporation all legal and well. Been doing the lawn work and irrigation for 6 years. We stayed away from landscaping didnt feel comfortable offering it to compete with others. I spent alot of time with friends who are full time landscapers learning every thing I could and try to learn every chance I get. That said we moved into landscaping slowly last year much more full time this year. To start it all came through word of mouth and through existing clients we have a good trust with. It's slow but was the pace we wanted. I still bring in outside people to help if I ever feel I am not capable of doing A+ work. I also am part of a BNI group like white gardens said.

I have considered joining BNI getting in with others, but haven't had time for it this year. I believe I just need to further my education, build more knowledge, get some jobs to start off, do a really good job and I guess let the landscape division kind of grow itself with word of mouth and a little umpf. Kind of the way I got the mowing going. Had to be cheap to get people excited, and it's in everyone's nature to tell everyone when they get an excellent quality service for a reeaallllyyyy good deal. A new local restaurant opened in town a few weeks ago.. I just dined there the weekend before last, extremely good food, great service, and was only $5.95 as Applebees, Logan's, Roadhouse etc would be $9.95-$12.95 for the similar meal and appetizers. I know since then I have told gosh who knows how many customers and friends how good this restaurant is. I'm sure in a couple months after they have set regular customers prices will go up.

mcw615
10-28-2009, 12:33 AM
mcw was/am in a similair situation.I am in a partnership corporation all legal and well. Been doing the lawn work and irrigation for 6 years. We stayed away from landscaping didnt feel comfortable offering it to compete with others. I spent alot of time with friends who are full time landscapers learning every thing I could and try to learn every chance I get. That said we moved into landscaping slowly last year much more full time this year. To start it all came through word of mouth and through existing clients we have a good trust with. It's slow but was the pace we wanted. I still bring in outside people to help if I ever feel I am not capable of doing A+ work. I also am part of a BNI group like white gardens said.

And yes same here, don't feel comfortable to building a customers ideal dream landscape with a bare horticulture knowledge, and would like to try and build my education and knowledge of landscaping before I push to get into it for my companies reputation's sake for what I have built for being a detailed, nit picky, maintenance perfectionist. With lawns when I was starting in this, your at the property each week so as you get better you do a better job. With the landscaping, you get better from job to job, and have just one chance. We'll seeee

White Gardens
10-28-2009, 09:40 AM
I've also been thinking about your marketing for the Landscaping side of your biz.

If you've already got a customer base for maintenance, then I would market to them first. You might want to send out a news-letter stating the changes in your business and the new services you offer. You might be surprised on how many jobs you can get that way.

Most of my maintenance customers have either expressed interest in some Landscaping weather it be a small bed with edging and mulch, up to a 1000 square feet of paver sidewalk installed.

mcw615
10-28-2009, 09:45 AM
I've also been thinking about your marketing for the Landscaping side of your biz.

If you've already got a customer base for maintenance, then I would market to them first. You might want to send out a news-letter stating the changes in your business and the new services you offer. You might be surprised on how many jobs you can get that way.

Most of my maintenance customers have either expressed interest in some Landscaping weather it be a small bed with edging and mulch, up to a 1000 square feet of paver sidewalk installed.

I have learned to "fake it until you make it" and this is especially for the landscaping side. I offer and have been offering landscaping and hardscaping, but thanks for the reminder - I need to really give incentives for current customers for landscape jobs. I plan to start doing a seasonal newsletter next year, and I think I can add things like, "despite the economic woo's we have still been able to create some very interesting and exciting projects." and go on to talk about some things your doing. Talk like your doing a whole lot and maybe that will plant a seed in a customers head thinking about the beds up front and things...

White Gardens
10-28-2009, 09:55 AM
It sounds like you've got a pretty good handle on your situation.

If you don't have the funds to drop the money on tuition at the local schools, you could take a MG course this winter in your area, and also look around and see if there are any hardscaping suppliers that are offering seminars on installation practices.

I didn't want to post this before, but, what I've found with other LCO's and Landscapers in this area is that it's can be hard to branch out either direction when you've already been successful at one or the other. The mistake these guys make though is that they don't drop any money into advertising and can't quite crack the market they want to get into.

You might want to think of a media campaign next season to try and push the landscaping.

mcw615
10-28-2009, 10:02 AM
I've also been thinking about your marketing for the Landscaping side of your biz.

If you've already got a customer base for maintenance, then I would market to them first. You might want to send out a news-letter stating the changes in your business and the new services you offer. You might be surprised on how many jobs you can get that way.

Most of my maintenance customers have either expressed interest in some Landscaping weather it be a small bed with edging and mulch, up to a 1000 square feet of paver sidewalk installed.

I am on the email list of a top landscape company in my area, and that's what they do, they are always talking about how thankful they are that they are doing more work for existing clients etc. Another thing I am targeting to do is also have great customer service/relations. I am moving to only 12 month contracts next year, and for those that like to fert, mulch, and prune themselves then it's just a mowing, spring and fall clean up contract but I am very confident I will have plenty of customers add extras because it's psychological -- only "$xx.xx" more per month to have all this done. I feel people will take advantage of the mulching the most. With this I plan to begin next year making phone calls, emails to each customer about every 3 months just checking in to build relationships with more of our customers, that will gain trust and you always know how a customer feels, and I believe it will sell more services, hopefully get more landscaping jobs, and definitely feel we will get more referrals. I also hear guys on lawnsite talk about how they are getting jobs just because they were 1 of 5 services that acutally answered the phone. I have a office landline number and all calls are forwarded to a dedicated cell phone I keep on me, that way it seems like a more structured business, and I plan to have "office hours 8-5" as most larger companies are open 8-12 then 230-5 I'm sure to go do quick errands and take a lunch. I feel if someone hasn't researched company profiles on their websites and just jotted a few company names and numbers thinking they are all a decent size they should fit for the job, a lot of people I think will call on their lunch break at work which can be when these other firms are out on their lunch hoping the prospect will leave a message. I personally like a business that is going to answer the phone when I call and not have to leave a voicemail because it typically takes awhile for them to get back to me.

To sum it up:
- better customer service/relations
- do more of "faking it until you make it" talking like your doing some very nice projects
- continuously market more services every month when you send bills and so forth

mcw615
10-28-2009, 10:12 AM
The only school in my town that offers any type of horticulture classes are at community and if you complete the criteria it is on a certificate of completion not a degree, but it's just about getting the education. The down side is there is a very low demand and a low availability of instructors so they just offer like 2 classes a semester. This fall I checked and they aren't offering anything.

These are the classes they have just not all offered each semester:
HRT 108 Plant Identification 2
HRT 110 Principles of Horticulture 3
HRT 111 Landscape Horticulture 3
HRT 205 Soils 3
HRT 207 Plant Pest Management 3
Elective1 3
HRT 225 Nursery and Garden Center Management 3
HRT 231 Planting Design I 3
HRT 269 Professional Turf Care 3


I would like to take them all... I did some research and found the textbooks they use for each class and can buy them on amazon.com for about nothing - so I have thought just buy them all and study and maybe go back and take a couple classes like planting design, principle of hort, and maybe pro turf care.

Allan Block came to a city near me last summer and I took the entry certification seminar, but didn't really get a grasp like I knew what I was doing because pretty much all the guys in there have been doing this just wanting the certs. and I didn't know any of the vocabulary or technical terms they were using. I will probably go back and retake that, but my first focus in landscaping because that gets you into hardscaping.

PaperCutter
10-28-2009, 12:17 PM
Where in VA are you?

mcw615
10-28-2009, 12:19 PM
Lynchburg and SW, VA

PaperCutter
10-28-2009, 12:28 PM
check your PM

Turf Logic
10-29-2009, 04:28 PM
I have never understood why most of this site says not to finance. The name of the game is capital and if you want to drop 20 to 40k in cash for a skid steer thats your buisness, but personally in this market cash is king. Ask any succesful buisness person and they wil tell you to use someone else's money to make money. if you are just getting started there is no need to buy a lot of equipment, I see quite a few guys make that mistake.