Expanding a Landscape design company to include maintenance

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by BeautifulBlooms, Nov 12, 2005.

  1. BeautifulBlooms

    BeautifulBlooms LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 613

    Any recommendations on moving into the maintenance side of things. My Wife has operated for 5 years as primarily landscape design. She sold the designs to the people who either installed themselves or bid the project out. The cost of the design could easily be gotten back in the difference in bids on installation. Or the do-it-yourselfers would buy the plants through here also creating a markup situation.

    Now we are adding a maintenance division. We both are horticulturists (University of Minnesota: Landscape, Nursery and Turf) but I spent the last 10 years on golf courses. So we know what quality is all about, we just are looking for any tips on making this work. We live up North in Wisconsin so we have all winter to plan things out. Right now we have enough landscape maintenance jobs lined up to keep me 100% maintenance, and my wife can continue with the design. We want to obviously add employees to the mix so we can get more maintenance jobs, but at least we have justified my time for the season next year.

    Wish me luck and any advice throw it at me!

    PMLAWN LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,534

    Most start in maintenance and move into design and hardscape because that is where the real money is. Have you really thought hard about going into the lowest profit margin area with the most labor problems and the highest equipment cost.

    Why not just start doing the installs of her designs??
  3. BeautifulBlooms

    BeautifulBlooms LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 613

    Actually for straight design she works much too many hours to justify stickign with that alone. She does all the drawing and revisions by hand although only one copy of the drawing is done on good paper. The base plan is drawn on the vellum and bum wad over the top until the revisions are complete. Anyways some computer programs may be more helpful in speeding the process but they also cost thousands of dollars usually.

    As for install versus maintenance, we dont want all the overhead that goes along with landscape installs. We just want to use our plant and knowledge of horticutlural principles to maintain peoples landscape. Specifically with how many lawn maintenance companies are out there, that many do not have the plant knowledge, we are aiming for the people who either mow the lawn themselves or contract it out to someone who just mows lawns. I knwo many people want an all in one package however it might be int her best interest to pay the guy to mow the lawn $25 an hour and pay us $35 or more to maintain perennials, annuals, shrubs, etc. Thats at least what we are aiming at for a target market. Bottom line we dont want all the overhead with all those things at least not yet. Maybe after we establish ourselves we will be more capable of throing some money out there for a better truck/trailer and mowing package and we can offer that service also, but right now we have a truck, a small trailer, hand pruners, backpack blower, hedge clipper, felco hand clippers, loping shears, shovels, rakes, backpack sprayer, tarps, etc. Just the basics. We are looking at a $100,000 - $200,000 to really throw everything into gear full force which we are not ready to do.

    Thanks for the input.

    PMLAWN LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,534

    Sorry, Misread the question, Most will read "landscape maintenance" as mowing.
    I do not push it so no info on results but we do have about 20 or so clients that we just do trimming or "small" tree work. (crape myrtles here)
    I think it might work
    I have a friend that does wholesale plants, He does design and install and most of the time it is with a shovel. No real big work that would require Bobcat, (but you could rent) and he does real good.

    Buy a program!!! You will kick yourself for not doing so sooner.
  5. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Messages: 4,899

    I think your gonna have a hard time being a "tweener" Thats between a mow & go solo guy and a full service LCO co. I can only talk about my area but most people that want the mow and go will only pay a few more $$$ for the guy to do a little pruning if its needed. And the full service customers get the plants done as part of the full service package. Good Luck
  6. 6'7 330

    6'7 330 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,821

    Same way Here. And the low margin high volume Mow-Joe Clientele can rarely be sold renovations ,new brushes and bed's etc.The full service Clientele offer's slightly higher margins on the maintenance itself, plus a 1000% chance of up-selling mulch ,renovations etc.
  7. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    You do have a tough road to hoe but it can be done I would look to other full service Lcos and try to get them to sub that kind of work out to you, the service you perform is a very hard position to fill. Anyone can cut grass. Get involved in the local associations and network, also offer to do renovation sales you don't usually have to do a design just flag a few plants and paint a mental picture for the client. I would point this out to your prospective Lco partner, you get the small sales say anything under 1-K and anything over they get to do and you get a small spiff maybe 10% Should be a win win. I would look to contractors that are residential design build doing over 700-k per year volume. You need to get some apprentices and begin training even if it means you make significantly less money to start. You can only go so far just doing the work yourselves. Once your service catches on (and you have to believe it will or no since in starting out) you will be ready to accept the new clients that come along. Nothing will kill growth faster than sending a boy to do a mans job. They will expect your quality and if you don't deliver, well bad news travels faster than good. You may also consider setting up a training curriculum to teach others and charge for it I paid 300.00(ten yrs ago) to take a 6-week class to prepare me for the arborist certification exam. There were probably 25-30 students from other Lco's to utilities employees. Offer to teach for the local municipalities, homeowner classes. Use your imagination there are many opportunities for a creative person in the industry. Good Luck:waving:
  8. grassyfras

    grassyfras LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,475

    Your targeting a specific nitch. I would do your market research, start with the people you design for and see if there willing to spend the extra 1-5k a year on maintenance. I think its a great idea if the need is there just make sure its there! Most lawn guys have no significant point of differnce. You have a point of diffence. I like your idea. I would only target residential or commercial. Im not saying only take one but only go after one. I think the hardest part is going to be pricing for you. Its hard to just tell people hourly rates(for me). So maybe just do a fixed monthly prices. Team up with other contractors or nurseries and see if they need anyone to maintance there accounts and give them a cut or something. Good luck keep us posted. 100k seems like a lot to me to invest in a new biz thats just maintenance. I wouldn't know what your getting with that much capital but if you have it thats great.
  9. grassyfras

    grassyfras LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,475

    Oh ya theres a company here that does installation and landscape maintenance only (Armstrong Landscaping). Maybe look them up and give the guy a call.

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