How to Run a Successful Landscaping Business

Diana LamirandSeptember 4th, 2020
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Running a landscaping business means more than just mowing lawns, planting flower gardens, and trimming shrubs. Owners must also know how to manage a landscaping business with good communication skills, efficient work processes, and a clear accountability plan—much like a perfectly manicured lawn with no element out of place.

Owning your own landscaping business means you or someone you hire understands job estimating, billing, and invoicing. It also means buying or renting the proper landscaping equipment and tracking maintenance, parts, and other needs. For some landscapers, it also means recruiting, hiring, training, and scheduling employees.

The landscape services industry brings in annual revenues of $93 billion, employs more than 1 million people, and represents more than half a million businesses in the U.S., according to the IBIS World November 2018 Landscaping Services Industry Report.

Services offered by landscaping companies range from simple lawn care maintenance—such as mowing, trimming, and weed control—to full-service landscape design, such as installing a Koi pond or flower/rock garden for a residential client, or interiorscaping for a commercial customer.

No matter the season, opportunities abound for landscaping services—for both residential and commercial customers. It’s just a matter of knowing your market and sending the right messages at the right time.

In this guide on how to run a landscaping business, learn how to plant the seeds for growth, increase net profits, and better serve your customers.

Create a Landscaping Business Plan

  • Describe your landscaping services.

  • Outline your specific service area.

  • Identify your target market.

  • Analyze market trends.

  • Know your competitors.

  • Set landscape services pricing.

  • Establish an organizational chart.

  • Choose hourly or flat-rate labor rates.

  • Brainstorm marketing ideas.

  • Include financial projections.

When setting the roadmap for how to run a landscaping business, think of it as the foundation for how you want your landscaping company to operate now and into the future, and reference it often as you grow.

Landscaping business plan examples typically start with a business description that explains what services your company offers, your geographic service area, and your target market audience. Analyze market trends and identify your competitors, then set base pricing for your products and services.

Most landscapers base their pricing on the property’s square footage and fair market pricing, but don’t forget to calculate and include the costs of doing business—such as labor, fuel, equipment, maintenance for equipment, materials, and time spent driving to job sites.

According to HomeAdvisor, some average costs for landscaping services include:

  • $300 for tree stump removal 

  • $16,300 for patio enclosures

  • $3,200 to install landscaping

  • $7,300 to build a deck 

A landscape business plan for an established business also includes an organizational chart for all employees, with clearly defined job roles and expectations. A small landscaping business may prefer to pay employees an hourly rate, while larger companies may offer flat-rate pay

Brainstorm marketing strategy ideas for your landscaping business plan template, then commit a certain percentage of revenue (10 to 20 percent is a good start) for marketing those landscaping advertising ideas.

Finally, include financial projections for future revenue and expenses, over the short-term and long-term. Break it down by month, so you can easily see projected revenue, overhead expenses, total income, taxes, etc., and then work toward increasing your overall net profits. 

Once you’ve completed your landscaping business plan, add an executive summary to summarize all of the above, along with your company’s mission statement or core company values. Your mission statement should answer the following questions:

  • What do we do?

  • How do we do it?

  • Whom do we do it for?

  • What value are we bringing?

A landscaping company can also use ServiceTitan’s Service Business Valuation Calculator to estimate the current value of their business, or the Service Business Checkup tool to evaluate the health of a landscaping business in just 60 seconds.

Identify Landscaping Startup Costs

While it varies, the typical startup costs for a landscaping business range from $15,000 to $20,000—if starting from scratch. Here are some items you’ll need:

  • A smartphone and tablet with internet access

  • Business or contractor license, depending on the state or local municipality

  • General liability insurance 

  • Vehicle and business insurance 

  • Truck with flatbed trailer

  • Commercial mowers 

  • Gas cans 

  • Trimmer 

  • Edger

  • Blower 

  • Smaller tools for various tasks:

    • Gardening shovel

    • Shears

    • Rakes

    • Hoes

    • Picks

  • Standard tool box 

  • Fertilizers and pesticides

  • Safety equipment:

    • Noise-canceling headphones

    • Safety goggles

    • Steel-toed boots

    • Sturdy gloves

Hire, Train, and Retain Landscaping Workers

  • Start with a strong company foundation.

  • Create clear job descriptions.

  • Provide extensive training.

  • Incentivize workers with performance pay.

  • Value your employees—your company’s No. 1 asset.

Successful landscaping companies depend on a reliable workforce to get the job done, but owners might struggle to find qualified employees in a highly competitive climate because of the trade worker shortage. They also worry about investing time and money in training, only to see those employees leave to go off on their own or work for another company.

With more than 500,000 landscaping businesses in the U.S., landscaping services are clearly in demand, and so are the workers needed to supply those services. 

Experts in the trades suggest building a strong company foundation with a fully developed organizational chart and operating manuals. Create clear job descriptions and expectations for every position, provide extensive training to set up every employee for success, and use performance pay as an incentive to help employees grow with your business. 

Some companies also offer hiring bonuses to new employees or give current employees a bonus for referring a new hire.

Invest as much time in recruiting and training your landscaping workers as you do on landscaping sales. Know which field service metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) matter the most to improve the health of your business, and train your techs to know and meet your company’s expectations.

Trades consultant Ben Stark advises keeping techs and other employees involved in the business planning process, and making sure they know what role they play in your how-to-grow-a-landscaping-business process. Let them own a piece of it, and you’ll likely get complete buy-in. 

“Employees are your No. 1 asset,” Stark says.

Develop Laser-Focused Marketing Strategies

  • Identify your target audience with specific demographics.

  • Send landscaping service flyers to reach your specific audience.

  • Don’t put all of your eggs in one marketing basket.

  • Automate marketing campaigns for better efficiency.

  • Save cost per lead with targeted email marketing.

Before deploying any type of marketing strategy, a landscape service business needs to know how to target the right audience. Seasonality also plays an important role in landscape service marketing, so timing is critical to reach the right audience at the right time.

Know specifics, such as your customers’ age, gender, average household income, and credit score. Talk to local gardening or home improvement stores and ask the owners if you can leave your landscape service business cards at the checkout counter, and return the favor by recommending the gardening or home improvement store to your customers. 

Think outside the box when marketing your landscaping services, such as offering new customers promotional yard rakes or small shovels with your company’s name on them, or throwing in a free weed control application if they purchase lawn maintenance services. 

Other marketing ideas:

  • Expand your customer base by marketing your services to property managers at nearby apartment complexes, condominium communities, hotels, hospitals, schools, and other commercial properties. 

  • Sell landscaping service maintenance agreements to residential and commercial customers to maintain steady revenue throughout the year.

  • Optimize your landscaping website with locally relevant keywords people frequently use when searching online for companies to hire, such as “Nashville lawn service” or “landscapers near me.” 

  • Claim your “Google My Business” page with a locator map so your website ranks higher when customers search for “local landscaping services” or “lawn care near me.”

  • Use branding on your tech uniforms and the company trucks they drive as mobile billboards for your successful landscaping business. 

  • Build your local landscaping service brand with eye-catching uniforms, and a clearly visible company logo, phone number, and website. 

  • Make sure techs always look professional and know how to show customers the respect you expect.

Targeted email marketing also works as a cost-effective strategy for keeping your brand front and center in the minds of customers, says Megan Bedford, who runs Mugyver Consulting to help small companies in the trades.

Not only is the cost cheaper for targeted email marketing—$12 or less per lead—it’s the type of communication customers prefer, as opposed to direct mail or a promotional text. The key, Bedford says, is to find the right technology to automate the process, then target the right audience with the right message at the right time.

Market Landscaping Services Online 

Trade experts suggest spending half of your marketing dollars on digital platforms, since today’s consumers find 70 percent of all services online through Google searches.

Some customers will find you online because they need your services today, whereas others may find you through those landscaping service business cards you left at the local garden store or because they saw a company truck (brand awareness).

For the best digital landscape service marketing, focus on doing the following:

  • Post regular, helpful lawn maintenance content to boost SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

  • Invest in Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising to increase brand awareness and target online leads.

  • Incentivize techs and customers to get more online reviews.

  • Expand your service area in conjunction with Google Local Services. 

Successful landscape companies measure and track their marketing efforts with specific metrics, such as:

  • Sales: Track your ratio of leads to sales.

  • Clients: Customer surveys gauge customer satisfaction, client turnover, and services sold to each client.

  • Production: Track non-billable hours where you pay your employees but aren’t making any profits, such as overtime, weather delays, and equipment failure.

  • Balance sheets: Track outstanding accounts receivables (money owed). 

  • Cash flow: Track monthly or weekly cash flow, operating expenses, and profits. 

Just don’t make the common mistake of focusing only on digital platforms for your landscape service advertising ideas. Personal relationship-building tactics—such as knocking on doors, introducing yourself to new homeowners, and leaving lawn service flyers for future landscaping needs—still work and are often appreciated in today’s digital world.

Before each spring and summer, market your landscaping services to residents and property managers as a reliable weekly or monthly service from a trusted, local landscaping company. Educate them on proper yard maintenance and show them the tangible benefits of signing up for your company’s landscaping maintenance plan

During fall and winter in the colder climates, market your company’s expertise in yard cleanup, debris removal, and other jobs needed in the off-season. Consider offering snow-removal services during the winter months to keep revenue rolling in.

Mow a Path to Rave Reviews

Online reviews prove extremely important to managing your landscaping company’s reputation. In fact, one survey found that nearly 90 percent of customers factor reviews into their buying decisions.

To get good reviews and keep them pouring in, your techs must deliver outstanding customer service by exceeding the customer’s expectations every time. Good reviews must be earned, but they’re a proven way to grow any home services business.

Does your company make it easy for customers to leave a review? Do your techs ask for feedback once they complete a job, or does your office staff make follow-up customer service calls or send emails with a specific link to leave a review?

Are you making customers wait for appointments, or can they schedule one through your website, Facebook, Instagram, Google messaging, text, web chats or email? Are your techs or dispatchers using tracking technology to text the client when the tech is on the way?

Landscaping service customers value their money and their time, so don’t make them waste either. Soon, they’ll be raving about your landscaping company, and you’ll be mowing a path to a higher net profits.

Maximize Profits with Landscaping Business Software

Still wondering, ‘Is landscaping business profitable?’ Owning a landscaping business requires hard work, but it doesn’t need to be all work and no play. The industry offers fantastic opportunities, with annual revenues reaching $93 billion in 2018. 

Work smarter, not harder with landscaping business software to weed out your company’s operating efficiencies, increase your average tickets, and grow revenue. 

Communicate clearly with customers using automated scheduling, GPS-based dispatching and tracking, and online booking. Use customized data reporting to monitor and boost your techs’ productivity, so you can soon watch your buds bloom into more sales.

ServiceTitan is a comprehensive software solution built specifically to help service companies streamline their operations, boost revenue, and substantially elevate the trajectory of their business. Our comprehensive, cloud-based platform is used by thousands of electrical, HVAC, plumbing, garage door, and chimney sweep shops across the country—and has increased their revenue by an average of 25% in just their first year with us.

Learn More

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