Landscaping businesses across the nation provide important services in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. From simple yard care and maintenance to extensive public works contracts, landscapers tackle various projects. No matter the size of the job, these companies rely on vital equipment and tools to accomplish their work.
For landscaping companies to be successful, business owners need to perfect some fundamental skills, from job estimating and contract negotiations to hiring the right people and finding the right suppliers. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a brand-new startup, these tips for running a landscaping business are timeless:
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Following these landscaping business tips can improve the odds of a successful venture:
Whether you intend to start your landscaping business in the neighborhood where you live or in another part of town, it's beneficial to learn as much about your market as possible. This information will help you determine which services you should offer besides grass-cutting, such as pruning, irrigation, mulching, landscape design and gardening.
Earning certifications increases your industry knowledge and demonstrates your commitment to landscaping as a career. It also validates your expertise in specific landscaping/lawn care aspects. You'll gain your customers' trust and get an edge over your competitors. The National Association of Landscaping Professionals offers certification programs in lawn care management, horticulture, interior/exterior design and other areas.
As a budding business owner, you'll need to decide whether a sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC) or partnership arrangement (if you plan to bring others into your venture) is the most appropriate operating structure for your new entity. You'll also have to develop a marketing plan to attract customers and become familiar with taxes, insurance and all the other aspects of running a small business.
Unless you live in a warm climate, your landscaping business probably won't be a year-round operation. You'll need to become a budgeting expert so you can stretch your funds over the winter. Many landscapers turn to snow removal to earn additional income and stay afloat during the colder months.
Your equipment will be the lifeblood of your landscaping business — you don't want to take shortcuts or choose machines that don't get the job done. If you're getting started and funds are tight, consider the benefits of renting as needed. You can acquire job-specific products that ensure the best results, and you won't have to make a significant upfront investment. You can also expand your fleet quickly to meet the increased demand when business starts booming.
A landscaping company’s profitability hinges on the ability to estimate jobs accurately. Like landscaping, estimating is also a skill, and to run a profitable business, you need to sharpen it. Over time, you’ll get better at estimating jobs and knowing what questions to ask to get a clear picture of what each project involves.
When running a landscaping company, or any business for that matter, it’s crucial to know how to scope out your projects properly. A full understanding of what the contract entails is essential to meeting your customers’ needs and ensuring you receive fair compensation for your services.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a landscaping contractor is assuming you’ve estimated a project correctly because you’ve done a similar one before. To avoid underestimating the amount of work required, flesh out a detailed scope. Never finalize an estimate without visiting the site, doing a physical inspection and thoroughly interviewing the customer about their needs.
When you first meet with your prospective customer, you need to get a clear picture of exactly what they want. It’s your role as the expert and service-provider to probe deeper — ask questions that define their vision and clarify their expectations. Do they want brush clearing and removal? What about removing any large stumps or trees? Are they expecting both landscaping and hardscaping? Is there anything the customer needs to take care of before you can perform your work?
Sometimes, especially when irrigation is involved, you might need to consult a geotechnical engineer before you can begin. Building a detailed scope ahead of time ensures you know what you’re getting into and how much time it will take.
Here are some essential costs to factor into your job estimation:
Remember, the bigger the project, the more room for error. That’s why it’s critical to track your estimating process and refine it over time.
A thorough and complete estimate is the basis for a contract. The project scope — the full account of all services to perform — is only one part of the entire agreement. The next thing you need to consider is the payment structure. A thorough contract details the terms of the arrangement, including when you’ll receive payment and how. It also defines the level of risk that each party — the contractor and the customer — is willing to take on.
In the landscaping business, most companies use three types of general contracts:
Armed with basic information on how to form a contract, you’re ready to move on to the next steps of running a landscaping business.
Whether you’re an experienced professional or you’re just getting your company off the ground, equipment rentals can be your best resource. Renting landscaping equipment ensures you always have access to the ideal machinery and tools for the job.
It’s common for landscapers to make do with the machinery they already own. While some types of core equipment can be extremely versatile and useful for most jobs, sometimes certain projects require other tools. Examples include equipment like stump grinders and brush chippers or attachments like augers or brushcutters. You can easily supplement your equipment needs by renting from a trusted supplier.
Here are some of the benefits of rental landscaping equipment:
One of the most important tips for landscaping companies to remember is to prepare for seasonal demands. Landscaping offers a specific window of opportunity. In most regions, the industry ramps up in the spring, meaning you need to start planning in the winter.
Consider some of the items you need to address before you can accept projects. What new tools or equipment do you need to replace or repair from last year? Will you need additional labor, and if so, how much? Do you need special business insurance for work trucks or trailers or liability insurance to protect your company?
Think about any professional services you’ll need to retain, such as accounting and bookkeeping. Don’t forget to make sure your online presence is up to date. That includes placing the right contact information on all social media platforms, as well as on Google, Yelp and other directories.
If you rely on equipment rentals for your landscaping business, secure your machinery well in advance. High seasonal demand leaves many rental dealers in short supply of some of the most common rental equipment and attachments. As a result, contractors needing specific tools may have to pass up job opportunities, delay project start times or use less efficient equipment, all of which eat into a company's profitability.
You can avoid these issues by simply planning ahead. Think about what equipment you’ll need and for how long. Secure a rental agreement several weeks before you plan to open for business. By giving your rental dealer adequate notice, you can ensure you have access to the right equipment when you need it. Don't wait until the last minute to gather your supplies. You can remain competitive throughout the busy season if you move proactively.
Equipment technology is constantly evolving to improve productivity, safety and profitability. One of the greatest benefits of renting your landscaping equipment is that you’ll have access to the latest equipment technology. Rental companies update their machines with the newest technology available, which customers can take advantage of to maximize their services. This means that when you rent machinery, you never have to worry about it being obsolete.
With Cat® equipment, in particular, you can use Cat technology models that give you insight into the machines, showing you how to improve operations so you can work smarter, not harder. The latest technology also gives you an edge over your competition, allowing you to operate more efficiently and do more jobs.
An example of the technology you get from Cat equipment is Cat Grade — a control system for improving grading efficiency. If you need to clear, slope or grade lots, the Grade model uses guided technology to help you perform with better accuracy. The result is faster production with less rework, saving you time and money.
Cat technology also includes safety programs like the Detect model, which helps operators stay vigilant. Using cameras and other sensors, Detect technology alerts operators to surrounding hazards and even identifies distracted behavior or fatigue. With Cat technology, you can reduce the risk of accidents while improving job site performance.
Whether you have one or a hundred employees, safety is always the priority. Landscaping work can present many hazards, especially when heavy equipment is in the equation. To protect you and your workers, always follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards for landscaping and horticultural services. Here are our top landscaping safety tips:
If your business has grown to the point where it’s more than you can handle on your own, then it’s time to bring on the right people to help you. Take your time finding the right people for the job. Never hire someone out of desperation because you want to fulfill a contract. Instead, think about the qualities you want in an employee and find individuals who align with your work style.
Next, think about what aspects of your work you need help with the most. You might benefit from more landscaping assistants to do the physical labor like mowing, digging and performing installations. Hiring people for these tasks frees you to spend time developing your business and managing customers. Or you might need administrative support — people to help you with office work while you perform services for customers.
Another option is to hire workers on a contract basis, which makes them subcontractors. This is often a better option for smaller businesses that don’t want to hire full-time employees, especially when performing seasonal work. Before hiring anyone, speak with an accountant or lawyer who can advise you of the various tax implications involved in hiring employees vs. contractors.
Part of doing business is knowing you need to rely on others to deliver services. That’s why it’s crucial to select your suppliers wisely. Your reputation depends on your ability to deliver equipment and materials on time so you can complete the project effectively. Every partnership is important, but the relationship a landscaping business builds with its equipment rental dealer is critical. Partnering with the right rental company will ensure your needs are consistently met.
Here are some qualities to look for in a rental landscaping equipment dealer:
The Cat Rental Store is proud to tick these boxes for you. Landscaping businesses needing seasonal equipment rentals can trust The Cat Rental Store to deliver expert advice, high-performing equipment and consistent value with each rental.
At The Cat Rental Store, we’re proud to work with landscaping business owners across the country, supporting them with their rental needs. With a vast distribution network, you’ll always have access to the equipment and work tool attachments you need — when you need them.
With decades of industry experience, our knowledgeable staff at your local Cat Rental Store can advise you on the right model and help you select the best equipment for the job. We are committed to superior customer service, so you can rest assured you’ll have the support you need to keep you working productively.
If you have questions about rental landscaping equipment, contact The Cat Rental Store. Call us at 1-800-RENT-CAT or stop by a location near you.