When starting a landscaping company, there are many factors to consider, such as finances, hiring and job bidding.
Loriena Harrington, president of Beautiful Blooms, LLC in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and Shelten Wells, owner and sales operations of Wells Cutting Edge Trimlight and Landscape in Erda, Utah, have faced these challenges and more since starting up their companies.
See what these green industry experts did to rise above these challenges and succeed in their businesses, as well as their advice to landscapers who might be hesitant to start their businesses right now.
Usual and unusual challenges
Regardless of when you choose to start your company, there will always be challenges to overcome, but with the current pandemic, there may be a few unusual challenges to adjust to that otherwise might not be present.
Under normal circumstances, hiring employees is a challenge all companies face. After starting her company, Harrington says two years passed before she hired her first employee, and she highly recommends starting that process sooner rather than later if you can.
Since then, Harrington says the company has continued to grow, and its staff is now over 50 percent women, which she counts as a huge victory for the industry. She adds that her leadership team is also made up of all women, and they are proud to say they also have LGBTQ+ and minority representation on their team.
Another challenge many landscapers face is learning how to properly bid a job, which Wells says can sometimes take people years to get the hang of if they choose not to ask fellow landscapers for help.
“So often, I think we as contractors screw ourselves in the foot in a way when we don’t put the right profit in,” says Wells. “After talking to a fellow contractor, he was telling me how he was charging and making profits, and I realized the way I was doing the whole process was just screwing myself in the foot.”
Another common challenge that comes with transitioning from a one-person operation to a multi-person is establishing a work-life balance. Wells adds that learning the industry and figuring out how to make sure his customers were happy were also two huge adjustments.
Experts agree that customer satisfaction and having good customer service as soon as you start up is mandatory for success. Wells says even if you’re operating your company part-time at first, it should be treated seriously and like it’s your full-time job, as this will ensure it’s a priority and that it can grow.
Wells says sending out and proactively responding to customer feedback after you’ve completed a job can boost the success of your company, especially in tighter-knit communities. Wells says they recently found out that they have a 96 percent referral rate in their market, which he says proves that taking time to interact with customers pays dividends.
Another out of the ordinary challenge you could face when starting a business now is the fact that your work will be under closer scrutiny, as customers are quarantined to their houses and can easily watch you work in real-time.
While this might not faze an experienced landscaper, Wells says it could prove intimidating for the new, single operator trying to establish a business and prove himself/herself.
Another “new normal” aspect to keep in mind is that many suppliers nationwide are struggling to get their products in and out, which can greatly impact what you are and aren’t able to accomplish on the jobsite.
Now could be the time
Depending on where you’re located in the nation, it very well could be an opportune time for you to pursue opening your own landscaping company.
Since some states have stricter guidelines with how companies can operate during the pandemic, Wells recommends taking a detailed look at what you will and won’t be able to do in your everyday work before making a definitive decision.
“I think that the opportunity to start a business right now in the landscape industry has never been better,” says Wells. “During the pandemic, to be honest with you, I think it’d be a good opportunity for someone to jump on it if they take advantage of that.”
With the recent boom in landscaping that many in the industry have seen, Harrington says now is an excellent time to start a landscaping company. With more customers appreciating their outdoor spaces and wanting to invest more in landscaping, she says there should be no limit to available projects.
She also recommends if you plan to start a landscaping company in the near future, be sure to do it conservatively right now so you have room to grow later on.
Right now, Harrington says you have the freedom to find your way and make mistakes without the pressure of a lot of overhead and multiple employees. These, she adds, are worries that other establishments are worrying about now, but somebody just starting up probably won’t see the revenue decline that bigger landscaping companies are seeing.
Harrington says that since starting up, the company has only seen one year of slight downturn. Having gone through that in 2018, Harrington says the current economic crisis hasn’t scared her as much as it probably would have normally. She adds that the setback in 2018 taught her how to plan better, what warning signs to watch for with sales numbers and how to make adjustments when necessary.
Harrington’s final piece of advice for new company owners is to always stay true to yourself. She says it’s important to establish your core values, write them down and say them out loud to yourself, and no matter what happens, do not waver from them. It’s important, she says, to make them part of every decision you make in your company.
The best advice Wells says he’d give to future entrepreneurs is to make sure you really want to be in this industry before starting in it because it’s a very tight-knit industry. When you make a mistake or you don’t hold up your end of the bargain, he says you’re going to get left behind by the others and your business is going to fail.
The longer you’re in the business, the more knowledge you’ll gain that you can share with others, Wells says, and in the end, you’re going to have to prove your worth and prove you know what you’re doing.
“Commit to going through the hard times, commit to start that business and stick with it because it’s not an overnight thing,” says Wells. “Stick to it, don’t give up, keep it going and know that it will work out in the end. Stay humble enough and willing to learn from others, and never lose that personality. It’s important that you’re always learning from others.”