Running a Successful Landscaping Business: What Does It Take?

Read Time12 minutes

PublishedNovember 29, 2022

Running a Successful Landscaping Business: What Does It Take?


Table of Contents

Landscaping is one of the most accessible industries for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to build a thriving business. There aren’t many businesses you can launch for the cost of a lawn mower and pick-up truck. But there’s a world of long days and meager pay between having a landscaping company and running a successful landscaping business. 

Want to thrive in a competitive and fast-growing market?

A strong work ethic and drive for success will only get you so far.

Learn what it takes to give your brand a competitive edge from the start. Follow these tips for how to create a successful landscaping business, and your business will have the foundation it needs to scale to the $1 million milestone and beyond.

7 landscaping business tips

  1. Know your costs

  2. Estimate jobs accurately

  3. Hire a great team

  4. Use quality equipment and tools

  5. Eliminate downtime

  6. Deliver great customer experiences

  7. Think long-term

Keep track of costs

When you started out, you may have been a sole owner and operator—responsible for everything from marketing to mowing. In those early days, working with ballpark costs was probably good enough. 

Understanding your costs as you grow gives you the knowledge to confidently steer your company toward success. Tracking costs enables landscaping business owners to:

  • Eliminate the uncertainty in profit/loss reports

  • Understand profit drivers in their services

  • Make responsive decisions to stay profitable

Don’t just price services lower than the competition. Know your direct and overhead costs such as:

  • Labor

  • Materials

  • Fuel

  • Equipment plus repairs and maintenance

  • Permits

  • Travel time

A true, granular understanding of the daily costs of operating your own landscaping business enables you to charge enough, in the long run, to maintain profitability even as you scale.

→ Cost tracking empowers you to raise prices in response to changes such as rising costs from fuel, materials, or labor.

→ A nuanced understanding of your job costs enables profit-driven business management.

Cashflow problems are one of the most common challenges businesses face, especially during growth phases when capital investments increase. With Aspire’s landscaping business management software, operation managers can:

  • See exactly when a job is completed for prompt billing

  • Generate an invoice directly from the estimate for improved accuracy

Timely invoicing is the best way to eliminate cashflow uncertainty and gives owners and managers clarity into the monthly operating revenue of the business. 

Estimate jobs properly

Don’t feel like you need the lowest prices on the market. Landscaping customers are wary of companies with the cheapest rates because they’re concerned the quality of work will reflect the cost. 

Aside from the quality of your services, your company will live or die by your ability to estimate jobs accurately. 

  • Underbidding fills your schedule with clients, but you won’t be working toward growth. Instead, your business will slowly die.

  • Overbidding makes it hard to secure contracts in a competitive market and limits your ability to raise prices to ignite growth in the future.

Market research is essential in building accurate estimates, but keep in mind that your costs may differ significantly from your competitors, depending on your company’s equipment and team members. 

→ Well-established landscaping companies with high-quality equipment and experienced team members need fewer hours to complete jobs. 

→ If new lawn care businesses try to underbid the competition, they risk taking on jobs that cost them money. 

Build profit into your landscaping estimates

One of the mistakes new businesses make is looking at competitor pricing and job costs and “adding a little” in case of issues. 

When you use business management software, you can calculate estimates with visible gross margins. When you know your operational budgets, you can:

  • Eliminate uncertainty about whether a job costs you money

  • Accurately allocate labor hours to maintain profitability

  • Identify and promote high-profit services

Instead of “borrowing” time from high-profit services when issues arise with a different field crew, you can issue change orders to ensure you maintain the same margins at every job.

How much profit should you make on a landscape job?

Most landscapers operate at single-digit profitability, but with skilled management empowered with responsive tools like landscaping business software, it’s possible to increase that figure to 10 to 12 percent or more, depending on the market, vertical, and service.

  • Commercial jobs generally have a lower margin than residential

  • Installation jobs typically deliver the largest profitability

  • Maintenance jobs such as mowing lawns and edging have the lowest margin

When you were starting, you may not have worried about how much profit you made. Just landing enough maintenance jobs to stay operational is often as much as you can do in your first year or two. 

Your gross margin becomes much more critical as:

  • You increase labor costs with more team members

  • Indirect costs grow with more vehicles, equipment, transportation costs, and office space

  • Your focus shifts from making a living to scaling

Knowing your margins for every job means peace of mind that your company will not only be profitable in the future but also growing.

Hire a great team

It’s tempting to stop searching for new employees when you have a trustworthy team who can handle your current schedule. But as most small business owners know, finding good crew members can be challenging, leaving businesses either short-staffed during the busy season or with increased labor costs as less-experienced crews struggle to keep up with demand. 

When companies restrict hiring to the spring, they may miss out on great candidates who will grow with your operation and help you build success. 

Look outside the landscaping industry

When you restrict your hiring practices to managers with backgrounds in the landscaping industry, you may inadvertently entrust parts of your process to gut feelings and out-of-date strategies. 

→Target high schools, community colleges, and job fairs to access a rich talent pool that will bring innovation to your processes.

Give your existing team the tools to do more

During some growth stages, your current in-office team may be unable to keep up with your current job schedule, but you don’t have the capital to hire more staff. Providing them with tools designed for the green industry ensures:

  • Operational staff won’t get burned out by the demands of a growing customer base.

  • A busy schedule won’t result in a drop in customer service standards.

  • Improved and automated processes will improve efficiency and enable your team to do more with less.

Using out-of-date processes—whiteboard scheduling, Word doc estimates, and manual invoicing—aren’t making the most of your current team members. Aspire’s landscaping business software improves productivity without increasing headcount.

Use an employee referral program

Your best team members are a great source of new employees. They’ll recommend people they know to be reliable, hard workers. 

→Referrals bring an established level of trust with the existing team members for seamless teamwork right from the start.

Offer career growth opportunities

When you invest in your team, you’ll drive innovation and success from within. Aspire’s business software enables owners and managers to generate reports on discrete roles within their in-office staff. 

  • Get organizational clarity

  • Assign accountability and set clear expectations

  • Empower employees to develop career goals and track growth

Providing team members with new opportunities can also mean transitioning seasonal employees to full-time and promoting crew members to leads and operations managers. 

  • Offering training and certification opportunities for employees, such as specializing in unique verticals that can drive growth in your market share.

National Association of Landscape Professionals

  • Technician Certification for:

    • Landscape

    • Lawn Maintenance

    • Horticulture

    • Principles of Turfgrass Management

  • Business Manager Certification

Environmental Protection Agency

  • WaterSense Certification 

  • Irrigation System Design Certification

  • Irrigation System Installation and Maintenance

  • Irrigation System Audits

Specialized and certified team members drive the engine of success for a company by providing access to new verticals and differentiating your business with expertise. 

Respect work hours

Success comes from having the best team working together in the office and the field. There’s no denying that landscaping requires some long days, long weeks, and long months. However, relying on a few crew members during crises can lead to burnout and depreciating morale.

→When you have a crew willing to hang in through the tough stretches, it’s essential to respect their time off. 

Continuous recruitment enables employers to avoid the following:

  • Calling individuals to work on their days off

  • Unscheduled overtime 

  • Last-minute schedule changes

When you’re equipped with accurate job costing data and responsive scheduling software, you eliminate staffing emergencies and build loyalty and morale in your workforce. 

Ensure you have quality equipment and tools

Landscaping is accessible because you can get started with little more than a mower and a truck. In fact, you can scale your business to the $100,000 milestone as a sole operator offering lawn care services. 

When you expand landscaping offerings and hire a team, it’s time to invest in new equipment and tools. 

High-quality equipment is a significant expense and one of the most valuable ways to invest capital into your company in preparation for growth. It also keeps your team safe, ensuring they’re not working with compromised tools that might break during operation.

What maintenance does landscaping equipment need?

When you purchase a new piece of equipment, establish a regular maintenance schedule based on manufacturer recommendations and general wear and tear. Upkeep may include:

  • Blade sharpening

  • Oil and filter changes for motorized equipment

  • Air filter replacement

  • Inspecting and replacing toolbelts and hand tools like shovels, shears, and rakes

  • Blade sharpening 

Regular maintenance will maintain the warranty and ensure you have the equipment to meet growing demands without unexpected breakdowns. 

Eliminate downtime with business management software

One of the hidden costs of running a landscaping company is downtime. You lose money every minute you have crews just waiting around because of the following:

  • Sudden inclement weather

  • Waiting on materials or supplies

  • Broken or poorly maintained equipment

As much as you’d like to look into the future to predict the weather and supply chain issues, life comes with uncertainty. But acknowledging things out of your control doesn’t mean waiting for consequences. 

A landscaping software platform that transforms challenges into opportunities

Landscape business software is a partner in preparing for unexpected challenges in the industry. A platform with end-to-end functionality, such as Aspire, enables you to respond to new challenges in ways that minimize or eliminate downtime. 

  • Maintain your material and supply inventory for granular insight into job readiness and purchasing.

  • Get dashboard notifications of upcoming equipment maintenance with easy-to-maintain calendar scheduling for everything from mower blade sharpening to truck oil changes.

  • Versatile scheduling for inclement weather and fast bulk estimating capabilities for ice and snow removal to maximize job opportunities.

Leverage all-in-one landscaping software to eliminate common problems

Achieving success doesn’t always mean adding new customers or services. It often involves removing blockers to greater profitability in your existing bottom line by saving money in your landscaping business. 

Aspire delivers industry-specific functionality to resolve issues before they happen, such as:

  • Coordinating projects: avoid double-booking crews to job sites and assign tasks to the teams who are optimized for the work.

  • Missed appointments: assign account owners to ensure every job, touch, and estimate is delivered on schedule.

  • Complex estimates: never underbid a job because of human error by using project kits for building complex estimates in the platform

Technology enables you to automate many of the most time-consuming tasks for your in-office staff (which might be mainly you).

  • When team members devote their talent to working on the business rather than in the business, you build momentum for monster growth, including new clients, verticals, and industries.

Implementing software can help landscapers with the following:

  • Billing and invoicing

  • Estimate building

  • Job scheduling

  • Customer relationship management

By relying on software and automation to eliminate mistakes and problems, you deliver better experiences to retain more customers and drive success from your existing client base.

Go above and beyond for your customers

Many landscaping business tips for success come together when you focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences, such as:

  • Build estimates that let you spend accurate labor hours on a job and perform the work to a high standard

  • Hire a great team and keep them engaged so your crew’s talent delivers quality and innovation—from the sales team to the in-field crews.

  • Use high-quality equipment that’s well-maintained for results that exceed expectations.

  • Provide timely customer communication to build trust and long-lasting relationships with your client base

You build your reputation with every job. When you know your accurate job costs and create accurate estimates, you’re able to spend time on every property to ensure the lawn and garden look incredible. 

Every account matters. Increasing client retention by even a small percentage can significantly impact annual revenue in the long term.

Word-of-mouth advertising doesn’t cost your brand anything the way a traditional marketing plan might, and it can deliver substantial benefits when building long-term success in a new landscaping business. 

  • Most people–92 percent–trust service recommendations from friends and family more than any other form of advertising.

  • Marketers across industries trust WOM advertising for spreading brand awareness–a potential game changer as you consider moving into new service areas and verticals. 

  • Customers who find your brand through WOM will, on average, spend 200 percent more than other clients. 

Getting caught up in the “more” of success is natural.

More Clients | More Services | More Locations 

Give your existing client base the same focus as potential customers by going further than the competition. You’ll provide your brand with the foundation it needs to grow and confidently meet challenges. 

Think long-term when running a successful landscaping business

When starting a landscaping business, it can be a challenge to think past the first year (during your first spring/summer, it might be hard to think past the next week!), but thinking long-term is what sets continually growing businesses apart from those that are just operating to survive.

It’s never too late to draft a business plan to define where your business will be in five or ten years and make decisions to achieve those goals. 

The benefits of finding a landscape market niche

The most in-demand services don’t always deliver the greatest profitability. When you set yourself apart from your competition with the quality of your services, you create opportunities to bundle less profitable services with those with more substantial gross margins. 

→ Understanding the profit drivers in your business can help define your niche–one that’s both in-demand and lucrative. 

Unless you’re a highly specialized company, chances are that lawn maintenance will always be a component of your services. But when you invest in ongoing training and certification for your team, you can offer your market unique landscaping and lawn care services, such as:

  • Hydroseeding

  • Organic lawn care

  • Landscape design

  • Tree disease and pesticide treatment

  • Vegetation management

  • Holiday light installation

Is it hard to run a landscaping business?

On your worst days running your company, you might wonder if it’s even possible to have a successful landscaping business. The 100 Days of Hell leading up to July demand:

  • Long hours

  • On-the-fly troubleshooting

  • Fast estimating and booking

  • Hiring your seasonal team members

It can feel like something always needs your attention during the busy season. A cloud-based business management system eliminates the responsibility of keeping track of everything for business owners.

Implementing landscaping business software lets you define the challenges of running a landscaping business. Instead of stressing about late invoices, missed appointments, and equipment maintenance, you can focus on growth initiatives to drive new profitability. 

Is landscaping a good business to start?

If your goal is to be a successful entrepreneur and you’re choosing an industry based on growth and profit potential, there are many reasons to choose landscaping. 

However, the accessibility, low startup costs, and appeal of the green industry mean more competition every year. Running a successful landscaping business comes with tough days—you and your team will be doing physical labor in all types of weather. 

Landscaping is a great small business to start, with plenty of opportunities to scale beyond the $5 million milestone. However, all business owners need passion and the right tools to carry them through the hard times. 

The Aspire business management platform helps landscaping professionals meet challenges confidently and define success for themselves.

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