Not every landscape business is looking to grow exponentially. Maybe you have ambitious five-year goals, or maybe you’re content to maintain the status quo—growing just enough to stay profitable without dramatically increasing revenue.
No matter the vision for your business, manageable growth at some level is necessary to stay competitive.
Often, landscape companies find themselves growing without really trying. They keep getting referrals for new clients, which means hiring more workers, which means expanding their operations, and so on. This reactive approach can cause trouble when the right structures aren’t in place to manage it.
That’s the difference between growth and scaling. Growth can happen on its own. Scaling is something you plan for.
On its own, growth can be good or it can be overwhelming. Scaling, however, allows you to take control of your growth by creating and implementing plans to achieve your goals.
Thankfully, you don’t need a business degree to come up with a plan that allows you to scale your landscaping company effectively.
6 keys to scaling your landscape business
There’s plenty of advice out there on how to scale a business. Some of it’s helpful, and some of it’s not. From our years of experience in the landscape industry, though, we’ve found the most important areas to focus on are:
Sales and marketing
Processes are the things that enable you to successfully operate your business. Don’t be fooled by pseudo processes, though. To have a sound structure that can grow alongside your business, you need reliable, repeatable, “good” processes.
Often, pseudo processes rise up within a company as it grows to keep things running. Anything that’s undocumented or lives in someone’s head, though, is not a good process.
For example, you might just know that leads from a certain source are always handled differently from most leads, which you also know are dropped into a particular spreadsheet saved in a particular place on the company’s shared network. Or your account managers may have details about their properties stored in personal memos, but if they were to leave the company, that knowledge would leave with them.
Processes are like the foundation of a house. When they’re sturdy, they hold things together and give you a structure to build on. When they’re not, you’ll be at constant risk of the whole thing falling apart.
So what makes a good, sturdy process?
Good processes are designed to standardize operations across your company. They’re built on systems that allow you to manage your work as efficiently and profitably as possible. And in 2022, it’s hard to have high-quality systems without robust business management software like Aspire.
Aspire allows users to create processes around work ticket management, reporting, and estimating (among other things) that give them better, real-time insights into their profitability.
For Minnesota-based Backyard Reflections, that means handling all new business leads the same way in Aspire, building early construction estimates for clients to set clear expectations, and using flowcharts to delineate responsibilities for different roles.
Another multimillion-dollar landscaping company, Gachina Landscape Management, has completely transformed its processes by creating end-of-month reports and standardizing work ticket activities in Aspire.
Well-designed processes enable your business to keep running and growing efficiently, regardless of turnover, changes in leadership, or shifts in the market.
As a landscape business owner, you’re intimately familiar with every line of the company budget. You know where dollars are supposed to be spent, but tracking where they actually go throughout the year might prove more challenging.
We’ve found that most landscape businesses underestimate their job costs by at least 1% and their cost per labor hour by at least 50 cents, which leads to $96K in losses for a company with $6 million in annual revenue.
Reviewing numbers regularly (and being able to trust them) is absolutely critical to scaling your business.
Green-industry consultant Jeffrey Scott writes that, for each of his clients, he starts by asking them to rank themselves according to how often they look at their financial data. Scores range from one (waiting until the end of the year to see the numbers) to five (reviewing finances monthly and operations reports weekly). One of the most common mistakes he sees is failure to view reports and evaluate performance as frequently as is needed to maintain healthy profit margins.
To manage your business finances well, you need access to real-time job costing data. Without it, you have to rely on guesswork.
Thankfully, Aspire’s best-in-class job costing features enable growth-minded businesses to scale intelligently using accurate, real-time insights that can be organized by division, property, service type, manager, crew leader, job, or work ticket.
In addition to keeping a close eye on finances and cash flow, carefully managing resources like equipment and labor can help landscapers stay in control of their businesses.
Labor is the industry’s biggest expense, so finding ways to make your billable hours as efficient as possible can help keep a tight rein on your margins. This means less time spent in the shop or on the road, and more time spent getting work done on the job site.
In Aspire, you can create and edit schedules with ease—even automatically optimizing routes. You can drag and drop tickets on the schedule board, split jobs between days, extend projects as needed, reassign jobs, split jobs between crews, and review detailed performance metrics for every service, property, company, division, and more.
When it comes to equipment management, cleaning, maintenance, and storage procedures can help ensure the longest lifespan possible. Fortunately this is also a breeze in Aspire’s equipment management module, which allows users to track vehicles and assets however they see fit—by manufacturer, size, model, class, or route.
Hiring can be a difficult area for landscape businesses, but it’s critical to maintaining a healthy and thriving business in the services industry. You need reliable employees who work hard, represent your company well, and stick around long enough to deliver a high return on your investment in their training and onboarding.
As Clarke Ramsey of Le Perv Landscape says, sometimes this just means breaking down and offering higher wages. Many business owners fear they can’t afford to offer a higher hourly wage, so they end up with lower quality workers, which affects customer satisfaction and crew efficiency, which stifles profitability, which prevents them from being able to hire better workers… and on it goes.
Breaking the cycle might mean looking for ways to adjust expenses to prioritize paying a competitive wage.
And once you’ve got a team of great employees, communicate with them about the company’s overall performance and expectations for each staff member. This, along with creating a fantastic culture, can help employees feel more connected to your business—ultimately retaining more of them.
Of course, it’s hard to scale your business effectively without a solid sales and marketing strategy. When you’re doing great work, a lot of new business comes in from referrals, but relying solely on referrals doesn’t allow you to control the kinds of clients you pursue.
The first step in evaluating your sales plan is to go back to basics and determine the kind of leads you want. Are you interested in moving from a residential market to a commercial one? Or in taking on more maintenance contracts instead of design/build projects?
Decide where you’d like to take the business, and then come up with a plan for reaching that goal. Maybe you need to start saying “no” to some jobs to pursue the kinds of work you want. Maybe you need to hire account managers with a particular set of experience or create a special offer for potential customers who meet your criteria. Or maybe you just need to start with a small investment in digital marketing (these tips can help you get started) to bring in new customers from your target audience.
Whatever those next steps are, make sure your sales and marketing efforts are aligned with the way you want to scale your landscaping services.
It’s hard to let go. Every entrepreneur or business owner with a growing company understands this.
Whether you started the small business yourself or took over from someone else, you probably feel a deep connection to (and responsibility) for it. Delegating tasks or even turning over decision-making power to anyone else can feel like a mistake. After all, no one can do it like you because no one understands the business like you do, right?
It took John Puryear of Puryear Farms 20 years and a life-threatening medical emergency to realize he couldn’t think like this anymore. He quickly changed his business model and distributed responsibility more evenly among his employees. Decisions didn’t have to run through him anymore, but he was confident in his staff and the processes he had put in place over the years to keep his business running like clockwork.
And delegating some of the work didn’t mean losing sight of how the business was doing. With Aspire’s real-time job costing data and reports, Puryear is still able to monitor performance as closely as he wants—and bring up concerns or ideas with his team as needed.
Landscape business management software can help
In 2022, technology isn’t an optional accessory to running your business. It’s a critical tool for reaching the goals you’ve set, no matter what they are.
With business management software created by landscape professionals, for landscape professionals, you don’t have to worry about building your own system out of a mess of software programs. Aspire’s end-to-end functionality allows you to manage every aspect of your business—from estimating and scheduling to job costing, invoicing, and reporting—in a single, centralized location.
With software like Aspire, you can create processes that enable you to scale your business intelligently at the rate you choose. Learn more, and find out how Aspire can take your company to the next level, when you request a personalized demo using the link below.
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