Friday, May. 6th, 2016
How to Start a Landscaping Business: Volume 3 – Running Your Business
You’ve picked out a name for your business, you’ve dealt with legal paperwork, and you’ve even brought on enough customers to keep you busy full-time. So what happens next? Once your business is established, you’ll need to take care of the daily ins and outs to make sure your business remains a well-oiled machine.
Running a business takes plenty of organization and planning. This guide will serve as a resource to help you be prepared for the daily tasks that come with running your own landscaping business and to help you manage your time.
Step 1: Create a Schedule
Once you’ve established customers and prices for your services, it’s important to develop a standard schedule to help you stay organized. You should have your schedule planned out at least a month in advance. If you have employees on board, make sure you are not overworking them and that you are following labor laws in your city.
There are several landscaping management platforms that also have the capability for scheduling (TaskEasy also makes scheduling easy by doing it for you!) but you can also create a schedule without the help of additional software if you prefer. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Determine Your Availability
Take note of how many hours you and your crew will be available each week before scheduling jobs to avoid overbooking. Knowing your availability beforehand will help you avoid the awkward conversation of having to cancel a job because you don’t have the time.
- Create a Chart
Create a chart in Google Docs or Microsoft Excel to represent your business schedule. This should include blocks of time in which you need to work and a column for each employee. This site provides some free calendar/schedule templates you can download and print as needed.
- Remember Vacations and Holidays
Decide which holidays you will and will not be working and mark them on your yearly calendar in advance to avoid accidentally booking a client on a day you will want off. This also goes for vacations and other time off. Let it be known that your customers will most likely want service before a big holiday such as the 4th of July.
- Be Consistent
This one is more of a tip but we recommend keeping your schedule as consistent as possible to help you get into a routine. Try to keep customers on the same days of the week if you can and try to start and end your schedule at the same time each day. Some days will run longer than others but having a consistent schedule will help you manage your time better.
Step 2: Track Your Expenses
Tracking expenses can be quite the headache if not done properly but it’s important to know exactly where your money is going. Your overall profit is going to be your total revenue minus expenses and not accounting for all expenses could be a costly mistake. Ideally, you should be able to project your expenses for a year in advance. Here are things to keep in mind for your expense tracking:
- Product Prices
The landscaping industry is a competitive field so you’ll need to keep your prices low enough to match the competition and stay in business but not high enough to turn away potential customers. Pricing varies greatly from region to region so keep this in mind if you operate in more than one area.
To determine price, first evaluate all of your overhead expenses such as labor, taxes, insurance, fuel, and marketing, to get a general idea of how much you spend on your business. Next, scope out your competition to see what they’re charging for various services. Don’t be afraid to price a little bit higher if you feel your quality is higher than the competition, after all you still need to make a living wage. Most customers understand that the cheapest service isn’t always the best service. Keep in mind TaskEasy prices your customers for you so you don’t have to. We take in account market prices and the customer’s square footage to determine the price.
- Use resources available to you
The good ol’ pen and paper method works for some things but should probably be avoided if you’re running a full-fledged landscaping business. There are several products on the market designed to make tracking expenses, keeping track of inventory, and paychecks a breeze.
If you just need a simple expense management, you can always use the dependable QuickBooks, like mentioned in Volume 1. You can also use Capterra to compare multiple Landscape Management platforms in one easy location.
- Decide How You Want to Pay Yourself and Employees
Setting up a payroll system is a crucial part of running a business, even if it’s just you. This will streamline your ability to stay on top of your legal responsibilities as a business owner and can protect you from costly IRS penalties. Follow the steps below to get started:
- Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) – You’ll need an EIN from the IRS to get started. This is also called a Form SS-4. This is necessary for reporting taxes and other documents to the IRS. You can apply for an EIN online.
- Check to See if State/Local IDs are needed – Some states require local businesses to have ID numbers to process taxes. Check with your local government site here.
- Independent Contractor or Employee – There is a big difference between being an independent contractor and an employee and you’ll need to decide the route that’s best for your business beforehand if you choose to hire a crew. For more info on the differences between an independent contractor and an employee, check out this helpful IRS guide.
- Get help during tax season
Tax season isn’t everyone’s favorite time of year and it can be especially exhausting if you run a small business. It doesn’t have to be a pain though, there are professionals who can make your life much easier by walking you through the process. Just make sure to retain a record of every single business-related expense so you can deduct it later on. If you still need more info, this helpful guide will help you manage your business taxes.
Step 3: Draft Sample Contracts
It’s smart to have a contract template drafted so you don’t have to go through the tedious task of creating a new template every time you decide to set up a contract with a new client. Whether you are working with a homeowner or a larger business client, having a lawn care service agreement is always a good idea to protect your business.
A clearly worded lawn care service contract will help prevent confusion and misunderstandings on your part and the client’s. This will say word for word what you are responsible for, what services you will be performing, and what your client will be paying for services performed. Template.net provides several lawn service contract templates you can easily download to get started.
Step 4: Network and Develop Partnerships
Running a business can be quite costly. If you have a certain product you’re fond of, consider approaching a local business to see if a partnership can be formed to purchase mass amounts of product at discount.
If you have a local garden supply store, consider setting up workshops to provide shoppers with valuable information on caring for their lawn and garden. In return for offering these workshops for free, you’ll get free marketing and exposure.
Step 5: Manage Your Employees
If you have a crew, managing your employees is an important part to running your business. It’s important to treat your crew with the respect they deserve while making sure they are on the same page as you. Here are a few tips:
- Invest in the right people
Your crew represents your business, so quality matters. First impressions always matter and often times your employees will be meeting face to face with clients. Always check references and look at experience. Just one bad hire could damage your reputation so take the time to thoroughly vet candidates before bringing them onto the team.
- Provide thorough training
To avoid disastrous mistakes later on, provide effective and thorough training from the get go. Training should always include instruction on how to use and care for all pieces of equipment, how to complete different types of jobs, and any general landscaping knowledge necessary to your business. Always have a more experienced person alongside until your trainee is up to speed.
- Keep them motivated
It can be easy to lose motivation if work morale is low. Make sure to motivate your employees by providing positive feedback on a regular basis. While constructive criticism has its time and place, don’t forget to mention the good. Employees appreciate positive reinforcement and this will go a long ways in having them help you reach your goals. On the same note, make sure they are adequately compensated for their hard work to keep spirits high.
Step 6: Maintain Your Equipment
In Volume 1, we talked about the importance of purchasing quality equipment to avoid headaches later on. But maintaining your equipment is just as important as the thought you put into it when making the initial purchase. Proper care for your equipment will help it last longer and save you money in the long run. Here are a few things to consider:
- Always Read The Owner’s Manual
Whenever you get any new piece of equipment, make sure to take the time to read the owner’s manual in full to learn how to take the best possible care of your new tool. Nobody knows better than the maker how to properly care for and maintain the product.
- Keep Lawn Mowers Sharp
Always make sure to brush away grass debris on your lawn mower casing and blade before it dries, with special attention to the ventilation slots. Doing this will help avoid blockages and over-heating. Just keep a soft brush and thick cloth with you at all times for easy cleanup. Also, make sure to wear gloves to protect your hands. Blades should also be sharpened twice a year. For a complete guide on sharpening your blades, go here.
- Drain the Gasoline After Each Mowing Season
Old gasoline can lead to pesky problems and is one of the main suspects when a lawn mower won’t start. Run any remaining gas out of the mower or drain it at the end of each lawn mowing season. Make sure to use fresh gas when lawn mowing season rolls around again rather than re-use old oil. When you do this, make sure to also check the oil level in your mower and make sure old or contaminated oil is replaced.
- Maintain Hedge Trimmers
Whenever you replace the nylon cutting line on a weed wacker or trimmer, take advantage of the opportunity and clean out the motor casing as well. Use a soft brush to gently remove any dust and then lightly oil all moving parts. It’s also wise to wipe down hedge trimmers with an oily rag after each cut to remove grass clippings.
Check out more lawn mower maintenance tips here.
Step 7: Collect Payments
Once all work is finished and you have a happy customer on your hands, you’ll need to receive payment so it’s important to work out the process beforehand. Some contractors require a deposit upfront to ensure customers don’t cancel last minute, losing them money and time. Although, this may not be necessary if you plan to complete the work immediately.
Make sure to collect payment immediately upon job completion. We highly recommend using a mobile credit processing app to collect mobile payments, eliminating the need for paperwork. Several businesses use Square to process their customer payments easily and efficiently. This option is great because funds will go directly to your business account and you don’t have to worry about trips to the bank to deposit checks. You can also check out some other credit card processing solutions here.
One thing to note: When you join TaskEasy’s network of contractors, you don’t have to worry about processing payments because we do that part for you!
Step 8: Be Prepared for All Seasons
Some of you may be wondering what to do during the colder months if you live in a place that experiences all four seasons. We understand that because it can be scary not having income for months at a time. One solution is to consider offering seasonal services such as snow removal.
Just like people need their lawns mowed during the warmer months, people will need their snow shoveled during the colder months. Several TaskEasy contractors invest in snow removal gear for the winter months to have steady income year-round. About 10% of TaskEasy contractors opt to offer snow removal services in the winter to supplement their lawn mowing income.
Worried about the in-between seasons as well? We’ve found customers appreciate help with seasonal tasks such as spring and fall cleanup. In the spring, people often seek out help for things like lawn aeration, flower bed cleanup, and fertilization. When fall arrives, you can perform similar tasks to get your customers ready for winter.
Become a TaskEasy Contractor
If your business is up and running, but you’re still struggling finding and maintaining customers, you might benefit from joining the nation’s largest network of contractors. We might be biased but there are several benefits to working with TaskEasy to grow your business. Here are just a few:
TaskEasy provides contractors ready-to-service jobs, which means homeowners and property managers in your area have already ordered and paid for services beforehand. This means you’ll never have price haggle or worry about inconsistent schedules.
We Do the Marketing
One of the biggest problems people run into when starting their own lawn care business is the marketing aspect. We covered different ways to market your business in Volume 2, but if you don’t have the time, we’ll work diligently to bring you new customers by taking care of the marketing tasks for you.
General Liability Insurance
Don’t have your own General Liability insurance? No worries! TaskEasy gives you the option to use our per-job insurance for as low as $1.75 per task. Occupational Accidental insurance is also available to contractors. If you prefer, you can use your own General Liability insurance policy—just make sure it covers $1M per occurrence.
Make More Money
Because you’ll be spending less time on tasks such as scheduling, collecting payments, and marketing efforts, you’ll have more time to complete jobs. This combined with the fact that you no longer have to bid for jobs means more money in your pocket. Like many TaskEasy contractors, Willie Q with WLQ Solutions has seen customer growth of about 30% since joining.
You’ll also have access to the TaskEasy contractor app which makes completing jobs, taking before and after photos, and managing your schedule while on the go possible. If you’re at a computer, the TaskEasy dashboard will help you navigate your schedule and manage your account.
TaskEasy Contractor Tips and Advice
Benny C, owner of Benny’s Landscaping Service has worked with TaskEasy since August 2014 and has had his own business for 6 years. He recommends always planning ahead and having multiple prospects. It’s also helpful to have a business-minded personality and to be flexible in the way you think. Rather than only having one good account, you should have three to four different main sources of revenue. Types of revenue include property managers with multiple properties, businesses, apartment complexes, etc.
Richard L, owner of Signature Landscape Services has worked with TaskEasy since April 2015 and has worked in the landscaping business since middle school. The best advice shared with him was to understand your core competency and learn to be the best at that. Learn what you do well and excel at it. Once you have a solid book of business, then you can start adding other services but make sure you are ready first. The last thing you can afford is to develop a bad reputation for doing bad work.
Good luck with your landscaping business! We know that with hard work and dedication, you can see great success. If you have questions about getting started, or need some ideas for how to market your business, check out Volumes 1 and 2 below!