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Business Owners & Mangers

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting Your Landscaping Business

A new lawn care or landscaping business is an exciting venture - and possibly a very profitable one! You get to be your own boss, set your own hours, and enjoy your earnings. But it's also stressful, especially when you're just starting out and need to find customers so you can start earning money. To reduce your stress and get a better start in your new business, here are 5 mistakes not to make when starting a landscaping business.

1. Don't Overspend on Equipment

Yes, you'll need equipment and tools when starting your company -- including a utility van or a trailer. However, you probably won't need as much stuff as you think you do at the beginning. Spend less when opening your business by buying good quality second-hand equipment that covers only the essentials for what your customers need. With that, leasing a truck, or maybe even hiring subcontractors for short spikes, you can often reduce your startup costs. Once you've gained steady clients and have secure recurring revenue, you can invest in more and better equipment.

2. Don't Be Too Forgiving With Late Payments

Some customers will pay late -- or not at all. This is a reality for most lawn care and landscape businesses. Every late payment affects your cash flow, especially in the early days of your new company. Reduce headaches by sending invoices promptly and following up with payments that are 30-plus days overdue. If someone doesn't pay, don't continue landscaping services until their account is current.

3. Don't Forget Your Phone

Every missed phone call represents a missed customer, which is why it's key to remember your phone and return calls promptly. Many times you’ll get a call for same day “quick services” or requests for quotes - especially in the Spring. And, more often than not, you’ll be just one of a few landscape businesses they call. Time is of the essence in picking up the phone and replying to voicemails. This might be the biggest thing you can do you grow your new landscaping business quickly and start earning money.

4. Forgetting About Maintenance

When you're a new owner of a landscape business, you might be tempted to avoid paying for equipment maintenance or extended warranties while cash is low and you’re still building a customer base. It’s understandable; new start ups are often cash-strapped. Yet, the truth is all equipment needs maintenance. Be sure your tools and equipment are maintained -- ideally during the off-season so you aren't losing time in the field -- to keep them working properly and avoid a sudden equipment breakdown.

Take advantage of warranties where available, but for out-of-warranty or used equipment, you’ll have to do this on your own if you’re mechanically-inclined. If not, it makes sense to educate yourself or lean on outside resources you may have access to. If you are mechanically inclined, and work has to be done during the busy season, it’s not a bad idea to consider the question: How much money am I losing by doing this maintenance myself instead of mowing lawns? In some cases, it may be worthwhile to invest in a service shop.

5. Don't Overlook Marketing

For a new landscape business especially, marketing is essential to grow your customer base quickly. How will you get clients if no one knows you exist? Invest in a website and social media, which many times can be started with little to no cash investment. Consider advertisements in your targeted community or attend municipal business meetings where you can network with other small business owners. Look for other solo service providers who can refer your name. For instance, house cleaners or pool cleaners can pass on your name if their clients need landscapers.

One of the most commonly offered recommendations by ECHO’s User Advisory Group is branding your trucks with your logo and phone number, so that neighbors can easily contact you when they see your work in their neighborhood.

Follow these 5 tips to get your new business -- and your cash flow -- off to a strong start.

Have other ideas? Join our forum to share ideas or ask other pros for ideas.