Starting a lawn care service is a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit. With a little investment and a lot of hard work, anyone can start cutting grass and make money. But as with any startup, getting a lawn care business off the ground requires a lot of upfront research to ensure your company keeps on growing. We distilled the process down to six simple steps to help you plant the seeds of success.
Step 1: Establish Your Business Goals
Every business needs goals in order to continuously improve and running a landscaping business is no different. Decide what it is you want to accomplish with your new lawn care service by asking yourself these questions:
- Why are you starting this business? What is your mission statement?
- How much time can you devote to running the company?
- Are you prepared to manage all of the necessary logistical, financial, marketing and sales work?
- Do you have financial goals for your first year? What about long-term goals?
- Do you need a large team in place to accomplish all of the above?
Step 2: Identify Your Customers
Starting a lawn service from scratch requires figuring out whom your customers are and what they are looking for. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Who is your ideal customer and what is your number one selling point?
- Do you plan to only service customers in your immediate neighborhood or do you plan to expand throughout your region?
- Are you going to focus on residential or commercial properties (or both)?
- Do you intend to market yourself as a low-cost lawn care solution or a premium experience?
A common marketing strategy is to build a buyer persona, or a generalized representation of your ideal customer, that can help answer these kinds of questions. WordStream, an online marketing company, has a great guide for building buyer personas, including an example specific to landscaping companies.
Step 3: Find the Right Equipment
Owning a lawn care and landscaping business means owning a variety of lawn care tools and equipment that fit the services you offer. You can significantly reduce your startup costs by buying used tools from auctions, and sites like Craigslist or eBay. Don’t make the mistake of buying every kind of tool at once; this is a quick way to dig yourself into debt before you even have a solid customer base.
Instead, focus on purchasing the essentials below:
- A lawn mower. Invest in a commercial walk-behind mower instead of models built for homeowners. Once the profits start rolling in, you can upgrade to a riding mower for larger lawns.
- An edger. Edgers are used for cutting grass along the edges of sidewalks and driveways, and also work as a weed whacker.
- Shovels, rakes and weed pullers. A decent set of gardening tools makes every job easier.
- Safety gear. Work gloves, ear plugs and safety glasses can help keep you and your workers safe around powered equipment and potentially harmful plants, such as poison ivy.
- Reliable transportation. Your lawn business isn’t going anywhere if you can’t move your equipment around. Lawn care startups usually rely on pickup trucks and trailers to haul their tools.
Step 4: Start Marketing Your Lawn Care Service—Online and Offline
The best way to market your business online is through a mix of social media and review sites. But before you dive into the marketing game, invest in a decent-looking website. There are several hosting services out there that offer a simple, all-in-one website building platform, such as Squarespace and Wix.com. You should also make sure your site follows best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) so it shows up in Google searches and other search engines.
Once you have an online presence, Facebook and Twitter are a great way to connect with existing customers and potentially generate new leads, but they shouldn’t be your sole source of new business. Instead, spend some of your marketing dollars on review sites, such as Yelp or Angie’s List. Both sites receive millions of homeowners and business owners every day, a sizable proportion of which are looking for professional landscapers and lawn care specialists.
While getting your lawn care business up and running online, make sure you are also getting out there and meeting your target audience. Whether it’s walking from door to door or meeting potential clients in person, you can gain a lot of insight into the types of services and qualities your customers desire in a lawn care service. If you’re having trouble getting customers, offer to do some work for discounted prices, or even for free, in order to build your reputation and referrals.
Step 5: Build Your Team
As your company grows, so too must your team. At some point, the process of running your landscaping business is going to become too big for you alone. Start by hiring an office worker to move some of the day-to-day planning off your plate. With a little more wiggle room in your schedule, you can start hiring and training field technicians to work jobs for you.
As you hire more help, you can use them to find more workers. A referral system is a great way to incentivize your employees to find hardworking and reliable people to work for you. Start by asking members of your team if they have any friends looking for work. If you end up hiring one of them, give the referring employee a nice cash bonus. You are going to be inundated with referrals soon thereafter.
Step 6: Use Your Customer Base to Grow
Apart from online and traditional marketing, good old-fashioned word of mouth is a powerful way to expand your customer base. Ask your best customers for testimonials you can post on your site and incorporate into your promotional materials. You can also ask them to mention your company on social media, or leave a review on Yelp or Angie’s List after wrapping up your work. Discounts are also a great way to get your customers to leave a review, but some sites may prohibit compensation—make sure you double-check!
In the end, starting a lawn service is all about persistence. If you follow these six steps, put in the hours to stay on top of your workload and work constantly to improve your service, you are going to be putting your company on the path to success.
Kevin Rossignol is a writer and editor for Dumpsters.com.