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Starting your own lawn care business might seem like a daunting task at first. But, if you approach the process in an orderly manner and work through everything step-by-step, you’ll find that it’s not as intimidating as you expected.
In this article, we discuss the specific steps for how to start a lawn care business and introduce you to a tool that can make opening, operating, and organizing your own business much easier.
The first step in starting a lawn care business is to research the industry in your area.
Read articles online. Talk to other lawn care business owners. Visit a Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce near you. As you do, ask plenty of questions so you can get as full a picture as possible.
For example, you might ask:
It’s also a good idea to research the rates that other lawn care businesses charge for similar services. That way, you’ll know how to set a competitive rate (more on this later).
As you investigate your lawn care business idea, decide what services you’ll offer to your customers.
For example, you might choose to offer:
Each of these services requires specialized equipment, so it might not be economically feasible to offer everything all at once.
You may choose to offer mowing and trimming only, which is a good way to start. Then, once your lawn care business gets going, you can always offer other, more specialized services.
One of the best ways to research and investigate the lawn care industry is to get hands-on experience by working for someone else for a while.
If you’re fortunate enough to have done so, perhaps as a summer job in high school or college, you can cross this step off your list. But, if you’ve never worked in the industry, this could be one of the most important parts of the preparation phase.
Gaining personal experience in the lawn care niche can give you insight into how everything runs, help you identify best practices, and reveal the difficulties you may face — and how to overcome them — when you start your own lawn care business.
Working for someone else can also help you decide if you can handle many of the “unseen” variables that go into the industry, including being outdoors, the wear-and-tear on your body, managing money, and staying organized (just to name a few).
You may actually discover that this business type isn’t right for you. And that’s OK.
Deciding that you don’t want to work in this industry early on can help you save lots of time, money, and effort that you can then spend choosing the right business for yourself.
Once you’ve settled on the services you’re going to offer, you can start to identify your potential clients.
For example, you may choose to focus on residential mowing. Those clients will likely have different requirements than business mowing. But you won’t know until you investigate.
By identifying your target market, you may find it easier to conduct a whole host of organizational activities, including:
This may not seem like an important step in the process, but gathering data on your target market can give you a leg up when it comes to making your lawn care business as attractive as possible to potential clients.
Start brainstorming a name for your business right away so you have plenty of time to come up with something you like.
The reason we suggest doing this early on in the process is because once you start filling out paperwork (e.g., registering your business, buying insurance, and opening a bank account), it becomes much more of a chore to change.
As you research, take some time to dig a bit deeper into the legal/tax structure that your new company will take. In the United States, a small business just starting out has several options.
Your lawn care business can be a:
The further down the list you go, the more complicated the paperwork, governance, and tax filing will be, but you’ll also receive benefits — e.g., personal liability protection — that you can’t get anywhere else.
It doesn’t matter what type of product or service you decide to offer, things will likely function better if you have a business plan in place.
At its most basic, a business plan is a written document that describes your goals and how you’ll go about making those goals a reality.
A thorough business plan can also describe the business itself and may include details such as:
Though your business plan doesn’t have to be detailed or long in the beginning, it’s a good idea to add to it whenever you can.
Think of the business plan as a roadmap to your success — the more details you include, the easier it will be to navigate the ups and downs of your lawn care business.
Regardless of the type of business structure you settle on (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC, or S-Corp), opening a separate bank account for your lawn care business funds will make recordkeeping and payroll (if you hire employees) much easier.
Similarly, keeping your personal account and your business account separate makes paying taxes less of a logistical and numerical nightmare.
With a business checking account, you won’t have to spend hours at the end of the year separating personal expenses and income from business expenses and income.
Regardless of the business structure you decide on for your business, an important step in the process is registering with the proper local, state, and federal agencies.
An easy way to start is to visit your secretary of state’s website to find out what you need to do first. You may have to fill out some paperwork and pay a small fee, but it’s better to go through this now than to pay a fine for improper registration later.
Depending on the type of business you choose and whether you’re going to hire employees, you’ll also need to register with the federal government in order to get a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN).
You may not consider business insurance a necessary part of starting a lawn care business. But what if, in the process of mowing a residential property, your mower kicks a rock through a window or into a car sitting in the driveway?
If that — or any number of other accidents — happens you’ll be responsible for reimbursing the homeowner for the damage. That could take a big bite out of your working capital.
With business insurance, you pay a yearly rate that will cover any damages up to a certain dollar amount.
Coverage like that can protect your new business from having to empty its bank account — and possibly close its doors — because of an accident on the job.
Before you get too busy running your new business, investigate technology that will streamline your workflow.
Inch, for example, is a task management app that streamlines repetitive tasks and makes them easier to complete — for you and your team.
Tools in the Inch suite include:
Technologies like Inch that streamline workflow and keep everyone headed in the right direction will allow you and your team to get as much done in a day as possible.
Outfitting a lawn care business can be an expensive endeavor.
If you’ve already worked through the previous steps on this list, you’ve had to spend some money registering the business, getting insurance, and, perhaps, lining up technologies you’ll use to keep things running.
But that’s not the end of the expenses that will roll your way. You’ll need to purchase the necessary tools and equipment to get the job done quickly and to your high standards.
If you hire employees right out of the gate (instead of doing the work yourself until things get going), you’ll need to have capital on hand to pay them as well.
That said, starting out small is one of the best ways to keep costs low.
You may already have a lot of the equipment and you may choose to be the sole employee until you’ve got enough clients on the books to warrant another team member.
Keeping things small at first can help minimize the amount of extra funding you’ll need to secure to get your business up and running.
Whether or not you need to secure funding to start your business, you’ll most likely need a budget to help you keep track of your money and control spending.
Start out by outlining what you think you’ll spend for the big items like insurance, equipment, tools, fuel, and maintenance.
Then, as you gain a bit of experience, build a more detailed budget that includes things like:
Do your best to stick to the budget so you don’t overspend in one area and find your funds lacking in another area.
And, at least once a year, review the numbers to see if you need to make any adjustments to make it work better.
When considering the rate you’ll charge in your lawn care business, don’t just settle on an hourly rate that you — the one doing the mowing, for example — would like to be paid.
Factor in other variables such as time, taxes, supplies, overhead, and profit/markup.
Every job is going to be different, but here’s a simple way to figure out a rate that pays you what you need but also covers the other expenses of the business:
Customize the dollar amount and percentages in parentheses to fit your business, and use this method as a way to set the rate for your lawn care business.
A lawn care business is heavily dependent on the right tools for getting the job done. Depending on the services you offer, you may need the following equipment:
Even if you just offer mowing and trimming, you’ll need a truck and trailer to haul your tools around.
Start out small — perhaps with used items — and add or purchase new equipment as your business grows.
You may have to spend a bit up front to market your business, but there are also many free and inexpensive ways to get your business name out there.
Ask your friends and family to spread the word. Post flyers on local bulletin boards. Start a Facebook page. Build a website. Get creative with your marketing to reach as many potential customers as possible.
When you first start your lawn care business, you have two choices:
Doing all the work yourself is a great way to build your business from the ground up and save money for the future.
At some point, though, as your business grows, you’ll likely need to hire employees so you can get more done in a day.
If you’ve never had other people working for you, hiring employees may seem like a monumental task. Really, though, it’s very similar to starting your own business: Just follow the steps and you’ll be fine.
For hiring, those steps include:
Once you find it necessary to hire employees, keep in mind that you don’t need to hire a full team right away.
Perhaps you can excel by hiring one or two additional team members to help you out. Expanding slowly one or two employees at a time can help you control labor costs and build your business for the future.
Regardless of whether you do the work yourself or hire employees to do it for you, the best way to build your business toward success is by doing good work and providing high-quality customer service at all times.
Treat every customer like they’re royalty and every lawn like it’s a work of art. If you do that, your clients will be more likely to stick with you over the long haul and recommend your services to their friends, family, and everyone they know.
A big part of operating your business successfully is training your employees to do the work according to your business’s high standards and your client’s needs.
New team members may need instruction in a variety of areas, including:
This may seem like a lot, but you can cover it fairly quickly — and make it available to team members whenever they need it — by including the majority of the information in your employee handbook.
The schedules you produce serve as a framework for all of your team’s activities. As such, those schedules need to be accurate, understandable, and consistent so that your employees build confidence in the information they contain.
Inaccurate schedules may lead to confusion, frustration, missed appointments, a decline in work quality, and a lack of coverage for the work you do have.
Modern technology — such as Inch — can help in this regard by giving you the tools you need to create accurate schedules every time.
While accurate schedules provide an overview of when an employee works, your team also needs to know what they’re doing from one day to the next.
That’s where task management comes in.
Apps like Inch make it much easier to:
With an app like Inch as a part of your workflow, you’ll be better able to get the most productivity out of your team’s day-to-day activities.
As part of your team management efforts, emphasize customer service and encourage your employees to provide the best experience possible.
Keep in mind that the lawn care business is a very competitive industry because anyone with a mower can hang out their shingle.
What really sets your business apart from all the others is the customer service you provide and the relationships you build along the way. Train your team to go above and beyond whenever possible.
A large part of your team’s daily activities will occur away from the office. Because of that, you’ll need to exercise good remote management practices to keep everyone working efficiently.
This includes cultivating and maintaining efficient and effective communication throughout the day.
How can you make that communication as easy as possible? Read on to find out.
Staying organized is essential for the success of your lawn care business. But keeping track of appointment times, locations, specific tasks for each job, necessary supplies, and everything else can be a full-time job in itself.
You don’t have to do it all yourself. Inch can help.
Inch is a suite of task and workforce management tools that can simplify every aspect of the way your lawn care business operates.
With Inch, you (and your team) can perform a wide variety of tasks from any smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop, including:
Our app makes it easier than ever to coordinate and optimize your team and your entire lawn care business.
For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit TryInch.com today.
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