October 27, 2021

How to Start a Lawn Care Business

Business Management
How to Start a Lawn Care Business

Are you an entrepreneur who loves being your own boss and enjoys working outdoors? A lawn care business might just be your calling!

Starting a lawn care business is not tough, but running a successful lawn care business and growing it over the years can be challenging. However, by following the best practices and the right business model, you can scale it into a thriving business.

Let’s get started on the building blocks that will help turn your idea into a fully functional lawn care business. We have a checklist of things you need to know before you start your own company. Here goes:

Start with the basics

You don’t need a lot of investment to start a lawn care business. You can start by offering lawn mowing and spring/fall clean-ups. All you need is an electric lawnmower and a few more inexpensive pieces of equipment like a trimmer, a leaf blower, a weed whacker, and a truck to carry you around.

As you grow, you can start offering other services that need more technical expertise and bring you higher margins - like lawn fertilization and core aeration.

You could start your lawn care business with as simple as your company name. Your company name reflects on the kind of business you want to build.

Go with something creative and personalized, but don’t spend weeks trying to figure something that will work. It should be practical and professional, as it will be on all your invoices, proposals, quotes, and as you expand, on your trucks, clothing, and advertising materials. You will need to register it as per your state regulations.

Spend some time designing the logo. It goes a long way in building your brand identity. You can use a free tool like Canva or a free design website that allows anyone to build one.

Create a business plan

Now that you’ve taken the first step towards building your own lawn care business, you are going to need a plan. Your business plan will help you manage risks and strive to achieve your goals in a structured way. Decide on the business structure you want for your lawn care business before you take on any jobs. It will influence your day-to-day operations, taxes, capital, and your personal liability. Your business plan should be a guide on how to run your business and should serve your goals. Before you dive deep into it, make a brief outline. A traditional business plan takes longer and is more detail-oriented but initially, you can start with a lean plan. Follow this brief outline as a basic framework for your business plan:

1. Executive summary

An executive summary is a brief introduction to your business plan. It describes your business, the problem statement, objectives, your target market and audience, and business goals.

2. Company description

A company summary is an overview of the most important points about your company—your history, management team, locations you operate in, mission statement, and legal structure.

3. Market analysis

Who is your target market? Do an in-depth market analysis here. This will include market segmentation, your implementation strategy, competitive analysis of your competitors, etc. The best way to start is with a story.

4. Business strategy

Now that you’ve done an in-depth market and competitive analysis, it’s time to plan your business strategy. Talk about the services and the customizations you are going to offer here. This will include customized pricing models. Your services will depend upon the region, your equipment, your competition, and the market.

5. Financial plan

You need to get your finances in order. This is where you put together a financial plan that can also help you apply for grants for your lawn care business in the future. Your financial plan is a critical part of your business plan and acts as a financial forecast. It should include sales forecast, personnel costs, budget for expenses, etc.

6. Marketing plan

To have a successful business, you need a marketing plan. A Marketing and Sales strategy is a must and the numbers & targets come here.

7. Organizational structure

Having a personnel plan means deciding the organizational structure for your company. Labor costs make up 30-35% of revenue costs. It’s important that you include all the considerations in your business plan.

Decide your services & fix your pricing structure

Now that you have your business plan ready, let's figure out the services you are going to offer. Apart from mowing, fertilizing, the other commonly offered services are mulching, weeding, bedding, tree services, aeration, debris removal, planting services, tree and shrub, pest control, property cleanup, etc.

Depending on the climate in your region, the vegetation growth patterns, and the needs of the customers in the market, pick and choose the relevant services. See what your competitors offer. Divide them on the basis of seasons, your location, and the needs of the customers in the market you serve.

You can also bundle the most commonly requested services together into a package and offer them at a discounted pricing.

Image credits: Brandon Rushing Lawn & Garden Care

Figuring out what prices you offer for your services is critical to your business, especially when you are starting out. The reason is that price is one of the most important factors customers keep in mind while deciding which lawn care provider to go ahead with. Having said that, it’s important that you don’t charge just the break-even price. You need to make a running profit in your early years so that you can expand and bring in more employees.

While figuring out your pricing, you should take into account your fixed costs - like the spend on equipment and office space, hourly labor rates, overheads, estimations, and taxes. Ideally, your profit margins should range between 25%-30% to have sustainable growth in your lawn care business.

Test your pricing in the market. Speak with customers, check out how your competitors are pricing, and this should give you a good idea if your pricing is going to work. Be agile.

Buy your lawn care equipment

Choosing good quality equipment in the early days will go a long way. When you are starting, buy all new handheld equipment. Saving up a few hundred dollars on used equipment may not work well or last long.

Since you are starting up, you might not be eager to spend a lot on heavy equipment. But the smaller handheld equipment can be bought new. Make a list of all the equipment you need.

For the bigger equipment, on the other hand, you can buy used (second-hand) to save up. You can find a $2,500 lawn mower that looks as new as a brand new model. It can be tempting to splurge on brand new equipment for your new lawn care business, but plan your equipment on the basis of what’s essential or require immediacy.

Make sure your equipment doesn’t put a big financial burden on you or straps you down even before you can get started. Initially, basic equipment (commercial grade lawn-mower, a truck, a trailer, and a few other pieces of equipment) can cost you somewhere around $16,000. You can always upgrade your equipment once the money starts flowing in.

Renting equipment is a great way to be frugal in the early phases of your business. Start your equipment maintenance plan early in your business. Involve your crew into it; they are going to be the ones who are going to use it on the field daily.

Get insurance & get licensed

Getting your company insurance is a must. Legally, you’ll be required to carry one. Insurance providers rate businesses separately depending on the kind of services you offer, and they typically classify mowing, blowing, weeding, and edging as "basic lawn care".

It is important to find an insurance company that understands your business and fits your requirements best. Ensure that your business is adequately covered and read your policy’s fine print. Focus on the quality of the coverage.

Not all services require licenses, but certain ones like fertilization do. Each state has different laws for registering businesses, tax regulations, and licenses for pesticide applicators. So make sure you are certified and have the required licenses before you offer your services. For example, in some states and counties, you need a fertilizer application certification. You also need to purchase a permit or business license to operate in the municipality in certain cities, states, or counties.

Check with your local Department of Agriculture to learn about your state’s specific restrictions.

To take it up a notch, you can acquire recognized certifications and memberships. They not only allow your business to get more credibility but also help add channels of revenue into your business. Look out for certifications offered by National Association for Landscape Professionals (NALP), Irrigation Association, etc.

Getting your first lawn care customer

Now that you have the basics figured out, it’s time to get your first customer. Getting your first Customer can be challenging because no one knows you or has heard of you.

Start with your immediate neighborhood, your friends, family, and acquaintances. Doing excellent lawn care work for them should be your first step. Forge long-term relationships and people will start recommending your services to others.

Lawn care is one business where you can win perpetual customers once you do excellent work for them. Focus on customer retention as much as you do on bringing in new ones. Word of mouth will carry your reputation forward, and within no time you’ll have more work than you can handle.

Build a referral program so your current customers are incentivized to share your business with their family and friends. This alone will create good momentum for you to kickstart your business.

Build your lawn care company website

Having a strong internet presence helps give credibility to your lawn care business. When the whole world is going digital, your lawn care business must have an emphatic online presence.

Market your services online well by building a great website. Differentiate your services from your competitors by comparing them. Another great thing to have on your website is customer testimonials. Make sure you display the necessary certifications and licenses as well.

Have a clear and compelling CTA (call-to-action) like “Call us now” or “Start today”. Your phone number, office address should be clearly visible. You should provide free estimates to your online customer, preferably instantly. Don’t forget to periodically update and revise your website as you go ahead.

Market your lawn care services

Start by setting a realistic goal for your business and building a timeline. As per your budget, experiment with different advertising methods. Postcards, flyers, local newspaper ads, making social media business pages are a few great low-cost initiators.

Leverage different social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram in the best way possible for your business.

Claim your Google My Business listing. E-mail marketing is a great way to keep track of your customer communications. As you increase your budget, shift towards paid advertising.

Get your website ranked on Google. Once you have a good cash flow, you can also explore other paid marketing avenues like Google Adwords. This can really multiply your customers in the long run. Manage your online reviews and focus on their quality. That will act as the billboard for your online customers.

Just spending a lot of money and time on marketing is not going to guarantee success. Finding what works for you and doubling down on those areas will really take your business to the next level. You have to target your customers and constantly revise your goals.

It’s a game of speed and of accuracy. The faster you respond to your leads with accurate quotes, the higher chances are that they will become a paying customer.

Scaling your business  

Now that you know everything you need to start a lawn care business, it’s time to put your plan into action.

As Jim Rohn said,

"If you are not willing to risk the usual, you will have to settle for the ordinary."

It is hard work scaling a lawn care company. Overnight success won’t happen and a lot of hustle, networking, and hard work are required. But growing your own lawn care company from scratch is certainly fulfilling. Once you start doing excellent work for your customers, there is no limit to how much you can earn.

Many have built their lawn care companies with less than $1,000 and scaled it to a million-dollar business. So what’s stopping you from starting your own lawn care business today?