What do poor project management and bad business decisions have in common? These mistakes often lead to less-than-ideal outcomes for new and veteran landscaping businesses.
Any mistake — regardless of size — can damage your business and professional reputation. If you’re competing for projects in a busy market, fumbling a project or quote might encourage customers to seek a second opinion. However, a significant mistake, such as one that results in injury or death, can put a landscaping company out of business due to heavy fines and legal repercussions from regulatory agencies.
Below are some of the most common landscaping business mistakes. Protect your business from costly blunders by learning how to avoid them.
Know Your Scope of Work
Planning is an essential tool in any landscaper’s kit. Beginning a project without proper understanding and appreciation of the scope of work can open your business to costly mistakes and a damaged reputation.
Most cost overruns result from underestimating the labor and materials required to complete the project. Failing to account for delivery costs, fees associated with renting heavy equipment and even the skills necessary to complete the project can take a big bite out of your profits.
Instead of operating on assumptions, use a methodological approach when planning projects. Work slowly and itemize each phase, taking care to record any time and material needs. Making an effort to properly account for the project scope will give you a solid foundation for your cost projections.
You don’t have to go it alone, either. Ask members of your staff who have relevant project experience — calling in a plumber to review plans for an automated irrigation system, for instance — and trusted partners to weigh in on your estimations. A second pair of eyes can uncover mistakes or professional concerns before they become significant issues.
Accounting for project needs and requirements can make or break your business. When professional landscapers take on a project of any size, they commit to delivering the final result on time and within budget.
Don’t Flub Your Financials
Every business relies on sound financials. Working out operation costs and making informed financial decisions can be why your landscaping company lasts many seasons — or even generations.
Let’s take a look at one of the most common financial pitfalls for new landscaping businesses: tying up funds in large purchases.
Starting your company with a top-of-the-line fleet of branded trucks, trailers and heavy machinery might make you feel like a million bucks. Still, it can leave your business in a very precarious financial position.
Small-to-medium hand tools, like shovels, chainsaws and power washers, can be purchased for a reasonable cost and reliably used year over year. But even heavily financed purchases, like specialty equipment and big-ticket items, can cost your business tens of thousands of dollars.
Before purchasing an expensive piece of equipment, ask yourself if you have the workload necessary to support its continued use. Have you accounted for its year-over-year maintenance and operation costs?
Renting heavy equipment instead of purchasing it outright is a cost-effective, safe option that can help you build long-lasting professional relationships with rental equipment providers in your area.
Plan for Seasonal Demand
Many industries experience seasonal surges in demand. For landscaping companies, not properly accounting for that demand can leave you without critical equipment — resulting in costly downtime and completion delays.
If you spend the fall and winter scheduling your jobs for the upcoming season, share your equipment needs with your trusted rental provider ahead of time. Waiting until the day or even week your project starts will lead to headaches for you, your employees and your customers.
Equipment providers experience heavy seasonal demand, leading to inventory gaps. You won’t be the only landscape company needing a skid steer or mini excavator, especially if you’re doing business in a high-competition area.
Reserving equipment ahead of time proves your company can be a conscientious partner and builds positive, long-lasting business relationships. They’ll appreciate your foresight, as it allows them to operate more efficiently.
Landscape businesses that proactively tackle the busy season’s needs will perform jobs efficiently without any workflow hiccups caused by missing equipment.
Take Safety Seriously
As the owner of a landscaping business, you must take safety seriously. Safety isn’t a suggestion. It’s a baseline requirement of modern companies.
Professional landscaping companies with a strong safety culture usually report fewer incidents of injury or damage overall.
Meanwhile, lax workplace safety protocols can expose your company to dangerous — and sometimes fatal — mistakes. One serious accident resulting in disability or death can permanently put a company out of business.
Before a work crew steps foot on a client’s lawn, your company should already have a comprehensive safety plan and training in place. Ensure it complies with all necessary health and safety regulations, including those mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Failure to do so could subject your business to fines and legal repercussions.
Resources like OSHA can help you determine what personal protection equipment (PPE), such as high-visibility clothing, helmets and protective equipment, your business needs. When purchasing PPE, account for any project-specific safety considerations. If your company ventures into tree cutting, invest in fall arrest systems and safety training for arborists.
Workplace safety extends beyond your company’s equipment and employees. Carefully assess any rental equipment suppliers and contractors before engaging their services. Safety is the earmark of a professional, and the companies you work with should reflect your professional standards.