How to Start and Run a Successful Lawn Care & Landscape Business

Before you “Hang your Shingle”

Plan? We don’t need no stinking plan! There is only one time I personally recommend you do a “full fledged” business plan. When you need to borrow money that you CANNOT get anywhere else. I say this because a true business plan, though a “map” to where you’re going, has much information you won’t really need, use or understand. I favor Marc Allen’s’ approach called the “one page plan”.

I suggest you read the Millionaire Course by Marc Allen to get a better feel for it, but here’s the basics.

• Write down your ideal scene, set five years in the future.
• Write down your goals (extracted from ideal scene).
• Turn your goals into positive, personal, present-tense affirmations.
• Deal with doubts and fears effectively (the book provides a specific process for this).
• Write simple plans for your goals on paper.
• Take the most obvious first action right in front of you, and keep going from there.

So you basically write down your ideal scene, be brave and be outrageous. Then scan this document for “goals” that you can write down. Then write down specific tasks you can take to accomplish these goals. Remember, beginning has boldness! And hard work is simply a bunch of easy stuff that didn’t get done when it should’ve!

Who are you? Who are your clients?

Define your market – define yourself: Who are you as a company? Are you the guy who specializes in cemeteries and schools and other municipal properties? Or are you the one who takes care of that “select group” of wealthy, particular clients who very few have the skill and patience to serve? It’s SO important to define yourself FIRST or you’ll have a “mixed bag” of clients and you’ll make many errors in judgment as to how to serve each type. You can be general or specific, but start defining now.

We cater to middle to upper – middle class, middle to old age, particular but not “spoiled”. This is where we experience the best money, most enjoyment and greatest client satisfaction. On the corporate side, we cater to small properties who are loyal to a company who gives great service. We want companies that say “Ok, he did our property JUST the way we liked it last year, I see no reason to go anywhere else”. I stay away from companies that put their properties out to bid every year. You MIGHT keep the job if you give “knock em’ dead” service, but chances are, saving money will always win in the end. I Stick with small and loyal, and that just works for us.

DO occasionally take clients “above” your target, just not below. Defining yourself is another way of setting your “terms”. For instance, our rate is our rate. We don’t dicker. We say HOW the work gets done, the client gets to dictate the end result. I am paid on time. I do what’s best for my family, I live by the golden rule and I clean up my messes and take 100% responsibility for my life. Notice there are no “or else’s” at the end, no “back doors”. THEN they would be called “conditions”. These are NOT conditions, they are “terms”. There is no room for any alternative and we do not give the alternative space to exist. Period. Most of your personal terms would be the same whether you were married, single, childless or patriarch over a brood of 11. They “define” you, and adhering to them strengthens you and compromising them weakens you.

Metaphysically speaking, when you define yourself, you invoke the great “I AM”. When you firmly define yourself, you will begin to find situations drawn to you that fit your definition. You’ll get calls from the “right” clients, you’ll be in the “right” place for the president of the condo association to stop and talk to you, you’ll happen to be the ONLY contractor that answered his phone that day when the new homeowner next door calls.

Pick two and “Know the WHY?”

Pick Two: This is extremely important! There are 3 things you can offer; low price, great service, great quality. You can only offer TWO out of the three. What are they going to be? If it’s great service and quality, don’t you DARE let clients dicker with you on price. Trying to offer all 3, OR offering a “different 2” from one day to the next will do you in quicker than almost any bad business decision you can make. Who are you? It’s ok to change your mind as you go along, just be clear as to why. Be clear on who you are.

I’m clear that I’m all about quality and service, which is why I hire subs and am “stepping back”. All my successful business decisions can be traced back to a decision to follow these two choices. All or most of my poor decisions can be traced back to a time that I “waffled” and forgot who I was.

Know the Why!: Know what you’re going to charge and WHY. You MUST feel that there’s a reason you charge $40, $60 or $80 per hour or you’ll let yourself be talked out of it. Know WHY you’re in business. What are your goals, what are you trying to accomplish? Where are you going? Another word for “WHY” is “purpose”, and purpose gives the needed energy and passion to everything. Passion is really all you need to get going and STAY going through all sorts of conditions. Passion leads to perseverance. Perseverance leads to success. Perseverance is “heard” by God and the universe as “Hey, this is what I want and where I’m going, regardless of whatever obstacles I encounter”. This is also crucial in budgeting. Know how you came up with your numbers. Do the extra work. Instead of just saying “I want to grow 20% next year”, figure out what needs to happen to accomplish that. How many lawns do I need to get? Make sure you BELIEVE that you can do it, and you understand what needs to HAPPEN for you to do it and your chances will skyrocket.

Sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC or corporation? This is one of those questions that can ONLY be answered firmly by a lawyer or tax specialist (you do have an accountant don’t you?!) But I’ll put my 2 cents in here. I believe that ONCE YOU ARE MAKING A GOOD PROFIT, an Scorp is the best way to go for the following reasons:

1. It disciplines you to keep company and personal money separate because you HAVE to pay yourself a paycheck and CANNOT commingle funds.

2. As you make more profit, you get to dictate your paycheck and leave the rest of the profit in the company which simply gets taxed at your rate. For instance, if you are a sole proprietorship, and you make $50,000 profit you have to pay state and fed taxes PLUS social security and Medicare (self employment tax) of 15.3% (you and company side). If you are an Scorp instead, you pay yourself $30,000 and pay all those taxes on it, then JUST pay state and fed on the remaining $20,000, saving $3,060!! Setting up an Scorp is pretty straight forward.

I would say that as long as your GROSS is $100,000 or less and your net before tax profit (including money you pay yourself as wages) is $30,000 or less, you should stay either a sole proprietorship OR LLC. Consult your lawyer and accountant on these matters first though.

A couple of points about incorporating:

• DON’T buy expensive ledger and corporate package. It’s only a fancy 3 ring binder and corporate seal. Google “corporate seal” if you really want one, but my understanding is that they are no longer necessary.
• DO spend 50-60 on an incorporating package OR a program like LLC maker because it just simplifies and clarifies everything for you. IF you are comfortable researching, go ahead, but my advice is that if you can run a business, you can incorporate yourself without a lawyer. I just bought a “maintenance package” that includes minutes and bylaws to keep everything tidy and legal.

That’s it for now!