According to government data, Americans are starting new businesses at a greater rate than they have in over 10 years. And lawn care is a popular option because start-up costs are low and the business can be run from relatively anywhere. However, while a lawn care business is a good way to generate additional income (especially in times of peak demand, like the spring), entering into any new venture is no easy feat.
For those considering launching a new lawn care business, taking into account the following key considerations will help set you up for success.
1. Anticipate Initial Hurdles. Many small businesses across industries fail during their inception years because of a few obstacles that could have easily been addressed at the outset – and these obstacles will always be the same, whether you’re starting a business during a pandemic or in more “normal” times. New lawn care business owners should aim to be more forward-looking and anticipate these hurdles by thinking about the three S’s of success:
- Structure Capital/Injection: Do you have the funds to get your business off the ground? If not, are you prepared to work with a financial partner to acquire a loan? If a loan is needed, you should prepare to show that you have at least 10% of the amount of the loan you’re taking in post-transaction liquidity.
- Support: Do you have the support of others in the lawn care industry who can review your concept, answer questions about developing a business plan, and help with projections? These people can also help to determine if any risks you plan to take are worth the reward or will ultimately lead to business failure. Support systems are essential, as you can’t expect to go at a new business alone! Turf’s sister site, the online discussion forum, LawnSite.com, can be a great resource for peer input. Check out its Starting a Lawn Care Business Forum.
- Staffing: Do you have the right people in the right positions? As you’re building your team, think about all areas of the business and hire experts to fill those spots – from sales to finance to labor.
2. Determine The Approach. Based on the above, you may know the end goal you’re hoping to achieve – but how exactly will you execute on the model you’ve laid out? One thing to consider, since lawn care is already such an established industry, is if it’s worth opening a franchise instead of completely starting from scratch.
Especially in the current climate, franchises have the potential to be more likely to survive amidst uncertainty. One of the many benefits of a franchise is the brand already exists, so a lot of the heavy lifting of branding and marketing is already established. Additionally, with an existing brand typically comes training programs for business leaders and employees. Lastly, consider the amount of ongoing support you’ll have from a corporate franchise team for business strategy, operations, branded collateral, and the like.
3. Confirm Your Commitment (& Set Up a Team Who Sees Your Vision). Most people leave their careers and start new businesses out of the excitement of what’s to come, but it’s important to not underestimate how much work and investment it takes to see positive results. First, and most importantly, prepare for long work days with any new business because they require extra attention. That said, be ready to eat, sleep, and breathe your business and the lawn care industry in the early years – even if that means quitting other jobs so you can spend the fall/winter off-seasons preparing to launch the business ahead of spring peak demand.
As previously mentioned, the right support is essential. To do so, find a business partner whose skills complement yours so you can spend more time doing what you do best, while they take the reins in other areas. For example, if you are more tactical, consider a partner who is more finance-savvy. If you’re partnering with a spouse or family member, perhaps put a structure in place where one is handling the lawn care business full time day-to-day so the other(s) can maintain an outside part time jobs to keep cash flow coming in.
Finally, establish a group of advisors or a board of directors to ensure you’re surrounded with expert opinions from different perspectives. The board can be as large/small or formal/informal as you want; the ultimate point is that you have other viewpoints and backgrounds to guide your business.
4. Make Smart Decisions About Financial Partners. It’s critical to partner with the right financial entities, including a bank you trust. If you’re planning to take out loans to support your lawn care business or to finance specific equipment like mowers, make sure to do your research and find a bank that is steeped in the right experience. Since ideally they’re going to be your partner for years, make sure to interview your lender. Ask questions like: How many of these loans have you done? Are you an Small Business Administration (SBA)-preferred lender? What are your specialties? Have you worked with other lawn care startups in the past?
It’s important to prioritize banks and other financial partners who bring more added value to the table to support your end-to-end business strategy – whether they offer lawn care expertise or leasing/managing vehicle fleets to make things easier in the long run.
When meeting with any potential financial partners, be prepared on your end by bringing all personal financials, tax returns, and other important documents. To ensure you have everything you need, reference the SBA’s checklist for any small business loans here.
Starting a new business in any industry, at any time, is difficult and lawn care comes with its own set of challenges. By following the above tips, you can help prepare for a thriving business at the outset.
Engineer is the Director of Small Business Lending Sales at The Bancorp, with 27 years of business development experience in the small business lending space. For the past seven years, Engineer has led the Bank’s Small Business Lending Teams, which help businesses secure SBA loans to fund startups, franchise lending, business acquisitions, real estate purchases, and more. Prior to joining The Bancorp, he was a Regional Sales Manager with Evolve Bank & Trust, helping expand their SBA lending footprint. Previously he served as an SBA Business Development Officer (BDO) for banks including Sun Trust Bank, Wells Fargo, Community South Bank and Banco Popular North America, for which he grew SBA loan production.