No one knows better than a landscaper that a beautiful yard or garden, left to grow unchecked, becomes an ugly mess that’s choked with weeds and vulnerable to pests. The same goes for our businesses. Growth is good—but only when it’s managed properly. This article explores five signs that your landscaping company is growing too fast and what to do about it.
#1: You’re taking every job that comes your way.
This is a sure sign that you’re growing too fast. It can feel very risky to turn down work, especially for a new business, but it’s key to keeping your customers satisfied and your crew happy. Be picky. Choose only the jobs that play to your strengths and can be managed by your current team. When bigger opportunities come your way, accept them only if you feel confident you can scale up your people power and your equipment in time. Play to your strengths and you’ll enhance your reputation. Stretch yourself too thin and you’ll become known as the landscape company that doesn’t deliver.
#2: You’re borrowing to grow your business.
Grow your people and your equipment when you can afford to, not by putting expenses on a credit card or taking out a loan. Borrowing to grow means that any setback in the business—a cancelled contract, an unpaid account—could prevent you from making payments and put your business at risk. Some landscapers aim to have 10 to 15 per cent of their annual sales in cash so they don’t outgrow their working capital.
#3: You have no free time.
When you’re doing everything—pinch hitting when your crew is short-handed, dealing with customer service issues, hiring new employees, managing existing staff, bidding on new work, purchasing equipment, keeping the books and more—it probably means your growth has outpaced your people. You’ll feel it at work. And you’ll feel it at home. Slow your company’s growth until you’ve found a right-hand man or woman to help you. (If you already have one, maybe it’s time to add another!) Formally train your existing team to help you do some of the tasks you don’t have time to do yourself. Otherwise you risk burning out and forgetting why you started your landscape business in the first place.
#4: You get every job you bid on.
On the surface, this sounds like something to be proud of, but it probably means you aren’t charging enough. It’s common practice to undercut the competition when you start out, but as you get regular customers, bid on more complex work and establish your reputation for excellent quality and service, charging too little will hurt your business. You’ll have too many of the wrong kinds of customers—the kind that only care about the lowest price. As a result, you won’t be able to afford to attract the best staff, train them properly and purchase the equipment you need. Raise your rates to get customers who value you for more than cheap prices and you’ll control your growth in the process.
#5: You don’t have systems in place.
Do you feel pulled in a million directions? Are you constantly putting out fires? Are you regularly unsure of what you’re doing next? Do you handle the same situation differently each time? These are all symptoms that you need systems in place to run your business effectively, and it’s better to add them before you grow. Software systems will help you stay organized and compliant. Formal training will help ensure your people are doing their work properly. Plans and protocols will help you maintain your focus and guide your actions when things get busy. Be prepared for the work before you get it, and your growth will be less about pain and more about profit.
In conclusion, your goal should be planned growth. Choose the jobs you take with care, add equipment and people only when you can afford to, hire (or cross-train) a manager or two, raise your rates, and put systems in place to standardize your practices. You’ll enjoy owning a landscaping company more that way—and maybe even have time for a round or two of golf along the way.