The 3 Most Important Parts of a Successful Landscape Business - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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The 3 Most Important Parts of a Successful Landscape Business


This article is authored by NALP consultant member Ed Laflamme, Landscape Industry Certified.  Laflamme is an author, speaker, consultant/coach and mentor to “green industry” owners nationwide and co-owner of The Harvest Group. You can get advice from the Harvest Group in person in winter 2017 at the People Academy Live.

The landscaping business is like a giant jigsaw puzzle with 50,000 pieces in a pile in the corner of the room.  When new owners begin their businesses they are “puzzled” at where to start.  These puzzles take time to put together but many enjoy the challenge.  But . . . 50,000 pieces?  How long will it take to put these pieces together so you can see the picture?

Every day in business there are so many choices to make like hiring, firing, purchasing, pricing, scheduling, bill paying, advertising, billing, and on and on. Because owners get so busy moving the pieces around, they don’t plan or set goals but, instead, get bogged down rearranging and trying to figure out how the pieces fit together. They put their heart and soul into their business, work untold hours, and as a result many get stuck in the quagmire of details.  The result of all this, unfortunately, is that many stop growing and barely eke out a living, never mind a profit.  They just never put the pieces together and get to see “the picture.”

The landscaping business can be puzzling, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are serious profits to be made if you know how to put the pieces together.  The three major pieces I want to help you put together so you can see the picture ─ the profit picture ─ are your customers, your people, and you.

The Customer Pieces

Arguably, the most important piece to the profit puzzle is your customers because, without them, there is no business.  Now, this seems obvious but many companies do not have great customers.  They just tolerate the poor ones they have.  These customers don’t pay on time, do little extra work, don’t refer them, are the first to complain, and, worst of all, don’t bring in much money.

So to help correct this, companies need to keep adding customers, the right customers.  If you are not growing, you’re shrinking.  These days most companies need to have a marketing plan and sales people if they are going to grow and prosper.

Okay, so here are a few action points:

  1. Make sure you’re making money on the customers you have.
  1. Work for customers in your markets who have money.
  1. Work in the segments of your market where you can make the most profit, i.e. residential, industrial, commercial, etc.
  1. Sell or drop the customers that don’t make sense to keep, i.e. too much travel, low gross margins, etc.
  1. Grow between 10-15% per year. This can be done with a basic marketing plan and dedicated sales people.

The People Pieces (Employees)

The second piece to the puzzle is having great people work with you.  From the very beginning owners need to have a mindset that focuses on hiring the very best.

I recently listened to an interview with Sara Blakely, the inventor of SPANX.  You men out there might not know what this is, but all the women sure do.  She took an idea about creating a new women’s product that in a very short time made her a billionaire!  The point she made in the interview was that from the very beginning, as she grew her business, she “hired her weaknesses”.

She also hired a blend of people, some seasoned with years of experience and others fresh out of school with no experience in what she was doing, but who had a passion for business.  She hired these two types on purpose because she wanted a “ying and yang” effect, knowing they would clash a bit but ultimately produce a plethora of fresh innovative ideas.

Is your culture fresh, exciting, forward thinking?  Do you have the right people in place so you can grow and prosper?  If not, find them and get them.  They are out there!

Okay, here are some action items to help you put the people pieces together in your puzzle:

  1. Pay your people just a little more than your competition, but expect a lot.
  1. Create an incentive program to share the profits. This will help keep your people motivated and loyal.
  1. Treat your people with respect.
  1. Be sure they know and share your vision so they are fully engaged and help you fulfill it.
  1. Create a “learning organization”.
  1. Hire people with greater potential than necessary for the job you are hiring them for.
  1. Create a “career ladder” so everyone knows how to grow and advance in your organization.
  1. Thank them!


As the owner of the business you wear two distinct hats – one as the manager and the other as the leader.  As the manager, you must be sure all the operations and systems of the company are running smoothly.  As the leader, you must look outside the organization to plan, set goals, and lead it forward to accomplish your vision.

As time passes, if you’re doing the right things, slowly but surely the picture of the profit puzzle will become clearer and clearer.  To help YOU put the pieces together faster, let me offer nine suggestions.

  1. Become an expert by really studying your craft. Read books, attend seminars and conventions, read the trade magazines, and attend relevant presentations.  Be curious and never stop learning.
  1. Visit other companies. Learn from the best, get ideas from others, and ask questions.
  1. Ray Crock didn’t sell hot dogs or steak.  He had a vision and focused on that.
  1. Take care of yourself. Without your health you have nothing.  All the success and money in the world is for nothing if you’re too sick to enjoy it.  Go to great doctors and get a complete physical at least once a year.  Eat well and exercise every day.
  1. Create a mastermind group. Andrew Carnegie was one of the richest men in the world.  He openly admitted that he met such success because of his mastermind group, the smart people he assembled around him.
  1. Take vacations. You need time off to get away and have fun.  This will help you both emotionally and physically.
  1. Replace yourself. Find great people and delegate to them.  This will free you up to work “on your company” instead of “in your company”.
  1. Most of us never take time to just think.  The most successful people in the world do this, so plan some time each day, if possible, to be by yourself and just think.
  1. Make lists and prioritize them. It’s important that you make lists of all the “to dos” you have and prioritize them into three groups – urgent, important, and long term.  Each week and each day be sure you are working on the most important thing to help your company move forward.

I hope the advice above will help you to put your puzzle pieces together, so you can see the picture, your picture, clearly.  Plan, believe, execute, and make great profits that will lead you to your goal.  I hope this article helps you to move closer to Harvesting Your Potential.