It came the first time you ran a piece of compact equipment. Or maybe it was when you finished that first project after hours of sweaty labor. It’s still there, and you can’t shake it: the dream of someday starting your own landscaping business.
Someday is here. You’ve made the decision to be your own boss. That’s the first step. But what’s next? How do you actually start your own landscaping business?
Option #1: The Side Hustle
Bob Urban started his landscaping business for fun. Born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, he missed the days of running equipment and helping his dad with projects around the farm. Urban wanted to get his hands dirty again but didn’t want to stop serving his community as a Pennsylvania State Trooper.
“I just wanted a little work on the side here and there,” he says. “Next thing you know, fun turned into booking jobs every other weekend and whenever I’m off duty. It turned into a pretty lucrative business.”
Lucrative and fun enough to balance two demanding jobs for the better part of two decades. Urban started Lawn and Order Landscaping and Excavating in 2008. It’ll be at least another seven years before he can retire from law and order – and take up Lawn and Order full-time.
“If you’re in a situation like me, you have to very carefully burn the candle at both ends. I work on a 10-day rotation. Then I have four days off. That’s when I try to schedule a majority of my landscaping work,” Urban says. “Sometimes I’ll take vacation days, but they really aren’t vacation days. They’re spent working on my business to get my jobs done.
“If I had all the equipment that I have now and started this business at 21 years old when I graduated college, the possibilities would’ve been endless. But I didn’t. And I’m very happy in the choice, and I’m very happy with what I’m doing now.”
Option #2: The Leap
Located just a few hours west of Bob Urban, landscaper Kyle Brown did just that – minus all the equipment. Shortly after graduating with a degree in landscape design from Pennsylvania College of Technology, Brown left the security of a full-time job to start out on his own.
“I worked several summers for one of the premier landscape installers in the area. Right after college, I worked on the retail side for a couple months,” he says. “I just realized that’s not where my passion was. I missed being outside too much, running equipment and actually being involved with the construction of the space.”
He launched Brown Landscape the hard way – completing projects with only wheelbarrows, shovels and his two hands.
“If you’re going to do it, do it seriously. Go all in. Don’t do it halfway and expect to be successful,” Brown says. “I left a full-time job, not knowing if I was going to have work the next week. It ended up that I’ve never actually had a shortage. In fact, I’ve always been looking at how I can get it all done.”
Getting Your Dream Off the Ground
Urban and Brown took different paths in launching their landscaping businesses. But they agree on what made them successful. If you want to to make your dream a reality, follow in their footsteps.
1. Start small and build slow.
“Try not to take on too much too soon,” Urban says.
Lawn and Order Landscaping started with the occasional weekend project. As word spread, demand picked up and Urban was able to fit in more jobs around his unique work schedule.
Brown did some odds and ends until he got his contractor’s license. He did everything by hand and borrowed his grandfather’s pickup until he made enough money to put his name on his own truck.
“Obviously, it started with some family and friends,” Brown says. “My friends talked to their friends and so on and so on. It got to the point that my phone was ringing fairly steady, and it just piggybacked from there.”
2. Take pride in your work.
“I design them and install them. That’s the most rewarding part on my end,” Brown says. “From when we break ground to when we leave the property, I’m involved. It’s very rewarding seeing it come to light and seeing the client get excited.”
Brown takes pride in offering that end-to-end service and creating premier landscapes at an affordable price. He has a hand in all the little details that make a project successful.
“We are very methodical on our installations. A lot of specialty tools,” he says. “We do what we can to get better and better. We keep testing what can be done and how we can efficiently do it.”
Urban operates the same way, striving for perfection on every project. “You may not think that it matters, but people can see it,” he says. “You’re going to have to put your heart and soul into it to be successful.”
When something doesn’t look quite right, Urban fixes it – even if it’s not something the client will notice. A stickler for details, he’s gone to great lengths to ensure his project met his standards.
“When I put lawns in, I’ll drive by houses every day to make sure they’re watering. I’ve even stopped and watered people’s lawns for them,” he says. “Because that’s my name on there. I know how much work I put into that job, and I want it to come out the way I think it should.”
3. Leave your customers happy.
“Always be on the job. That’s my one big thing,” Urban says. “That’s a big pet peeve of mine when you never get to see the guy who’s name is on the side of the truck.”
Urban is on the job from start to finish – not just at the end to collect the paycheck. He gets help from friends and family, but makes sure he is there every day to talk to the customer, exchange ideas and do the work.
That commitment to the project and the customer makes a big difference, Brown says. He sees his projects through every step of the way and makes sure every client comes away happy.
“The smallest things can have the biggest results. Making it right with the client will give you a whole different outcome,” he says. “If they have a negative taste in their mouth, you’re not getting referrals. Make the client happy. That usually turns into bigger and better things.”