Also referred to as the green industry, many new businesses in this niche are started every year by hard-working people. But the harsh reality of startups in general is that only 56% of new businesses are still viable after the first three years.
Make sure you start with a solid business plan to help your dream succeed and grow. Penn State University Extension has published a helpful online guide to starting landscaping, lawn, nursery and greenhouse businesses.
The Extension is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state and county governments. It enables educators, faculty, and local volunteers to work together to share research-based information with local residents.
Their website highlights the following purpose and goal: “Practical agriculture education you can trust. We help people, businesses, and communities solve problems, develop skills, and build a better future.”
To accomplish this, they offer publications, webinars, courses and workshops, farm and garden tours, animal husbandry information, horticulture and agriculture research and tips, and much more.
Included on their website is a useful guide to help you start a successful landscape, lawn, nursery or greenhouse business. Here is a quick overview if you are considering starting your own green industry business.
General Start-Up Guidelines: The Business Plan
You need to start with a comprehensive business plan. It gives focus and directs your efforts and resources. Don’t think of it as a static document, but something that will change over time. As time goes by and you reevaluate your business, you will update or change it as needed.
To get started, you should consult with the Small Business Administration, an attorney, and a financial advisor. Your business plan will be as detailed as the products and services offered. Most address the following:
- Company Profile. Give a description (name, principals, goals and objectives, background), mission (business), and vision (growth, ideals) statements. Also decide if you will buy an existing business or build one yourself from the start.
- Business Industry Market and Trends. Describe the business, how you will function in it, and include a market analysis (past, present, and future in your locality). Estimate your projected market share, clientele needs, regulations, competitors, your niche, and your qualifications.
- Organization and Management. Also called Operations, where you describe the legal structure of your business (proprietorship, partnership, corporation, etc.); create a company organizational chart which defines the role for each key manager; staffing (seasonal or year-round, subcontracting, temp agencies); ongoing education to maintain and improve staff skills and knowledge (classroom, trade shows, other continuing education/workshops); identify any applicable laws, licenses/permits required (i.e.,Federal Employer’s Identification Number, state contractor’s registration, contractor’s bond, seller’s permit, business licenses, pesticide applicator’s license, etc.).
- Marketing and Sales. Develop a promotional strategy that focuses on how your product or service benefits the customer. Depending on your prospect you may use direct mail, face-to-face sales, e-mail, television or radio, internet, or social media. You may need to consult with a marketing professional, or decide to try on your own. It may take some trial and error until you find what works best for you. Don’t forget to get customer testimonials. And word-of-mouth always gives you the best return on advertising investment.
- Financial Management. You need to set up an accounting system, to include: initial expenses, operating budget, cash flow projections, income estimates, asset management, and estimated return on investment (ROI).
- Sustainability. Especially important to green industry businesses, sustainability encompasses three key areas: money (profit), people (social responsibility), and the planet (environmental protection). A sustainable business succeeds and endures when the owner operates with common sense, deals fairly with all parties, and stays the course for a long and prosperous future.
For more information and a more detailed explanation of each of the four green industry business types, visit the Penn State Extension website.
Good luck with your plans and if you need help marketing your green industry business, contact me today to discuss the ways I can help improve your existing efforts or develop a new strategy.