Yours truly was in the landscape design and installation field for nearly a decade.
It was great to work outside (even in the bad weather – yep, I’m weird) and the customers were, for the most part, pleasant.
Most of that time I worked a standard 9-5 job for a company. The management allowed me to take contract work for clients on the side.
It was a win-win; I had the stability of a day job and the supplemental income of a side business.
I worked with my partner and best friend, Joe, on the side jobs. Some of my work weeks were 100 hour marathons. That’s not a typo: 100 hours.
What Joe and I learned was how to hustle. We were only interested in working during the growing season and didn’t plow or shovel during the winter here in the northeast U.S.
Word about our little company grew due to working with clients from my day job and our promotional efforts in the surrounding towns.
Business strategies that worked for us
What worked for us may not work for you. But here’s what we learned from our time in the trenches and I hope you find value in these points..
1. We woke up early every day. Mainly to finish a job or two before the oppressive midday heat but also to pack numerous jobs into each day.
2. We asked for referrals from each and every client. We knocked the neighbor’s door. We didn’t believe in one-and-done service so we would, tactfully, suggest more work to perform for each customer. Then we’d ask for the names of our customer’s friends or family who may be interested in a free quote for work.
3. We plugged into a larger company. We approached my employer and asked if they’d be interested in having our small company offer services to their customer base. It was done in the spirit of tackling previously unsolved problems and meeting customer demand. My bosses agreed so we went to work.
4. Bold pricing. We were young and greedy that’s probably where the bold came in. But we priced ourselves higher than others because we knew our worth. Plus, creating higher perceived value is key.
Sell yourself cheap, you’re services are perceived as cheap.
Sell for more, people suddenly MUST hire you.
What else helped us was being good at closing the sale in person. If you put us face-to-face with a homeowner we’d wow them and lock them into a design and installation package.
5. Fast results. We’d get right to work on the next job without making the customer wait. When people quickly get what they want from your business, they fall in love with you. They happily buy from you again. They refer you to their friends and family.
When we booked a job; we got it done. Everyone was treated as #1 priority and we’d stay late and work under the lights if required (and/or allowed).
6. We reinvested in the business. We purchased better tools, a better vehicle (and repairs), and we put cash aside for future expenses. Even though this money was additional to my day job income, I treated it like it was my only income. I put money aside and budgeted carefully.
There was no reason to subsidize my side gig with my day job income after the initial investment. The high mark-up environment only required us to manage revenue responsibly.
This is a major lesson for us all. Be generous with your business by being prepared to invest money into it.
Online businesses have the horrible reputation of not being considered “real.” You expect to invest a lot of cold, hard cash in a brick and mortar business but guess what?
It’s not any different with an online business. You still need to invest some money (the amount depends on the endeavor).
If you intend to turn a profit, it’s a business that requires investment.
7. We said “no” and felt good about it. We didn’t stretch beyond the scope of work we knew we could handle. We would turn people away if they beat us up over dollars and cents. It was a lot easier on everyone if we just declined the jobs where customers were problematic from the start.
We’d also say no if we knew the job would be pushed out by weeks due to material supply. This was because we were obsessed with fast delivery. And, hey, our reputation was rooted in (pun intended) fast action.
But we didn’t team up often enough with other companies. We missed opportunities to push business to them and earn referrals or split the job revenue. That was an area of weakness for us.
The tips listed above made our business quite the little profit center. We learned a lot about dealing with people and what it took to over-deliver and how that impacts a business.
It’s amazing how warming up to your clients, asking a few friendly questions and massaging the relationship opens doors.
It helped us earn customer trust enough for them to refer their closest friends and families into our care. How great is that?
I hope you find a few solid take-aways here for your business based on our experience. May you find the endless stream of business and success you seek for your endeavor(s).
Your input and questions are welcome and will be happily answered in the comments…