Investing in your business and diversification

I have reached a point where I am making a healthy profit as a sole trader with enough work and also managing to save money.  However I sometimes wonder what the next step should be for someone like me who does not want to employ anyone, it's just something I have never wanted to do, I just do not want the hassle of being responsible for someone else.   But it leaves me wondering should I invest in my business in other ways but am left thinking it's really only worth investing in tools and machinery that would enable me to either earn more money during the normal season or else looking to diversify in something that may earn me money in winter.  I've not sat down and looked at figures or anything, just sounding out ideas.  I did think about buying a compact tractor and having a few implements to allow for hedgecutting, paddock mowing, maybe a back hoe.  But then I could end up spending 5k minumum on something and then thats quite a lot of work to earn that back.  Someone else said to me I should look at doing a tree surgery course but that doesn't appeal to me whatsoever, sod climbing trees with a chainsaw.

How have people on here gone about growing their business as a one man band?.  Because at the end of the day if an investment just doesn't make good business sense then maybe it's worth just doing things without a sizeable financial outlay.  I have made a few bits of furniture out of pallets, and sold some.  Though also about making bespoke hen houses as another idea.  At least with these types of side projects there's not much to lose other than some winter hours and a bit of money on timber, etc.

I suppose this time of year has one reflecting on the summer and thoughts ahead of autumn and winter.  Also it's as much about maybe adding a skill and a side interest to the job. 

Thoughts would be appreciated.

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  • Peter, i am in a very similar predicament as you as I wonder how much more I can diversify as a sole trader. I do work, occasionally, alongside another person working on hard landscaping but we are both paid separately as self employed. I too looked at buying a compact tractor but with the add ons such , trailer, space and getting a reliable contract I am not sure if it will work out financially. Be interested in others views.
  • PRO

    I do not think buying compact tractors and implements will be a good investment unless you are using them for a considerable amount of time and get your pricing right. No good having them sat in a shed doing nothing.

  • PRO

    A comment from experience here as regards compact tractors, seeing as this is an area that we work in relatively extensively.

    Your £5K budget would be severely insufficent, for a good, relatively modern, reliable, low hours compact tractor (you need at least 18hp and 4wd) for mowing needs to be on turf tyres and add in a range of good 4ft/5ft mowers (a paddock topper won't mow a lawn, a cylinder gang mower won't mow a paddock and vice versa), plus all the associated implements you will find you need - all even if they are all secondhand - you would find you wouldn't get any change from 15K.....

    Then you need a trailer at least 16ft long, a tow vehicle that can tow at least 3 tons, often additional insurances as working with tractors changes your public liability aspect - it all gets quite expensive quite quickly.

    Its also not an easy market to get into and running costs are far higher than with pedestrian equipment.

    • yeah you need a tractor with at least 35hp i reckon diesel kubota really ive looked in to this heavily usually stuff like paddocks and flails cheapest to get into for equipment however pay least on return on investment. 

      basically unless you have 20k or probably a good credit rating and cheap storage for machinery to take on interest free i wouldnt bother. 

  • PRO

    I'd consider a lawn spiker and scarifier.

    A great way of extending the maintenance season and by having a spiker in your tool armoury you can make money through the winter.

    I invested in a reasonable machine and the machine paid for itself in the first season, making c£600.00 a day.

    Similarly, scarifying is lucrative (although you will be restricted to two periods where earnings may be boosted).

  • It's an interesting and a nice problem to have! Not sure of your age Peter, but something you could consider is planning for the future in maybe 10 year chunks, because for sure, you will not have the strength and energy at 60 as you have at 30 and working on your own, you will certainly not earn enough to retire early!  

    In our case, we spent probably 20 years, doing 80% hard and soft landscaping projects, with a bit of grass cutting thrown in. For 15 years, we ran 50/50 landscaping/Maintenance. For the last 3 we have been around 15/85 Landscaping/maintenance.  Obviously, to do this I have needed to employ, but the point being that we changed to suit ourselves and this is where you are going, in the process we made our company and future safer.  I can now take it a bit easier, while the lads keep things going.

  • Some interesting replies, food for thought.  

  • My suggestion maybe get into firewood in the winter? kindling to?

    i dont know how much they are but maybe a pellet making machine for pellet boilers to?

    stay away from compact tractors as they open up a massive headache if you do really want to do it id suggest buying a real tractor road legal and going that route once you've spent money on a trailer you and vehicle to tow maybe be better off with with one be cheaper to run a hedge flail and theres some okay work in that.

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