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How to expand my business sustainably.

Hi all,

Firstly, i've been running my own outfit now for 15 years but always kept things relatively small. Not necessarily through choice but i have never quite got to grips with how to expand in a way that does'nt cause me to have a breakdown to some degree.

Having relocated recently to shropshire, having rebuilt my website Long Fox Landscapes and got up onto the first page on google, having taken an ad out in a local glossy it is finally going mental. I have quotes coming out of my ears, I'm buliding up a nice order book but i have a small problem of being a small outfit and people are only going to wait so long so i need to expand.

This will mean VAT, employees though i have always used self employed and time for asociated paperwork, at least 1 extra vehicle, more insurance blah blah blah.

I'm currently trying to find labour (ad on indeed) but not getting applicants with the right skills.

Going forward i plan to predominantly end up being off the tools as there is a full time job managing the business. I see this as on site first and last thing and then visiting clients and associated quoting and running around, general admin/bookeeping/accounts etc etc. through the day. I really need it to be this way as i have a young family and would like to create a situation where i have more time for them evenings and weekends and can help out with the kids more....otherwise whats the point.

So, I could do with some business advice as at the moment i can't see how to manage it all and get to where i want to go.

Those that have expanded, how did you do it. What did you outsource such as bookeeping/admin. Did you go for it and do it all in one go or steadily bit by bit. I reckon i could run a team of 4-5 blokes with how much is on the table which as i already mentioned means a whole different role for me in terms of the management side of things.

Are there any resources and/or help out there on how to grow your business sustainably. I've had it get busy in years gone by and instead of it growing i have struggled on to virtual breakdown point and then had to start over. I get why people keep small but as the sole breadwinner at the moment i want to grow as i need to provide for the family. Also looking ahead regarding kids future financial demands, education, pensions and a house i need this to work.

I know i will get there but any advice from those that have managed it would be gratefully received.

Cheers for now and look forward to hearing what people have to say.


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  • PRO

    Need some of these guys..


    • PRO

      Yep thats defo what i need but good ones in short supply round here it seems


  • PRO

    Ed -- maybe post as well in The Bog.

  • Are you landscaping, maintenance or combined Edward?

    • PRO

      When i moved i set up as design, construction and maintenance. Done away with regular maintenance as all enquiries coming through are for design and build. I plan to only do maintenance for clients i do builds for that require it and then it would only be for one offs maybe at the start middle and end of season, i.e garden tidies. I've spent years doing maintenance down south alongside construction and find one gets in the way of the other.


  • Ed

    Im in pretty much the exact same situation. It’s great that there is so much work going but stressful when you can’t keep up. I slabs have s young family and do hate working when I could be with them. 

    So far I have managed to get by with self employed lads helping out. I now have another guy who has his own business who is doing a few jobs under my name and I’m taking a cut of the profit. All the quotes and customer contact has been through me and I have visited site a couple of times but I have the confidence to leave him to it. I just got chatting to a bloke working on the next house to me yesterday who does mainly fencing so I will be trying to pass some fence jobs on to him on a similar basis. 

    I am reluctant to commit by employing people as my previous experience with labourers is not good to say the least. For now I hope to build up a contact list of guys in the trade that I can sub the jobs to that I don’t have time for. 

    I will also be going vat registered and ltd but will get a local accountant to sort this. I know it will cost me but if it frees up time to get more work done or be st home with the kids then maybe it’s worth it. 

    These are good problems to have though, at least we are not short of work!!

    Best of luck mate 


    • PRO

      Sam, I just posted some info i got the other day.

      I wanted to say be careful subbing out work. Know who is doing it and the quality of what they do. There are loads of rubbish so called contractors out there that could do a lot of damage to your reputation if you are not careful. Have a look at what i said about order books and waiting lists. Don't be afraid of asking people to wait.

      I forgot to mention that i was asked, do you want to earn mega bucks or a good living.

      Mega bucks is possible if you build up lots of teams and really go for it but quality can suffer and also time with your family can suffer as you end up running a bigger and bigger business. Is that what you want?

      A good living can be made from running one good small team or as i see it, one good team of 4/5 guys that i can then pull 1/2 off when needed to do other small jobs. Otherwise i run one job at a time.

      Cant help you on the self employed/employed front. I have the  exact same dilemma. Long term I think employed is probably the right way to go though i like the simplicity of self employed.

      Perhaps someone with experience can comment.

      Good luck


  • PRO

    we have Scottish Enterprise a government run body which is very good for small  business advise, you may have something similar  in youryour  I  have booked myself into a tendering into local government course and was told of funding I can get every year towards certification looks PA1-6  chainsaw etc for me and any staff

    What a great many businesses forget is thier accountant. You have a person there who has seen the inner workings success and failure of hundreds of businesses and part of the fee you pay them is usually for a small amount of advise and planning. The people turning up at year end with your Lidl bag full of receipts is not a good use of thier skills. Speak to them especially before taking someone on or every big purchase.

  • PRO

    Thanks for your replies.

    I spoke with a business advice guy and he pointed a few things out to me that i thought i'd share in no particular order.

    Look after your USP.

    I am my business' USP so you have to be careful about how you expand. Important to realise that clients want me and my product over other peoples.

    Don't take on too many guys in one go. Bring new people on board slowly and train then in the culture and methodology of my business. For me that is quality and attention to detail. This means to start i need to be on site to train them in what i require before leaving them to work on there own.  Build it up slowly, train them how you want them and you will keep your USP intact. Also, be prepared to go through a number of guys to get the right ones.

    If you are generating to much work for the size of your team don't worry. Don't be afraid to build up a order book and don't be afraid to turn work away. People like to know you are in demand and though not everyone will wait the clients you want will. By that i mean the clients that understand your USP. In time you will get solid enquiries from clients who understand your product and know that you are worth waiting for. In time you will be able to increase the size of the team.

    As a small business doing quality work i was advised not to sub work out as it will be difficult to keep on top of quality control. Keeping it in house you are better able to guarentee the standards of work and long term this is what will bring in the referrals. Its all about protecting you USP.

    As mentioned by Graeme, your accountant is your friend. He may charge for advice but he knows how to run a business and will have seen success and failure over the years so find a good one and use that resource.

    A chap i know who ran his own landscape business years ago told me the other day that he spent 5 years building up a team of 4 supervisors that he paid 40k a year each. For that they had to find their own team of labour and were responsible for running that team. All individuals in the team were paid by the company but sourcing and managing was taken on by the  supervisors. He said it worked really well as the supervisors knew lots of guys in the game and also got to build up teams they were happy to work with. I found it an interesting way to do things. Give people a good salary and some autonomy and they do good things. He sold the business later on,  for i imagine a pretty penny.

    Any thoughts or anything to add then i'd be happy to hear.

This reply was deleted.

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