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Hi everyone.  


I own and operate a small garden maintenance business.  It's me and a couple of guys working on an ad hoc basis.


We work many in domestic gardens ranging from small grass cuts to large gardens where we maintain everything.  


My question is this... I regularly see other gardeners on social media talking about how new business is going great etc etc.  The problem is.  My phone rings off the hook  but we don't really lose that many clients to have any space for more.  We have had about 3 people that unforunfortunately past away over the past 4 years.  

So what do other people do when the enquiries keep coming in.  Turn them down ? Employ more staff ? 

Thanks in advance - Tommy 




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  • We use unmarked vans and don't actively advertise anywhere to keep the enquiries down. We still find plenty of enquiries come in via existing customers and an old yellow pages line from 30 years ago which was transferred online at some point.

    But other than that I suppose it's up to you.

    • PRO

      It's always puzzled me equally how to harness the opportunities which presents itself .

      It literally slips through your fingers you end up turning more away than you have on your books .

      You hear lots of negatives about how difficult it is to find staff , perhaps if it was easier to recruit staff without red tape hoops to jump through it would help .

      Personally not that ambitious but wasted opportunity seems like pouring money down the drain .

      Very rarely will you receive any insight from the highly successful firms on this site regarding how  how they made the transition from sole trader to successful employer .

      Perhaps they are far too busy to share their strategy but would be inspiring to hear about Thier journey .

      Some members wear Thier heart on Thier sleeve others respectfully choose to remain silent which is okay , many topics are better discussed in the Bog perhaps as no business wants to show it's hand to its customers even though there is no smoke and mirrors .

      Alot of info and insight can be gleaned from Paul Powers books on setting up a landscape gardening business .

      • PRO

        An example yesterday although certain this is not a unique experience for many gardeners , Arrived to cut an overgrown privet hedge customer had carefully monitored to check there were no birds nesting otherwise job would have to be postponed until later date . 

        Work in progress , within Ten minutes i had an enquiry from a passing neiighbour to give them an estimate . 

        Twenty minutes later was stopped by a girl pulling a trolley on wheels who enquired if i had any business cards she explained she was a beautician and many of her clients were desperate for a gardener and general chit chat revealed she was inundated with work herself . 

        A bit later a neighbour across the road came over to enquire if i had time to cut the lawn also that her dad needs someone to look at his garden , conversation in progress my phone is ringing which i let ring but a new enquirer had left a message regarding some work which needs doing . 

        Sadly non of this opportunity can be processed as i dont have the capacity , Earlier this week i turned down a lucrative job from a customer who has had an old property developed and now needs the garden developing and not to mention the other opportunity which i also had to turn away and can guarantee my phone will ring again several times next week . 

        I could spend days just answering phone calls and doing surveys without actually doing any work on the coal face and how many gardeners find themselves in the same position ?  I have had some interesting conversations lately with new enquirers and customers about their experiences finding gardeners and generally other types of trades people but the gardener experience is the most relevant and i keep hearing it all the time that they cannot find a gardener who has any capacity . 

        From a gardeners position is the answer to simply expand your work force or does this just create different problems ? 

        I think the spinning plates analogy is a good one . 

        Personally i am happy where i am , always strived to find quality customer at the right rate and prefered the less is more approach yet opportunity continues to knock but time doesn't grow on trees .





  • The way I've grown mine successfully is by filtering out all the customers I don't want and replacing them with the ones I do want , also by pricing new jobs high and if I win them I can then decide whether I want to replace a lower paid job with a better paid one, I'm also now at full capacity and will aim to recruit a self employed sub contractor 

    • Hi, I'm going through a similar process, but largely because I fell into the familiar trap of working for clients too cheaply for too long. I'm still plenty busy enough and earning more money. It's almost been a rebranding process but I'm now on the right track. 

    • PRO

      That's exactly what I do. I run a limited company which I employ 1 other person on a PAYE position. It has its downfalls but after running my business since 97 I would say it works for me. I'm slowly reducing my hours as I'm 61 but still employ my guy full-time. He has worked for me for 19 years but did take a 3 year break but returned 12 months ago. In that 3 years I employed so many different people due to them not being suitable it seriously gave me mental brain ache. I need the employee to enjoy the life that I am accustomed to and without him financially I would take a backward step. I have tried to grow but it really is a minefield out there. Personally I earn good money as I'm a fully qualified landscaper and very reliable. These days I just do mainly maintenance but the odd fencing contract in the winter. I turn work away regularly but will chuck out the odd customer occasionally and replace with a higher payer and better job once or twice a year. 

  • I see it time and time again People don't up there prices and the likes of stihl do (7% this year) 


    Once your known as being cheap it's very hard to rectify and you can soon become a busy fool!!

  • PRO

    My experience is that u can only do so much . If u take on too much work then u end up getting back to clients late and quality of work goes down which brings on more phone calls from clients wondering where u are . For me  this is where the stress comes in . I find that when u tell them u are not taking on new work this year they appreciate that u are honest with them and also that u actually answered the phone  . Taking on extra staff ( if u can get them) brings its own headaches and in my opinion life is too short for being stressed . 

  • PRO

    Share your exact problem Tommy.

    I have turned away more than my entire business just in May this year.  I have tried subcontractors which was an utter disaster.  I have looked for good staff for the last 5 years but they are either disinterested, unreliable or under qualified for the wages they request.  In my area I would say that there is a disconnect between wage expectation and what customers are willing to pay, so have practically given up on growing my business.  It seems a shame, if it was easier to find staff  I could give somebody a good job...

    Have you tried running a waiting list?  ten names on it and then hire somebody else.....

  • PRO

    Im lucky in that i took on my son full time during the summer last year, he's 20.

    He likes the work, has a passing but now growing interest in general gardening and plants etc, we don't always have full days, which suits me and him, less money but less stress and burn out.

    Up to this point, i wanted to take someone on but just wasn't interested in all the grief that entails, especially what i read on here about getting staff that actually want to work in the industry.
    So I've kinda hit the jackpot employee wise now and it's so far been an enjoyable and profitable experience. I wholly sympathise with every one else though.

    I don't advertise other than some A6 ads in shop windows in the winter and spring, to drum up a little extra interest. Most extra work comes from existing clients and recommendations from same, plus the website which altogether seems to keep us ticking along nicely. The phone rings but not every day and that suits me just fine, as we generally don't have to keep turning work down, although some people are suprised when i ask them how soon they wanted the work doing and then i have to tell them it will be in 3 or 4 wks time!

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