Commercial landscape design basics

Commercial landscape design basics

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Commercial landscape design basics

We’ve all seen the landscaping that’s grown waist-high on the arroyos or ditches that run through the Valley. If you’re thinking about starting a landscaping business, you can become a part of the landscaping trend, one valley at a time.

This is the first in a multipart series on starting a landscape business. In addition to this article, you’ll find an interview series with Valley entrepreneurs as well as details on buying your first equipment, equipment financing and more.

Experience can make or break a landscaping business. But even if you’re an experienced landscaper, you may not have had the opportunity to start a landscaping business.

Landscape design experience can be an asset in your quest for a landscaping business, but you have to develop soft skills as well.

“You need to be a people person,” says Linda Leight, president of Leight Landscape Inc., a Flagstaff-based landscape design company. “You have to be able to read people, assess their needs, then develop a plan that will prompt them to buy.”

How to get a start

People who want to start a landscaping business need to find the right partner, says Tom Cenciotti, president of Valley Landscape Sales Inc., a Flagstaff-based landscape equipment and supplies company.

“You can’t expect much if you don’t have a business partner willing to raise the capital and pass the liability,” Cenciotti says. “Believe it or not, you will need a partner to bankroll your company.”

Cenciotti recommends looking for a partner in the business or even having a friend with a plumbing business or a barn. You can find partners everywhere, he says.

A good market for landscape contractors is the Phoenix area, says Bill Grote, a landscape designer with Desert Haven Landscape Inc. in Mesa.

Start with your area

If you’re thinking about starting a landscape design business, you can only go as far as your reach.

“Your territory will be limited to a radius of about 10 miles at most,” says Grote, who has a good understanding of the Valley landscape design market and has worked for many qualified landscapers.

“Most landscapers are looking for a partnership with many design experience,” he says. “You have to build up a local reputation and network.”

Leight started her landscape design business by looking locally for clients and finding a niche.

“I was a ‘good’ performer in our marketplace,” she says. “My experience and reputation carried me through.”

Why start a landscape business?

Leight has found that many landscapers who want to start a landscape business are looking for a job.

“They want to work for a year and then quit,” she says. “They want an easy, full-time job. We have to be realistic with this.”

In addition to the desire to work for a full year, she says that most of these “job seekers” are coming from the residential side of the business.

“They are willing to work for $15 or $30 an hour,” she says. “They are not willing to work in the $60- to $80-an-hour range.”

Both Leight and Cenciotti agree that a good landscaping job does not lie in the $15-to-$30-an-hour wage range.

“My rates are $75 an hour for small jobs,” Leight says. “A good job is bringing in $200 per hour.”

If you want to be a Landscape Architect, get a degree in the field. It helps if you can draw. The foundation of a landscape is design, not just making money by selling plants.

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