To succeed in a garden business you need to avoid the pitfalls that cause most businesses to fail; and it really isn't all that difficult to do this, provided to take time to plan and execute a sensible approach when starting out.

Common Reasons why businesses fail are:

  • Poor Cash Flow (Often caused by charging too little; or not properly managing money when it does come in.
  • Bad Attitude (Successful businesses make the customer number 1. Failing businesses often treat the customer as if he is low on their list of priorities).
  • Poor Service (Gardeners who can distinguish weeds from plants, know how to prune without causing damage and can successfully identify pests are remarkably few and far between. Even many "qualifed" gardeners often attempt tasks beyond their skill level. Making mistakes will loose you customers and mean no new customers through referral)
  • Poor Marketing (Some gardeners can do the job, but never succeed because no one is aware)


What about a Franchise?

Buying a franchise (eg. gardening or lawn mowing) can solve some of the common reasons for failure, but alone it is still no guarantee of success. Franchise Businesses are rarely as hassle free as much of a guarantee as what you expect.

Plan a Business before You Star

One of the most common sayings in business is that businesses don't plan to fail, they fail to plan. While many people appear to just 'fall into' a good business venture and have success without trying, upon closer inspection, it is usually their ability to plan and their awareness of the economics of business that make them successful.  

Business skills are not something we are born with. This is why planning is essential.  For instance, if you intend to start a small part-time business, what is the goal of having that business? Do you hope to build up until you can work full-time and give up other employment?  Are you hoping to earn a little extra to purchase something special?  Will the money earned go back into the business or go straight into household money?  All of these things must be considered and accordingly will determine how your business is run.  If you are just hoping to make a little extra cash, then you won't want to be reinvesting your earnings into business purchases.  If your long-term goal is to be running your own business full-time, then sacrificing things such as a personal salary may be necessary in the early days.

Cash flow, earning projections, and other financial data will also be required if you need to approach a lending institution for funds.  You not only need to complete these projections to apply for the loan, but also need to make sure they are accurate, so that repayments do not create a hardship for you.  Marketing plans are also essential.  Many people have wonderful ideas for new business ventures, but cannot make them work if they don't get their business information to the right people. Often, it takes more than a few advertisements in the local newspaper to get business going. You can hope for 'word of mouth' business once you are up and going, but the hardest part is getting those first few customers through the door.

Aside from planning on expenditure and earnings, you also need to plan on how the business will affect your lifestyle.  The first few years of a business are often critical in the long-term success of the business.  This usually requires a great deal of commitment beyond the eight hours a day, five days a week we work as employees of another company. Are you ready to make this commitment?  More importantly, will your family be ready to support you? They will be sacrificing you in terms of contributing to household help, and often family functions.  Without their support, the results can be devastating, regardless of your level of financial planning.

These are just a few of the many things that you, as a prospective business owner, must look at.  However, spending a few days on planning can save you a great deal of money and heartache, and can be the difference between failure and success.

Make Sure You Make a Profit
You should try to make a minimum of 10% over your costs on each job.  Keep in mind that you have to remain competitive, but working without profit is work not worth doing. You may find early in the business that you are not making the profit you would like, for instance costs may be greater than what you first anticipated.  However, strive to keep that profit margin on all costing, so that money is on hand to cover extra costs and to put back into the business to allow it to grow


John Mason's book "Starting a Garden or Landscape Business" is one of the few books on this subject and should be essential reading for anyone going into a garden business for the first time. Click to purchase a copy

What about Studying?

No matter what sort of garden business you go into, you will need to have two things:

a/ A knowledge of Plants and an ability to look after them

b/ Skills in Business Management (eg. basic bookkeeping, understanding law etc).

If you are only going to do one course the following are your best three options. You should choose from these on the basis of the amount of time you are able to devote to study:

Horticulture I -only 100 hours; a very solid foundation; but alone only part of a certificate

RHS Certificate II in Horticulture -to 150hours, better; gives a UK accredited certificate

Certificate in Horticultre VHT002 -700 hours, bigger is better, gives IARC accredited certificate