Green-fingered gardening entrepreneurs are running over 17,000 UK businesses within a £4.5 billion industry.
From maintenance and design to lawn care and landscaping, this 65,000-strong outdoor army is tending to both domestic and commercial plots.
For those dreaming of rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty too, this growing sector promises fresh air, creativity and the personal satisfaction of running their own business.
And like any business, launching one requires a bumper crop of commitment, passion and preparation.
Discover here how to draft a winning gardening business plan. One that will sow the seeds of horticultural success.
Your Gardening Business Plan Template
Before you treat your first client’s lawn, you need to compose a comprehensive business plan. This will act as a blueprint for your entrepreneurial ambitions. You’ll be referring to it often so it needs to be thorough, detailed and professional.
It will also need to evolve. As your ambitions change over time and your strategy develops, your gardening business plan will be by your side to inform and guide you.
Read on to explore a suggested gardening business plan template to get you on the right path.
1. Executive Summary
Start your gardening business plan with a concise but informative executive summary. This is your opportunity to showcase your business idea and how you plan to make it flourish.
The executive summary should include top-line points about:
- Business name and mission
- Staff members including their experience and qualifications
- Target market and competition
- Financial summary
- Marketing strategy
Your mission statement should sum up your overall vision which, in turn, should inform the rest of your gardening business plan. For example, you could focus on offering clients a commitment to quality and reliability, plus easy payment options to make their life easier.
From your executive summary, you can also extract key information to write an elevator pitch: your plans in a 60-second nutshell.
What would you tell a stranger in a lift about your business? What’s it called? Who will it help? What’s your dream? Aim to write a pitch that makes your gardening business stand out from the crowd. Why are you different?
Perfecting this at an early stage will crystallise your vision. And, of course, allow you to spread the word about your business at every opportunity.
This section is all about your journey over the next XX number of years: simply ask yourself, what do I want to achieve?
Think of your objectives as milestones: small, achievable steps you can easily track and map. Always link them back to your vision and, of course, your financial forecasts.
Dig deep into the first year. What are your first steps? When are you taking them? When will you be ready to take on your first client?
Make your objectives realistic but also ambitious right from the beginning. Aiming high will motivate you to reach targets and sharing them with colleagues, friends and family will provide crucial accountability. They’ll be cheering you on as you make progress towards your goals.
Bring your objectives to life by printing them off and sticking them on the fridge, by your bed or wherever they’re going to prompt you to keep going.
And, of course, make them SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. You could even make them SMARTER: adding evaluated and reviewed to your initial criteria.
Within your gardening business plan, you can include a range of year-one KPIs to strive for:
- To sign up XX regular clients
- To reach £XX turnover
- To reach break-even point by month XX
- To employ XX additional team members
- To have XX clients signed up to a regular payment plan, e.g. Direct Debit
- To gain XX social media followers
- To achieve XX% positive customer feedback
3. Market Analysis
Your business plan needs to display a clear and detailed understanding of your market. Where will your gardening business sit alongside its competitors? What will your clients be like? What’s your USP?
When it comes to competing companies, answer these crucial questions:
- How many are there within your town or city?
- What services do they offer? Are there any niches you could tap into?
- What marketing strategies do they use? Can you assess how effective these are?
- How many people do they employ?
- How long have they been established?
- If it’s a crowded marketplace, ask yourself honestly: is there room for your business?
You also need to carefully research your target clients and understand what needs your business will meet:
- Where do they live? And in what sort of properties?
- What are their gardens like? Consider size and layout.
- What do they do?
- How old are they?
- What’s their income and how much of this is disposable?
- Do they currently employ a gardener or lawn care expert?
- Do they have much spare time? And how do they spend it?
You can also assess the feasibility of targeting commercial clients with more extensive grounds.
Armed with a clear overview of potential clients, you can use insight into the size and potential of this group to inform your sales and marketing strategy.
4. Business Structure
An effective business plan needs to clearly outline your company’s structure and give an operational overview. This is especially important if you’re looking for investment: people will want to know that your set-up is professional and trustworthy.
Use this section to highlight how the day-to-day running of the business will work, including:
- Sole trader or limited company status
- Number of staff and their specific roles, experience and qualifications
- Partners and suppliers
- Premises, equipment and other resources
- Processes for taking payments from customers
- Any insurance you have or will need
Detail like this will reassure investors that you’ve covered every angle and are ready for life as an entrepreneur.
5. SWOT Analysis
Another tactic for impressing potential investors is to include a SWOT analysis in your gardening business plan. It will also give you a realistic overview of whether your ambitions are feasible and worth pursuing.
This technique examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business. Honesty here will showcase how you’ve considered every possibility, are aware of potential challenges but also that you have the confidence to blossom.
Shout about these. They’re the foundations of your future success. Highlight anything and everything that positions you as professional, prepared, committed and capable.
These could include horticultural qualifications, previous practical experience, enough capital to fund the first year, great contacts or marketing expertise.
Build your case here that your offering will be compelling: you’ll deliver high quality work, turn up when you say, treat properties with respect, and provide flexibility and easy payment options to boost client loyalty.
Shout about these too, albeit slightly more quietly. All start-ups have weaknesses, so don’t shy away from recognising them. Instead, mention them to demonstrate that you haven’t underestimated the road ahead.
The key is to then address each one, sharing your plans to nip any issues in the bud in an achievable time frame.
Maybe you’ve currently got a funding shortfall – but you’re actively seeking investment or plan to apply for a business loan.
Or maybe you’ve not got any commercial experience – but you’re using your enthusiasm and knowledge to make friends’ and family’s gardens look their best.
Focus on your market here and all the positive opportunities external factors present to your business.
This is your chance to showcase how you understand the wider industry and your own potential for growth.
Maybe there’s a new housing development being built nearby, full of several hundred new gardens which will need ongoing TLC.
Or maybe there’s a gap in the market to provide a specialist service, such as pond care or topiary, that you can include in your offering. This will act as a USP and provide additional profit opportunities.
Like your weaknesses, be honest about any threats you’ve identified. These again demonstrate a realistic approach to your plans.
Beyond the obvious challenge of winning business from competitors, consider whether economic influences such as Brexit could affect disposable income and therefore client numbers.
Or maybe a prolonged period of bad weather could dent profits in the quieter winter months.
Show that you have contingency plans for these possible threats and maintain that confident tone.
6. Financial Summary
Your business will depend on money. And as we all know, it doesn’t grow on trees.
Every gardening business plan needs an in-depth section about finances, explaining how you intend to fund your enterprise and keep the books balanced.
You’ll need to cover off:
- Start-up costs
- Ongoing expenditure
- Sales, profit and loss, and cashflow forecasts
- Break-even analysis
- Client payment options
- Growth strategy
Be as transparent as you can here. Including an honest overview will not only act as a guide to keep you on track but will reassure investors that your business is a safe bet.
Detail your start-up costs as a spreadsheet to reflect your understanding of the initial financial commitment.
Consider the following:
- Equipment for every job and eventuality
- Vehicle(s) including signage
- Home office set-up
- Website and branding
- Advertising and marketing
- Staff wages
Outline how you’ll be accepting payments, especially regular ones from repeat clients who’ll use your services weekly or monthly. Share any research you’ve done into the pros and cons of different payment methods.
For example, you can inform investors that your plans to set up a Direct Debit scheme will ensure steady cashflow and deliver convenience and peace of mind for your clients.
Also include a full appendix of spreadsheets covering cash flow, profit and loss forecasts, and sales forecasts. Each should include projections for at least the first three years to reflect your growth plans and confidence in success.
7. Sales and Marketing
Google ‘local gardener’ or flick through the pages of your local paper’s classified ads and you’ll be bombarded with businesses just like yours.
To tackle this, a sound gardening business plan must include a fertile marketing strategy. This section is your platform to highlight how you’ll make your enterprise stand out from the crowd. With specific plans in place, the task will become less daunting.
From advertising plans to tempting offers for prospective clients, a convincing marketing strategy needs to cover every trick you have up your sleeve to attract business.
Describe your brand and what will lift it above the competition, as well as how it will support meeting your KPIs. Include your logo and strap-line along with links to your website and social media channels. Use these to showcase your portfolio, however small it currently is, and share your expertise with potential customers.
Outline what budget you’re allocating to advertising and where: pay per click, social media, local press or door-to-door leafleting?
Demonstrate your understanding of low and peak seasons, explaining how you’ll drum up business in those quieter months.
In a nutshell, make it crystal clear how you plan to get conversations about your business started and get clients signed up.
Sum up your business plan with a confident conclusion. Refer back to your vision and focus on your passion, commitment and experience. Keep your tone positive and optimistic while stressing that you appreciate the realities of running a successful business.
Look to the future and paint a picture of what this success will look like in one, five and ten years’ time. Once drafted, your plan will be by your side as your ambitions start to turn into reality.
Whether you want your business to be a mighty oak or a little, successful acorn, follow this gardening business plan template and your horticultural dreams will soon be coming up roses.