Navigating the Stages of Development in Lawn Care, Landscaping, and Tree Care Businesses

After a 40+ year career in the lawn care, landscaping, and tree care industry, I transitioned to consulting a decade ago to focus on assisting owners of small to medium-sized businesses in these sectors. It has been both a pleasure and a passion to help these owners and their teams chart their course to success.

Through my consulting work, I have found that businesses in the green industry generally fall into four distinct categories: the 70 percent that are just surviving or struggling to find direction, the 15 percent that are moderately successful but unsure how to advance, the 10 percent that have a strong foundation but face challenges in key areas such as team building or sales management, and the elite 5 percent, or “greyhounds,” that set the standards in the industry. This poses the question: How can businesses move from the 70 percent category to the 15 percent, then to the 10 percent, and finally become one of the elite 5 percent?

Are You in the 70 Percent?

If you are in the 70 percent, you are among the majority of small businesses—getting by but needing to rethink your strategies and operations.

The immediate need is to focus on:

  • Maximizing People and Process Resources: Becoming an efficient and quality producer.

  • Improving Existing Products and Services: Making your offerings distinctive to reduce the pressure on pricing.

  • Developing Key Players: Identifying and nurturing that first or second key player to allow you to start working on your business rather than just in it.

The most significant impact for businesses in the 70 percent is often achieved by developing key help in operations, client relations, and administration. It’s crucial to attack costs and capacity first, rather than pursuing revenue growth prematurely. Every 70 percent company that attempted to move into the 15 or 10 percent category by increasing sales first went out of business.

Are You in the 15 Percent?

If you are in the 15 percent, you are already outperforming much of your competition and are just a few steps away from joining the 10 percent. The immediate need is to focus on:

  • Researching Your Market: Identifying high-growth opportunities by finding customers with unmet or under-met needs that align with your processes.

  • Specializing Your Offer: Developing solutions for unique customer problems.

  • Investing in Team Building and Leadership: Making a significant commitment to developing your team and adding leadership roles.

My experience with the 15 percent group indicates that they are at risk of going out of business due to growth outpacing working capital, leading to uncontrolled expansion. The key to achieving sustained growth is investing in key people, branding, marketing, and sales.

Are You a Greyhound in the 5 Percent?

As a member of the elite 5 percent, you dominate your markets and set the standards that others must follow. Your team is well-trained and focused on your vision and mission, forcing competitors to play catch-up while you continue to innovate and lead.

However, this status is fleeting and challenging to sustain. It may be an opportune time to sell if that aligns with your long-term objectives, as the company may never be worth more unless you reinvent it and elevate it to another level. The core issue at this stage is to reinvent the company—whether it’s the offerings or the business model. Reinvent everything except the brand.

Taking the Next Steps

Understanding where your business stands in these stages of development is crucial for planning your next moves. Whether you’re aiming to move from the 70 percent category to the 15 percent, or from the 10 percent to the elite 5 percent, the strategies you implement will be critical.

Invest in your team, streamline your processes, and continuously innovate your offerings. Stay ahead of market trends and be willing to pivot and adapt as necessary. Remember, the journey to the top is ongoing, and sustaining success requires vigilance and commitment.


There is far more to building a business and joining the elite 5 percent, but that will be discussed in the next article.

“Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.” — Wayne Huizenga

Join Our Upcoming Event!

Are you ready to elevate the performance of your landscaping, tree care, or lawn care business? Join us for a transformative webinar led by industry expert Fred Haskett of TrueWinds Consulting. This hour-long session will delve into the critical role of Account Managers and provide actionable insights on how to develop and retain high-performance Account Managers.

Don’t miss this opportunity to enhance the skills and effectiveness of your Account Managers. Register now and take the first step towards transforming your business operations.

We look forward to seeing you on July 23rd!

Be Well, Do Good Work, and Keep In Touch.

Fred Haskett

To Learn More Contact Fred at TrueWinds Consulting

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