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From deciding on your business model to buying your equipment, starting a landscaping business in New Zealand requires a lot of planning and research. Even if you have the skills to become a jack of all trades, finding a niche in the market will increase your chances of success and help you solidify your brand. You can choose to provide services from one of these three main categories: 

  • lawn mowing and maintenance; 
  • structural landscaping; and 
  • landscaping maintenance.

Your service offering will guide other decisions such as your equipment and insurance needs, how to structure your business and whether to employ staff. This article explains how to set up a landscaping business in New Zealand, including: 

  • how to plan your scope of work and decide on a business model; 
  • whether to buy or hire your equipment; and 
  • how to protect your business from liability. 

Your Licences and Qualifications 

To become a landscaper in New Zealand, you do not need to have any specific licences or qualifications. However, you will be able to sell your services better if you and your staff have relevant training. You can complete a landscape design course through a polytechnic or the Primary Industry Training Organisation (Primary ITO).

To carry out specific structural work, you may need to work alongside a Licensed Building Practitioner. However, if you are planning to specialise in this area, it may be better to get your own building licence. 

You should also consider joining the Registered Master Landscapers Association to:

  • improve your business’s reputation and credibility;
  • get access to marketing and other business resources to help you grow your business; and 
  • get access to sponsorship opportunities, their National Landscapes of Distinction Awards and their Young Landscaper of the Year competitions.

Plan Your Scope of Work

As a landscaper, you can provide many different services to your clients, including design, construction and maintenance of their property. Even if you are qualified to provide all of these services, it is challenging to do everything and compete with everyone, so your business will have a higher chance of success if you find a niche in the market. In doing so, you should consider: 

  • your interests and passions;
  • the opportunities in the market;
  • your competitors’ offerings; and
  • the profitability of your niche.

Finding a niche will give you access to more loyal customers and a stronger brand presence, which in turn translates into more revenue. You want to: 

  • find a segment in the market that is currently not serviced well by your competitors; or 
  • think about what you can bring to that segment that no one else is offering. 

There are three main categories you can choose from, including: 

  • lawn mowing and maintenance; 
  • structural landscaping; and 
  • landscaping maintenance.

Start with a simple Google search to understand your competitors’ services, pricing and advertising. Try to gather as much detail as possible. 

For example, knowing that busy homeowners in a specific catchment area need landscaping services is not enough detail. You want to find out precisely what they need and whether they have any problems with existing offerings in the market. 

Once you gather some ideas, you should then conduct research to estimate your niche’s profitability. 

For example, try to collect some data on your competitors’ gross margins, or discuss your ideas with a business mentor.  

There are free mentoring services available to new and existing businesses in New Zealand. You can sign up with your Regional Business Network to find out what you are eligible for. 

Choose a Business Model for Your Landscaping Business

In New Zealand, you can either: 

  • start your own landscaping business; or 
  • buy a franchise or an existing business. 

Some of the key differences between these models include the management style and startup costs. If you want to have control over the decision-making process in your new business, then starting or buying an existing business may be a better fit for you. When you buy a franchise, the owner typically sets out how you will run the business, so there is little room for creativity.

Due to their higher rate of success, it can be easier to secure finance for a franchise. However, the initial capital layout is often significant. So if you have limited finances, you can start as a sole trader and accumulate some capital to grow your business later on. 

If you start your own business, you also need to choose a legal structure for it. There are three common types in New Zealand, including: 

  • sole trader;
  • partnership; and
  • company

As a small business, it may be easiest to start by providing lawn care to people as a sole trader.

Buy or Hire Equipment for Your Landscaping Business

You will also need to set aside some capital to buy or hire your tools and vehicle. Depending on your niche, your set of tools may include:

  • a heavy-duty flatbed truck with a locking toolbox and a dumping mechanism for unloading topsoil;
  • a utility trailer; 
  • a storage facility (or your own garage or shed); 
  • uniforms and hats;
  • safety equipment; 
  • lawn mowers; 
  • spreaders and sprayers; 
  • trimmer, edger, blower and hedge trimmer; 
  • digging tools;
  • cutting tools;
  • grading tools; 
  • measuring tools;
  • marking tools; and
  • other miscellaneous tools. 

The decision to buy or to hire your tools depends on: 

  • how frequently you are planning to use them; and
  • the ease of maintenance, storage and convenience. 

A good rule of thumb is to add up the purchase, service, storage and insurance costs, adjusted for tax, and spread this over four or five years (how long you are planning to use them). You should then compare this cost to hiring the equipment over the same period of time to decide which one offers more value. 

If the costs are similar, you should then consider the convenience of owning your equipment. Further, if you are starting out and the volume of work is low, you could buy only the essentials and hire any additional equipment you may need.

Set Up Your Landscaping Business 

From choosing a trading name to registering for tax, there are some essential steps to start your own business in New Zealand. These include: 

  • conducting a thorough check before choosing your trading name; 
  • protecting your name and brand by registering a trade mark with IPONZ;
  • registering your business with the NZBN or Companies Office (and getting an NZBN number);
  • insuring your business and equipment;
  • registering with Inland Revenue and understanding your tax obligations (these may include registering for GST and as an employer); 
  • understanding your employment obligations and how to draft employment contracts; and 
  • understanding your health and safety obligations as an employer. 

Your Client Agreements

When you provide landscaping services to your clients, your business will face some risks and liabilities. For example, you may be liable if you accidentally cause any loss or damage to your client’s property. Therefore it is a good idea to agree to each party’s responsibilities, in writing, before you provide the services. 

Your client agreement should include a quotation and terms and conditions, so that your potential customers can understand the nature of dealing with your landscape business. Some of the most important terms include: 

  • the type of services that you will (and do not) provide in as much detail as possible; 
  • the timing of the services;
  • how your client will pay you;
  • how your client can request changes or additional services;
  • the procedure for terminating or cancelling your services, including how much notice you require and how your client will pay for any services that you have already provided;
  • your client obligations and warranties, such as your client’s right to grant you access to their property or who will gain approval from the council to carry out the work; and 
  • how you will limit your liability.

It is essential that you set out clear payment terms. This includes:

  • whether you require a deposit;
  • what payment methods you accept; 
  • how you issue invoices;
  • when they should pay invoices;
  • how to handle unpaid invoices; and
  • who is responsible for sourcing and paying for materials.

When deciding who will be responsible for the cost of materials, you can choose to: 

  • source the materials through your suppliers and then invoice the cost to your clients; or 
  • ask the clients to source the materials themselves. 

You can reserve the right to reject additional requests from your clients. If you choose to accept them, you should agree on the costs in writing before you proceed with the services.

Key Takeaways 

Before you start advertising your landscaping services, there are a number of decisions and tasks you need to complete to set up your business. 

You need to decide: 

  • whether you will start your own business or buy an existing business or franchise;
  • what the best legal structure is for your business and whether you understand the tax implications of your choice; 
  • if you want to buy or hire your landscaping equipment; and
  • how you will protect your business and assets.

If you need help with setting up a lawn mowing business or reviewing your client agreements, contact LegalVision’s business lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

FAQs

What do I need to start a landscaping business?

To start a landscaping business in New Zealand, you do not need to have any specific qualifications. It is also fairly easy to startup without much money. Indeed, you can choose to hire equipment instead of purchasing your own. However, you will need an idea as to how you can differentiate your services from your competitors.

What do I need to include in my landscaping client agreement?

It is vital that you form a clear client agreement before providing your landscaping services, to avoid taking on unnecessary risk and responsibilities. The contract should outline the specific services you will provide, your payment terms, process for cancellation and what you will and will not be liable for.

What licenses and qualifications do I need to start a landscaping business?

Landscapers do not need any specific licenses or qualifications. However, to carry out specific structural work, you may need to work alongside a Licensed Building Practitioner. If you are planning to specialise in this area, it may be a good idea to get your own building licence.

Should I buy or hire equipment for my landscaping business?

Whether to buy or hire your tools depends on how frequently you plan to use them and the ease of maintenance, storage and convenience. You should do some research into the purchase, service, storage and insurance costs of owning your own equipment, so that you can compare this expenditure against the cost of hiring equipment.

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