Even the thought of selling your landscaping business may feel overwhelming, on top of the daily pressure to keep the company running, employees paid, and clients happy. If you want to sell your business – or want to know the value of the company you’ve created – you can start by focusing on these seven key steps to a successful sale or valuation.
Clarify your reasons for selling your landscaping company
Start by developing a written statement about the reasons behind the potential business sale, and what is motivating you with your company. Think about the short-term and long-term with your retirement plans, professional goals, and what you want to achieve, and how your company plays a part in those aspects of your life.
Build a strong team with the right skills
Creating a strong “core team” is crucial to the long-term success of your business. If you can take a week long vacation without the wheels falling off your business is worth more. Ask yourself what would happen if you walked away from your business today? If your business would run without problems, then your business will be much easier to sell. Have top employees, landscape designers, and sales people sign non-compete and non-solicitation agreements.
Create culture-building core values
If you don’t have company core values already established, then you should start there. Core values can change over time, but it’s important to set the foundation for how your business will operate and what is valued at the core of operations. This also helps to solidify your brand and messaging to potential buyers.
Polish up your finances and bookkeeping
To even consider selling your business to someone else, the company needs to be in good financial shape. Clean up your account receivables, and polish up your billing arrangements with clients. Pre-billing is ideal to increase the valuation of your company. Hire an accountant to become involved with your bookkeeping and to file taxes appropriately and your business grows or changes over time. Any potential buyer will want 3 years of clean books. This involves separating owners benefits out in a separate line item AKA fishing boat, lake house, and travel expenses.
Be Open to Advice
Being open to feedback and advice from trusted advisors can be a valuable asset throughout the business owner journey, as they can offer guidance and support when needed. Connect with other landscaping business owners in your area, or become a member of local organizations. St. Louis is rich in resources for the lawn care, irrigation, or landscaping business owner to find resources to sell their business.
A few in the Midwest:
Entrepreneurs Association: EO is a large group of over 100+ business owners who help each other succeed. No matter what stage or path you are on, this group will help you grow and learn from other entrepreneurs in your area. https://www.landscapeprofessionals.org/
National Association of Landscape Professionals: NALP is a national organization which focuses on the lawn care, irrigation, and landscaping professionals. If you are a member there are countless resources online along with many events in the Midwest to attend. The beauty of a national organization is that owners from other cities have not problem sharing their trade secrets. It has a mentor program as well “Trail Blazers” which will match you up with someone to learn from. https://www.landscapeprofessionals.org/
Landscape & Nursery Association of St. Louis: This Saint Louis based lawn care, irrigation, and landscaping association focuses on local education, field days, and conferences. Quiet Village has enjoyed being a member for many years, and has made lots of valuable connections. https://www.stlouislandscape.org/
Join a peer group. There are many so find the group that fits the size you are at, and your personality. Search online, in Facebook community groups, on LinkedIn or other sources to find a great place for you to connect with others.
Find the right buyer (and explore other options)
The key to a successful exit is finding the right buyer, someone who shares your values and vision for the company. Selling the company is not the only option for a successful exit, and business owners should explore alternatives. Ultimately, a successful exit is one that leaves the founder feeling satisfied and fulfilled, knowing that the company they built will continue to thrive and make a positive impact in the world.
Prepare for the emotional aspects of exiting the company, including the loss of identity and purpose that may come with it.
Research, read, and reflect
If you want to sell your landscaping company, there are a lot of excellent resources out there that can serve as tools to make the best decisions as a business owner. A few favorites:
The E-Myth Landscape Contractor: Why Most Landscape Companies Don’t Work and What to do about it
I consider this book an absolute essential for any landscaping company owner, because it changed not only the way I do business, but also how I view my business. Start here to learn the basics of how to go from a technician to a manager and owner. Not into reading? Listen to the audiobook on your next road trip or in between site visits.
Built to Sell: Creating a business that can thrive without you
The second book I recommend to any business owner is Built to Sell by John Warrillow. If you put the words into action, you’ll learn how to go from a manager/owner mindset to an owner/investor mindset. Learn how to take actionable steps to create a more valuable (and sellable!) company.
Finish Big: How Great Entrepreneurs Exit Their Companies on Top
Finish Big by Bo Burlingham explains what to do throughout every phase of selling your business – before, during and after. The book gives great real-life stories of both successful and disastrous situations that have occurred when a business owner steps into the journey of exiting their business. Learn how you can start that process earlier, to build a stronger foundation for your company, that will ultimately lead to a stronger market value.
Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance
Halftime is an inspirational guide to figure out what is next in your life. Many entrepreneurs hit a period of burn out. This book will help you find that next passion in life to reenergize the soul. Bob Buford’s book does have a religious undertone, but I found the lessons to be very valuable.
It is never too early to start preparing and getting your business in order. If you are interested in selling your business, you can contact us to see if it might be a great fit for Quiet Village.
Article by Dennis Evans, Owner of Quiet Village Landscaping in St. Louis, MO.