With the right attachments, skid steers, compact track loaders and other machines in your fleet can be adapted for expansion into the landscaping business. This can include branching out into restoration and rehabilitation work, or offering a complimentary addition to existing earthmoving services.
Landscaping attachments come in a variety of types, ranging from basic attachments such as forks, six-way dozer blades and buckets to specialty tools such as rakes, augers, backhoes and soil preparators. Following are examples of how several contractors have taken advantage of such tools to build their business and expand the ROI of their existing equipment fleet.
Landscaping adds revenue
Ratliff Landscape & Excavation, Flippin, AR, made the leap into landscaping a couple of years ago. The company is 10 years old and its owner, Jody Ratliff, has 31 years of experience in the excavation business. The equipment fleet consists of a dozer, backhoe, 1-ton pickup and two skid-steer loaders — a late-1990s model JCB and a new Case 410.
The firm's main focus has been earthmoving. "We have tried to specialize in watershed problems," says Ratliff. "We are a small business."
The decision to expand into landscaping was not easy. "We kind of fought against the idea of going into landscaping, mainly because it seemed tedious and I wasn't sure that the money was there," recalls Ratliff.
There was also concern about the equipment that would be needed. "I felt like we were going to have to change the equipment around quite a bit," says Ratliff.
The turning point came when a customer asked Ratliff Landscaping & Excavation if it could design a pond/waterfall feature. "We designed it and he hired us," says Ratliff. "We built it and it turned out great. We had such a great response from it that we decided to branch out."
The company started out with water features, then expanded into different hardscape-type projects. "We do a lot of retaining wall systems," says Ratliff. The company also lays sod, but it doesn't do much with softscape.
This past summer, landscaping represented 50% of the company's business, and is contributing to overall growth. "We found that we have done as much work in the first seven months of this year by doing landscape work as in our biggest year previously," says Ratliff. "It was a dramatic increase toward our income and, of course, cash flow overall."
The concern over not having the right equipment for landscaping jobs proved unfounded. "Over the years, we have found a way to adapt what we have to what we need," says Ratliff.
The skid steers, in particular, have proven an efficient multi-task tool. "I don't know how we would do without them," says Ratliff.
Buckets and pallet forks for the skid steers are kept in the fleet. All other attachments are rented as needed. "The local Case dealer, Potter Equipment, carries some of the attachments — for example, preparators for lawns," says Ratliff.
Rental allows Ratliff Landscaping & Excavation the flexibility to handle a wide variety of projects, from larger earthmoving to finish work. "We have taken advantage of the rental industry and we have started leasing or renting machines just for specific jobs, especially if we take on large jobs," says Ratliff. "It keeps us from having such a big overhead."
Much of the larger equipment is rented from Jackson Rentals in north Arkansas. Smaller hand tools have recently become available for rent at the local Home Depot.
Ratliff Landscaping & Excavation has also found that landscaping is easier on equipment than general excavation. "Even though it is a little more labor intensive, there is a lot less wear and tear on the machines," says Ratliff. "The machines sit to the side quite a bit."
Maximizing fleet efficiency
Horizon Contracting, Round Hill, VA, is primarily focused on erosion control. Started in 1997, it constructs right-of-ways, public areas, swales, berms and underground drains for building contractors.