FAQs on starting a landscape business


Where do I get started?

Visit the Colorado Secretary of State web site to get a checklist of things to do in starting your business.

Do I need to register my company name?

Yes. Visit the Colorado Secretary of State’s web site and register your company as a business entity with the state. This requires submission of articles of incorporation and other documents.

What requirements are there for landscape contractors? Do I need a license?

Licensure is not a requirement in Colorado like it is in other states. However, there are several legal requirements that all businesses must adhere to:

  1. If your company has employees, you must have workers’ compensation insurance
  2. You must have automobile insurance
  3. If you are selling plants to customers, you must obtain a state nursery license
  4. If you are spraying pesticides, you must be licensed through the Colorado Department of Agriculture

Do all those licenses apply in the cities I work in?

Yes, but cities, counties and municipalities may have additional requirements. Before you start working in a city, be sure to check the permitting requirements for construction, materials, dumping, and so forth.

Am I required to be certified or have certified people on staff?

Not by state law.  Some cities have specifications for certified people on staff or on site. Be sure to check requirements before submitting a bid. The most common certifications that are specified are the Landscape Industry Certified Technician designation and the certified landscape irrigation auditor. ALCC administers the CLT program in Colorado, the Irrigation Association administers the CLIA.

Do I need contracts for my customers?

Estimates and costs should always be put in writing; it’s part of being professional. An attorney can help you do a general contract. Alternatively, ALCC has sample contract documents in its specifications handbook.

What are BMPs?

BMP stands for Best Management Practice. ALCC, through GreenCO, has developed a set of BMPs for water conservation and management in the landscape industry. Some municipalities require a GreenCO BMP certificate for anyone to do work in their city. Other agencies have their own BMPs. Be sure to check what’s required.

GreenCO’s BMPs can be found on the GreenCO web site. Also posted on the GreenCO site are lists of water restrictions for cities around the state, and various links to water providers and conservation groups. Be sure to get Xeriscape information, which can be found on the Colorado Water Wise Council site.

Where can I get information on how to charge for my services?

There are lots of good resources, from books to consultants. Here are a few:

  1. Pricing for the Green Industry, Frank Ross, Ross-Payne & Associates
  2. Bidding and Estimating, Charles Vander Kooi, VK & Associates
  3. How to Price Landscape and Irrigation Projects, Jim Huston, JR Huston Enterprises
  4. The Profit Planning Group, located in Boulder, CO
  5. ProGreen Expo, an annual conference sponsored by ALCC and held in January at the Colorado Convention Center
  6. ALCC’s bookstore
  7. Other ALCC members (we have several consultants who work with landscape contractors on a variety of business management and financial issues)
  8. National Association of Landscape Professionals (formerly PLANET), an organization with an extensive ‘bookstore’ and other resources.

Anything else I should know?

Landscaping is a service business, and your reputation depends on it. Look professional. Return phone calls within 24 hours. Have a web site or other brochure/portfolio that describes your services and shows off your work. Have business cards. The general perception of landscape contractors is that they’re just people who “play in the dirt.” You can find additional resources through the Small Business Administration at www.sba.gov.

Also, remember that ALCC offers a variety of programs and services specifically for landscape business owners, including a mentoring program, up-to-date industry news and more. 

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