Profitable boundaries

With the tools and worker skills already on-hand, adding fence installation as a service can be an unimpeded road to more revenue. By Ken Wysocky

A wise man once noted that good fences make good neighbors. But for landscapers, fences can do much more than that – they can generate an additional, high-profit-margin revenue stream.

Better yet, adding fence-building to your company’s landscaping services doesn’t require a huge capital investment or special training for employees, says Zak George, owner of Zak George Landscaping in Fort Collins, Co. George got into the landscaping business after graduating from high school in 1998 and started his own residential and commercial design/install company.

“If they’re already building decks and arbors, they can naturally do fences, too,” he says.

Because erecting fences doesn’t require many special tools, getting started takes only minimal expenditures. George points out that in all likelihood, most landscapers already own the basic required tools – items such as tape measures, levels, string lines and augers.

In addition, adding fencing to your landscaping repertoire will differentiate you from competitors who don’t build fences, as well as make your company more appealing to busy consumers who want the convenience of one-stop-shopping, George says.

“Wal-Mart has really changed the way people buy things,” he says. “People are used to going to one big store to buy everything from guns to groceries. Landscaping clients have adopted the same mentality … between kids, work, dogs and outdoor activities, people lead very busy lifestyles and don’t have time to line up many different contractors for a project. So if we offer more services, we land bigger and better jobs.

“A lot of times, we find we’re the only landscaper some customers talked to because we do everything. At the end of the day, people prefer to write just one check.”

When pressed for time on certain projects, George says he’ll hire subcontractors to install fences. That may cut into his profit margin, but it’s worth it to keep a big project on schedule – or win a project bid he otherwise might lose if he couldn’t satisfy a client’s need for fencing with his existing staff.

Upselling customers on fencing is relatively easy, George says. In many instances, customers already know they want fencing when they ask him to bid on a project. But if they haven’t considered fencing, it’s simple enough to point out how an attractive fence can not only add a new visual dimension to a yard, but also provide highly coveted privacy from neighbors or passers-by.

“I have very good luck with suggesting fencing, especially with bigger projects,” George says. “Houses are being built closer and closer together, so homeowners are placing a premium on privacy. It also helps (upselling) if you can offer them something very artistic … They don’t want some fence contractor to come in and blow out a basic fence.”

George is fortunate enough to have designers on staff who can create unique designs for clients. But even landscapers with fewer resources can search the Internet to find interesting ideas and materials to use.

Custom designs also offer higher profit margins. George estimates that he makes about 10 percent more profit on a customized fence than a standard board fence. And as a bonus, a custom-designed fence is difficult for competitors to imitate.

George says landscapers shouldn’t bid on stand-alone fence projects because it’s tough to compete on price with contractors who only build fences. He learned that early on when he started his business, though he says he occasionally bends that rule for existing customers. After all, good fences make for repeat business – not to mention good neighbors.


Ken Wysocky is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee.

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