Starting a landscape supply business can be a great investment. However, one of the biggest headaches that comes with creating a supply business is getting the products where they need to be in the right amount of time and in the right fashion. Follow these tips to help you avoid growing pains and shipping mishaps that can drive potential customers away.
1. Use a shipping or transportation broker.
When providing bulk supplies to landscape companies in the area (and to private homeowners doing their own projects), you need to have the right supplies at the right time, and you also need to stay on top of bulk orders that companies make online or over the phone. This type of large-scale shipping can become unmanageable, especially as you grow your customer base. You also have to manage incoming goods or raw materials that will be shipped to you, which can also become overwhelming without help.
Sometimes, you will have customer complaints because of shipping problems that are outside your control. This is why hiring a transportation logistics broker is a good idea.
Instead of hiring and vetting different shipping services yourself, you can leave the work to your transportation broker. They will be able to get the different trucks and drivers you need and provide them as needed on an ongoing basis. For example, you might need a dump truck to haul off large loads to topsoil for a company doing a city sod project, but you also might need a flatbed to deliver 40 trees to another greenhouse across town. These two different products might need two different companies with different equipment. Your broker will have a list of potential shipping providers and can choose the best one for your needs.
When shipping problems occur, your broker handles the blowback. For example, weather problems might delay a shipment of fence supplies to a fence installer in another part of the state. You would normally spend all day on the phone negotiating different shipping arrangements. Your broker, however, makes the different arrangements for you. Your broker can also handle dispatch of supplies and also keep you updated on delivery status so you can stay connected if people call with questions or complaints.
2. Use well-designed packaging.
Landscape materials are costly, and if they are damaged during shipping because of bad packaging, you have to foot the bill for replacements to your customers. Good packaging will help make sure that items arrive in the right condition. You will want to invest in a professional shrinkwrap machine for paletted goods, especially bricks, stack stones, natural stones, and slate. Trees should be packed with root balls protected and with the trunks protected to keep them from being scratched or broken during shipping. Retire broken pallets, and do not ship items that have damaged exterior packaging.
3. Design your supply yard with shipping and receiving in mind.
It's frustrating to try and load up a truck without much space to work in. It's equally challenging for a trucker to make a delivery without room to back up and turn around. Consult a transportation professional about the design of your stockyard so that you reduce safety risks and increase efficiency. You'll have less wasted product, fewer accidents, and better output if you have a well-designed loading yard.
4. Promote reduced material use.
Finally, shipping inherently uses fuel and materials for packing. Be mindful of the push to "go green" by using recyclable materials, turning broken pallets into mulch, and shipping when trucks are full instead of a half-full. You might offer a discount for customers who choose the option to wait until you have a full truck before shipping.