If you’re thinking about starting your own fencing contractor business, there are a few things you need to know. First of all, it’s important to have experience in the field. This doesn’t mean you need to be a master craftsman, but you should at least know the basics of fence installation and repair. Secondly, you’ll need to have a solid business plan in place.
This should include an overview of your start-up costs, marketing strategy, and projected profitability. Finally, you’ll need to obtain the necessary licenses and insurance. Once you have all of these things in place, you’ll be ready to start your fencing contractor business and begin offering your services to clients.
Today we will walk you through everything you need to know about starting up and running your very own successful fencing business venture.
Research your target market
A thorough assessment of the amount of work available and how well the market is already served is essential when planning your new fencing business.
Take a moment to consider who might be interested in your services. Private households, landowners, businesses, and public sector organisations might all be potential customers. Sports clubs and conservation trusts might also need fencing services.
Garden boundary fencing is most commonly needed by domestic customers. From plain wire mesh to ornate fencing and trellis work, they may require various types of fencing and walling. Make a note of the following when you view residential properties in the area:
- Houses with reasonably sized gardens can be found in many districts
- Some fences and walls may be more in keeping with the local style than others
- Property and garden conditions – are they well cared for or could they be improved
- Who lives in the neighbourhood – elderly people, young families, tenants, or owner-occupiers
Consider providing other related services to homeowners and domestic landlords in your area, such as decking and landscaping.
You might need your services on other types of property as well. In addition to commercial and industrial properties, agricultural properties could also be included. Businesses and organisations that own or manage land are potential customers – for example:
- Commercial properties such as supermarkets and other large, out-of-town superstores
- Businesses such as pubs, holiday parks, hotels, and zoos
- Industrial properties such as factories, storage yards, and depots
- Businesses in agriculture, forestry, and equestrian sports
- Institutions such as schools, prisons, and hospitals
Direct your advertising efforts at your potential customers once you have identified them.
Contract and sub-contract work
It may be a good idea to approach businesses that require fencing services frequently. Architects, building contractors, and property developers may be able to help you. Fencing services are also needed by civil engineers who build and maintain roads and railways. It is common for businesses, such as builders and event organisers, to require temporary security fencing services frequently at various sites.
Land and property owned and managed by local authorities are typically large, and they require fencing services frequently. Your business may be included on a list of ‘approved contractors’ by some. Potential clients may also include housing associations. As well as Network Rail and the Highways Agency, the Ministry of Defence is a major user of fencing services in many parts of the country.
A newly established business may be hesitant to receive a contract from a large organisation that invites firms to tender. A newer business may also have difficulty funding a large contract, since many things need to be paid for before any payment can be made.
In organisations such as housing associations, local authorities, and large construction firms, it can be worthwhile to find out who is responsible for competitively bidding fencing work. When you want to tender for a contract, find out how the tendering process works.
Establishing the level of competition
You need to determine how well your customers are already served once you decide who your customers may be.
What is the number of fencing specialists in your area? You can identify some of your competitors using Yell.com (try looking under the categories ‘fencing materials’, ‘fencing manufacturers’, and maybe also ‘landscapers’ and ‘garden services’.
It is important to keep in mind that certain other types of businesses may also be competitors, depending on the products and services you offer. Garden centres, DIY stores, and sawmills often sell fencing materials, while plant and tool rental companies may provide temporary fencing. Landowners and farmers often hire agricultural contractors to do work like fencing.
Consider asking your competitors how much they charge for certain services. If they have a website, check out their advertising materials:
- What services do they offer?
- Do they advertise any special features – such as British Standards compliance, membership in a reputable trade association, local authority approval, a freephone number, or insurance-backed guarantees?
- Does their advertisement convey a sense of small-town friendliness, business-like formality, good value, or high quality?
Decide which services to offer
Your customers might choose from a variety of fencing and boundary services. Here are a few examples:
- Fences made from wood such as post-and-rail, stockade, close boarding, and larch lap panels
- Fencing made of wire and mesh, including welded mesh, chain-link, and post and wire
- Railings, hoardings, and vertical bars made from steel and wrought iron
- Concrete sectional fencing
- Special security fencing, such as steel palisades and anti-climb barriers
- Barriers for noise reduction
- Ornamental trellising
- Temporary fencing for building sites, outdoor events and so on
- Hedge planting, cutting, and laying
- Stone walling
- Gates and gate posts
- Woven hazel and willow hurdles and fences
A boundary product specialist might specialise in a particular type, such as livestock fences, motorway barriers, or anti-intruder products.
You may also offer fencing repair and maintenance services in addition to new installations. This type of work may include repairing damaged fences, renewing sections that are beyond repair, and treating wooden and metal fences to make them last longer. If certain types of fencing are damaged by storms or accidents, a 24-hour emergency service may be required.
Providing landscaping, gardening, and estate management services could be a complete package for your clients. In addition to fencing work, you might offer the following related services:
- Services such as landscaping, excavation, and horticulture
- Outdoor timberwork and decking
- Outdoor buildings and sheds
- Hire of agricultural equipment and machinery
In some cases, customers may be interested in purchasing fencing materials and treated timber only for their own DIY projects.
Added value services
Consider offering a range of ‘added value’ services and features to your customers. A few examples would be:
- Free surveys and estimates
- Design service
- A guarantee on all work – this could be insurance backed for extra peace of mind
- Freephone telephone line
- A ‘no job too small’, ‘fast turnaround’ or ‘distance no object’ promise
Consider your work rate
You may want to consider your working hours, how much you can expect to accomplish per day, and what may cause some of your days to be less productive.
It is partly determined by how many days you work and how long your working day is, assuming you have a steady stream of work.
Consider staying open during regular business hours, such as 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and perhaps on Saturdays as well. Perhaps you could start working earlier or work longer hours. It is important to remember that bad weather can sometimes disrupt your work schedule. During times of good weather and high demand for your services, perhaps you are willing to work longer hours, taking some time off during quieter periods. If you use plant and machinery very early in the morning or very late at night, you may cause a disturbance.
In some cases, fencing specialists offer an emergency service 24 hours a day to restore damage caused by storms or accidents. In order to provide a reliable emergency service, you must ensure that you can provide coverage at all times, particularly in the fall and winter. Consider partnering with another fencing business to share responsibility for emergency calls.
It is important to know how long certain types of jobs will take. An accurate estimate of the time it will take is very important when quoting a job. If you end up spending four days on a project, it’s no good quoting it for two days.
Depending on your skills and experience, as well as the type and standard of work you perform, you will work at a different pace. All of these things should be reflected in your charges.
It is unfortunate that not every working day will be spent earning money. These are a few examples of why you may sometimes find yourself working hard but not earning anything:
- Making estimates and costing new work at sites (if you do not charge for this service)
- Complete jobs that take longer than you expected – perhaps due to unforeseen problems like very rocky ground that’s hard to excavate
- Repairing faulty work
- Going to and from jobs, or getting tools and materials from suppliers
- Vehicles or tools that need to be repaired
There are times when you may not be able to work at all, due to:
- An important tool or piece of equipment is broken or faulty
- The weather is too bad to work
- Extended waits for deliveries
Estimate your monthly productivity by taking into account all of these factors. Keep your expectations in check! Try to minimise the amount of time wasted when planning your schedules.
Price your services
Your first step should be to decide how you will charge for your services. Depending on the work performed, there are different ways of charging.
You should consider what your prices will include, as well as what will be extra. Is it included in your standard price to dismantle and remove any old fencing?
You may be expected to offer a special ‘trade rate’ to commercial customers. Companies such as yours that are invited to tender for contract work by large organisations like local authorities expect your rates to be very competitive. Prices will also be very competitive for insurance companies. Consider offering special discounts to certain types of customers, such as pensioners.
According to the type of work and the customer, you may use different methods of costing for different jobs.
Setting your charges carefully is very important. When deciding on what to charge, you must make sure that your operating costs, including your own drawings, will be covered assuming you get enough work.
Quotes and estimates are regularly requested for specific jobs. Clarify which you are giving:
- A quote is a fixed price for a job. If the quote is accepted by the customer, the price cannot be changed, even if there is more work to be done than you anticipated. Quotes should provide clear details of what is covered and state clearly that any variations or extras not included in the quote will be charged separately
- Estimates are not fixed prices; they are just your best guess at what the job might cost. It does not bind you. There is no problem with providing several estimates, each taking into account the best- and worst-case scenarios.
You will be expected to stick to the price agreed with your customer before a job begins.
Several firms will provide quotes to your clients, so you must be able to provide accurate and competitive quotes. Be careful not to cut your own throat. Good quality workmanship and efficient service are valued by many clients, and they are willing to pay a reasonable price for them. Make sure your quote isn’t too low, so you don’t end up losing money!
Promote your business
In order to reach potential customers, it is important to advertise your business effectively.
You can advertise your business effectively in local print directories. You will, however, have been copied by many of your competitors. To ensure that their advertisement appears first in the classification, some firms spend a lot of money on large, eye-catching display advertisements.
It will be up to you whether you choose to compete with these companies head on or find another way to attract customers. Your advertising material could, for instance, emphasise your own ‘unique selling point’ (USP). For example, “30 years of experience” or “Family run business”.
Despite print directories’ continued usefulness, people prefer the internet for information, reviews, and contact information rather than print directories.
Using the web
Websites and blogs are valuable marketing tools for businesses. Keep it up-to-date, accurate, informative, and easy to use.
Additionally, there are various online business directories, some of which are free to advertise in and others that charge (perhaps for enhanced listings). There are often searchable member directories on the websites of trade associations, such as the Association of Fencing Industries (AFI).
Marketing your services online can be done in a variety of ways. If you would like to get your name out there and publicise things like special offers, etc., you might consider using social media and specialist forums. To find jobs and pitch for work, you can use job tendering websites such as Mybuilder.com.
Other ways of advertising and marketing
You can promote your business in a variety of ways. As part of a mailshot, you might distribute a brochure, flyer, card, or sticker that contains your business name and phone number.
Tell people as much as you can about the good things about your business in your advertisements, particularly what sets you apart from your competitors.
Signwriting and keeping your vehicle clean and presentable can make your vehicle a very effective advertising tool. It might be a good idea to have a large sign made that you can display outside your work areas – but make sure your customer doesn’t object. Your temporary fencing rental equipment could include your business name and contact details.
Word of mouth
Your business will benefit greatly from word-of-mouth recommendations. ‘Cowboy’ tradesmen who swindle their customers have been the subject of horror stories for years – and your customers want to make sure that you won’t do the same. A good reputation is built on good, reliable workmanship, but even small things like politeness and consideration can make a huge difference.
Your employees should also be good ambassadors for your business. Your staff should respond politely and helpfully to a neighbour’s sales inquiry if you are working on a site where they live.
Read more: Legal issues fencing contractors may face
Starting a fencing contractor business in the UK can be a great opportunity to serve the community and create custom projects for local residents. The market demand for fencing services continues to increase, delivering plenty of potential customers and prospects. From researching the competition to marketing services and products, there are several steps every budding entrepreneur should take in order to run a successful UK-based fencing business.
An experienced team with new ideas is key – from finding the right materials to installing fences on a variety of terrain types – contractors must have top notch service delivery for best results. By following industry standards, clients can trust that their projects will be done correctly, making quality control an essential part of any successful fencing business in the UK.
Seasoned professional with a strong passion for the world of business finance. With over twenty years of dedicated experience in the field, my journey into the world of business finance began with a relentless curiosity for understanding the intricate workings of financial systems.