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View Full Version : Architect attacking my bottom line...


sprinkler guy
04-12-2008, 07:18 PM
How would you handle this? A large scale landscape renovation with lighting. The architect, (actually, I think he is just a landscape designer. I don't think he has a stamp.) Anyway, the designer is acting as agent for the owner in negotiations. We go through the process for a few weeks and get the number almost down to where the owner wants to be, my portion approx. $33K, using the designers plan mind you. In one meeting, the landscape guys are discussing downsizing and eliminating plant material to help with budget. The designer is not digging this because he feels his job will look unfinished and cheap upon completion. He turns to me and asks how much the lights I'm using cost. This is in front of the homeowner. I refer to the proposal price, and he says, no, the actual cost of the fixtures. I refer to manufacturers list pricing, and he says "Let's replace 50 of the spotlights with a brand X spot that only cost $50.00 and the money saved can go towards the plantings. I know this particular brand is on sale right now at ____ supply house, and it would do the job just fine." I defended the original product choice (again, his design) saying a lesser product would have service issues, seal and socket issues, and availability may be an issue. The reality was he was taking money directly out of my pocket by trying to reveal actual materials cost to the homeowner. I was able to negotiate using the product of my choice by doing a lighting demo for the homeowner. Unfortunately the designer was unavailable for the demo, so he didn't get any say in the process. I got a signature from the homeowner on my contractor, and an earful from the designer.

My question is how would guys handle that kind of ambush in front of a homeowner? I'm don't want to just burn the designer, since, as we all know, this is a tiny little mutli-billion dollar industry we work in. Also, do you ever reveal materials cost to a homeowner and then show a specific percentage markup? As pros we buy at a discount that homeowners wouldn't get, plus we go to the effort of selecting the right product for the application. Isn't that worth a certain percentage, above and beyond our design , labor, and service fees?

Pro-Scapes
04-12-2008, 08:17 PM
unprofessional on his part. I think he is trying to play kiss the butt of the homeowner. As a homeowner I could appreciate my agent looking out for me but on the same note if I was having an upscale project done I wouldnt want to pinch it and save money at the cost of sacraficing quality. I would be open to listening to each trade professionals opinion then make an educated decision.

If they had insisted you use brand x that was on sale you would need to alter your warranty or walk away all together.

As for showing actual cost to the homeowner I fel this ia poor procedure. They may not comprehend all the other factors such as overhead and relize all the little things that add up on a project and in the day to day operations of your business.

I think you handled the situation well. You were looking out for the well being of your client in the long run.

seolatlanta
04-12-2008, 09:02 PM
I would have a talk with the guy and let him know that wasnt cool.

I would also say its time for you 2 guys to talk and make sure he never does that to another contractor. As far as price goes I never showed the homeowner anything except installed price, but some guys use list and it works for them , then charge $1 per watt on the transformer.

NightLightingFX
04-12-2008, 09:49 PM
You could tell them in a cordial way that you are the expert in the lighting, and that part of your expertice is in the choice of the proper fixture for the job and life of the system. Tell them if they want to use a fixture that you didn't recomend then you will charge an extra design fee for each fixture that is used that you didn't recomend. Maybe something like that will work. Lets face it. A good chunk of your income from a job is what you make off fixtures. If the job is still worth it, I guess you can grin and bear it. If you are loosing too much money. Then walk away. I have been experimenting in breaking down my cost for a client in this way. Instead of quoting a fixture not including labor, wire and etc JUST the fixture alone as $130. I will quote that same fixture as $95 and then charge $35 as part of my design/expertice fee. They both add up to $130 for a fixture. I don't know if this helps or not?
~Ned

Lite4
04-12-2008, 10:07 PM
I am afraid I would be having a little heart to heart with this so called designer. I would frankly tell him if he ever pulled a stunt like that again, I would pull the plug on him and he would never find another landscaper to work with him again. Landscapers will stick together against a primadonna like this and he will soon be out of work. If he asked me how much I was charging for lights and to simply use a cheaper brand, (insinuating that I am ripping off the customer), in front of a customer I would counter that with, "Ok since you are ok with giving Mr. and Mrs. ____ (Homeowners standing there listening), an inferior product that is only going to cause them problems and you obviously will not be the one who will have to live with this decision since you are only exchanging money for ideas and are not actually going to do any real work here or have to stand behind any of the products installed on this job. Now we know that I am the lighting specialist here and you are not. I think we should let the homeowner decide upon whether to reduce the bill by either reducing the size of plants or temporarily not planting some of them now and saving them for another phase or put in a crappy lighting system for them that will not perform properly and be a continual source of aggrivation. Smaller plants will grow in a few years to full size, a poor lighting system will only get worse. So Mr. and Mrs. _____ , If you agree with your designer and decide to cut corners on the lighting , please know that I will not give any warranty exressed or implied with this system. Additionally I will have to have you sign a release form holding my faultless when this system fails. So, How would you like to proceed?"

klkanders
04-12-2008, 10:38 PM
Tim, You basically just said all I wanted to say as I read all this. Would also have asked the designer if he would like to put all his prices on the table as well to see if any corners could be cut.
Sean, This designer sounds like a weenie! You definately need to have a little talk with him.

Keith

Lite4
04-12-2008, 11:06 PM
Yeah Sean, Don't let this guy get away with this. He will think he can railroad all trade professionals with his "title".

NightScenes
04-13-2008, 08:36 AM
Man Sean, I think me and Mr. "Architect" would have a nice little talk behind the barn (if you know what I mean). I'm glad that you were able to sell the home owner and I'm betting the the home owner has an idea of what went on and is probably looking at the "architect" a little differently now as well. I would make sure that you let him know how the cow ate the cabbage before you work with him again.

pete scalia
04-13-2008, 09:08 AM
It's only money and thank your lucky stars it's not your bottom he's attacking.

irrig8r
04-13-2008, 12:11 PM
I would make sure that you let him know how the cow ate the cabbage before you work with him again.

Paul, I know that Texans are known for their colorful and humorous metaphors, but what the heck does that one mean?

And BTW, this is the kind of designer I would avoid unless you get things straightened out.

A gal I did a couple of projects for and referred to other jobs has lately been trying to save her clients money by using unlicensed contractors ("undocumented laborers" too).

Two other contractors and I were talking the other day about this in separate conversations... basically these guys take the lower end jobs, but it has the effect of suppressing the market....

Sure, I can understand clients wanting to save money, but that's why I usually offer to break projects down into phases... building in some capacity into the current phase for the next phase too, if that's relevant and cost effective.

Do your clients really want to compromise quality for short term savings and long term headaches?

We know that nothing in this world is permanent, but I was talking to a client the other day who knows that the house he built 30 years ago will likely outlive him. I'd like to think some of the work I perform lasts beyond my lifetime too...

CALandscapes
04-13-2008, 01:07 PM
That designer sounds to me like a brown-nosed, a** kissing little twit.

I'd install one hell of a lighting system for the homeowner while keeping my interactions with the designer to a minimum, and move on the the next project...

I would never do anything to help out that designer, and would probably shy away from being involved with him on any future projects unless I REALLY REALLY needed the work.

NightScenes
04-13-2008, 01:08 PM
Gregg, it means to let him know in no uncertain terms that if he does that again, he'll be chewing cud.:laugh:

sprinkler guy
04-13-2008, 01:56 PM
Gregg, it means to let him know in no uncertain terms that if he does that again, he'll be chewing cud.:laugh:

Thanks for clarifying Paul. Like Gregg, I've heard plenty of colorful expressions over the years, but that one got past me.

I did a little asking around after the incident and this particulatr designer doesn't do much work up in my main market, mostly south of me. He has a couple of contractors who do most of his work, younger guys, who apparently do about anything he asks. I'm told by a manufacturers rep that knows these other two contractors said designer bullys these guys pretty well, but they put up with it because he keeps them busy. I'm busy now so I don't see any reason to do my work for 2/3rd the price. I had a follow up conversation with the designer and referrred him to a couple of manufacturers who I use, a couple of large scale clients, and a couple of other contractors. I told him to feel free to check me out. I'm worth the extra cost and assured him he would never get a call from the client complaining about any aspect of MY project. He had already spoken to one lighting rep (do you know this Sean guy, and who the h&ll does he think he is?). He was actually pretty civil in the follow-up call, but we'll see how the project progresses. It is in the hardscape phase right now, maybe 5-6 weeks for me to start.

Chris J
04-13-2008, 11:19 PM
This guy sounds like someone you want to deal with no more in the future. I probably would have walked out on the whole conversation and waited for him to leave. Then I would have come back and delt with the homeowner directly, leaving the landscapers commission out of it. I would have told them to let the landscaper do their thing, then let me come back at a future date to complete the lighting install at a reduced price. Again, there would be no more dealings with the landscaper, but he's probably gonna have to carry a big A## whipping before all is said and done.

Digger Dan
04-14-2008, 08:36 AM
Personally, I would have asked him what he pays for the paper he uses to print up his plans, and what percentage of markup he charges? Homeowner could save a TON of money right there. :D

Designers are generally those who have wrists too limp to grip a shovel and dig in themselves.

JoeyD
04-14-2008, 11:01 AM
Personally, I would have asked him what he pays for the paper he uses to print up his plans, and what percentage of markup he charges? Homeowner could save a TON of money right there. :D

Designers are generally those who have wrists too limp to grip a shovel and dig in themselves.

:laugh: Thats funny

The Lighting Geek
04-14-2008, 03:46 PM
I would have asked him how much does it cost him to do a design? and then I would turn and ask the landscaper how much do they pay for plants. I would point out the ridiculous question and ask how about just putting 3 wheels on your car outside? how about putting half the irrigation in? I would be insulted and look that way. I would ask about budget numbers and open up the discussion as to what do the homeowners want out their design in lighting? It sounds to me like the designer obviously did a poor job of managing the budget and now in damage control mode. I might have offered my services in managing the job for them. It would be very easy to discredit the designer, but you have to decide if you ever want to work with him again...lol

sprinkler guy
04-14-2008, 11:05 PM
I would have asked him how much does it cost him to do a design? and then I would turn and ask the landscaper how much do they pay for plants. I would point out the ridiculous question and ask how about just putting 3 wheels on your car outside? how about putting half the irrigation in? I would be insulted and look that way. I would ask about budget numbers and open up the discussion as to what do the homeowners want out their design in lighting? It sounds to me like the designer obviously did a poor job of managing the budget and now in damage control mode. I might have offered my services in managing the job for them. It would be very easy to discredit the designer, but you have to decide if you ever want to work with him again...lol

Hindsight being 20/20 I can easily say I wouldn't have excercised any restraint and given him both barrells, but at the time he was a bit of an unknown to me. As for the landscaper contractor, he is friend and brought me in on the job. I do all of his lighting, and some of his controllers. Not sure what kind of friend would subject me to this designer :laugh:. Seriously, he had no idea about this guy either, and has started circumventing budget-boy as well. Designer wanted to keep his 36" box olive trees and eliminate like half the tonnage on the boulders to cut costs. We put him in place and pointed out to the homeowner that smaller trees will get bigger, but no matter how much you water a rock, it will never grow. Owner kind of chuckled, turned to the designer and said not to mess with the rock. A small victory, but it felt good nonetheless.