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shovelracer
10-07-2011, 08:57 PM
Well for starts this actually does not involve hardscaping, as much as it does complete outdoor living. However, since this section will have the most contractors that are familiar with five figure jobs it goes here.

The situation:

2 million dollar home on 10+ secluded acres. I actually worked for the developer, notice I did not say builder, on this house about 5 years ago, but he fired everyone and brought in his own latino force after his first offer fell through. Took six months and lawyer threats to get paid. Anyhow it was eventually bought. Wife 25, the husband 45+/-, middle eastern. They wanted a pool, but wanted to save money. They decided to play GC and brought in their own latino forces for the job. (I am not hating on latinos, I am trying to paint the picture of a carload of masons rolling up in an 85 camry with out of state plates.) Well the job should have easily been six figures. I have no idea what they paid. We are talking pool, waterfall, pool house, outdoor kitchen with Viking grill and fireplace, etc. And this is where it ends. Due to the lack of foresight there are now numerous problems like no conduit for lighting and limited access, etc. The existing workmanship is mediocre to poor at best. The patio will fail in a few years based on what I can see, the stone work looks amateur, and the waterfall looks like an industrial concrete sculpture rather than a natural woodsland waterfall.

How it went down:

I get the call, "we are looking for a design, we have this pool, waterfall, etc." OK so I establish what it is that they are in need of and find out they are wanting basically a free design, and intend to shop. I am told that they had already received 1 free design. Keep in mind we are not talking about a basic foundation planting that you can whip out with no real harm, we are talking about several thousand square feet of varying terrain in need of everything. I explain that we do not offer free designs, and she tells me that she has no intention of paying for one when contractors are handing in their free designs left and right. For some crazy reason I agree to show up anyways and look at the project.

I get there and she tells me that she will meet me in the back. OK no harm. She leaves me standing there for over 5 minutes. In that time I saw all I needed to see. It was worse than I expected. There was zero preparation, and there are several major planning oversights that will take thousands to correct. IE they need 80 yards of topsoil on the far side of the pool and patio with only access over the patio. They forgot to install the pool house toilet drain pipe when they had the ground open. They forgot to give the lawn guy access to the back acre except through a 48" gate. (note 48" mowers do not fit through 48" gates) So I tell my self that we are not here to judge, we are here to assist in completion of their outdoor living project. Of course they do not know this. All they want is plants and they want it right away.

While we were talking her husband was bitching at the head latino cause he forgot yet another thing that should have planned for. The wife then went into a rant about how she hates all contractors, we are all idiots, etc. Keep in mind this girl is only in her mid 20s. The situation becomes really uncomfortable. I cut the meeting short after they were not able to give me any usable information and we were going nowhere. Less than 15 minutes on the sight in the end.

So in that time I lay on them the entire outdoor living experience, complete with home automation, outdoor audio, nightscaping, softscaping, and deal with all the issues that need to be addressed around the area. Now to date I am the only one that has addressed anything other than installing simple plants. This seems to be working against me. To be honest I have no interest in just throwing in 10k in plants to appease them when I know that half of it will need to be ripped out, moved, or damaged when the other stuff they are not realizing are done. They are getting free designs and prices that are not even on the same planet as what I am talking about. I am providing a complete solution. I have not even given a design, because they are not willing to commit to my designers charges. I am offering to take over their frustrations, fix the issues, and return a complete outdoor living experience. We have the network of people to make this happen we just need the go ahead.

So I know I obviously should run, and I also have very little chance of getting any work since the rough budget I mentioned was 5 times their highest quote. Of course they were not even for remotely the same thing. They have not responded to my emails, and in the 2 phone calls we have had since I have gotten the old "I check with my husband" response. In fact they couldn't even be bothered to fill out a simple questionare in assisting to find out their wants, needs, favorite colors, etc.

My problem is I can't turn away. I have a unique chance to throw down a 50-100k detail job, and most of it can happen over the slow late fall to early spring season. They are not very receptive, but I know they want this. The designer glasses, hideously annoying escalade in the garage, and the over spending on a poorly designed landscape tell me they are the typical young artificial type, and want nothing more than to point out to their friends how they can monitor the pool temp, control the outdoor audio, and adjust the lighting from their Ipad poolside.

So how do you sell these types? My line would have hooked the older, more refined, business man looking to enjoy the fruits of his labor. With these folks I am lost. About the only thing I did not do is get inappropriate and point out that they want this stuff to be the envy of their friends.

FoghornLeghorn
10-07-2011, 09:47 PM
So I know I obviously should run, and I also have very little chance of getting any work since the rough budget I mentioned was 5 times their highest quote. Of course they were not even for remotely the same thing. They have not responded to my emails, and in the 2 phone calls we have had since I have gotten the old "I check with my husband" response. In fact they couldn't even be bothered to fill out a simple questionare in assisting to find out their wants, needs, favorite colors, etc.

My problem is I can't turn away. I have a unique chance to throw down a 50-100k detail job, and most of it can happen over the slow late fall to early spring season. They are not very receptive, but I know they want this. The designer glasses, hideously annoying escalade in the garage, and the over spending on a poorly designed landscape tell me they are the typical young artificial type, and want nothing more than to point out to their friends how they can monitor the pool temp, control the outdoor audio, and adjust the lighting from their Ipad poolside.

So how do you sell these types? My line would have hooked the older, more refined, business man looking to enjoy the fruits of his labor. With these folks I am lost. About the only thing I did not do is get inappropriate and point out that they want this stuff to be the envy of their friends.

How do you sell the unsellable? You don't, you explain what you are envisioning for them, then you leave and don't call them. If they call you and want to put a deposit down, then you have a green light.

5 times their highest quote? They're going to think you're trying to rip them off. Not because you actually are trying to rip them off, they just have no idea what the cost is of what they want.

You don't have a "unique chance", you have a couple of cheap-asses who don't know what they want and will have a nightmare of a site to work on.

If you're already this frustrated with them, Imagine trying to collect 50-100k upon completion.

jshilan
10-07-2011, 09:51 PM
I have worked for difficult clients like this and you should follow your gut and walk away. The 50 to 100k job is just a mirage that you believe exists. Every time you think you are getting close to it, it either moves farther back into the horizon or just vanishes completely.

You are like a moth to a flame right now. You are so enamored with the possibilities that you are blinded to the risk.

You are better off cutting them a check for 15K now instead of letting them bankrupt you after several months of aggravation. Just think to yourself, if it is this difficult to "get" the work, imagine how hard it is going to be to "get" your payments.

If I still haven't gotten through to you yet, read your post again and pretend it was written by another landscape contractor. What would your advice be? :hammerhead:

Thanks!

Jody Shilan

Stuttering Stan
10-07-2011, 10:19 PM
Sounds like the client does not realize the value of your craftsmanship and expertise. Is so, then you are chasing a client that will never buy. I know it's difficult, but focus your efforts elsewhere.

shovelracer
10-08-2011, 06:51 AM
Jim, we touched on much of that, but was cut short by the scolding of the other mason contractor. My situation is I do not need the work. We have had a better year than ever. We have already met and surpassed our goals and any previous numbers. We still have a full schedule and another 50-60k in straight labor work before the end of the year. I want the work. This is my problem. Maybe more so because it has been challenging. Reason tells me to stay away, and drives home everything that was said prior. Paying is not an problem, we lay things out so we are always ahead. If they want to cut us off then we simply will leave and my lawyer can fight for the rest. We have the contracts to support this as well. Not ideal, but there is no way we front anything to a customer we do not know very well.

Anyhow, this morning around 2am or so it said I get this:

"Hi Robert....thanks for your time, but my husband does not want to hire a design consultant at this time..."

I'm sorry isn't that why you called in the first place.???

I still want the job, but the price just went up. Much like you Jim I have several proprietary secrets that can be invaluable to them and save thousands over conventional methods. Or more realistically get the job done right, where the others will just cut corners to reduce the rediculously stupid and unnecessary workload.

In reality though, I just want to call them and wish them well (not really) with their poorly done waterfall that will be requiring an overhaul in a few years and the patio that will substitute for a moto x track after a few seasons.

DVS Hardscaper
10-08-2011, 09:17 AM
I will admit, I skimmed the initial post.

But I get the jist of it.

Shovel, ok, you mentioned their house and land. That indicates to me that you think this is a trophy job and you want it. YOU KNOW DARN WELL THESE PEOPLE ARE A NIGHTMARE. But you're looking at their property. Just like a pretty girl, she could have all the baggage and drama, and you're only seeing her hot body that you yearn for.

I do not know your financial situation. Nor your workload.

During the slow times I have chased after people like you described. Resulting in me only wasting my time.

Really, What is there for us to tell you?

If you wanna do a free design - then get you pencil out and get to work.

If you can find ways to appease them and short cut the work - then get out your proposal form and get writing.

Otherwise - forget about them. It's a beautiful weekend, go jump on a bike and enjoy it. While you're out with nature and enjoying the sights - there are 5 other contractors sitting in their basement offices scrambeling to give these people a free design for work priced at next to nothing.


,

DVS Hardscaper
10-08-2011, 09:32 AM
Much like you Jim I have several proprietary secrets that can be invaluable to them and save thousands over conventional methods. Or more realistically get the job done right, where the others will just cut corners to reduce the rediculously stupid and unnecessary workload.



I think we all (including myself) *THINK* we have invaluable secrets. And we just may have secrets that can beneficial to our clients.

But you know what? Most people DO NOT care. I have to hop in the shower so I don't have time, but I could sit here and spend all morning writing my thoughts, and my experiences, as well as share stories about me as the consumer and how I think.

I do alotta analyizing of home owners. If they are concerned with invaluable knowledge - somehow, someway they will indicate a willingness to pay for this knowledge. They may not just say it. It could be their actions, their questions, and their facial expressions that say so.

These people you have written about have indicated that they want everything for nothing.

THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR, MINE, OR JIM'S INVALUABLE SECRETS. THEY DO NOT CARE! They are DETERMINED to get this work done for as little as possible. They do not want to accept that you, me, and Jim have operating costs that we need to recover. They refuse to pay for a portion of our phone bill, insurance, employer withholding taxes, etc.

Lite4
10-08-2011, 10:22 AM
If I get a lead that is middle eastern I walk away. Without exception over the last 17 years in this business every single middle eastern person I have tried to deal with is cheap to the core (regardless of how much $ they have, how do you think they got that way?). I am not trying to classify or being racist, it is just a fact to be aware of as a contractor. They are willing to gamble wiu a cheap no name contractor in the hopes they will save a few bucks. Invariably, however they will usually live with a poorly done job, not knowing what good quality really is like. I don't even bother going to estimates for them anymore. It's always a complete waste of my time and I don't market to the bottom end nor do I have to give anything away anymore. There are plenty of guys who market themselves this way. Perception is reality.

Take my advice....run away from his one. I know this client and they will bring you nothing but sleepless nights and heartburn. Spend your energy and efforts on prospects that will appreciate quality and know the value of a job well done. Yes, they are still out there.
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SDLandscapes VT
10-08-2011, 02:06 PM
Firefly

You took the words right out of my mouth--the eastern/middle eastern cultures do not place a value on landscaping type services and thus do not value you or your time. I would walk.

DVS Hardscaper
10-08-2011, 02:51 PM
These types of people are actually people that we are consumers can learn from.

They are simply looking out for their bottom line. And they're very good at it. If you go along with them, they will negotiate and communicate with you right through the end. Where with Americans if they find a better price they simply drop off the radar screen,
They'll stop communicating, and they will dodge your phone calls.

These middle easterners they are very polite. They communicate, they look for the lowest the can get, but they do not beat you up. They leave the ball in your court. How they work is actually a skill and an art. It intrigues me. They are very good with their money and can stretch a dollar further than anyone.

Yet....I try to run from them!

Also, I find folks from the Asian continent to be the same as the middle easterners. Except the folks from the Asian continent are not as polite and well mannered when negotiating.
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JimLewis
10-08-2011, 02:55 PM
Oh! I somehow missed that they were middle eastern. I agree with the other responses. I have learned the same lesson. I would have stopped wasting my time right there. We do get a few good jobs from Asians or Middle Eastern people once in a while. But it's like a 10-1 ratio. 90% of the time they just want to go with the low bid and don't care about anything else. But some have adapted to our culture and do realize that you get what you pay for and understand quality.

Anyway, stick to your guns. I'd never do a free design for a client. There are landscape and hardscape contractors all over my town giving away free design work. I see them even advertising that at their booths at the big home and garden expos. I guess if that's what they have to do to get clients, so be it. But I'm not going to pay for a design just in the "hope" that I might land a job. Our designer and us stay very very busy with people who are willing to pay for design work.

shovelracer
10-08-2011, 04:51 PM
Thanks for all the responses. I appreciate everyone's time. I am not desperate or ignorant. I realize exactly what I was faced with. I was hoping maybe someone had a turnaround story to share I guess. Someone mentioned it though and I agree 100%. This is a game. Their game is to get as much as possible for as little as possible. Quality be damned. My game is to get them to buy all sorts of things they want but did not realize they wanted.

I will also share that this year middle age working middle easterns have been our largest spenders. Seconded by american retirees. We most recently finished a 40k deck and patio that started with a $1500 post repair. The final selling point. I offered to raise the sunken walkway off the front landing for $300, instead of pressuring a new walk. Knowing of course that the landing is so bad that they will be doing it all in the next few years if not sooner. Yes it was a game. They were very polite and never blew us off. It was a testing game at first that was lets do this, then turned into lets do that, then one day they dropped the game and said we want it all. This style of bargaining has me interested. Like when we run into people that won't drop $600 for some much while in the middle of a large 5 figure kitchen renovation. It's not that you can't afford the $600, lets face it a $5000 subzero just got wheeled into your garage. It is that you do not see the value in it. This is my game, there is value in what I would have proposed I just did not convey it in a fashion they grasped. Sure the artificial value is going to HD and buying 30 solar lights to complete your pool nightscaping, but the real value comes in the form of knowledge and having someone that can provide a complete product without worrying you about how to deal with their planning oversights.

So last question. You know I am not desperate, and I have made aware that this is a game. I will also let you in that I am very upfront and honest, but love to mess with people when they get crazy or are just acting foolish. Not quite feminine cleaning product level, but more like an older sibling. So how long do I wait before I follow up just to make sure they are doing alright and check that we can in fact not be of any assistance.

FoghornLeghorn
10-08-2011, 05:30 PM
So how long do I wait before I follow up just to make sure they are doing alright and check that we can in fact not be of any assistance.

Call them at 7am, 5 pm, and 11 pm every day for two weeks. You've gotta be thorough with good leads...

JoeyDipetro
10-08-2011, 09:09 PM
OMG, EVERYTHING about that situation SCREAMS "RUN AWAY" to me. Unless you have nothing else going on, you have posted nothing that would compel me to pursue that project.

As far as a "free design", if you do the design work (and your salary is recovered through overhead), or you have a salaried designer (salary recovered through overhead), you are not giving away a "free" design.

shovelracer
10-08-2011, 10:02 PM
That only holds true if you are given the opportunity to recover the overhead. Otherwise why should everyone else pay for these peoples free design. I have given quite a few free designs over the years, one was 20hrs worth, and to be honest I can not ever recall giving one and not getting the job. But the ones that have gotten them where known clients that were not going to shop the design. It was either yes or no. Of course the recovery was built into the job, but these people made it very clear that they are only looking for the design, the word installation never came up. What I gather is one of two things. They take their favorite free design and start paging the phone book for the cheapest price, or more realistically their out of state 85 camry driving laborers install the design with customer bought plants and the designer never even knows it happens.

Notice the majority of what I was initially proposing did not involve planting. It involved HVAC and a custom built bar for the pool house, outdoor audio, nightscaping, site repairs, and misc enhancements. The planting could be done in 2 days tops for about the 10k the others quoted. Sure their is good money in plants, but I knew right away before they said a word that $600 trees where out of the question. I knew that within 10 seconds of seeing the quality of work that had been done already. More likely they get the basic 3 gallon boxwood, juniper, barberi deal add in a few things over the years when they get the bug for 1 weekend a year. What I was after was the stuff they are not capable of and from what I could see had not done or even planned on. I could have made the same 10K and not actually done anything except dig a few trenches, hold a few ladders, and putter around a little. I saw this as a less competitive sale than getting hammered over $35 plants.

JoeyDipetro
10-08-2011, 10:21 PM
If you are not recovering your overhead, then you cannot stay in business for long. You have to recover overhead to stay in business. Most designers are paid a salary. How do you think that salary is recovered? It's recovered through overhead. That doesn't mean that each job for which a design is provided needs to be sold. Only that for each job sold, a certain amount for the designer's salary is recovered.

JimLewis
10-08-2011, 11:07 PM
As far as a "free design", if you do the design work (and your salary is recovered through overhead), or you have a salaried designer (salary recovered through overhead), you are not giving away a "free" design.

You are if you just do free designs to every customer who you think you might get a job from. I don't care how good of a designer or salesman you are - you're not going to land every job when you do a free design. So how do you recover the cost of doing the design for the ones you don't land?

I came to a job last year. Big job. The customers had a budget of $100,000 and they told me that up front (and apparently every other contractor they'd talked to.) I arrived and - I kid you not - they already had 5 different 'free' designs laid out on their table. Somehow, they had already taken advantage of 5 other contractors and talked them into doing designs for free for them. I almost laughed out loud right in front of them. But fortunately, I kept my composure. They wanted a bid from me and they took me around their landscape and said, "We like this part of this design. And in this area we like the idea they had in this design. Over here
we want to do it like in this design....." And the worst thing was each of these "designs" were all done half-assed. There wasn't one really impressive design in the bunch. You could tell it was just all stuff that someone spent maybe 2-3 hours on, at most.

I had to stop them and say, "Guys. Listen. You did this all wrong. Instead of finding all these contractors who give away free designs and then just whip something out on paper without really giving it much though - you should have hired an independent designer, worked with that designer until you had ONE design that you liked everything on, and THEN called a few contractors and said, "Here's what we want to do. Please provide us with a proposal." Then you're comparing apples to apples. But instead, right now you're all confused. I bet you got bids all over the place in terms of price, didn't you?" They confirmed yes. I said, "Yah, that's because you're comparing apples to oranges. This guy is going to do it totally different than the next guy. And none of them have really taken the time necessary to really plan out a nice back yard for you. That's why you're still looking, isn't it?" I went on to explain how much our designer charges and that I couldn't provide a proposal at all until they hired her to make a nice professional to-scale design that I can go off of. And I left it at that. They never did hire her and I just moved on.

Most of the time, free designs are pretty much worth what the customer pays for them. Most contractors who do 'free' designs don't really spend the same amount of time they would if the customer had paid normal price for a full scale design.

Most designers are paid a salary. How do you think that salary is recovered? It's recovered through overhead. That doesn't mean that each job for which a design is provided needs to be sold. Only that for each job sold, a certain amount for the designer's salary is recovered.

I disagree with that. I guess it may vary from one part of the country to the next. But in our city, there are very very few professional landscape designers that are actually employed full time at a landscape firm. By far, the vast majority of landscape designers around this area are freelance. There are maybe 5 companies in my entire area who have in-house, full-time designers. If you went to a local APLD meeting here and asked everyone to raise their hand if they were freelance, you'd see about 95% of them raising their hands. Most of us use freelance designers and it works out very well that way.

SDLandscapes VT
10-09-2011, 09:00 AM
so in an interesting twist here--I do most of my own designs and I will only work from a design--gets and keeps everyone on the same page. Many in my market don't so you talk to people and they have prices and ideas all over the board. I do charge for the designs, but it works like this--we meet and chat agree to go with the design, I design and keep track of the hours involved. I return with the design and an install proposal--if they go with the install proposal the price is worked in, otherwise they owe me a check for the hours I have into the design and then they can shop it to death. I ve found that most don't shop

DVS Hardscaper
10-09-2011, 09:16 AM
With the recession I find it hard to believe that shovel has sold every job he has designed. The national average for sales closures is around 33%.

Oh, and on the Internet EVERYONE says how they're the most expensive contractor!

.
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Dr.NewEarth
10-09-2011, 01:14 PM
My cliche customers do these things regularly.....

Ring! Ring! Hello? " You give me deal?"

That's a regular greeting in Hongcouver. (pronounced Hong Koover)

Or the one I really enjoy... after they (E.I.) bickered about the contract and specs, they sign a contract. We work our buns off to please them and then when it comes time to get paid "they want a deal" and pester you again and again. I don't give in.

I'm not prejudiced, but I know that certain groups operate with different business ethics.

JimLewis
10-09-2011, 04:28 PM
I do charge for the designs, but it works like this--we meet and chat agree to go with the design, I design and keep track of the hours involved. I return with the design and an install proposal--if they go with the install proposal the price is worked in, otherwise they owe me a check for the hours I have into the design and then they can shop it to death. I ve found that most don't shop

I know several around my area who do it that way too. They do a design and charge for the design. But if the customer goes with them, they will take the cost of the design off of the cost of the install.

To me, that's very disingenuous. And I think most customers feel that way too. Nobody's kidding anyone. It isn't 'free'. The cost of the install is just artificially inflated to cover the cost of the design. That's kind of shifty. There's no reason to do that. Even the customer realizes what's going on. It's just a shell game. I'd rather just be honest. A good design takes time and time is money. If you want a great looking landscape, you should be willing to invest a little bit of money into the planning of that landscape. I don't think there's anything wrong with telling people that and charging full price for designs. We do it a hundred times a year and it works just fine.

Besides, doing it any other way cheapens our industry, a little bit, IMO. You wouldn't build a house without having an architect would you? You certainly wouldn't want the builder to just draw up some quick sketches before he began work, would you? You wouldn't go spend $50K in re-decorating your house without consulting with an interior designer, would you? So why do we [as an industry] go around apologizing for how things should be done? Why do we try to sneak around and try to hide the cost of something into something else? Try to make it seem like it's not a big deal? It is a big deal. We shouldn't be afraid to tell people that if they want a nice landscape or hardscape that they should be willing to spend a little bit of money with a professional designer to make sure that happens. It's an investment worth making. And yes, it is going to cost a little money.

By not hiding your cost and being up front about the cost and necessity of a professional design, I think it raises the bar of professionalism for our industry and also helps you weed out the cheapskates. Because the people who are willing to spend the money up front for a nice professional design without balking at the price - those are the same people who aren't going to balk at the rest of your prices as you get into going over the proposal. Those are the people we should be going after. Leave the people who don't understand this for your competition to deal with.

FoghornLeghorn
10-09-2011, 04:30 PM
Well said, Jim...

SDLandscapes VT
10-09-2011, 04:49 PM
Good points Jim

I can see it from your points and I agree with you that we need to raise the professionalism bar. I don't hide the fees from them--there is an understanding that if I leave from that first meeting and they decide to go with the design that there is an hourly fee for design time--the question then is will I get the money at our next meeting and then see them go shopping or will we get the full install and get the money at our scheduled start. I should add that I do smaller projects--any larger projects because the designs take too much time I refer them on to a LA. I always work with the LA though because many aren't too great with plants and there always is some common sense changing to make sure the client is getting the best product. So few in my market even design (projects in my target area) that when I suggest a design to a client as a measuring tool for project success this plan works well. In the future I will be going to all in front payment--this winter I hope to regroup things a bit and redirect the business a bit.

Thanks for the input

DVS Hardscaper
10-09-2011, 05:17 PM
So many different ways to make money from anything on earth.

In terms of designs, the only method I do not like is where one factors the cost of a design in a job, and leaves it at that. If you do not get the job, you just did a free design.

Like the Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple said "who wants a computer that looks like all the other computers, who wants a computer thats the same color as all the other computers?"

If we all did things exactly the same way - then the business skills are non essencial.

A good example is Wegmens, the grocery store. They have their entire own style of how they operate. This is what makes them successful.

If something is working and working well for SDLANDSCAPES VT, then we can't tell him he's wrong. That would be like the owner of Food Lion telling the owner of Wegmens that they're doing it all wrong!


Now, can we get back to talkin bout the middle easterners????!!!!

,

JimLewis
10-09-2011, 05:43 PM
DVS, You don't have to get all defensive because I spoke out against the way you do things. I'm not saying it's bad for you. It may work pretty well for you and VT and whoever else. I'm just saying there's a BETTER way.

The reason I mention this is because when people are out there giving away free designs, it brings down the industry. It's like the guys in the Lawn Care forum who advertise for mowing for "Just $25.00!" They're hurting the entire industry by offering such cheap deals. And then that forces them to do quick, cheap, mow-blow-go, crappy work. It makes the industry look bad and lessens people's faith in lawn care companies, landscapers, and the like - by doing that. And it makes the rest of us who DON'T charge that little, look unnecessarily expensive - when we really aren't.

The same goes for free designs. It cheapens things. That's all.

Aside from all that - and even if you disagree with everything I said above - you still can't deny that someone who is willing to spend $600-$1500 on a nice, quality design is going to be a MUCH more qualified customer than someone who ISN'T willing to spend that. It's just smarter business to focus on the customers who DON'T have a problem paying good money for a design. Those customers who see the value of a professional design and aren't afraid to put up the money for it are always going to be better customers. And your chances of landing a job for THAT customer is much higher than the cheapskate who doesn't want to spend a few bucks on a design.


.

FoghornLeghorn
10-09-2011, 06:01 PM
Jim, i checked your website out. It looks really good man. You have what looks to be a solid, sustainable operation.

DVS Hardscaper
10-09-2011, 07:59 PM
DVS, You don't have to get all defensive because I spoke out against the way you do things. I'm not saying it's bad for you. It may work pretty well for you and VT and whoever else. I'm just saying there's a BETTER way.

The reason I mention this is because when people are out there giving away free designs, it brings down the industry. It's like the guys in the Lawn Care forum who advertise for mowing for "Just $25.00!" They're hurting the entire industry by offering such cheap deals. And then that forces them to do quick, cheap, mow-blow-go, crappy work. It makes the industry look bad and lessens people's faith in lawn care companies, landscapers, and the like - by doing that. And it makes the rest of us who DON'T charge that little, look unnecessarily expensive - when we really aren't.

The same goes for free designs. It cheapens things. That's all.

Aside from all that - and even if you disagree with everything I said above - you still can't deny that someone who is willing to spend $600-$1500 on a nice, quality design is going to be a MUCH more qualified customer than someone who ISN'T willing to spend that. It's just smarter business to focus on the customers who DON'T have a problem paying good money for a design. Those customers who see the value of a professional design and aren't afraid to put up the money for it are always going to be better customers. And your chances of landing a job for THAT customer is much higher than the cheapskate who doesn't want to spend a few bucks on a design.


.


Jim Buddy, I'm not at all being defensive :) In this topic, I didn't make any mention of how we do design charges. My participation here has been limited to talking about middle easterners and people from the continent of Asia :laugh: I was refraining from talking about design fees, as that's not really what this topic is about :)

I am as anti free design as they get. About 15 minutes of review of my older posts and threads will confirm this.

(although the slow economy has pushed me to do free design after free design after free design)

An observation of mine is many guys in both the lawn and the landscape industry are very close minded about procedures. I often think the contractors, and yes - successful contractors, think there is only one way to operate.

I know a guy fairly new in the residential mowing business. Multi Million dollar company. Mowing lawns for $25. Operating and thriving with procedures completely backwards from typical procedures for most lawn mowing operations. He told me "a lawn contractor said to our local equipment dealer "what does he think he's doing changing how things are done?" Like I always say....how can you argue success? And......he lurks in THIS forum daily, and I do not think he is worried one smidgen of a bit about cheapening the industry :) Did Sam Walton worry about cheapening the retail industry?

My point is I'm intrigued when businesses do things differently, especially when it works very well for them.


Frankly, our designs via an architect are done for a agreed flat fee, we consumers do not like hourly stuff. With 50% paid upfront. Balance paid upon presentation of the concept design. The fee will include one round of revisions. After that - revisions are hourly.

JoeyDipetro
10-09-2011, 09:20 PM
You are if you just do free designs to every customer who you think you might get a job from. I don't care how good of a designer or salesman you are - you're not going to land every job when you do a free design. So how do you recover the cost of doing the design for the ones you don't land?

Same way you recover the costs for other overhead like other salaries, equipment, etc. The cost is built into your hourly charge and you sell enough hours to recover the costs. How do you recover the costs of your equipment for the jobs you don't land? Bottom line, you are not going to be awarded every project for which you provide a proposal, but you need to sell enough to recover overhead whether a designer's salary is included or not.

I came to a job last year. Big job. The customers had a budget of $100,000 and they told me that up front (and apparently every other contractor they'd talked to.) I arrived and - I kid you not - they already had 5 different 'free' designs laid out on their table. Somehow, they had already taken advantage of 5 other contractors and talked them into doing designs for free for them. I almost laughed out loud right in front of them. But fortunately, I kept my composure. They wanted a bid from me and they took me around their landscape and said, "We like this part of this design. And in this area we like the idea they had in this design. Over here
we want to do it like in this design....." And the worst thing was each of these "designs" were all done half-assed. There wasn't one really impressive design in the bunch. You could tell it was just all stuff that someone spent maybe 2-3 hours on, at most.

I had to stop them and say, "Guys. Listen. You did this all wrong. Instead of finding all these contractors who give away free designs and then just whip something out on paper without really giving it much though - you should have hired an independent designer, worked with that designer until you had ONE design that you liked everything on, and THEN called a few contractors and said, "Here's what we want to do. Please provide us with a proposal." Then you're comparing apples to apples. But instead, right now you're all confused. I bet you got bids all over the place in terms of price, didn't you?" They confirmed yes. I said, "Yah, that's because you're comparing apples to oranges. This guy is going to do it totally different than the next guy. And none of them have really taken the time necessary to really plan out a nice back yard for you. That's why you're still looking, isn't it?" I went on to explain how much our designer charges and that I couldn't provide a proposal at all until they hired her to make a nice professional to-scale design that I can go off of. And I left it at that. They never did hire her and I just moved on.

Most of the time, free designs are pretty much worth what the customer pays for them. Most contractors who do 'free' designs don't really spend the same amount of time they would if the customer had paid normal price for a full scale design.



I disagree with that. I guess it may vary from one part of the country to the next. But in our city, there are very very few professional landscape designers that are actually employed full time at a landscape firm. By far, the vast majority of landscape designers around this area are freelance. There are maybe 5 companies in my entire area who have in-house, full-time designers. If you went to a local APLD meeting here and asked everyone to raise their hand if they were freelance, you'd see about 95% of them raising their hands. Most of us use freelance designers and it works out very well that way.

Definitely different from here Jim. There are very few independent landscape designers here. Most work for a firm and are paid a salary + commission. That salary is recovered through overhead. That's not to say one can't charge for a design, but that designer's salary has to be paid regardless of sales, which is why it is recovered in overhead.[/QUOTE]

If a firm can recover a designer's salary through overhead and not charge for that design, that's an advantage and good business, period.

JimLewis
10-09-2011, 09:35 PM
My point is I'm intrigued when businesses do things differently, especially when it works very well for them.

That's the part I take issue with. I'm not sure it "works very well for them." I think it works. That is, it gives them a little bit of a competitive advantage. But I don't think anyone really WANTS to give away free designs. Even you yourself just said, "Although the slow economy has pushed me to do free design after free design after free design.", as if it wasn't something you really wanted to do. It was the only way you could figure out to win more jobs.

It's like giving away a free 6 months of landscape maintenance with every new landscape you install or giving away a free 10' seat wall with every patio. I guess if that's what feel you have to do to land jobs, you could work that into your price for the install or work it into your overhead. But you shouldn't HAVE to do that to win jobs. You shouldn't have to give away freebies in order to win more jobs. Those freebies cost you money. And my point is you'd be way better off spending that money you're wasting on free designs, free whatever... on more advertising. Better advertising. Then you wouldn't have to give away anything to land jobs.

JimLewis
10-09-2011, 09:54 PM
Same way you recover the costs for other overhead like other salaries, equipment, etc. The cost is built into your hourly charge and you sell enough hours to recover the costs. How do you recover the costs of your equipment for the jobs you don't land? Bottom line, you are not going to be awarded every project for which you provide a proposal, but you need to sell enough to recover overhead whether a designer's salary is included or not.

So to do it this way, everyone would hire a landscape designer, pay this person a full salary, and then just raise their prices for every job they land to help account for the extra expense of the designer???

I'm sorry, but that doesn't seem like a wise move. Not only have I tried that before (that was a disaster, and he was an amazing designer (http://www.lewislandscape.com/photos/gallery/albums/Portland-Landscape-Design/aaf.jpg). But I never could recover the salary it was costing me for him to pay him his salary. It lasted about 3 months before we figured out that definitely wasn't working the way we had planned.

But it isn't just me. Several of the larger companies in my area used to have full time designers on staff too. And now, after the recession, there are maybe 4 or 5 in the entire metro area out of literally hundreds of licensed landscape companies who are able to continue to have full time designers on staff. The biggest one in our town (a co. that does over $30Mil a year) used to have 5 of them on staff. Now they have just 2. Many companies I know in town who used to have 2 or 3 designers don't have any on staff these days. I think most of them realized it just wasn't profitable. And I agree.

Definitely different from here Jim. There are very few independent landscape designers here.

Where is "here" ?

Most work for a firm and are paid a salary + commission. That salary is recovered through overhead. That's not to say one can't charge for a design, but that designer's salary has to be paid regardless of sales, which is why it is recovered in overhead. If a firm can recover a designer's salary through overhead and not charge for that design, that's an advantage and good business, period.

I disagree. I think it can be a detriment to them. If anything, the perfect example is the one I gave above. 4 years ago, I'd estimate a good 15-20% of the landscape contractors in the area had in-house designers. Now, less than probably 2% have them on staff. If it was such an advantage to them, they would have kept them all. I'd be curious to see what area of CA you're referring to where all the designers are working for companies. That just seems very atypical to me.

I understand the concept of adding their salary to your overhead. But instead of paying a salary of what? $2500 a month? $3500 a month? With benefits, gas, insurance, cell phones, supplies, worker's comp. and taxes, how much does that really cost you, in total? $4,000? $5,000??? I'd say that most companies would be better off taking that $4,000-$5,000+ in total costs and amping up their advertising a little. Then they wouldn't have to offer freebies to get designs. Because they'd be getting more demand for their services. They could just focus on those customers who are willing to pay for a design and leave the cheapskates who don't want to pay for a design for the competition. That sounds like a more compelling business strategy to me.

JoeyDipetro
10-09-2011, 10:00 PM
Jim, I'll take some time to answer your points of discussion raised in your last post, but are you telling me that all of your design time is paid for in charges to the customer for design?

JimLewis
10-10-2011, 02:59 AM
Ummm....... YAH!!!


.

humble1
10-10-2011, 07:02 AM
These people aren't looking for the best job they want the cheapest job. I might say that because of the lack of a good design plan here is what you have for problems and name them all. With a proper design you would not have these problems. When you build a house you need a bluprint for the first floor in order to build the 2nd floor. Try to put it in perspective for them. Also you don't want every job, just the ones you will make money on
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PaperCutter
10-10-2011, 07:23 AM
Best advice I ever saw was from AGLA (who we don't see much of around here lately) who said "never value getting a job more than the client values getting it done." Those words have saved me a lot of wasted hours and frustration.

DVS Hardscaper
10-10-2011, 07:48 AM
Jim, now I do recall about 10-12 month ago you saying that you do very little design. You stated that you price jobs during the initial
Consultation, print the proposal from your truck and sell on the spot.

Did you change a procedure?


.
Posted via Mobile Device

DVS Hardscaper
10-10-2011, 07:57 AM
Best advice I ever saw was from AGLA (who we don't see much of around here lately) who said "never value getting a job more than the client values getting it done." Those words have saved me a lot of wasted hours and frustration.

That's a good quote.

Makes me think of a classic car. A classic car is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay. Many will view the car as
an old clunker, others will view it as timeless masterpiece.

.
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JimLewis
10-10-2011, 11:19 AM
Jim, now I do recall about 10-12 month ago you saying that you do very little design. You stated that you price jobs during the initial
Consultation, print the proposal from your truck and sell on the spot.

Did you change a procedure?


.
Posted via Mobile Device


Pretty close. We do a lot of design. Not me. The designer that we use. So much so that she doesn't have to ever get any design work from any other companies in the area. We keep her as busy as she can be with designs. She's always working on a few designs for us at any given time of the year.

But you are right, I do 80% of my bids on the spot, out of my truck. That's because a lot of the work I do doesn't require a design. When someone calls to get a French Drain installed, I don't need to have a design done for that. I can just look at the yard, describe to them where the French Drain would go, and write up a proposal. Same thing if someone calls to have a 3-column rock bubbler installed in their front yard. Same for a new irrigation system. We'll walk over the property, discuss the areas of the yard that are going to be covered, where the controller will be, what components they will have, etc. and then write up the bid. Much of the outdoor lighting we do is done without a design as well. If it's a larger project where we already have a design (because we're doing a new lawn, new patio, new plants and trees, etc.) then I'll mark where the lights will go on this design. But if it's just an existing landscape, I can mark out where the lights would go with flags. Takes just 10 minutes.

Even some of the fairly basic paver patios we do don't ever need a design. Customer knows pretty much exactly what shape they want, where the patio will go, and that's all we're doing for them. No need for a design. I can just paint out the general shape with my spray gun.

I will also write bids on the spot for things like; just a new sod lawn, installing a row of arborvitaes, installing a simple paver pathway that goes from the street to the front door, installation of a fairly basic and straightforward retaining wall, fences, landscape clean-ups, most synthetic turf installations, etc.

We use designs when they are needed. In my case, we feel they are needed if:

a) The client wants to totally redo their landscape but has really no idea what they want at all and are looking for direction

b) The client knows pretty much what they want, but there is a lot going on (plants and trees being removed, new plants and trees installed, change shape of lawn, new lawn, remove patio, new patio, seat wall, water feature, lighting, etc.) In that case, I really can't just draw up a proposal. Too many different things going on. I need to see it on paper and the client really needs to see it on paper as well so we're all on the same page.

c) There is a whole lot of planting that needs to be done. I just don't have the time to sit down with my clients and go over my plant photo book and choose which plant will go in each of 150 different areas of their back yard.

d) They live in a neighborhood where the HOA requires a design before approving changes to the landscape (there are a lot of such neighborhoods around here).

Stuff like that. Jobs that are done by following a design are like maybe 30% of the jobs we do. And it's mostly what gets photographed and put up on our website. But another 70% of what we do is just basic landscaping like putting in a French Drain, replacing a sod lawn, installing a new irrigation system, building a straight 50' x 4' SRW, adding lighting to an existing landscape, installing a paver pathway, etc. That doesn't include the 5 maintenance crews that just do weekly maintenance and clean-ups.

shovelracer
10-10-2011, 09:17 PM
With the recession I find it hard to believe that shovel has sold every job he has designed. The national average for sales closures is around 33%.

Oh, and on the Internet EVERYONE says how they're the most expensive contractor!

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Posted via Mobile Device
90% of statistics are made up on the spot.

The recession hit us hard. 4 years ago I had 3 full time crews. When it hit it was like over night. Clients where pulling out all over the place, construction pretty much came to a halt, maintenance items got reduced. It got so bad that I fired everyone and worked for most of 2008 by myself, sold equipment, and was working as much as I could at just about anything I could get. In the end the sales numbers where way down, but my net personal cut was actually quite a bit higher. This made me reevaluate my business completely. First thing that changed when things slowly picked up was employees. I had too many guys that where being overpaid and underproducing. There was quite a bit of drama, and nonsense, I put up with a lot that I shouldn't have. This no longer flies. I now am keeping it small, I get better quality this way. Since 2008 I have gone from trying to get more work to grow, to trying to make sure the work we get and perform is quality. The downside is we have a waiting list that does not always meet the requirements. The growth actual came in a different form. We are already to date 10% past our highest year total with 2 more months to go. Funny thing is I have half the people.

Now what you must know. At least 90% of my customers are return customers, or good referrals and of these my closure rate is about 95% with the 5% not doing the work at all. I typically do less than 10 jobs per year for people that have no ties to us. 90% of our cold calls come in from the internet the other 10% happen to stop us somewhere, see us drive by, or the like. Of all the cold call clients my closure rate is much less than 33%. I would guess 20% at max. Probably closer to 10% if you remove landscape maintenance items like mulch and cleanups.

Now I do very little actual design. Sure we do a lot of "I would put this here, and that there". But actual designs we only do a handful a year. Reason is that it is just not always necessary. Since the majority of our work is known clients of one form or another, most of the time our jobs involve a budget and a contract to perform something and that is it. When it comes to the details of most of our jobs the customers trust us. When we do have a design, we are usually well into the process and we pretty much already have the job. The design is simply used to give the customer a visual aid. So yes, maybe I'm forgetting one or two somewhere, but I can not remember ever doing an actual design and not getting the job. Keep in mind the above.

Now we also tinker with photo imaging. We typically do about 20 a year of these. Our closure rate when using these increases. Most of our cold call closures involve one. Again I do not whip it out right away, but more so use to close the deal.

I am not the most expensive company around. I do not have to be. My overhead is relatively low, and our day to day operation in lean and streamlined, our operating area is small, and our routes are super tight. Even with construction, we typically can roll from one job right in to another cause they are never more than 10 miles apart. Now there is a catch. I have very few competitors. Sure there are a few hundred landscapers in the county, but very few offer what we offer, the way we offer it. This is why I have issues with cold call closures. More than not the cold calls are looking for X and could care less about Y. We lose because we are not given the opportunity to make a difference, we are only competing with pricing. Problem is we have standards. So if you call for a walkway and have 3 prices I might lose because I am the only one that specs fabric and more than a 4" base. Just on this my price becomes off the clients chart. This signals a red flag and most turn away. The closure rate are the ones that listen. Very few apples to apples comparisons. We become the most expensive sometimes because we give you the extra care and the better product. You use hardwood mulch, I use hemlock or cedar. You plant 3 gallons I plant 5 gals. You use a 4" base I use 8". You use $50 /100'roll black pipe I use $7/10' S&D. You install a patio and leave I install a patio and efflo clean it and power wash the house.

JoeyDipetro
10-10-2011, 09:24 PM
Ummm....... YAH!!!


.

What's the difference if it's paid for by THE customer or by all of your customers for a given year?

Are you saying that you would not recover a designer's salary in overhead if it was possible?

JimLewis
10-10-2011, 09:42 PM
No. I'm not saying that necessarily. I'm just saying I've tried that and it didn't work. And dozens of others in my area tried that and didn't work for them either.

My designer charges $50 an hour. I'd either have to raise my prices quite a bit [to cover her salary] or she'd have to take a big cut in what she's currently getting in order for me to be able to even think about affording to hire her on the payroll. Besides, I just don't see the reason. It works just fine like it is. I find a decent percentage of people are happy to pay for a designer. Just got 2 new designs started just this week. And the ones who aren't willing to invest the money into design, I am happy to let them go to the competition. Because customers that are willing to invest a decent chunk of change toward a design are better customers. And those are the ones I want.

JimLewis
10-10-2011, 10:00 PM
Shovelracer,

Sounds like you got a great operation going there. If 90% of your clients are either previous customers or referrals, that's awesome! And I could see where you land a high percentage of jobs that way and where it would make sense to offer a design when you are relatively sure you already got the job. Sounds like you do great work. I'd love to see some of it. Can you PM me with a link to a website or portfolio?

I believe you probably do land most of your bids, if that's where you're getting all your new leads. I have a friend in ID who owns probably the largest residential landscape co. in the state and he does it the same as you do. He and I have been close friends for years and he lands about 90-95% of his bids as well. Unfortunately, though, his volume has gone WAY down over the past few years, because he doesn't advertise much and just relies more on previous customers and referrals. He tells me he's become a lot less picky lately who he gives bids too.

We don't land anywhere near 95%. It all depends on the time of year. In the late spring / early summer I'd say I probably land 40%. Overall, throughout the year, it's probably more like 33% - like DVS said. But that's fine because we give a LOT of bids. I advertise a lot so we get a ton of requests for work from new customers who didn't come from a referral and weren't a previous customer. It's helped us move a lot more volume and allows us to be a little more picky and charge more too. But it means we have to work a little harder and give more bids. Overall, though, it's worked out really well.

Anyway, Sorry to take your thread off track. My comments about not giving away free designs are just in-general. As a general rule, for companies who are giving away free designs to the general public (whoever calls, wanting a quote for a landscape), I think that's bad practice, for all the reasons I stated. But there are exceptions to every rule. I think yours is a good example.

shovelracer
10-11-2011, 08:23 PM
Did I say I land 95%? I did not go back and check. The result of what I intended should be as follows. The following is with reference to construction. Our maintenance operation only takes on new work if there is room from someone moving, or it is extremely profitable and fits our liking. So our maintenance is almost purely known customers. I may do 120 install estimates a season. Of those 40 are known customers or referrals, and 80 are cold calls. Of the 40 known I land at least 38, and of the 80 I am lucky to get 5. Of those 80 on half we both know that it will not work because they drop key words in the first 2 minutes. Of the last 40 we get into the pricing stage. 20 never return contact or follow ups, 10 tell me they found someone cheaper, and 5 decide to hold off at the last minute. The last 5 we install. Interesting enough of all the estimates I go on an do not get I would say less than 5 actually are done by another company, and only maybe 10 are done at all by likely themselves or maybe a company that does really bad work.

shovelracer
10-11-2011, 10:20 PM
Here you go I uploaded our most recent portfolio video. Unfortunately I suffer from the not taking enough pictures after the event sickness. I take lots during the builds just for protection though. I have a few others from this year not in there. I do not throw my pictures around any more cause I was finding my proprietary info, pictures, and website info copied, but if anyone wants to see something specific I will send it to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ-KEKoRjzY

DVS Hardscaper
10-11-2011, 10:22 PM
Jim Lewis:

WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT USING THER TERM "BID"?????

that just cost you 50 laps around your house. Get Going


,

jshilan
10-11-2011, 11:05 PM
DVS, have I actually found someone else who recognizes the fact that as an industry we use the term "bid" incorrectly? That most of the time we are not bidding against each other but creating different designs for different prices. That by incorrectly calling estimates bids, we confuse the homeowners even more by having them believe that they are comparing apples to apples?

Could it be?

JimLewis
10-12-2011, 12:07 AM
Jim Lewis:

WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT USING THER TERM "BID"?????

that just cost you 50 laps around your house. Get Going


,

I know....I know..... :o

I'm trying to stop. You'll notice I used the term "Proposal" a whole lot more than I used the term "bid" throughout this thread. But I still slip up once in a while. It's like cussing. Once you've done it for so long, it's hard to just stop 100% cold turkey. Sometimes you just slip!

I'm starting my 50 laps now..... :walking:

JimLewis
10-12-2011, 12:12 AM
Nice work, shovelracer. Although you need to take much higher definition photos. Photos are really key. Get a really nice D-SLR Camera and take lots of photos from lots of different angles every time you finish a job.

At about 0:54 in that video, there is a paver pathway leading up to a landing by a door. The steps are made of some sort of chiseled stone or faux stone product. What is that? I love it. But it almost looks too perfect to be real stone. Regardless, it looks awesome. I wish I had something like that available around here.

DVS Hardscaper
10-12-2011, 07:31 AM
DVS, have I actually found someone else who recognizes the fact that as an industry we use the term "bid" incorrectly? That most of the time we are not bidding against each other but creating different designs for different prices. That by incorrectly calling estimates bids, we confuse the homeowners even more by having them believe that they are comparing apples to apples?

Could it be?

I hate the word "bid". I received this e-mail yesterday. The e-mail didn't get to me or surprise me, but the word bid did!

"Andrew, I am sorry for the continual delays.

I am sorry to say that we have decided to use another contractor to finish our patio. Although you were overall competitive, we were able to find a less expensive alternative without sacrificing quality. As FYI, your bid was roughly 15-20% higher for similar product.

I do thank you for your time and will certainly recommend you to anyone I know looking to install a patio.

Regards,

Aaron"

Bru75
10-12-2011, 08:48 AM
I hate the word "bid". I received this e-mail yesterday. The e-mail didn't get to me or surprise me, but the word bid did!

"Andrew, I am sorry for the continual delays.

I am sorry to say that we have decided to use another contractor to finish our patio. Although you were overall competitive, we were able to find a less expensive alternative without sacrificing quality. As FYI, your bid was roughly 15-20% higher for similar product.

I do thank you for your time and will certainly recommend you to anyone I know looking to install a patio.

Regards,

Aaron"


So good ol' Aaron picked somebody else, but is going to recommend you in the future?
Seems to be happening to you a lot lately.
Just pickin' on you DVS.
Seriously though, I'd like to know if the "less expensive alternative" really is a "similar product".
I agree completely with the word "bid" issue. This aint an auction.

JimLewis
10-12-2011, 10:33 AM
I get those emails too. It's funny. That's almost verbatim what I got from a few clients this year. Funny how they use a lot of the same language / same exact response even though we're clear across the country from each other.

It's just part of the game. These days, especially, there's a lot more competition. Thankfully, we're able to put a lot of proposals out so for most of the year, I'm not really concerned about it anyway. It's just a numbers game. If I don't land that one, I'll land another one. Always happens. And the way I look at it, my competitors can stay busy doing work for 15-20% less and I'll still stay busy doing work for 15-20% more. (Actually, it's even a little more than that, often times.) So that's fine. Let my competitors get the cheapskates.

The thing is; I really hate getting those emails though. 95% of the time, if we didn't get the job, the customer never bothers to call or email back at all. Which is fine by me. I understand we aren't going to land them all and if I haven't heard back, after a little while I've moved my attention on to someone else already anyway. So to get some annoying email that is basically saying, "Sorry. We didn't chose you. Someone else was cheaper and all we care about is price." isn't really helpful. I'd rather just not hear from them at all, honestly. It's almost like they're subtly trying to rub it in and let me know that I'm overpriced, as if that's going to make me lower my prices in the future or something.

shovelracer
10-12-2011, 07:30 PM
Jim, they are concrete. A local manufacture. Similar to Rocka steps, but they come in longer lengths. I am torn on them. We have not been using them long enough to see how they hold up to winter abuse. I am hesitant to use them unless the client is persistent. Our no questions hardscape warranty is 5 years, but I do not offer the warranty on those steps, well at least degradation. I agree on the camera, I had killed 2 nicer cameras in the last few years, but my ancient 3 megapixel has been rained on, dropped, subjected to 100* days on the truck dashboard, and left in the truck for weeks at a time in zero degree January and still keeps on ticking. I'm a sucker for staying up all night to get a black friday deal so maybe this will be the year. Actually it is not the deals so much as I can afford most things I want, it is more about watching all the interesting things that happen at 3am while standing outside a store in the cold.

For kicks here's this weeks project to show a change from the concrete world.

DVS Hardscaper
10-12-2011, 10:41 PM
shobel, that very nice that they set out lemon aid for you!

shovelracer
10-13-2011, 06:33 AM
Both families were very nice. The first one was done on the hottest week of the year. I used to always refuse customer appreciation gestures, but someone pointed that it could be interpreted as rude so I at least accept them now, even if it is a warm diet coke. Wish it wasn't in the picture though.

JimLewis
10-13-2011, 12:42 PM
I used to always refuse customer appreciation gestures, but someone pointed that it could be interpreted as rude so I at least accept them now, even if it is a warm diet coke.

You're right about that. I remember I had that same epiphany a year or two ago. I think I may have actually read it in one of the sales books I was reading at the time. But I get offered stuff every day, while I'm out meeting with clients. And like you, usually I turn them down. I already have everything I need in my truck. But then I realized that I really should be accepting people's nice gestures / offers like that. If nothing else, it enhances the relationship if you can sit and talk over a cup of coffee or water or whatever. And sales is all about relationships. So why not take advantage of the opportunity, let them feel like they have helped you out and take a minute to get to know each other better? It only makes sense. So I started doing that a lot more this year. I've endured nasty totally black coffee (I like mine with cream and sweetener). I've endured warm water. Warm soda pop. Whatever it took. I think psychologically it deepens the relationship a little if the customer can feel like they are catering to you a little bit.

JimLewis
10-17-2011, 01:08 PM
Back on the subject of free designs for a minute, I came across an excellent article by Jody Shilan, who is renowned in our industry as one of the most experienced landscape contractors / architects in the nation as well as a keynote speaker at various industry organization meetings and a freelance writer for several of the main landscape journals. His article was EXACTLY what we were discussing here in this thread. It's from the Sept., 2011 issue of "Landscape Management" magazine. Excellent article. Just thought I should post it because it is relative to the conversation we've been having in this thread.

http://www.landscapemgmt-digital.com/landscapemgmt/201109?pg=46#pg46


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shovelracer
10-17-2011, 07:15 PM
Good stuff, I must have missed that issue some how. I agree with that 100%