Getting Commercial accounts, without commercial references This article was put together thanks to Richard Murphy of Landmark Design LTD, Matt Ruesch of Matthews Lawn Service, Mark Witcher of Specialty Lawn Care, Andrew Harrigan of NV Lawn Specialists, Dan J. of Mastercare Lawnscape, and Jason Hisch, the president of Groundskeeper Turf Mgt. Inc.. Thank you for all your insight. When you know that property is out for tender, bid on it and show interest, let them know a five year plan, and how you can improve the current landscape, even just by implementing a weed control and fertilizing program. Property managers don't rely on experience (most of the time) they want someone that can adapt to their ways. You might be working for the property manager, but they are working for hundreds of people, at just one address. Matt Ruesch of Matthews Lawn Service suggested to get your start with small commercial properties. If you have any friends, relatives that work at a small commercial building see if you can get some kind of reference to do the job. I was also asked about references from commercial properties when all I had was residential. I told them I have been doing it for a while, worked for other companies servicing commercial, and have just started out on my own. Gave them the choice to sign a two week agreement so they can get a feel for the kind of work I do before being committed to a full year. Take pictures of bigger residential jobs and show them to potential commercial jobs. I guess just sell yourself, show confidence that you can perform good quality work. Mark Witcher of Specialty Lawn Care said From my own experience I have found that most larger clients want someone with a proven background in large properties. As stated by others, you need to start with the smaller commercial properties and build a client base and resume. My company specializes in large retail complexes and apartment complexes now. But we didnt start there. We first did banks, restaurants, retail stores and similar sites that were under 1 acre in size. You just cant expect an owner to hand over a contract for services worth $30,000 or higher to someone who has never done anything larger than a $50 lawn cut. They want to be sure that the contractor will have the experience, manpower and equipment to handle a job of this size. We all have to start at the bottom and work our way up. Andrew Harrigan of NV Lawn Specialists And to expand on what Mark said, you can get your foot in the door with the "low-end" commercials by knowing your residential customers a bit. Odds are you have customers on their HOA board, customers that are in decision-making roles at their jobs, customers that are also business owners. If you let them know you're looking to get into the commercial market, they might be more than happy to give you a shot. Dan J. of Mastercare Lawnscape located in Shelby Twp., MI added Not trying to be redundant, but start smaller first has been the advice. How do you do that? 1. Networking. This is a scary term for some, but it means that you use every contact you can think of to get a job! If you have friends or family, you have a job that's yours for the asking. My brother works in the offices of a machine shop. I just asked him to see if his boss would accept a bid. Now I'm cutting the lawn. Who cuts the grass where your family works? Are they part of a HOA? Kid brother who waits tables at a local restaurant? The guy who cuts your hair? The gas station near your house? Does your accountant have an office building? Your dentist? The list is endless. IF you start writing a list of contacts you know, and where they work (small places are best) you'll come up with an impressive list of opportunities. Very few small companies will turn down the offer for you to submit a bid. What do they have to lose? 2. Once you get a handful of these jobs and prove yourself. Contact the decision-maker and ask if they've been happy with their service. I assume the answer will be yes. Then all you need to do is thank them for their business and ask if it'd be okay to list them as a reference. Why would anyone say no? Now you have experience and references. 3. Now you go into an industrial park with tons of small businesses. Some small, some large. Send a letter addressed to "maintenance dept." Even if they don't have one, they'll get it to the right person. Simply send them a letter describing your company and services. Tell them you'll be in the area next season, and may I submit a bid. Put a tear-off on the letter where they can answer "Yes, please submit a bid....and give a place for name and phone." And, put the box there for them to check off "No, we're not interested in looking for a better service provider at this time." Most people like me hate cold calling. You'll get plenty of people willing to accept a bid. It might cost you a few bucks in postage (I would include return envelope). But, lawn care is usually last on the business owners mind. Don't ask for a phone conversation or face to face quite yet. They have other things to attend to. The letter is not an "in your face sales pitch" and leaves an opportunity to say no. People will be interested from your letter, and they'll give you a name and number to call. This prevents you from wasting time getting by secretaries, and harassing people who don't want to talk. There's plenty of work out there....go after those who want to talk with you! Jason Hisch, the president of Groundskeeper Turf Mgt. Inc., told us In order to sell large commercial accounts or what we call (HVCP) meaning Highly Visible Commercial Properties. First, you need a photo on a postcard displaying your equipment line (fleet of mowing equipment) along with your employee's and a bit of info about your company. Second, you need to follow up and follow up. Touch base and re-touch base. (litter the city with your signs) Dont be afraid to continue to call upon them year after year. It usually takes six times of talking with someone before they are willing to meet with you. Third, know your stuff, meaning your Industry. Just a little bit of Turf grass knowledge will put you leaps and bounds above the common competitor. Lastly, become full service, these type of clients need someone with extensive knowledge in areas of sprinkler systems, lawn Care, shrubbery work, and Lawn maintenance and snow plowing. If you dont or cant provide these services get there, because if these clients are your hope for the future then you need the above skills. Also, I disagree about working your way up through the ranks. Yes, that is the common place, but Lebron James's exist in Lawn Care also. Wow! Now that is some amazingly insightful information for those who are making the jump from servicing residential properties to commercial. By taking this powerful information from these business owners in the know, you can get your company to break out of this catch-22. Good luck to you and let us know if this article helped. Remember, you can make it happen. Dream it, build it, Gopher it!