Getting in with builders

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by ChestnutOaks, Nov 5, 2005.

  1. ChestnutOaks

    ChestnutOaks LawnSite Member
    Posts: 32

    OK, my dad started our company about 3 years ago and has built the maint. portion into a 45 account high end business. I like doing installation more than the maint., and have some jobs here and there, but not enough to stay steadily busy on my own. I've been driving around to jobsites and new construction talking to builders and contractors, also calling some, but it seems like all of them have a landscaper that they use and "have used for years." or something similar. Whats the best way to get in with some builders to keep steady business and grow larger? I know all it will take is a job or two and it will start snowballing, just like the maint. did. Good job, fair price, and done right and on time works every time. I know just getting my name out there is key, but if you guys have any opinions on what I can do different just to get the first few up and going. Thanks

    Brian with Chestnut Oaks
     
  2. justanotherlawnguy

    justanotherlawnguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,251

    Dont even bother with new home builders. They simply use the lowest bidder, so you need some serious volume to make up for it. Here in FL, communities are popping up everywhere. IN fact I read an article today in the paper, that the last commercial citrus grove in pinellas county is selling out to a developer. IT is sick the amount of building going on here.

    I checked on it a few years ago, and it was like you said, they all have someone that they have used for years.

    To even compete you would need a fleet of trucks, a small mexican village, and a nursery to buy all of your green stuff at below wholesale prices.
     
  3. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,899

    First you have to get some jobs under your belt something to show in pictures or to drive by and see. Almost all jobs look good right after install so they will want to see something two to three years old, they also want to see stability so if you did a job three years ago and it has developed well and you are still around you have cleared a couple of hurdles. Try just doing some renovations to get started there is less competition. Your maint co. is a good start when a new client calls for a bid do a Landscape Evaluation show them what could be changed to enhance the property, just doing a job in a neighborhood generates interest you may attract more work that way. Also be careful what you wish for most builders are the worst payers if they pay at all. One still owes me $60,000 from 1998. I know a local builder that put many a L/S contractor out of business through the 80's Toll Brothers bought the company. I liked doing work for good Landscape Architects most are not married to just one contractor, they need to present a few to bid the work. Say nice things and don't make them look stupid and always get your bids in on time or early. When they make mistakes, and they will help them out, ego never paid any bills. Look to magazines, Southern Living, House and Home, Sunset etc. with architects that work in your area, put together a portfolio to show them. Take whatever scraps they give you and run with them, after they see you do good work and are dependable you know the rest. If your father is already doing high end maint find out who the architect's were at some of the homes. Send them some Pic's let them know how well the garden is developing, what a good job they did, how you enjoy taking care of a well thought out garden and how easy it makes pop's job. Many architects do a design and someone installs it and then the client gets a bad maint co and it goes to he!! then 3-4 years later they call the architect and ask for help to fix it. Those jobs rarely go out to bid they are small but good profit, pop's gets a new account and you are laying a foundation for a solid LCO. Be careful what you wish for. I kinda went astray on the builder thing but theycan be real bad news. There is always that carrot, the next big job, don't fall for it.
     
  4. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,749

    A volume builder wants to see someone who can get in on short notice and bang out whatever part of the job needs to be done at that point and on an efficient budget.

    In order to match up to that, you have to have experience working around other trades and their schedules, you have to have enough men and equipment to respond quickly, and the management of the men and equipment to be efficient. This goes back to what the other two guys said. Builders want demonstrated efficiency, low cost, big crews, and a track record that makes them comfortable that you will be able to resond to unforseen problems.

    This is a job for bigger companies who are very good at managing people. That is a small percentage of landscape companies. Volume business is a tricky thing in the landscape business. Most of these are owned and operated by businessmen who chose the landscape industry as their medium rather than landscapers who found a niche. It is a whole different animal than what most hands on guys are used to.

    You have Four mowers, two loaders, and three trucks. The puzzling thing to me is that you are equiped to run two full time maintenance crews and at least one full time construction crew, yet you have only 45 maintenance accounts and time on your hands.

    You are fully equiped for maintenance and should first concentrate on maxing out your maintenance crew, so that it can run itself at a higher profit. When starting the business from maintenance, the thing that you have to understand is that your maintenance business is your first and strongest marketing media. Upselling to your accounts is one part of it, them talking to their friends is another, and your trucks are seen all over town over and over again (I hope they are well signed) which results in familiarity and then phone calls.

    More landscapers strangle themselves by trying to offer too many services too quickly. This builds up overhead and leaves you and your workers changing gears all of the time. You always have to remember that you are paying for your equipment with only the money it makes when it is working. That means that if you have $30k in maintenance equipment and it works 20 hours a week for 30 weeks a year and lasts four years, it costs you $12.50 per hour. If it works 40 hours, you pocket $6.25 more per hour without doing anything. Imagine how much it costs you for those two loaders per hour and how much you could be pocketing there if they were full time, or if you were not paying them to sit still now.
     
  5. Green-Pro

    Green-Pro LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,420

    I got hooked up with a builder in a very high end sub division in the town I service and so far it has been great for me. The thing is our relationship is more along the lines of him refering my company to the homeowner. This has worked out pretty well in that I go in, talk to homeowners, put togethor bid, demo, etc. do the job and they pay not him. The last job I did was for 17K, and I've got a couple more to squeeze in before the nasty weather sets in, btw, these are for hardscapes. We have prepped ground and seeded, installed plants, etc. I know what others say about contractors being poor payers and this is true most of the time I'm sure. The way we work it with me dealing direct with the homeowner seems to work out the best, plus in the end we usually pick up another high end lawn maintenance client out of the deal.

    I would just keep after the builders you have approached, I've found they may use more than one contractor for the same services at many places. So if you hook up with a contractor, I wouldn't count on being the exclusive landscaper, but still busy.

    Good luck

    G-P
     
  6. ChestnutOaks

    ChestnutOaks LawnSite Member
    Posts: 32

    I appreciate the replies guys! I have definitely heard the horror stories of builders not paying before, and kind of have a good idea of some of the ones around here to talk to/not to talk to, but there's so many its impossible to know all of them. I brother-in-law is an electrician, and he's also putting the word in to reputable builders, and I met with one the other day that may be the first big step hopefully. Yes, our trucks are lettered up as you can see. As for having more equip. than we probably need, I probably agree, but we are the kind that it's going to be top of the line, and kept in excellent condition, and thats how we get/keep the accounts that we have. A lot of people say "i have 65 accounts" or something, but you go look at some of the yards and you have a look around for good grass to cut, and its just crappy stuff. I understand that SOMEONE has to do that work, but thats not our company. Only high-end maint. here. For the other equip., we would rather buy the machine rather than having to rent it many, many times and still have nothing to show for it. It costs more now, but saves on rental, and you dont have to worry whether or not you will be able to get one that day.

    check the pics for our trucks and some of our equip. - this one on a sunday so no amigo there. :D

    CO Flyer 010 (Custom).jpg

    Trade Show 001 (Custom) (2).jpg
     
  7. ChestnutOaks

    ChestnutOaks LawnSite Member
    Posts: 32

    Also, a few pics of the some of the yards we do. The 3rd picture down will be in the Walker 2006 calender; the customer has an 8 or 9 hole (cant rem.) golf course.

    CO Flyer 002 (Custom).jpg

    CO Flyer 004 (Custom).jpg

    Walker Grass Photos 006 (Custom).jpg
     
  8. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    Easiest way to work for a builder or get your foot in the door is to offer to do the work and not to get paid until he closes the sale of the home.
    Its a win - win situation if you have the capital to invest for a few months to yrs depending on the builder and the prodject.
    The builder gets a finished home to sell and will make a large % off your work and you get to charge a little more becoase your "floating" the builder a loan on the work.
     
  9. slicksilverado01

    slicksilverado01 LawnSite Member
    from Ohio
    Posts: 173

    that wouldnt be good for someone who is starting out. what if it took the builder 3-4 years to sell? but I know what you are saying and you will def get more work that way. I have two builders they build about 4 houses a year each and they pay up when I finish. I have 4 other builders that build 5 homes a year that pay me as soon as they get a down payment on the house. all the builders I landscape for build spec homes.
     
  10. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,945

    If you saw some recent posts, you may know I spent a few weeks with a landscape company that works for builders. Not the highest range of homes, like custom, but slightly higher than upper middle class.

    What a miserable environment. It's production work alright. And even if it was all done just right horticulturally, the environment is the pits.

    Traffic, rebar laying around, trash left for the landscapers to clean-up, outhouses, congested parking, foul-mouthed workers. It's a sorry, sorry environment to choose.

    If you try to get in with a builder, I'd say to look for custom home work in a better setting.

    Too many landscapers advance their pay scale out of desperation for advancement instead of aspiration for professionalism.
     

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