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How to Choose a LCO

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by jojo7, Jan 31, 2004.

  1. jojo7

    jojo7 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 3

    First I would like to thank all of you for the very valuable information and eduction I have received from everyone here since I discovered this site yesterday. I have read all the way back to the beginning on this thread and a bunch on others.

    My husband and I have used Professional LCO for the past 3 years out of the 4 we have now lived in this house plus the previous 2 years in another house. We have been through 3 different major named companys and very dissatisfied with all.

    You all have taught me that some of the blame is ours, for unrealistic expectations, coming from lack of lawn care knowledge.
    BUT...you've also taught me that alot of the blame also lies with our choice of big name companys.

    We choose to use a Professional LCO because of time constriants but more importantly......because they are suppose to have the experience and or knowledge to do it right! I don't like or understand the use of chemicals. I want to have a nice yard but I also don't want to have one at the expense of my health (not that your health is unimportant, but you know how to use them) or damage to the environment because of my lack of knowledge....I suck at math, those numbers make no sence to me. Let me hire some one that does.

    This yard was gorgeous when we moved in 4 years ago and looks like crap now (previous homeowner took care of it). It was some sort of fescus, very thick and lush looking. This year it looks worse then it ever has, tons of crab grass, bermuda's creeping in, and very weak looking. How can you go from a beautiful yard to this in 4 years! What am I paying you for? Your suppose to be the expert? What the hell are those pre-emergents I'm paying you for...or are you even using them? Why is my ph at 5.0 when you just limed in October!

    So anyway enough ranting. I am now in the process of deciding on yet another LOC and am going to hire a smaller local independent owner.

    So my question to all you pros out there is how to decide who to hire. What questions should I ask?

    My first guy came by today, these are some of the things I asked.

    I already knew how long he's been in business (from his ad, about 20 )

    What product does he use and for how long. (Vita-Care)

    And Estimates.

    I did not ask about license, figured after 20 he has them. Maybe wrong?

    I know I should also ask for references but this seems almost silly to me... I mean really, are they going to give me someone's name who doesn't like them? What good is that really? The only people in our neighborhood who has a nicer yard then ours use to be, are the people who had the time, knowledge, and willingness to do it themselves. We Don't.

    I don't mind paying for quality...within reason...and am more then willing to pay a fair price for services rendered. BUT..I hate constantly feeling like I'm getting ripped off.

    These are reasons why I would hire you and keep you.

    1. Performance/Quality of work


    3.Reliability/Dependability (hard to come by in all aspects of home ownership)

    4. Communication. Please tell me in English and in terms I understand as a homeowner what you need me to do on my part!
    Remember...I don't have your knowledge, and I don't get half of what your talking about....I'm just pretending to, to not look stupid...which I am. I really don't know how to correctly water one inch a week! You need to make sure I do.

    5.Cost. I have had just as much bad experience with high cost help versus low cost, so that really is not telling to me. I have no problem paying for services rendered, but also totally don't agree with the "you get what you pay for crowd". From experience that's not always true.

    To end this, I've learned here that I guess we should give whoever I hire at least 2 years to prove themselves to me.

    Is their some way we can tell they are doing what they are suppose to be doing in that time without having to babysit?

    Please tell me how to hire those of you who take pride and care in your work. All others need not apply.

    Thank you reading...and thank you for the time taken to help all of us homeowners who can be your banes.

    J. Creek
  2. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,697

    What an interesing thread from a perspective that a lot of us take for granted. I would start by asking your local Chamber of Commerce for recommendations. Also, ask the LCO for affiliations with professional organizations that relate to the Green Industry - there are many of them. Ask for their education background. You can ask for a list of some of the properties that the LCO is servicing and check them out.

    I don't think that you are asking too much. Improvement should be noticable in less than 1 season. A soil test is key. I've improved properties in a month or two. There are exceptions to this, but a knowledgeable LCO should be able to clearly explain this to you, along with a time frame for improvement. It will be interesting to hear what others say.
  3. SodKing

    SodKing LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,648

    I would have to say I mostly agree with Mike. Except for the part about the Chamber of Commerce. They are a basically a pay for advertising agency much like the BBB. If you pay for the membership they will recommend you regardless of your qualifications.

    The education of the owner of the company and individual treating the lawn are key. You will know how good they are by their initial recommendations. First should be a soil test, and from the sounds of it an aeration is needed. I would also ask about the products they are using. Do the rotate different control products year to year. You can get a general thinning of the lawn from using too much pendimethelin (Pre-emergent crabgrass control). You can also develop pesticide tolerance by some pests to control products.

    And finally ask for references. No they won't send you to their worst property but they can show you what they are capable of.
  4. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    I'll agree with the other 2 post above and add that I think Your on your way to seeing improvement . I would add that you need to stick with a small operation that does have 20 or more ys. in the business like the guy that you just talked to. You can't be in this business that long and make a living if you are providing a poor service. Make sure that the owners going to be at your house, not everytime but he should be meeting with you at least once a month to go over any concerns you have. Also I would suggest that you ask for written instuctions for the care you are paying for. I give written instuctions and a cheap but effective rain gauge when I give watering instuctions, if I use a chemical and you are to stay off I will give you written instuctions on why it was used and the time that it would be safe or be ok for you to go into or come in contacct with the treated area, not the general stay off for 24 hrs but it will be safe for you for you to be in the area at 7:30 am wed. the 23. I would ask for references but you have to remember we can't do it alone we need you the home owners help and if you don't do your part I.E. watering as your instructed the result will not be up to the full potential, so when you check on those references please remember that some customers won't or don't relize this is a partnership and some customers expect and pay more for services and no 2 property are the same. Give an LCO a few months, he should be taking before and after pictures and when he meets with you ask to see the results on the photos. I have found that when something takes time to change you may not notice it. Kinda like watching children grow when you see them everyday you don't notice that they grew a couple of inches that yr, but you pull out a photo of them and you will notice that toy the sat on is now way to small LOL. But a good lco can and will point out on the photos and you will see it as he points out the improvements that have been made. Hope this helps

  5. Critical Care

    Critical Care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,654

    Jojo, your situation unfortunately happens all too often. Let me say what I believe has happened to the "green industry" that has amplified this problem.

    Landscape companies often hire inexperienced employees to work in their lawn maintenance departments. The reason for this is of a preconcieved idea that lawn maintenance is a no-brainer. Too many people do not want to pay professional rates for a service they think a child could do, and therefore since it is hard for companies to charge professional rates, they then pay their employees non-professional wages. Non-professional wages attract non-professional workers.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that a great number of lawn care services concentrate on knocking out as many accounts as possible per day. They purposely shy away from work other than mowing, edging, and trimming, because two mowing jobs knocked off in one hour at $30 a piece is better than one "full maintenance" job at a $40 per hour rate. Not every LCO operates this way, as myself.

    How to decide who to hire? Perhaps you could take a drive through some nice Knowville areas and spy out a few of the better landscaping jobs. If you're lucky you may catch some crews working. I'd watch them, checking to see if they are doing more than just the basics. Also, if you see a very nicely maintained place don't be afraid to ask the owners who their landscapers are. Or, better yet, have your husband knock on the door and ask!

    Good luck.
  6. walshdevo10

    walshdevo10 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 57

    Excellent comments JoJo!!! As the others have said, I agree with nearly all the prior recomendations, except the one that says stick with someone with 20yrs experience. That, obviously, shouldn't be a prerequisite to hire someone. There are many out there that will meet your expectations that have even 1 or 2 yrs experience. Granted, with 20yrs, that should be a great indicator, but I know of LCO's with 15 to 20 yrs and have just slid through. Ask potential LCO's how many accounts they have. Then notice how many employee's they have. If it is just them or 1 to 2 employees, relate that to the amount of accounts. If they have alot of accounts, this is usually a sign that their quality will suffer because they will end up rushing. Remember, a motto of a quality LCO is "Quality not Quanity". Good Luck...Jim
  7. PLI1

    PLI1 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 254

    Are there any homes in your neighborhood whos lawn looks great that you know is maintained by a LCO? If so knock on their door or stop by if you see them outside and ask who does it. This way you are getting an honest opinion from a fellow customer like yourself, not a handpicked list of people from a LCO that like you said will not say anything bad about them.

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