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ICPI a waste of time?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by cgland, Jan 3, 2005.

  1. cgland

    cgland LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,929

    Now that I have your attention! Do you guys find that you loose alot of jobs to non-certified installers? I preach to my customers the advantages of ICPI and any other certifying body, but the almighty dollar wins out. What are your experiences with this type of "the lower price gets it no matter what" attitude? Just frustrated is all. I lost 3 big jobs this week to uncertified lco's by a total of $1,150. :realmad:

  2. mbella

    mbella LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    Chris, I lose a lot of jobs, but I'm not sure if it is to uncertified or certified installers. I know that it is usually to someone cheaper. In all honesty, ICPI certification, in itself, doesn't mean that much to me. It's a start in the right direction, but it doesn't mean that a contractor actually does a good job. It simply means that they have the basic knowledge and have passed a written test.

    I place more value on ICPI certification coupled with a program like EP Henry's Authorized Contractor Program. As you know, you have to be ICPI certified in order to qualify. In addition, there is actually an inspection of your work. I'm not sure how your certification was, but they inspected three of my jobs. They inspected one after the base was installed and at completion. They inspected the others after they were completed. Also, as you know, you have to prove you have insurance.

    As consumers in our area become aware of the program I think we will start to see more and more people expect this. At least when selling the fact that you are certified you can touch on the fact that some of your projects were inspected. Also, most in our area have heard of EP Henry. How many know what ICPI is.

    In no way am I trying to undermine ICPI. Like I said, I think it's a great start.
  3. mbella

    mbella LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    I'm not trying to monopolize your thread, but I have a crying baby here that doesn't want to sleep and a wife that does. So here I am, holding the baby and reading lawnsite.

    Anyway, one thing that has bothered me is the fact that, in their catalog, EP Henry promotes the Authorized Contractor Program and how they make "huge investments" in contractor training (which they do). In the same catalog, they salute the "do it yourselfer" and provide pictures and quotes from homeowners that "did it themselves." One quote reads, "The product is very easy to install." The other, "The directions that you provided in your catalog made the installation very easy and fast."

    I know that their bottom line is sales. They want to sell to me to you and to homeowners, but give me a break. My point is, if I'm the average homeowner and I read those quotes, I'm thinking "who the hell needs ICPI or any other certification." It says right here that it's fast and easy. Even if I'm not thinking that, I'm at least looking at you funny while you're trying to explain how you use fabric and it takes time and why you're a thousand dollars more than the other guy, etc.

    I spoke with one of the CONSERV (EP Henry's contractor support ) reps about this once and he agreed with me. They oversimplify installation and, in doing so, undermine the required skills to do a quality install. He went on to tell me how a lot of his time is spent explaining to homeowners what it was that they did wrong when doing-it-themselves.

    I still think it's a great program. I just don't like the contradiction.
  4. cgland

    cgland LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,929

    Yeah! I know it's a great program, but for the same exact reasons you mentioned, it is frustrating. When I follow up with customers I always ask who they chose and what the final price was (for my records, of course :realmad: ) I know who is certified in my area, but you are right. The certified companies around here still suck. I see some awful stuff and it makes me sick that these guys ARE certified. I definately value the EP Henry Authorization more because they do check on projects. They checked on 3 of ours at different points. I guess I'm just venting, because certification or not there is only one company that can hold a candle to our quality and they are way more expensive......I guess it's time to raise my prices LOL

  5. mbella

    mbella LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    Chris, I've learned that what homeowners consider quality and what you or I may consider quality are usually two different things. We just finished a driveway/walkway for a retired engineer. When we started the project, he asked me if I minded if he watched. I didn't mine, so I told him that was fine. He watched everything we did, for two weeks (literally). I must admit that at times it slowed us down and was somewhat annoying. However, I must add that I appreciated his interest, his understanding of the process and his appreciation for our attention to the details. He would've known if something wasn't right, but how rare is this type of appreciation.

    How many times have you been to a home to provide an estimate for a service and see a pavement that looks amateur. Maybe it's the cuts or the crooked joint lines or the unsplit end of a stair tread or whatever. In your opinion it's amateur, but the homeowner is more than proud of it. I had that happen a handful of times this year an I thought, "wow, I hope you didn't pay top dollar for that." You know what, they probably didn't and it didn't matter. These people thought their pavements were nice.

    The biggest problem in the paving industry, in my opinion, is settlement. People do care about this, but you know what, it doesn't show up for how long. A contractor can tear through an average neighborhood in a couple of years doing sub par work and the major problems don't show for two or three years. By that time, he's gone. If you're in that neighborhood, you're competing against his prices. ICPI certified or not, they walk across the street, pavement looks good to them and they want it done for his price.

    Hopefully, as this industry grows, homeowners will become more educated as more and more people experience problems with improperly installed pavements. Maybe then a greater number of homeowners will place more emphasis on certifications and industry standards.
  6. landscapingpoolguy

    landscapingpoolguy LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 819

    Basically there is only one way to solve the problems that alot of us contractors face every day,low balling and DIY's, the answer is wholesalers. By Wholesale I mean an acutual distribution channel that only authorized dealers can purchase from. All to often I find that a "contractors discount", isnt even close to what the wholesale price of the item is or should be. Unfortunatly in this industry there is no real form of distribution, meaning from Manufacturer, to Wholesale, To retail. Too many times we find retailers acting as distribution and when the almighty dollar speaks, that just doesnt really work. So a paver sold at $1 per sq ft to distribution should be sold at $2 a sq ft to wholesale(which authorized contractors could purchase from) and sold at $4 a sq ft at retail. Anyways I guess Im just saying that the concrete industry is a H@&e in the market, and needs to sell at a standerized wholesale level but they wont because they sell to retail at $3 a sq ft.

  7. olderthandirt

    olderthandirt LawnSite Platinum Member
    from here
    Posts: 4,900

    I found that some pics of what a "cheap/cheaper job could look like in 2-3 yrs makes a world of dif. I use a photo album and it has my cert, ins. wc. and then my work from 5yrs or longer in it , then it has the competitors work that looks like they got what they paid for. I don't get them all but it increased my closure by at least 50%

  8. cgland

    cgland LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,929

    That's a great idea Dirt. The only problem I have is sneaking onto someones property and taking pics w/o their approval. :angel: I like to take people to jobs I have done so they can see our workmanship first hand. I think they appreciate it.
    It just gets old after while..preaching about the importance of certification and making it sound like it's super important and they go with someone else, the job looks like crap, but they think it is good :realmad: Then they say to themselves "who cares about being certified...we got a good job done by Flybynight Landscaping" :gunsfirin :gunsfirin

  9. nkour

    nkour LawnSite Member
    Posts: 12

    This is a big problem for us! We are Belgard Authorized, EP Henry Certified have all the licenses & insurance's (W/C premium in '05---15K) and customers choose some dirtbag because he's $500.00 cheaper. I try to share all the points you guys made about the importance of certification etc. and I am getting nowhere fast. I also try to explain that if someones bid is lower than ours and the cost of materials is the same then the other contractor is underestimating the time neccessary to do the project right and cut corners lead to poor quality installations.
    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.
  10. cgland

    cgland LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,929

    You are in the same boat as us Bud. It IS frustrating, but I try to educate customers as much as I can. I usually take a ton of pamphlets, pics, catalogs, samples, and installation guidelines on all my estimates. It makes you look more professional and the customers usually appreciate the extra effort. Like I said though.... the almighty dollar rules! and what is average to us is most likely awesome to the customer. :dizzy:
    educate, educate, educate, educate, educate.......educate!


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