business direction - different line of thought

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by elainef, Aug 9, 2001.

  1. elainef

    elainef LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    Just spent the last couple of hours perusing the archives, and the recent threads "business direction" really resonates, esp. Loosestrife's post: I've watched my husband "go there, do that" more than once....
    I'm exploring the possibilities of a somewhat different twist in direction, than the one discussed in the "business direction" thread, and thought that you might have some really useful insight on the feasability of it:
    Current situation: mowing/maintenance/installation/design with owner and 2 crewmen. He could run 2 crews, except for the fact that Shop n' Save offers 12.-/hr with benefits and AC (so much for decent laborers) and any competent foremen interested in leaving their jobs have gone into business for themselves in the least couple of years...the economy here is seasonal and booming, with less than 1.5% unemployment rate. Business is expanding, word-of-mouth is good, customers pleased, etc. Mostly small residentials, with a few commercials.
    Current problem: husband had back surgery last Nov. (not work related), powered through pain all spring and did what had to be done. Now he's getting nerve inflamation, numbness in the legs etc. Can't just grit your teeth and do it anymore. The writing on the wall is pretty clear: make changes now, or you won't have a choice in the end.
    He loves doing design work, and his customers are very satisfied, but just how hard is it going to be to drop the maintenance, mowing, back-breaking labor part to go to design and consulting only (or "light" installation) without eating those 8 for a buck noodles for two years again? I've been looking into the software issue, and the website/advertising issues, and the SBA will disect the books with us, but have any of you done this, or seen a lateral move like this suceed? How willing are landscape contractors to go with someone else's plans? And how do you price these?
    Ideally, the niche to get into around here seems to be the waterfront and summer homes market which is booming, where they stop asking "how much is *that*?" every ten minutes, and want to know how *soon* can they have that, instead.
    Got carried away here, but it's quite a leap of faith to make, without looking where it might take you.
  2. gusbuster

    gusbuster LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,928

    Well good luck
    If you are already doing the design part, a good place to get known with is your local nurseries, home improvement stores(ie lowe's, home depot).

    Just going to have to build up the business.

    Good luck

  3. Lanelle

    Lanelle LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,361

    If you want to mainly design, contact landscape contractors, irrigation contractors and get involved with local green industry associations.
  4. steveair

    steveair LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,073


    I'm in the process of building my design business at the moment, and would say everyone's advice is right on track.

    First, start by calling other contractors. Sit down one day with the phone book and just start going through the landscape contractor/lawn maintenance section. You'll be surprised of the results.

    Start by introducing yourself, tell of your experience, determine some ball park rates, and sell yourself. Honestly, most guys have no clue when it comes to design and don't understand what the benefits are. Explain to them how plans can benefit day to day operations, and how profits can be greatly increased.

    Also, do something that sets you apart from others. I emphasize the fact that all my plans are done on CAD, and that I can give them everything they need, such as square footage readings, cut fill estimates, plant prices, mulch estimates, etc. etc. Most designers in my area are very strong with plant material, but lack the knowledge of hardscaping. Clients love the fact they don't have to sit there with a ruler and figure out square footage of the patio drawn. Instead, I calculate it out for them with complete exactness. A little something that I find seperates me from the others. Also, I do run down on wall lengths/heights, and give detailed drawings of how they are built. Most do not do this, or lack the skills to do this.

    The first day I did my calls, I found 4 contractors in need of service. One ended up being a big enough account to almost keep me busy all year.

    Second, check the classifieds. Look for people who are hiring for landscape help/design help/laborers. This is also a great start. I find that a lot of the guys looking for a 'full time designer' are truely not. A lot of them will be interested in hiring someone part time.

    One word of advice, once you get a few contractors lined up, get ready to 'boogy'. My biggest problem, is that it seems they ALL CALL at ONCE. In one week, I'll get 5 plans to look at, design, etc., then the next 2 weeks will get nothing. You have to be able to sit down and get the work done when they come. Every contractor usually wants their plans done yesterday, so if you are busy and can't produce, you will start a bad reputation.

    This brings me to a second point which is be careful how much work load you bring on. Don't over book yourself. Like I said, it seems to all come at once, and if you are too busy doing one contractor's plans, you can't do anothers.

    You need to prioritize your clients. I know to do X's landscape plans first, because he is constantly calling and I would hate to lose him. The once in a while guys, usually get put off till the others are done. I've lost a few guys because of this, but I've managed to keep my key clients very happy.

    Hope to be of some help.


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