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Commercial - Two different avenues

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by DFW Area Landscaper, Aug 14, 2004.

  1. DFW Area Landscaper

    DFW Area Landscaper LawnSite Silver Member
    from DFW, TX
    Messages: 2,116

    The more I think about it, and the further I get into my new focus on commercial (as opposed to residential), the more I think there are two separate paths to follow with the commercial contracts.

    When you approach a commercial decision maker, if they're happy with the current guy, you just move on.

    But if they're expressing displeasure with the current guy, you've got a chance to make a bid. Here's where you come to the fork in the road.

    The first way is to bid high enough to cover everything in a full service contract...not just mowing and fertilizer...but installing and maintaining flowering annuals you are proud of...spot treating grassy weeds and nutsedge...fire ant prevention...mulching the beds twice a year...grub prevention....only the finest perennial rye seed in the winter...pruning the trees...trimming the shrubs 6 times per year...core aeration...full service, first class all the way. You've got to know what you're doing in order to do this and do it right. And many competitors simply don't have the 'know how' to do this stuff. There are a lot of things that can go wrong. But if the landscape looks good and it's something you're proud of, you probably have a real good shot of getting the renewal. But, you've also got to educate the customer from thinking that the guys with the lower bids can do the job as well as you. It's simply impossible to have champaign on a beer budget.


    Go in and bid it such that you let the price do the selling. Prune a few branches off the trees, but not a good pruning. Stick some pansies and begonias in the ground and hope they look good 4 months later, but don't include any liquid feedings or dead heading. Trim the shrubs once or twice a year. Fertilize the lawn, but don't plan on back packing to spot treat crabgrass and dalisgrass and nutsedge. Over seed with rye, but if it doesn't look perfect, oh well. Come in with a low price knowing damn good and well that they aren't going to be any happier with you than they are with the last guy. When they complain, tell them what they want to hear and pretend to care. Plan on losing them and spend time calling on new accounts to replace them when the contract expires. If they don't cancel, count it as gravy.

    I'd like to have happy customers, but most importantly I have to start making some friggin' money. I think customers who choose the low price will always find something to complain about because the place won't look it's best. It stands to reason that if the shrubs haven't been trimmed in 4 months the place will look ragged. When they start complaining, they're not gonna care about what was and was not included in the written contract, are they? And if you point out that they aren't paying for more frequent shrub trimmings, then you've just told the customer they are wrong. Now, they're really not happy.

    Of course if you go in with the price you need in order to really maintain the place and keep it looking it's best, you could easily be 3 times higher than the current guy. Customers want low prices and high quality and trying to educate them on those topics may prove to be a losing deal. After all, in their minds, it's just mowing the lawn and trimming the bushes. They don't know or care anything about scale, aphids, wet feet, iron deficiencies, pH problems, etc.

    Any advice from the veterans of commercial maintenance? From what I've seen, I think the latter approach has worked very well for Trugreen Land Care in my area. They have a tremendous number of accounts in my area and the properties they maintain look maintained, but certainly not anything to be proud of. I'm sure they get a lot of complaints and churn because the properties don't look good (begonias look horrible...they don't spot treat grassy weeds or nutsedge, etc.).

    For the veterans of commercial land care, which approach is the most profitable?

    DFW Area Landscaper
  2. PaulJ

    PaulJ LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    LIke do you let the price determine the quality or does the quality determine the price. You can even ask them which service they want.

    with mowing I have 3 levels I offer
    simple = mowing only, no trimming no bagging, no blowing.
    standard = trim/edge , mow, bag if needed, trim or spray cracks in drives and walks, blow everything off.
    special = standard plus anything extra like always bagging or weeding beds etc...

    most pick standard, but not all.

    someone on hear once said "Cheap ain't good and good ain't cheap. I'm good"
  3. Billz

    Billz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 181

    Well, I was thinking of this just last week...I decided that the accounts who could care less if we stripe their lawn or cut in different directions, or do anything but the bare minimum seem to be better money makers. Me and my partner can do a 8 building apartment complex, who only wanted us to do the cheapest possible job, in about 35 minutes... we make over $200 an hour here... We have a few really nice lawns we care for that take us the same amount of time, but we only make a fraction of that...

    We ask the customer what they would like us to do, then bid it accordingly.
  4. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Messages: 1,578

    I've run across 2 different types of commercial clients.

    First one is usually privately owned ... you deal with the owner and you can sell them on your company rep and full service.

    Second is property management companies that have a set of specs that you quote on. DON't bid anymore than they are asking and if you see things in the specs that are obviously not being done, call them on it. I've looked at many properties that call for edging(as an example) to be done monthly. I could see the place hadnt been edged in years.... call them up.... "oh ya don't worry about that". You then have to make the decision if you want your company to work on that type of property. Nothing wrong with a few mow and go properties IMO.

    I've had the best luck bidding the mow, trim and blow and then everything else is an extra as you go. These extras can add up in a hurry. We have one that I sold them 5k worth of annuals, a major pruning worth about 4k,fertilizer - weed control and numerous other small improvements. I never would have got the job if I had included it all in the original bid.

    Good luck .... I love commercial properties.

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