Does professionalism matter?

Mark Oomkes

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
This past spring we took over 4 accounts from the "largest" landscape management company in GR. 2 of those were low bid on my part...not so sure I'm happy about that, the other 2 the customer called and requested pricing. We took over 2 other locations from another one of the larger landscapers in town as well.

One of the low bid from the second company is a location we serviced in the past. I had numbers so I didn't drive through all the locations for this customer so I didn't realize how bad some of these accounts were. Anyways, this place has windows approximately 4-5 feet up and viburnums and forsythias next to the wall. Wrong plant, I know. Anyways, the office people like them kept below the windows which we always did. They requested this again and we were trimming and noticed the stalks\trunks were 1.5-2" in diameter, more than we could do without rejuvenation or at least some major dormant pruning. A corner of the parking lot has an Austrian pine and Bradford pear...the previous contractor stopped weeding this area and now there are 12-15 tall mulberries, trees of heaven, Virginia creeper, Oriental bittersweet, etc growing amongst the trees.

3 of the 4 we took over from the "largest" have been so neglected in regards to trimming and pruning, that 1 needs extensive dormant pruning and the other 2 need renovations. The plants are just overgrown to the point of starting over. The 4th just has some junipers that have been sheared to keep them in the beds, but nothing taken off the top and a bunch of ornamental grasses.

I keep reading threads on here about "landscapers" trimming trees or replacing shrubs or trimming shrubs just because they are there mowing and are considered landscapers...and a lot (most?) of the time the type of plant is unknown to the OP. I know we all have to start somewhere, but jumping into trimming a tree or shrub or suggesting replacements when one knows nothing about any of the above makes our entire industry look bad.

So my question is, does knowledge\professionalism even matter anymore? Do I really need to know the different growth habits and purposes of a wegelia vs a juniper? A boxwood vs a miscanthus? Does it matter to the customer anymore? Just because you can mow a lawn, does not mean you know how to trim or prune shrubs. For that matter, how many know the difference between trimming and pruning? How many look at a shrub or group of shrubs with the thought of "what was the design intent of these specific shrubs" to determine if they should be trimmed formally or allowed to grow into a screen or hedge?

Thoughts? Am I putting to much thought into being a landscape manager? Should I just send my crews out with power hedge shears and trim everything into the same shape while we are there, blooming or not?
 

TPendagast

LawnSite Fanatic
Kinda no.

Here’s where the breakdown happens

The customer doesn’t know
The customer doesn’t care
The customer wants square peg in round hole

You tell them you can’t because you must wait for z season or y period.

They get someone else wiry a chainsaw to do it now because that’s what they wanted.

Your high fulluting explanation sounds like an elaborate excuse to them.

Maybe one in seven people will understand what you’re saying and one in ten care.

Something I learned back in 2005 ; it doesn’t matter what you know, it matters what the customer wants, do what they want, charge accordingly and have it all in writing.

This leads to more plant replacements due to improper care and pruning and even more plant replacements due to improper planting positions (viburnum as an understory foundation planting)

More planting is more work
Customer is happy
Company is happy

There’s actually no real harm done.
So shrug...
Keep your knowledge to yourself unless it’s necessary to share.

Phil from Ivy League landscaping taught me that one.
 
OP
M

Mark Oomkes

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
This leads to more plant replacements due to improper care and pruning and even more plant replacements due to improper planting positions (viburnum as an understory foundation planting)

More planting is more work
Customer is happy
Company is happy
Mark isn't happy...Mark cares about doing the right thing.
 

That Guy Gary

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
SW Idaho
I wonder myself sometimes when I run across hack jobs and half ass work.

Someone can definitely make a living providing poor service, there's too much evidence to deny that.

Personally I can't. I'd burn out with how demanding the job is. I need to set standards for myself in order for the work to be engaging enough that I don't get sick of the grind. Otherwise why be out in the heat? I'd rather not give a crap in an air room answering a phone or assembling widgets.

I've come to accept that most of my peers just want a paycheck and will cut corners anywhere they can. They don't consult with others, they don't read or do any research, they just try to emulate the people around them with as little effort as possible and hope there's no issues.

I prefer making money doing something I enjoy and can be proud of. I'm sure you'd stay in business if you stopped caring but could you actually do that? I'd become too stressed if I didn't care.
 

That Guy Gary

LawnSite Gold Member
Location
SW Idaho
Mark isn't happy...Mark cares about doing the right thing.
There's your answer right there.

If doing it the way you believe it should be done makes you happy and you are able to earn a living then screw what anyone else is doing. I think the guys who don't give a crap burn out a lot sooner and are never able to realize their potential as a businessman or professional because they throw in the towel a lot sooner.
 
OP
M

Mark Oomkes

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
Here's an example of an idiot landscaper.

Columnar blue spruce less than 2 feet away from the house, under an eave. Yes, we will be paid to remove it. Seriously?
20190729_104120.jpg
 
OP
M

Mark Oomkes

LawnSite Fanatic
Location
Grand Rapids, MI
Most of the time when I see crap like that the homeowner brought it home from a big box store in a little 2-3 gal pot because it was cute.
This house is in the $750K+ range. Current homeowners moved in 3 years ago.
 

EricC

LawnSite Bronze Member
Do those suffer from the same moisture problems of the regular old Colorado Blue Spruce? I can't believe those are really grown in the midwest at all. Let them grow, they all look like **** eventually.

Or the landscapers that planted all silver maples in the front yards of a brand new development. The houses are all the minimum 30 feet off the road, sidewalks installed and trees planted between the sidewalk and the house, not the boulevard.

Who puts that tree 20 feet from a house? and right next to a sidewalk? I keep telling my BIL to remove it now or let it go for 15 more years and pay to get it out and also replace the sidewalk.
 

Andrew H

LawnSite Gold Member
Here's an example of an idiot landscaper.

Columnar blue spruce less than 2 feet away from the house, under an eave. Yes, we will be paid to remove it. Seriously?View attachment 385737
Are they an idiot because they planted a tree that’s overused by “landscapers” and plagued with disease or because they put something next to a house knowing it would be a problem one day and have to be extricated?
 

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