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How to successfully get in front of builders/contractors for installations

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by guitarman2420, Feb 24, 2014.

  1. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    Yea ill clarify to agree with jim. Guys blowing up a couple dozen houses a year may pay for sod and some bushes but thats it. I work with a guy who does custom extensions and remodels so when he builds a portico he gets me the stoop and walkway etc. ive also worked with a guy who flips multi million dollar houses and he sees value investing in the landscape.
  2. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    If you are truly doing 90% of your design and installation in "high end residential environments" (what every contractor says) you would be making a mistake to go after volume builders because you will quickly become a low end contractor and will not attract high end customers while getting more and more referred work for the low end stuff. If you are actually doing higher end stuff, stay right there and be patient. If your work is good, the good builders or architects will eventually notice you.

    You need to put together a portfolio of your best work - only your best work, no before and afters, just the nicest pictures of the nicest stuff. If you can make a tri-fold or some kind of package that you can make copies of so that you can mail them or leave them with your target people, do so. If there are local building or landscape organizations, join, attend, make friends, or just get people used to seeing you. Familiarity is everything.

    Look at the permitting process for house construction in your area - conservation commissions, historic committees, zoning, .... whatever the architects/builders/engineers have to go through to get a permit. Go to those meetings. See if there are the same architects/builders/engineers showing up over and over. These are the people who have jobs before any other landscape designers or contractors know they are coming up. These are people whose attention you want to get.
  3. pls8xx

    pls8xx LawnSite Member
    Messages: 64

    I totally agree with AGLA. It's a different set that gets the really high end work. Sometimes the jobs go to design only firms. It's better to cultivate a friendship with those than with builders.

    Keep in mind those high end design people have a reputation to guard. Everything they build has to look and work great. You have to convince them that you can work with them to make that happen without blowing the budget.

    Some of those designers will produce a plan that is exactly what they want built. You have to be ready to follow the plan details to perfection. For other designers the plan is just the start and you will need to roll with the many changes during construction, working with the designer to complete the job and offering suggestions for cost control.
  4. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    If you have anything that you can do to make it advantageous for other professionals to want you on their team work it. I'm not talking about "quality work", "more creative designs", or things from the landscape perspective. It has to be something that makes things faster or relieves the others of a burden that they would otherwise have .... think that way and you'll be three steps ahead of those who don't.

    I do design only. My work is fed to me because I positioned myself to be beneficial to architects/ their custom builders/civil engineers during the permitting process. They bring me in at the beginning of projects by referring me to their clients. Most of my work come from being on a few design teams.

    Being a good designer is important, but the builders and architects in my area are much more interested in getting through the permitting process quickly. I'm fortunate that I have done a lot of permit plans and use compatible software which means that no one has to re-do my work to get it into the CE's plan and I can adjust quickly to the architect's changes where others may slow down the process even if they are good designers.
  5. meets1

    meets1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,855

    I don't bother. Bottom line to the cent. If you get it, now, tomorrow, done yesterday. Tired of it. They should earn your business. Not you earn them
  6. guitarman2420

    guitarman2420 LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Midlothian, VA
    Messages: 617

    I did work with one builder who gives his clients a landscaping allowance and then I worked directly with the homeowner. If they had $1,500 for an allowance and I sold them $6,000, then they just paid me direct. Has anyone had luck doing this on a larger scale?
  7. guitarman2420

    guitarman2420 LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Midlothian, VA
    Messages: 617

    "Look at the permitting process for house construction in your area - conservation commissions, historic committees, zoning, .... whatever the architects/builders/engineers have to go through to get a permit. Go to those meetings."

    I'm not sure how you quote someone else's comments in my reply. Any one help me on this?

    I really like AGLA's comments - I'm in a very rich, historic area and that makes perfect sense.

    Have you found that using one of the high end tablet programs to design the landscape before you leave the site is really helping your sales process? My wife loves to "draw" the landscape by hand; but it takes a lot of time. (She's a landscape designer)
  8. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,776

    It helps to be more compatible with software - most likely AutoCAD. One advantage is that no one has to draw anyone else's work to get it into their plans for permitting and speed.

    Here is an example of what I mean. Things will be different in your area, but the idea is the same. Most projects that I do are landscapes for raze and replace homes where someone buys a waterfront home for the lot and the grandfathered location of the existing home with the intent of knocking it down and building their dream home. This means that everything has to be designed for approval before the house is knocked down, so on-site sketching is not going to get you too far. There has to be a lot of coordination between the architect, engineer, and landscape designer because the "dream home" is going to be evolving after we get started and you'll have to change it in the landscape drawing each time. The architect will send me his CAD file of the house and I put it in my CAD file of the site. The engineer is not going to get fussy with creating opportunities in the landscape, so I have to "adjust" his site plan to make it set up a better landscape than just dealing with what he comes up with. Then I send him the CAD file of my work and he slaps it into his CAD file so that we are all on the same page. The engineer/surveyor needs my work in his plan because only he can certify where these things are in relation to lot lines and wetlands which is required in the permitting. My experience in having to be compatible with files makes it a lot easier to work with me than someone else who might not be quite as compatible and certainly a lot easier than having the engineer/surveyor have to trace in a hand drawn plan from a landscape designer who hand draws no matter how good a designer he/she may be.

    I'm not saying that you need to be working with CAD, but just showing you how you have to think in order to observe what opportunities are out there and how you guys can either directly exploit them or build up new skill sets in order to position yourselves to make these other people who always have good work want to get you on their team.

    You have to think in the opposite direction than most people. Don't think about how these people can help you. Think about how you can help them enough for them to bring you in to there click. You have to be patient. Landscape design is a very slow business to develop.
  9. GreenI.A.

    GreenI.A. LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,131

    I lucked out when starting and had one of the biggest high end builders in the Boston area fall into my lap. At the time I was doing this part time while working for a supplier full time. The landscaper doing their installs approached me about doing the irrigation and landscape lighting as a sub for him. After a year they were giving me enough installs I was able to go full time. When the landscaper burnt some bridges the GC offered my all the landscape installs. Other GCs driving by the sites would see my trucks/trailers and started cold calling me, they figured if I was working on $10mill sites then I should be good. I love working for good contractors. Up here it is common for the contractor to make their money by adding a percentage on to what I charge. It's not uncommon for a GC to tell us to add 10% onto a bill. The only problem with working for a GC is if you loose them you are losing more than one job, you are losing every house they are building that year and in the future.
  10. guitarman2420

    guitarman2420 LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Midlothian, VA
    Messages: 617

    Thanks for all the great ideas. Based on what was suggested, I was at Starbucks this morning and saw a fellow wearing a jacket with the name of one of the largest high end neighborhoods in the area. He was the general operations manager for the development. He gave me the name and contact information for all the custom builders in the neighborhood. One step at a time . . . . !!!!

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