Landscape Consulting

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by Stonehenge, Mar 8, 2001.

  1. DaveK

    DaveK LawnSite Member
    Messages: 84

    Yes and no.
    Landscape Architects are more involved with the "big picture", things like planning the landscape, design, and in part, overseeing the install.
    I am thinking more like a "good friend in the business." Not really giving design ideas or even suggestions.

    Think financial/investment advisor + building inspector.... for your yard.

    Helping more with the business side of landscaping jobs than the creative side.

    As with many occupations, there may be a little overlap of boundries, but I can't think of any current occupation that focuses on this end of the equation.

    First, you help them make in informed decision on which landscape company/designer/architect/etc. Then if they wish, you inspect the work to see that it complies with standards and/or the written contract. But at no point are you actually in charge of any creative decisions or day to day construction supervision.

    Remember, a lot of this comes natural to those of us in the business, but many homeowners are lost when it comes to these things. That's why they hire designers, they don't know what to do or how to do it. They would benefit from a third party, to keep them from getting "taken" by "less than honorable" contractors that perform sub-quality work that could cost them even more money to correct after the fact.
  2. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    Thinking of yourself as an advocate for the customer! There are consultants that do this.

    You ever see the person that takes on the $250,000 renovation job to their house and they decided they had the skills to be the GC? All too often people feel they are qualified to make that decision- and rarely do they seek the advice of someone who is more knowledgable. Everyone wonders what's your angle.

    I think it's a great idea. I'm rarely a pessimist, however, I have to ask how many people are already too dangerous for themselves because they think they know enough to make the decisions. There has to be a market - and like anything else, it would take time to build/develop a reputation to the point where people would come to you for the service. But you certainly would have to figure out a way to make sure there was no conflict of interest on your behalf (kick backs, buddies doing the work, etc) - as this might spoil the trust with the client.
  3. DaveK

    DaveK LawnSite Member
    Messages: 84

    That's an interesting observation...

    Sure it will cost them a little, but if you can convince them that it is like an insurance policy...

    They really have nothing to lose. But on their own, how much do they stand to lose if they choose a contractor that cuts corners.

    Would a homeowner be able to tell the difference between a 50 yard pile of topsoil and 100 yard pile? Could they determine how much base they need for their new paver patio based on the sub-soil? Would they even realize the importance of drainage behind a retaining wall?

    On the other hand (we'll call this hand LawnLad's), we now have the Internet. And everyone, including homeowners are quickly becoming experts at everything. Why would they pay somebody when they can just look up all the information they need to become an "expert" in their own mind.
    I agree with LawnLad, it may be a hard-sell. But if you can establish trust and at the same time, get them to realize that there is far to much knowledge for them to master in a short period of time, there very well could be a market, even if you have to create the market at the time you are selling yourself.

    This would surely have to be brought out in the open up front. There would be a level of trust that would have to be acheived, without a doubt. It would be best if you didn't provide any names of companies. Only give advice after they have received the bids. And then let them know if you personally know anyone working for either company, regardless of which bid you reccomend.
  4. kris

    kris LawnSite Bronze Member
    from nowhere
    Messages: 1,578

    Only you can answer that, but I bet you could make more selling or installing yourself.

    I am not totally against it though ... our design department gets bogged down and turns away lots of consultations because they are busy doing full designs .... we have a two hour min . $60.00 per hour.

    What about having a employee doing this hardscape consulting for you? A good guy would jump at this opportunity . You would have very little start up cost of this division .... just advertising, transit for setting grades for them ...piece of cake.

    The more I write ...the more I like the idea:) You would also get a ton of extra work either right away or down the road.
  5. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    Kris, that's a good idea.

    DaveK, we did a little work for a guy that kind of does what you're describing - he's like a GC, but not really. Like a consultant, but not really. He's almost like a concierge for the home, handling aspects of landscaping, electrical, plumbing, etc, but he doesn't do any of the work.
  6. paul

    paul Lawnsite Addict
    Messages: 1,625

    Just some thoughts on this....... how would you seperate yourself from your firm? I also wonder with all the cad packages around why designers don't included details in their drawings? All the major paver and wall suppliers give them away. Tree and shrub planting details are easy to come by along with most specifaction on proper installing. Most drawing might need one extra sheet for details and 5 or 6 pages of specs.

    Now is this do able for home owners? Having not work with them in over 10 years I don't know.
  7. HBFOXJr

    HBFOXJr LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,712

    I don't think this service would necessarily be marketed to DIY. There are 2 types of DIY as I see it. Those that are cheap out of necessity or habit and those that are into learning and doing. Neither would probably bother much with consulting.

    Those that have occasional hort, agronomic or irrigation problems I would guess and maybe wrongly, might be the target market.

    I'm basing this on the phone calls I field even though we don't advertise consulting.
  8. DaveK

    DaveK LawnSite Member
    Messages: 84

    I think some of you are missing the ideas, or not reading all the posts.

    Stonehenge was talking about assisting DIYers.

    I am talking about a little different concept (although both services could be provided by a landscape "advisor"). The direction I was taking was not for DIYers. It would be marketed towards the homeowners that do not want to do it themselves, but at the same time want to ensure that they have made intelligent informed decisions, and a little peace of mind that they are getting exactly what they are paying for.

    Many people use financial firms to handle all the financial aspects of their life, many use financial advisors to assist them in financial aspects of their life, and many "go it alone." The same goes for landscape projects, although they usually hire a firm to handle it all, or go it alone. This gives them another option in between the two extremes.

    I am not saying that there is a huge market for this right now, but there certainly is potential. And the overhead would be extremely low, with advertising and marketing being your biggest expense.

    The reason that this potential market even exists is because there is such little regulation in the landscaping industry, and because there will always be scrubs. I think this would only help the professional landscapers while also raising the bar for scrubs. The scrubs either get their act together and become professionals, or face the fact that consumers are getting help in weeding them out.

    Stonehenge: How much business did the guy you mentioned have? Was he the one that made the initial contact with you or was it the customer?
  9. Loosestrife

    Loosestrife LawnSite Member
    from PA
    Messages: 80

    I have done a little of both.

    We had a client that was building a vacation home in another state. He hired me to be a "construction advisor" for the sitework and landscaping. I visited the site about a dozen times during the wntire process. I was his set of eyes for that part of the project.

    I have also done many "prescriptions" as I call them. I have got many a call for an estimate, and the only actual reason was that the customer wanted some free advice.

    We will make a site visit, and prepare a "prescription" for the maintenance, complete with schedules, material lists, work instruction details... We can also make visits during the progress of the work.
  10. Stonehenge

    Stonehenge LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 1,276

    The guy contacted me on behalf of his client.

    Who knows how much volume he really does, but when we spoke he said he did $.5M the previous year (and while that sounds like a lot, I believe it was $.5M in total projects, of which he just tacks on a small percentage, making $.5M sound rather small).

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