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PHOTOS - A little project we've been working on....

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by JimLewis, Aug 31, 2008.

  1. AWJ Services

    AWJ Services LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Ga
    Messages: 4,281

    On all of the natural stone what did you use to fill in between them?
    Curios because of the maint aspect.Here in Ga we have alot of clay so when it rains water tends to really flow and wash stuff.

    That was a great idea to break up the patio with the stones in them.

    Some of the best pictures I have ever seen here on Lawnsite.:clapping:
  2. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Repeat customers. That's part of it. We had done smaller projects for them in the past (before they became ** really ** wealthy) and so we already had an established relationship.

    It helped that I kept them reminded about our company with a simi-annual newsletter. See this thread;

    But there were two things that really sold them on us for this job.

    1) They already had some big name landscape architect design their front yard. So that was the first part of this big project. That was about $40K. They already had a bid from a major competitor here in town (the biggest landscape company in our state and one of the top 40 landscape companies in the nation). So I had to really work to out impress them. The other company has TONS of credibility. But because of our previous working relationship, they wanted to run the front yard project by me before they decided. Well, I took that as sort of a personal challenge for me to impress the heck out of them and beat out the other company. I went to work on impressing them with my bid first. Bidding is my specialty anyway. My bids are always much more thorough than most all of my competitors. A great bid shows the client you are really thinking everything through and taking some time on them. I also hammered my plant broker for his best prices. There were a LOT of plants I was considering purchasing from him so I made him give me his best possible deal - better than the usual prices he gave me.

    We also have something that's unique that the other company (most companies) don't offer as well. That's a 5 year warranty. And that warranty covers plants too. So that was something I could stress that I knew the other company wasn't going to offer.

    While I was giving them the bid, I was also looking for clues to what they wanted to hear. Most clients will tell you what's important to them if you are just listening. Even before they received the bid I kept hearing questions like, "By the way, if we did want to go with you guys, how soon could you get started?" That tells me their anxious to get started right away with the project. So knowing the other (huge) company probably couldn't mobilize and get started right away (and knowing I could) I made that an important part of my presentation.

    I also changed some of the plans in their front yard. The other company was going to install a brand of outdoor lighting that was a little inferior to the brand I usually use (Unique). Well, even though I knew my brand would end up costing them a lot more, I took the time to educate them on why they would want to spend more. You can tell by the house, these are people who don't do anything cheap. They like the best of everything. And that brand of lighting wasn't the best. So I took them some samples of both brands and upsold them on the nicer lighting. Not only did that get me more money (I could have gone ahead with the other brand that the other company had spec'd. and made a little less money) but it also showed them I know my stuff. The more people are impressed with your knowledge, the more apt they are to hire you. So that really helped me land the job too, I think. And it made the other company look like they were using cheap stuff.

    Once we got the job, I came prepared to impress. They were shocked actually the first day we showed up. It was some holiday like Memorial day or Labor day or something (I don't pay attention to summer holidays, I just work when work comes). That day they told me two things when we arrived. 1) They had almost never seen a contractor actually start when he said he would and 2) They couldn't believe we were actually going to start work on a holiday. So we started off on a good note.

    During the job, we came in force. Lots of guys and it was all asses and elbows for a few weeks. Hundreds of plants were going in each day, lawn was being completely renovated, dozens of lights going in. Things were rocking and rolling and every day there were huge changes to the landscape.

    The day we finished the lighting, I told them I'd come back after dark to adjust the lights. When I actually arrived at almost 9:30 p.m. that night (and stayed until 10:30 fine tuning everything) they were again super impressed. They couldn't believe someone would come in so late to fine tune everything like that.

    So all this was building their confidence in our company and helping me prepare for the larger project in the back and side yards. So the first thing we did was just impress them with previous work

    2) The next thing that really sold the job was our design. The other company employs full time landscape designers on staff. So their edge is they can draw up nice (free) designs along with every bid they give. Well, I don't have enough revenue to employee full time designers. So I was at a disadvantage. But once I saw the design that company had created, I knew I had this one freelance designer that could blow that design away. And typically, whoever does the design that impresses them most gets the big job. So if I could just impress them with a nicer design, then I knew we'd have a shot at getting the job in the back. So I told them that I don't do free designs. But I also told her that if she'd hire our freelance designer I could get her a design that would blow the socks off that other design they already had. Then I showed her several previous designs this guy had done for us. Once she was impressed with those, she decided to shell out the dough for our designer to get to work on a design.

    Once they saw the designs it was pretty much game over. Our concept was just a lot better and more thorough and detailed than the other design they got. And they liked the way ours wasn't so formal. They really appreciated our designer's unique ideas and more natural setting. The house is formal. But the property and surrounding forest is very natural. So they really wanted a landscape that would be a segway from formal to natural. We listened, the other company didn't.

    Then it was just a matter of money. They couldn't afford our first bid. But we ended up cutting out some things and downsizing some things in order to bring it within their budget.

    Funny thing is, once you get started on projects like this, people start finding all sorts of money they said they didn't have. So as we got started, they threw back in all the things they had us cut out earlier and then added another $40,000 worth us stuff too. So it just grew from there.

    It also helps to have at least some projects under your belt that are of some decent size. I had never done a project quite that large before. But we had done all that stuff before and I was able to show them photos of some larger projects we had done in the past.

    A good website with impressive photos doesn't hurt too.

    But you can't just jump from $2,000 projects to $200,000 projects. Do a bunch of $2000 projects then you'll start getting some $5,000 projects. Over time those will become more common and you'll land a few $10K projects. Over time those will be more normal and you'll land a few $20K projects. Then once in a blue moon you'll do a project that's more like $40K and maybe it grows into a $50K job. After a while maybe you get lucky and land a big one. But all in good time. It doesn't happen over night, believe me.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2008
  3. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872


    You'd have to show me which photo you're referring to. But if you're referring to the rock walls, they are just backfilled with the clay soil that's there. It washed out a little. But not much. We lay barkdust (mulch) over the clay to help prevent runoff and stuff.
  4. AWJ Services

    AWJ Services LawnSite Platinum Member
    from Ga
    Messages: 4,281

    The pics with the natural stone that transitions into steps made out of stone.

    Mainly in Post #4 and #5.

    Once again I will add that it is awesome.
  5. Mike Leary

    Mike Leary LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 23,089

    As usual, nice to-the-point post; that should be page one in the book of how to do it.
  6. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872


    So in those photos there are (1) Boulders, (2) Small Basalt steps stones and (3) large basalt slabs (large steps).

    The boulders are just backfilled with the native mostly clay soil. The small basalt steps stones are set on a bed of compacted gravel and we filled the first half of the joints in with gravel and the top of the joints in with barkdust (mulch). The large slabs are just set on the native mostly clay soil.
  7. CALandscapes

    CALandscapes LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 946

    That's exactly the way it works, Jim.

    By the way, I'm very impressed with the quality of your work as well as with the concept that the designer brought forth.

    I am on the same page with transitioning the formality of the house into the naturalness of the forest...

    Nice job, brother!
  8. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Thanks. I hope to get more like that this next year. That designer moved away. But I expect I'll be flying him in for some larger projects like that next year.

    We have another designer we use most of the time. Hers don't have as much detail and they work great for most of our clients. But for the really high end jobs it's nice to be able to call on Dane if I need to - even though I'd have to pay for a plane ticket, it would probably be worth it.
  9. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Great Post Jim (#42)

    That is the best business model I've ever seen in general. Really hits with what I'm trying to do with my Biz, hopefully I can reap the rewards like you have.
  10. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Ya very funny how that happens, makes you wonder what other things they sacrifice (toys, trips, etc.) in order to come up with the money. It's easy to stretch the budget once they start seeing how amazing it looks just during the process.

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