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Safeguarding or Protecting Project Designs.

Discussion in 'Business Operations' started by PerfiCut L&L, Jun 18, 2008.

  1. PerfiCut L&L

    PerfiCut L&L LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 458

    I wanted to get some input on an issue that probably pertains to just about everyone in the landscape industry, and possibly some who are not.

    Over the years we have, like many, recieved calls from potential customers regarding one project or another. In some cases I have shown up as a second, third or even fourth contractor, for those people who are comparison shopping for one reason or another. Every now and then, and more so in the past year or two, I have been handed a design by the customer who says "I would like to get an estimate for something like this..." Perhaps the customer has one or two changes to it, or perhaps not.

    Of course I take the design, look it over, talk to the customer, see if the design fits their needs, blah,blah,blah... you know the rest. If all looks good, I'll make any suggestions I may have, and then I take the design and put together my estimate.

    With a project pre-designed and on paper, a lot of time has been saved on my end. (thanks contractor #1, or #2, or #3). So I take the design, verify the measurements and off I go to put together my estimate.

    My main concern is, how often am I contractor #1 or #2, and how often are the plans I come up with or the designs I lay out, just given to the next guy?

    I am wondering, since at least on our end, we put a lot of time into some project designs. Graph it, draw it, and in some cases computerise it. As many as 4 to 10 hours have spent on designing some larger projects. On our larger projects which may have a lot of detail, elevation changes, patterns and what not, we like to computerize them to give the customer a visual of what the project will look like when completed. I find this helps people see it ahead of time, especially when spending a lot of money. I'd hate to think that my designs are then, just handed to the next guy for estimate comparison sake. Do think theres a way to protect these drawings, drafts, and other related documents?

    What is your take on this matter?
  2. Merlin300

    Merlin300 LawnSite Member
    from Zone 5
    Messages: 156

    Don't leave the drawings with the customer. IF they decide to shop around with your plans, make them buy it.

    If and when they sign a contract with you, then let them have a copy of the drawing. I found that multiple meetings with a customer is usually the norm.

    Meeting #1 Look a the job, measurements, pictures etc. customer wants and needs, consultation ect.

    Meeting #2 Show the design, make corrections if needed.

    Meeting #3 Bid sheet, and sign contract if hired, recieve first check.

    Next time they see me, is when I show up to do the work. Then they get a copy of the project design.
  3. Brianslawn

    Brianslawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,004

    yes... i love it when the lawnboys make it so easy. most our landscaping jobs we do someone else already designed it. usually we ask customer what other guys said for price, too, then we tell them we'll do it for 5% less or something like that. all we have to do basicly is pick up the stuff that someone else already picked out and install it to their plans and collect all the money. the jobs half done when we get handed it. the other lawnboys must like me so much to go through all that trouble for me on every single job. i do leave the designer a nice tip, though, after they get done serving me dinner at the restaurant.
  4. Gene $immons

    Gene $immons LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,028

    Most designers I know will sell their design for several hunderd dollars to the client. They deduct some of the cost of the design if they get the install.

    Like Merlin said, sell them the design if they want to keep it...and think about it a while.
  5. PerfiCut L&L

    PerfiCut L&L LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 458

    If I have to go back to a customers house a third time, 9 times out of 10, we have sold ourselves to the customer and now its a matter of paperwork.

    We tend to use the initial visit to talk about the project, hand sketch some basic layouts, and see what special features if any they want included. At this time we take whatever measurement we need or think we will need and head back to the office.

    At the office we try to combine the best features of all the sketches and put everything together. It gets drafted out to scale on paper then a follow up visit to show the customer. We also use this time to show sample stones/colors or whatever we have selected or suggested to be used in the design. (if the customer has not already indicated so). Often times the customer wants us to leave a copy of the design so they can discuss it, look it over, and make any changes.

    I suppose I could be honest, and just tell them I'd be happy to leave a copy with them but it will cost 'X' amount. I'm not sure how the customer will react but It may be worth a try. As long as it doesnt scare them away.
  6. Merlin300

    Merlin300 LawnSite Member
    from Zone 5
    Messages: 156

    Tell them the design is "free" if they sign with you.
  7. Brianslawn

    Brianslawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,004

    it will. people arent used to paying for stuff like consultations, designs, having holes dug for bushes, and just about everything else landscapers do. call up a consultant... you know... someone with a real job... and ask him to drive 20 miles @ $4.00/gal of gas to your house for a free hour or two consultation. let me know how many seconds pass before you here a "click."
  8. PerfiCut L&L

    PerfiCut L&L LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 458

    Your absuloutely right. With gas the way it is, estimates are killing us. We need to tighten up and do what we can to help reduce the likelyhood of losing a potential customer.

    After much thought and discussion with some of my colleagues here, we are going to charge design fee, credited to the project balance should we do the work.

    This arose from tweaking our discussions on fuel costs vs free estimates. As one idea was to charge a site survey fee or consultation fee of $25 for the initial visit, which would be credited to the project once signed.

    I think for the time being, we are going to hold off on charging for estimates until people absorb the fact everything is costing more becuaes of fuel rates.
  9. Brianslawn

    Brianslawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,004

    or just have them go to your office for free initial consultation.... like lawyers do. if they want to use you then charge hourly for work or do a survey fee or whatever.
  10. Stillwater

    Stillwater LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,889

    My policy is they may look at it while I am their, but they may not keep it it leaves with me or they can buy it. but never do I ever leave without it.

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