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Stick To Your Guns, Boys!

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by JimLewis, Mar 16, 2009.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Well, it's gonna be a rough ride this year. Some of us will have to fight hard just to get less work than usual. Others will have to fight harder. But I am just back from the trenches and I want to give you boy some hope! Stick to your guns, soldiers! Don't let the rumors of bad economy make you so edgy you just start taking jobs out of desperation. Don't let cheapo customers talk you down.

    I got two first-hand stories right from the front lines of battle I want to share with you soldiers. Might inspire a few of you new recruits to stand your ground when the enemy comes calling....

    First Story;

    I gave two hardscape bids last week. One was about $6,000 and the guy almost freaked out. He said, "What? $6,0000??? That seems really high to me." I started to justify the price and he interrupted with, "What I mean is, I already got a bid from another outfit to do the same job for $2,400." That's when MY jaw dropped. "$2,400?!?", I said. "Heck, just the materials for that job are $1800! And it's a 4 day job for us! I don't see how there's any way someone could do it for..." And he interrupted me again. He replied, "I don't see how either. And I was thinking of doing it myself. But for that cheap, we decided to just hire out for it. Anyway, thanks for your time, but we'll be using that other company - goodbye." and he closed the door in my face.

    Now I've been around the block, boys. This isn't this soldier's first battle. But I gotta admit, my morale was a little deflated that day. I couldn't believe I got undercut by THAT much! What was the world coming to? If guys are bidding jobs THAT low, how would I ever land jobs this year?

    Well, right about the time I was feeling sorry for myself, I got a call from a bid we had done a few days before. Only a $5,000 job. But he was ready to go! Got 2 bids and liked mine better for some reason. I am not sure I was the cheapest but he liked our bid a lot and we landed a job - without him trying to beat me up on price or anything. He was ready to go!!! We're doing the job right now. Be finished tomorrow or Wednesday.

    Second Story;
    I gave two fairly good sized bids so far this week. One was for $13,200 and another for $18,000. Both hardscape/landscape jobs.

    And understand this -- we could REALLY use some more work right now, like most companies.

    The first guy wrote back today and said he liked our company the best. Liked what I had to say. Liked our warranty. Everything. He'd be willing to sign a contract and get started right away - if I could only come down to $11,000. Well, dang! Materials I pretty much quoted at just above cost. So no wiggle room there. And labor was only $7,300 of the bid. So that means he is asking me to take about $2K off my labor price! That means I'd have to make 30% less on labor for this job! You gotta be kidding me! We'd be better off just not taking the job. So I found a polite way to tell him no, I couldn't do it. But assured him we'd be the best in terms of quality, reliability, etc. and he should still consider us anyway. I had a guaranteed $11K job - and I turned it down I had to decline the offer. As much as I needed a $11,000 job right now, and as much as that would help our monthly cash-flow situation, I had to decline. It was tough. I could have gone over today and signed a contract and had 5,500 bucks in my hand! That tore me apart to say no! I guaran-damm-ty ya most of the other soldiers within a few clicks of my position would have taken him up on that there offer. But I was not going to lose money on a job just for cash-flow sake.

    But as luck would have it, there was another bid I gave this week. The $18,000 job. And what do you know? They didn't even want to get any other bids. They liked our design. They liked our concept. They liked the website and our conversations and just today they decided to go ahead with their project right on the spot - no haggling at all. Just "Great. How much do we make the check out for and when can you start?"

    So have patience boys! Stick to your guns! Don't let those cheapos run you out of business by forcing you to lower your price when you know you shouldn't! We can still get jobs this year and still get profitable jobs too! Just keep giving bids. More marketing. Get your name out there. Give more and more bids. The good ones will rise to the top!

    Now battle on, troops!
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2009
  2. CALandscapes

    CALandscapes LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 946

    Nice post, Jim.

    Maybe I should print it out and mail it to all of the other landscape contractors in the N.O., LA area. :dizzy: haha.

    Seriously, though, I'm with you 100%; there's no reason to low-ball, to haggle yourself out of a profit, etc.. Those of us who have made it this far and have done good, honest work along the way should continue to get by, albeit possibly not thrive, but at least make it through this recession.

    Best of luck to you this year, Jim! :weightlifter:
  3. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Jim, I think your the poster child for quality installs.

    You've pretty well summed up how even in a down-turn economy people are still looking at reputation and quality and not the lowest bid.

    Sure you'll miss a few jobs, but the ones you land will keep your biz going.

    Don't be surprised when you get calls from some of the loosing bids to have you come in and fix the issues created by going cheap.

    Funny thing is about reading this is that I just got done doing maintenance on a property that might land me 50,000 in business in the next 3 years. It got me thinking about how I'll stay afloat in this economy and I'll I can do is go upwards from here.
  4. scagmower

    scagmower LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 382

    good point ive ran into some low ballers this yr too, and i didnt budge on my price either, its not worth doing it for nothing!!!
  5. weasel

    weasel LawnSite Member
    from 5
    Messages: 195

    I'll play Devil's Advocate here. Someone just trying to get more exposure and grow who has maybe a smaller crew could have done it for less. We usually know what everyone's material cost is going to be, but we never know their overhead or what it takes for them to live on. However, before some start cussing me I agree with not coming down on your price it would make someone look unprofessional in my opinion. Like when you leave the car dealership after they turned down your offer and you get a call a week later and now they say they'll take your offer. ha ha Too bad guys you had your chance to make the sale.
  6. allinearth

    allinearth LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 614

    Seems like we always get a bunch of people wanting cheap jobs in the early spring. Takes a while to sort through them to get decent jobs. Last year we implemented a estimate fee to get rid of the junk calls that just waste our time. Seems like here the hotter it gets the better the jobs that come in.
  7. LB1234

    LB1234 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,208

    did you charge any upfront costs for any of the design work? Or do to the size did you just consider it part of your operating costs?
  8. weasel

    weasel LawnSite Member
    from 5
    Messages: 195

    How did that work out? Did it scare away too many? Do you still use this practice? I always wanted to do this.
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Was this question directed toward me?

    NEUSWEDE LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 1,150

    Watch the news and corny financial shows on major news networks and all they talk about is this is the time to be haggling with stuff you buy. I saw on show that said you can walk into best buy and ask for 30% off anything there and they will give it to you. Now if people know they can do that of course they are going to do it with the landscape company because in most peoples mind we are lower on the food chain than Best Buy and are a lot worse off financially.

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