Tip: As You Grow, Get to Know The Smaller Landscape Companies

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by JimLewis, Sep 25, 2013.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    Tip of the Day, Guys:

    Get to know the smaller LCOs in your area. Be friendly with them. Treat them respectfully. Even if your company is way more established and professional than theirs is. You'll find it can often be very rewarding for you in return.

    As we've grown I've always been willing to take a call from a smaller LCO, give him a little advice if needed (without sharing too much, obviously), introduce myself when we meet at a class or BBQ a supplier is having, etc. And even though we've grown to become one of the biggest companies in our area, doing millions a year in sales, I try to always be as humble as possible. I remember what it was like trying to build a small company, slogging through the rain and mud mowing lawns just to make a buck. It was brutal and I'll always respect the guys in our industry for it.

    For some reason, a lot of people in our industry see all the other LCOs as a threat. And the truth is, there is plenty of work for all of us. And if I'm good at what I do, it won't matter how many of them are out there trying to compete. If I'm on top of my game, there will be plenty for us. So I don't view them as a threat. And in fact, the opposite is true. They can often be a benefit to our company.

    How? Referrals. Most of the other larger company owners ignore the smaller companies. I saw it happen for years. I still see it. That's a mistake. Those guys can often give you REALLY good leads, if you'll work to create a good relationship! They know lots of people with nice homes and expendable money! We have several smaller LCO companies in our area who regularly feed us really good leads for install work like paver patios, sprinkler system installs, outdoor living spaces, lighting installations, sprinkler service work, etc. Why? Because they don't do it, aren't licensed for it, or aren't interested in it. But they want to have someone they can trust and send their clients to.

    Just this last week I landed a $42k job for a full hardscape / outdoor living area. And that came from one of these smaller LCO companies. All he wants to do is maintenance - nothing more. So everything else he sends our way. I reward him with lunches, Visa Gift cards, etc. as a thank-you for sending us good quality leads. But even with what I spend on that and the few leads we send his way, we always get more out of it than he does. And he's okay with that. He just wants someone trustworthy who does good honest work to send his clients to. That reflects well on him.

    This happens quite a lot, actually. So if your company is growing, expanding, offering services that not all the other LCOs around town can do - keep those other guys in mind. Build bridges. Introduce yourself and get to know these guys. Almost every time I've done that it's been rewarding to me in some way, over time. Don't look at all your competitors as threats. Look at them as colleagues who you can maybe have a good relationship with. And that may turn out to be very rewarding one day.
  2. Sprinkler Buddy

    Sprinkler Buddy LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 1,185

    Well said! I'm one of those small guys by choice, I don't want the headaches of offering many services and I do refer things that I don't do to larger companies that I know will do the job right.

    I'm still waiting on my kick backs! lol Most of the time the larger company don't know it was I that referred them, maybe I should let them know from here on out. :)
  3. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    Good post Jim. You could even take size out of it and say specialization. I always wave at other guys and I get a few waves back. I regularly work for another larger company doing rip outs since they don't have the equip, adds thousands a month. They will also send me leads they receive out of their area since I'm a few towns away.

    Unfortunately at the supply yard at 7am Monday I see many more scowls exchanged between owners than smiles. Not from me though
  4. ron mexico75

    ron mexico75 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,054

    Very good post and makes good sense. I did what you are talking about just recently with an irrigation company. Some yards I do don't have irrigation. When they ask me I always give them a name of a company I used at a house I used to own because I know they offer good service and do a good job. I ended up getting some free work done at my house because a referral turned into a job for the company.

    I also always try to give a wave or nod to any other landscape workers I see working or driving by.
  5. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    Definitely! This one guy I was talking about has apparently been sending us decent jobs for a while now, and I wasn't even aware of it until this big job came along. My office manager mentioned it to me when she booked the appt. for me. She said, "This is a guy who's been referring a lot of stuff our way this year. We got a SynLawn job from him, a few leads for install jobs, and lots of irrigation service work from him." I was surprised she hadn't mentioned it before. But when I sent him the thank-you package recently I told him that whenever he sends people our way to definitely tell them to mention that he sent them to us (so I can keep track) and to ask for me to be the estimator (as we have 4 estimators at our company). That way I can keep track of what jobs we do land and send him more rewards, as we land them. He's out there creating free marketing for us!

    There's several other guys in town like this too. One of my estimators has landed a few jobs from one of the other guys here in town and recently called me and asked, "This LCO is sending quite a lot of stuff our way and every time the customers say how much they love him and if he recommends us, we must be great too and they don't get any competing bids, etc. Can I go take this guy out to lunch as a thank-you for the stuff he's sending our way?" I said, "Yes! And if he's been sending us good leads and you're landing these jobs you should not only take him out to lunch, but surprise him with a $100 or $200 Visa Gift Card (we do those because those are easy to document as a tax write-off, where cash is not) and definitely let's start a good relationship with this guy! Tell him to have his customers ask for you whenever he calls so you can keep up on how much he's sending our way and then keep rewarding him every so often. This guy can help YOU land more jobs and help your commission rates go up!"

    I think it's great to have relationships with companies like this. And as one person said, even BIGGER companies. When I was a small fry I had this bigger company who would send us small clean-up and maintenance jobs as they weren't interested in that stuff at all and they knew we didn't do the big install jobs so they didn't view us as competition. That worked out well too.
  6. greenstar lawn

    greenstar lawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 648

    Good post. I am somewhat on the smaller guys and have met a few nice ppl that are in this industry. I refer all my bigger landscape jobs to a landscaping Co. And they hook me up with lawns if I can add any.
    I also teamed up with a private fert and squirt guy a few yrs back and he sprays a lot of my yards and in return he sprays for bugs for free at my house twice a season.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  7. meets1

    meets1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,857

    I run a nursery as well to our lawn care businesses. I do offer discount of bushes, plants, trees, etc to other small time landscapers. If they need a lot of rock,small fee we'll deliver. Even if I don't do anything suddenly the home owner knows that the nursery stock came from us and sometimes they call us on the lawn are side...even if it is only mowing or complete pkg.
  8. TJLinc

    TJLinc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    Great post. I wholeheartedly agree. I do fertilizer applications for a smaller guy in town. Any time that he gets something that is out of his comfort zone, too big, or too far for him, he gives us the lead (about to start a 10k drainage job on one of his accounts). One note though, be honest and loyal to them. A couple of his customers have called me and asked me to take over. Good accounts. You have to say no in that situation even if they are your target market. It will pay off in the long run.

    Another side of the situation is that we are a growing company. About 15 employees currently with jobs posted (yes, going into winter). I have a skid, mini skid, and tractor, but don't have an excavator. If I need one, I call another landscaper who has become a friend of mine. He doesn't have a skid, so guess what? If he needs one, he just calls me. We have a great working relationship. I am behind right now so he is going to do an irrigation install for me on a commercial site, and I am going to hydroseed 9 acres for him in November.

    You are right, everyone is not the enemy. Respect those who respect you. they can be an asset or a referral in the future.

Share This Page