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Working for builders: Roadblocks

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Chilehead, Sep 6, 2007.

  1. Chilehead

    Chilehead LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Stockbridge, GA
    Messages: 1,956

    Please tell me what I am doing wrong. I am pursuing to form a working relationship with a builder or two in terms of grounds care and design/build. I will generally send out an introduction letter informing them about my company and indicating that we will be calling them in a few days to follow up. I will place a phone call asking for the builder. When I talk to the builder, they generally confirm they received my letter, but quickly interject,"We have no interest in using your services." If I call back a few weeks later, I am asked not to call them again. I have gotten this response from over 500 builders around Atlanta. Is this the norm? To think that not even one builder would want to talk with me is irrational in my mind. What do you think? Thanks in advance!:dizzy:
  2. Bill M

    Bill M LawnSite Member
    Messages: 36

    I purchased a house in a new sub, the grass never got cut or anything toward the end. The supervisor hired a "friends" lawn service to do the job. The job was terrible if they showed up, plus they were paid "very" well.
  3. Envy Lawn Service

    Envy Lawn Service LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,087

    Well, I think I can shed some light on this subject.
    Probably more like a spotlight... as I was a builder for 7 years before selling out... and eventually returning to just lawn care.

    First of all, realize this ain't nothing personal.

    Second, realize that you are picking the absolute worst time of year to call on building contractors. It's hot as ____ and nobody is in a good mood.

    Third, realize this is a VERY hard area to get your foot in the door... and once you do finally get there, it's likely to be a door you wish you could get your foot out of. Considering my history and contacts, do you not think I could have started back day-one doing this full time for a living. Do you wonder why I don't?....

    Forth, realize that many builders of any size... it's not like they are limited to one form of 'contracting'. Many came from roots in mowing, landscaping, hardscaping, masonry, grading... and on up the ladder like I did. Many such people that OWN a construction company often also own a couple of more companies as well. So many do this work "in house" like I did and find your marketing annoying.

    Fifth, also understand that most builders who don't do this stuff in-house very likely have a buddy that does it for them. I mean come on... who the hell doesn't know a hand full of landscapers?

    Sixth, also understand that besides only the very very highest of high end properties... most of the rest receive a sorry arse lick and a promise in the lawn and landscape segment. I mean bad! As in the builder doesn't have a specialized crew for this, so the building crew and a hand full of mexicans finish off the landscape before they move on to build the next one.

    The moral of the story is that it's an extremely hard area to break into, and unless you are really lucky it's an area you'll soon be looking to break out of once you do get in.
  4. Richard Martin

    Richard Martin LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,699

    I'm not trying to racist, funny or anything like that but...

    How is your English?
  5. maintenanceguy

    maintenanceguy LawnSite Member
    from NJ
    Messages: 156

    I'm assuming you're talking about developers who build a hundred or a thousand houses at one location, and not a guy builidng half a dozen houses a year.

    I used to work for one of the biggest of these developers, I've worked for them as an employee and as a sub contractor, but never in landscaping.

    Here's how they work:

    The landscape design is done before one shovel hits the ground. It's all part of the site drawings that were done months or years before. They don't need or want design work. It was done by the engineering firm that drew up the house plans.

    For lawncare, they are looking for two things: Cheap and Cheap. If you start telling them about chemical apps, species of grass, striping, how you make sure to blow off the driveway, you're out of the running. They want a truckload of mexicans that can cut the place in a few hours and move on.

    They won't pay you. You may get a few partial payments from time to time just to keep you coming back but they'd rather just hire a new truckload of mexicans and not pay them once you stop showing up. Since you're just cutting grass, there's no materials that became part of the property (as there are with other subcontractors) so they know you can't even file a lein against the property. Once the house is sold, you are guaranteed not to get your final payments.
  6. Chilehead

    Chilehead LawnSite Bronze Member
    Male, from Stockbridge, GA
    Messages: 1,956

    Gee, seems to me it's like making a deal with the devil according to ya'll. I have had a very similar series of circumstances trying to get in with commercial maintenance. Needless to say, I don't feel 5% profit margin is worth my time. I'm doing 40% with residential, and yes it is all high end. The problem with residential customers is that most of them do not want to do a 12-month contract. They would rather just pay me for the 8-9 months of "seasonal work" and not pay anything in the winter. This of course restricts cash flow.
  7. tjsquickcuts

    tjsquickcuts LawnSite Senior Member
    from Atlanta
    Messages: 943

    It just really depends on the builder. Like mentioned above, most builders already have a company on speed dial.....Most of the bigger company watch closely for permits being issued for builders and developers....send them a letter asking if and when they will be accepting bids for the installs....There is a little leg work in landing huge install jobs.....Too much going on to listen to some guy calling me about mowing some grass....

    Now if you are working in a developing neighborhood, then you work can be your way in the door, plus stopping by the sales office and chit chatting with the sales lady wont hurt either.....But like mentioned earlier, if a builder can get by with BS, then they will.....but they are building some nice neighborhoods around your way. But stop by and leave some cards with the sales ladys, and try to develop a relationship because most often then not, they are the ones who are making the calls for the general mtce...

    Lastly, and this is very important....having legal counsel is key....contracts can be very tricky, and if you are not careful you will find yourself in a bit of a pinch....If anything goes wrong, I can sleep easy know that someone else is already on top of it.....I just landed my first install job, and I had all contracts drawn up by my lawyer.....I feel good about everything so far....but I am sure everybody has had a different opinion on this....

    But on the other hand, Atl metro area has tons a company's, so you need something to set you apart....
  8. captken

    captken LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,704

    I agree with all you said, to sum it up I focused on the two things, Cheap and Cheap, plus they don't want to pay.

    Don't waste your time cultivating this type customer.

    Pedro can do it cheaper, with 15 or so of his close kin, to handle volume, along with whatever else Pedro does for these guys.

    They care not about quality. Cheap Cheap.

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