Would another Landscape companies sign on a lot you service bother you?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Ramairfreak98ss, Oct 18, 2007.

  1. zedosix

    zedosix LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,665

    I would say judging by your website that it doesn't portray that your "specialty" is hardscaping so I'm not so sure the ho made the wrong decision. Their sign is good practise although a bit disturbing I would imagine to have to cut grass around their sign.
  2. Good topic. I could see why you would be upset, but I think the best thing to do is let the public know what you do. I chose to use Landscaping in my business name b/c ultimately, I want to be doing more LS than cutting. I don't mind doing the cutting maintenance, but as others have said it is cuthroat and really anyone can do it. LS Design and Installs imo is where the big bucks are anyway. I just started about 4 months ago and by this upcoming season, I want to weed out all my mow blow go's and keep my full-maintenance accounts and only take on full-maintenance accounts from that point on and LS jobs. I have 5 accounts right now that never water their turf,never fertilize and the grass looks like dogshit. Now, since I just started, i'm in no place to get rid of them, but I hope that as time goes i lose them. My whole mindset is i want to take care of people's properties that want their yard to shine.
  3. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Agreed - good topic!

    Yah, this has happened to me more times than I'd like to admit. Not very often. But often enough that I definitely know that pissed off feeling you have. I can't stand it when a maintenance customer just hires some other hardscape or irrigation company without even realizing or asking if we do that kind of work.

    I've seen maintenance customers of mine hire someone to do a hardscape or irrigation job just because they didn't realize that we did it and then they'd say, "Well...but...this company specializes in irrigation. That's all they do. So I just figured they'd really know what they were doing.' What I want to tell them is, "Listen here you son of a $#@*!, I know that's all they do. But that doesn't make them more qualified! We install about 5 times as many systems as they do in any given year and our systems have better parts, are designed better, and are way more efficient than the crap they installed for you! Just because they don't know how to do anything else doesn't make them more qualified, you dolt!!!' But what I do instead is just try to nicely explain to them that we do a lot of that work too and to call us first next time.

    Then I go fling dog poo onto their Porche as I drive by at night. :laugh: jk.
  4. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    By the way, I think part of the fault is ours, for not getting our "other work" in front of customers more often. Often times they just think of us as "lawn guys" and don't realize we do other, really nice work. That's why I started a seasonal newsletter a few years ago. See this thread;


    My goal was to remind my existing installation customers about us. But also to let our existing maintenance and clean-up customers understand that we do a WHOLE LOT MORE!
  5. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,380

    One of the major problems here is customer education. You get mad at the lady who hires another landscape company to put in a hardscape and you are there mowing the grass because they "assumed" you didnt do that kind of work.
    Well what about you "assuming" the customer didn't have any more work that needed to be done?
    When you were 12 years old mowing grandmas grass, you finished the job, knocked on the door, and grandma gave you a cookie, a glass of lemonade and a five dollar bill.
    "Gee grandma, thanks" followed by "IS THERE anything else YOU NEED DONE??"

    see there is the problem. Lack of customer service and education. You fail to let the customer know two things. #1) that you do other kinds of work and most importantly #2) THAT YOU HAVE TIME to do the other work and service the other needs the customer has!

    Every one mows grass for a few reasons, 1) to make money and 2) its easy. 3) it happens regularly (weekly)
    But "grass mowers" get caught up in the maximization of their services (Ie the equipment) which although is great for the bottom line, is bad for the customer in unseen ways which eventually is bad for companies that do "full service"

    You see, the ZTR is a Demon, it takes your production to a whole new level, and at the same time what does it look like to the customer when you zoom across their lawn in 15 minutes and are gone? They are thinking you are waaaay too busy for their patio, you look like the lawn guy with ADD, you give them the idea that you cant possibly spend the time on their patio that it would take.

    The grass cutters LOOKS like no other service in the world! NOONE can get in and out of a customers property faster than we can, I have actually pulled up, mow ,blow an trim the lawn faster than it took the POSTMAN to sort through the mail, and put the mail in the mail box! (small lawn)

    That is body language that sends your customer a message.

    WHAT do you want to do with your business?
    Mow lawns?
    Make money?
    Corner the market? make sure no one else gets any work?
    OR service your customer?

    IF you are a mow blow and go company (which is agood business model in my opinion)
    Then do ONLY that, and then NETWORK with similar companies that provide different services (irrigation guy, patio guy etc) you refer them to their type of work, they refer you.

    IF you are a Landscape install company, then stick to it and dont mow grass, no matter how easy it is to make money doing it!

    BUT if you are a FULL service landscape company, ACT like one.

    A Full service landscape company isnt just a guy who CAN do everything.
    Its marketing, selling, and organization.

    here's the first revolutionary idea for you. IF you run full service landscape, then DONT mow your residential customers with ZTRS!

    DO NOT ,NOT ever, OR you will get typified as a mow blow and go guy.Use walk behinds! what? huh? why not use the "best machine" I can get?

    Well whats the "best"?

    Mows the fastest? The dealer will tell you that because the faster the more expensive and the bigger sale for them the better (for them)

    You see there is a major problem in our industry, we have let our vendors dictate to us how to do and what to use for our customer service.

    No other portion of the industry has gone this way. Does your nursery tell you what trees to plant?
    Does the pipe company tell you the size of pipe to use for your mainline?
    Do the Auto dealers tell you ,you have to use a diesel to tow the trailer for your mowers?

    But EVERYONE is convinced the ZTR is the ultimate answer to making money at cutting grass.

    For the full service landscape company, I am here to tell you it is the BANE to you success in a residential market.

    First I need to clarify what the true pro and con to a full service landscape company is.
    There is the benefit (to the customer) of a comprehensive service, versus the efficency and specific knowledge of a specialist.
    This alone is material for an entirely different post.
    But a comprehensive sevice company cannot be a specialist, no matter how much you want to be and the reverse is also true.
    So if your business model is full service, then you are a comprehensive service.
    SO STOP trying to compete with the mow blow and go "specialist"
    The mow blow and go "specialist" has one goal.
    To make as much money per minute in a single day as possible.

    The comprehensive full service landscape company has a completely different goal. Customer service. you want this customer to come to you for their needs in all their outdoor services. right?
    Then you need to give the customer what THEY want.
    Zooming across their lawns to maximize your profits is not what they want.
    They told you that, by hiring someone else to give them services that you provide.

    Your customer has communicated with you and told you, that you are running your business wrong.
    If you are just the maintenance guy, then you dont care someone else did the patio.
    Does the pool guy care someone else painted the house?

    So obviously by the mere fact that you care, you ARE a full service company.

    Next step, are you really a full service company, or an install company that has gotten sucked into mowing grass?
    If the latter is true, DROP the maintenance, Find a maintenance company, network with them and unload all your maintenance contracts and equipment on them and DO installs (because you are a specialist in installs)

    OR you can decide to be full service.

    Get those walkbehinds out on your residentials, SLOW DOWN, give more attention to detail, roll up hoses, move lawn furniture, pull weeds, but most of all SPEND time on the customers property every week, they key word there is TIME.

    Time to give the customer an opportunity to even walk out and talk to you about their patio project.

    A full service company will never do any one thing better than a specilaist, with the exception of customer service.

    You cannot, (and shouldnt try to) mow the lawn as fast or efficiently as the mow blow and go guy ( he has a different business model)
    You wont be able to trouble shoot an electrical problem as well as the irrigation specialist and there are nursery planting teams that all the do is put in 2" caliper decidous trees and hole heck I've never seen it done faster.

    But that isn't your goal, let the specialists have their niche work that they are better at, maybe you can use their specific specialities some day as a sub contractor.
    Let them keep their specialities and you keep your customers, just remember you are a customer service specialist, and dont let the mowing greed suck you into that yearn for $85 per hour with a $12 an hour employee, it will consume you!
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653


    If that were my yard, and things were as you said, in other words I can tell
    folks driving by are going to think the other company did the work that is visible
    which is actually the work I did?

    I would have removed the sign and put it in back of my truck, not another word said
    and gone on about my business, pretty much.

    But that's just me, you have to decide for yourself, I can't guarantee what comes of it lol.


    I could say landscaping means to actually shape the earth, so unless you happen to have terrain
    moving equipment such as bulldozers you're not really a landscaper?

    Like that fool who just HAD to hire a 'horticulturist' earlier this year...
    That yard today is still a crap lot.
    Same old, same old.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Sweet! Finally someone on LS who has longer posts than me. You oughtta win the award for longest post on lawnsite history with that one. I had to stop reading after the 5th chapter and just skip forward to the end of the book.

    Anyway, I gotta call you out on the quote above. That is a HUGE generalization and is not totally true all of the time. Our company does maintenance, irrigation, drainage, segmental retaining walls, all kinds of hardscapes, planting, outdoor lighting, etc. But I can tell you for a fact that our maintenance guys are better, more thorough, faster, more efficient, have tighter routes, and more knowledgeable than probably 90% of the mow-blow-go only companies out there. Why? Because that's what I built my company on. I spend years and years learning and perfecting how to create the most efficient mowing schedules and crews around. That was all I did for a good 5 years or so, and have continued doing for a total of almost 13 years now. There aren't many "specialty" maintenance companies around here that are as good as our guys. But after I built up that business and perfected it to the point where it was as efficient and profitable as I thought I could make it, I began to learn other things.

    See - it's as if you are saying that once someone learns to be very good at something, they'll never be able to be very good at something else. They can only be very good at one thing. That's simply not true.

    As I began to learn more landscaping related stuff, the first thing I learned was irrigation. Over a lot of years and a ton of experience (now installing more systems in my county than any other company each year) I can feel pretty confident in saying there aren't any companies in my area who design or install better or more efficient sprinkler systems. In fact, with the way we design them and the upgrades we install, our systems are 25-50% more efficient than the regular systems that most irrigation "specialists" install around here. Our company installs twice as many systems as most all of the "specialists" who just do irrigation. And we do them right. We offer a better warranty than any of them. We have less call-backs. No way you can say these specialists have anything on me on my guys. We install some of the best systems around for this area. And just because I still have my lawn maintenance division going, doesn't preclude me from also being very good at irrigation.

    It's the same with every other thing we do. I won't say were the best at some types of hardscapes. We're still learning. But our work is at least on par with most of the landscape companies and even many of the "just hardscape specialists" around here. There are several services we do where I can safely say we're better than most - even specialists. Things like drainage, irrigation, retaining walls, maintenance, plant and sod installation, etc. Then there are some things I would say we're really good at but maybe not quite as good as the specialists. Those would be things like water features, outdoor lighting, and pavers.

    Point is, you can be a master of many trades, given enough time. We have 3 crews out installing landscapes, hardscapes, and irrigation every week. Most irrigation or hardscape "specialists" have one crew that is out doing that kind of work each week. And many of them have been doing it a lot less years than we have. So to say that just because they "specialize" in that trade doesn't necessarily mean they are better at it. Often, it just means they don't have any other skills.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
  8. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,380

    Being skilled at something is completely different than a business model.

    I'm better at lawn mowing, route density, and the sort than any competitor I care to choose.
    I'm also better at water features than most and one of the top 20 irrigators in 500 miles from here.

    Hardscape, im better than most.

    But what is it that I do? All of it? maintenance? Irrigation?
    I can change oil too, should i throw that in my list of services?

    The point is make a business model and stick to it.
    Dont get caught up with competing with the jones's and concentrate on what it is you do.
    If you are a full service, your focus is customers you have and fulfilling every service they need.
    If you are irrigator-guy then you dont care if someones sign is on a property for a hardscape job.
    and the mowing guy, unless he does his job in marketing, and customer education will always be seen as the mower guy.

    Its more about conceptualizing your business rather than what you can (or know how to) do.

    See a company name like LEWIS Landscape Services is much better than most.

    People with names like "Lawns by Joe" get upset when their customers dont know they do hardscapes.

    A company name should tell your customers what it is you do.
    Quick cuts, Cutting Edge, Lawn-rite...all companies I have known in the past who "also do hardscapes" and wonder why they never get asked to do hardscape jobs.

    They have 6 lawn trucks, 12 ZTRS, and 15 employees, none of them own a plate compactor, a bobcat, a mini ex or even a dump truck. But "they do hardscapes"

    See my point is focus on what it is you do. If you REALLY DO hardscapes (and not just hope to, or can if you get offered a job and rent the equipment) then you dont stand around wondering why you dont get hardscape jobs or customers you cut lawns for call someone else for a quote.

    Whos fault is it your customer doesnt know you do hardscapes?
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    Ok. Yah, I am with you on everything you just said. I just took issue with that one statement that I highlighted earlier. I guess we see more eye to eye than I thought.
  10. TPendagast

    TPendagast LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,380


    The other thing you have to realize is, that a company like yours is in a different category than the guys who are solos or have say less than 5 employees.

    Also just because you mow grass, doesnt make you a specialist.

    In truth there are very few mow blow and go specialist companies, but there alot of mow blow and go companies.

    I doubt most people have even met or seen a specialist in the category as they target specific types of lawns (like "we only do HOAs, or we only do hospitals) as opposed to the "mow every lawn" type of companies out there.

    As for irrigation specialists, those who only do irrigation also arent any where near "specialists" and by far most of them are goof balls, or robbers than anything else.

    From what I gather from your website, you are more of a multi-discipline, medium sized company.

    It's clear "Jim" doesn't run all the jobs. I assume you have various managers or at least senior foreman who work in your specialist areas (irrigation, hardscape etc).

    But if you loose a key guy (lets say your top irrigator) that can affect your whole way of doing things. lets say irrigator A who has been with you for 10 years finished his BS in Landscape architecture and goes out on his own.
    Now you hire irrigator B, but he doesnt mesh into the LEWIS way of doing things and none of the subordinates are ready to step up and run things.
    Sometimes it can take quite abit of hiring and firing before Irrigator E fits in that spot again an things can again go according to the LEWIS system of doing things.

    Once you get away from "Jim" doing all the jobs or being on all the sites at least every other day..it all comes down to the "Lewis" of things,that is to say training, discipline and systems. Now you are so far away from a solo guy that is pissed because some other bloke has his sign on your mowing job that the previous posts dont even apply to you.
    A company like yours is more like several specialist compaies working under a single brand name (which is the next step in growth when a solo full service ompany moves to a mid-sized company and needs managers etc)

    Your cheif concern lies more with making sure your crews are doing things the lewis way, and not the way who-ever did it in the last company he worked for. That is to say keep everyone doing it the "Lewis way"

    Totally different topic.

    If you had a problem letting your customers know you do hardscapes, I doubt you would have gotten to that stage yet.

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