Friday, July 28, 2006

Don't wait for summer!!!!

Ever wanted that dream backyard? A pool? A deck? A nice stone patio? Or maybe all of it!!! One of the most common things I find in my business is what I term as the last minute client....these are the folks that believe they can have a contractor come to your door, present ideas and a cost estimate....and start the work next week!

Lets have an inside look at a landscape contractor's life....

For the most part, in the Northern reaches of North America, it is a seasonal business! Winter and frost in the ground means no construction can happen between the months of late November (or when the frost sets in) to about early May (or when the ground dries up and drains properly enough to drive equipment over it).

Next we look at the contractor, he/she is usually looking to fill the work schedule up in the cold months when no work is happening. After all, knowing what sort of season start you will have in terms of work can help a contractor know how many people they need to hire, how many trucks they need and what equipment they will need to either purchase or resurrect from winter storage!

Now comes the bills....because the season stops, does not mean the banks or creditors suddenly stop looking for money for equipment payments. So that feeds the never ending drive to seek new work contracts for the coming season.

Then comes the idea that you need good qualified labourers to build the projects you are signing up! Once those projects are complete, you want to keep your labourers working....once again feeding the hunger to find more work.

By this point a contractor is edgy....wanting to fill the work season's schedule up as soon as they can so they can sort of rest well at night knowing their mortgages, equipment payments, insurance payments and material supplier account payments.... plus labourer expenses are all covered!

Now, having explored all that....this all adds up to a busy spring start. Home owners are antsy to get things rolling and like I stated above, contractors are eager to sign up work and hopefully make a profit by the end of the season.

What does that spell for the last minute client syndrome?

Example phone call.....

Client dials contractor's number on June 15th, contractor picks up.

Contractor: and so Landscaping....Joe speaking! (Hopefully in a pleasant salesman like voice)
Potential Client: Hi, yes I am wondering if you do interlock patios?
Contractor: Yes we do...
Potential Client: Good! Can you come see my place and give me an estimate?
Contractor: Yes I can....give me the address and so on....

Well, the meeting goes well....prices get discussed, eyebrows sometimes get raised (mainly from the client being shocked as to how much landscape work truly costs) and material choices are tossed about....suddenly the client drops the bomb.....

Potential Client: When can you start the work?
Contractor: Well.....I am booked for the next 7 to 8 weeks given that we do not get a lot of rain in the next while or so....
Potential Client: 8 WEEKS?!?!?!?!?! But I need this built before summer starts!!! My kids get out of school soon and I go on Vacation in July....I want to be enjoying my yard by then!!!

I personally have been in this situation as the sales rep and have been blasted for not being able to start sooner! It's not fun!!! It can sometimes make you question your choice of professions too! It is at that point, as a sales rep for landscape ask yourself the question....Why don't people think about contacting contractors months before they actually want the work completed?

So.....a word of advice, if you want to be swimming in your brand new swimming pool by June 21st or sipping cold beer on your new deck while dodging BBQ smoke, yapping with your friends on the July long weekend....consider calling the contractor in February! Or even better....Call them in October with the request of being one of their first clients for Spring.....You'll get first priority and time devotion to you by the contractor. Materials and prices can be well thought out with that much time to spare before the work begins.

Also....if the need for a landscape design've got the time to contact a designer and get something drawn up....

That is where I come in!



Catherine MacDonald said...

Very cool blog... Common sense just says plan ahead... But most folks don't have a clue about your business and the length of time it takes to get the work done. Keep writing and maybe you will educate folks along the way! I know me the brown thumb of death had no clue until I met you! If you can teach me (plant phobic, apartment dweller that I am) LOL you surely can get through to homeowners too!


darling24_7 said...

Very neat advice. Ive yet to be in the position to need one as I dont have my own home BUT in the event that I do... Ill make sure to come back to refresh my memory on what to do.

Thanks for sharing!