From landing more projects to hiring and retaining qualified workers, landscaping contractors are frequently looking for ways to improve their businesses. Augusta Lawn Care Services founder and CEO Mike Andes says one major way landscapers can accomplish their goals is through more professionalism in the industry.
Andes says a higher degree of professionalism could lead to a variety of benefits for landscapers, including, but not limited to:
It stands to reason that conducting yourself with more professionalism would lead to obtaining more business. In a potential customer’s eyes, there could be a big difference between a group of people showing up in mismatched clothes and a random pickup truck with a lawnmower in the truck bed – and a crew in a branded vehicle and matching uniforms.
Andes says factors such as uniforms, vehicle branding, company websites and professional quoting protocol instill confidence in prospects. The way you and your crew conduct yourselves is also of high importance. Return customers’ calls in a timely manner, use professional and polite language while on the job or in public and answer customer questions in a knowledgeable and friendly way. This professionalism can help customers feel satisfied, safe with you on their property and assured you will provide quality work.
Projecting a professional demeanor can also enable landscaping contractors to charge a fair premium for their work, says Andes.
“Lawyers and doctors charge hundreds of dollars per hour, and how much they charge per hour is like an indicator of how good they are," he explains. "And yet in this industry we are expected to juggle the hats of accounting, marketing, online presence, branding, hiring, firing and all the different operational aspects of our business, and yet we're going to charge $30 to $40 per hour"
Andes goes on to say, “I really feel that in order for our industry to get to the level of professionalism that is required, we're going to have to do it in a sustainable way from a profitability standpoint and charge higher prices. In order to charge higher prices, you're going to have to have uniforms, you're going to have to have trained staff members, you're going to have to have systems and processes in place to be more efficient.”
In the end, he says it's all about perceived value.
"When landscapers put their contact information on the trucks, keep the trucks clean, wear uniforms, train their people and offer other things like that in their business, they can easily command an extra $10 or $15 per man hour," Andes notes.
Andes also says more professionalism in the industry can change customer perceptions of landscapers. By projecting professionalism in everything you do as a landscaping professional, you may improve your reputation in the marketplace.
“A lot of landscapers get frustrated by the perception that landscapers are unprofessional,” says Andes. "But, at the end of the day, if we're going to change that perception, we need to practice things such as estimate follow-up processes and automated emails and texts. We need to offer instant communication with the customer and professional offices. We need to answer the phone correctly. Those are all things that will change that perception by having systems in place to make sure that the quality is up to certain standards.”
Another benefit of more professionalism in the landscaping industry is better workforce development.
The labor shortage is a common complaint of today's landscaping contractors. It can prove difficult to find qualified workers and is often even harder to hire and retain them. But through the ability to get more and better work, charge fair prices and improve company and overall industry reputations – landscapers can make landscaping opportunities more attractive to job seekers.
Being able to pick up more work and potentially charge more per job could enable company owners to pay workers a higher wage. Additionally, projecting a more professional image may cause employees to take more pride in being a landscaper.
While more professionalism in the landscaping industry may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. Uniforms can be as simple as matching t-shirts and same-colored khakis or pants. Branded vehicles can be achieved through decals. And it is free to communicate in a polite, professional way. Just a few mindful changes may make a huge impact on your business and bottom line.