ILCA Women’s Networking Group


Giving away the milk. by sararexroat
October 7, 2009, 3:54 pm
Filed under: 1

by Sara Rexroat

In times like these, it’s very tempting to discount rates to keep crews working and cash flowing.  I am sure it’s even smart in many cases.  But sometimes discounting rates doesn’t even make a difference in competing with companies who are giving away their services. 

Some friends of mine who live in the city recently purchased a home in a suburb.  We drove out on a Saturday morning to take a look at their new digs.  They had some different trades there fixing this, servicing that.  I noticed that they had a crew there doing maintenance work on their new 1+ acre property.  How could I miss them?  There were so many of them, everywhere I looked there seemed to be another one.  Mind you, the property had not been landscaped only around the home but there was a beautiful border around the entire 1+acre property!  I was oohing and ahhing over how lucky they were to find such a great lot – who cared about the house!!

As we got to talking, my friend said the landscape maintenance company who was there working was the same company that had maintained it for the previous owners.  He thought their rates were reasonable and was probably going to keep them on as well.  I boldly asked how much the company was charging as I live and work in the city and couldn’t imagine how much it was going to cost them to maintain this large property.  He imformed me that the company charged $50 to mow, $58 to mow and remove grass clippings or $75 to mow, remove clippings and maintain the entire property’s borders!  I told him he was getting a steal.

The more I got to thinking about it, the more shocked and upset I got.  Their rates are reasonable.?!.  Their rates are ridiculous!  How could a crew of 5 guys (I think there were 6 guys there, but I’ll be conservative and say 5) cover costs of mowing and maintaining a 1+ acre site let alone make a profit for that price?  It would be difficult for the company I work for to even show up with 5 guys for $50 let alone mow their 1+ acre site.  We have overhead costs of landscape architects, designers,  horticulturists, CPAs, mechanics, etc to cover…$50 to mow 1+ acre site, are you serious?

Then I started to think about how confusing it must seem to homeowners who get estimates from multiple companies for what in their eyes must seem like the same work.  I realize there are people who understand the different levels of service and knowledge between companies.  Even this being my life’s work, I would have a hard time passing up $50!

Scott Grams has provided updates on municipalities requiring CLTs in their bid specifications.  This is a step in the right direction, but what about companies that focus on residential work?  How do we legitimize our work as a professional service when there are “guys with a pick-up truck and a mower” who will provide service at such low rates?  I do believe there is a place for people/companies to get a start in every market, but even having said that – the disparity in prices must seem ridiculous to some.

I don’t know the answer, but I think any of us in the landscaping industry who consider ourselves professionals should be thinking about it.

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