Hiring a Professional Landscaper
A professional can be all sorts of things depending on the area of expertise. For example, you can be a good golfer, but it doesn’t mean that you’re a professional. A professional is someone who specializes in a particular area and the same is true with landscaping. You can be pretty darn good a many things, it doesn’t necessarily make you an expert at them. Professional can also be the way you conduct your business. The way you dress, speak and carry yourself in a “professional” manner. I bring up these points for a very specific reason. Many of you are hiring a so-called “professional” to do work in your yards with a not so pleasant outcome, so I am hoping to give you a few hints that may help in the future.
To begin with…just because a person can mow your lawn, does not mean they know a THING about plants, soil or trees. I have seen this time and time again where a person has called me to correct the errors of the otherwise ignorant. Maybe trimming plants, trees and shrubs isn’t “Rocket Science”, but there absolutely is a science to it. Pruning and trimming plants and trees improperly can kill or permanently damage your plants, so trusting the life of your precious landscape to an amateur, or even worse, a person who happened to show up with tools, is a very bad decision. You wouldn’t go to your Eye Dr. for a foot injury, so why are you having your lawn guy maintain your plants. Now…, this is not to imply that a person who mows lawns knows nothing about plants and trees because many of them do, this is simply to suggest that you not ASSUME that they will. First clue… Do they have any idea what the name of the plants you are referring to are?? If they cannot name at least 3 of the first few plants you are pointing to, move on. You need to fully understand the nature of a plant before you can trim it. You need to know when the plant will have growth, or flowers, or how short you can cut it and have a chance for survival. Cutting a Beauty Berry or Climbing Rose too short can be the end of it. Cutting back flowering shrubs or fruit trees to early/late in the season can mean you will not have those flowers or fruit this year. There really is a method to the madness. Obviously there are varying categories to the severity of an error, one is that the plants are ugly until they correct themselves, or are corrected by a real professional (costing you twice as much), the other is that you have let your uneducated yard guy trim your Oak Trees improperly and now they have Oak Wilt. There is a value to having a knowledgeable person to handle certain jobs and this may not be an area where you should be cutting corners.
I also want to address, the other side of the “professional” aspect. Is the person you are hiring truly a professional person? Is this a legitimate, tax paying, contributing business? Did they show up on time, return phone calls promptly, do you get a person when you call? Do they seem knowledgeable? Did you pay cash, or do you make your check out to a company name? Are they professional enough to know when something is out of their league? I know a lot about a lot of different things, it doesn’t mean I specialize in them. I take a lot of pride in being able to say “I don’t know” or “that is something I am not good at”. What is the point of me telling you I know something I don’t? I am either covering up my ignorance or I want your money, no other good reason. So if you are getting a hint of this, thank them for their time and move on. If you have any hint that the person on your property is not what they represent themselves to be, move on.
Referrals are very important. Find someone who has worked for a friend or coworker who has had a good experience. Be cautious about paying in advance. When I am doing an installation I ask for 50% of the installment. These jobs can be expensive and it is difficult for small businesses like mine to foot the bill on every job, however, I am a 100% referral based business, you will not find me in the phone book. Reason being, I run my business on my integrity only, my reputation is important to me, your friends have to tell you about me. This means I need to be on my “A” game at all times because you aren’t going to tell anyone to call me if you aren’t completely satisfied. If you choose someone from a flier or they just happen to stop by your home, do you really know who they are? Do you choose a large business where you aren’t dealing with the owner? Do you go with a small business who has more to lose?? I think both have good guys doing the right thing but ultimately, the choice has to be made based on who is suited to do the job.
It is also very important to understand what and whom you are supporting. I avoid some businesses because I do not support their use of chemical warfare or environmental records. It is also important to hire reputable, “legal” and “legitimate” small businesses. This is very simple to do, it is a matter of record. There is competition for small business owners from both illegitimate businesses who can charge next to nothing because they do not support our economy or tax base, and the large companies who can afford to advertise and commercialize, but you may just be a number. It is next to impossible for us to have an even playing field even though many us (myself included) have years of education, experience and an excellent track record. You need to consider who and what you are supporting in addition to hiring the correctly educated person for the job. Landscaping is probably one of the last professions where people are trying to get something so valuable for close to nothing. When hiring plumbers, electricians, your A/C person, you would never dream to presume you could hire a less than knowledgeable person and pay an exorbitant rate, but your trees, plants,soil, lawn care and Planet we can skimp on? I don’t think so… You should be hiring an experienced /educated person for the job and the average man hour rate for labor is $35.00 – $40.00 per person, per hour and the average consultation fee is $100.00 per hour. Sometimes you get a better rate by bulk pricing large jobs (as I do) or you can get a better rate by having your “knowledgeable” lawn guy do the basic things like mulching, aeration and organic protocol (you do your homework and tell them what to use), and hiring someone else to do the landscape portion and break the job into smaller bits. Sometimes you can get a better price by going with a large company who can do it all, and sometimes you get a better deal by going with a small business who specializes in a particular area. Do your homework and check their references.
Extremely important when hiring a professional is TO BE HOME WHEN THEY DO THE WORK!! watch the process and ask questions. You don’t need to be in their back pocket, but make your presence known and be a smart consumer. If they are replacing a part, ask for the old one. If they are trimming your tree’s, make sure they are insured, and if you have Oaks that they are trimming, make sure they are spraying every cut as they cut it and that their tools are cleaned from tree to tree and when they arrive on your property (see Oak Wilt). If they are an irrigation company, make sure you ask for the license and insurance. Be an educated consumer so the person you are dealing with knows you are not to be taken. This is not going to save you from all the bad guys out there, but it may get you a little closer to the good guys like me. There are a lot of us out there and you need to do a little homework to find us.
“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”
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