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Why You Need More Than Just a Number

If you’re like most Property Managers, you probably look forward to writing an RFP for landscape services about as much as your next dental visit.

There are a number of valid reasons for the overall lack of enthusiasm about RFPs, on both sides of the process.

For Property Managers, the prospect of recommending an unqualified vendor to your board or property owner can be devastating. When you recommend a vendor, in many ways you’re tying your reputation to their ability to deliver the services that your property needs. If they fail, then it’s not just their fault – it’s your fault, too.

For companies responding to an RFP, we worry that the Property Manager conducting the RFP won’t be able to spot an unqualified proposal. We worry that you’ll end up taking a ridiculously low number, even if it’s given by a company that didn’t do their homework. We worry that we’ll put in hours of work to deliver a thorough and thoughtful RFP response, only to be left at the end shaking our heads, knowing that a competitor missed something, or just left it out intentionally, because there’s no way anybody can do the job for that price.

So, with neither side really all that excited about your RFP from the beginning, how can you make sure you get the best vendor for your property with an orderly and fair RFP process?

One key to success is to clearly define your Submission Requirements.

Submission Requirements are generally listed in the Introduction section of your RFP. They typically take the form of a numbered or bulleted list of requirements that the proposing companies must supply, in order to have their bid considered for your property.

Your list should include only the most relevant items for your property. It’s easy to pad this section with a lot of requirements and documentation that have nothing to do with a company’s ability to provide you with quality landscape services. Avoid the temptation to Google “RFP templates” and simply copy and paste. You’ll end up asking for a lot of information that makes no sense to the proposing companies and only adds confusion and headache to your evaluation process.

Some examples of items that are often requested, but have little impact on choosing the right vendor:

  • Complete Listing of Contracts on Hand and Expected Completion Dates
  • Listing of Company Owned Equipment
  • Resumes of Company Executives
  • Distance of Vendor’s Offices to Project Site


There are plenty of things you should be asking for. Things that really will give you a clearer picture of the proposing companies’ qualifications and their ability to provide high quality landscaping services.


Some examples of items that should be included in your Submission Requirements:

  • Your Proposal Due Date and Time
  • Commencement of Services and Contract Term
  • Pre-Bid Conference Details and Required Attendance
  • Minimum Insurance Limits and Certificate of Insurance Requirement
  • Company’s Overview and Financial Stability Statement
  • Company’s Narrative Approach to the Scope of Services to be Provided
  • Company’s References and Listing of Similar Experience
  • Company’s Assigned Staff and Their Career Experience Summaries

Asking for relevant information, in a common format, by a certain date and time, will make your RFP process much more orderly and will give your proposing companies the confidence that you are doing your best to make an informed decision about who will be the best partner will be for your property’s landscape service needs.

 

Girl writing image courtesy picjumbo.com.

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How to Write an RFP Introduction

So, tell me a little about yourself...

Welcome back to our series on how to construct a well written and thorough landscape Request for Proposals document. If you missed last week’s post when we kicked off our discussion of commercial landscape service RFPs, don’t worry. You can catch up here.

 

The Introduction. It's not just the first section of your RFP, it may very well be the most important section of your RFP.

Simply put, a poorly written (or non-existent) Introduction can determine the quality of landscape firms that respond to your RFP.

The introductory sections are where you, the client, need to outline two important pieces of information for your bidders: your Objectives and your Submission Requirements.

You can label these introductory subsections whatever you’d like, as long as your Introduction accomplishes these two things:

  1. Tell the proposing landscape contractors a little about your property’s story, letting them know why you’re accepting proposals in the first place.
  2. Give them the ground rules for how your RFP process is going to play out, and let them know you’re not going to put up with any nonsense.

 

Your RFP’s Objective
This is your chance to tell all of the proposing landscape companies what you really care about.

If you manage a community, tell us how important the landscaping is to your residents.

If you manage a commercial property, tell us that the quality of your landscaping is an integral part of your marketing strategy to draw in new tenants and their businesses.

You’d be surprised how many RFPs start out by diving right into their requirements and detailing their scope of services. They never bother to tell the proposers why they’re looking to obtain proposals for their landscape service needs in the first place.

Landscape contractors can always guess why a Property Manager might be looking for a new vendor. But, if you’re serious about finding the right commercial landscaping partner for your property, why not take the time to put together a couple of paragraphs about your objective for the RFP?

And it’s important to be honest about your objective. If you’ve been burned by taking the lowest price in the past, there’s nothing wrong with letting the proposing firms know that you intend to select the most qualified and competent vendor, and are not just looking for the lowest price. (This is one of the ways you can start to weed out “Low Buck Chuck”.)

Conversely, if you really are just looking for the cheapest price, your RFP's scoring system should make that apparent to the potential bidders. (Much more on RFP scoring systems and bid tabulations in a future post.)

The more information you provide about why you’re accepting proposals, the higher the quality of firms that will submit proposals for your landscape service needs.

 

Your Property Description

Including a brief one to two paragraph section in your Introduction about your property is a great way to help potential contractors understand exactly what they may be getting themselves into as your landscape service partner.

If you describe your property using words like “award-winning”, “world-class”, and “luxurious”, all of the proposing landscape companies should understand that you expect a level of service and professionalism that will exceed what many contractors may be accustomed to providing.

You should also mention any previous issues or recent changes in your landscape that would be of relevance for a new landscape vendor to know. For example:

  • Replaced sod on the great lawn last fall due to significant chinch bug infestation
  • Recently updated irrigation system to a reclaimed water source connection
  • Annual flower rotation designs must be approved by the Board of Directors prior to installation

Stating your RFP’s Objective and offering a succinct Property Description may seem like fluff to some, but for the discerning landscape contractor - the one who actually cares about creating a proposal that addresses your needs - the Introduction is so much more than the pages they flip past to get to your pricing sheets.

In our next post we’ll tell you how your Submission Requirements, the second part of a great Introduction, can help you avoid being buried by an avalanche follow up questions.

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The One Sentence Landscape Maintenance RFP

“If it was up to me, the RFP would be one sentence. Make it look good.”

That’s how the frustrated Director of Engineering started the conversation.  He was clearly unhappy that he was about to start yet another round of sifting through Landscape Maintenance proposals.

Two years ago, he’d hired a landscape contractor that seemed entirely capable of taking care of his resort’s landscaping. They said all the right things. They had good references. They had been in business for a while, and they seemed really excited about the opportunity to work at his resort.

But for the last 6 months, they just hadn’t been able to keep up. Their service teams that used to be 6-man crews were down to 4-man crews. Their trucks and equipment that used to look new and clean, were starting to look dirty and seemed to break down all the time.

When the guests started to notice that his property didn’t look like the pictures they’d seen online, he knew he had to make a change. And he had to make it quick.

He’d never had a formal RFP template before. Two years ago, he just sent out the service calendar that one of his old landscapers had given him. He narrowed the field down to his top three choices, but in the end, he went with his gut and he chose the company that seemed like the best bargain. Less than 2 years later, he now realized he couldn’t make the same mistake again.  It was time for a formal RFP process, but building an RFP from scratch is a lot of work and he knew he didn’t have the time to put into it.

So, why can’t you have a one sentence RFP?

Just make it look good.

That should be all the instruction it takes, right?

First, we need to understand that an RFP is not a magic bullet. You can have the most detailed RFP process, with exhaustive specifications, detailed service area maps, and a fair and logical scoring system, but still end up with a landscape contractor that doesn’t live up to your expectations.

RFPs were invented as a way to standardize how we purchase products. Products don’t come with all the variables that services do. It’s pretty easy to tell if the TV you bought meets your specs. Ongoing landscape maintenance service? That's a much harder thing to evaluate.

With services, what you’re really buying is the result they produce. Until you hire someone and the do the work, you can’t really see if they’re capable or not. Even then, the key trait of a great service provider is consistency in the results they produce over time.

How is an RFP going to predict that?

The goal of the RFP process and the documentation you create is to make sure all the proposing companies are on the same playing field from the start. There’s nothing more frustrating than five different landscape companies bringing back pricing that’s all over the board. You want to leave the proposing companies no room to cut corners and that you’re comparing apples to apples.

The problem that RFPs create is that we sometimes start to think of them as a prescription for how the contractor should do the job after it’s awarded. An RFP isn’t meant to tell the contractor how to do their job. It’s meant to be a guideline for their proposal, making sure that all the competing companies include the same services and frequencies.

In this post we're kicking off a multi-part blog series, where we’ll offer our thoughts on some of the most challenging parts of constructing a well written and thorough RFP document.

If you need an RFP template to start from, please feel free to download our free Landscape RFP Template here. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be updating and adding to the thoughts we first published in the template, so make sure to come back and read our future posts in this series.

In our next post, we’ll discuss why the Introduction isn’t just the fluff at the beginning. It’s the most overlooked and underutilized section of an effective RFP.

 

Photo credit: pexels.com

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Sarasota Intern Understands the Value of Field Experience

This is a guest post, written by Shelby, about her intern experience with us this summer.

 

My internship with Yellowstone Landscape is my very first, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way! I knew after graduation from Southern Illinois University, I wanted to do an internship with a landscape company and gain hands on experience as opposed to only classroom work. I wanted to work in the field and experience all aspects of landscaping.

As an intern I am able to work with the Account Managers, mow and trim crews, irrigation and fert-pest departments, and even the mechanic! I have really enjoyed this rotational internship as it very important for me to learn about each aspect of the company.

It’s awesome that each intern has a project and I was able to do what I enjoy the most, design! I plan to go into design in the future and I have thoroughly reveled in my project. Another favorite part of my internship is working with the irrigation department. Before coming to Yellowstone Landscape I knew nothing about irrigation and after a week with the irrigation crew I gained a new skillset. Irrigation is a must to keep the most pleasing landscape attractive after it’s installed.

The greatest lesson I have learned is every aspect of the company is important and must work together as a team, like a well-oiled machine. Without the mow and trim crews the landscape would become over grown. The irrigation crews keep the lawns and shrubs properly watered when there are broken spray heads and rotors. Account Managers keep the lines of communication open between clients and crews. The fert-pest crew keep lawns and plant materials green, healthy and free of insects and disease. Every part of this company is crucial to its success and no job or position is of greater or lesser importance.

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Tampa Intern Is Grateful for the Lessons Learned

This is a guest post, written by Kennon, about his intern experience with us this summer.

My experience with Yellowstone Landscape in Tampa, Florida is one I will always remember. My previous experience is with residential landscapes, and to come to a company with an outstanding reputation that works on high-end communities has been a real blessing. I have learned more these past few months than from any other experiences in the field.

To make a property look its absolute best you must manage all aspects of the landscape. The mow crews have a huge responsibility to make sure the property is free from weeds and trimmed perfectly. I have the utmost respect for every crew member as they work very hard and do an outstanding job.

Irrigation is the area I have learned the most from and working with the irrigation team has been a rewarding and educational experience. I had very little experience prior to coming to Yellowstone Landscape and have never worked with drip line irrigation. While working on my internship project I had to come up with a way to bring irrigation to four planters under a trellis/arbor, with cemented pavers that could not be removed. I was able to work with an irrigation tech to come up with the best solution. Also, during the installation of my project I lead the crews and irrigation team on where to install the plants and needed drip irrigation. My project was very rewarding and hit all the areas I have been working with.

I have learned skills that are not taught in college; respecting your crews and how to communicate professionally with Property Managers. Great communication skills are essential in this industry. I have learned new ways to keep track of what is going on during the day by placing notes in my phone under the “Notes” app. Managing multiple crews and properties and keeping under the budgeted labor hours is extremely challenging and requires great management skills.

Overall, I have had a wonderful experience that very few interns experience with other companies. I highly recommend Yellowstone Landscape and I am grateful to Yellowstone for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

 

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Why We Decided to Join Instagram

Admittedly, we’re a little late to the Instagram party. Since setting up our profile and creating our first post about a week ago, it already seems like something we should have done sooner.

Instagram is a platform that’s all about sharing images of the world around you. For individual users, that could be pictures of your family and friends, favorite meals you’ve eaten, or some of the places you visit in your everyday life.

For companies like us, it’s a little different.

So, what does Yellowstone Landscape hope to share with our Instagram account?

In short, these are the things we’ll be sharing with you, if you decide to give us a follow:

  1. The Spaces We Create and Maintain
  2. The People Who Make Those Spaces Happen
  3. A Glimpse Inside Our Company

 

The Spaces We Create and Maintain

As one of the country’s leading commercial landscaping companies, we have the great privilege of working with some amazing clients, creating beautiful and unique landscapes, and maintaining them throughout the changing seasons.

There are a number of things that we need to do to be successful as we grow our company. We focus a lot of our attention on safety, educating our teams, and providing great customer service to our clients. But none of those things are the first thing that most people think of, when they think about what a commercial landscaping company is.

We are the spaces that we create. When one of our Landscape Installation teams finish a project, does it fulfill the architect’s vision? When our Landscape Maintenance teams complete a weekly service visit, is the property more beautiful and tidy than it was before we got there?

Over the years, we’ve built a pretty expansive photo library, and there’s only so much of it that we’ve been able to include on our website and in our sales, marketing and recruiting collateral. Our Instagram account will now be the place where we pull some of our favorite images off the hard drives, and put them into the world. We hope you’ll enjoy seeing these spaces as much as we enjoyed creating them.

 

The People Who Make Those Spaces Happen

We talk a lot about the dedicated Landscape Professionals that make up our company. For most of our new clients, our people are one of the first things they ask about. Who are you going to send out here to take care of my property?

In peak growing season, there are over 1800 of us that put on a Yellowstone Landscape uniform every day. Not all of us are out in the field, but the men and women who are directly responsible for the spaces that we create and maintain, deserve to be featured alongside the beautiful results they produce.

We’ve said it many times before. Commercial landscaping is a dangerous and difficult profession. Too often, the effort and energy required to produce the end result is overlooked. There are hundreds of diligent Landscape Professionals across the South wearing our logo on the back of their safety vests. With our new Instagram account, we hope to share more of the faces that make up Yellowstone Landscape.

 

A Glimpse Inside Our Company

Over 1500 properties currently being served. 18 branch locations in 4 states. Hundreds of trucks and trailers. Thousands of mowers, edgers, string trimmers, blowers, and hand-held tools.

What in the world is it like to work for a company like that?

There are a million little things that have to go right, each and every day. Of course no day is ever perfect. What makes Yellowstone a special place to work is the way that we overcome the challenges.

With our Instagram account, we hope to share some of the behind the scenes images. Pictures of our mechanics working hard to keep all our equipment running, so our field crews can get their jobs done. Interns and Rookies learning the ropes as they launch their commercial landscaping careers. Seasoned pros finding the most efficient and effective way to serve our clients and their properties. Business Developers connecting with new clients at tradeshows and networking events. Celebrations in our local branches, honoring individual and team accomplishments.

 

We’re excited to begin sharing and connecting with a new audience. If you’d like to follow us on our Instagram journey, you can join us here.

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2016 Summer Interns Gallery

It was so great to have all our 2016 Interns at our Palm Coast headquarters.  This great group of interns enjoyed dinner on the beach, lots of team building activities, and got to hear firsthand from our leadership team what it takes to run one of the leading commercial landscaping companies in the country.

Great job this summer and best of luck to you all!

 

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Jacksonville Intern Learns Valuable Lessons Outside the Classroom!

This is a guest post, written by Matt, about his intern experience with us this summer.

Being chosen to participate in an internship at Yellowstone Landscape has taught me many lessons in the field of landscape management as well as provided me with skills that I will carry throughout of my lifetime. As an intern, I experienced every aspect of the company, from the Account Manager to the maintenance crew.

In the beginning, I worked with the irrigation technicians, learning how to change PGA and PEB valves on sprinkler heads as well as laying pipe for brand new irrigation lines. I then moved into the chemical and fertilization department, learning what chemicals to use on specific turf as well as plants. I collected and examined caterpillars that were infesting a group of Oak trees on a property which led us to treat with a chemical in order to eliminate the infestation. I also learned how to Arbor Jet trees and shoot chemicals directly into the vascular system of an Italian Cypress, something I never knew was possible.

The remainder of my time as been spent with the maintenance crew. Experiencing this aspect of landscape maintenance has been an essential part of the internship. I have learned how to use a 60 inch zero turn mower and was given the opportunity to mow multiple areas and fully understand how to operate it. I have also gained experience using an edger, blower and weed eater. These tools are the backbone in the lawn care industry and gaining experience with them is priceless. Being in the field tested many of my skills. I learned to prepare for the heat, work safely and work hard all which are important for anyone considering this industry to understand.

While observing my Mentor working with customers one on one, I learned the importance of communicating with a customer, understanding what they want, and turning it into actual work in the field. It showed me how hard work pays off! I would say this is the most valuable thing I have learned during my Internship. I recommend anyone considering an internship in this industry should experience as much as possible in order to gain fully what this industry has to offer.

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Daytona Intern Gains New Perspective On The Landscape Industry!

This is a guest post, written by Anthony, about his intern experience with us this summer.

Working at the Daytona Beach Branch for the past eight weeks has been exciting. I’ve seen and experienced nearly every aspect of the landscape business, from meeting clients to working out in the field with mow crews. At the University of Florida I studied crop production, so landscapes and ornamental plants are new to me.

I’ve learned so much it’s hard to recount. I came in not knowing how to operate a lot of the equipment used for landscape management. I can now effectively use an edger, zero-turn and walk-behind mowers with sulkies and a tractor. I’ve been able to interact and learn from my mentor as well as nearly every member of the Daytona team. Sometimes, it can be a little awkward as the intern, but being at this branch and in this environment has taught me how to work with a wide range of people.

I didn’t notice landscapes much before this internship, but now I notice well managed landscapes and those that need an expert’s help all of the time. I can now assess when something’s been done well, or not. I’ve gained a better perspective of the everyday needs of a landscape that I don’t believe can be gained in a classroom. There’s a distinct difference when you learn how to spray plant protection products in theory, and when you carry 40 pounds of liquid solution on your back in the middle of a highway median. I have spent the last few years doing the former, so to have the opportunity to do the latter is more valuable than words can describe.

Interning with Yellowstone is challenging, there is a lot of work required to be done, but it is also one of the most valuable learning experiences in my career so far. I’ve learned so much about an area of agriculture that I wasn’t familiar with. It’s an experience I highly recommend.

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Atlanta West Intern Sharpens His Management Skills

This is a guest post, written by Mark, about his intern experience with us this summer.

 

As a 2016 summer Intern with Yellowstone Landscape, there are a number of experiences that have influenced me in a positive way, but one in particular has really stood out.

Learning how to operate a zero-turn mower could be compared to pursuing an internship. It is an intimidating task that holds a lot of uncertainty if you have never operated one before. The zero-turn mower is much larger and faster than any landscape equipment that I have used in the past. Likewise, this is the first internship I have done, and Yellowstone is a large, fast-paced company. Both tasks seemed daunting at first, but the more you get the hang of the controls, or familiarize yourself with the people at your branch, everything runs smoothly, like a well-oiled machine.

Learning to maneuver a mower over a curb or rough terrain is comparable to the unexpected challenges that the managers encounter each day in the many facets of the business. For example, one day a crew truck was experiencing issues and required maintenance right away. The manager had to get the truck repaired and then figure out the best way to allocate the crew’s time spent at each property that day.

As a management major, it is important for me to observe and learn from my Mentor when situations like this occur. Figuring out the best solution for an unforeseen mishap is a hands on process that you cannot learn in a classroom. I realize that the company must take many factors into account when making decisions that affect the budget, labor hours and safety. Ultimately, with time and experience, you will become proficient in not only running landscape equipment, but also running the many facets of a landscape management business.

 

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PO Box 849

Bunnell, FL 32110
877.785.6685

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