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Joseph Barnes has served as Marketing Manager of Yellowstone Landscape since 2013.  He writes on a variety of topics related to the commercial landscaping industry.

Your Landscape & Marketing Your Commercial Real Estate Property

 

Marketing a commercial real estate property can be a challenge. There is more competition for commercial space now than at any other time in history. And it’s easier than ever for buyers and lessees to search available inventory. That means getting your property noticed among all those other listings is more important (and more difficult) than ever before.

Whether selling or leasing, a few smart investments in your property’s landscape can help you stand out from the other listings your potential buyers and tenants are considering.

 

The Case for Making Your Landscape a Feature

Almost every commercial real estate listing starts by talking about the same things - proximity to interstates and public transit, hotels and restaurants nearby, parking areas, security and maintenance, energy efficiency. Sometimes a listing may mention a “park-like setting”, but a property’s landscape is rarely given top billing in its description.

We think the reason that landscapes aren’t given any special mention is that 99% of commercial properties have no distinguishing landscape features.  The result is that all properties end up looking basically the same from the outside.

If you want to make your property seem unique, but the exterior and grounds are no different than the competition, your only option is to make expensive updates inside the building. Landscape enhancements are significantly less expensive than interior improvements.  And once they’re installed, the new landscape improvements cost relatively little more to maintain than the boring old landscape that looks like everyone else’s.

 

Getting Your Property Ready for a Photo Shoot

There’s a lot more to closing a deal than having great photos of your property, but clients looking to buy or lease are starting their search online. Whether they’re viewing your property on your company’s website or another commercial real estate listing site, they’re looking through your pictures before they ever read a word about your property.

9 out of 10 listings will start with a photo of the building’s full exterior. I know you’ve seen the shot we’re talking about – lines of glass windows, gray concrete, a few small trees lining the front, and maybe a little strip of green grass.

Instead, why not highlight the interesting parts of your property’s grounds in the cover photo? A colorful installation of annual flowers at the main entry. A group of blooming perennials at an outdoor seating area. An aerial shot of a crushed granite walking path around the property’s lake.  Bright colors, or anything different than the typical cover photo, will help your listing stand out on the search results page.

Also, consider the time of year when you’re shooting the photos of your property. Even a great listing can be ruined by bare trees and dormant turf. Consider having photos done after your spring cleanup when trees are full of green leaves and the flowers are blooming. Even if you’re marketing your listing in the winter, show the landscape when it looks its best to maximize views.

As more commercial real estate professionals begin using social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to market their listings, photos of your property and its landscape can become a huge asset, driving views to your website and property listings.  The right improvements to strategic areas of your property’s grounds could become a key component in your commercial real estate property’s marketing plan.

 

For more ideas on how to turn your landscape into a marketing feature, schedule a meeting with your local Yellowstone Landscape Professional. They have the tools and experience to help your commercial property’s listing stand out from the crowd.

 

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5 Traits We Value in our Landscape Professionals

I recently had the opportunity to prepare a presentation for our 2017 Summer Intern Class. One slide in particular (the one in the picture at the top of this post) stuck out to me, and I wanted to share it here.

It’s a list of the 5 attributes that we value most in our employees.

We thought about the most successful people in our company. Men and women who have risen through the ranks and been given positions of great responsibility - Branch Managers, Business Developers, and Senior Account Managers. 

What are the traits they have in common?

1. Professional: They chose this industry as a career. It’s not just a job.

There’s a popular perception that people who end up in the landscaping industry just fell into it. Like we’re that kid who started mowing lawns during the summer and it became a full-time job.  While there are certainly a number of landscaping companies that get their start like that, our story is different. We formed Yellowstone by merging existing, successful businesses together. We saw a need for a strong, regional company that specialized in creating and maintaining complex, commercial landscapes across the South. That’s what Yellowstone is today, and why the Landscape Professionals who work here are so dedicated to solving the challenges that our clients face in their landscapes.

2. Hard Working: There is no easy button for what we do. Landscaping requires sweat and grinding it out, day after day.

Summer in the South is unrelenting. Average temperatures above 90 degrees and with the humidity it usually feels like triple digits. This is the environment that our Landscape Professionals sign up to work in.  They report before 7am and sometimes don’t get back to our shops until well after 5.  Fall, Winter, and Spring bring their own challenges. Leaf cleanup, pruning, fertilization applications, irrigation system testing and repair - there’s always something to be done when you work in commercial landscaping, and it’s never easy.

3. Positive Attitude: There are no failures, only opportunities to learn.

Let’s be clear with this one. Working at Yellowstone isn’t like walking down Sesame Street. But we’ve realized that there’s nothing more draining to the morale of a team than constant negativity. If we chose to focus on the things that go wrong every day, we’d be miserable. Instead, we want Landscape Professionals who choose to be positive in the face of adversity. People who are so confident in their abilities, that they see problems as opportunities to demonstrate their competence.

Clients don’t hire us for when things go well.  They hire us for how we handle it when things go badly.  When an irrigation line bursts, how quickly do we respond?  When someone takes a drive through the grass and tears up your HOA’s entry, how soon can we get the turf replaced? When a storm comes through, when are our crews there to start the cleanup?

4. Part of the Team: “We’re all in this together.”

If you’re around any of our branches for any length of time, you’ll here this phrase. “We’re all in this together.” We’ve adopted this mantra because we understand that our success depends on each of us pulling our own weight. From our CEO to front line service crew members, no one is more important than another.  A successful client relationship depends on all of us, using our individual skills to create landscapes that will make our clients proud when they drive through their properties.

5. Knowledgeable: As Landscape Professionals, it’s our responsibility to share what we know.

When we look across our management team, about three-quarters of them hold some level of advanced degree or certification that relates to what they do. From Bachelor’s degrees to industry certifications, our Landscape Professionals have accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge about creating and caring for landscapes. Even after they’ve finished school, they participate in continuing education classes to stay up to date on new technologies and ideas. And they’re applying what they learn, to change how we serve our clients and their landscapes.

It’s a really simple slide. But when we pause for a few minutes to think about what each of these five traits means to us, it’s pretty easy to see why the Landscape Professionals that exhibit these traits are so successful within our company. It’s easy to see why we’ve entrusted them to manage our branch locations, represent us to new clients, and serve our existing clients.

If you’re a student, thinking about what to do after you finish school, we invite you to explore our Internship Program and read about the experiences of our past interns.

If you’re already in the industry and looking for a new opportunity, we invite you to check out our current Job Opportunities and join us.

If you’re a Property Manager in search of a new commercial landscape service partner, we invite you to meet one of our local Yellowstone Landscape Professionals and tell us about what your landscape means to you.

 

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Landscape Expectations vs. Landscape Budgets

Let’s start with a quick story…

A few years ago we were awarded the landscape maintenance contract for a large townhome community. As the board president was signing our contract, he told us that he had voted for us because we were more than just “mow, blow, and go”, like his previous landscape providers had been. He scheduled an initial walkthrough with us to “have a look at some areas that could use a little extra help”.

Excited to start out on the right foot, we showed up for the property walk with notebooks and cameras ready.  We spent 3 hours walking around the community, listening to him talk about all the things he felt his previous landscaper did wrong. He also talked about all the choices he would have made, if he had been to one to select the plant palette for the community when it was built.  He then asked us to come back to him with a plan for how we were going to attack the areas he’d pointed out to us.

We came back to him a week later with renderings of the beautifully reimagined landscape that could be his. It was like a work of art we were unveiling to him. The drawings incorporated the exact plant materials he had told us he preferred, and we expected to hear nothing but praise for how well we’d paid attention to his needs.

Instead, he was just embarrassed.

“It’s absolutely beautiful. But we don’t have the money for all this. We just want you to do what’s in the contract we signed with you. If you do a good job, maybe next year we can talk about doing a little something extra.”

 

Sometimes clarifying the client’s expectations is the most difficult part of what we do. Serving a client well often starts with helping them to define what they expect from us. Then, we have to delicately balance their expectations with their budget.

We can design a beautiful space for a client that would rival anything they’ve ever seen on Pinterest, but if they can’t afford to install and maintain it, then we’ve failed to serve that client well.

This is the challenge we face when working with a lot of new clients. It’s easy to look at other properties’ landscaping and say “I want that”, without understanding the level of investment is to get “that” particular look.

Here’s something we like to remind our clients - landscapes are living things that are in a constant state of change. With the help of trained Landscape Professionals, they are constantly improving, becoming healthier and more beautiful. And the client’s vision of what their landscape should look like won’t happen overnight, no matter how much they spend.

Improving and enhancing a landscape takes time, and many of the things we do will not be immediately apparent. In fact, if the client is serious about making a dramatic change to their landscape, it will often require making it look worse before it gets better.

But over time, the client’s expectation will become their reality. Turf will get greener. Shrubs and trees will look healthier and more full. Flowers will be more vibrant.

As budgets change, the key to serving a client well is to help them define and adjust expectations accordingly.  With consistent communication and planning, their budget and their expectations can be aligned.

Are you searching for a new commercial landscape partner? One who will take the time to understand what you really expect from your property’s landscape.

Request an appointment to meet with your local Yellowstone Landscape Professional today. You can afford a more beautiful landscape.

 

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Movin’ On Up

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year when landscape companies find out where we rank among our competition.

Each summer the landscape industry’s major publications create their listings of the largest landscape companies in North America. The data is gathered, analyzed, and rankings are sorted by each company’s revenue.

We used to wonder who, outside of our employees and others in the industry, would care about these rankings. But for the last couple of years, the article on our blog where we revealed where Yellowstone sits on this listing has been one of our most popular posts of the year.

Obviously, it’s a tremendous honor to be included anywhere on these listings, but over the past few years, we’ve been steadily “movin’ on up” the list and, in the 2017 edition, we’re up one spot to number 12.

Why do we look forward to these listings every year?

Two reasons.

First, it tracks the growth of our industry from year to year. This year, the Top 100 companies generated $9.16 billion (yes, billion with a “b”). That’s an increase from 2016 of almost 7%. This means that customers are investing in the services we offer across the country. It means that our industry’s largest companies are healthy and growing.

Second, we care about these rankings because they give us a chance to show how far we’ve come in a relatively short time. We’re proud of the company that we’re becoming, and these listings allow us to share our progress with our employees, our customers, our colleagues, and our future Yellowstone Landscape Professionals.

More than two years ago, we laid out 5 key elements of how we track our company’s success. One of those keys is growth. So, as we continue to climb up the rankings, and especially now as we enter the top 12, there’s no doubt that we are growing. But what the listings don’t show are all the other positive changes in our company that come with growth.

In the last year, we’ve hired new employees and promoted existing team members, deserving of more responsibility. We’ve begun partnerships with dozens of new clients. We’ve renewed relationships with clients we’ve been proudly serving, some for more than a decade. We’ve expanded to new service areas and welcomed our new team members in North Carolina.

None of that shows up directly in a Top 100 listing, but those are the kinds of things that are the truest measure of why our growth is something to be proud of.

In closing, as has become our practice when these listings come out each year, we pause and say a heartfelt “Thank you” to our clients, our employees, and everyone else who’s helped us get to where we are today.

It is a great honor to be a part of such a vibrant and growing industry.

 

To see the entire 2017 list of Lawn and Landscape’s Top 100 companies in their May issue, click here.

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Why We Celebrate So Much

Almost every week I get an email with pictures of smiling Yellowstone Landscape Professionals attached to it...

A safety rodeo in Bradenton.

A team building event in Houston.

A golf outing in Atlanta.

But here in our corporate headquarters, the team that supports our branches rarely get a chance to relax and enjoy each other’s company. So, to correct that, we held our first annual Summer Kickoff party on Friday, May 19th. From our chili cookoff, to some spirited games of cornhole, through the big screen tv raffle, a great time was had by all. Photos in the gallery above are from last week’s Summer Kickoff (and please, please scroll down to the bottom of the page to see our Contracts Specialist Conner’s hula hoop contest-winning performance.)

Someone recently shared an interesting observation with me about our company LinkedIn and Instagram pages. She told me that, to her, it looks like all we do is celebrate, and she wanted to know if that was okay. She was worried that people might think we’re not a hard-working company.

I suppose that’s a fair concern, but the truth is there’s a lot to celebrate in our company right now.

Yes, summer is almost here, and summer is the hardest time of year for commercial landscaping companies. Our service crews are gearing up for long, hot days. In some areas, we’re dealing with drought, while in others we’re scheduling around daily rain showers.

But when you’ve been in the commercial landscaping business for a long time, it’s what’s to be expected.

We expect to grind it out all summer. It will be hard, but it will be worth it when we see the difference we make with each service visit.

If all we ever focused on was how hard this work is, we’d never have any fun. And for those of us who’ve chosen to be Landscape Professionals, our job is supposed to be fun.

So, through the summer, we’ll continue to find reasons to celebrate.

When a branch improves their Safety Score, we’ll celebrate.

When a new client signs on with us, we’ll celebrate.

When a long-time client renews their contract, we’ll celebrate.

When one of the properties we serve is recognized with an award, we’ll celebrate.

And sometimes, just making it to a Friday afternoon will be a good enough reason for us to celebrate.

 

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3 Ways Our Clients Use Landscaping to Tackle Their Toughest Challenges

When most people think about their property’s landscape, they envision colorful flowers, pruned shrubs, healthy trees, and vibrant green grass. Professionally maintained landscapes are beautiful and create a great first impression, but what else can a landscape do?

Over the past few years, some of our clients have begun to find new, practical uses for their landscapes. They use our commercial landscaping services to help solve problems that go far beyond curb appeal.  Here are 3 examples of how our clients are thinking differently about the landscaping at their properties and in their communities.

Landscape to Improve Air Quality. This first example is a practical lesson we’ve learned from some of our manufacturing clients.  These are companies that build very large, very complicated, and very precise products. Think airplanes and heavy industrial equipment.  One of their biggest challenges is controlling the quality of the air inside their enormous manufacturing facilities. They can’t risk allowing dirt and dust to get inside and contaminate their work areas. So, in addition to large, expensive air purifying systems inside the buildings, they’ve found another key to controlling particulates in the air – covering the dirt outside the buildings with grass.  This common sense solution reduces the amount of dust in the air outside, so there’s less chance of it getting into the building. This allows them to change out expensive air filters less frequently, and their industrial air purifying systems don’t have to work so hard to keep their assembly areas clean.

Landscape to Control Erosion. For communities and commercial properties with hills and slopes, dealing with erosion usually means installing a retaining wall. But retaining walls aren’t always the most aesthetically pleasing solution to the problem. For some of our clients, installing a landscape feature area is a better long-term solution to control their erosion problem.  By using a mix of ground covers, shrubs, and trees, then adding in other natural elements like boulders, we can turn an erosion control project into a property beautification project.  The key is to select a mix of plants with shallow and deep roots, to help firm up the soil.  We choose plants native to the area, and look for options that don’t require excessive amounts of water.

Landscape to Make Roads Safer. Cities and local governments are always looking for new ways to make roadways safer.  To help prevent head on crashes medians have long been used to divide opposing lanes of traffic. Today, more cities choosing to fill their medians with landscape materials, rather than metal guardrails or concrete barriers. Single rows of trees, planted uniform distances apart, offer the same protection for motorists as a guard rail or concrete wall, but add a touch of natural beauty to the asphalt roads and highways.  Similarly, adding shrubs and native grasses to medians keeps the headlights of oncoming traffic out of nighttime drivers’ eyes.

While the aesthetic value of your landscaping will probably always be your primarily concern, more of our clients are finding that their landscapes can serve some very important practical purposes, too.  Landscaping can improve air quality. It can help control erosion. And it can be used to save lives, when it makes our roadways safer.

Looking for some innovative ideas to tackle your property’s biggest challenge? You might discover the answer in your landscape. Meet your local Yellowstone Landscape Professional and let’s put your landscape to work for you.

 

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The Price of Admission in Commercial Landscaping

When I’m driving down the road, I notice every pickup truck with a trailer attached to it.  And when I see a mower or two on the trailer, my first instinct is to look for the company name on the door.

Why do I do that?

  1. Because landscape companies come up with some pretty funny names and some interesting logos. (Lawn and Order, Special Mowing Unit – that’s pretty clever, right?)
  2. Because I’m curious if the truck belongs to a new competitor that’s entered the market.

It seems like there are an endless number of landscaping companies out there. One study from 2015 estimated there were 466,768 landscape businesses. The same study found that these businesses employed 958,711 workers. That’s an average of 2.05 employees per company.

When you consider that the overwhelming majority of these businesses are serving residential clients, and the guy on the mower is also the guy who owns the company (sometimes affectionately referred to as “Chuck and a Truck”), it makes sense.

Another interesting fact - our industry’s trade association, the National Association of Landscape Professionals, estimates that 99% of landscape companies have annual revenues below $1 million.

Today there are more landscaping companies than ever before, and more of them are starting to market themselves to commercial clients.

This creates an interesting challenge, not just for the large, established commercial landscaping companies like Yellowstone, but for the property management professional looking for a new, reputable, experienced commercial landscaping partner.

How does a Property Manager weed out the best from the rest?

It starts with something we call “the price of admission”. And the price of admission in commercial landscaping is simple.

Make the landscape beautiful.

Somehow in the RFI/RFQ/RFP process this simple truth gets overlooked. We get asked about any and everything else imaginable.

  • How many locations do you have?
  • How many certified employees do you have on staff?
  • Provide your last 5 years of financial statements.

All important, but none of those questions answer your property’s most basic need. The reason you invest in commercial landscaping in the first place is because you want your grounds to be more beautiful.

If the landscape contractor you’re considering can’t prove that they can cover the “price of admission”, then they aren’t right for you. Move on to one of the other 466,767 companies out there.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a landscape contractor that’s paid the price of admission several times over, get in touch with your local Yellowstone Landscape office. We’d be glad to help you create the beautiful landscape that you and your property deserve.

Photo credit: The Daily Dot

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Who Really Notices Your Commercial Property’s Landscaping?

For a Commercial Property Manager, dealing with your commercial landscaping provider can be a hassle. From tenants complaining about dirt blow onto their cars, to noisy mowers and trimmers disrupting important morning meetings, commercial landscapers can have you wishing your building was somewhere in the middle of a downtown concrete jungle.

Sure, it looks nice when it’s done, but did you ever wonder who really notices your commercial property’s landscaping?

One property manager recently told us:

“I only pay attention to landscaping if it looks really good, or if it looks really bad. Everything else just kinda blends in.”

Yikes.

Is it worth all the trouble just to have someone say your landscaping “blends in”? Not to mention all the expense?

Of course not.

You deserve a landscape that gets noticed by the right people – for the right reasons.

And exactly who are the right people?

There are two kinds of people that will always notice your commercial property’s landscaping. They are the people you need to impress if you want to lease your space quickly, and keep it leased for years to come.

First, you should always make sure your prospective clients take note of your property’s landscaping.

You invest in quality commercial landscaping because you know that a great commercial property - one that’s fully leased for top dollar - starts from the second your prospective client lays eyes on your building. Your landscaping is the very first thing they will see.

If they’re looking at your listing online, the first photo is usually the exterior of the building, right? Wouldn’t it make sense to have some curb appeal to show off in the first photo of your slideshow?

If they’re driving up to your office building or retail center, it only makes sense to welcome them with a beautiful entry.

Your prospective clients are comparing yours to all the other available spaces they’re considering for their business. They’re imagining their business thriving and growing in your space. Does it fit the brand they’re trying to build?

Landscaping defines a commercial property just as dramatically as anything inside the building.

Is it upscale modern, with clean lines and intricate flower displays? Is it eco-friendly? Does it offer healthy amenities like outdoor seating for lunch breaks or walking trails around the grounds?

Prospective clients have a long list of things they need to check off before they decide to lease with you. Your landscaping can significantly impact their overall impression of your property and is often the deciding factor between yours and other similar spaces.

Once the client chooses your property, your landscaping’s work is just beginning.

The second group you need to impress, your client’s employees and customers, will also notice your commercial property’s landscaping.

Landscaping adds measurable value to retail centers. (Consumers reportedly pay up to 12% more for identical items in shopping centers with high quality landscaping.) It enhances the buyer’s perception of value and adds to the experience of buying your goods and services.

For a commercial office property, landscaping impacts the employees who work there in a number of very important ways. First, landscaping inspires creativity. Colorful flowers, manicured bright green grass, healthy trees, and manicured shrubs stimulate the mind and enhance worker performance.  Landscapes also impact the job satisfaction that employees feel. By providing employees a well maintained outdoor environment, the opinion of the employer and opinions about how the employer values their employees increases exponentially. When given a beautiful environment to work in, employees are more likely to show up and be productive every day. They take fewer sick days remain at their companies longer.

Happy, productive employees build successful companies. Those companies become highly desirable clients for commercial property managers.

So, does landscaping really matter that much to your clients and their employees?

Yes, we know it does.  We’ve had so many Property Managers tell us that by simply keeping their grounds beautiful and tidy, we’ve made their job so much easier.

They lease their spaces faster and keep their clients in those spaces once they’re leased.

No matter what type of commercial property you manage, your landscape does make an impression. Make sure it’s a good one.

 

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Great Commercial Landscaping Starts with a Great Account Manager

When you hire a commercial landscape company to care for your property, there could be up to a dozen different specialties that have a role in your landscape’s success. 

Here’s a list of some of the different positions that are part of our landscape maintenance teams:
1. Crew Leader
2. Mow Crew Team Member
3. Detail Crew Team Member
4. Irrigation Technician
5. Spray Application Technician
6. Landscape Designer
7. Arborist
8. Business Development Manager
9. Branch Manager
10. Office Manager
11. Accounting Technician
…and last, but certainly not least….
12. Account Manager

Out of all these different roles, responsibilities, and specialists, why is the Account Manager the key to a great looking commercial landscape? 

Imagine an Olympic rowing team for a moment. Can you see them all paddling in unison, gliding along the water? It looks so effortless, doesn’t it?

It looks so easy because there’s a guy (or gal) at the front of the boat, calling out instructions - keeping them all in line. Their job is to make sure their team is working together to get from start to finish as quickly, and as smoothly, as possible. If even one team member is out of sync, the whole boat will be thrown into chaos, and the race will be lost.

Your Account Manager is the guy (or gal) at the front of the boat, calling out the instructions.

Account Managers don’t have a specific list of tasks in their job description.

They know how to mow the grass and prune the shrubs, but you rarely see them on a mower or with shears in their hands.

They know how to design flower displays and how to optimize an irrigation system, but you won’t usually find them planting annuals or adjusting sprinkler heads.

That’s because more important than knowing how to do all these tasks themselves, they need to be able to teach others how to do all the things that keep a landscape looking its best.

In fact, if you really think about it, the Account Manager’s job could be summed up with this simple instruction: “Make sure your people are happy.”  Sounds easy, but it’s remarkably difficult.

It’s hard because Account Managers have two groups of people that they always need to keep happy. First, they are responsible for hiring, scheduling, and overseeing the work of their service crews. Their service teams must be organized, outfitted, and supervised every day.  They need the right gear to get their jobs done safely and efficiently. They need crystal clear instructions to make sure they are doing the work in the way we’ve committed to doing it.

The second group of people Account Managers need to keep happy is the Client. Clients need to be informed about when their properties are going to be serviced, and what we’ll be doing when we get there. Clients need to be reassured that any problem areas are being taken care of, and that we’re living up to the promises we’ve made in our service agreement. Account Managers (the really good ones, at least) become trusted members of their Clients’ team, ready to jump in and help at a moment’s notice, no matter what time of day or night.

At Yellowstone Landscape, we’re fortunate to have a great group of Account Managers. We’re not all perfect, and we certainly make mistakes from time to time. But we’re always training and striving to get better.

With spring’s arrival, this year’s training sessions and workshops are coming to an end. It’s time for our Account Managers to get back out in the field and manage our clients’ landscapes through the tough spring and summer growing seasons.

So remember, the next time you see a great looking commercial landscape, thanks should go straight to the guy (or gal) at the front of the boat, keeping their team in sync. It’s a lot harder than it looks.

 

Photo Credit: Joe Brunton, via Wikimedia Commons

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Secrets of an Effective HOA Landscape Maintenance Committee

HOAs.

Love them or loathe them, more than 68 million Americans now live in community associations.

Most residents (87% according to CAI) report being satisfied with the job that their association does to maintain their home’s value. However, in spite of our best efforts, the image most often associated with a monthly HOA meeting is a very vocal, very dissatisfied resident arguing with the members of the Board.

Any guesses about the topic most likely to be at the center of that argument?

Ding, ding, ding. If you said “landscaping”, you’re 100% correct.

And that’s exactly why it’s critically important that your HOA has an effective Landscape Maintenance Committee in place.

Regardless of the size of your community’s common areas, or the dollar amount of your HOA’s landscape maintenance budget, a committee formed with the sole purpose of watching over your landscape(and your commercial landscape contractor) is a huge asset to your association.

 

Structure

Landscape maintenance committees are typically assembled as a “standing” committee, meaning that they will regularly meet to handle ongoing tasks.  For a specific, landscaping-related project, especially one with a significant price tag attached to it, like a large-scale rejuvenation and replanting project, you may wish to consider forming a special “ad hoc” committee, which only exists for the duration of that project.

While landscape maintenance committees aren’t required to include a member of the elected HOA board, having an elected community leader in the group will create a more effective committee. Including a Board Member will help the committee stay within its defined responsibilities, and keep it from being pulled off task by other volunteer members coming to the group with their own agendas and aesthetic preferences.

The size of the committee can vary widely, but for even the largest communities there is rarely a need for more than 5 members in a landscape maintenance committee. Members of the committee are free to contribute as much time as their schedules allow, but the most effective committees will hold formal meetings where they discuss their findings, outside of the monthly HOA Board meeting. If volunteers can’t commit the time that will be needed, it’s best to keep the group smaller and filled with only the most engaged members.

 

Responsibilities

Your landscape maintenance committee should be created by your elected Board with an explicit purpose to execute a specific set of duties. Committees operate best when given a defined set of tasks for which they are responsible each month.  While they don’t have the authority to act without the Board’s approval, they are still very important to the association, especially when you consider that for most community associations, landscaping and grounds maintenance is the largest annually budgeted expense.

Some of the responsibilities often assigned to Landscape Committees include:

  • Creating recommendations for the Board on landscaping improvements within the community.
  • Communicating with representatives from the community’s landscape maintenance provider.
  • Inspecting the work performed by the community’s landscape maintenance provider.
  • Suggesting additions and amendments to the community’s landscape maintenance program.
  • Evaluating RFP responses, checking references, and conducting contractor interviews when selecting a new commercial landscape maintenance provider for the community.
  • Providing monthly summary updates to the Board on landscaping and grounds maintenance issues.

 

While a landscape maintenance committee doesn’t remove the ultimate responsibility for the appearance of the community’s landscape from the Board, an effective landscape committee can certainly make the Board’s job much easier.

 

For more ideas on HOA Committees, this article from First Service Residential is a great resource.

Photo image credit: Pixabay

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