Imagine you’re on a business trip. Right around the corner from your hotel, there’s a cool, neighborhood coffee shop. Across the street is a Starbuck’s. Which would you choose?
Coffee is one of those things that people can get very passionate, and very opinionated about. For every Starbuck’s addict, sitting in the same drive-thru lane every morning, there’s a diehard coffee drinker out there who absolutely refuses to set foot in a chain coffee shop.
In our experience, landscaping also brings out strong opinions and lots of passion. Don’t believe us? Try sitting in on any large HOA’s monthly meeting. We can guarantee you’ll hear someone mention the condition of the landscape.
And we totally get it.
That’s why we’re never surprised when prospective clients immediately tell us that they prefer to work with “local” landscape companies. But when we get the chance to ask a few follow up questions, we find out why “local” really matters to them. It’s usually because:
- They had a bad experience with a large, national landscape company in the past.
- They believe that being able to call the owner of the company directly will result in more responsive service.
- They want to feel like their money is staying in the local economy.
All three are valid and logical reasons to think that choosing a “local” provider is a better option than a larger company. Unfortunately, none of them get to the most critical reason that “local” really does matter. (For the real reason that “local” matters in commercial landscaping, stay tuned for the follow up in part two of this article.)
But for now, let’s explore the top three reasons that some clients believe only a “local” landscape firm can give them the kind of landscape care they expect.
#1 – They had a bad experience with a large, national company.
Here’s something it hurts to admit. Yes, sometimes employees of landscape companies make poor decisions. Sometimes salespeople in landscape companies lead clients to believe that they will get more than they pay for. Sometimes there are billing errors and irregularities that result in distrust. Sometimes people in leadership positions at landscape companies don’t resolve problems to the satisfaction of their customers.
We wish we could say that those things only happen in large, national landscape companies. But the truth is that all of these problems can happen in any company, regardless of their size, or the geographic location of their headquarters. Thankfully, that’s not the norm in the landscape industry. Most employees of landscape companies, large and small, just want to do what’s right, make their client's property look great, and make their client’s job a little easier.
#2 - They believe that being able to call the owner of the company directly will result in more responsive service.
We’ve been surveying our customers for more than a decade now, so we can say with some authority that responsiveness is the most important characteristic that clients value in a landscape service provider. No matter what the issue is, a responsive landscaper’s reply should be, “Don’t worry about it for another minute. We’ll take care of it right away.”
In our ultra-connected world, there’s simply no excuse for any request to go unanswered. Whether it be a phone call, a text, or an email - as a client, you deserve a landscape partner that picks up the phone and (more importantly) immediately begins working to resolve your issue. So, in times of need, is it more important to speak to someone that owns the company, or is it more important to speak to someone who’ll own your problem?
In larger landscape service firms, each property has a dedicated Account Manager that fills the role as the first responder to client issues. Behind the Account Manager is also a Branch Manager, a Business Development Manager, an Office Manager, and several specialty service managers (Irrigation, Spray Application, Tree Care, Landscape Designer). Not to mention district or regional management that can call in resources from other nearby branch locations if necessary.
Spreading the expertise and accountability across multiple people means that larger firms can deploy the right resources to diagnose and resolve issues much more quickly, especially in an emergency.
#3 - They want to feel like their money is staying in the local economy.
The “Shop Local” movement has extended far beyond boutiques and farmer’s markets. Consumers are more aware of where their money goes after they spend it than ever before. And that knowledge influences all kinds of purchases, even with B2B service businesses, like commercial landscaping companies.
Our industry association’s data estimates that 99% of the landscape companies in the US are owner-operators with less than $1 million in annual revenue. This means that the overwhelming majority of the $40 billion that will be spent on landscape services in our country this year is going back into a family run business.
While we can’t speak for those small businesses, we can tell you what happens to your money when you choose to partner with us. Labor represents about half of our cost of doing business, so approximately 50 cents of every dollar we earn goes straight back into the pockets of our employees. Those employees live in the areas where we serve. They spend their money on housing, groceries, and day care, just like everyone else in your local community. When we start new contracts, we hire more people from the local community, buy new equipment and supplies from local dealers, buy fuel from local gas stations, and buy new trucks from local auto dealerships.
Our local branch teams are fiercely proud of the areas where we serve because it's also where they live. They are career Landscape Professionals that work hard, raise families, and look for ways to give back through service projects and donations.
We know it probably feels like we’re trying to debunk some valid and logical reasons for clients to choose a “local” company, instead of us. Please understand that’s not our intent.
In fact, we agree that there is one very important “local” factor that should be a part of every client’s decision-making process. And we’ll explore that in the follow-up article, Why “Local” Matters in Commercial Landscaping (Part 2 of 2).