Get the most out of your website photos with an image gallery

Get the most out of your website photos with an image gallery

When it comes to selling landscaping work, images on your website can be important—particularly for design/build jobs. But have you given much thought to how you display those images?

An image gallery is the best place to keep all of your different photos. However, to maximize the value of that gallery, you’ll want to pay attention to some important factors. That includes how you organize the photo gallery and where you make it available. The fact is, if you’re going to invest in having beautiful photos, you want to make sure that prospective clients see them.

Why is an image gallery important? 

According to Chad Diller, director of client success for sales and marketing agency Landscape Leadership, an image gallery is one of the top five pages that will be viewed on a landscape company‘s website. In fact, sometimes the only page that surpasses it in views is the homepage. Diller says that in analyzing page views for his clients, he has seen an image gallery receive up to 20 percent of a client’s website traffic. 

Considering how many prospective clients will end up looking at your image gallery, it’s important that you set it up wisely. Keep in mind that the goal of an image gallery is to help move prospects forward in the sales process. They’ve already come to your website because they’ve found you in a Google search or heard about you. Your image gallery will help to validate their interest and help them to determine whether you are a company worth pursuing.

Organizing an image gallery

According to Diller, it typically works best to have a single photo gallery (one web page) with the images broken into specific categories. This makes for a user-friendly experience that allows website visitors to search (or filter) images based on the type of landscaping project they want to view. 

“This is called a dynamic gallery,” explains Diller. “It’s not just a static web page with an overwhelming number of random photos. Website visitors can apply filters to help narrow down their search to images they want to see.” 

Diller says that Rock Water Farm is a great example of a dynamic gallery that has searchable content.

Of course, you could also organize images by “client project,” suggests Diller. This is another strategy that has worked for some of Landscape Leadership’s clients, including High Prairie Landscape Group. 

While there’s no question that this is important for design/build companies, Diller says that commercial landscaping companies can also apply the same concepts. He suggests organizing images based on property types like Resorts/Hotels, Industrial, Community Associations, Retail, and more.

Level Green Landscaping is a great example of a company that has an image gallery organized by property type.

“No matter how you decide to organize your gallery, the goal should be to make the search and viewing experience as easy as possible for your prospective clients,” Diller sums up.

Where to feature your gallery

As mentioned, an image gallery is best-suited as a unique page on your website. The key, says Diller, is to ensure it’s easy to find. That means it should be accessible from your website’s main navigation. While the image gallery is rarely the first thing that prospective clients see, it will be one of the first ways that they start to “qualify” you as a company they might be interested in actually hiring.

In addition to having a link to your gallery on the main page, you might also want to consider featuring some of the top photos from your gallery on a particular service page. For instance, if you have a service page about the patios that your company builds, it might make sense to choose three really great photos of patios that you can include on that page, which link to the main gallery so that they can see more. This is a smart way to generate more interest. 

Rock Water Farm uses this strategy on their Hardscaping & Masonry page. Visitors get a sneak peek of some of the photos, which then link back to the gallery.

few best practices

As you think about adding or enhancing your image gallery, Diller says to keep a few more best practices in mind.

For one, remember that five great photos are a lot more valuable than 20 average ones. Your image gallery should only show off your best work. If you are just starting out, don’t assume that putting every photo up is a good idea. Less is more until you have better quality shots.

Another best practice is to use “Before and After” images when you have them available, says Diller. These can be incredibly powerful to demonstrate the way you were able to transform a property. 

“Just make sure that these images must be positioned next to one another and with captions,” Diller urges.

The last thing that you want is for a prospective client to think a “before” shot is your finished work.

Finally, make sure that you are investing in professional photography and getting the most out of that experience. You can read this entire article on photography for more tips on how to get the most of your photos. One tip from Diller is to make sure you include people in some of your shots. One static shot after another can get boring. But when you include people in the images, your prospects can start to picture themselves in that space. A great example of this is from Blanchford Landscape Group, whose image is shown at the top of this story. They often use people in their gallery shots.

At the end of the day, your image gallery won’t be very impressive or meet your goals if you don’t have great shots in it. Images are powerful and they can absolutely help you to sell more work—as long as you are using them wisely.

For this lawn care company, training trumps experience

For this lawn care company, training trumps experience

These days, finding labor has become harder than ever. But Oasis Turf & Tree in Loveland, Ohio has always put a strong emphasis on training and that has helped them to be successful in finding great team members, even at a time when hiring has been difficult. 

First and foremost, according to company founder and owner Rob Reindl, they have never been overly caught up on previous experience. New hires do not necessarily need to have previous Green Industry experience. In fact, the company has had great success hiring from other industries including call centers, and even from within the hospitality industry.

Reindl says that they have always been more interested in skills that can’t be taught like work ethic and willingness to learn.

What makes this possible is that Oasis Turf & Tree has an incredibly robust training program. While a lot of companies talk about training, it’s something that Reindl says they take incredibly seriously and goes far beyond the state-required “bare minimum.” In Ohio, lawn care technicians only need to complete a day of “service person training,” in which best practices are reviewed. In addition, the state only requires that one person in a lawn care company hold an application license, and others can work under that technician. But Oasis has set an internal goal of getting all lawn care technicians licensed, even though they don’t “need” to be.

“We aim to have technicians earn their license within 90 days of employment,” Reindl explains. “As soon as someone is hired, they start working toward that goal.” 

Experience is not a necessity

Because Oasis is so focused on training, previous experience is not a prerequisite for the job. In fact, Reindl says it’s sometimes easier to train someone who has no industry experience, particularly if they were not taught things the right way. It’s harder to “untrain” bad habits than to start fresh.

“Even if someone comes in with experience, they should still expect training,” Reindl says. “Everyone starts new here. We want new team members to learn our processes and systems. That’s why a willingness to learn is more important than coming in with previous knowledge.” 

In addition to asking team members to earn their applicator’s license,  Reindl says that they also encourage team members to work toward certification from the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP). When they do earn these additional certifications, they receive a pay raise.

Providing opportunities

Reindl says that the company’s focus on training and certifications comes down to wanting to provide “opportunities” for team members. 

“We have found that the team really appreciates the opportunity to further their knowledge and ultimately advance their career as a result,” Reindl says. “In other roles, they have felt ‘stuck’ but here at Oasis we want our people to know how important their success is to us.”

That also means providing opportunities for climbing the career ladder.

“Our team members have a career path that they can follow if they want to continue to advance within the company,” Reindl says. 

This is important as one solution to the current labor crisis is for companies to turn the focus toward retention. Oasis has always been committed to promoting from within the company and retaining long-term hires.

“It comes down to setting our team up for success,” Reindl sums up. “Though the lawn care industry has been known to have a lot of turnover, we have found that by really focusing on training and giving our team members opportunities to advance within the company, that we have been able to build a company with a lot of long-time team members.” 

Did you miss our previous article…
https://blackstonelandscapingdesign.com/?p=531

How to Get More Value from Landscaping Trade Shows

How to Get More Value from Landscaping Trade Shows

It’s a brave new world of landscaping trade shows in the post-pandemic era. After a brief hiatus, some of the most prominent landscaping trade shows are making a come back. However, is your landscaping business ready with a strategy to get more out of your trade show investments? The GoMaterials marketing team synced up with the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association, organizers of the biggest industry trade shows in Florida, for tips on how to maximize ROI from events.

Read our full conversation below with Billy Deal, Director of Associations Services at FNGLA.

 

Thank you for meeting us Billy, can you tell us about your professional background and role with the FNGLA?

FNGLA Billy Deal

I’ve been within the industry since 1990. I’ve studied horticulture and marketing. Along the course of the journey, I worked for a very large grower of trees and shrubs based here in Florida and predominantly sold them and brokered them in the central Florida market. Eventually I came aboard the FNGLA, and I’ve been here for about 7 years. My role is that I put together all the puzzle pieces to make sure that the association becomes that bridge that connects buyers, suppliers, and everyone who is a part of the industry.

 

Since events are so crucial for bringing the industry together, can you tell us how the pandemic changed it?

When the pandemic hit, of course that was a major bomb. Even though it was possible to technically have a show here in Florida, we knew that it wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. It also wouldn’t have had the look, the feel, or anything we’d normally expect with FNGLA landscape shows and events – it just wasn’t the right thing to do for FNGLA’s attendees and exhibitors. So, we had to pivot and make adjustments because the events also play a large part in funding our other initiatives. We chose to do a few things online to keep revenues going. I think overall, the industry has been extremely strong, and our members were deemed essential, so they were able to keep supporting FNGLA through the pandemic.

 

s businesses reopen, what advice would you offer to landscapers still trying to decide about attending events this year?

We are seeing a lot of anticipation from the industry to get together and put themselves in front of a big show. Speaking about just The Landscape Show, we are observing a greater number of registrations this year compared to 2019. So, if somebody hasn’t been to the event before or is still unsure, this is the year to try it. I think you’re going to see a lot of people attend events, especially, because they haven’t been able to do so for some time.

 

With more people attending, does the event strategy need to change for landscapers?

No, I don’t think so, if you consider a couple of recent industry trends. There was already pressure within the industry back in 2019 as far as locating and finding plant supplies was concerned. The pandemic compounded the situation with supply chain disruptions across multiple areas such as fertilizers, pots, and of course plant materials. Landscapers planning to attend events should consider it their top priority to gain knowledge and understanding about how all these different forces are hitting each other all at one time. It’s different when you talk to suppliers in person – some of the nuances are hard to capture on phone or email.

 

This brings us to an important question. How should the attendees prepare for the event?

As a business you always want to focus on the pain points of your customers, but it’s also important to keep an open mind about other factors. It might be a little off track but try to look at the events’ interactive floorplan to see with whom you might be interacting. I also recommend looking at the event website to see which topics/sessions are planned to get a sense of the chatter.

Your plan needs to account for small but important things like business cards. It’s interesting because business cards aren’t carried as much today with the younger demographics as before.

 

 

Workforce shortage issues are the next big pain point for the industry right now, how do the events help with that?

Well, we have a job board online, but perhaps attending a landscaping career fair can be a better option if that is your objective. It is mostly geared towards bringing in high school students and groups to come in and look at potential jobs within the industry. For example, FNGLA now has an apprentice program where we are literally taking new people wanting to get into the industry and connecting them with different businesses and employment and careers.

 

What tips can you offer to landscapers hoping for a better ROI from the event?

Before we come to ROI, it’s important to ask yourself about your objectives. Consider questions like:

What are you trying to do?

Why are you coming?

Are you coming just to walk around the floor and look at pretty plants?

If you are bringing multiple people, think about what a good “plan of attack” would be as a team. You can set individual objectives and then measure results as per that.

Let’s not forget the personal growth opportunities as well. For example, we have education programs, some of them cost only a little bit more than the ticket cost of the event. One to two hours of paid sessions in areas such as business management or pesticides and diseases can get you your CEUs.

There is another thing to consider which is ROR – return on relationship. Look at the relationships built at these events year after year and think “hey it cost me $20 to get in this show, what did I get in return?”. Chances are your strengthened relationships are well worth the attendance costs.

 

Specific to FNGLA and The Landscape Show, what support do you offer to the attendees?

The big one is knowledge. Within the event itself you have plenty of opportunities to update your knowledge on many diverse subjects. Another is the sense of being together as an industry. This ties in with our theme of being “together again” –  we haven’t been together as a full group for a couple years now. The peer-to-peer and the business-to-business connections are very much what we try to facilitate.

 

Is there anything you want to add about The Landscape Show?

This year’s event is going to be very special. We are planning a “forest-bathing” area inside the show floor. The best part is, all the materials will be contributed by exhibitors, to form this green centerpiece. We also have a big lineup of events on Wednesday and Thursday evenings apart from The Landscape Show’s opening night reception, and the FNGLA tapped-in for young professionals etc.

***

Will you be attending any landscaping tradeshows this year? Meet GoMaterials team at the landscaping show!

The post How to Get More Value from Landscaping Trade Shows appeared first on GoMaterials.

Plant Sourcing Advice from Three Wholesale Nursery Leaders

Plant Sourcing Advice from Three Wholesale Nursery Leaders

As landscaping demand soars, many wholesale nurseries are reporting ‘an unprecedented demand’ for plants, shrubs, and trees. Getting the right materials on time can be challenging even during a regular year due to dynamic shifts in demand, and extreme weather. Is there a way for landscaping businesses to avoid last-minute changes to the job schedule and other sourcing challenges? GoMaterials asked three wholesale nursery leaders to share their insights about landscaping plant sourcing.

Read the full post below to get the best sourcing and procurement advice for your landscaping business.

 

Invest in Wholesale Nursery Relationships and Be Proactive

Everde Growers, Texas / Florida / West Coast

Nicholas Staddon, the official Spokesperson for Everde Growers, explained how the current plant sourcing challenges originated with the housing bubble crash more than a decade ago. “Up until the 2008 recession, we were absolutely cranking. Very few people saw the recession coming, and the demand for plants died very quickly. Over the next three to five years a terrific number of nurseries went out of business, and the industry lost around 40% of the workforce. Proactive and nimble enterprises such as Everde Growers, who rebranded in December 2020 after TreeTown USA purchased Village Nurseries and Hines Growers, could find a foothold because they knew their customers well and had a diversified market. Moving on to 2015-16, the market started to come back, but people were still cautious about what they were planting. The last thing they wanted was to have an oversupply on hand,” Nicholas says.

Everde Growers Nursery
Picture from Everde Growers

Once the pandemic hit, Everde Growers experienced a dramatic increase over time in costs and a slowdown on the supply lines of fertilizers, containers, etc. that never quite recovered after the recession. “The best thing we can do is spend time with our suppliers,” says Nicholas. “Developing a relationship with them and understanding their business is mutually beneficial and can help us find workarounds to these challenges.”

Plant Sourcing Advice from Everde Growers

“It’s crucial to know your supplier and understand their business. To thrive in this market, landscape contractors need to find their niche. It’s also equally important to keep learning more about your industry, your customers, and to form meaningful relationships with local associations such as CLSA, TNLA, or FNGLA.

Planning is also important. If you’re constantly reacting to each situation that arises, it’s not going to help anyone. I recommend spending 10-20% of your time planning your business.”

Communication is Important as Plant Availability Changes by the Hour

Barton Nursery, New York/ New Jersey  

Joseph Bartonek from Barton Nursery highlighted the communication gap between landscape contractors and wholesale nursery managers. When asked about the biggest hurdle faced by wholesale nursery leaders, Joseph pointed at the shortages and substitution delays as the crucial factors.

“The biggest hurdle right now, it’s the shortages. You need to send a truck to more than one supplier to fulfill someone’s original order or even for the substitutions. I would say that’s the most difficult thing right now because it’s time-consuming on both ends. Also, by the time customers get back to us on substitution approvals, that plant material might not be available because it changes hourly now,” says Joseph.

Barton Nurseries is currently trying to delegate other time-consuming tasks to cope with the demand, such as adding more team members to exclusively collect pictures of plant materials.

Plant Sourcing Advice from Barton Nursery

“Allow the plant sourcing specialists and brokers to locate plant material and be flexible in substituting. It’s important to consider the timelines. Depending on the size of the order, it can take 10 days to source the material because it takes 3 days just for the order to be pulled and processed. When you expect your materials right away, it screws up production for the week for everyone else.”

Set Realistic Expectations and Consider Seasonality

Uxbridge Nurseries, Ontario

When GoMaterials spoke with the team at Uxbridge Nurseries about plant sourcing hurdles, they were quick to point out the gap between landscapers’ expectations and the reality of wholesale nursery supply chain.

“We find the biggest hurdle to be the expectation of plant material to be readily available all year round. We have about a 2-2.5-month window to get thousands of trees dug and put into the yard to start fulfilling orders. The supply chain for trees goes back about 5-10 years on a lot of crops and sometimes even more. So, to predict the trends of material that architects, homeowners, garden centers, cities and landscapers need or want can be quite difficult,” they explain.

The Uxbrige Nurseries team also spoke about the difficulty of managing factors out of their control. For example, bugs (emerald ash borer, gypsy moth), and weather emergencies (hail/wind/droughts/heat waves etc.). That’s why they think it’s important for the industry to come together.

“Even though the industry does a good job at communicating, there is always room for improvement, and we could step into each other’s shoes to try and better understand one another,” they added.

Plant Sourcing Tip from Uxbridge Nurseries

“The more time and the more information you communicate with the nursery the better. For example, potential job start date? what kind of job it is? The duration of the job? etc. Basically, time and communication are key in getting what you want. At the very least, we are able to forewarn you that material may be unavailable earlier and suggest a substitute that you can pass along to your architect or customer to approve.”

***

Have you faced any plant shortages or other sourcing challenges this year? You can download our 2021 Plant Shortage Report to explore the causes of shortages and develop strategies to counter them.

The post Plant Sourcing Advice from Three Wholesale Nursery Leaders appeared first on GoMaterials.

Did you miss our previous article…
https://blackstonelandscapingdesign.com/?p=517

Dig in tight spots with Komatsu’s new PC78US-11 compact excavator

Dig in tight spots with Komatsu’s new PC78US-11 compact excavator

Komatsu has introduced a new “tight tail swing” excavator well-suited for urban environments, confined spaces and crowded jobsites.

With its 68-horsepower engine, six work modes and swing radius under 5 feet, the PC78US-11 can handle precise digging, as well as large excavation tasks.

The 12-foot 2-inch boom has a greater raising angle and a short implement swing radius (6 feet 9 inches minimum), giving the PC78US-11 the ability to dig efficiently in a crowded space. At the rear, the tail swing radius measures just 4 feet 7 inches. Viewed from above, both the front and the rear corners of the superstructure are rounded, with the maximum cab extension over the tracks at just 9 inches.

For fast digging


Komatsu’s newest tight tail swing excavator is ideal for urban environments and confined spaces.Komatsu

Good operators like a quick machine, and Komastu’s faster boom up and swing speed increases productivity by 9%. To better match machine performance to the application, Komatsu arms the PC78US-11 with six work modes: power, economy, lifting, breaker, attachment-power, and attachment-economy.

For operators who prefer backhoe-style controls, a pattern change selector valve comes standard. The grading blade has a new moldboard profile to improve backfilling and grading efficiency. The PC78US-11 accepts buckets from 0.10 to 0.26 cubic yards.

Low maintenance demands

A new high-output 2.4-liter, Tier 4 Final engine gives you ground-level access to service points. The heavy-duty, high-pressure common rail fuel injection system and cooled exhaust gas recirculation (CEGR) achieve near complete combustion in cylinder to reduce emissions.

A Komatsu diesel oxidation catalyst removes exhaust soot and enables 100% passive regeneration without a diesel particulate filter or regular refills of diesel exhaust fluid. The no-DPF, no-DEF design translates into lower owning and operating costs, reduced maintenance and one less component to replace or worry about.

Komatsu’s compact engine makes room for a fan clutch system, allowing engine and hydraulic system tuning to reduce noise by a full decibel. Typical in-cab noise levels measure 71 decibels — about the same as a household vacuum cleaner. When engine cooling is not required, the viscous fan clutch reduces parasitic horsepower draw. Overall engine improvements boost fuel efficiency as much as 13%.

Cab comfort

The air-suspension seat has deep side supports and an adjustable backrest angle to support operators of all sizes. The cab comes with AM/FM radio with USB and Bluetooth technology.

Komatsu improved cab dampening by incorporating a spring and a longer stroke on the viscous cab mounts. This, plus a beefed up deck, reduces vibration to the operator to keep him or her more comfortable and focused throughout the day. The sealed and pressurized cab keeps dust out and automatically maintains temperatures to the level set on the monitor.

A sliding cab door makes access easier, especially when you’re entering or exiting the excavator up against a wall or in confined spaces. The cab is ROPS certified and satisfies the requirements of ISO OPG Top Guard Level 1 for falling objects.

Crowded jobsites often restrict sight lines, so Komatsu added a 7-inch LCD display to the PC78US-11 with a standard rearview camera image. LED lights provide nighttime illumination of the jobsite.

The variable displacement/axial piston hydraulics for the boom, arm, bucket, swing and travel circuits offer a maximum flow of 44.4 gallons per minute. Relief-valve settings for implement circuits are rated at 4,264 psi. The auxiliary circuits put out 36.5 gpm/3,830 psi (two way) and 21.1 gpm/2,490 psi (one way).

For travel and trailer considerations, the PC78US-11 has an operating weight of 17,747 pounds.

Did you miss our previous article…
https://blackstonelandscapingdesign.com/?p=514

How Florida Landscaping Companies Can Beat the Hurricane Season

How Florida Landscaping Companies Can Beat the Hurricane Season

The sunshine state happens to be one of the most hurricane-affected states in America. Since the 1900s, Florida alone has had as much hurricane related financial damage as the rest of the United States put together. For the region’s landscaping industry, hurricane season brings to mind material waste, lost working hours, devastation in nurseries, and so much more. Though we can’t control Mother Nature, we can give you some tips below that will help brace your landscaping business for impact.

 

Why Florida Landscaping Suffers During the Hurricanes

Florida, unfortunately, is perfectly located to take the brunt of hurricanes and tropical storms. The storms form in the Atlantic Basin thanks to the warm waters. Then they travel counterclockwise, upwards and to the west thanks to the Coriolis Effect that governs wind patterns. This brings them almost directly into Florida’s path.

Impact on the Landscaping Industry

Immediate but Short-Term Plant Material Damage

There are plenty of ways in which high winds and torrential rain from hurricanes destroy plant materials. Winds rip foliage off of a plant, break branches and trunks, and topple over trees. Nurseries sometimes lose significant inventory of plant materials after a bad storm. According to the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, in 2017, the damage from Hurricane Irma alone cost nurseries 625 million dollars.

Long-term Soil Challenges

Figuring out how a storm has affected the soil takes some time. Torrential rains oversaturate the ground and render it unable to support the weight of plants. On a micro-scale, the rain can destabilize the oxygen levels in the soil and lead to anoxia and hypoxia  in the plants. In this case, the plant’s death will take a few days to occur. Flooding from intense rain is problematic to the earth’s long-term chemical balance as well. When floods come in from the sea, they leave behind high amounts of salt. This hurts later plant growth potential. Flooding closer to urban areas means a nursery’s ground may be contaminated by whatever pesticides and fertilizers have come through the runoff from surrounding properties.  It can take a few years to bring the soil back to a state of readiness depending on the magnitude of the damage.

Response Delay

Delays in response will amplify any problems your landscaping business is experiencing. Whether buildings are destroyed, power lines have gone down, or the electricity is cut, the longer it takes for you to reach your plants and equipment, the worse the outcomes will be for them.

 

Landscaping Project Planning Tips for Weather Emergencies

Hurricane planning needs to go beyond standard organization. Your landscaping business must have specific SOPs and plans in place that outline how you will approach each potential challenge.

Create a Risk Matrix

A risk matrix defines the severity of the threat and the probability of it occurring.

Landscaping Matrix

Severity options:

Minor: No loss in workdays, no notable physical injuries, minimal impact to your grounds or equipmentMarginal: Some lost workdays, minor physical injuries, some impact to your grounds or equipmentCritical: Loss of workdays, physical injuries requiring hospitalization, damage to your grounds and equipmentCatastrophic: Significant loss in workdays, extreme physical injuries resulting in death or disability, irreversible damage to your grounds and equipment

Probability Options:

No chanceLow ChanceModerate ChanceHigh Chance

Once your matrix has been created, develop a plan for each scenario. What do you expect from your employees, from management, from your clients? What steps will be taken to secure plant inventory, equipment, or physical buildings? All of these questions need to be addressed because when disaster strikes, you won’t have the time or the mental energy to come up with solutions.

Manage Transit Expectations

Imagine if the storm hit sooner than forecasted and now you have a driver out on the road. Your driver can stop at a predetermined holding facility, return to your office, or immediately seek shelter. Set a reasonable plan for this scenario ahead of time so that your crew knows what’s expected of them and feel safe throughout.

Build a Storage Network

Build relationships with other nurseries and landscapers who can safeguard your material during a storm. You can start by looking into your regional FNGLA Chapter to see who would be a potential helper.

Then create an emergency check-list for every job taken during hurricane season. This checklist will map out storage points along the road. Whether you’re close to home, midway or almost at your destination, have drop-off points ready and available.

Don’t be shy to go a step further and build relationships with all of your neighbours — you never know who might spare some extra storage space in a pinch.

Prepare Backup Routing

Your operations staff should have backup routes arranged for every job during storm watches. This is as simple as considering alternative main arteries that could be taken in the event of road closures.

Additionally, consider other locations from which to source material in case you can’t reach your usual partners. Third parties like GoMaterials can expand your wholesale nursery network if need be.

Invest in Insurance

When disaster strikes, insurance serves to replace lost material and revenue potential. Crop insurance is a no-brainer if your landscaping business grows plants in hurricane basins.

→The deadline to apply for crop insurance in Florida for 2022 was on May 1st, 2021. Reach out to insurance agencies and see what options are available to you, or get started on next year’s policy.

 

Hurricane Readiness Resources for Florida Landscapers

There are a host of resources out there to guide you through hurricane season.

Government and State ResourcesReady is a government website that gives you everything from quick tip sheets to full guides on planning for the worst.The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association lets you download an information sheet complete with relevant emergency contact information.Weather ServicesThe National Hurricane Center’s website gives detailed forecasts about ongoing and upcoming weather patterns as they relate to hurricanes.Risk management Links and eBooksThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provide an online risk assessment matrix to develop your landscaping business’ hurricane response plan.The University of Florida has an online section dedicated to hurricane safety. If your landscaping business needs ideas on how to safeguard your material, this is the place to look.

***

No man is an island, and that’s especially true during hurricane season. The landscaping industry has worked together before to overcome natural disasters, and this year is nothing different. We’ll fine-tune our communication and collaboration once again, and if nothing else, rest easy knowing we’re anticipating fewer storms than last year!

The post How Florida Landscaping Companies Can Beat the Hurricane Season appeared first on GoMaterials.

Landscaping Plant Procurement Checklist to Reduce Last-minute Surprises

Landscaping Plant Procurement Checklist to Reduce Last-minute Surprises

After a year of the unexpected, landscaping jobs are back in full swing. Forecasts are confident that the landscaping industry will be growing by 2.5% each year until 2026. As cities, businesses, and homeowners all look to improve their green spaces, workloads for landscapers will be increasing. As a result, wholesale plant sourcing can be a challenge this summer, but with this landscaping checklist, your business can overcome any surprises.

 

Landscaping Procurement Checklist to Beat the Plant Shortages

GoMaterials CEO recently wrote in ProLandscaper USA about the plant shortages. Whether it was due to home gardeners, pandemic closures, or inclement weather, the effects of plant shortages have made many plants and trees scarce. Add the points below to your checklist to ensure you always have adequate materials.

☑(Over) Communicate Frequently

There’s no such thing as overcommunication when the industry is going through shortages. Relying on just one mode of communication for confirming availability can often derail your jobs with unexpected no shows.

Communicate with the nurseries in the weeks before your landscaping job and confirm that the material is still available and being saved for you. This gives you a head start to source the plants from elsewhere if need be.

☑ Don’t Forget Equipment Conditions

With the expected boom in the landscaping industry, you might not find accessible equipment at the last minute. Demand is expected to increase by 6% in 2021. Industry experts are expecting inventory to fly off the shelves this summer. The cause for this scarcity is two-fold.

During the pandemic, landscaping businesses stretched the life of their equipment to keep costs low and are now planning to purchase much-needed upgrades. Homeowners are also gearing up for another year of DIY landscaping, and this new demographic of hobbyists are expected to stay around for some time. We’re predicting homeowners will be investing in the right equipment.

Supply chain issues caused by the pandemic also add to the sudden increase in equipment demand. People will want new landscaping equipment, but will any be available, or will manufacturing struggle to maintain a steady supply?

Take an honest look at your landscaping equipment and see whether you need any extra accessories or if anything needs to be replaced. If you cannot afford replacements this year, consider renting or short-term leasing the necessary equipment well ahead of time.

 

Wholesale Plant Checklist for Quality or Spec

You can’t be at every pick-up, and drop to pay closer attention. Here are some tips to make sure the correct plant material is delivered to a job every time.

Wholesale_nursery_checklist

 

☑ Written Confirmation

Communication is key. Follow up every phone call to your nurseries with a text or email confirming the species of plant material and the specs you discussed. Landscapers are not the only ones working overtime right now, so are nurseries. Written documentation will help make sure everyone is on the same page every step of the way. Many email services such as Gmail also trigger automated reminders- another reason to send confirmations.

☑ Picture Validation

Do they really have the ‘Variegated’ or ‘Fastigiated’ variety of the species you need? Ask for a quick picture to be sent your way! Doing so guarantees there are no mistakes and that the quality of the plant will be accepted by the end-client.

☑Work with Sourcing Experts

Sourcing plant materials is time consuming. The challenge is made worse when you have to branch out to nurseries and wholesalers you’re not used to working with. Companies like GoMaterials offer a wider reach for your plant sourcing needs so that you can focus on management and project execution.

 

Landscaping Supervisor’s Checklist for a Busy Season

Every landscaping business needs solid business organization at its core. This is especially important during the busy season. The industry isn’t entirely outdoors, plant sourcing magic happens inside and behind a desk as well. The checklist below can help you track the activity better.

☑ Make Routine Tasks More Efficient with the Right Software

Think about the way in which you source your plants. If you find yourself building lists on excel or just emailing nurseries, maybe it’s time to reconsider. The right software will cut down on administrative time, or time spent on multiple platforms, so you can work on the hands-on aspects of your landscaping business.

Almost all project management software centralizes information. When you build a quote, you’ll be able to send the plant inventory requests to your nurseries. They’ll see a clear outline of quantity, plant type, spec, etc. If job details change at the last minute, your entire team will instantly access the information through the software, and you can update your wholesale plant suppliers in seconds as well. Everyone will be on the same page every step of the way.

☑ Manage Overflow of Work with Third-Party Services

It’s not easy to find an extra set of hands for specialized tasks. There are, however, online services that fit the bill. One example is Takeoff Monkey. Their service provides accurate landscaping takeoffs in 48 hours or less, saving you precious time in the busy season. 

Don’t shy away from third-party services because you feel like you need to commit to them long term. Many of them offer an unlimited variety of plans. You can work with them for a single last minute job that comes your way, or just during a month that will be particularly busy.

Ultimately, a successful busy season will influence the growth of your landscaping business in 2021. The investment boom in our industry means it’s a good time to be landscaping, provided you have your ginkgos in a row!

***

Have you used outside help during the busy season? Let us know which companies you collaborate with on Twitter!

The post Landscaping Plant Procurement Checklist to Reduce Last-minute Surprises appeared first on GoMaterials.

How Takeoff Monkey Lets You Double Your Landscaping Bids

How Takeoff Monkey Lets You Double Your Landscaping Bids

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could double up the number of landscaping bids you submit? It can be the easiest way to grow your business. The time it takes to translate plans into estimates and estimates into proposals can limit the number of bids you can submit. Now there’s a solution! TakeOff Monkey is offering landscapers a professional takeoff service that dramatically reduces the time it takes to prepare bids while increasing the accuracy of the estimate.

GoMaterials sat down with Takeoff Monkey CEO Tommy Lather to understand how professional takeoffs can help you improve your landscaping bid rate. Read the full interview below.

 

Welcome Tommy. Would you like to introduce yourself to the GoMaterials community?

Tommy: I have worked in the green industry since 2006 for various facets of the industry, including estimating, purchasing and project management. Most of my career has been in estimating for commercial construction. In the early days of my career, I worked for a landscape construction company that earned revenues of $35 million in construction annually.

Takeoff Monkey CEO

“I have always been that one guy in the office who is always, always, always trying to use the latest and greatest technology.”

–       Tommy Lather, CEO, Takeoff Monkey

I was always trying to explore what was out there in terms of technology that could improve my workflow. I was always going to be the first to adopt and experiment. That’s kind of how I ended up here with Takeoff Monkey.

 

What inspired you to launch a platform like Takeoff Monkey for landscapers?

Tommy: In my time as a Senior Estimator, I watched the whole game of construction, estimating etc. get more complex. Estimating is already a chaotic, stressful activity. Which is obviously not a very pleasant experience. I just knew that there was a better way.

So, I teamed up with my partners and we launched this service to save landscapers as much time as possible on their estimating. The idea is that with a more efficient way to estimate the client can increase their bid volume and increase their win rate.

Our goal is to make our customers’ life immensely easier. Takeoff Monkey is simply the more efficient, and cost-effective way for companies to operate. We become part of the clients’ team.

 

Was there an ‘Aha moment’ led to Takeoff Monkey?

Tommy: I don’t know if there was one particular moment, it just came together over time. The takeoff process is usually very mundane, repetitive, and just mind-numbing but vital at the same time. The quantities that you generate from the takeoff, are used for bidding all the way to scheduling and billing. So, if those quantities are wrong, you can be in some serious financial trouble. Naturally, the person doing it has to know what they’re doing. They need to know landscaping, construction, it’s got to be right. So, we decided to become those people who can get it right.

“Takeoffs take about 50% to 80% of the estimating time for a new project. And it has to be perfect, every time.”

 

How does Takeoff Monkey benefit landscape professionals with landscaping bids?

Tommy: The biggest benefit is time savings. As I mentioned, the takeoff process represents at least 50% of the total time spent estimating the project. So, if you’re spending 40 hours a week bidding, just putting estimates together, we can cut that down to 20 hours. With that time, you can then double the amount of projects that you bid, you can work on your cost, on your labor, any other aspects of the business. We cut the work in half for our customers by taking on the takeoff for them.

“At an absolute bare minimum, you can double your bidding rate with Takeoff Monkey.”

The other thing is accuracy. We have many customers who go by the quantities in the plan. But the truth is, those quantities tend to be right only about 5% of the time. Using or relying solely on the numbers given by the architect is like taking a gamble. This is where we can help – we go and do point counts. We do area measurements, linear measurements, whatever it is, we get it exactly right every time.

Last but not the least, this is a team of experts. I have been working with this team since 2008, we have bid on billions of dollars of work together. We trust each other emphatically.

 

nd what kind of technology are you using?

Tommy: We have a diverse repertoire of solutions that we use – it’s really up to the customer and their projects to determine the best fit. Some of these solutions come with a hefty price tag for a single license. Save that cost by letting us put the right solution to work for you.

 

That sounds great! So what makes Takeoff Monkey unique?

Tommy: We do it in 48 hours or less. And we are deadly accurate. I would wager that we are the most accurate in the industry by a wide margin. Everyone in our team has a background or education in architecture. This ensures that our takeoffs are done by highly qualified individuals and not just fly by night operators.

“The best part about us is the quality of service. We just smother you with customer service. We are a human process, so we have human flexibility. If you can think of a format or a specific process for takeoffs, we can probably do it.”

 

What’s your vision for the future of Takeoffs?

Tommy: We believe that the future of takeoffs is a machine. Imagine simply feeding plans to the machine to automatically generate a final, error-free estimate. That’s what we are building.

Right now, we offer a quantity worksheet, which offers many functionalities. You can build your estimate off of it, you can purchase off of it, you can do submittals. You can even get pricing with it. But we are building a tool that’s far more robust, where we’ll calculate labor, it will collect accurate wholesale plant and other material pricing for you, and you’ll be able to build your proposal right inside our tool.

I’m hoping that our tool will be live by spring of 2022. But we don’t want to stop at landscaping, we want to cover all construction trades. Other trades experience the same pains associated with the lengthy takeoff process after all.

Thanks! What’s your sign-off message for the GoMaterials community?

Tommy: We believe this is a newer, and better way for takeoffs. I invite the GoMaterials community to try it out. Your first one is on us, free of charge! It’s the perfect way to show everyone what we can do. Visit https://www.takeoffmonkey.com/ for more information.

***

How long does it take you to turn takeoffs into plant estimates? Tweet to us on @gomaterials to take part in a quick survey.

 

The post How Takeoff Monkey Lets You Double Your Landscaping Bids appeared first on GoMaterials.

How to Prioritize and Reschedule Landscaping Jobs During Peak Season

How to Prioritize and Reschedule Landscaping Jobs During Peak Season

Finding the right way to prioritize landscaping jobs during the peak season can be difficult. Imagine this – you’ve scheduled everything to perfection. Your workers know where to be and when. All your plant materials are ready to go… and then a storm rolls in. Or a truck breaks down, or any of the million unanticipated possibilities occur.

In spite of your best efforts, you might have to prioritize between jobs to manage the unexpected. How do you decide where to concentrate your efforts and when to reschedule landscaping jobs during peak season? Read the full post to get some ideas!

 

1.   Different Ways to Prioritize Your Landscaping Jobs

pplying the Eisenhower Matrix to Landscaping

There are many prioritization models that you can use in your landscaping business. An excellent option to start prioritizing better is the Eisenhower Matrix. This model uses four different elements to categorize the value of tasks, but it can easily be applied to landscaping jobs as well.

Urgent and Important

Example: Example: A large, confirmed job from one of your largest customers.

This is valuable in both the short and long term. You need to resolve the issue quickly for the sake of the job itself. Moreover, a good resolution means the client will trust your services in the future.

Important, but Not Urgent

Example: A large quote request for a future job from one of your large customers.

This is an important challenge to address, as it affects the long term success of your landscaping business. That being said, you don’t need to stop what you’re doing in the middle of the day for this one. Schedule time for this later.

Urgent, but Not Important

Example: A small job from a one-time customer.

Every customer matter, and it’s important to leave a good impression. However, do you personally need to oversee each job? Maybe you can delegate this.

Neither Urgent nor Important

We don’t even need an example for this one. If it’s not urgent, and it’s not important, you don’t need it on your mind during the busy season.

 

Prioritize Landscaping Customers Based on 80:20 Rule

When you have to drop the ball, the 80:20 rule will pinpoint where to let go and where to hold the fort.

Generally, 80% of your revenues come from 20% of your customers. Finding those 20% and prioritizing them regularly can help you not only build lasting relationships but also maximize your profits.

Of course, this rule only works on existing customers. For example, would you de-prioritize a small ‘pilot’ order from a potentially large customer? It’s important to analyze what each possibility would mean for your landscaping business’ reputation and for your profits in the long run.

 

sk Your Friend a Favor Method to Prioritize

Capitalizing on rapport is a way to prioritize new landscaping clients and grow your business without risking your reputation with existing clients.

A client who trusts you can be more flexible. For example, if John Landscaper makes up a significant amount of your business that also means you work with him often and have ideally built a good rapport. In a pinch, he may be open to rescheduling.

**Be warned though, playing this wild card too often will destroy relationships with loyal clients.

 

Viability of Rescheduling

Before you prioritize your landscaping jobs, it’s always good to consider the collateral damage that comes from rescheduling. For example, some plant materials need to be planted right away, or be left in the care of people who know how to tend to them. Landscaping jobs are also often reviewed by inspectors who work on a schedule. Furthermore, your business might rely on third party equipment rentals to move large trees or work with various terrain. You don’t want to create a ripple effect that compromises your profits.

 

2.   Communicating After You Prioritize Your Landscaping Jobs

You’ve done the math and chosen which jobs to reschedule. Now, keep these pitfalls in mind when you communicate with your client.

Scripted Escalation

In the business world, we default to thinking in the binary of winning or losing. Unfortunately, effective communication isn’t black and white.

Scripted escalation is when you attempt to discuss a minor disagreement, but it is interpreted in the worst way possible and the situation derails.

Consider the following exchange:

Landscaper: “Although we won’t be able to deliver the plants by tomorrow like we said, we’ll give you a deal on the foxtail fern and other materials.”

Client: “That’s not ideal, but I guess we’ll make due with the schedule change.”

Landscaper: “I know it’s not ideal, but it’s just a delay of a couple of days and we’ll get you some of the hottest plants on the market at a reduced price.”

Client: “Well actually, this is terrible. I wanted things wrapped up quickly and now you’re delaying my team.”

Here, the client was not enthusiastic about the initial news. Rather than de-escalate, the landscaper tried to make the client share his outlook. This in turn made the client pull farther away from the landscaper’s point of view. Although the client started off only mildly disappointed, the situation escalated into major opposition.

This could have been avoided with different framing.

 

Use Effective Framing

When there are issues with a job, ‘frame the message’ in a way that highlights your empathy.

You and your client are two humans working to solve a problem. Don’t try to “win” the exchange when you have bad news.

This isn’t the time for dry diplomacy either. When you’re de-prioritizing a client, a healthy dose of understanding is the least you can offer.

 

void Overbalancing

You’ve broken the bad news, you’ve let the client down gently. Now you’re itching to leave the exchange on a high note. This part is where you overbalance to try and right a wrong. That can look like anything from agreeing to timelines that aren’t realistic or promising to source materials outside of your region.

Overbalancing leads to bigger issues. You’ve over-promised and might under-deliver. Those within the landscaping industry are no strangers to unexpected delays. Make the required schedule changes with your clients in an earnest way and leave it at that.

 

3.   Internal Re-prioritization: ‘Did you not get the memo?’

Finally, it’s time to get your team on track.

Communicate in full transparency with your crew and suppliers as you resolve your priorities. Everyone needs to be on the same page to ensure job delays don’t snowball into greater issues and lead to profit loss.Update all changes in your landscape management software and any other tools your landscaping business uses.Reroute or reorient third-party resources (drivers, city inspectors, plant brokers).

Rescheduling landscaping jobs is a multi-faceted endeavor. Between planning, communicating, and executing the required changes, you’re spending time you don’t have during the July busy season.

Delegate tasks within your team, team-up with other landscaping businesses, and reach out to partners like GoMaterials to overcome the challenges of the season.

Is the business too stressful this time of the year for you? Take part in our survey to let us know!

The post How to Prioritize and Reschedule Landscaping Jobs During Peak Season appeared first on GoMaterials.

What the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Means for Landscaping Businesses

What the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Means for Landscaping Businesses

COVID-19 vaccine is here and the landscaping industry may need to prepare all over again for reopening. The pandemic set off a domino effect in the landscaping industry. In the last year and a half, we’ve dealt with plant shortages, labour issues, work closures, unprecedented demand due to staycationers, and more. Fast forward to this year, the vaccination rates are, thankfully, on the rise and it looks like the green industry is on it’s way back to normal. Will this be a new normal, or can we expect a return to the good old ways?

Below are some of the ways the COVID-19 vaccine will impact the landscaping industry all over again and what you need to know to be prepared.

Landscaping Labour Market to Gain from Covid-19 Vaccine

The labour shortage in the landscaping industry has been a hot topic for years. The pandemic only amplified the issue. We’re expecting a small labour surge to occur from both foreign and local workers. Here are three reasons why.

Immigrant Worker Visas Resuming

Many landscaping businesses rely on immigrant workers coming in under H-2B visas. As COVID-19 broke out, the government suspended these temporary worker visas in an effort to close borders and slow the spread of the virus.

Vaccine rates have gone up as infection rates have gone down. As a result, government officials feel safe enough to open borders and loosen immigration restrictions. In late April 2021, the Department of Homeland Security announced an increase of 22,000 visas for the H-2B program . This influx of visas will fill key gaps in landscaping industry employment over the summer.

Local Labourers Returning to Work

Finding and keeping local labour was a challenge only made worse with virus related fears. In a survey  of landscaping businesses done by the Green Industry Pros, “approximately 35% of respondents reported that some employees had voluntarily chosen not to work due to concerns about COVID-19.”

Moreover, we’ve been speaking to employers who are worried that government support payments have deterred employees from returning to work. The U.S had the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) which entitled eligible workers to an extra $600 a week on top of their unemployment benefits. Canada offered either the CERB (Canadian Emergency Response Benefit) or the CRB (Canada Recovery Benefit). These benefits gave certain workers more money than they earned while working.

It’s too soon to know whether this fear is substantiated. Be that as it may, with vaccination rates improving, we expect to see local labourers returning to work for two reasons.

Landscaping employees who stopped working out of concern for the virus should feel safe returning now that infection rates are low.As covid support ends, workers receiving financial relief will need to secure steady employment.

Whether its foreign workers who can come in to work, or local labourers who have renewed interest in resuming their jobs, the landscaping industry should expect a small labour surge.

 

Covid-19 Restrictions for Landscaping Likely to Stay a Bit Longer

Nervous whispers about the “new normal” usually refer to the processes and restrictions that will become commonplace even after a significant majority getting the jab. OSHA and Canadian provincial workers rights boards state these following measures should continue to be upheld for the foreseeable future:

Basic hygiene strategies (Disinfecting surfaces and hand washing)Social distancingIdentification and isolation of sick employeesWorkplace control measures (PPE, masks, ventilation in buildings, plexi-glass barriers, etc.

As an industry, we can definitely tackle this. Landscaping work often takes place outdoors in small teams. Conforming to safety guidelines is no problem for most landscaping businesses. This is part of the reason why the National Association of Landscape Professionals fought for the essential tag for the landscaping industry.

Most adjustments are minor and many landscaping businesses are already adapting to them. For example, the equipment shared between workers will still need to be disinfected. If your crew can’t maintain safe distances, they’ll need to wear masks or PPE equipment or work in staggered shifts until everyone is vaccinated. Most importantly, your landscaping business should have a contingency plan in place in case an employee falls sick and needs to isolate themselves for 10 days.

 

Landscaping Demand Soars

Borders are opening up and travel is back on the table — with a catch. Experts aren’t expecting international travel to return to normal before 2023. Governments hesitating to completely lift travel restrictions and risk bringing in new Covid variants are further compounding the problem.

As the world opens up, but borders don’t, the demand in outdoor, nature-centred domestic tourism is likely to boom. The hospitality industry and local attractions will need to offer outdoor options for people eager to leave their homes.

This is the perfect time for your landscaping business to approach local venues and present new installation services, overhaul projects, or regular maintenance options to keep their grounds attractive.

 

Landscaping Plant Supply When COVID Ends

Landscaping plant supply has been a rollercoaster this past year. Shortages caused by reduced labour, increased DIY gardeners, and the big freeze in Texas all hit during the pandemic.

We’re anticipating that the plant shortages will persist for the next year or two as nursery, seed and plug productions adjust. Prices may increase between 5 and 25%  to offset this shortage. Ideally, your prices will increase as well to cover these cost increases. If you have locked in on prices, you can still find ways to optimize your costs and boost your prices.

Good vaccine rollout is key for landscaping material supply. A strong contributor to the shortages has been social distancing measures in greenhouses and forced closures of businesses. Even when plant supplies are available, employees cannot put orders together fast enough due to social distancing restrictions. Order fulfilment shouldn’t be as challenging next year and will ease supply issues.

 

Industry Event Models Going Forward

We’re hoping for a return to normal (not a “new normal”) in regards to landscaping industry events. Virtual events were a great compromise when we had no other choice, but many of us are itching to meet up and network at trade shows.

Virtual spaces won’t end completely. Smaller-scale conferences with a focus on education are all occurring virtually because they reach a broad audience while keeping down travel costs. Virtual events sharing industry knowledge can also occur more regularly, be it bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollouts will impact the landscaping industry for at least the next few years. It’s better to prepare now and avoid any surprises before the reopenings.

**

What steps is your landscaping business taking to prepare for a return to normal? Tweet your ideas to @gomaterials.

 

 

 

The post What the COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Means for Landscaping Businesses appeared first on GoMaterials.