Using Professionalism to Pick Your Landscaper

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    Anybody can call themselves a landscaper, but not all landscapers perform equally. Since there is no governing body that limits entry into the world of professional landscaping, it’s important to understand the levels of professionalism in the landscaping industry and how to utilize each level.

    First, we’ll start with an example. People spend tens of thousands of dollars on purchasing a car. When it comes to protecting the investment, people use mechanics to do things like change the oil and monitor for larger problems. Much like landscaping, mechanics are available in varying skill sets and costs. You might use a lower skill set person to do something like change a filter, but you might trust a highly skilled professional to work on the transmission. Each mechanic serves a purpose. Both low skill and high skill can be useful if the difference is understood.

    In landscaping, there can be benefits to each level as well. The lower skill sets save you money and the higher skill sets provide a more diverse range of high quality services. Each can be useful.

    Entry level/amateur:

    Does side work for cheap prices.

    Who this is: This level of professional works somewhere else but knows how to pull weeds and operate equipment. If they don’t work elsewhere, they’re an owner operator who may or may not carry insurance and proper certifications.

    When Entry Level Could Work for You:

    If you’re needing a low skill level task done such as mulching or weeding, you could save money by going with this level of professional. Be forewarned, they’re often the least reliable and can disappear at any time, with or without a deposit from you.

    How to Spot an Entry Level Landscaper:

    • No uniform, logo, formal proposal or anything else to show they’ve invested in being a professional.
    • No logo on vehicle.
    • Doesn’t know any of the technical or scientific reasons for performing a certain landscape task. Little education related to actual landscaping or outdoor living design/construction.

    Mid-Level Landscape Company

    May or may not claim to do it all. Often is very good at some of their services, but may not deliver consistently across all services. Investment levels can be mid to high.

    Who this is: This level of landscaper has stepped full-time into landscaping and taken the leap into managing employees. They’re often still figuring out how to run a business, but are personally good at some of the technical work. Mid-level owners often struggle to train and grow employees that have the same level of skill or quality. They often make promises they don’t keep because they spread themselves too thin and can’t keep up.

    When Mid-Level Could Work for You

    You can benefit from using a mid-level professional for simple landscaping where you’re not pressed by a tight timeline or in need of reliability. On non-urgent projects, you can save some investment choosing a mid-level pro. Keep in mind their quality is not always consistent, so you may need to stay more involved.

    How to Spot a Mid-level Landscaper:

    • May or may not have uniforms and logos.
    • Does not have a professional website or online presence. How can you know they do what they say with few reviews or presence?
    • May be able to answer simple technical questions or operate equipment, but can’t provide clarity on what to expect, budgeting, or timelines. (It’s because they have no idea due to lack of managerial help or business acumen.)

    High-level Landscape Company

    Utilizes a specialized team of educated, well trained professionals to offer landscape services to a specific target market.

    Who this is: High-level landscape companies offer clear communication, consistent quality, and a team of trained professionals. This company has learned to operate as a true business and offers the highest level of reliability and quality. At this level, there is no need to worry about them disappearing, doing poor work, or providing crews you can’t communicate with. The investment is likely higher because this type of business has invested in top-tier staff, professional training, and degrees/certifications.

    When High-level Could Work for You

    Contact a high-level of professionalism company when you’re considering serious investments, want the project to last long-term, and are looking for reliability and communication. Be forewarned the initial investment is often higher, but the return on investment often is higher since the projects tend to last.

    How to Spot a High-level Landscaper:

    • Clean, professional uniforms, trucks, and logos. They’ve invested in their business.
    • Highly educated, can answer technical questions. Perform high-skill tasks, and know why certain tasks need to occur.
    • Communicates in an articulate manner and provides a clear understanding of what to expect. Will provide value through educating you.
    • Has a professional website and positive online presence.
    • Has long-term employees who are educated and trained

    One word of advice, don’t ask your high-level landscape professional to teach, provide advice, or manage an entry-level landscaper just because you’re trying to save money. Why? The high-level landscaper has likely invested thousands of hours and dollars into gaining the skills necessary to be a true professional. Educations aren’t free. Asking an educated professional to teach your low-rate laborer how to prune, water, or otherwise landscape your property is unethical. If you’d like an educated professional who knows how and why to perform your landscape tasks, hire a professional.

    Imagine if people did this in other industries: Imagine taking your spouse to a fancy dinner to celebrate your anniversary. You’ve done your research and chosen THE best restaurant in town. The chef is world-renowned. Now imagine arriving at the restaurant and asking the chef to teach your spouse how the make the meal because you don’t want to pay for dinner there. Would someone ever do that? Not likely! If your low-rate laborer doesn’t know how to perform the tasks necessary to create or maintain your landscape, why would you hire them?

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    About The Author

    Robyn is a 2009 Graduate of the Kansas State University Department of Horticulture. She grew up in South East Kansas where she graduated from Humboldt High School. She was a Kansas State University Leadership Scholar and President of the Horticulture Club. She married Bret in 2009 and they have a daughter Ellie, born in 2021. Their family is completed by three adopted dogs.

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