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.

Why You Need More Than Just a Number

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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How to Write an RFP Introduction

So, tell me a little about yourself...

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Your Property Description

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The One Sentence Landscape Maintenance RFP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just make it look good.

That should be all the instruction it takes, right?

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

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

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

How is an RFP going to predict that?

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

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

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

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

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


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Why We Decided to Join Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Spaces We Create and Maintain

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

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

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

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


The People Who Make Those Spaces Happen

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

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

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


A Glimpse Inside Our Company

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

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

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

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


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

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Why Commercial Landscaping Clients Should Care About Pokemon Go

Seriously. You should pay attention to this thing. Give me three minutes and I’ll tell you why.

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Is anyone reading your HOA newsletter?

You go to a lot of trouble to create your HOA’s community newsletter. You write the articles. You create the community calendar. You design it, print it, and mail it out to your residents. But sometimes you have to wonder, “Is anyone even reading this thing?”

When you feel like it’s time to refresh your HOA’s newsletter, why not reach out to your community vendors for some help?

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Building Lasting Relationships

Last Friday we brought our entire South Orlando branch together for a very special celebration to commemorate how that team is living our Yellowstone Landscape brand statement:

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Safety Spotlight on Team Savannah

In this Safety Spotlight we highlight how one of our Savannah crews, Sedrick, Demitris, and Ignacio, are demonstrating how Safety Works!

Our crews face many hazards each day.  Parking far away from traffic is one step that we take whenever possible, to minimize the potential for roadway accidents. Sedrick and his crew were spotted parked at the end of a cul-de-sac on a dead-end road.  Instead of simply parking in the roadway at the end of the street, their vehicle was parked off the road in a safe manner.  They had all 8 of their safety cones out, used their Transition Area Warning Device, and placed an Advance Warning Sign ahead of their work area. And all their equipment was inside the coned-off area, directly behind their truck.

Their safety-focused behavior was even more important because they were working for a new client with a very strong safety culture of their own, so they're very conscious of how our crews operate safely in the field.

Thanks for going above an beyond what's required, Sedrick, Demitris, and Ignacio!

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Lucky Number 13

Please indulge us as we start this post with an expression of our gratitude.

THANK YOU, first and foremost, to our clients for allowing us to continue serving you and growing our company.

THANK YOU to the 1800 dedicated full time, part time, and seasonal employees of Yellowstone Landscape.  Every day you are working hard to give our clients the beautiful and functional landscapes they deserve.

THANK YOU to our vendors, suppliers and subcontractors for all your support and assistance.  

THANK YOU to the wonderful horticultural and agricultural education programs across the South, training our industry’s next generation of leaders.

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Creative Ideas for Your Mature Landscape

Most people think about bringing in a Landscape Designer when they have a new construction project, or when they’re getting ready to do a major overhaul of their landscape, like removing large areas of turf, trees and plants and starting from scratch.  For any new construction project or major overhaul, the services of a qualified and experienced Landscape Designer are absolutely essential. 

However, it’s far more common and just as important for our Landscape Designers to work with our existing Landscape Maintenance clients, creating plans to rejuvenate and revive landscapes as they become more established and mature.

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3235 North State Street
PO Box 849

Bunnell, FL 32110

 Customer Rating : 4.5 / 5Based on 57 ratings 

Excellence in Commercial Landscaping