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

Austin Outdoor honored with ABC Awards

Austin Outdoor was honored to accept two awards during this year's ABC Excellence in Construction celebration.

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Your Landscape Service Action Plan

Landscape service plans are unique for each propertys needs, but there are a few things that every propertys plan should address.

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Creating Your Landscape Service Specifications

Developing a clear set of landscape service specifications is an essential step toward finding the best landscape partner for your property. Here are a few things

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Communicating with Your Landscape Service Partner

In our last post we discussed setting your landscape service expectations – understanding the role of landscaping at your property, establishing how often you expect to see your landscaper’s staff and what types of services are needed to keep your property looking its best. Now that you know what you expect, it’s time to communicate those expectations to your landscape service provider and develop a process that keeps the communication flowing.

During a recent Client Expectations Interview, one of our clients described his benchmark for evaluating our communication as, “Are you answering my questions before I have a chance to ask them? Are you proactive about solving my property’s problems?”

Proactive communication is vitally important. If you're bringing the issues to your contractor, your property’s landscaping may already be at risk. By the time you see a problem (excessive weed growth, spots or patches of declining turf, fungus or disease in your shrubs or trees) it may already be too late to correct the issue without major effort and expense. Always make sure that your commercial landscape service partner understands your expectation for proactive communication. Ask for a regular updates on any emerging threats to your property, and make sure that you both understand what solution they’ll use to remedy the problem.

Another key to effective communication with your landscape service provider is establishing a standard reporting and inspection procedure. Checklists, service summaries, even a weekly email can help both sides keep track of any outstanding issues and document your property’s successes. Keep the reports in a standard format and make sure they are produced at regular intervals, so you can create a timeline of your property’s landscape service history. Except in cases of emergency, any issues that require work outside of your landscape management agreement should be documented and approved by you, first, before any additional cost is incurred. These standardized reports and regularly spcheduled inspections will be the tool that keeps you and your landscape service provider on the same page from season to season.

Finally, effective communication will require you to put in some time to walk your property alongside your landscaper. Phone calls, meetings, and service reports are important, but nothing will guarantee the results that you expect from your landscaping like seeing your property in person. Walking (or driving) through your property with your landscaper gives you both the opportunity to point out areas that can be improved and discuss what can be done to enhance your property’s appearance. Committing just 1-2 hours per month to a walkthrough is the most important thing you and your contractor can do to see a positive return from your landscape service investment.

Communication is the foundation of all great partnerships. Communicating openly and often with your landscape service partner will help them to deliver the results you expect and keep you informed about what’s being done to maintain your property’s appearance.

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Setting Your Landscape Service Expectations

 

“Our environment, the world in which we live and work, is a mirror of our attitudes and expectations.” - Earl Nightingale

 

The foundation of a successful service provider-client relationship is clearly defined expectations. We know this to be true in landscape service, because we’ve seen it time and time again. Our longest lasting client partnerships - some now spanning nearly 20 years - are successful because we continue to discuss the goals our clients have set for their properties and regularly measure our progress toward achieving those goals.

When both you and your landscape service partner agree on what a successful landscaping service outcome looks like, it’s much easier to put a landscape management plan in place to achieve it. Here are a few items to consider and discuss with your provider as you think about service expectations for your property:

The Role Your Landscaping Plays
For residential homeowner associations landscaping is the face of the community – central to its value and often the largest single item in the property’s annual budget. For other types of commercial properties, high quality landscaping can be a powerful sales tool – attracting tenants, customers, or students. The overall sense of caring, attention to the small details, and pride in a property’s appearance is so important and should never be underestimated. Your landscape service provider needs to understand and appreciate what a huge responsibility they have, before they commit to servicing your property. Without fully understanding how important landscaping is to your property’s success, your landscape service partner may not be offering the right solution for your needs.

How Often Service Should Be Performed
This is a critical expectation to set with your service provider and is the number one factor that will determine the cost of your landscape service. If you’ve determined that the aesthetic appeal of your landscaping is very important to your property’s success, then you want to keep it looking its best all the time. Depending on the size of your property, that may require a landscape service partner that will commit to having staff service your property every day. If your property’s needs don’t quite require that level of detail, then your service plan may include weekly visits during peak growing season, and less frequent visits during off-peak months. Aligning your goals with a landscape service plan that includes the right number of visits to deliver the results you're looking for is a key component to discuss with your landscape service provider.

What Types of Services Are Needed
Commerical landscaping maintenance service providers vary greatly in what capabilities and services they provide for their clients. For basic services like mowing, trimming, and edging, there are hundreds of providers in most areas. However, if professionally managed landscaping is key to your property’s success, then look beyond basic services to determine what specialty services will be required. Landscaping that adds value will require a provider that can manage your irrigation system, implement a fertilization and pest management program and care for your property’s shrubs and trees, in addition to performing basic maintenance services. Discuss these specialty service needs with your provider. Even if they don’t perform every service themselves, they may be able to coordinate these additional services for you, maximizing the potential for the success of your property's landscape, and reducing the number of vendors you have to manage.

 

If your property’s landscaping isn’t delivering the results you had hoped for, take a moment to think about your expectations and how you communicated them to your current landscape service provider. It’s never too late to step back and redefine your expectations. In our next post we’ll discuss how to communicate effectively with your landscape provider – letting them know what you expect and find some ways to measure your property’s success together.

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Prioritizing Your Landscape Service Needs

Clients often come to us looking for answers to improve the appearance of their property. If the property hasn’t been properly looked after, it’s easy to spot the brown patches in the turf, dead tree limbs, and overgrown hedges. But where do you start if your landscaping challenges aren’t so obvious? Maybe you just want a fresh look for your community or building. Maybe neighboring properties have made some improvements and you’re feeling a little left behind. Here are a few things to consider, if you’re thinking that it might be time to re-evaluate your property’s landscape service needs.

Start with the Essentials

For any landscape service provider to deliver the look you want, your property’s essentials have to be in good working order. Start with a thorough evaluation of your irrigation system. If your property hasn’t had a landscape service that performs regular preventative maintenance and system checks, your irrigation system may be a patchwork of quick fixes done by whoever could get there to repair it the quickest. Just as we can’t survive without water, your landscape isn’t going to make it long without regular irrigation. Getting your property’s irrigation system up to par should be priority number one.

Once you have irrigation under control, make sure that your landscape service is providing appropriate fertilization and pest treatments to keep your landscape thriving and free from diseases and harmful insects. Regulations and requirements vary greatly by area, so be sure that your landscape service uses qualified, licensed technicians to apply your property’s fertilization and pest prevention on a regular schedule, and lets you know before your applications are performed.

Make an immediate impact

After you have secured water and your landscape’s health essentials, it’s time to move on to deciding where you can make the most impact for your property. Entryways are a great place to start. Whether you are managing a residential community or a commercial real estate property, your landscaping service dollars will deliver the largest impact when spent on your property’s entry areas. Annual flower arrangements can blow your landscaping budget if you’re not involved in the planning, but with some creative thinking, you and your landscape service partner will be able to create a plan that keeps your property’s entry fresh, season after season.

Another great option for immediate improvement - create a new outdoor social area. An ongoing trend in residential communities has made its way to commercial properties recently. No longer content with clubhouses or break rooms, people increasingly expect properties to offer outdoor gathering areas. You may have an area like this already, but could you add some natural color to draw people to it more frequently? Survey your property to find where people gather, then ask your landscape service partner to create some ideas to make these areas more appealing.

Think about the future

As a green industry company, we think a lot about sustainability and the future results of our work today. Do you ever think about what your property will look like 10 years from now? Maybe even 50 years from now? It’s important to partner with your landscape service and put in place a defined program that revitalizes your landscaping in small steps each year. All plants have life expectancies that should be considered when you make decisions about how you maintain your property’s landscape. Established communities retain value when they keep themselves fresh and looking their best year after year. Your landscape service needs will change over time – make sure that you and your landscape service partner communicate regularly to prioritize your property’s landscape services for success.


Once you've identified the areas of your property's landscaping that are most important to you, you can begin to think about setting your service expectations and communicating with your landscape service partner. Look for tips on setting service expectations in an upcoming entry.

 

Sunrise image courtesy Myriams-Fotos.

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Get Your Propertys Landscape in Shape This Year

For property managers, January is a great time to think about getting your property’s landscape in shape for the New Year. Just like many of us plan on hitting the gym this month to get back in shape, your landscape might be in need of its own New Year’s resolution. Here are three helpful tips borrowed from the fitness industry that will help kick start your landscape’s New Year shape-up plan.


1. Establish a Baseline and Set Your Goals
Like stepping on a scale before you set personal fitness goals, you should start by taking an honest look at where your property’s landscape is today, then decide how you want to improve its appearance. By walking through your property now, you will see some areas where you know that you can make big improvements this year. Look for obvious areas first, like bare or overly distressed patches of turf, or trees with low hanging limbs that are in need of trimming. Pay special attention to the featured areas of the landscape like entrances and common spaces. Do they welcome visitors, or are they dull and need rejuvenating? You may not like what you see now, but by identifying the problem areas and setting improvement goals, you should start to see real progress by the time spring arrives.

2. Commit to a Plan and Record Your Progress
Now that you’ve established where you’re starting from, and where you want to be, it’s time to create a plan. As with your personal health goals at the gym, your landscaping will need a plan that addresses not only the areas you want to improve, but all the components of a healthy landscape. Successful landscape service plans include not only the services you see, like mowing and detailing, but maintenance of other important areas, like your irrigation system, and will include fertilization and pest prevention for sustained, healthy growth. By committing to attend monthly walkthroughs to review your landscape’s most important features, you will be investing the time needed to make sure that this is the year that your landscape gets in shape. Map and photograph the areas of your property that you would like to improve, so that you can go back to them throughout the year to track their improvement. Once you start receiving compliments from residents, tenants, or guests about your landscaping, you’ll know that your time and hard work are paying off.

3. Get Help from a Pro
Finally, the most important thing you can do to make sure that your landscape gets in shape this year is to hire professional help. Just like a personal trainer will push you toward your fitness goals, a dedicated, professional landscape service provider will accelerate the improvements you want to see in your property’s landscape. A professional landscaper will be with you on your monthly property walkthroughs to help you see and understand the positive changes taking place in your property’s landscape. They are accountable to make sure that your improvement goals are met and will use their knowldge and expertise to make sure your property is healthy year after year.

These three simple tips will help make sure that you get your landscape in great shape this year.

Remember that your landscaping is a major factor in your property’s first impression – make sure that it always looks its best!

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Before You Set Next Years Landscape Budget, Consider These 3 Things

“The grass is green, the shrubs are pruned, and no one complains about my property’s curb appeal. Why should I spend any more on my landscaping next year, than I did this year?"

When things are going well, it's easy to assume that your landscape budget is working for your property. But every year, your landscape budget could always use a closer look. Setting the annual budget amount without taking the time to evaluate your investment means that you could be leaving some big improvement opportunities on the table.

 

Here are 3 things to consider before you pencil in next year’s amount for landscaping in your property’s budget:

 

1. Has my property’s value increased this year because of my landscape’s appearance?

Yes. If your landscape presents well for residents, employees, and visitors, it is adding value. It may be hard to put an exact number to it, but your landscape’s appearance is a major contributor to your property's overall value.

What could you add to your landscape next year to make an even bigger impact? What if your commercial landscape contractor could work within you to add new plant material to update one of your amenity areas? What about designing a new annual flower display at your property’s entrance? An attractive landscape welcomes visitors to your property and adds real value to your community. Value that is reflected through higher property values in homeowner associations and through higher occupancy rates for commercial properties.

2. Can I make my life simpler by consolidating related services with one vendor?

Are you spending half your day tracking down contractors to deal with all the needs that your property has? One day there’s a plumbing emergency to attend to. The next, an AC unit goes out. Then there’s a problem with the security provider. If you’re using multiple vendors to care for your landscape’s different needs, you may be adding more work for yourself.

Professional landscape companies employ specialists with skills that extend beyond basic landscape maintenance services. Look for a contractor that uses an integrated approach, consolidating your landscape maintenance, irrigation, fertilization, and pest control. An integrated services provider saves not only time, but is often less expensive than using multiple contractors with single service offerings.

3. Are my property’s residents (or tenants) better off this year than last year?

While your title may be Property Manager, make no mistake about it, you are in the People business. Whether they are homeowners in a community association or tenants leasing office space, keeping them happy is job number one. Adding maintained green spaces to your property will positively impact the wellbeing of everyone, including you. People are increasingly looking for outdoor spaces in urban and suburban areas as a retreat from their digital lives. Taking care of people’s needs, as well as the property’s needs, will continue to set exceptional communities and commercial properties apart from average ones.

So, before you carry over last year’s budget amount, or think about reducing services, give an honest evaluation to the role your landscape really plays for your property.

Is it an asset that’s growing the value of your property, or is it just breaking even?

Landscaping is one of the easiest places to demonstrate return on investment for your property. Considering the three questions above will help determine what this year’s budget should include for your property’s landscape services.

 

Photo credit: minimography.com

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FIELD SUPPORT OFFICE

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PO Box 849

Bunnell, FL 32110
877.785.6685

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