First and foremost, you have to ask the right questions. Asking those questions makes a significant difference in getting the honest answers that will sway your final decision. Let us help you navigate the process with this list of questions for each step in the interview and bidding process.
The first question—above all else—is for you. Before you meet with any potential commercial landscapers, make sure it’s worth your while. Do they offer the services you are looking for? Often, property managers assume that all commercial landscape companies offer the same blanket list of services. However, you will be surprised to learn that not all do.
Write a list of all the specific services you will require of your commercial landscaper, and check to make sure the companies you meet with offers those services. You don’t want a company that just says, “Sure, we can do that.” You want a company with a proven track record and documented experience offering the exact services on your needs list.
The common services you may not even realize you need, and that you will want to ensure your commercial landscaper provides, include:
- Athletic field
- Installation & maintenance
- Lining & setup for games
- Topdressing & turf management
- Artificial turf infill
- Commercial installations
- Commercial landscape maintenance
- Complete fertilization & pest management
- Erosion control
- Irrigation installation & management
- Landscape installation
- Mowing, trimming, edging & blowing
- Pine needle & mulch installation
- Pots & planter programs
- Renovation design & installation
- Seasonal color installation
- Service contracts
- Shrub installation & pruning
- Site planning
- Snow & ice removal
- Sod replacement
- Soil testing
- Storm debris removal & cleanup
- Tractor & bush hog work
- Tree pruning, removal & installation
- Turf management consultation
- Water resource management
- Weed control for beds & turf
Now that you’ve narrowed down your list to only the commercial landscaping companies that offer the full list of services you need, it’s time to arrange informational interviews with your potential companies. Have the right questions at the ready so that you can make sure to get answers that will inform your decision-making process. Among the most important things you’ll want to learn is who will be doing the work.
Personnel plays a significant part in any commercial landscaping job. You will be looking for a company that has the best hiring and training practices possible so that you can trust the landscapers who will be on your property. To ensure you find a provider with adequate personnel procedures, get answers to the following questions:
- Do they utilize the H2B program or any other immigrant worker temporary visa program? If so, what percentage of their seasonal frontline labor force comes from these programs?
- Do they E-verify their employees and perform comprehensive background screens?
- Do they utilize subcontractors? If so, what work do they anticipate subcontracting?
Once you’ve narrowed your pool of commercial landscapers down, it’s time to do your own research. You’ll want to take a close look at the commercial landscaping work your top candidates are doing in your area. Get a list of the three properties closest to you where the contractor delivers similar services to the ones you will be needing.
Next, go visit each property. Don’t just walk around taking a look at the grounds. Contact the property manager to investigate their satisfaction with services. In most cases, you won’t need to ask the landscaper for a list of references. You should be able to find the names of the properties they have worked on and independently arrange a conversation with property managers. Sure, it takes a little extra digging on your part but it provides you with an honest inventory of the work each landscaper is providing.
After you’ve looked at comparable properties and examined the work of your top choices, imagine what it will be like working with each company. Communication is absolutely essential in a good working relationship between a property manager and a commercial landscaper.
Follow up with your potential clients to ask about the communication platforms they are using with their existing client base. How do their communication philosophies and tools fit in with your preferences and modes of communication? Will you need to train on new technologies, or will the landscaper’s systems fit seamlessly into your system? How long do they respond to requests? You can tell a lot about the company’s communication style throughout the proposal process. Do they respond in a timely fashion to your requests? Are their responses thorough and do they address all of your concerns? Be mindful of the communication style you are receiving now as an indicator of what it will be like to work with the company in the future.
Once you’ve looked into personnel concerns, researched comparable properties and thought about the communication process you have likely narrowed down your choice to a handful of companies, or perhaps even one clear front runner. How much is it going to cost you?
You will have a budget in mind, but rather than just checking to see if bids fit within your budget, look a little further into the bids you receive. You’ll want to find answers to the following questions to really understand the way your potential commercial landscape company will be spending their resources.
- How many hours are estimated to complete the scope of work?
- What's the average labor pay rate for those estimated hours?
- What's the material cost for the scope of work in the RFP?
- Are these answers represented clearly in the bid? Do you feel comfortable with the answers, and do they align with your priorities?
Ideally, your next step will be the beginning of a long relationship with your commercial landscaper. Ensure that it remains a good working relationship, and that you receive the services and customer service that fits your needs by asking the right questions now. In the long run, it’s better to take the time during the decision-making process to find a perfect fit than to learn through trial and error of choices that you could have or should have made in the first place.