Dear Property Manager- It’s Budget Season. 10 Things Your Landscaper Wants You To Know

Harpeth on the Green

Dear Commercial Property Manager:

In a former life, I managed shopping centers and Class A Office Parks.   Lots of them, all over the southeast.   (Two words- BURN OUT, as in French fried. )  July 5th of every year meant two things to me- time to write the Semi Annual Reports, and time to start the Operation Budgets for the next year. I am now in my fourth year in the landscape service industry.  I love sitting on the “other side of the table”.  And there are many things that I wished I knew back then.  So, with great empathy…here are 10 things I wish I’d known back then:
  1.  ANNUAL IMPROVEMENTS.  Most good property managers will budget 20% to 30% of their total landscape maintenance contract for annual improvements.  You will need to allocate for plant replacements, upgrades on seasonal color, storm damage to trees (especially if you have Bradford pears), and irrigation repairs.
  2.  PLAN FOR THE LONG TERM.  How old is your property?  Did you know that depending on where you live, commercial trees and shrubs have a life of 10-20 years?  That’s a big thing to know!  Property looking a little ragged?  Time for an upgrade- budget for a landscaper designer.  Good companies have them on staff!
  3. HOW MANY MOWS?  If you are living in the Southeast, you will need to have your property mowed every week between March 15 to October 15th.  That’s 32 to 36 mows.  Eliminate 80 calls per week….set your contracts up correctly.  28 mows will not cut it.  Your welcome.
  4. THE “OFF” SEASON.  What are your expectations between October 16th to March 14th?  Make sure you are covered. You’ll need leaf removal, winter clean up, perennial and ground cover pruning,  ornamental grass and tree care.  And most of all- DON’T FORGET TO BUDGET FOR SNOW REMOVAL!  It does happen in the south!
  5. LOW BIDDERS.   Be careful.  We know you have to get three (3) bids.  When you get a low bid, do you know what kind of equipment they use or what kind of shape it is in?  Are they desperate to work in a new area of town?  Are they ‘property insured’?   Get referrals and always tour the properties they service.
  6. HOA BOARD REFERRALS.  Sometimes, a Board member will offer to call their contacts in the landscape business to bid your HOA.  Ask in the Board Meeting, “Do you know if they have a charter?”  Professional landscapers are licensed to administer chemicals for proper turf care.  Many smaller landscape companies are not.
  7. ASK- “Tell me about your Hiring Process?”  This is an extremely sensitive and tough question, but ask.  Good companies will do a background check and a drug test.  We’re sensitive to who we send to your properties.
  8. FIND A LANDSCAPE COMPANY THAT OFFERS MULTIPLE SERVICES.  You need a full service company.  We want to control the irrigation at Milosi!  How many phone calls will it eliminate if you are not having to coordinate between lawn treatments, and seasonal color, and aeration and over seeding?  Make it easy on yourself and get one company that does both.
  9. LAYER RIGHT SIZED PLANTS.  Your monument sign is your biggest marketing tool.  Seasonal color makes people happy, and your trees and shrubs can make a huge statement.  But if you have the wrong sized plant blocking the lettering on your sign, it is a huge distraction!  Make sure you understand how tall plants get that are planted around your monument.  Again- a good designer can help you with this.
  10. LASTLY, WALK THE PROPERTY WITH YOUR LANDSCAPER BEFORE YOU PREPARE YOUR BUDGET.  At Milosi, we do internal Quality Audits every month.  We know what plants have disease, which plants are sick, we can recommend good shrubs and plants if your property looks ragged, and we can give you good estimates for your Budgets.  We’re happy to walk with you.  A good landscaping company can be a great partner, and can make your job a lot easier.  We want you to look good!
Good luck and Happy Budgeting! Shannon