To disclaimer or not to disclaimer
Q: We are having issues on occasion with projects on which we underestimate the amount of material needed for projects. For example, we clearly state that we will “install six yards of mulch” at a project.
When we come short, and we need more, the client has been resisting, saying they don’t think they should have to pay additional. We thought we covered ourselves by clearly stating the quantity we were installing.
This is an issue that needs to be addressed. We were thinking about adding a disclaimer on the estimate that states any material above the quantity estimated will cost additional. Or, is it better to just eat it when the job requires more material? A clause like this on the proposal might frighten some clients when, with the majority, the clause will not apply to them.
A: Aside from working out the issue of why your estimator is making this error, I have a couple of possible solutions.
If the areas are difficult because they are irregularly shaped, you might want to use a resource like Google Earth Pro. An annual subscription will cost about $400.00. This will allow you to zoom in and get an accurate linear and square footage of multiple areas in one location. The remainder will be doing the math using the correct formula.
The other helpful tool is to always add a marginal percent of error, say five or 10 percent. I also like to use verbiage like “total yards +/-eight,” or “total square foot +/-1500.”
Adding your disclaimer or clause is not a bad idea, but acting on it probably is because it will send the wrong message. The last thing you want is a customer with a negative thought about your company. The finished result should always be positive for repeat business.
Rob Diaz, Land Care Incorporated
The middle-class market
Q: We have been in business for a year and a half servicing residential rental properties for large investor groups in the metro Atlanta area. We want to expand directly to middle class homeowners. We realize marketing is going to be key in this process. Our first postcards are being sent out Monday to high-density areas with homes valued between $180,000 and $250,000. Properly managed, do you think this can be a successful strategy? Do you have any ideas that could help us through the learning curve?
A: First, I think we have to go back to Marketing 101. I can’t stress enough how important it is to use differentiation. If you send me a postcard with a picture of a guy mowing a beautiful lawn on it, I’m going to throw it away. I get five of those every week in the spring. Now, if you send me a postcard with a picture of a pig in a bikini mowing a beautiful lawn, I might just flip it over to learn more about who sent that.
Second, what are you doing in social media? Instagram is where it’s at right now. It’s a platform based on photos and videos, and we are blessed to be in an industry that lends itself to visual media. Instagram won’t work as well if you’re, say, a tax accountant.
Not much interesting to look at there. But for landscaping, you’re surrounded all day with opportunities to document your work and share it with others. If you’re new to social media, hire a pro to get you started and skip the learning curve. There are tons of great apps on the iPhone that can make your videos and photos really stand out. I use Over, iMovie, and PicPlayPost regularly.
Terry Delany, ServFm
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