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Made and sold

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A Denver-based company wants to design for you, but also help in the sales process.

| August 1, 2014

Landscape installation contractors can outsource not only the design work for a project, but also the sales presentation – that’s the business model for Cooperative Design Resource (CDR) that offers these services on an as-needed basis.

“It’s a beautiful thing. There’s no risk for contractors. It doesn’t cost them a cent,” says Tom Trench, one of five partners who started the Denver area company last summer.

The jobs CDR designs usually cost between $20,000 to $100,000 to install and involve some combination of water features, gazebos, outdoor kitchens, patios, decks and fireplaces. The design fees range from $750 to more than $3,000, and they also receive a percentage of the contract price.

Here’s how it works. A contractor discusses a project with a homeowner, and suggests bringing in a design team to help. Next, one of the CDR partners meets with the homeowner and offers verbal ideas. “We’d like to start measuring and go ahead with the design, and it will cost this amount,” the partner says. If the answer is yes, CDR completes the design and hands it back to the original contractor for pricing. CDR then schedules a formal presentation of the job to the homeowner, with the expectation of delivering a signed agreement back to the contractor for installation.

“The hardest thing is getting homeowners to name a budget,” Trench says. “If we know the budget, we have a 90 percent success rate in making the sale.” And while his company’s presentation includes a professional color design rendering using AutoCAD and other 3D programs (ViszTerra, SketchUp, PRO Landscape), the way it’s described is even more important. “We literally paint the picture with words and lead them through the project. Once they can see it and step into it, then they want it to be part of their yard.”

The CDR partners range in age from 30 to 65. All run separate businesses, and four of them share office space and interns. “It’s easy to collaborate,” Trench says. “We send drawings back and forth and bounce ideas around. Everybody knows what everyone is working on.”

His advice for beginning a similar venture is to attend functions in the landscaping community (he was president of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado in 2004) and see how many contractors might be receptive to outsourcing their design and sales work. Or just wait. “We’re considering franchising,” he says, half-joking. “First we’ll get this one going, and then we’ll think about that.”

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