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The road to ruin

Features - Business Management

You’ll be sorry if you take shortcuts just to get a job.

Phil Sarros | June 18, 2013

I’m really excited about our economy and feel this year will present more opportunities to do better work for better clients.

Years of refining our focus and honing our core service offerings are paying off, yet I still find that many business owners are increasingly burdened, and perhaps blindsided, with warranty issues, callbacks, picky clients and more.

I think many business owners fall into traps that ultimately can be traced back to poor communication. Having a solid agreement with a client can help keep relationships strong without being “taken to the bank” over warranty issues and more.

Many contractors make promises that sign them up for far more liability than what is reasonable. In the end, you are not being fair to yourself or your client, if you offer money, time or effort to do work you are not being paid for.


Cover your bases.
Fear is a powerful motivator and can often be the source of our willingness to “give away the farm” in order to land a job. An example of this is the famous sod warranty. Most of us cringe when we’ve installed a 5,000 square foot, beautiful zoysia lawn.

We spent time and energy adding good soil, tilling it into the earth and rolling it in to a perfect level.

Then, after a month or two, the temperatures begin to climb and our client has failed to increase their irrigation timer and what was essentially a perfect new lawn, is now showing signs of severe distress.

Then comes the phone call from the client. You can see where this is going and perhaps you’ve been there yourself. What guarantee did you offer? Did you offer a guarantee at all? Were there any exclusions? Is the language crystal clear?

Look, whether you offer a rock solid one-year guarantee or no guarantee at all, you must clearly communicate this to your client in writing. At Sarros Landscaping, we offer our clients an irrigation inspection prior to their new sod installation.

This is a service that takes us anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour and we do charge for it. Our clients can decline the service by initialing our contract. Our contract makes clear what is excluded, and improper watering is at the top of the list. Most lawns die from improper watering, poor drainage, or insufficient nutrients.

Do you soil test lawns prior to installation? We offer this as a service that, again, the client may accept or decline by simply initialing a space on our contract. With each choice, the client is basically telling us how much risk and/or liability they are willing to accept.

Upon completion of our sod projects (and planting projects for that matter), we present the client with a care instruction sheet, which is a carbonless two-part copy that requires them to sign. We file a copy in our office and leave a copy with the client.

Taking these steps shows that we care about giving them a successful project but also communicates that we cannot control everything, and therefore we are assigning accountability to our client. Once we leave the property, there is little we can do to control the care and maintenance, unless of course that is our line of business.


Know the rules.
Let me spell it out in a straightforward manner – you will be in a very weak position if you find yourself presented with a defect in the results and you have not clearly assigned responsibility for each component of the project. In the case of sod, this would be water, soil, fertilization, mowing and leveling.

Remember that you are a professional and don’t think about getting on a job, finishing it, getting paid and moving on. Begin to see yourself as a partner with your homeowner.

Don’t promise to take care of any problems that arise if you are not prepared to, financially and emotionally. Promises do not make great partners – keeping promises on the other hand, does.


 

The author is president of Sarros Landscaping.


To view a sample proposal, go to the Web Extras section of the June issue on lawnandlandscape.com.

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