ASK THE EXPERTS is presented in partnership with PLANET’s Trailblazers On Call program. Trailblazers are industry leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to give back to the industry.
Q. We are a design/build and maintenance company working on streamlining our sales process and need to find an effective, simple and standardized way for our salespeople to print photographs of plants, materials and finished projects to support their sales presentations. Our software works fairly well, although there are a lot of cultivars missing from the list of plants. Is there another industry software program that could serve this role?
A. We do not have a standard ourselves but, like with all things, the format should match the rest of the package. We have kept it extremely simple by having one formal leather-bound portfolio of professional shots and our supplementary example portfolios. We update the supplementary portfolios every three months and the leather-bound one every year or two. We have an assortment of supplementary portfolios and they are categorized by the things we sell.
It is important that the photos show a variety of materials together and also show how a space might be organized. Anyone can show you a picture of a fire pit but we select a photo that shows the fireplace and the relative space that it occupies. These books are rather extensive so we might leave them with a client overnight. We print all pictures at 8.5 x 11 and put them in the clear-leaf pages the portfolio provides.
When it comes to specific plants, we have an example folder that has most of the plant images we specify. These are printed at an assortment of sizes and are sometimes put on a board for a presentation. We charge for this task. We have no standard for this and it depends on the client’s needs and the design budget.
If I was to standardize the plant photos for printing, I would start by creating a template in Photoshop or Illustrator and inserting the plant images. This way, the text and page layout would remain the same. Vectorworks and Dynascapes both have plant databases.
We source many plant images from reputable sites such as Missouri Botanical Garden or many of the state university horticultural pages. We also take a lot of photos of plants planted in composition so clients can see the big picture. I would recommend not getting caught up on showing the client the exact cultivar. If the sales person says, “The plant will look similar to this,” clients do not typically say, “Well that’s not the exact cultivar.”
Burt DeMarche, The LaurelRock Co.
Q: When is the right time to hire a landscape industry consultant?
A. Hiring will cost you time and financial resources, which you may not currently have. It will involve an outsider disturbing your business for a period of time. But, will it pay dividends in the end, assisting you with a more clear direction for your business? So many landscape contractors know that they need the expertise of a coach or consultant but are unwilling to make the move. So, when is the right time? It is when you realize that the business is not producing to its full potential and that your staff needs a new direction from the company leadership. Before contacting a consultant, spend some time thinking about your business. Are you making a profit? Are you paying yourself? Are your vendors and suppliers being paid in a timely manner? Most importantly, are you happy at what you are doing?
So many landscape contractors that contact me say, “I am not having fun anymore running this business.” How can you expect to make it fun when you are barely making the business run?
We always say that in the spring we have no time to be dealing with consultants or coaches because this is when we make our money. However, it is also the time you may be losing the most money.
Interview the consultant or coach you are thinking of hiring and ask questions that are specific to the issues you are trying to solve.
Do the answers reflect your company’s culture, your style of business management? Is their background with large corporate clients or with family businesses?
Explain the specific issue(s) you want to address, and ask what experience they, as a consultant or coach have dealing with this issue in their company or with other clients. Ask what the final piece of work will look like and what follow up can you expect. Hiring a professional to help is nothing to be ashamed of.
Be proud that you know your strengths and weaknesses because that is what makes a good business owner.
Richard Wilbert, SiteSource Business Coaching
Have a question for the experts? Send it to email@example.com.