Supplement - Profit Boost Guide

Adding hardscape services to your company can help your bottom line, but it also takes continuous training.

March 17, 2011

Phil Sarros loves building patios, retaining walls and other hardscape features in customers’ yards. It’s not because they’re simple, but because he knows what to expect.

“They’re much more predictable and profitable than any other service we offer,” says Sarros, president of Sarros Landscaping. “There are fewer warranty issues, and I don’t have to worry about plants dying. Plus, I only go back to sell more services, and I can do it 12 months a year.”

When he first started, Sarros sometimes miscalculated materials or the labor needed to complete a job, but no more. “Now we’re right on, because we’ve learned from mistakes,” he says. And it shows in his profit margins, which hover around 25 percent.
To companies looking to get into hardscapes in 2011, Sarros recommends doing lots of homework. “Ask plenty of questions and become a real student of your craft,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to say your project’s a stretch for you. Suppliers are usually more than happy to send their rep’s out to coach you – they want to see you succeed.”

Sarros says that he casts a “very narrow net” with his marketing. He uses Facebook and loyal customers to generate referrals, and doesn’t spend a lot on advertising.
For companies seeking to expand into hardscape services, Sarros recommends focusing on customer service.

“Be your own worst critic,” he says. “When you are recognized as the best, homeowners willing to pay for quality will contact you.”

Of course, landscape companies will need more than a mower and pick-up truck to get into this segment. For starters, owners will need to invest in some employee training. 

“Hardscapes are all about ongoing education,” Sarros says.. “To learn, employees need to experience the challenges involved in the work – and then you need to offer more training so that they learn more. You also need to stay on top of new products.”

He adds, “The goal is that they’ll rise through the ranks – and learn to do it the right way.”