Q: How many landscape contractors does it take to bid on a project?
A: As many as the client wants.

If you are like many design/build contractors, you may think of a landscape plan as an unnecessary expense that is often required just to get the sale – and that’s all. Well, nothing could be farther from the truth. Its real value is typically misunderstood and completely overlooked. In reality, a landscape plan is the most important, least expensive and most versatile sales, production and business tool that your company can use. It is the “core” of the entire design/build process and is something that you should require for every project that you install. Not just for your customer, but for yourself, your company and the project.

Top 10 Reasons To Use A Landscape Plan

1. Screen Customers Quickly
2. Project a Professional Image Instantly
3. Produce Estimates Quicker and More Accurately
4. Produce Projects More Efficiently
5. Sell More, Better and Larger Projects
6. Raise Your Prices (yes – raise your prices)
7. Increase Your Profits
8. Reduce Labor Needs
9. Guarantee Referrals and Future Work
10. Enjoy Your Life

By definition a landscape plan (or master plan) is a scaled drawing of your client’s property that shows the layout of existing conditions as well as proposed plantings, lawn areas, and all hardscape elements and features. It can include a swimming pool, new driveway, outdoor kitchen, play area, formal garden or anything you and that your client can imagine. Much more than just a pretty picture, it is the only document that goes through the entire design / build process. The same plan that you present to your client to sell the work, is the same plan that you estimate and build from.

Working with a plan will not only help you sell the project, but help you increase the scope of work regardless of the stated budget. It will help you estimate properly and track labor and materials effectively. It will assist with site layout and minimize supervision costs. It is a tool to articulate your ideas to the client so that they understand what they are getting before the work begins. Finally, through phasing and “scope creep”, it will guarantee you work this year and next year.

I work for a lot of different companies, both large and small and believe it or not everyone gets the same types of leads, no matter who you are or how well known you are. It’s what you do with the leads that determines whether you get no work, some work, or a significant project. Working with a landscape plan and building from your own plans makes you and your company less of a commodity. You are no longer one of four people bidding a job, you are the only person designing, pricing and building your project. No competition, no price shopping, just you, your client and your numbers.

So before you go to your next appointment, think about how you want to be remembered. As the contractor who provided his client with an incredible landscape plan, a great customer experience and phenomenal installation or the person who shoved an estimate in their mail box and never called back.


Jody Shilan is a former landscape contractor who now provides landscape design, sales and consulting services to design/build companies. Contact him today at 201-783-2844 or jshilan@optonline.net


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