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DON’T BECOME A MEMBER OF THE ‘BAKKIE CLUB' It is always difficult to give advice on what makes a successful business, but I have decided to discuss the three aspects I think are crucially important to consider. The first aspect is to make sure you have the training and education. You may think you know everything, but clients can smell the “bakkie club” a mile away. People often think landscaping (which is a term I personally hate) is something anyone can do with very little knowledge. That is not even close to the truth. Landscape design, however, is even more complex and requires in-depth training, skills and knowledge. It is not something to be taken lightly as people are going to be living their lives in your creation, and it affects the environment in many ways not often thought of by the untrained person. A short course also simply won’t wash, no matter how much experience you have. The Irene School of Garden Design offers a year-long, full-time course, and a 16-month part-time course. Even with small groups, it is still a challenge to ensure all the aspects are covered in their entirety. A quick fix simply will not be enough, especially on the graphic and

environmental demands surrounding modern rules and guidelines. The second aspect is accuracy. I am amazed at how many landscapers can’t quote properly or even just thumb-suck prices using an idea for a garden they harbour in their head. I am even more surprised at the number of clients who are willing to take a risk by using a landscaper who does not even provide a proper plan and Bill of Quantities (BOQ). Drafting a plan, getting correct areas and doing a proper BOQ is essential if someone is to run a successful business where the landscape installer does not under or overquote for a project, and stays within the correct profit margins. In most cases it comes back to the correct training, and landscapers simply do not understand the standards set by the industry. This is not only bad for business but can, in severe cases, lead to legal issues. My third aspect is reputation. The landscape industry works largely on recommendations and if a landscape designer or installer has a bad name in the industry, it unfortunately sticks. Most clients should ask

for a reference of study, a portfolio of design work or, in the case of the installer, installed projects. They should also confirm this by double-checking the references and institutions they have been given. Don’t take on more than you can handle and take pride in your work. It is very important to you and your client that you are open and honest. I would also avoid buying someone else’s business unless you are 100% sure their clients were satisfied with their work. Clients can be your best friend – or your worst nightmare. ABOUT LEE BURGER Lee Burger is principal and senior lecturer at the Irene School of Garden Design. He is an assessor for leading educational institutions and universities in South Africa and is a prominent consultant on a variety of projects, especially in design and architecture. Lee has written numerous books and articles and his company, ISGD, is responsible for an array of projects. He is a founding member of the Independent Gardener’s Forum for South Africa.

Pro Landscaper Africa / November/December 2015 13

Pro Landscaper Africa November/December 2015