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A Landscape Alberta Nursery Trades Association member publication

2013 Landscape Award Winners The Garden of Good Customers

May/June 2014 Vol. 2, No. 3


May 8, 2014 Arbor Day - Calgary Valley View School, Calgary, AB May 9, 2014 Arbor Day - Edmonton Rundle Park, Edmonton, AB

Advancing the professional landscape industry. MANAGING EDITOR | Nigel Bowles LAYOUT & PRODUCTION | Kyla McKechnie EDITOR | Marnie Main ADVERTISING | Erynn Watson Landscape Alberta Green for Life is a professional publication for the landscape trade in Alberta.

May 13, 2014 Better Buildings Breakfast Outdoor Water Conservation for LEED & Sustainable Sites To register: May 14 – 15, 2014 Skills Canada Alberta Edmonton Expo Centre at Northlands

Editorial and Advertising Landscape Alberta 200, 10331 - 178 Street NW Edmonton, AB T5S 1R5 P: 780-489-1991 F: 780-444-2152

June 20 – July 1, 2014 National Plastics Recycling Event for Garden Centres Contact Chelsea:

Landscape Alberta does not assume responsibility for and does not endorse the contents of any advertisements herein. All representations or warranties made are those of the advertiser and not the publication. Views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Landscape Alberta or its members.

July 19, 2014 Landscape Saskatchewan’s Annual Softball Tournament CanLan Ice Sports Centre Saskatoon, SK Contact Chelsea:

Material may not be reprinted from this magazine without the consent of Landscape Alberta. ISSN No: 1929-7114 (print) ISSN N0: 1929-7122 (online) Landscape Alberta Board of Directors Chair: Chris Brown, CRS Brown Landscape Services Ltd.

July 21 – 25, 2014 Hort Week Olds College, Olds, AB

Vice Chair: Brian Gibson, Green Drop Lawns Ltd. Treasurer: Arnold van de Ligt, Manderley Turf Products Inc.

August 15, 2014 Landscape Alberta Nursery Growers Group Education Bus Tour Niagara, ON

Cody Brown, Tree to Tree Nurseries Ltd. Phil Paxton, Alpha Better Landscaping Inc. Jordan Voogd, Sunstar Nurseries Ltd. John van Roessel, JVR Landscape (2006) Inc. Anita Heuver, Eagle Lake Nurseries Ltd. Landscape Alberta Staff Nigel Bowles, Executive Director Marnie Main, Member Services Director

On the Cover: Peter Hughes Landscape McCaffrey Residence 2013 Award of Excellence Winner A Landscape Alberta Nursery Trades Association member publication

May/June 2014 Vol. 2, No. 3

2013 Landscape Award Winners , Page 9 The Garden of Good Customers, Page 14

Erynn Watson, Member Services Assistant Valerie Stobbe, Trade Show Coordinator Kyla McKechnie, Admin Assistant & Communications Cheryl Teo, Bookkeeper

Follow us on Twitter @landscapeab 2013 Landscape Awards The Garden of Good Customers

Green for Life May/June 2014 I 3

Industry and Association News... New Board of Directors The Association’s Annual General Meeting was held at the Glenmore Inn on March 12, 2014 in Calgary. About 40 members were present to hear details on the previous year’s accomplishments and to elect representatives under the new board structure, as per the changes adopted after the Strategic Planning meeting in October 2013. The new board convened their first meeting on April 3, 2014 and appointed three members to official positions: • • • • • • • •

Chris Brown, CRS Brown Landscape Services Ltd. Chair Brian Gibson, Green Drop Lawns Ltd. - Vice Chair Arnold van de Ligt, Manderley Turf Products Inc. Treasurer Cody Brown, Tree to Tree Nurseries Ltd. Phil Paxton, Alpha Better Landscaping Inc. Jordan Voogd, Sunstar Nurseries Ltd. John van Roessel, JVR Landscape (2006) Ltd. Anita Heuver, Eagle Lake Nurseries Ltd.

The Landscape Awards program received 35 entries this year, with 28 awards going to 11 companies. See pages 9 - 12 for pictures of the 2013 award winning projects. We would also like to congratulate those companies whose award-winning entries have been nominated for the 2015 National Awards of Landscape Excellence: • • • •

Peter Hughes Landscape – McCaffrey Residence ULS Maintenance and Landscaping Inc. – Sienna Park Green JVR Landscape (2006) Inc. – Van Wielingen Residence Julia’s Alpine Garden – Melanie’s Garden

Landscape Industry Certified Test Event Held at Olds College Landscape Alberta hosted a very successful Landscape Industry Certified test event on March 25 & 26, 2014 at the Olds College Landscape Pavilion. Twenty-nine candidates challenged the exam this year and we congratulate all participants for their hard work.

Landscape Awards Presentation and Dinner Our annual Landscape Awards Presentation and Dinner was held March 12 at the Glenmore Inn in Calgary. This year, the Mike Haberl Sr. Landscape Industry Certified Award was presented to Chelsea Roman of Fiddler’s Green Landscaping Inc. for achieving the highest score at the 2013 technician exam. This award was established by the Landscape Alberta Board of Directors to honour Mike’s contribution to the Certification program. He was the owner of Prestige Landscape Maintenance and was very involved with Landscape Alberta for many years. Mike was passionate about the Certification program and it was his determination that fueled acceptance of the program by industry, allowing it to grow to the success it is today. Mike’s son, Michael D. Haberl, was on hand to present the award. This year there were two recipients of the Executive Choice Award. The first went to Darren Wright of Three Seasons Landscaping for his dedicated service as Landscape Chair for the Landscape Industry Certification program. The second award went to Bruce Kay of OnGrowing Works Ltd. for his tireless work as an industry champion for the Landscape Gardener Apprenticeship Program. The Executive Choice Award recognizes members who have demonstrated dedication to helping the association grow and achieve its long-term goals.

This event marks our eighteenth year of providing certification exam opportunities to industry personnel on the prairies. Landscape Alberta staff members send a hearty thanks to each volunteer who gave their time and expertise to the tasks at hand: planning, calling, judging, timekeeping, emailing, digging, driving, arm-twisting and so much more. We extend a special thank you to our facility host, Olds College, and the unwavering support of Jack Berggren in the Landscape Pavilion. This event would not be possible without the support of many industry suppliers who provide material, equipment and staff for this annual event. See event sponsors on page 13. Nursery Growers Educational Bus Tour A one-day nursery bus tour has been planned for Friday, August 15, 2014 in Niagara, ON. The tour will include stops at Winkelmolen Nursery, Connon Nurseries NVK Holdings, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, JC Bakker & Sons Ltd. and Southbrook Vineyards.

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The cost of the tour is $125.00 (+ GST) per person, plus the cost of flights and accommodations. For more information, contact Kyla at 1-800-378-3198 or visit Changing the Landscape Gardener Trade Name At our recent AGM a motion was put forward to support changing the name of the Landscape Gardener Apprenticeship Program to the Landscape Horticulturist Apprenticeship Program. The motion passed unanimously. The reason behind the change is to align Alberta with apprenticeship program names in other provinces and to mirror the Red Seal exam name. The change will also provide distinction for this professional designation vs. the Master Gardener program. Inventory Clearance: Trees and Shrubs for the Prairies Publication Get your copies today for just 99¢ each + shipping! Call Kyla at 1-800-378-3198 to place an order.

overview of the project and timelines for establishing it in Alberta. The group also had an opportunity to provide specific input through small groups. This has resulted in developing the value-chain component of the research and will enable Dr. McGrath to deliver practical and implementable results to the industry. A steering committee will be formed that will include other organizations such as Alberta Transportation and Municipalities. Cumulative Duration for Temporary Foreign Workers The Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) Program was established to address temporary labour and skills shortages in Canada. The Cumulative Duration regulation establishes a maximum period that a TFW can work in Canada, in order to prevent foreign nationals who are working in Canada from losing ties with their country of origin, and to encourage workers and employers to explore pathways to permanent residence. Under this regulation, once a TFW has accumulated four years of work, they will not be permitted to work in Canada until another four years has passed.

2014 Landscape Awards Showcase your expertise and creativity… the deadline for this year’s Landscape Awards in October 17, 2014. Start taking your pictures today! Entry forms and guides are available online at or from Kyla at Tool-Kit now available for 2014 National Plastics Recycling Program Participants Garden Centres Canada, in partnership with CNLA’s national Environment Committee, are preparing for the 2014 program and are reaching out to garden centre members across Canada to participate. The event will be held June 20 – July 1, 2014. An on-line tool kit is available which includes a variety of resources for participating garden centres, as well as a map to showcase participants across Canada. Visit to access the toolkit. If you wish to participate in the National Plastics Recycling Program, please contact Chelsea Ten Broeck at the CNLA office at Let’s continue to make this event grow – join us and let’s show the public that we are the true green industry! Greening of the Highways research project Landscape Alberta Nursery Growers recently committed $12,000.00 towards the Greening of the Highways research project. This project will examine why newly planted trees are failing along urban roadways. At a sector group meeting on February 12, Dr. Darby McGrath, Research Scientist at Vineland Research Station, gave an Green for Life May/June 2014 I 5

The Cumulative Duration regulation does not apply to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) as the SAWP operates according to international agreements between Canada and select countries. The regulation applies to most other workers in lower-skilled occupations, including low-skilled workers entering Canada through the Agricultural stream of the TFW Program. The lists of exceptions to the Cumulative Duration regulation are as follows: • Managerial: National Occupational Classification (NOC) and professional (NOC A) occupations; • TFWs approved in principal for permanent residence; • TFWs employed under an international agreement such as NAFTA or the SAWP; and • TFWs exempt from the LMO process (e.g., spouses of high-skilled TFWs; charitable/religious workers; refugee claimants; entrepreneurs, researchers, etc. providing significant benefit to Canada beyond the four-year limit. The four-year Cumulative Duration regulation came into effect April 1st, 2011. Work performed in Canada by a TFW prior to this date will not be counted towards the four year cumulative period. Citizenship and Immigration Canada anticipated the Cumulative Duration regulation to begin impacting applicants in spring 2013. For additional details on the Cumulative Duration regulation, please see:

Elm Pruning Ban Now in Effect To help keep Alberta free of Dutch Elm Disease (DED), the Society to Prevent Dutch Elm Disease (STOPDED) advises everyone to pay attention to the provincial elm pruning ban, which began on April 1 and continues to September 30. Elm bark beetles feed on healthy elms and breed in dead and dying elm trees. If elm trees are pruned during the pruning ban period, these beetles, which are active at this time, can be attracted to the scent of the fresh wound and possibly infect your otherwise healthy elm with DED. Once an elm tree is infected with DED, it will die within that year. During the winter months, October through March only, elm trees can be properly pruned of dead wood to help eliminate beetle habitat. Pruned elm wood must be destroyed (buried or burned) so that it cannot harbor the elm bark beetles - it is illegal to store elm firewood in Alberta.

Thank you to our 2014 Spring Workshop Sponsors!

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Online reviews put your reputation at stake 24/7, whether you want to play or not. Here’s how to manage your clients’ expectations to ensure they feel taken care of. By Phil Sarros My friend Ryan is a reputable irrigation contractor with more than 20 years of experience. Four year ago, Ryan started his own business serving residential and small commercial clients. Ryan hit the ground running and it wasn’t long before the word spread that he was a master of his craft and had outstanding service and fair prices.

explaining what happened, she was apologetic and was even able to remove the Better Business Bureau report. But the online review stayed live. For the next year, whenever someone searched for his company, this review was the very first result they saw and he spent a lot of time having to explain what happened.

In many ways Ryan was stubborn. He wasn’t in this business so he could solicit online Six months into his new venture, Ryan suffered reviews, as you’d hear him say. He didn’t think the system was fair and he resented the the sudden loss of his mother who lived out of power that online reviews held over him. In fact, he wasn’t interested in growing state. He left town to be with family for one week and did his best to contact his clients. He did, however, overlook an appointment he made the week prior to replace an irrigation timer and the fallout from this oversight was a scathing review posted to two popular online sites as well as the Better Business Bureau. Here is that review:

“Ryan came highly recommended to us by our neighbour and I was looking forward to working with him. Last week we spoke on the phone and he assured me he would be at my house on Thursday of this week. Today is Thursday and he is not here. I tried calling his cell phone numerous times and it just goes into voicemail. He didn’t even have the courtesy to call me and I took the whole day off work just to be here. Ryan is a disappointment in every sense of the word. I’m glad I found out BEFORE he provided the service because I would hate to try to reach him after he performs what is probably shoddy work. If you’re thinking of hiring Ryan THINK AGAIN! He is unreliable and undependable.” I think we’d agree that, yes, Ryan should have called. He acknowledges that. I also think that many of us can relate to his situation, knowing that at some point during our time in this business, this could have just as easily been us. Ryan followed up with the client and after Green for Life May/June 2014 I 7

beyond the 15 mile radius of his shop. There was plenty of work for him right in his own area. Yet he was now forced to encourage clients to review him in order to offset the negative online reputation.

In my opinion, it takes a minimum of 10-15 great reviews to offset one bad review. Don’t be like Ryan who was vulnerable because he didn’t want to participate - you’re participating, whether you like it or not!

So, how do you participate and win? First you need to know the object of the game, which is to appear online to prospective clients that you repeatedly provide excellent service for a fair price with exceptional quality. Note the emphasis on repeatedly. You will need a LOT of people saying a LOT of great things about you.


First, raise your hand if you’ve ever royally messed up. Maybe some plants died, or your crew left a mess, or you forgot to call when you were late – the list goes on. Rule # 1 (short version) – Just don’t screw up.

Rule # 1 (long version) – It’s entirely possible not to screw up. Begin by creating a client communication policy. This document can be as brief as a few key bullet points such as: • Write down every phone call, voicemail and email communication that requires a return phone call in a single, specified notebook used only for this reason. • Every day at 3 pm, check this notebook and return phone calls. • Return all calls within 24 business hours. • All voice greetings should indicate this process so clients are aware of when they can expect to hear from you. • Keep a spreadsheet or database of every client and prospect and document each communication. • Create a “Final Walk Through Form” that documents

Welcome to our

New Members

Essential Property Maintenance Inc. Stephen Jeffery 431 2949 17 Avenue SE Calgary, AB T2A 0P7 Phone: (403) 830-3872

Goodfellas Property Maintenance Andrew Hill 6230 100 Street Edmonton, AB T6E 2X4 Phone: (780) 433-6666 Fax: (780) 433-6636

8 I Green for Life May/June 2014

MacInnised Contracting Ltd. Tania & Rob MacInnis 261175 Range Road 292 Rocky View County, AB T4A 0E3 Phone: (587) 438-5555 Navus Environmental Inc. Steven vanNieuwkerk 8525 Davies Road Beaumont, AB T6T 4N3 Phone: (780) 463-1315 Fax: (780) 463-1317

every job at completion and what, if any, small items remain, along with the date they will be fixed. Communicate with the client every day at 4 pm during the project construction and do a walkthrough of the progress. Ask for client feedback throughout the sales, production and follow-up process. Never end a communication without documenting what the next step or next follow up is, and who is responsible. Listen intently to the client or prospect and address concerns immediately. This type of communication brings awareness to problems long before they become serious. Addressing problems quickly often leads to great reviews. We all experience problems; the difference between a great review and a horrible review, is how we handle them. Next, create a standard email that can quickly be copied and sent upon completion of every project that requests the client to post an online review. Also, create a Client Satisfaction Survey that you give to each client following the project. Lastly, be relentless in “checking in” with the client. Read their body language, their facial expressions, in addition to listening to their words. Never ask a client to live with something they don’t like. Be open to change in order to meet their needs and make them happy. A good contract will protect you from extra labour or material charges necessary to do so.

Remember that each review also adds value through improved SEO (search engine optimization) and online visibility. It’s another chance for search engines to find you before your competition. Consistently provide great service and ask people to share their experiences by writing a review. It’s a lot easier to explain a negative review when you have 20 or more positive ones. This article was reprinted with permission from the February 2013 issue of Lawn & Landscape. Persnickety Lawns Inc. Daryll Cranston 62-23211 Twp Road 520 Sherwood Park, AB T8B 1G2 Phone: (780) 449-6894 Fax: (780) 449-6895 Rock Bottom Landscaping & Maintenance Beau Riedel Box 8, Site 10, RR 1 Didsbury, AB T0M 0W0 Phone: (403) 617-6676

Saunders Landscaping and Renovations Ltd. Len Saunders/Travis Pope 283075 Township Road 240 Rocky View County, AB T1X 0M8 Phone: (403) 272-5013 Fax: (403) 272-5026 Yard Barber Mark Sauer Box 47088 20-12192 SymonsValley Road NW Calgary, AB T3P 0B9 Phone: (403) 921-9273 Fax: (406) 274-6610

2013 Landscape Awards It took our judges two days to evaluate the 35 entries submitted for the 2013 Landscape Awards program. Judging standards are reviewed and updated every year, and this is reflected in the results: the judges gave 22 Awards of Merit and 6 Awards of Excellence. The 2013 Landscape Awards were presented at the annual Landscape Awards Dinner held at the Glenmore Inn in Calgary on March 12, 2014.

We would like to thank this year’s volunteer judges for taking their assignment seriously and giving so generously of their time and expertise. • • • • •

Gail Rankin, Rankin Horticulture Consulting Darren Wright, Three Seasons Landscaping Lise Prosser, Burnco Rock Products Inc. Perry Stothart, Classic Landscape Centre Adele Goodwin, Earthworm Landscape Design Co.

We would also like to give a special thank you to Expocrete Concrete Products, Manderley Turf Products Inc., Eagle Lake Professional Landscape Supply, ECCO Recycling and Blue Grass Nursery for being prize sponsors for the 2013 Landscape Awards. Top honours went to ULS Maintenance & Landscaping Inc., Julia’s Alpine Garden, Landform Inc., Earthlings Inc. and Peter Hughes Landscape. The Landscape Awards Program The Landscape Awards reflect the association’s commitment to creating and preserving the beauty of the urban landscape. The

program is also designed to reward independent landscape contracting professionals who execute top quality landscape projects. The Landscape Awards program has four main objectives: • Encourage landscape contractors to be the best in their field • Provide a marketing opportunity to those companies that receive an award • Encourage a company’s employees to aspire to excellence • Provide an opportunity to compete in the National Awards of Landscape Excellence

Members can enter projects into nine different categories covering construction, maintenance and design. Construction categories have subcategories for submissions ranging in dollar value so that contractors can enter multiple projects - providing a method of ensuring the program covers projects with different styles and scopes. Each entry is evaluated using a set of criteria; the submissions are not judged against each other. There are two award levels: a Merit Award goes to an entry that earns 70-84 points, and an Excellence Award goes to an entry earning 85 or more points. Entries that achieve Excellence status are eligible to be selected for the National Awards of Landscape Excellence, a Canadawide program developed by the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.

From left to right: Jeaneen Galas of Expocrete Concrete Products presenting an award to Julia Todorova of Julia’s Alpine Garden; Bill McEwen of Blue Grass Nursery presenting his award to Chris Chetcuti of Landform Inc.; Marylin Magwood of Eagle Lake Professional Landscape Supply presenting an award to Kirsten and Clayton Hironaka of Earthlings Inc.; Arnold van de Ligt of Manderley Turf Products Inc. presenting an award to Maciek Opalka of Peter Hughes Landscape; and, Anita Heuver of Eagle Lake Nurseries Ltd. presenting an award to Kristen Swanberg of ULS Maintenance and Landscaping Inc. on behalf of ECCO Recycling.

Merit 1

Planta Landscaping Wildwood Drive Residential Landscape Construction under $50,000


ULS Maintenance & Landscaping Inc. Nixon Residence Residential Landscape Construction under $50,000


Earthlings Inc. Heyland Residence Residential Landscape Construction under $50,000


Julia’s Alpine Garden Mediterranean Retreat Residential Landscape Construction under $50,000


Earthlings Inc. Robertson Residence Residential Landscape Construction under $50,000


Handyman Landscaping Inc. Rocky Mountain House Residential Landscape Construction over $50,000


Landform Inc. Urban Garden Residential Landscape Construction over $50,000


Handyman Landscaping Inc. Lac La Biche Residential Landscape Construction over $50,000


JVR Landscape (2006) Inc. Dunsmore Residence Residential Landscape Construction over $50,000

10 Earthlings Inc. Galt Museum South Patio Renovation Commercial Landscape Construction under $100,000













11 Salisbury Landscaping Silverberg Project Entertainment Area Residential Landscape Features



12 ULS Maintenance & Landscaping Inc. Melhoff Residence Residential Maintenance 13 ULS Maintenance & Landscaping Inc. Christie Park Manor Villas HOA Residential Maintenance Multi Unit



14 Landform Inc. Modern Garden Residential Landscape Design 15 Salisbury Landscaping Bochek Design Residential Landscape Design 16 JVR Landscape (2006) Inc. Fox Residence Residential Landscape Design



17 Earthlings Inc. Bettger Residence Residential Landscape Design 18 Salisbury Landscaping Turner Residential Landscape Design 19 Handyman Landscaping Inc. Williams Residence Residential Landscape Design



20 Earthlings Inc. Strong Residence Residential Landscape Design


21 Peter Hughes Landscape McCaffrey Residence Residential Landscape Construction over $50,000 22 JVR Landscape (2006) Inc. Van Wielingen Residence Residential Landscape Construction over $50,000







23 Landform Inc. Outdoor Living Room Residential Landscape Construction over $50,000 24 Earthlings Inc. Basarab Residence Residential Landscape Construction over $50,000 25 ULS Maintenance & Landscaping Inc. Sienna Park Green Residential Maintenance - Multi Unit 26 Julia’s Alpine Garden Melanie’s Garden Residential Landscape Design

Slips, Trips and Falls in the Workplace To reduce the number of slips, trips and falls at your workplace, make sure you understand why they happen and use properly designed workspaces and work methods.

sand-covered loading ramp to a high-slip resistance surface such as a clean, dry, asphalt pad, can also cause you to trip. Make a point of adapting your walking style to the surface.

It’s amazing that we don’t fall more often than we do. As our leg swings forward each time we take a step, our toe rushes past the ground at a speed of 14 to 18 km/hr and is often less than 1 cm above it. And as we land our heel, it normally slips forward along the ground for a distance of up to 2 cm without causing us to lose our balance.

To prevent trips: • Keep as few objects as possible on walking and working surfaces. • Eliminate abrupt changes in walking surface height. • Where possible, replace stairs with ramps between levels. Be aware that when a ramp angle increases to as much as 20 degrees, the friction or slip resistance of the surface must increase approximately threefold in order to prevent slips.

Slips Slips most commonly occur when your heel strikes the ground and you transfer your body weight to the lead foot. If this foot slips out from under you, you lose your support base and fall. Although you may often manage to recover from slips, you can easily strain muscles while trying to regain your balance. Many lower back injuries occur when a person carrying or lifting an object tries to recover from a slip or loss of balance. To prevent slips: • Wear appropriate footwear and keep walking surfaces clean. Using high resistance surfaces as the answer to every slipping problem should be avoided - they can increase the potential for trips. • Walking surfaces should be suitable for the pushing, pulling and carrying tasks performed on them. They should provide adequate foot grip but allow wheels to roll freely. Rough, deeply textured surfaces may reduce the potential for slips but increase the potential for trips. Trips Trips are caused when your forward-moving leg suddenly and unexpectedly stops. Your body continues its forward motion but hasn’t a foot on which to land, so you fall. Abrupt changes in the height of a walking surface present a tripping hazard, even if the change is as little as 1 cm. Making the transition from a low-slip resistance surface such as a


Falls In 2006, 14.6 percent of Alberta’s workplace lost time claims were the result of falls (8.9 percent – fall on same level; 4.2 percent – fall to lower level; 1.4 percent – other falls). The severity of falls is often underestimated; serious injuries or death can result from falls of as little as one metre. Unsafe ladder use, particularly in construction and maintenance, causes falls, but even stairs present a hazard. People lose their balance, slip on poor slip-resistant material on the nosing of the stair, or don’t bother to use handrails, perhaps because they’re carrying something. Falls associated with the operation of vehicles and equipment are often the result of a combination of a slip, loss of balance, and misjudging the height of a surface or step. To prevent such falls, get in and out of equipment safely, maintaining three-point contact and using handles when available. Prevent falls from elevated surfaces Falls from elevated work surfaces are often preceded by slips and trips. Apply the same prevention methods to elevated surfaces as for slips and trips on level surfaces. Include railings, guardrails, travel restraint, or fall arrest systems where necessary. Source: Work Safe Alberta


Green for Life May/June 2014 I 13

The Garden of Good Customers

By Rod McDonald

Relatives, friends and neighbours of existing customers became priority estimates. People who were going through the telephone directory, calling everyone listed under landscape contractors, were never high on my list. If I ever received a hint that they were looking for a quick and cheap job, I told them they had contacted the wrong company. Defining who you are in the marketplace is a very important job that many In the beginning, I figure I converted one out of every three estimates into a sale. As I contractors neglect. matured, my conversion rate climbed until I was closing four out of five estimates. The increase evolved as I learned to screen and to prioritize my calls. Not everyone who called received an estimate.

Time is money — that lesson I learned very quickly. When I started out in the landscape business in 1977, I took all requests for estimates very seriously. I completed them in the order in which they arrived and I never gave priority to any request, nor did I screen potential customers. I would complete three estimates each night, after supper. In the early part of spring, the phone would ring so often it could take three weeks before seeing the customer. Sometimes I would arrive to do an estimate only to find the work had already begun but the customer had neglected to cancel the appointment with me.

Call Screening My first question was always about the time line. Did they need the job finished by a certain time, and could I meet that deadline? Every spring, I would get panic calls from people who needed a yard makeover because they had a garden wedding planned. One person actually called on a Tuesday when the wedding was planned for the following Saturday! More often than not, I was already booked months in advance and there was no room to fit them in. I screened customers by asking what services they were looking for. Sometimes another firm was better suited for a particular job and I would pass its name along. I learned that you cannot be all things to all people. The most important question I learned to ask was how the caller had heard of my firm.

“There are a handful of people out there who cannot sleep at night if they think you made five cents off of any work you did for them. You do not want those people as customers.”

Estimating and Design Over the years, I learned the difference between an estimate and a design. My estimates were free of charge, provided the customer knew what he wanted. If the customer wasn’t sure, then the project was turned over to our landscape designers, and there was a charge for that service. There was a time when the public balked at paying for a landscape design. Because of our industry’s professionalism, customers now see the value of design services and are willing to pay for it. On rare occasions, a caller would refuse to hire our designer or another independent design firm, insisting the design should be a ‘freebie.’ That was always a perfect indication that I should not pursue the business. I knew a well-respected landscape contractor who preceded me by a generation. One of his favorite sayings that I have always remembered was, “There are a handful of people out there who cannot sleep at night if they think you made five cents off of any work you did for them. You do not want those people as customers.” Be Selective Customer relationships are important. When you are young and dating, you learn you are better off not to date certain people, and that some people 14 I Green for Life May/June 2014

appear nice in the beginning, but soon change. Well, the same rules apply in estimating. You do not want to provide an estimate to everyone who asks because you do not want to work for everyone. I was a founding member of our local Better Business Bureau and I think it provides a valuable service to our community. I always wished that contractors could have access to a “Better Customer Bureau.” We could call in and check on our customers to see who is a chronic complainer, expects work for free, or doesn’t pay bills. That would make our job a little easier. There could even be a reality television show about customers from hell, just to balance out all the shows featuring unscrupulous contractors.

and the first to receive an estimate. They were my bread and butter. They were also the people who recommended my firm to their friends and neighbours. To utilize a gardening metaphor, these were customers to be nurtured and cultivated. As my base of good customers grew, so did my company and it kept me on the road to success. Reprinted with permission from Landscape Trades.

Once you agree to complete an estimate, your professionalism must be apparent. You should look neat and presentable, your vehicle should be clean and well signed, your business cards should be straight forward, and you should take notes. All of your estimates should be in writing on a basic estimate form. Never offer or accept a verbal estimate. The form should state what your estimate includes and what it doesn’t. Get it in Writing Over the years I began to include more information in the estimate, like items that were discussed, but the customer had agreed not to include in the work. If a customer asked about an irrigation system or pruning a large tree, but opted not to proceed with that part of the work, it was noted as “Work does not include irrigation system or tree pruning.” Those notes always saved me grief. It is not that people are dishonest, but memory is never as good as you expect. A friend of mine started a home repair business in his retirement. He provided separate, verbal estimates to a customer for painting her kitchen and her hallway. She opted for only the kitchen and when he was finished, she argued the price had included the hallway. Had he written “price does not include hallway” into the estimate, he could have avoided the problem.

Difficult Customers I always included a payment schedule within my estimate. One benefit with progress payments is that if the customer is experiencing financial difficulties, you will find out earlier. I have also found that a clearly written estimate and contract that includes payment schedules will scare away the less-than-desirable customer. Unfortunately, there are people out there who prey upon new and inexperienced contractors. They actually seek them out, hire them and rarely pay the full amount — everything is a negotiation. Experienced contractors usually know and avoid these customers. Avoiding or reducing misunderstandings and difficult customers is important. I also learned to value my A-list customers. I had customers who were with me for years. They were loyal and easy to get along with. They paid their bills on time. They did not expect extra work for free and most importantly, they treated my staff and me with respect. These customers were worth their weight in gold. These people were the first to have their telephone calls returned

Hort Mart

Once you and the customer have agreed on the work and the price, a realistic completion date must be included. Never promise a date that does not include allowances for weather or other unforeseen circumstances. The old motto of “under promise, over deliver” is imperative.

Aurora Design DESIGN, PRINT AND DIGITAL SERVICES FOR: • Advertising Design • Flyers • Brochures • Newsletters • Business Cards • Photography • Catalogues • Promo Inserts ... and much more Phone: (403) 273-6917 E-mail: Green for Life May/June 2014 I 15

Work Hard and Remember to Work Smart “Genius is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration.” – Thomas Edison I often ask contractors why they decide to start a landscape business. They shrug or laugh, and say something along the lines of, “I wish I knew what I was thinking.” If there is one thing I have come to realize running my own companies, it is that Thomas Edison hit the nail on the head with the line above. In this line of work, there is simply no way to avoid hard work. Operating a landscape company requires enormous selfdiscipline and an above-average work ethic. The seasonal nature of the work creates some peak demand periods that would test anybody’s capability as a manager – then throw in dealing with the public, weather, mechanical failures, people problems and a list of project variables as far as the eye can see, and you have the perfect challenge for any self-identified genius! As a business operator, I continuously strive to improve and grow my companies without adding to my personal workload. That said, I have found that there are times when I simply need to knuckle down and get things done that need doing! I don’t ever look at this like work… I always look at it as an investment. I am investing my time in something that will provide a better future for myself and my family; investing in something that will ultimately make my life more enjoyable as the years pass. Invest in the Future By investing time – which some people call working – I focus my time and energy on creating systems that will allow more work to happen in my absence without causing any disruption. Managing a business is about taking care of all the things that other people don’t see; often the work that you are doing as an owner or manager is very hard to measure and it is almost always unrecognized by others. I have come to the conclusion that while operating my companies I will almost certainly need to get up early, stay up late, and think more about work than your average 9-to-5 employee, but if you can find anyone as happy as I am, let me know. I would rather think a bit more about my business than struggle and worry about money and things outside of my control. When asked why I started my company, the same answer always pops into my head: To control my own destiny and enjoy what I do each day. Measure your personal contribution to your organization with a different yard stick than you use to size up those who work for you. Others may not see or understand your contributions these people possibly never will and, quite frankly, if you are the owner it does not matter if others see your true value. Train yourself to be ruthlessly efficient and don’t waste time doing work that can be delegated to others. Identify the work 16 I Green for Life May/June 2014

By Mark Bradley

that you cannot delegate and make time to find ways to create systems, or, if affordable, find the right person so that it can be delegated to a competent person. Lead by Example The more you delegate, the faster your operation will improve because you are inventing time to work on more important things each time you delegate work. Lead by example. I mean the little things like keeping a clean desk, a neat truck, insisting others are following company policy regularly. Often people look for leadership from a mountain top, and forget that it starts with the basics and runs through every part of the business. We developed our systems as the ultimate delegation tool. When I have a recurring problem, I need to delegate the project and provide resources for my team, to assist them to resolve problems and increase efficiency. With systems in place, I can delegate more tasks in the business. There is no possible chance I am going to be able to hire people who are just going to “know” which tasks I need done, and how I expect things to be done. Without clear expectations and systems, the end result is unpredictable. So, most of us fall back on that tried-and-true method, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” Long-term Strategy I didn’t get into business to do everything myself. I got into this business for my own freedom and independence. Without systems in our companies, we cannot achieve the goals we set for ourselves when we started. Without systems, we have little more than a job we could do for someone else, but with far less stress and responsibility. Take the opportunity to make your next year much more enjoyable. It’s hard work, there’s no other way to look at it. After a hard season, it’s tempting to kick back and relax for a few weeks. But if you felt overwhelmed, overworked and/or underachieving this season, then I urge you to invest your time into building repeatable systems that will enable work to happen without you being there to manage every step. Create systems for: • Following up on sales leads • Selling each and every client with a sales process • Getting out of the yard in the morning • Estimating work • Ensuring equipment is maintained on schedule • Tracking and costing your jobs • Hiring and recruiting superstar staff You’ll build a company that’s a lot less work, a lot more fun, and a lot more profitable. Reprinted with permission from Landscape Trades.

Tips for Supervisors:

Supervising Young Workers Did you know? • As an employer’s designate, supervisors are legally responsible for the safety of workers. • Approximately 7,600 workers aged 15-24 report on-the-job injuries each year in Alberta.* • On average, each year 5 workers aged 15-24 die in workplace incidents and an additional 5 die in work-related motor vehicle incidents.* • Young male workers are almost twice as likely to be injured than any other group. • Young workers tend not to ask questions, as they really want to make a good impression.

• • • •

Feeling of invincibility Unwillingness to ask questions Being distracted and having other things on their mind Pace of work

Supervisors have direct responsibility for the health and safety of their workers. If you need help with a concern involving the health and safety of your workplace and your workers, call the Workplace Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-866-415-8690. For more information about the law and safety for young workers, take a look at our X-Treme Safety: A Survival Guide for New and Young Workers at the Workplace Health and Safety website at Source: Work Safe Alberta

*Source: Workers’ Compensation Board - Alberta

Supervisors – It’s Your Job Creating a safe workplace takes more than a handout or a video clip at your monthly staff meeting. It’s an everyday commitment. Here are 9 ways to make health and safety a priority in the workplace. • Spend ample time supervising and training young and new workers. • Provide job-specific safety training before any work is assigned. • Teach emergency procedures before any work is assigned. • Pair up young workers with experienced, safety-conscious workers. • Regularly check to ensure that everyone follows the safety rules. • Reward workers who make workplace health and safety a priority. • Instruct on how to report unsafe conditions or health concerns. • Explain why it’s important to report a hazard or injury immediately. • Lead by example – wear protective equipment and demonstrate safe work habits. Remember, people learn best by doing. Lecturing your staff is the least effective means of getting your message across. Set up opportunities to role-play health and safety-related scenarios and set a good example. Why young workers get injured on the job Here are some reasons that explain why young workers are at a greater risk for injury at work: • Lack of training and work experience • Lack of confidence or understanding of their rights as workers • Lack of preparation for the workplace • Being given more dangerous jobs Green for Life May/June 2014 I 17

A look back at our association

18 I Green for Life May/June 2014

Green for Life May/June 2014  

Green for Life is a professional publication for the landscape trade in Alberta.