We asked you, the readers of Pro Landscaper to send in your questions concerning all elements of the landscaping industry. This week, we speak with Sean Butler of Cube 1994, to help tackle some of the biggest questions in landscaping today.
What is best to do if a client is unhappy with an installation that cannot be altered?
This simply comes down to communication. The client and the contractor should be communicating on a regular basis and this scenario should never happen. I believe that everything can be altered it’s just who is going to pay? If it’s too expensive and a resolution can’t be made between both parties, then some sort of refund to the client either by payment or services and products should be offered.
What are your thoughts on hiring vs. buying plant equipment?
We always evaluate expenditure on a yearly basis to see if there are any substantial rises in hired in plant.
One such item was mini tracked diggers. Even though we own several we were still hiring too many and the sums made sense to invest in another machine. You have to evaluate on the basis of; Can you afford to buy it? Verses the monthly hired in cost? If your answer is that you can afford it, then you need to cost out depreciation against longevity – Is it going to last longer than the repayment term, so you get added value? Some items are certainly worth the investment such as 360o diggers, and dumpers, and certain everyday items like grinders and cutters. Fork lifts and specialist equipment may need a greater demand in work load before the investment.
How is it possible to reduce the cost of a design if the original comes in over budget?
I wrote a piece covering this topic way back in the June 2016 edition of Pro Landscaper, titled Value Engineering. You can view the article on page 95 here.
How important do you believe HR is within a landscaping business?
It’s important no matter what the size of the business. It’s better to have formal processes in place and making all staff even if your plus one knows the procedure. It’s about protecting your staff’s wellbeing and you as an employer.
What do you believe to be the ‘next big trend’ in landscaping?
Porcelain, it’s going to be a greater seller than natural stone. The variation and range is now much larger than it ever was five years ago. The price points are coming down more in line with natural stone and it’s more durable and easily maintained. Clients really like the whole idea of running indoor to outdoor with bifold door systems.
Where do you see the current standard of employees coming straight out of education?
Taking on employees early and doing in house training is the way to go. Students coming out of university with landscape degrees like the experience of working within an established company but have their eyes set on going alone in most cases.
Sean Butler is a landscape designer and director of Cube 1994. With a background in civil engineering, Butler has an in-depth understnading of the design, construction and maintenance of the physical and natural built landscape.