May 20, 2011 at 3:01 am #162841
Heather Smith asked about more ways to make money in her “Mike Rowe thread.
One thing that I noticed in the landscape industry over the last twenty years is how product manufacturers, specifically hardscape products, shifted from marketing to the consumer to marketing to contractors. They realized that if they gave other people an understanding of how they can make money from using them, those people would act as a sales force for their products.
Most of us like to grab as much money out of every job that we can. Many of us not having trouble in getting a profit out of our jobs so much as keeping enough work coming through the office. This gives us another reason to try to squeeze more out of each job by going after more project management along with everyone else from the architect to the builder and sometimes the engineer. Now that there are less jobs, everyone involved is trying to hold onto the project management. Since we are more often than not anything but the first professional hired by the client, we tend to ether be limited in project management by someone higher on the pyramid, or we are avoided for fear of competing for some of that project management loot. Don’t kid yourself, this is a huge reason why other professionals avoid us. Being avoided by those controlling projects is a disaster.
One man’s disaster is another’s opportunity. Can you or I use the hardscape model and find a way to get others to market our work for us by making sure that they have a financial benefit by doing so? Can we do better by selling less services by leaving more $ in the pockets of other project managers because we’ll make it up in repeat business?
Specifically – would architects, builders, and engineers bring you or me into a job if they knew that they could manage the contract and make the project management money? If their alternatives are to design it themselves, commit to either a design/build contractor or a different LA who wants to manage the contract, I believe that they would. I believe this because I was in a situation where I could not provide project management and started to generate repeat business in a very slow time from these people described above. The initial contact was from an architect setting me up with the homeowners, but the builders were the PMs and were able to shop for ontractors and manage the projects. In each case, the builders contacted me on their other projects unrelated to the architect as it gave them that extra profitabilty. Clearly, they are bringing me work because they can make more money by using me over those others.
The question is whether the volume is enough using this as a business plan to overcome the money left on the table for the other PMs.May 20, 2011 at 4:16 am #162867
Interesting to think of Andrew. Will ruminate on this.
I wonder if we (the profession in the broad sense) are so busy trying to keep our ego intact and prove our worth that we actually hobble our own potential for working relationships. I like to think that landscape architecture is an inclusive profession but know that there is a lot of insecurity within the ranks. haha.
I think you are definitely correct about the ability to profit off of other professionals…you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours.May 20, 2011 at 10:14 pm #162866mark fosterParticipant
Providing a non-competitive service to others who are meeting your potential clients on a daily basis is a very good thing. It is definitely a central component of my business model.May 20, 2011 at 10:30 pm #162865mauiBobParticipant
Three words: Invest in Stocks! I’ve mentioned this already a few months ago and gave some stock advice. Those stocks are up as of today by at least 40%. Unless you own your own business, landscape architects working for someone are NEVER going to be wealthy. Yes, some top management positions do make a good living but only to a select few.
Think outside the “landscape” to make real money. The Apple, Netflix and eBay stock opportunities have already set sail and many missed the boat. I purchased Apple and Netflix 10 years ago when very few believed in them and still recall the critics: “Why would people want their Dvds delivered by mail?” However, many solid companies are out there…hibernating and ready to explode in 5 to 10 years. Be patient! Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint race. My 13 years of investing has produced more than twice my combined 12 years of salary from my day job of landscape related work. Then, there is contracting out special services such as your expertise in Sketchup software, graphic design or hand rendering skills too.May 20, 2011 at 10:57 pm #162864
What kind of services do you offer other professionals?May 20, 2011 at 10:57 pm #162863
Bob, why do you work?May 20, 2011 at 11:21 pm #162862Rick SpalenkaParticipant
MauiBob is absolutely correct about making money in stocks. I guarantee I can make you money in the stock market. Just watch very carefully what I do and DO THE OPPOSITE!.May 21, 2011 at 1:04 am #162861Thomas J. JohnsonParticipant
My credit is completely shot after getting laid off from my first LA job in ’08. I put it all on the line to pursue that job (left girlfriend, moved across country, bought clothes for work, rented apartment, etc,etc.) and I lost, big. Now I can’t get a credit card, much less a trading account. Thanks Landscape Architecture! Worst decision of my life… I should have stuck with selling software. Now I have heaps of debt and horrible credit. Awesome.
I still have some dough in a Roth IRA from a 401k I rolled over from my previous life selling software. I need to see if I can liquefy some of that and trade with it within the Roth (so I don’t get penalized for taking it out).
I can’t help but laugh when I read that article in yahoo finance. I commute 1hr 45min to a nursery job in the city where I make $11/hr and only work 30hrs a week. I make around $250 a week. Not only can’t I afford to set aside the recommended $320/month, I can’t pay my student loans or afford health insurance. Sweet.
Now excuse me while I go hang myself…May 21, 2011 at 1:36 am #162860
I’m all hooked up because I’m helping out a Nigerian Prince. I can’t share the details, or I might lose the whole deal. I’ll be buyin’ out Maui Bob’s condo complex and making it into a resort.May 21, 2011 at 1:40 am #162859
Something will come along. It always does when you work hard at keepin’ on. I wish you the best.May 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm #162858
So I shouldn’t delete the Nigerian prince’s emails? Drat.May 21, 2011 at 4:17 pm #162857
I really, really think that you could make more money working for yourself. I know I sound obnoxious…but considering your commute and hourly wage? You have the skills to make MORE then that. You are in a much larger market then us and we are making it. Have you thought of doing design/build? We are still learning the ropes of self employment but I think in your situation having more control over your future would be 100% better then what you are dealing with.
I have heard people speak of start-up costs….well you have a computer, you are half way there. We have purchased Bricsad and Adobe Suiteworks…but ultimately that isn’t overly expensive and is a write-off. We literally still have work from a tacky flier we pinned up around town a few years ago when we jokingly called ourselves Smith and Smith. haha. With on-line media, websites and the ability to design your own advertisements it would not take many projects for you to make more then you are right now.
Jon trimmed rose bushes the first year! Buy a shovel, wheel barrel and if you don’t have a cheap, crusty truck work towards that. You absolutely CAN do better for yourself. There are some really experienced business owners on here and we pick their brains from anything from business ideas to the building of designs.
We want to own more of our own equipment eventually, but don’t have much. That has worked out fine. You don’t have to own everything yet, we rent equipment and the client pays for it. Don’t be afraid to charge enough.
Getting off my soap box…I just don’t know how people stand the waiting. And yes, student loans are a…well…you know. 😉May 21, 2011 at 5:46 pm #162856mark fosterParticipant
Usually design and build, but sometimes just one or the other. I am d/b and specialize in high end landscape construction, so I tend to get involved in projects which require a complicated mix of media and/or using mundane materials in odd ways (i.e .I am designing a “steampunk” concept for an urban park design at present, for instance). I also get called when something cannot be dictated in plan form and a high degree of on-site flexibility and interpretation needs to occur–(naturalistic water features, woodland stone outcroppings etc).
Otherwise, it depends on the “professional”.
I do straight concept design for larger design firms doing big projects (I never draw past the scale conceptual, so these folks are able to take them and go to working drawings). I try not to do too many of these because they are out of my “core” business model.
I do design/build for builders, gc’s, developers, LA’s (not in my market), architects, historical renovators, interior designers, etc
I do straight build for gc’s, LA’s (in my market), the occasional architect, and “plant only” landscape contractors/LA’s. These usually involve me as an “enlightened contractor” where the design is done by someone else, but it needs a good translation.
Some of these involve my firm as a service provider to another firm, some are more of a “cross referencing” in which they send me clients and vis versa.
I hope this was helpful–it is a very fluid sort of affair and hard to describe. I does take a certain discipline. For instance, I could (and used to) install plantings but I stay away from it now because my relationship with the plant contractors is more valuable. In the end, it comes down to evolving the business to the the things you enjoy and are good at (in my case, designing and then building it better) vs. what you don’t (working drawings, specs, competitive bidding).
I also really enjoy interacting with the clients, so I tend to end up in situations where another pro feels comfortable bringing me in at conception or “dropping them off at my door”. We are all in the business of helping people solve some sort of issue and problem, and a pro in a different field loves to have a quick solution to something beyond them–usually in the form of a reference to someone else they trust.May 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm #162855
That is really good information. Yes, we do plantings right now…and at this point the mark up on materials and labor is our largest money maker. Jon and I were reading what Andrew had written and wondering how that would work in our smaller/mid-range market. We definitely are higher end(for this area) and are learning to shy away from “desperation” projects…of course we are learning as we go. It seems that these fluid relationships probably occur naturally over time…meeting people, showing them that you are dependable and do good work. I suppose a successful business model is going to look differently depending on the market you are functioning in.
I am interested in what our business will look like once we all pull out of the recession…we are seeing more business this summer. And it is VERY encouraging that the steel distributors we have spoken with are going crazy with too much business. Additionally, a local man that builds very large stone retaining walls only got back to Jon last night after 9 because he is so busy. Encouraging news!
Thank you so much for the information, it is so nice to come here and get advice…especially since we aren’t competing with each other. 🙂May 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm #162854
Also, would LOVE to see pictures of some of your mixed media projects (“steampunk” concept)…that sounds really fun!
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