As a landscaper for almost 40 years, I’ve had my fair share of great jobs and not so great jobs. Whether we are dealing with residential or commercial projects, sadly this is part of running your own business.
Of course, with great jobs, we will always look fondly back on these and provided we have made profit, we celebrate with enthusiasm and are ready to tackle any job put in front of us with renewed hope we have cracked the market.
Poor jobs, where often the budget has blown out and the client and you are at logger heads to just get the job done, brings a totally different set of emotions often fraught with a feeling of disappointment and sometimes anger and of course the inevitable, ‘Why did I ever take this work on?’. More importantly, we often question our ability as a landscaper.
Here in WA, LIAWA is becoming more engaged with the public and has seen over the past few months an increase in complaints from them.
Of course, as an industry association it is critical that we are accountable and most importantly help where we can to either point a consumer in the right direction to resolve their issues with their contractor or support our members in how to tackle a dispute.
Running a landscape business is far more complex than most might think and with standards along with policies and procedures continuing to be on the rise, writing a simple quote on the back of a business card just will not cut it these days.
When it comes to disputes the overarching factor to why these occur is quite simply poor communication between the contractor and client.
The initial meet and consultation between both parties more often than not has a positive outcome with clients relieved to have found someone they can trust with their project and the landscaper excited by the prospect they have potentially got some nice cash flow around the corner.
Here are some tips to help reduce disputes and have positive outcomes.
The initial consultation is one of the most important parts of the whole project. It can make a project provided there is a clear understanding from both parties what the expectation is but similarly it can break a project when promises are not carried out.
Ensure the contract says it all. If you have not got a contract that has been properly looked over by a lawyer, you are setting yourself up for long term problems. Detailing the breakdown of the project might seem an overkill but when there is a dispute you can refer back to the agreement as to the terms you are working to.
Finally, a set of scale of drawings is again a helpful fall back when there is a dispute. Too many times I have heard of plants being installed that were not what a customer expected or a pathway not being as wide as the client envisaged. Of course, it is essential your business must be insured to work on site as well.
All of this may seem like common sense, but clients are becoming more aware of contracts before they part with their cash, and it is therefore critical contractors clearly demonstrate they fully comprehend their obligation. A clear set of documents that outlines how you are going to deliver their project builds a very strong level of communication, rapport and trust with the client.
Furthermore, the WA’s State government agency, the Department of Mines Industry Regulation and Safety, are keen to work with LIAWA in encouraging its members to fully understand the rights of consumers and in particular the Home Builders Contract Act 1991 (Notice for the homeowner) and the guide for Building Complaint Resolution.
Too often or not a small operator often out grows his business very quickly as work comes in and larger projects are tabled. This is where the problem ultimately starts and LIAWA’s role is to help our members grow and understand that poor mismanagement particularly around contract and finance management can be a major flaw in a business very quickly.