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Interiorscape Forum / Scaper Talk Discussion Forum / General Scaper Talk / Question for all the owners out there
Posted:  30 Aug 2012 22:55  
I am looking to my fellow interiorscape owners for guidance.  I have been in business over 10 years, and been moderately successful.   In that time, I have implemented a direct mail program that works fairly well, along with a decent web presence, etc. 

I am looking to take my company to the next level.   As we all know, clients have cut back and our direct mail results in the past four years have been lackluster compared to pre-2008, so I need to do more, and create a broader reach.

Here's my question: 

In marketing the company, I have always stayed local; all of our accounts are within 40 minutes of our warehouse/greenhouse location.  We are located about an hour from a major metro area and there is tremendous opportunity in cities that are an hour to an hour and a half away from us.  I am considering kicking our direct mail program into high gear and targeting areas quite far from our central location.

The reason I have always stayed local is that as the owner, as many of you are aware, when there isn't an employee available to perform either care, replacements, etc., we are the ones to jump in the van and travel all that distance to service the account. 

In addition, I am located in the northeast, where winter weather can be unkind, and I have concerns about making that hour plus trip out to an account in bad weather to replace a 4/3/2 mass cane that won't fit in the tech's car will be a time and money waster.  We once had accounts quite a ways away on CWI inserts.  We had them on a two week program and making replacements was always a pain--it seemed like the service tech was gone all morning just to deliver one plant.

Can any owners out there offer advice on this?  I know I am bucking the trend--many of our competitors in my home city are located an hour or more away, so there's something that I'm missing, or my concerns are unfounded.  Sorry for the long post!  Any advice/encouragement would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

Bill F.
Posted:  02 Sep 2012 18:33  
The trick would be to find a tech near the target cities who can be trusted to work as a self-starter and help you with the logistical issues of long-distance account management.  Then transportation would be less of an expense/concern, provided you get the right person and don't need to be running out there to supervise constantly.

We service accounts that are over 40 miles from our location, but we have techs who do routes from their homes using company vans, so that cuts down on travel miles and fuel consumption.  The only logistical issues are when rotations are due or replacements needed, but the techs come to home base once a week to gather their plants and supplies as a regular practice. 

I'd recommend trying it, especially if opportunities for expansion are good in those far-flung markets.  You really have nothing to lose, and you can always sub the work if it becomes too difficult to manage with your own limited staff.

Posted:  03 Sep 2012 19:18  
Thanks Clem,

That's great advice.  I hadn't considered the possibility of subcontracting accounts that became difficult to service. That's a new concept to me.

Is that prevalent in the industry?  Do you have an idea what the normal monetary split is between you and the other company that actually performs the work? 

Posted:  03 Sep 2012 20:26  
The sub usually gets the lion's share of the recurring service income (I'm not privy to what the G. C. tacks on as its markup, because we never got to see their invoices and they didn't share, but since we were getting paid what we would have charged ourselves, it didn't matter to us), and the G. C. gets the income from rotations if they supply the plants (which our G. C. did).  Think about it...how could you work for less than what you would normally bill for your labor and still make a profit?  You NEVER discount labor! 

Posted:  04 Sep 2012 21:20  
I don't know if a corollary can be drawn for the service portion, but one of the "big guys" who uses us for sub-contracting has a goal of a minimum of 10% mark-up on plants and hardgoods before tax.

Posted:  05 Sep 2012 14:56  
Thanks Julie, that seems to make sense. I was thinking that 10% was probably around the correct percentage.
Posted:  20 Sep 2012 02:39  
You can call me and I will tell you what I do.   Www.atlantafoliage.com
Posted:  07 Oct 2012 00:02  
You don't even have to subcontract.  I once worked for a company as the tech/supervisor for all the accounts in the neighboring county (about 40 miles from the company headquarters).  There were no other techs but me for that area, but I was paid as a supervisor because I was essentially doing both jobs.  I would drive my personal vehicle to the main office on Monday, pick up the company van and all supplies and replacements, use the van all week, and take it back Friday and go home in my car.  It depends on finding an experienced person you trust, of course.

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