Just a quick post to see if I can pick some collective brains.
Just wondering how best to set oneself apart from the cowboys and rogue operators that plague this, amony many other industries.
I am thinking of advertising to a slightly higher level, more corporate client base than I currently have been doing. I already try to distance myself from the lower level of the market, as to be quite frank, there is nothing to be made for me there.
I already have a good, professional looking (albeit fairly old) van and a nice, clean looking trailer - I am not signwriting this van as it will more than likely be changed in the early part of next year.
I have insurance, public liability etc - all my mowers are professional grade Hayters and Honda's and the two stroke kit is all Tanaka or Echo - OK, some may argue that most of this kit is older models or secondhand and some of it I have even repaired or modified myself. However I cannot justify spending many £000's on brand new kit at present. Fair play to those that can afford to buy brand new, off the shelf kit, but at present the budget doesn't allow!
I have designed my own website and promotional material, under guidance from a friend who works in the design and print industry.
Just wondered if there are any particular things that anyone recommended I do in my attempts to get on the first rungs of the coporate/commercial maintenance market sector - any other things I should make a point of, to distingush myself and my business as a professional operation?
I agree with Dan's comments. Reliability of your company and your machinery is a must - as are back-up machines. Comprehensive H & S and Risk Assesment documentation will be required. £10m Public liability is usual.
Dont put all your eggs in one basket. If you get that big contract, dont sit back, go out and match it with private work - which is where you may need 'the lower level' you are trying to distance yourself from - so beware.
Although not the biggest of companies (4-5 men)we have run hard and soft landscaping alongside Maintenace for many years and one feeds the other.
Thank you, valid comments from both. The lower level that I was referring to was the people that want work done for nothing - ie the 'can you cut my large lawn for a fiver' clients.
I know everything depends on making sure machinery is reliable, that is why several of my machines have had recent replacement engines fitted.
Health and safety documentation is something that is being worked on at present.
I like to think I don't have 'tatty kit and rust bucket vehicles' at present, although i appreciate some more infrequently used items may need replacement soon.
Whilst I agree image is very important along side the right policies and writing up a killer quotation, have you actually contacted any local property agents / block management companies?
Half the battle is getting to the right people and getting on their approved contractors list.
In some cases not being VAT reg, could be to your advantage as for an example, small blocks of privately owned flats wouldn't be able to claim back the VAT and hence you may be seen as being the more attractive quotation. However on the larger contacts eventually you wouldn't have too much choice :-(
I thought a cowboy was someone who did a poor job, then a runner?
So do the best and you will shine.
Shiney vans and uniforms do not = good work, in fact some people hide behind such things.
As above, but my staff all wear uniforms, are CRB checked and I am members of Buy with COnfidence, a Trading Standards Initiative.
Other things like simple manners, turning up on time (phoning ahead if you are late) and good customer communication in general all help.
Quotes and Invoices on headed paper also help present a professional image.
Don't worry about having brand new kit. I started trading out of a £50 MkII Ford Escort (painted gold with one blue door!) and scrimped for everything in my first year. I now have a couple of nice vans (ten years on) with all bells and whistles without running up debts.
Q - Just wondering how best to set oneself apart from the cowboys
A - Don't wear a ten gallon hat and cowboy boots when you turn up for work, and leave the horse at home.
Image is not everything doing a really good job at the right price is! If the question was how to get your foot in the door then I would and do advertise locally in parish mags and right letters to management agents. When invited to apply for a contract (at that stage they have not seen if I drive an old landi or shiney new van!!)
All the other things come after getting the work, yes on letter headed paper, livered staff, hi vis vests and professional looking kit. In my opinion being VAT registered is not the be all a mentioned smaller management blocks cannot claim it back and it makes my price far more competitive.
Proof - I have several contracts with VOSA (governement body), housing associations, parish councils and churches.
Would agree its handy being able to offer landscaping as allways asked to sort odd bits out when on site.
Your on the right track' , up the game . there are many odd-jobbers - let them do it...
aspire to do your best, always room for improvement on reliability, efficiency and customer satisfaction.
give the customer what they want.. when they want (if possible) with minimal disruption.
never use old or cheap materials (as possible). give choice and communication is key..