June 15, 2018

By Warren Patterson
LO President
Warren Patterson

Have you ever wondered why lawyers and accountants are able to charge large hourly rates for some really mundane tasks, or for work that is being reused from another client?

The truth is, these professions have done a great job of positioning in the consumer’s mind the value that comes from their services, and consumers are willing to pay that value.

In my last article, I identified the first reason why the landscape and horticulture profession is having a really difficult time attracting talent: our profession has lower earnings potential than other professions and trades. The earnings of a professional are directly tied to how much consumers value the products or services of that professional. That starts with how much the profession/industry itself values its products and services.

I believe the more you value your products and services, the more the consumer will too. Every business I have spoken with over the past month is looking to hire employees. We can’t find enough labour for the business we can generate.
This problem provides us with an opportunity to communicate just how valuable our services are, and more importantly, provides a reason to continue raising our prices. I believe there is more demand for our services than there is supply. So many garden and lawn maintenance companies are not accepting new customers simply because they don’t have the staff to properly service them.

I recently had a new customer say we were $17 more per hour than what she was used to paying. But she accepted our quote because she couldn’t find anyone else to do the work. This also holds true as I know of three well-established, successful businesses who ceased operations this year. They folded because they found the business to difficult to operate trying to find people to do the work.

With this shortage of applicants, now is the time to raise our prices to build stronger businesses. With higher revenues we can afford to pay more, but can also invest more time and money in recruiting and developing future staff. Which, at the end of the day, makes for a sustainable business.

But raising prices is only one side of the problem. To properly value our services we must stop discounting our value.

I recently saw a post online about how a business owner quoted a project. This was a big client for them and would be a good customer reference. They were contemplating a project discount to make their proposal more attractive. Yes, it would be more attractive to the customer, but how attractive would it be for the employees of that company? The owner was, in essence, discounting their pay.

So the next time you are thinking about discounting a project, think about how that could short-change your employees. You wouldn’t be able to afford to pay them simply because you wanted a feather in your cap.

Next month, I will examine how product pricing needs to mature in our profession and what I have learned over the years from the big box stores.
Warren Patterson may be reached at warrenpatterson@barriegardencentre.com.