All year round grounds maintenance from small gardens through to large fields and estates
All year round grounds maintenance from small gardens through to large fields and estates
An old wiser farmer once told me “spring won’t start until the snow has touched the daffodils and the later the snow touches the daffodils the better summer we’ll have”. Something like that anyway he came out with a lot of sayings. But if you look at the recent weather we’re all experiencing there may be some truth to that.
Usually by now we have started grass cutting and with the lighter days the sun has been making its impression on the ground; grass growing, bulbs showing, daffodils in full bloom oh and becoming drier, but this year we’ve not touched a mower or seen daffodils to mow around them and it’s certainly not been dry.
It is an unusually late start to the season this year, the snow has certainly touched what daffodils have been poking their heads out of the ground and the lateness of the snow could mean a good summer. Or is everything how it should be and due to the mild winters we’ve been having for years we’ve just got used to spring starting just after Christmas and bedding plants for sale in B&Q from Jan 1st.
One things for sure, after all this weather we’ve had, instead of Ned Starky saying “Winters coming” how about Alex West saying “Springs coming” so get your mowers dusted off, spark plugs checked , petrol cans full and shears sharpened as its going to start with an intense growing period or bang!
For those who need help with their garden or grounds maintenance we can help; our mowers are all ready, 2 stroke mixed, shears sharpened, strimmers fettled and staff keen to brush of the winter cobwebs ready for the gardeners tan lines.
I thought about writing another edition to the blog back in September when I received a string of phone calls from local Schools asking would we be able to price to undertake the grounds maintenance work from April 2018.
Now this was music to my ears, as; as a business getting into local authority work has always been the goal of Cheshire Grounds Maintenance (CGM) and a huge range of other businesses from Plumbers to paper suppliers. I pride myself on trying to be an ethical business, so when I do get a phone call asking for me to price work from new customers, I always ask if they have a current provider and ask why they are looking elsewhere for the same provision. If the response is that the customer is not happy and the provider is not fulfilling their requirements or it is a legitimate end to a contract and tenders are invited then I have no issues in pricing the work.
Over the past few seasons we have tendered for various Local authority and Parish work, some we have been successful and some we have not. When I find out what the work I didn’t get went for I find my self saying “how can they do it for that”, “surely something has to suffer.” So to be honest the requirements to actually be on the list to tender for Local authority work, these are things like; a certain level of insurance, proof of viability, money in bank to sustain not being paid for a few months, are not worth the rates for the jobs at all. I do not see why a business should work for either no return or at a loss, the idea of business is to make money, invest that money back into the business to sustain quiet periods and I should not be ashamed of wanting to make money by providing a quality service which works safely and keeps customers happy.
In a world where many items we use on a daily basis are going down in price, tv’s , laptops, teles and the endless DFS super sale, costs for businesses big or small are on the rise such as ; Insurance, the insurance tax, petrol, vehicle costs, vehicle duty, costs of materials, cost of repairs, employment costs but what people are willing to pay for the work is decreasing. Now the recession is ten years old and the excuse of the squeeze on costs is waring very thin but people and businesses still expect a quality service at low prices.
Lowest price is not always best value for money. The only true way to see if you’re getting best value is to ensure the job is being done to the same specification. For example; parish councils or Local authorities will have a tender specification which a company will base their tender on. However not all customers will use a work specification so when I have been putting prices in for work, I have had to explain what I will be doing for the price, that’s fine until another company puts a price in which is cheaper but not the same amount of work is covered by the price, but all the clients see is the price.
This has been a long winded way of bringing me back to the original topic of Schools phoning me up asking me to price the work. I said to one person who contacted me, this is a coincidence as I’ve had several calls this week from schools, they responded by saying well you will have as all Cheshire schools have had their budgets cut again and need to find savings or staff will be laid off, so surprise surprise the first thing to be slashed is the grounds maintenance budget, with the ultimate words spoken to me “as its public money we have a duty to provide best value” however best value is not always the cheapest but the cheapest seems to be all the public sector looks for, not necessarily good service but cheap. Now I know a few companies who do the School work and I have an idea of costs they charge the service they provide and even at those costs as a business I could not do it for, never mind with another decrease.
The decrease in costs of Local authority work has been reflected across the various trade industries in both public and private sectors. A good example is several of my clients are property management companies and I like to think we have built up a good relationship, I prioritise their work and they respond to the usual “will you just” “can you just” “now you’re not going to charge for this are you as your already on site” “we will make sure more work comes your way” etc etc. However recently I have lost out to other companies coming in cheaper, with the response from the property management companies being similar to that of the public sector “we have a duty to our clients to make sure we get value for money” and just like the Schools cheaper is not always best. I have looked at the work I have missed out on and the standard has not been the same as mine or more frustratingly it’s not the same job I priced for, less work undertaken so it’s bound to be done cheaper, so all the loyalty I have shown has been forgotten about in the name of best price.
The domestic sector is not much different, I was aware that when doing grounds maintenance for domestic customers your competition is anyone who has a vehicle and mower and quite frequently these people have no insurance or many overheads to worry about so can do jobs cheaper bur not necessarily better. I remember turning up to price cutting a lawn and I quoted £12, the customers were happy then after a few weeks they told me that another company had stopped and quoted £10. I said let them do it for £10. Anyway the next season I was asked to go back to that job as the person who was doing was no longer in business as they couldn’t make it pay, but would I do it for £10. Nope not a chance was my response, I explained it should have been £15 and I was doing them a favour at £12 but no way would I do it for £10, I want to earning money not losing money.
The nights are drawing in, the leaves are changing colour and the smell of Autumn is in the air. So time to put all the gardening tools away until spring, Right!…Wrong!!!
Autumn and winter maintenance is just as important as the traditional spring summer garden maintenance.
Autumn is the time to cut those shrubs right back, please remember your plants and shrubs will look bare when you cut them back but so will everything else. You may get a shock if you really take some shrubs back but don’t worry as they will recover and become full again in spring. Nature is a wonderful thing as any mistakes you think you make cutting back will be repaired with time by nature.
As well as cutting back your shrubs think about the condition of the lawn. Just because crickets finished and the BBQ is away does not mean that the grass cannot be continued to be cut and managed. There is an impression that grass cutting in winter is wrong….Well all I would say is grass grows at approx. 14degrees Celsius, the past few winters we have regularly exceeded that temperature in December through to March so giving it a trim every so often does it no harm at all. It will keep it looking tidy and ready for growth come spring. If the ground is too wet then leave it till after a dry or frosty spell, if you cut when the ground is too wet then you will risk leaving ruts in the ground and tearing the grass not cutting it. Again it will recover but it will look untidy and become hard work to cut.
As well as mowing grass you can improve the drainage of your lawn by simply getting a garden fork and spiking the lawn all over. The holes left by the fork will act as drainage for the water and get the water off the grass and into the ground quicker. This will mean a less soggy lawn and less chance of moss come spring. For the serious gardeners or to really give your garden some TLC, not only spike the lawn but if you spread a layer of sharp sand on the grass then this will improve drainage further.
Where possible try to remove any fallen leaves, these will turn to mush and kill the grass underneath if left in great quantities. Check any draining grids for blockage and try to compost.
Have you thought about what you will do if your customers cant get on your car park due to snow or ice? All that revenue lost!!!
Can you get out of your driveway to get to work if it snows? Council gritters and snow ploughs are only responsible for main bus route roads so they will not be moving snow from your drive or carpark but we can. We are taking names now of people interested in our winter provision. Don’t delay or we may not be able to accommodate you this winter and keep business moving.