Most landscapers loathe the term ‘landscapers’. Those of us who think we perform at a high level and apply best practices prefer being referenced as ‘landscape contractors’. Those of us with a landscape architect on staff like to be referenced as ‘architects and contractors’. Those of us with awards like to trumpet that we are ‘award-winning’.
Why? Because in this crazy world we live in, we see landscapers as someone who cuts your grass cheaply (mow and go), shears your plants at the wrong time of year (whip, snip and clip), and employs a relatively unskilled (illegal ) labor force.
On the other hand, as landscape contractors, we see ourselves as providing lawn maintenance services, hand-pruning your plants at the correct time, and employing a high-skilled labor force that can build an awesome landscape or garden with pride. We also have a designer or two on staff other than the owner. Most of us have employees with degrees in horticulture, agronomy or architecture.
Unfortunately for us, the enlightened, we know (think) that the public views us all as landscapers.
We want you to know that we are better than the landscaper down the street. This applies in Frankfort, Naperville, Wilmette and Orland Park. We want you to know we are not a three man operation working out of a basement. We are desperate that you understand the distinction between us and those doggone landscapers!
As landscape contractors, we have not gotten the message out very well to the public. Since there is no licensing for landscaping like there might be for electricians or plumbers we simply cannot figure out how to make the distinction between the highly skilled and the wannabes.
Some of us join associations such as the ILCA or the ASLA, but the public really doesn’t connect with that. Some of us constantly attend classes, seminars and industry events to stay abreast of current issues and methodologies. Belonging to associations and continuing education are good things, but again, they don’t really connect to the public at large. They assume our career choice was based on rejection in all other fields.
And so, we slog along hoping that you, the homeowner, will ask one of the magic questions such as “Can you tell us about your company”, or “Do you have a design philosophy?” Either one, among other probing questions, allows us to expand and expound on our corporate or personal credentials with the hope that you become enlightened as to how wonderful and qualified we are.
What really sounds crazy is that when I create good spaces I think in some small way that I might be positively impacting someone’s family time. While not curing cancer, I believe deep in my heart that a job well done does make a difference for most of my clients.
A good friend of mine is one of the top landscape architects in the state of Illinois. He performs at an elite level. Bob does not need to slug it out in the trenches quite as much as the rest of us. His position in the industry is established. He has branded himself quite nicely so that he doesn’t much care how he is referenced.
He has developed a wry sense of humor about our industry quandary that I have yet to embrace. Whenever we are at a meeting, industry function or casual lunch, he announces his departure with “See you later, I gotta go sell some shrubs.” On occasion I borrow the line, but it always sounds better when he says it.
Regardless, when I hear him say it always brings me back to earth and makes me smile, reminding me that I am a landscaper!