How to deal with hedge pruning and customer expectations.

Normally, a new lawn care business can fairly quickly get the hang of bidding lawns because that is the most common of jobs they are called to bid on. But when it comes to bidding on a landscape project that involves a lot of smaller jobs, it can make the estimate more complicated to create. This is especially true with pruning jobs. As we will see from this discussion on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, such jobs get easier to bid over time as you develop a scientific method to doing it.

One lawn care business owner wrote “dealing with hedges is one of the hardest things for me to bid on. How in the world do you go about looking at a bush such as an oleander and bid on trimming it and hauling off the clippings? What do you do when some are large and some are small? What about when you are called to estimate a job where some trees need a few branches cut while others need more. Then the rose bush is over in the corner and that needs work, followed by a boxwood, etc. Then on the other side of the property there is sago palm, or palm tree? Some shrubs need square while some are round!!

1. How do you bid this out on one property with different variety?
2. How or where do you learn to shape bushes?
3. How do you keep the bushes from looking bare when it has not been trimmed in a while? This happens when they want them cut round when the were square for an example? How do you deal with customer’s expectations of the outcome?

Maybe it is just a time issue and figuring out how long such jobs will take individually first. I have all the equipment just want to make sure I use it well.

I have a customer that wants me to bid on 6 sagos and looking at the size and placement I can have them cut and loaded in 45 minutes! The site is not far away. I have been told that this is where the money is so I just want to make sure that I am fair to the customer but at the same time I am making money.”

A second lawn care business owner said “here is how I handle hedge pruning and customers expectations.

1. I bid hedge rows by the foot. The rate per foot is dependent on the height. Individual shrubs are bid on size and complexity. I take into account if I have to hand prune or will use motorized hedge trimmers

2. Where did I learn how to shape hedges? By reading. There are a ton of great books on proper pruning techniques and styles. Also check out local, state and national landscape and arborist organizations. They usually have a wealth of information

3. Educate your clients too. Some things just can’t be undone. Don’t get me wrong, you can do a lot with smart pruning, but a 10 foot tall juniper bush can’t be made into a 3 foot tall juniper bush without either killing it or destroying it’s look. Also educate yourself. If you tell a client that this bush is a (insert common name or scientific name) and this is how it should be maintained and this is what I can do, you will look like a professional and they will value your expertise.

When it comes to pricing hedge trimming, I charge $.50 cents to $2 a linear foot based on height for hedge rows. For individual shrubs, I figure $5 for those under knee height. $10-$15 for knee to shoulder height. $20 and up for those taller than 6 foot. If I have a complete landscape I will discount the final amount because of the efficiencies of working in one place. On top of this amount I will add a disposal fee if I need to make a dump run. For pruning, the prices are similar but usually a few dollars more per size.

When it comes to improving your hedge bidding, and you are dealing with a lot more hedges and variations of what you are called to do, this is where pricing becomes more of an art then a science. It really depends on the type of shrub, access to the shrub, and how easy they will be to clean up etc. I use my experience to determine this number. I should probably come up with a matrix to make it easier as my company grows though.”

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