If you want to establish strong relationships with landscape architects outside your company or strengthen the current ones you have, there are a number of mistakes you can avoid making.
“What I have learned is that many of the LAs we deal with have had negative experiences with contractors that want a shortcut,” says Scott Burk, president of Scott’s Landscaping, Inc., based in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania. “Honesty and integrity will go a long way with any professionals you deal with in your business.”
To make sure the landscape architect you’re working with has as good of an experience during the project as your client does, it comes down to collaboration. Take a second to make sure you’re not practicing any of these behaviors when you’re working with another firm.
Nick Cooper, business development manager for The Greathouse Company, based in Nashville, Tennessee, and Burk both stress the importance of listening to the landscape architect.
“Often, we don’t listen enough, and this can be listening to the owner or the LA,” Burk says. “Sincerely learn what it is the other party is looking for. Then use your experience to walk them through how you can get them what they want. Explain your concerns and how you can overcome those concerns to meet the objective of their design.”
Cooper advises making sure the landscape architect is involved in all your discussions with the client and not to be rigid with your operations methodology.
“Ask them how they prefer to operate and be as flexible as you can with knowing that they are as busy as they have ever been (just as we are) and they appreciate a landscape contractor taking their schedules and lives into consideration,” Cooper says. “Just treat them as you would want to be treated.”
Not Being a Team Player
Bob Marzilli, owner of R.P. Marzilli & Company, based in Medway, Massachusetts, says it’s critical to work with a landscape architect, not against them.
“When we can insert ourselves into the process early on, we can create a collaborative environment with the designer,” he says. “It’s not about being the smartest person in the room but being a team player. You can always solve a problem collaboratively. Once you cross the line of showing up a designer either on a specification or construction technique it is difficult to win back their confidence in the relationship.”
Cooper adds you need to take the time to understand what drives each architect and develop a strategy for working with them.
“One thing I know for sure is once you’ve left a bad taste in an LA’s mouth, it is hard to get it out,” Cooper says. “Make the extra effort in the beginning to learn as much as you can about each individual’s personality, especially if you want to develop a long-term partnership.”
Not Being Transparent
If for whatever reason you can’t meet the landscape architect’s requests, be honest and transparent as to why you cannot meet their needs. Show them how you can get them close to their objective and what it is that is not allowing you to meet their vision.
“If you don’t understand something they are looking for, do some research to see how you can meet their vision,” Burk says. “Once you can talk educated about a project, they generally will respect your experience. Do not try to suggest an easy way to do something. This will only frustrate a professional LA and they will generally feel you are not interested in the best interest of the project.”
Being Negative in Front of the Client
Burk says one rule he has is to never give negative feedback on a design in front of a client. This challenges the integrity of the landscape architect and can put them in a defensive mode. He suggests a polite email or phone call to the architect instead so they don’t become defensive.
“Once the LA sees that you are knowledgeable and want to see the project be a success, they will generally work with you,” Burk says. “Often times the conversation between a contractor and LA can become confrontational and this builds a wall between both parties.”
If you want to learn more about how R.P. Marzilli & Company collaborates with landscape architects, register for Field Trip taking place on June 23-24, 2022.