Pros & Cons: Should You Hire A Professional Landscape Contractor Or Maintain Your Own Facility’s Grounds?

Dallis Crowe on Aug 15, 2016 7:30:00 AM

Managing care of the wide range of maintenance tasks on your commercial property is like running an operation that’s unrelated to your core business. If you’re a manufacturing plant, your focus is on producing goods—not tending to landscaping. If you’re a healthcare institution, you’re delivering patient care—not rushing to the parking lot to clear snow and ice after a storm.

We’re guessing your mission is not to create and maintain an attractive, safe landscape. Still, who can afford to cut corners on grounds management? Your Lexington property says a lot about who you are as an organization. (Sloppy, unsafe grounds send a negative message.)

So, how should you handle grounds maintenance?

HardscapeWe know there are pros and cons to outsourcing facilities ground management. When you hire a contractor to do anything on your property, you’re entrusting in an outside partner to appreciate your grounds like you do. You might be worried about quality—and of course, there’s cost. Perhaps keeping maintenance duties in-house is an effort to control expenses.

On the other hand, what are you really saving by choosing to do your own facilities grounds management? And, how much time are you spending on maintenance that could be redirected toward revenue-generating activities?

In business, the savvy owners and managers recognize their strengths and focus on performing what they do best. They surround themselves with talented teams of people who complement their skills— professionals who are strong where they lack expertise.

We know you’ve got decisions to make concerning who and whether you hire out services like grounds maintenance. So, let’s discuss the pros and cons here.

Delivering Quality

No matter your business, customer experience matters. First, there’s the appearance or “feel good” aspect of your commercial property. Is it welcoming? Do customers and employees have pride in their decision to do business with you or work for your organization?

Is the property safe—free of debris, clear of snow and ice. Taking that a step further, does the grounds meet environmental services expectations? Cutting corners on landscape maintenance will compromise all of these factors that play into the customer experience.

When any business tries to do it all, details get overlooked. The pro of hiring a professional facilities grounds management firm is that the company specializes in assuring your property looks and performs in the first-class way you want to present your business. We often talk to property owners who express relief after they hire a professional. They say, “We didn’t realize how much time we were spending on grounds maintenance until we hired you—and the landscape looks better now.”

ACS Perennial Garden in KentuckyCost: Will You Really Save Money?

Every business has a budget. Every organization has to draw a line somewhere with spending. We get it. The question is, when determining whether to self-perform grounds maintenance or hire a professional, are you considering all of the costs associated with expertly caring for your commercial property? Believe us, they add up.

We have experience working with corporate campuses, manufacturing facilities and other institutions in healthcare and academia. Many of them who tried to manage their own grounds management at one time stopped because they weren’t saving money like they expected. In fact, some of them found they were spending more.

Of course, managing landscape maintenance in house (and don’t forget about snow and ice removal!) could cost less than a professional. But often that is only with cutting corners, and then you’re risking quality and safety. Cost, quality—it all goes together.

Keep in mind these expenses associated with facilities grounds management as you determine the real cost of doing it yourself.

  • Employee wages. This includes benefits, health insurance and disability. Figure the total cost of keeping grounds maintenance employees on payroll. Remember, you’re paying them 52 weeks out of the year and potentially adding in overtime expenses during the busy landscaping or snow removal seasons.
  • Additional employee costs. What about training? Remember liability insurance? Also, the manager of your grounds team will earn more, so figure in those supervision costs.
  • Equipment expenses. You’re not just paying for people. They’ll need equipment. For a four-person crew, you’ll need a truck and covered trailer to store equipment safely. Tools include a riding mower, two walk-behind mowers and an extra mower in case one of those needs repaired. (Those costs must also be figured.) Your arsenal of power tools ranges from string trimmers, and edger, backpack blowers, hedge shears and at least one fertilizer applicator. Hand tools are also necessary: pruners, shovels, rakes, tarps, gas cans, etc. As for snow-removal, these duties require commercial-grade snowplows, a tailgate salt spreader and snow blowers.
  • Personal safety. You’re insurance provider will need to know that you are operating a grounds maintenance division. Also, there are regulations concerning personal safety, such as requirements for equipment like safety glasses, earplugs, boots, gloves and other attire.
  • Operating costs. Power equipment needs fuel. All landscape maintenance tools require maintenance and eventual replacement. Also, you’ll need licensing to perform grounds management duties. This varies by state.
  • Supplies. Adding to your expense list are supplies such as mulch, fertilizer and irrigation parts. (Also, where will you store all of these necessities?)

Timing Is Everything: Scheduling Grounds Maintenance

Now that you know the costs, you might be prepared to work those expenses into your budget. Beyond what you’ll spend in terms of dollars, an equally important factor is time and scheduling. Many commercial facilities have zero tolerance for snow and ice during winter. They just can’t shoulder the liability of an accident, and protecting client and employee safety is critical.

Also, some property owners assign maintenance tasks to their grounds management crews that are completely unrelated to the outdoors. If in-house maintenance is tied up handling an electrical or plumbing problem, what happens to the exterior of the property in the meantime?

Klausing Group Employee Hard at Work

We talked to a facilities manager recently who was also in charge of the grounds. He told us, “It was hard to keep up with both. I spent all my time worrying about the grounds.” Point is, you can’t spread people too thin if you expect quality and demand safety.

The benefit of hiring a professional facilities grounds management company is that the firm is dedicated to enhancing your property’s appearance, safety and environmental services.

Conserve Resources By Partnering With A Pro

There are commercial properties that manage their own grounds maintenance and they are willing to dedicate the time, people and financial resources to get it right. But what’s your primary focus as an organization? Consider the pros and cons of dedicating yourself to what’s most important and generates revenue vs. “doing it all.”

Let’s talk about how partnering with a professional grounds management firm can help conserve your resources. Call us any time at 859-254-0762, or fill out this simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you.


FREE RESOURCE: In-House Operations Cost Analysis Worksheet

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