Jun 9, 2009

The Age of Value

A recent value-added design, realizedNot low cost—just high valueI went to a presentation today sponsored by a couple of my favorite suppliers, Bamboo Pipeline and Monrovia Growers. And one of the executives, whose job it is to understand things like business cycles, described our current era as "the Age of Value": consumers obviously aren't throwing money around indiscriminately; but despite our economic woes, neither are they looking for the flat-out cheapest solution. Nope, we're still willing to spend our money — we just insist on getting best-in-class results for it.

Which made me think about why, despite our economic woes, people are still paying good money to hire good landscape designers and contractors. As I've written before, my work isn't exactly the foundation of Maslow's hierarchy, but this isn't about the hire-me-versus-do-it-yourself dilemma. This is about spending thousands of extra dollars to ensure a premium result. It's about specifying and buying Monrovia plants and FX Luminaire fixtures instead of whatever's on sale this weekend at the big-box store.

I'm not the least expensive designer out there, and definitely not the fastest. So it's understandable that I'm not the best fit for everybody. But the ones who do call me, and ultimately hire me, know what they're getting. They know I'll give them a clear vision… attention to mundane details… plans that deliver more information… plants that are perfect for their site and different from everyone else's. In a word, I'll give them value.

It's the same with contractors. I work with some of the best in the business, and quality ain't cheap. I know (because I've been in those shoes) the shock of finding out how much a seemingly simple plan actually costs. I've gasped upon learning that "just" prepping this little site is half of the client's budget. And I know that someone else could do it cheaper. Someone else can always do it cheaper. But what value gets lost? The quality of construction? The attention to detail? The level of contact and communication before, during and after the job? There's always a tradeoff. Always.

I'm grateful that my clients and I — and hey, in This Economy, anyone — has money to spend on luxuries like landscaping. I don't take it for granted, and I'm not looking to take advantage. In fact, no one I know is; not even the highest-priced contractor or landscape architect. We all take it as an honor that you would even consider entrusting us with your money. And we're going to do our damndest to reward you with some pretty high value in return.


Laura Livengood Schaub said...

John, well said. Knowing the high cost of construction, the best thing a savvy customer can do is have a clear plan. Even if it isn't all created at once...there is a vision of what it can become. It informs every decision, from structures to plants to furnishings. When discretionary dollars are available, the next step is clear. This is SO different from the way a gardener would build a garden, and the result is quite a different beast, really. Most of are clients are not hard-core gardeners; they know little or nothing about plants and garden building. We help get the ideas out of everyone's heads and onto the paper (and into the dirt!) where they belong...I think that's valuable. Thanks John...I'm going to the BPL Monrovia thingie tomorrow...any swag? ;-}

John said...

Thanks for the affirmation, Laura. I agree that some of the best value we create is as a guide, sherpa, concierge… call it what you will, when we can help a homeowner get to a destination they'll love, that's priceless.

Laura Livengood Schaub said...

Garden Sherpa! I'm totally stealing that...xo