Refine your curb appeal and reap the rewards.
How would you define curb appeal? A potential customer should observe an immaculate, clean, vibrant and organized exterior when visiting your property.
First impressions are crucial and your curb appeal can make or break the success of your business. Don’t turn off potential customers before they even step inside your facility! Instead, cultivate curb appeal, set your self apart from the competition and entice potential customers with curb charisma!
Your guests’ first impression of your facility’s exteriors can significantly affect their experience and, ultimately, their perception of your company. An unattractive exterior with oversized trees, dying plants, weed-ridden sidewalks, garbage all over the curb, dated signage and a torn up parking lot is uninviting and projects a negative image. The customer service experience begins outside; the instant a customer pulls into the parking lot. If your property is uninviting, customers may immediately assume the services and offerings inside are of the same poor quality.
As the facility manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that each of the sites in your portfolio is functionally and aesthetically pleasing from the customer’s vantage point. Whether you choose to take on exterior maintenance in-house or outsource to an Exterior Services Management® (ESM) Company, developing a comprehensive plan for maintenance, with corresponding specifications for time and scope of service, is crucial to a successful endeavor.
Perhaps one of the most daunting tasks in establishing this plan; however, is outlining an effective plan for the sites’ locations, especially if the facility manager is responsible for numerous properties in a national footprint. If your facility’s exterior doesn’t shine, there are plenty of steps that can be taken to unleash its charm.
The Green Care Elements
Two of the most influential factors when dealing with facility curb appeal are landscaping and planting bed maintenance. As an expert of 29 years in the ESM Industry, I am going to tell you a little about these two facets of Green Care and why they are so important for business. Hopefully, this article will help you decide if you are a candidate for outsourcing these particular services.
Landscaping serves numerous functions across locations, regardless of whether it is a commercial, industrial, educational or residential property. Exterior design creates an eye flow and aesthetic appeal, as well as determines traffic flow and defines space. The specific vegetation used in landscaping can hide unattractive assets, provide privacy, accent a view or property features, supply shade, retain or block heat and wind, limit erosion and provide a sound barrier. Despite the functional uses; however, landscaping can also create a number of safety-related issues if improperly designed, installed or maintained. Overgrown ornamentals and shrubbery can create hiding spaces, damage the building, harbor pest infestations and block visibility.
What I have found throughout years of experience is that landscaping and planting bed maintenance are two of the most important services an ESM Company can offer. These services include keeping weeds at bay, planting flowers, picking up trash, eliminating pests, turf mowing, edging and other work that requires much expertise.
Why outsource these tasks? Customers who try and cut corners only end up spending more money to fix their mistakes. For example, some customers overstate their areas and plant trees that are too large. As a result, the tree may consume too much space and block their view, hinder customer safety when a storm approaches, or die prematurely. Other problems include planting greenery in inappropriate sunlight areas, mixing plants together that require little water with those that require a lot of water, and letting weeds get out of hand.
When looking for a contractor, make sure the staff is knowledgeable about all facets of landscaping and planting bed maintenance. For example, they should not only be aware of what looks good today, but what their work will look like five or ten years down the road. It does not pay to plant a tree that will only block the building’s facade later, select flowers that will only bloom for a season, or lay concrete down incorrectly if it will only crack and become unsettled in the future.
Tips of the Trade
Sometimes it takes trial and error to find the best Green Care methods; however, it is much more cost effective to avoid this tactic and complete tasks properly the first time. A knowledgeable, professional ESM provider can help, allowing you to focus on your other responsibilities. With proper design and maintenance, landscaping can function to create privacy, block street-level noise, allow for better visibility, provide a safe environment and create exterior appeal. Here are a few tips that take functionality, aesthetic appeal and safety into consideration to help cultivate curb appeal for your properties.
- Specify weekly landscape maintenance service. Even in extreme dry periods when turf grasses might not need mowing, the weeds still grow and other services will be necessary. Landscape maintenance services may include, but are not limited to:
- Turf mowing
- Litter pick up in landscape and hard surface areas
- Planting bed weed control
- Turf fertilization and weed control
- Plant/tree pruning and trimming
- Hard surface edging
- Irrigation monitoring
- Annual flower maintenance
- Indicate that edging is performed monthly. If a distinguished edge is established during spring clean-up, then a monthly service is adequate. Make sure plant beds are mulched and edged to create nice, crisp lines.
- Depending on the property’s location, specify that mulch be installed annually within the first month of “growing season.” Normally, mulch installation is performed as part of spring clean-up in March or April depending on location, but it can be applied earlier in the year in the warmer parts of nation. Freshly installed mulch, a crisply cut planting bed and tree ring edges greatly enhance curb appeal. Mulch provides moisture retention for your plant life and helps control weed growth. I recommend that you have two inches installed on an annual basis.
- Read the directions and plant information carefully when purchasing flowers, shrubbery and trees. A lack of (or even too much) sunlight can damage plant growth. A brochure or informational tag is usually found somewhere on the plant or given at the time of purchase with recommended sunlight and watering directions. Consult an ESM professional to help you select plants that are the most appropriate variety and size for your geographic location and site specific conditions.
- Become aware of different wildlife in the area to avoid damage to your plant beds. For example, deer like to feed on shrubs and beetles will devour your leaves. Taking necessary precautions will ensure that your plant life will flourish rather than deteriorate.
- When watering plants and trees, water early in the morning to prevent immediate evaporation. This will allow deep penetration to the roots of the plants. Watering more deeply every so often is much better than daily surface watering.
- Your landscape maintenance company should pick up litter in your turf and planting bed areas when performing their weekly service. If needed, you can employ someone to perform additional “porter” service throughout the week.
- Use hardscaping and walkways to clearly define traffic flow, and ponds, fountains and similar assets as blockades to deter unwanted entry.
- Proper lighting around your stores’ exteriors can not only enhance the perceived safety of your site, but also accentuate certain property features.
- Follow a routine maintenance schedule.
Are you an ESM candidate?
In order to determine whether or not you should outsource landscaping and planting bed maintenance to an ESM provider, you should take a moment to answer the following questions:
- Are you aware of the different fertilizers available, have a safe place to store them and are able to use them safely and effectively?
- Are you familiar with what settings your sprayers should be set to in order to apply the proper amount of fertilizers correctly?
- Does your staff have enough time to constantly check and maintain the outside areas in addition to their inside tasks? Are they properly educated in horticulture and chemical management?
- Do you know what shrubbery is appropriate for current weather conditions at all locations? Do you know what plants you should combine, and which ones you should not?
- Are your employees familiar with which types of animals are beneficial to your plants, and which ones can cause great devastation?
- Are you fully prepared for litigation, if an accident occurred due to property neglect and someone filed a lawsuit?
If you answered no to one or more of these questions and have multiple locations, you are the perfect candidate for utilizing an ESM Company.
Though landscaping and planting bed maintenance may not be rocket science, it is a definite skill that takes years to perfect. It would be nice if every member of management were a horticulturist, but odds are they will not be. After all, why would you hire a planting care specialist to handle sales? You wouldn’t, so don’t expect sales management to handle landscaping and planting bed maintenance. Consider consulting a professional ESM company who can address all of your questions and develop a comprehensive exterior maintenance plan. A management program can help improve your curb appeal, streamline service delivery, reduce overall expenses, mitigate liability concerns and provide quality assured service to each of your properties, while allowing you to focus on your core business needs.