Discover the Best Clients for Your Interiorscape Company
Having owned two interiorscape companies, I’ve learned which businesses make the best clients. In 1999, I purchased an existing interiorscape business that serviced only commercial accounts. The client list included car dealerships, restaurants, mortgage brokers, national banks, law firms, and a few other offices. Within a year, I doubled the revenue without making any cold calls or attending any networking groups. My only marketing was a single ad in the yellow pages. Horticultural life was good.
Then came recession.
The housing market began to crash in early 2000. One by one, I started to lose the mortgage companies. At first, most were small local brokers. By 2004, though, I lost every mortgage lender including some of the biggest names in the country. Then some of the dealerships, banks, and restaurants went away as well. During this time, I vividly remember something a senior Fortune 500 mortgage broker once said to me: “The mortgage industry is feast or famine. One day we can hire 200 people and the next month, lay off 600.”
I had three of their company’s buildings under contract. I never imagined they couldn’t afford my monthly fee, which was miniscule compared to their $20,000 monthly electric bill. When I saw signs posted in the breakroom that they would no longer supply paper products, I knew the plants were next on the chopping block. This time, my prediction was right.
Several years later, I started my second interiorscape business with a small loan from my attorney. I didn’t have a single client and the city was still suffering from the recession. This time, I had to make cold calls, attend networking groups, and pray I could find businesses willing to budget for plants. If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know how much time, money, and energy goes into making one sale. I didn’t even try selling to any mortgage companies. Banks became so tight it was like getting inside Fort Knox to win one of those accounts.
Because of my experiences with my first interiorscape company, I focused more on recession proof industries.
Car Dealership Clients
Getting a dealership has its advantages, because cars are something most people need. One advantage for us is that vehicle showrooms have good natural light, making the replacement factors much lower. Another good selling point is that plants inside make a big difference in reducing the carbon monoxide emissions when display vehicles are moved in and out. In my past experience, mid-range car brands tend to be more volatile. During the recession, dealerships that focused on used vehicles increased their revenue. The luxury brands also remain pretty steady, as they are willing to spend more for the services their clientele expect.
High end hotels can be a great source to market to. Their need to impress and outdo their competition makes them more likely to budget for interiorscape services. The biggest advantage we have is the fact that hotels need live plants to receive a five-star rating. Not all hotels are the same.
One time, I created this elaborate design for a hotel near our airport that had a beautiful indoor waterfall with tropical plants surrounding it. The plants were maintained by their janitorial staff and it showed. The inground planters were extensive and took me several days to complete. Excited about the prospect of transforming this space into a tropical oasis, I stopped by the hotel a month later to follow up, only to find the manager copied my design, bought the plants at Home Depot, and used his staff to service it. I was pissed off, believe me. This was the second time a hotel stole my design.
Other hotels I’ve designed for that are in the high end bracket, such as Hyatt and Marriott, have been honest and reliable clients. From my experience, if the hotel has a reputation to uphold, I would certainly recommend trying to gain their business. If the hotel has changed ownership or shows signs of financial struggle like using housekeeping staff as gardeners, I would be very cautious.
High Rise and Office Park Clients
Mixed use buildings that lease space are a reliable source for our service. Having lush interior foliage in their lobbies is one way to attract and maintain quality clients. The buildings designed with built-in atriums, especially with large water features, I can almost guarantee will always have a need for professional interiorscape service. The exceptions are places like hotels that use their own staff and don’t care if mealy bug ravage the plants or if dead leaves hang everywhere.
Sometimes, the management at these hotels learn a lesson. Or they just continue to burden their staff and get free Home Depot replacements. The buildings that want to attract the big-name clientele such as law firms, will generally outsource plant care to a professional. During the recession, some of these high-end buildings did cut back on potted plants in secondary areas like elevator lobbies, but the main floor atriums always remained under contract for us to service.
Voted Best Company to Work For Clients
In my city, we have a business magazine that rates the top local companies for employees. Over my many years in the horticulture industry, I’ve discovered some of my best and most reliable accounts were on this list. It made perfect sense. These businesses realized recruiting and retaining happy employees was key to their success. I also noticed most of their employees stayed there until retirement. Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to find an employer who offers great benefits, gives generous bonuses, budgets for catered lunches and outings, and invests in welcoming work spaces that include real plants. Places like law firms, engineering, tech, and public relations agencies normally fall into this category. If your city has a list of Best Companies to work for, going after those accounts will be in your best interest.
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