Partnering on Regional or National Interiorscape Accounts

You may have received the call, “we have a client in your area and we’d like know if you can service them.”

It’s an opportunity to be the sub-contractor for an out-of-state interiorscape firm.

If the call is from an industry friend or an unfamiliar peer, the success and value of such a partnership depends on some key factors. When done right, the account is a profitable “win-win.” In fact, some interiorscapers have amassed entire portfolios of local service contracts as a sub-contractor to others worth thousands per month in maintenance revenue.

What aRE national accountS?

It’s a company or institution who has contracted one firm to manage their interior landscape services regionally, nationally or even internationally. Clients decide they want national account services for various reasons, which most often fall into two categories.

Design driven: The client has a relationship with a designer or company and wants him or her to be responsible for the design and consistency for all locations. This is important for brand conscious clients.

Logistics and management:  The client simply wants one outsourced provider, so they don’t need to spend the time finding, vetting and communicating to a new provider in each market.

Regardless of the reason, by the time you receive the call to partner, the client has already decided they want regional or national account management. In my experience, 95% of all partner opportunities are for new locations and new designs, with very little risk that the opportunity would have any impact on an existing account in your portfolio.

Key Factors to a Win-Win

This type of work relationship requires excellent organization, a well-defined scope and mutual trust. It’s also about understanding how responsibilities are best divvied-up to make each other’s jobs easier. These are the qualities and benefits of the most successful partner arrangements.

Lower cost of sales:  The biggest benefit of partnering on an account is the low cost of sales. The opportunity comes to you without the expense or time devoted to knocking on doors, networking or advertising. The best ones are designed, formatted and figured-out by an experience interiorscaper in advance. What’s not to like about no prospecting, no design work and without the song and dance of trying to figure-out what the client wants? If well organized, national accounts are easy money.     

Less BS, less risk:  Life is much simpler when someone else jumps through bureaucratic hoops to land an account, and it’s less risky for you too. Typically, these clients are big corporations with centralized purchasing, various layers of decision making, a complex vendor screening and payment process. The firm that holds the contract takes on this burden of navigating the beast. What’s more, the firm who is hiring you is likely drop-shipping the higher dollar materials to you, such as containers or holiday décor, so you are not on the hook if the client rejects special order goods.

Fair pricing:  The company that hires you to perform the work will need to make a margin, so it’s worthwhile for them too. You will need to include a discount when pricing the job to keep the budget within the marketplace norms. The easier the job, the greater the reason to offer a discount, especially if it fits well within your existing service routes.

Mutual trust:  The firm who hires you to be a partner is depending on you to perform the job professionally and represent them. You are trusting them work-out any challenges and ensure you get paid in a timely manner. It requires both parties to deliver each other good service as your interests are aligned.

Evaluating the opportunity

If you are unsure about the partner opportunity presented to you, consider these questions:

Is the company reputable?
Have you done business with them before? If you are unfamiliar with the company, ask for references on other interiorscapers who partnered on the job in different parts of the country.  Remember, reputable is different than being well-liked, so keep it a business decision. Has the company administered national accounts before?

How long have they worked for this client?
Typically, they won’t reveal the name of the client until after your proposal is accepted. However, it is completely fair to ask how long they’ve serviced the client and for how many locations. If they’ve serviced the client for years, it is probable that the job will be smooth and easy. If your market is one of the first locations, additional help from you will likely be needed and warranted, especially of it’s going to bid against a major competitor.

Is the job straight forward and easy to understand?
Highly customized and sometimes wacky specifications are common on national accounts but if the weird stuff is pre-purchased and sourced for you, don’t fret. Evaluate the labor, deadlines and details. Look for good organization and expertise in understanding how the account should be installed and maintained.

In some ways partnering on an account is no different than working for a property management firm that takes a fee or organizing vendors. In other ways, partnering on a national account is like taking on an additional salesperson without the added overhead. Once you develop a working relationship, it opens the door to service more locations and grows your business.


Shane Pliska is the President of Planterra Corporation in West Bloomfield, Michigan.  He oversees the company’s three business of interior landscaping, display services and events.  Planterra’s interiorscape division serves Detroit, Grand Rapids and Northeastern Ohio, and also maintains a portfolio of national accounts.  Shane is a graduate of Emerson College and serves on the board of the West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce.  Follow Shane on Twitter @ShanePliska

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