Definition Landscape & Design
is a Brisbane -based residential landscape design and construction company.
We spoke with their Director, Joseph Nagel, about the approach he is taking to increase his capacity for larger projects while retaining a compact, flexible company structure.
“What we’ve been trying to do is really grow Definition Landscapes to be the biggest that it can be, in terms of delivering the greatest number of projects and highest annual turnover without getting out of control. It’s important to me that our business structure stays compact and flexible, keeping it ‘mean and lean’ I guess, which is why I became interested in outsourcing.”
Definition Landscape’s team is a compact 3 to 4 in the field, one in admin support with Joe alternating between design, sales and being on the tools. Their focus has always been on developing the business as a design and construction outfit however they had always struggled with design fees. A few things have changed on that front since Pitch Box was first recommended to them by another landscaper.
“Before we worked with Pitch Box, I was generally charging around $900-$1000 for a pencil sketch design. I’ve since read a few of the articles on the website about how to ask for higher design fees and been able to apply some of that to our pricing. It’s been working pretty well.”
Joe now commands higher prices for design services. A typical 3D presentation with fly-through, accompanied by a 2D CAD plan will be equal to around 1% of the anticipated construction value of a project. To this he adds the cost of the hours he estimates he will need to spend on preparing the initial sketch concept and then liaising with us to refine the concept. The resulting fee is on par with the remainder of the industry with concept design fees coming in between $2200 to $4500.
This allows Definition Landscapes to cover the cost of outsourcing and stay profitable during the design stage, rather than breaking even or running at a loss as most companies with the overhead expenses of “in-house” design team do.
“It was definitely a change for us to ask for much higher design fees than we were used to. But we found clients weren’t really reacting any differently than when we were asking for $900 for a pencil sketch.”
“Actually, including Pitch Box services in our design fees has become a part of our filtering process. I’ve found that if a client isn’t in a financial position, or has an objection, to paying $3000 or so for a design, they’re probably not the best clients anyway; they’re less interested in doing things properly and less likely to be able to pay for the construction of all the things they asked for during the design stage.”
“I think it’s good to charge higher design fees, even your hourly rate because it shows that you take design seriously, that you rate yourself as a designer.”
“The main reason I would recommend working with Pitch Box is that it gives a better result for the client and their experience of working with us. The 3D’s are great for people on site too, they get a much clearer idea of what they’re working towards. I’m surprised there’s not more people doing it”
“What we’re finding now is that the quality of the projects we work on and the kinds of clients we work with, who are able to pay for construction, has gotten much better. I also don’t need to spend money on software or waste a lot of time trying to improve my software skills, which is not something I want to do.”
Joe typically sends us his design concept as a hand drawn plan on graph paper. Our team of Creator’s love working from Joe’s drawings because he provides a lot of detail. The first thing we do is transfer Joe’s plan into our CAD software and scale it correctly so that 1000mm on the plan is 1000mm in the software
We then trace the entire design, align it carefully with the footprint of the house and the title boundary then get to work building both the house and landscape design from scratch.
When it comes time to rendering the 3D images in our software, Joe prefers the look and feel of our Pencil Sketch effect because it gives a softer, less realistic feel without losing the physical composition of the design.This helps clients to balance their attention with the plan and the items listed in the construction contract when confirming project deliverables.
Formation is a residential landscape design and construction company based in Melbourne.
In early 2016, with a track record of successful design and construction projects accumulating under their belt, Formation experienced a surge in opportunities based largely on word-of-mouth referrals from a string of satisfied customers
“We were gaining momentum, virtually every consult I attended turned into a client giving the go ahead for design, which was great. At the same time I had sixteen people working on different sites across Melbourne and finding the time to get around to all of them, to oversee construction, was getting difficult.”
At that time, like many design and construct outfits, Chris was doing the design work himself.With the pressure of multiple projects in construction and a backlog of both existing and new clients and designs waiting to be completed Chris could sense his business was beginning to falter.
“I just didn’t have enough time. We had a lot of construction jobs on at once but I also needed to find time to be in the office, to focus on getting the new designs done and getting them priced. I started feeling things were getting away from me and worried I wasn’t giving the same level of service to everyone, which wasn’t good.”
It was around that time Chris was introduced to Pitch Box. We discussed the situation that had emerged in his business and proposed a course of action to help him get on top of things as soon as possible.
We started by helping him finish the projects he’d started but hadn’t finished, including getting the CAD plans drawn up to gain final approval from his clients and local councils.
By working with Pitch Box, Chris was finding he finally had more time to attend to construction management, clients and other business. It wasn’t long before he took the plunge and enlisted Pitch Box to collaborate on new projects from start to finish.
Over a period of 9 months, Chris was able to design and deliver a whopping 25 projects without hiring any permanent, in-house design staff.
“Honestly there was absolutely no way I could have done this on my own.”
“I guess the other thing is, if you think about the cost of having someone at a desk, in an office; that’s somewhere around $70,000 a year, minimum, for someone who can hit the ground running. The problem with that is, once they’re in, you’ve got to keep finding work for them to do.”
“We’ve now dealt with the backlog of design work and have enough to just move forward with construction for a while, but over that period I probably spent only around $20,000 or so with Pitch Box. If I hadn’t done that, I would have ended up in the situation of having someone sitting in an office, costing me an additional $50,000 for the year, for work we’ve already done.”
“When I look back on this, working with Pitch Box was a great strategic move that I would recommend to other landscapers who are in that state of transition from going it alone to bringing someone permanent, in-house, which will happen eventually.”
“It’s piece of mind really.. Especially if you already have the responsibility of paying all your construction guys, you don’t necessarily need to take on the cost of bringing a designer in. That’s why I think it’s a great solution while you’re in transition.. you get access to a whole team, which is more reliable than a solo freelancer, and it’s only for maybe for a year or two until you’re ready to take that next step.”
Although Chris knows how to use design software, he typically provides us with his ideas as a combination of a base plan in his software, with notes typed up for extra instructions that include photos/images of the different ideas and materials he wants incorporated into the design.
We do a lot of the Development Approval drawings for Formation too. Although we don’t typically provide construction details, Chris provides detailed sketches of these which we happily transfer to CAD and place on the drawings.
Jane Jones Landscapes
is a residential garden design company based in the leafy suburb of Kew in Melbourne.
“Jane’s designs focus heavily on the planting scheme, often featuring over 30 species in the schedule.”
Jane’s designs focus heavily on the planting scheme, often featuring over 30 species in the schedule. She generally provides her design ideas as a sketch over a site plan, surrounded by notes and labels that describe both the concept and the plants on the one drawing. It takes serious concentration from our Creators to transfer everything on the plans to CAD, but the end result is a neat and legible drawing set that she can confidently present to her clients under her brand.