Biggest Management Mistakes I've Ever Made

Part 2: Ed Laflamme LIC and Bill Arman of The Harvest Group discuss the estimating process.

Bill Arman (left) and Ed Laflamme of The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting.
Bill Arman (left) and Ed Laflamme of The Harvest Group Landscape Business Consulting.

Salespeople need to measure correctly

A large city contract was going out to competitive pricing. A great deal of the work was maintaining median turf islands. The salesperson responsible for estimating the job went to the site to measure.

He walked out to the first island and measured the width to make sure he got the square footage correct. The width was 8 feet. That was a pretty easy measurement, right? From there he got in his car, set his odometer, and proceeded to measure the lineal feet of the islands. There were several miles of islands.

When he arrived back in the office, it was pretty simple: 8 feet times the lineal measurement equals the total square feet, right? Wrong! As it turned out, that first island was the only median in the city that was 8 feet wide. The other islands were 12 feet wide. Considering the miles and miles of medians, this was a huge error.

As you'd expect, we were by far the low bid—so low that we were asked to come in and explain ourselves. Fortunately we discovered our mistake, which we shared with the city people. They graciously let us off the hook. This would have been a very expensive error for a five-year contract had we been awarded it.

Take the time to measure accurately. Also, establish a cross-check system to ensure that your estimates are accurate. Whether you are in the landscape installation or maintenance business, accurate estimates are at the root of your pricing.

A second set of eyes reviews big estimates

One of my most expensive mistakes was when a new employee left out an entire section from a landscape plan. Of course, we were low bid and got the job.

This was for a first-class, Fortune 500 world headquarters in Stamford, CT. The company was completely renovating their landscaping. We began the job. All was well until my project manager realized the entire courtyard was omitted from the job estimate. He immediately brought this to my attention. This oversight cost $50,000.

On large jobs like this, always have a second set of eyes review the estimate. Mistakes happen, but mistakes like this can be easily prevented.