A Better Plan for Plant Procurement

Plantbid can help contractors find quality products at great prices, in a fraction of the time normally spent procuring materials.

The expanded search results page allows you to see what plants are coming from which nurseries and at what price. You can also view what the plant looks like if the nursery included an image.
The expanded search results page allows you to see what plants are coming from which nurseries and at what price. You can also view what the plant looks like if the nursery included an image.

You've probably heard the saying, "You have to spend more time working on your business as opposed to in it," at least a hundred times. What about those tasks that fall somewhere in between? Buying materials is a good example. Locating the right products at the best prices can boost your bottom line. But materials hunting can also be quite time-consuming, which can adversely affect your bottom line in the longer run.

Cameron Cantrelle has been in the landscaping business for many years. He understands how much unprofitable time can be spent searching for materials. That's why he co-founded Plantbid, an online plant sourcing tool that connects landscaping professionals to 250-plus nurseries throughout the country.

In order to qualify, a nursery must be either a grower or supplier of green goods from a wholesale perspective, as opposed to a retail nursery. There is also a quality-standard checklist that needs to be met, based on visual inspections. Plantbid then works closely with the growers and haulers to make sure delivery windows are met based on contractors' needs. Many times, Cantrelle points out, if materials are being delivered directly to a jobsite, Plantbid will confirm receipt or even manage the process through a holding center.

Cantrelle, who serves as CEO, is partners with Dave Wooden, a tech guru who serves as Plantbid's chief technology officer (CTO). Bud Powell is vice president of sales and marketing, and works closely with both contractors and nurseries to make sure Plantbid is effective and easy to use.

Charlie Moffatt, who utilizes Plantbid as both a landscape contractor (buyer) and wholesale nursery (seller), says it is. "Overall, Plantbid is very reliable," says Moffatt, owner of Elite Outdoor Image and Robert & Moffatt Tree Farm in the Baton Rouge, LA, area. "Someone is always there to pick up the phone and help you, which is important to me."

For landscaping jobs, Moffatt says he has always had good luck receiving the plants he needs, when he needs them. "And if you ever have an issue, Plantbid is right on it," Moffatt adds.

Kirk Cameron, owner of Madison Planting & Design Group (MPDG) in Ridgeland, MS, is another landscape contractor who has been pleased with his experience with Plantbid. "Everything has been real smooth," Cameron relates. "I typically give them a couple of weeks to pull an order together, and they've always come through. Everything has been delivered when we needed it and in great condition. Having a supplier that really seems concerned about getting customers their materials on time has been really refreshing."

Outsource your plant sourcing

Plantbid's search tool is a simple, yet powerful technology designed to deliver exact job specifications in under 10 seconds, Cantrelle points out. Nurseries provide their full and updated inventories. Buyers (i.e. landscapers) can then search for plants using either the search tool or Plantbid's unique Request for Proposal tool. Based on jobsite location, Plantbid then digs through the nursery data and matches a plant list to several purchasing options.

"For a company like mine, I'm pretty much the only guy," Cameron relates. "I'm designing and selling, running crews, and ordering materials. I don't want to spend hours and hours calling around to find plants and get everything lined up. For me to call one person (Plantbid) and say, 'Here's my list, get it for me at a great price,' is very valuable."

Cameron adds that while he places one big plant order through Plantbid, the plants and invoices themselves typically come from several different nurseries. "So I'm writing individual checks to all of these vendors, and another check to Plantbid for brokering it," Cameron points out. "But this is still easier and less expensive than doing it all on my own."

Moffatt feels exactly the same. "Plant brokers are almost always a necessity because I'm wearing so many hats," he says. "I've used a broker down here in Louisiana before. With Plantbid, they've really refined the brokering system, giving contractors access to all kinds of growers all over the country. Plus, their website is nice with nice pictures, so it's easy to use."

Moffatt also uses Plantbid to sell inventory from his tree farm. "When I started thinking about doing this, Bud from Plantbid came out to walk me through it," Moffatt says. "He helped me get my inventory uploaded to the site, and refine my pricing and marketing. Overall he gave me some great insights into the plant wholesale market, which was really helpful."

Ideal for bigger orders

Moffatt plans to continue using Plantbid. But he also plans to continue using local vendors from time to time. "On bigger jobs like larger commercial projects, it makes so much sense to use Plantbid," he explains. "When you're ordering a lot of different types of material, especially when the plants are specified by landscape architects and harder to find, Plantbid is a great resource."

Cameron agrees, saying, "My rule of thumb is to look to Plantbid when ordering at least $5,000 worth of materials. If it's less than that, it probably makes more sense to just use local suppliers. The freight cost would likely eat up your smaller orders. So the volume has to be big enough for the freight cost and brokering fees to be offset by the better pricing we get.

"We recently did a big job in Yazoo City with $17,000 worth of plant material on it," Cameron continues. "Plantbid was wonderful here. I sent them my list, they found what I needed and sent it back to me. I pointed out the items I thought were priced too high or not a high enough quality. Plantbid continued to work on it. In the end, I had five or six vendors sending us our material, I got free delivery, and everything was well within my budget, which included all the fees I had to pay."

The big benefit, which is sometimes hard to put a dollar amount to, is how much time Cameron saved in the process.