Mr. Hutcheson

Eco-Friendly Practices

Signs You Need to Hire a New Grounds Care Provider

By Ken Hutcheson, President, U.S. Lawns

Hoteliers place a significant investment in their grounds that can be dramatically diminished without proper care and oversight. Given how important it is to protect this asset, you should have a grounds care provider you can rely on. Someone who knows the specific needs of your hotel, what challenges your region can expect, and how to take care of your landscape. Otherwise you risk the health and overall appearance of your landscape.

Your grounds care provider should have a plan in place to handle the various dangers your property might encounter. Depending on the location of your hotel, your landscape can face several threats throughout the year, either as a result of natural causes or human error. Examples include improper pruning, bug infestation, over/under fertilizing, and damage from frost or wind. Another example can be seen in the mid-Atlantic region; if your irrigation isn't working properly in the middle of summer, you can burn your vegetation quickly. In Florida, your turf can burn out in just one week without proper irrigation. And in the North-East region in winter, your irrigation's pipes can burst if you haven't blown out the lines properly. Almost every property throughout the country has irrigation, so if your contractor isn't checking it, there can be serious ramifications.

But those aren't the only challenges a property can encounter. In the landscape industry, we struggle with issues including weather, employees, small tools, and equipment. Knowing this, we manage what we know we can manage and we prepare to address the problems we can't entirely prevent. This is where having the right resources on hand is so important. That way if the weather doesn't cooperate and it starts raining in the middle of a job, a grounds care provider can juggle different tasks at different properties. This level of flexibility allows the grounds care provider to attend to the other needs of his customers' properties, instead of allowing the rain to cause serious delays in his or her work. If that grounds care provider has a smaller crew, however, or they don't have enough equipment to be used at different locations at the same time, they can be in trouble.

Having the right resources available, can be the difference between having a grounds care provider who is only equipped to make remedial changes and one who can also make enhancements. Grounds care providers can work with you to make improvements to your property, they can provide timely repairs, cost-saving advice, all while protecting the life of your plants. But what if you don't have a grounds care provider you can rely on? What are things you should look out for to determine whether you have the right grounds care provider for your property?

Here are Three Signs you Need to Consider Hiring a New Grounds Care Provider

  1. The Hotelier is Having to Manage His or Her Landscape

    If the grounds care provider has become complacent or if you are seeing recurring problems, then it means that the landscaper isn't performing his or her job. If you see that there's an issue, and you address it to your grounds care provider, but it becomes a problem again, then it's a sign that things aren't going well. Part of the landscaper's job is managing the property - not just managing the crew. So, it should never be up to the hotelier to manage the crew.

    It's critical that you have regular meetings with your landscaper. That consistent interaction between your hotel and your grounds care provider can help set and maintain expectations, keep the lines of communication open, and help avoid any sense of complacency.

  2. The Grounds Care Provider Doesn't Have the Resources to Fulfill the Needs of the Hotel

    It's simple, the smaller the team, the less they can do. In landscaping, you need the right amount of manpower, equipment and technical expertise, to get the job done correctly and efficiently. It is common for smaller sized grounds care companies to outsource some of their work to augment their staff. But the consistency that hoteliers demand and expect can suffer when subcontractors are hired as standards can vary and the lines of communication become blurred. By using their own employees who have gone through an established training program, grounds care providers are ensuring not only the consistent treatment of their customers' properties, but they are also doing their part to help the hoteliers meet the expectations of their guests.

    It's crucial that the overall appearance of the hotel is consistent with what guests have come to expect from your brand. A guest will form his or her opinion of your hotel after just one interaction with it. This means it won't matter to that guest if the flower beds that were overgrown when they visited were cleaned out the day after they left, because he or she didn't see it. As hoteliers know, hotels aren't like grocery stores where customers are likely to visit on a weekly basis. The need to provide a consistent level of service also extends to the interior of the hotel. If the concierge is cranky at 2am, the seasoned traveler checking in at that time does notice and that experience will help shape his or her opinion of that hotel.

  3. There are Signs of Damage to the Landscape That Could Have Been Prevented

    This may seem obvious, but if there are visible signs of damage or loss to your landscape that could have been prevented with proper care, it may be time for you to get a new grounds care provider. A neglected or improperly cared for landscape doesn't show signs of damage immediately, meaning the lack of attention and care for the landscape could have been happening well before you saw the physical signs of it.

    Just as it is obvious to a non-gardener when there are weeds in a flower bed, it is also clear to the trained eye when plants aren't thriving, turf is getting too much water, or trees were improperly trimmed. Proactive grounds care providers perform routine checks on the properties they are responsible for - this makes identifying a problem that much easier to do. They know the warning signs to look for, the steps they need to take to correct the issue, and how to prevent it from happening again. They are also more likely to communicate with the hoteliers to keep them updated on any areas of concern.

Creating and maintaining open lines of communication is critical to the well-being of any property. When you start to notice that you're having issues with your landscape, it's important to address them immediately with your existing grounds care provider. If you aren't comfortable with the response you receive from them or if you aren't confident that things will be resolved, then you should consider looking for a new one. It's best if you bring in two new landscapers to perform a quick evaluation of your property and to ask them for a proposal. Make sure that you share any goals and expectations you have for the property and give them a sense of your budget. This will allow them to have the background information they need to put a proposal together for you. It will also give you the opportunity to see if they have the resources needed to care for your landscape, as well as to see if they will be a good fit.

Once you are ready to move ahead, the landscaper will walk around the property again to show you what they recommend needs to be done to bring the property back to your original standards. He or she will identify what needs to be improved, or replaced and the costs to perform those services. For example, if the beds are covered with weeds, or the hedges are out of control, a grounds care provider may have to charge a clean-up fee to get it back into shape. This type of service can bring a property back from looking abandoned to looking fantastic. Ideally, you have already planned for some capital expenses, so you can roll this into it, and you don't have to wait to approve the changes. As hoteliers know, the longer you wait to fix your landscape's issues, the more likely you are to increase your costs and delay your turnaround time.

Establishing Your Needs

Before selecting a contractor, hotel professionals need to determine what services they require to support their landscapes year round. Some landscaping companies only provide specific services (mowing of grass, gardening, or the spreading of mulch, for example). Additionally, if your location experiences severe winter storms, your landscaper will need to have the right equipment to protect your property before and after the storm: salt (or other melting products), plows, snow blowers, shovels, etc. Likewise, if your area is prone to hurricanes, hiring a contractor who can handle flooding, cleaning up the landscape, and replacing damaged vegetation can have a big impact on the efficiency of your storm cleanup. Figuring out what type of support service your property needs will help you identify and select the right contractor.

By establishing your expectations, having regular meetings with your grounds care provider, and ensuring that they have the resources they need to take care of your property, you are protecting the health and overall appearance of your landscape.

Ken Hutcheson is President of U.S. Lawns. He joined the company in 1995 and has grown the organization from a regional 18-franchise network to a national network of over 250-franchises in all 48 contiguous states. U.S. Lawns is nourished by the values and passion of family-owned and operated franchise businesses. Mr. Hutcheson champions an entrepreneurial spirit and a teamwork culture. Heís skilled at developing employee, franchisee and customer bases that are anchored on a commitment to long-term relationships. His focus on the companyís Franchise Development and Support is central to the companyís steady national expansion and consistently high rankings on industry lists. Mr. Hutcheson can be contacted at 407-246-1630 or Please visit for more information. Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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