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  • Writer's pictureEric McQuiston, PLA

Enhancing Your Business: Adding a Designer to Your Team

(This is a follow up re-write to a post I made last year)

In the evolving landscape contracting industry, the decision to incorporate a full-time, in-house designer or architect into your team can mark a significant milestone for your business. It is a clear indication of growth and the need for additional expertise. However, navigating this transition requires careful consideration to ensure you find the right fit for your company and business model. As someone deeply ingrained in the Design/Build sector, I'm here to offer insights to both business owners and potential designers on making this pivotal decision.


Understanding the Difference: Landscape Designer vs. Landscape Architect

Before delving into the hiring process, it's crucial to grasp the distinction between a Landscape Designer and a Landscape Architect. While both contribute to outdoor space design, their qualifications and skill sets differ significantly.

Landscape Designers typically possess experience and proficiency in designing outdoor spaces, encompassing elements like planting design, hardscapes, lighting, and drainage. However, their education and expertise may vary, as formal regulation in landscape design is limited in the U.S.

On the other hand, Landscape Architects undergo rigorous requirements for licensure, including accredited education, internships, licensing exams, and ongoing professional development. They possess a comprehensive understanding of various disciplines such as physics, engineering, horticulture, and geology, making them adept at designing structurally sound and creative outdoor environments.


Identifying Your Needs

As a landscape business owner, recognizing your company's current state and requirements is paramount. If you're a growing enterprise handling multiple aspects of the business, including sales, design, and estimating, the need for additional support becomes evident.

A proficient Sales/Designer can alleviate the burden by managing customer interactions, designing tailored solutions, and overseeing project proposals. Their role extends beyond creativity; they must possess a keen understanding of efficient production, materials and construction techniques to ensure profitability and project success.


Hiring Considerations

When taking the leap to hire a designer, establishing clear expectations and providing necessary resources are vital. Designers should understand their primary role in driving sales and contributing to the company's growth, rather than solely focusing on artistic expression.

Equipping designers with essential tools, including workspace, software, marketing materials, and clear sales goals, empowers them to excel in their role. Additionally, monitoring their performance and collaboratively addressing any shortcomings fosters a culture of accountability and continuous improvement.


Designer vs. Architect Revisited

For businesses venturing into hiring design professionals for the first time, opting for a designer may be the pragmatic choice. While landscape architects offer additional expertise for complex projects, designers can effectively drive revenue generation within a specified range, provided they receive adequate support and guidance.

As your business expands, transitioning to employing landscape architects or encouraging licensure among designers can broaden your service offerings and enhance project capabilities.


Exploring Freelance Options

In light of the burgeoning 'Gig' economy, freelance designers and architects present a flexible alternative for businesses seeking occasional design assistance. However, while freelance arrangements offer agility, they may lack the cohesion and long-term commitment inherent in an in-house design team. Generating a 'Pretty Picture' might help to sell a project, but a fundamental understanding of the industry, including materials, processes, labor, equipment and a myriad of other concerns is crucial to a successful project. Only someone who has that experience can effectively navigate those issues to a productive outcome. These are things that should be considered when hiring a freelancer.


In conclusion, the decision to add a designer or architect to your landscape contracting team signifies a strategic move towards growth and enhanced service delivery. By understanding your business needs, setting clear expectations, and providing necessary support, you can leverage design expertise to propel your company to new heights of success. While the landscape industry continues to evolve, the integration of skilled design professionals remains pivotal in shaping captivating outdoor environments for clients.

If you would like further information or insight feel free to contact me, I am happy to help!

~ Eric

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