Taking advantage of the trends

CAD COMPOSITIONS. And with all this increased work, Chaplin says Botanica has been reworking its design process recently to better serve its clients.

“We do it one of two ways,” she explains. “We do a design that’s separate, so they, the client, pays for it separately, and then they can put it out to bid with us and other contractors. Or it can be included as part of their proposal where we meet with them, take measurements, find out what they like and what they don’t like.”

After relying on simple sketches for years, Chaplin says a landscape designer has been brought in to help take Botanica’s proposals to the next level.

“She puts it into CAD for us,” she says. “It’s a good change…She’s been learning about how to put landscape design work in CAD, and it’s different for us because we’ve always just hand-drawn designs for residential projects.

“Now, what we’re doing is taking a Google Earth image that she will upload into CAD and implement the design with an overlay and do her drawing on top of those,” Chaplin adds.

Chaplin also notes that it’s this stage of a project that’s always the most fun for her.

“One thing that we really enjoy about doing the design/build projects with customers is that it’s just fun,” she says. “They have these dreams and ideas, and we get to put that on paper and then make it a reality for them. It’s a very cool profession to be in.”

TACTFUL TRENDS. And not only did COVID-19 bring in a ton more work, but Chaplin says more people being at home more has brought along some new trends as well.

“We also started installing artificial turf recently,” she says. “I see that as an up-and-coming trend for us. There aren’t that many artificial turf installers in our area. So, now we’re referred by one of the local distributors for the turf as well.”

Being in California, Chaplin says clients are always looking for alternatives to traditional grass.

“For one property, it’s a very large piece of property, they just didn’t want to have to take care of the maintenance on anymore,” she says. “It’s a gated community, so it can be kind of an ordeal to get someone into their backyard once a week for maintenance. So, we did artificial turf in their backyard, and they’re also using it for part of a bocce court.”

Chaplin says the artificial turf is also popular for people who don’t want to invest the money into an irrigation system but still want something green, as it only has to be rinsed off occasionally.

And artificial turf isn’t the only environmentally friendly trend making headway.

“Because we’re heading into what people are saying is one of our worst droughts ever, we have a lot more people who are interested in native plantings,” Chaplin says. “I don’t really get too many requests for xeriscaping. We did years ago, but now it’s more that people want to just take out their front yard and put in native plants.”

Other trends Chaplin and the team at Botanica have noticed lately include intricate concrete and paver work.

However, Chaplin says she doesn’t expect this increase in residential design/build projects to last too much longer – she believes people will eventually revert back to spending their extra income on traditional vacations.

“I think that this is a short-term trend,” she says. “Once people are encouraged to travel again, those financial decisions will shift again.”

WINNING OVER WORKERS. In the meantime, Chaplin says the greatest obstacle facing Botanica is a common one – labor.

“In 2020, most of our commercial work got pushed to 2021, but we were able to stay busy and keep our crews busy because there was so much more residential work then we usually have,” she says. “And now, what’s happening is we still have a lot of large residential projects, but all that commercial work is back… we have been able to keep up with it so far, but the biggest issue right now is getting enough people to work.”

To try and bring in additional help, Chaplin started a new incentive program.

“It’s a referral program for our existing employees,” she explains. “If they refer someone and we hire them, and we keep them for 30 days, then our existing employee gets $100 for every 30 days the new employee is here. That’s up to a maximum of $500.”

Chaplin says the program has led to an increase in applications, and she feels it’s the best solution as it also helps out existing staff.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nicer to put that money back into our own employees, who have been faithful and here for a long time?’” she says of starting the incentive program. “This way it can be a win/win for everybody.”

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Kirk Walker