To make your vacation as enjoyable as possible, enlist the services of a garden concierge to oversee distinct projects and ensure you will find your landscape in top form when you return.
Dallas is much harder to love in July and August when temperatures soar and cooler climates beckon. For landscape professionals, taking care of a client’s garden when the client is away is not only a privilege, but also carries heavy responsibility.
With years of experience working on garden projects for Hollywood celebrities, I developed the title of Summer Concierge for Gardens. In this role, I find that diplomacy and imagination are the two most important tools in the high-profile designers’ tool kit. Following guidelines I follow and that any garden concierge should be prepared to do.
Privacy is one of the most important concerns for the client, so adapt a “never” approach for dealing with the client’s garden:
Never give out clients’ phone numbers.
Never share clients’ addresses except when necessary for subcontractors and suppliers.
Never discuss project budgets.
Never use a client’s name in public without prior approved. If you must discuss a project, use terms like “a client of ours” or “on a recent project.”
Never share photos of your work without prior approval.
Never discuss projects with the press without prior approval.
When media are interested in the garden of a high profile client, prior written approvals for photography and press coverage are mandatory.
Consider using a pre-approved press release to get the details and talking points of the project in writing, especially when the clients are away.
When discussing the project with the press, choose your words carefully as misunderstandings can and often do happen between what you think you are saying and what the media hear.
If the garden is to be photographed or published, learn whether the client’s name can be used or if the owner wishes to remain anonymous.
And saying “no comment” is okay, too.
Use common sense, empathy and your emotional intelligence. Clients are people just like everyone else; they can have good days and bad days, just as they can have problems and personal issues that create distractions and difficulties, especially when they are out of town.
Learn the clients’ preferences and expectations, what they like, how they respond, what they want.
Learn how your client prefers to communicate: is it by email, phone, text? Some want lots of details, some don’t care, and some want daily reports. Others just want to know when the project will be finished.
Listen to and address the clients’ concerns immediately to prevent situations from getting out of hand.
Maintain composure at all times.
When the client changes the course of direction, be flexible and roll with the changes.
Treat all clients with respect, tact and discretion.
Don’t be star stuck; never ask for photos or autographs.
Don’t assume clients understand the landscape process, which can include construction, landscape installation and maintenance, irrigation and water management, proper tree care and organic health care, to name a few. They may excel in their domain but will need you to educate them on what’s important when it comes to their garden.
If you’re lucky enough to have a knowledgeable and passionate gardener as a client, you have a valued extra set of eyes on the project. Be patient with their enthusiasm.
If clients are interested, help them understand the process; it makes for a better partnership.
Be diplomatic when you see a client making a mistake.
And remember, the client is always right!
Good tips for all garden concierges!
About the author:
Veteran design-build professional David Brown joined Lambert’s in March 2014 after a long career designing gardens for Hollywood stars.
Article was originally published in Park Cities News, May 2014.