15 Jan Managing Budgets
It’s January. And I’d really like to talk about winter interest – witch hazels (‘Jelena’ in the image above), hellebores, the scent of daphne and sarcococca and the imminent arrival of the first bulbs.
But given I’m a Yorkshireman and this is the financially gloomy month after Xmas, I’m going to start the year by talking about budgets. Apologies. Not the most exciting journal entry, but an important one.
Managing a client’s budget is a key part of the garden design process.
Our golden rule is that the client must be in control of their budget at all points of the design process and then the build. If the budget is all in hand, and expectations are managed, the entire experience of creating a garden is as it should be – enjoyable and exciting.
Managing a budget is straightforward, but only with a very structured approach. Here’s how we do it:
- A detailed brief:
What do you want from your new garden? A simple makeover or more expensive items like lighting, garden buildings, water features, retaining walls? We discuss all this with the client at the outset. Additionally, we look at the site conditions and – if a house build is in progress – the plans and timings of this build. Is garden access going to get blocked, which will mean bringing things in through the house or via crane? Not ideal!
- Costing the work at the outset:
Design professionals are in the habit of coming up with a budget that clients want to hear and one which will secure them the work. In other words, an unrealistically low figure. We prefer an honest, considered approach. Based on a detailed brief and site analysis we break down the build elements and either give a written outline budget or prepare a visual presentation, clearly showing costs and options of design elements from inexpensive to top of the range. We agree an outline build budget with clients before starting work on the garden design Masterplan.
- Post-Masterplan budget review:
The Masterplan will show the design for the garden. With accompanying visuals, it’s an extremely accurate render of what your garden will look like. Once this Masterplan is agreed and any revisions incorporated, we can price the scheme. Following this second budget review, the client can add or reduce elements. Again, the client retains control over the budget and is in the position to make informed design decisions.
- Tendering the Project:
We prepare detailed build drawings and a tender pack with clearly broken down pricing to allow trusted contractors to price for the work as a fixed fee. This will then be the final budget sum. There will always be price variance between contractors, but the build figure will be in line with earlier budget projections. It’s unlikely there’ll be unwelcome surprises. At this stage, final decisions can be made on build elements.
- Contract administration/build management:
We can oversee the contract and build to ensure the work is delivered to the highest standard, on time and on budget. Paramount here is working with trusted, experienced landscapers to fixed pricing. We’d never recommend engaging landscapers on a pay-as-you-go approach (as it invariably ends in dispute) or using building contractors for landscaping work unless they have proven experience in garden making.
So, in short, we establish a budget and review it with clients at every stage, before tendering to top quality landscapers to build to a fixed price.
The result? An enjoyable, well managed build experience with the best possible garden for a client’s budget.
We’ll be talking about plants the next post, I promise….