the three quotes rule – [how] does it work?

it's no laughing matter

it's no laughing matter

If I asked three people to price for the supply of a motor vehicle or to be more specific, three people to price for the supply of a citroen car would I get the same price?

It cannot be until I say I want a ’03 Citroen C5 HDi, Diesel, Red in colour, 78,235 km with full service history, including exact tyre, upholstery, electrical specifications etc will the pricing system be truly fair to the three tenders and most importantly, to you the client. It is ONLY in this situation will a three quotes rule work. The same theory applies to gardens.

As with everything, there is always a lesser quality product/ service available and therefore naturally a cheaper price. The less time one plant must spend in one place whilst being maintained – the less it should cost, the smaller it is and naturally the cheaper it is. But ‘the’ plant is still being supplied?

So many times people ask me ‘to quote for doing the garden’. That is partly why I [peter donegan] charge for a call out, nee consultation with domestic clients of new. Because unless, as analagised earlier, one can tell me over the by email, phone or any other means exactly what is to be costed – only a cost to landscaping of your grounds should exist, NOT an estimate or quote.

I can price but, again to be fair to you the customer, exactly for what should be preferrable. Are the three prices for your garden singing from the same hymn sheet for exactly the same amount,quality and standard of product and finish? To ensure there is equality within pricing it is important to ensure some form of works specification is in place or/ and at least a design concept or drawing. From logic, most good practices will advise their clients to accept the better contractor whilst considering the ‘costs’ submitted.

You do get what you pay for and if you are unsure of what exactly you want don’t be afraid to pay for a professional consultation. As I’ve always said cheaper can often be more tearful than cheerful and be it garden or not, if the time is put into the preparation of your project, it will work out to be no laughing matter.



ps. my article, never had your garden designed before may prove of benefit here.

3 replies
  1. Philip Voice
    Philip Voice says:

    Hi Peter

    I am not sure about charging for a consultation.

    If a contractor is a good one then they will be able define and design a garden based on the client brief and win the work by demonstrating with body language and horticulture and landscape knowledge that they are right for the job.

    Getting three quotes is always good and I would urge our clients to get three quotes whilst at the meeting.

    I would also urge the client to write a specification or ‘hymn sheet’ as you call it so that all the contractors are on the same wavelength.

    Paying for your time as an independant consultant is a good idea.

    I have also been paid to provide a consultation and a detailed specification to the client with the understanding that the information shall be furnished back to the client to invite contractors to quote for the work

    The deal would be that if my company was successful in winning the work then I would knock the cost from the finished job.

    It was that honesty and openness that told my client that I am willing to compete on a like for like basis because I was confident of the quality of what I could provide.

    It is a fascinating area for debate and I will bring this up on my blog and link back to your post.

    All the best


  2. peter donegan MI Hort
    peter donegan MI Hort says:

    Hi Phil,

    the situation I refer to is when it’s a ‘I need my garden done’ situation. There is a concept-ish but no specification as a ‘contractor’ would know it or none at all.
    A recent ‘consultation’ Phil was for me to drive for three hours, spend one – two hours there, for 65 euro [approx 45 sterling?] If you dont think somebody should pay for this then that’s good, but 65 dont cover that and as a business you would be aware that the cost must go elsewhere. So do i charge the next client?

    My web says for new domestic clients. This can be a problem[ish – no offence] because we have won so many awards for design that some really just want free advice and the 65 is a great deterent for those who are not serious.

    The three quotes, whilst it may not be a waste of time, it isn’t fair to either contractor or client as there is no spec in place.
    We went to look at a school some weeks ago and I was told the budget and what the ‘last guy’ said he would do – cheapest quote gets it. As you are aware, there is always a cheaper price.

    Since introducing a ‘consultation’ charge [4 years ago]we are successful on 98% of projects we take on. Mainly because new clients are serious, they want us/ me to give them my brief and my [only qualified staff] to build the garden for them.

    It maybe an area for debate, depending on the clients one attracts, but with 4 1/2 years studying horticulture, x number of awards and at he level we are at – it was the amount of free advice I was giving rather than tendering that made me introduce this.

    No debate from my side. Its quality projects I wish to do. I believe if you are that good people will call. Can you imagine if Alan Titschmarsh or diarmuid gavin put a sign up saying free call out and advice?!! They’d be inundated and whilst I may not be that my standards, gardens awarded and belief is that we are that on a different level.

    I hope you can appreciate Phil, I’ll give free advice to anyone – but as a business and regarding domestic clients – it’s just not fair on the next client in certain cases only. Some choose not to, some deduct it from the bill after. Either or the business has to stay afloat and cannot operate on thin air – so the cost will be in there somewhere?!! I like to keep it very transparent for all our clients future and present.

    My post ‘Estimates & Quotes or the Cost of a Garden’ should prove beneficial and also ‘never had your garden designed before’.

    I like your site by the way – keep it up and keep me posted.

    Slán go foill [bye for now]

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  1. […] 4, 2008 by peter donegan MI Hort Some time ago I mentioned in writing about call out & consultation charges. [There is a difference.] A consultation is by […]

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