In 2020, UF/IFAS Extension Martin County recruited homeowners and homeowners’ associations (HOA’s) to participate in a survey of their preferences for licensed/certified green industry professionals. We found that many respondents valued licensing and best practices, but they hadn’t yet discussed their values with the landscapers they hired. People working in the green industry (i.e., landscapers, pesticide and fertilizer applicators, etc.) have an opportunity. By marketing themselves as licensed, insured and knowledgeable professionals, they can potentially earn higher wages.
Talk with your clientele about your qualifications
The people we surveyed relied on landscapers for a variety of services where licensing and best practices would be beneficial, if not required. Yet many were not initially aware of the best practices or whether their landscaper was licensed. Almost 13% of the 39 survey respondents who rely on their landscaper for pest control services did not know whether their landscape professional was actually licensed to apply pesticides. Over 80% of the homeowners surveyed were “somewhat familiar” or “very familiar” with the Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM (FFL) program. FFL encourages best practices to protect our water resources. A pillar of the FFL program for landscape professionals is the Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMP) Certification. A majority (62%) said they did not know whether their landscaper was GI-BMP certified. Additionally, 46% of respondents said they didn’t know whether their landscaper followed any of the FFL best practices. Once the surveyed homeowners/HOA’s were informed of the GI-BMP program and licensing requirements, over half said they would ask their landscaper if they were licensed and/or certified. Most had an awareness of the FFL program. They just hadn’t connected the FFL best practices to the work of their landscape professionals. Many people were not aware of their landscapers’ practices, licensing, and/or certifications initially. However, most did express a desire to learn more after gaining awareness. So be sure to talk with your clientele about your qualifications.
Licensing and insurance are valued by customers
In the first part of our survey, we shared that licensing was required for commercial pesticide and fertilizer applicators. Next, we wanted to see whether respondents would view hiring licensed professionals as important. We asked how important it was for them to hire a licensed and insured landscaper, and 61% of 132 respondents said it was “very important”. Another 22% said it was “moderately important”. Fewer than 1 in 5 respondents said they felt it was not important whether they hired licensed and insured professionals. Most surveyed placed value on licensing and insurance.
Homeowners/HOA’s willing to pay more for professionals
Does that value translate to a willingness to pay more for the work of a licensed and insured professional? About 70% of our survey respondents said “yes”, they would choose a licensed and insured professional, even if it cost them a little more money. Another 20% of our respondents either said “I don’t know” or “Maybe” they would be willing to pay more. With good marketing on the benefits of licensing and insurance, professionals may be able to win over hesitant or uninformed customers. Fewer than 1 in 10 surveyed homeowners/HOA’s said they would definitely not choose a licensed and insured landscape professional, if they charged more than an unlicensed/uninsured landscaper. So, most people surveyed are willing to pay higher wages for licensed and insured professionals and some are on the fence. Your efforts to develop as a professional and market your skills has the potential to pay off.
How much extra could a licensed and insured green industry professional demand? With those who said they would choose a licensed and insured professional, we asked how much more they would be willing to pay. Almost 1 in 4 of the 90 respondents said they would pay “However much extra is required!” Other respondents were a bit more modest with their willingness to invest. There were 6% willing to spend 15-20% more, 14% at 10-15% higher wages, 39% accepting an increase of 5-10%, and 17% willing to pay up to 5% more. Licensing gives your company the security of being insured and compliant with state requirements, and your customers may be willing to pay more for your services.
Homeowners/HOA’s value FFL best practices
Beyond the required licensing, many homeowners/HOA’s would prefer to hire landscape professionals with knowledge of Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM (FFL) best practices. We asked whether they would choose a landscaper that uses FFL practices over a landscaper who does not. The vast majority (77%) of the 132 respondents said “Yes”. Another 18% said “Maybe” or “I don’t know”. Only 5% said “No”, they would not choose a landscaper who promoted FFL, if they cost more to hire. Learning and practicing FFL can help put your business ahead of the competition.
Invest in yourself and your company
The take-home message here is to invest in your career and communicate your credentials to your clientele. Customers need to know you hold the required licensing, you carry insurance, and you follow best practices in their landscape. Your efforts are not only protecting the environment and safeguarding your business, they may also help you justify higher fees and better wages for your employees.
UF/IFAS Extension can help!
To learn more about becoming licensed and certified, check out my article, “Licensing & Certification for the Green Industry Professional”. You can also contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office for additional resources or answers to your questions. If you work in Martin County, we have developed marketing resources you can use to promote your licensing and/or certifications. Please contact me to schedule a virtual or in-person meeting.
Green Industry professionals contact:
Yvette Goodiel, Sustainability & Commercial Horticulture Agent III
UF/IFAS Extension Martin County
Schedule a virtual consultation with me via Microsoft Teams