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FutureScape 2018 | Seminar roundup

With attendees and exhibitors flocking from across the country, FutureScape 2018 was a resounding success, demonstrating why it is the UK’s leading landscaping event.

The FutureScape seminars were once again hugely popular, with speakers from various different sectors of the industry covering a range of topics, all bringing their expert knowledge and advice.

A big thank you to all of our hosts and panellists and to the audience for turning up in your droves, and making these sessions possible – we’re thrilled with all your positive feedback and we look forward to seeing you at FutureScape Spring on 12 March 2019!

Business consultancy, is it worth it?

Nick Ruddle of Action Coach Business Coaching explored the benefits of business consultancy, using Oak View Landscapes with Paul Downer as a case study. Nick clearly outlined some of the steps he encourages everyone to take in order to reduce expenditure and increase profit in their business. From simple things like revisiting suppliers to ensure you’re getting products for the best price, to algorithms which demonstrated how quickly profit builds when you adjust your own prices, the session provided accessible advice for anyone looking to expand their business.

Paul certainly seemed convinced as he explained how working with Nick had helped Oak View Landscapes overcome four years of stagnation following the recession in 2009. Since working with Nick, Oak View Landscape’s annual sales figures have grown by over £1m. Attendees left the seminar with a worksheet to fill in, highlighting their potential growth by following Nick’s method.

Edward Mairis: Show gardens, high stakes, high expectations

In this seminar, award-winning garden designer Edward Mairis gave an insight on breaking into the world of flower shows. Drawing on his own experience, Edward spoke of how entering gardens unsponsored was a viable option for any designer, outlining the steps he took to not only have his designs featured at Hampton Court, but also how he came to win Bronze, and work on his feedback from his first year to win Silver.

Edward’s approach to designing a garden is a poetic one, focusing on creating an experience of philosophy and spirituality, and he spent some time explaining this to a captivated audience. At the end of his session he answered a wide range of questions, from booking slots to sourcing suppliers. For anyone wanting to join or continue the discussion from the seminar, Edward has created a Facebook group called “making show gardens” – all are welcome to join.

Soft Landscaping: Plants

In the final session of the day in room three, many interesting discussions arose when Jamie Butterworth (Butterworth Horticulture) hosted a panel about soft landscaping. Sitting on the panel was Rosanna Porter (soft landscape consultant), Guy Watts (Architectural Plants) and Phil Tremayne (General Manager of APL), all experts in their field. After quick introductions outlining their routes into the industry, the panel delved into conversations ranging from finding the right plants for your project to how to help clients visualise designs.

One stand-out topic for discussion was do designers need planting plans on domestic projects? Are heavily designed planting plans a waste of time? Rosanna was of the opinion that highly sophisticated drawings of planting plans are not needed. She believes that taking a client out into a garden and showing them potential plants in real life is an easier way to help clients feel inspired and visualise what their garden could and will look like.

The seminar ended with an eclectic mix of questions, including one woman who asked what no one else was thinking: “What flower would you have on your tombstone?”

Increasing the value of your design: Lighting

In this seminar Luke Thomas, design director of John Cullen Lighting showcased how lighting can be used to enhance designs to create a magical space.
Starting with a brief description of John Cullen Lighting, Luke then continued to talk through a series of his recent projects showing the audience how lighting enhanced planting, trees and seating areas, as well as hard landscaping and sculptures. Whilst explaining in detail the pros and cons of different products being used in different scenarios, examples were passed around the audience which was received well with everyone eager to take a look. Luke also showed the audience some simple tricks that enhance gardens at night, such as how moving the position of your lights can illuminate the garden instead of turning your patio doors into mirrors where you can’t see the outside at night. It was a full house of people eager to learn more and Luke even ran out of time to answer all the questions.

Aftercare management, overlooked or business opportunity?

This seminars panel consisted of Angela Palmerton, Sarah Morgan, Charles Blumlein and was chaired by Jim Wilkinson. They discussed the importance aftercare plays in the overall design and build implementation, and how it can be a great business opportunity.
The seminar raised many interesting points throughout, such as how gardens should be designed with future maintenance in mind and how maintenance is often budget driven, but if done correctly there is money to be made in the industry. The panel also discussed the importance of getting young people into the industry commenting on how there aren’t enough students to satisfy the demand and when they are sent out on placements they are being offered jobs on the spot. In relation to this, the problem of how it’s costly to have horticultural studies in colleges due to the facilities needed was also addressed. A thought-provoking idea was also raised from an audience member who asked, ‘does a garden ever truly stop being designed?’ Suggesting that the aftercare team and the owners of the garden continue to transform and develop the garden overtime.

Decking… what’s out there?

In this seminar decking expert Karl Harrison of Exterior Solutions explained the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of decking options. Talking through a number of projects, Karl spoke about how different types of decking are ideal for different scenarios and a number of factors need to be considered when picking the right decking. Karl especially praised the magnet decking system stating how easy it is to install and how it has revolutionised the decking market. He also continued to share anecdotes of clients who are keen to keep their decking looking as pristine as the day it was installed and are prepared to pay the costly price to have it regularly sanded and re-painted to do so. The audience were keen to take advantage of his wealth of knowledge and asked questions on matters such as what decking is best to install around trees and how much gap you should leave below decking for air flow? In the end it was an informative seminar that appealed to a wide variety of people in the industry at different points in their career.

Let’s Hear It From – The landscape legends

New at FutureScape this year, The Landscape Legends panel consisted of John Melmoe, Ann-Marie Powell, David Dodd, Jo Thompson and was chaired by Jim Wilkinson. The panel discussed their long careers, how they established them and offered advice to others in the industry.
In true David Dodd fashion, he started off by telling a joke: “The word legend has been demoted from someone who is capable of pulling a sword out of a stone, to, ‘oh look Barry’s got some crisps with his round, what a legend!’” After the audience had stopped laughing, the panel continued to talk them through their exciting and successful careers. The panel wowed the audience with all they had achieved and how hard they had worked to do it. They also spoke about work they had done at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and what they considered to be the major changes and advancements within the sector. It was an inspiring seminar to anyone who is trying to reach the next stage of their career.

The digital world, hype or a valuable tool?

Hosted by Jamie Wilkinson, a director of Eljays44, the panel featured Adam White, president of the Landscape Institute, Ben Shaw from one of the leading UK digital companies Adtrak, and Debs Winrow from Garden House Design.
The panel discussed how to make digital marketing work for your business and how to understand the value of social media in the business environment.
Adam said he had looked at how big companies like Coca Cola, Fujitsu and Disney do their marketing.
“I realised, there is no rule, there is no right or wrong way to use social media as a marketing tool, use it how it suits you.
“We’ve found, it’s really established our business, we win work through using social media and Twitter. 72% of small businesses are winning work because they’re on Twitter. It’s a very, very powerful tool and the important thing is hashtags – don’t just post a message – it’s really important that you put a hashtag.”
Ben spoke about the importance of defining the company’s goal before choosing which social media channel to use and how it should be used as a platform to spark a conversation.
Speaking from a landscaping aspect, Debs said when using social media it was important not just to post about what the company do day-to-day but to look at the person behind the design.
“The consumer is wanting to engage with your brand and this is a really great platform for you to let just a little bit of personality in. It can be something as simple as why did you choose a particular stone in that design, was it that you love the texture?”
At the end of the session, questions asked by the audience included how to make the best use of Hashtags.

It all starts with a design…

A panel of three young garden designers who have already achieved great things in their careers provided inspiration to a packed audience at FutureScape.
Chaired by Jamie Butterworth, the panel featured Tony Woods, of Garden Club London, Lilly Gomm, of Lilly Gomm Studio and Will Williams, of Will Williams Design and winner of RHS Young Designer of the Year.
The designers spoke about how they started their careers and shared tips about their inspiration.
Chair of the debate, Jamie Butterworth, asked the panellists if they would recommend designing a show garden to young designers.
In reply, Tony said: ‘It is an amazing opportunity because you get to express all of those ideas that you’ve been sketching and scribbling. There’s a huge audience, national TV, national newspapers and all the support from the RHS. It’s a beautiful environment.”
Speaking about how to approach an entry to the RHS show, Lilly said: “Start with an idea, you’ve got to be passionate about it and have got to want to put it in front of a lot of people to be judged.”
And Tony added: “You might get commissions out of it but it’s about revealing future ideas and collaboration also about building your profile in the press.”
The young designers were asked by Jamie about current trends and themes within garden design.
“British horticulture is leading the way around the world. Where do you think garden design is going?” he asked.
In response, Lily said: “I’m not sure about themes but one thing I have been thinking about is that we shouldn’t just be meeting the clients’ brief but should be hitting a separate environmental brief.”
The future of garden design, according to Tony, involves being more sustainable and using ethically sourced products.
Questions from the audience included how to design outdoor spaces for people living in flats and the sustainability of show gardens.

Your costs, the project’s costs and managing client expectations

How to cost a project and managing client expectations were among the topics covered in an informative seminar led by Sam Hassall of LandPro.
Designers’ historic fear of talking about money could lead to problems when setting a budget for a project, explained Sam.
“When asked how much they want to spend, the client says either ‘I really don’t know’ or ‘I would rather not say’ – that is the typical scenario.”
Sam spoke about a technique that his company employs which involves establishing a budget during the design process.
However, Sam also mentioned an alternative approach that he had heard mentioned by John Wyer of Bowles & Wyer. This involved firstly making the client want what they were being shown and then showing them how much other projects had cost rather than starting off with asking about their budget. This way the client often adjusted their idea of what they might spend during that part of the process.
“Take your pick but use a technique to get a budget out of a client because it’s so important for your design process to be able to do that,” explained Sam.
In the second part of his talk, Sam discussed how to evaluate the costs of running a practice and what it costs to deliver a service.
Looking at a variety of scenarios, Sam devised a method for devising how to calculate the hourly cost of providing a service after taking into account office expenses, wages and other running costs.
In the final part of his talk, Sam explained how to manage client expectations.
“Managing expectations is telling the client all along about what they are going to get and when they are going to get it.
“It is so important that the client has a good idea of what their final garden is going to be.”
At the end of the session, Sam took questions from the audience which included an enquiry about whether he advocated using a rough square metre price for giving a client a budget on a garden.

Growth, but at what speed?

Understanding how and when to grow a business was the subject of a thought-provoking seminar at FutureScape. Chaired by Jamie Wilkinson, a director of Eljays44, the session covered how to focus a business to achieve the company’s growth goals.
The panel comprised Ken White of Frosts Landscape, Barry Randall of Leicestershire Garden Design and Holly Youde of Urban Landscape Design.
Ken spoke about how the company, which has gone through a recent restructuring, had spent a long time looking at the nature and type of projects it takes on. Success for the company involved decreasing turnover while making more profit.
“The best thing our business has learnt to say is ‘no’. We used to take it on, take it on, take it on, and we were becoming busy fools and over the years we worked harder and harder to stand still. The focus of the business now is an entirely different strategy.
“Doing more of what you do really well, for me, is the better strategy or it is the better strategy for us. Less of it but higher quality.”
Barry shared his three key tips for growing a business – define your success, play big and define your network.
When asked to share his three tips on growing a business, Ken said: “Where are you, what section do you want to be in, how am I going to get there and does everybody know what the plan is?”
Holly explained how Urban Landscapes had grown rapidly over the last few years and how the company had plans to diversify in the future but not necessarily grow actively.
At the end of the session the panel were asked if it was better to invest before growth or to hold back until the company expands.
According to Ken, the decision depended on whether you were moving into a new market sector or whether you were doing more of existing trade.
“If you’re entering a new market, you’ve got no choice but to invest ahead of the curve,” he said.
Other questions included if there were any pointers that flag when the business was ready for the next push.

The next generation

Chaired by Jim Wilkinson (Eljays44), the panel began by introducing themselves and how they came to set up their company as it stands today. The panel included Ross Conquest of Conquest Landscapes, Jake Catling of The Landscaping Consultants, Craig Nester of Habitat Landscapes and Ed Burnham of Burnham Landscaping. They began discussing projects, with Jim asking if the panel worked with designers and if they had a minimum project budget. The importance of networking was highlighted by Ed, who expressed how crucial days like FutureScape were. Though none of the panellists had specific plans for the future, they all touched on grabbing opportunities where you can, with Ross warning about the dangers of growing too quickly.

Audience member David Dodd spoke up about Show Gardens, explaining that although a great way to get publicity, the more bespoke artisan gardens bring more pride as you are working for a client and brining their dreams to reality. Another audience member asked how to manage staff as your company grows and you may not be on site with them, with all panel members agreeing that putting your trust in staff was crucial and that it is vital to retain the staff you have by keeping them satisfied. Advice ranged from training days and event days to keeping employees in the loop with where the company is heading and creating a family atmosphere.

Increasing the value of your design: finishing touches

Patricia Fox (Aralia) talked the packed room through a variety of garden elements and how they can be used to transform a garden from average to special. Giving project examples, she spoke about how pergolas can be used to frame a view, how big planters can be used in small spaces and why furniture can make or break a scheme. The standout project was a current garden Patricia is working on, where she has lit the inside of an existing well to create a major focal point. Patricia also highlighted how important it is to think about the boarders of a garden, as they are so often forgotten. Showing a 20m2 garden which she worked on, she spoke about creating seamless boundaries which disappear and give the illusion of no beginning or end. Audience members asked for advice on their current projects and when the seminar wrapped up there was a line of people waiting to call on her expertise.

Recruitment – the good, the bad and the very ugly

With 4.2% of people unemployed, this seminar was more significant than ever. Liam Colclough (Eljays44) chaired the panel consisting of Nigel Payne (Tivoli), Marian Barker (Fresh Horticultural Careers), Elisa Zimmatore (Garden Club London) and Koreen Samuel (Ground Control). Advice was given on how to make your company appealing to potential applicants, with all agreeing how important it is to show applicants who you are as a company – from your website to job specification. As well as this, the importance of staff retention was discussed, with Nigel arguing that if an employee feels valued, and you nurture their talent they’ll promote your business amongst their friends.
Discussions surrounding the interview process were had, with Koreen expressing how important it is to have a trial day, explaining that at Ground Control they push interviewees pretty hard on these days to see what they’re made of. Elisa expressed how little time Garden Club London have to do these trial days, reiterating how essential that made the face-to-face interview.

Audience members were keen to find out how to change the perception of the industry and attract more young people, with issues of how it’s perceived in secondary school raised. Liam spoke about his work alongside BALI Go Landscape to change young people’s opinions and provide the information necessary to inspire and educate.

Closing… It’s no bad thing

Jamie Wilkinson opened up the discussion by asking panel members, Richard Gill (Green-tech), Lee Bestall (Bestall & Co), Debs Winrow (Garden House Design) and Clare Morgan (Global Stone) what their style of selling was. Each agreed how important it was to build a relationship with your customer and build that trust. There were differing opinions on when to discuss the topic of your fee, with Lee admitting he finds it an awkward conversation to have, leaving it until he’s been to visit in person and measured up the garden. Debs on the other hand, mentions price right up front meaning she can just have fun designing the garden with them afterwards. Richard had a completely different take, promoting the hiring of someone whose job it is to price up jobs. He also discussed his customer service survey where pricing is the second question.
Jamie went on to ask the panel members about chasing leads, with all agreeing that there’s a balance you have to strike between becoming a pest and closing a deal. They also all reiterated the need to build up the relationship between you and your clients, seeing the sales calls as more of a catch up rather than a pitch. Honesty was the final word of the day, with Debs expressing how important it is for you to be honest about what you would have – even if it’s the more expensive product. Panel members agreed that closing is a scary word, and that really you’re never really done with a client.

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