Understand who wears which hat

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This is a subject I have seen little written about and yet I have observed the confusion caused when hats are not articulated.

Whose hat is it to lay the paving? – the landscaper.
Whose hat is it to use the CAD software? – the designer.
Whose hat is it to provide access to the site? – the homeowner.

Okay, so far so good!
Let’s see where it can get confused.

Whose hat is it to instruct the paver on site?
Well, the foreman or site supervisor or project manager should be the answer, but I have seen the client on many occasions, bypass the foreman and go to the apprentice and say, “can you make the overhang of the paver on that step go to 40mm not 20mm as I think it will look nicer”. And the apprentice not understanding the chain of command and who wears which hat, follows the instruction of the client and, well, stuffs it up!

So, the subject of hats can be important and for your benefit I will outline some key point that will be of benefit to you.

“Whyte Gardens helped us to completely overhaul our tired, old, two-level and bedraggled backyard into a lovely open and neat space incorporating a pool, deck, play area and outdoor entertaining space. He had ideas, enthusiasm and great practical advice. Three years later and our garden is now well established and works superbly for our family.”

– Helen

What is the Clients Hat?

  • It is the client’s hat to fund the project with regular payments, paid on time. Now again, you might think this obvious, but trades need cash to flow. No flow equals no funds available to pay contractor or buy materials at the time you need them and upset, and time delays can occur. So, paying invoices on time is the client’s hat.
  • Be the dreamer. This whole project is about you. It’s your garden and the designer should only ever design to your desires. Express what you like and don’t like. Tell us anything and everything that in a perfect world you would want to include. Try not to hold back expressing a desire for fear it can’t be done. Express all thoughts, as the more open the communication lines, the smoother things will run and the greater the results.
  • Ideas. Ah now, you would think that ideas would fall under the hat of the designer and in fact your right it does! The overlap here exists, and no client should ever feel inhibited to express any thought and should in fact be encouraged to do so. Many designs I have done over the years have had the client suggest some material I knew nothing about, and we have implemented it into the design successfully. So, ideas should come from the client, the designer, and anyone else? Well, here is what I suggest; there is always one person at the head of the table and when it comes to the question of, “who is designing this design?” the answer is, “the designer.” So, although the designer works for the client, in this instance, the client should offer up the idea to the person in charge of creating the design, the designer. Who in turn would ask the client to approve it. Oh boy this sounds like we are going in circles! But without complicating it further, I think you get the point?
  • Make sure there is access to site.
  • Ensure you look after your pets and children when landscaping occurs.
  • Observe the landscaping and if you feel something not right or have an idea, express it to the person in charge of the site.
  • Project managing. I have observed over the years a confusion on this. Only last week I had a client email me and ask, “can you send me a spreadsheet of the schedule for this week coming of what will be done in the landscaping.” – Why? – I must say, this always seems to be a bloke thing and it’s like they are at work project managing and just can’t seem to take the hat off at home. It is one thing for a client to say, “what’s happening next week? “And another to ask for a spreadsheet. Your job is not to manage every step of the process, it is to share thoughts, ideas, wants, dislikes, and the occasional coffee!
  • Your hat also contains the selection of the right designer for you. It is up to you to access and engage a designer you feel will deliver you the best outcome.
  • Part of your hat is ‘approvals’, in fact it’s a big part. The designer needs to present to you, and you need to approve. How can this possibly go wrong? Well, only a few weeks ago we were about to plant out the garden and the client said two days before the order was to arrive, “I haven’t gone through the planting plan yet, can we go through this?” Now mind you, this plan was handed over months before and had been approved, and this was not the time to start looking at it. So, with approvals it is vital you understand what you are approving and if it is not clear, you should ask for an explanation.
  • Communicate appropriately. Over the decades of helping clients, I have come to observe that people are far more frantic these days. Trying to get someone to return a phone call or email can be strenuous. I often ask my designers, “so where is ’s design up to?” and the common answer is, “tried contacting them several times but still no reply.” – there is an observable thing you should be aware of, “the longer it takes for communication to occur, the more complicated the design seems to get.” It is like procrastination allows indecision to creep in and over complicate the results. The swifter the communication occurs, the more enjoyable the process and better the results. So, when you receive a communication, you will benefit more by giving a reply as soon as possible, than delaying it.

The subject of Hats is a fascinating one and can reap great results. I hope this has added some clarity for you and allowed you to be more in control of the outcomes.

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Last updated: July 30, 2017

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