Finding Better Equipment For My Employees

Concrete Results: Outdoor Meeting Rooms Are The Hot, New Office Complex Amenity

by Jared De Hooge

When you're ready to expand your landscape contracting business into the realm of commercial properties, you need a unique way to get your foot in the door with property managers. Offering a service to install outdoor meeting spaces -- just the right size for working sessions, briefings and lunch breaks -- could well be the answer. Owners and managers of established corporate campuses and office complexes are looking for ways to attract new tenants and keep existing leaseholders happy. You'll meet that need by providing a highly desirable outdoor amenity. Armed with a few tools, a rented concrete mixer and basic installations skills, the small, attractive outdoor spaces you create can be the first step toward larger contracts.

What's So Attractive About Outdoor Meeting Rooms?

The workplace is changing. Baby Boomers are reaching retirement age and Millennials already make up more than a third of the workforce in America. With this change comes a need for more flexible work spaces. Sitting at a desk all day except for breaks in the cafeteria doesn't cut it anymore. Collaborative work is the hallmark of those who grew up in the digital age, and an outdoor gathering space is considered an added bonus to stimulate group creativity. The space is also appreciated by other generations in the workplace who might find outside gatherings novel at first but come to also appreciated the area's calming and restful atmosphere during breaks and lunchtime.

For the property manager, having what is essentially a small concrete slab added to the property has additional benefits.

  • The installation price is relatively low, especially when compared the the cost of remodeling interior space for meeting and recreational activities.
  • Maintenance is low-key. Seasonal leaf blowing and occasional pressure washing are the basic requirements. These tasks can be done on the same schedule as other hardscape surfaces already on the property.
  • "Outdoor Meeting Space" is a strong selling point to add to the list of features and amenities for acquiring new tenants.

What Is Needed to Get Started?

The key to success for your initial business expansion strategy is simplicity. Target projects where the slab installation is no larger than a traditional backyard patio – sufficient to hold one or two picnic tables or a collection of outdoor lounge chairs. For this scale of installation you'll need the following:

  • Light excavation equipment. Shovels, possibly a scraper attachment for your lawn tractor, and rakes for leveling are typically sufficient for site preparation.
  • Trained concrete technician. Add a team member to your crew who has experience with concrete installation. Or bring in a contractor for specific projects. As your projects increase, other crew members can be trained in setting up forms, mixing and pouring concrete and finishing the surface.
  • Concrete mixer. Large, commercial size mixers that can be towed behind your truck are available for daily rental, so talk with local rental companies for a concrete mixer for rent. Make sure you have ample fuel on hand for the diesel- or gas-powered equipment before you start the day's mixing.
  • Finishing tools. You can complete a simple installation with square-ended shovels for spreading, trowels and floats for smoothing, and edgers.

Which Enhancements Can Add Value?

Beyond offering standard concrete slab installation for a space that magically becomes a meeting room when outdoor furniture is added, include options for decorative appeal:

  • Colored or stained concrete for greater visual interest
  • Stamped concrete for a patterned surface
  • Large planters filled with colorful, easy-care plants as focal points
  • A row of evergreen shrubs, planted along one or more sides for privacy screening

Your new service is intended to serve as an introduction to gain access to the decision makers who award larger, commercial-size landscaping contracts. As you monitor progress, you may find the installation service is also a viable new area for profit growth and income diversification.