Juggling many balls, a landscape contracts/projects manager is in charge of every aspect of a company’s projects to ensure that they run smoothly. This includes overseeing hard and soft landscaping elements of sites as well as the projects’ design and health and safety requirements. The size of the company dictates the type (domestic/commercial) and scale of the landscape projects/contracts.
What is best about being a landscape projects manager?
Belderbos Landscapes sales and marketing director Claire Belderbos says: "You are the epicentre of the business because you are dealing with the directors. They are looking at you
so you have to upward manage and manage your workers as well. You
also have to be able to motivate the landscapers. We put a lot of trust into that kind of person." PC Landscapes owner Paul Cowell agrees that the job’s high level of responsibility makes it "a great role in any company". He adds that, depending on the size of the firm, it is often a dual role merged with that of landscape estimator.
What skills, attributes, knowledge and experience are most in demand for this role in the recruitment market at the moment — and why?
"You need to be diplomatic," says Cowell. "You have to liaise with the clients and the designers as well as
all the different tradespeople and subcontractors on site, and you have to be able to liaise competently with all of them to get the work done." Belderbos has similar sentiments. "Sometimes there’s a bit of hierarchy on site among the contractors," she says. "Can you communicate to people well enough to get your job done, without upsetting the other contractors? You are running projects with everything finished on time and to budget, and you are doing that on a multiple scale rather than just being a landscaper on site."
Understanding of the business
Belderbos notes: "Our contracts manager rose through the ranks but, in my experience, not everyone could make the transfer from being on site all the time to having to constantly switch from being on-site to being in the office and managing projects. He [our contracts manager] has a very good understanding of the business." Cowell adds: "A prerequisite of the job is that you have to have an incredible amount of knowledge."
Being an all-rounder
Given that the landscape/contracts manager is involved in all aspects of the business, Belderbos admits that "you need a plethora of skills rather than an in-depth knowledge of one area". Although the role requires a certain amount of horticultural knowledge, she points out that employers would rather take on someone with a "fantastic attitude and some knowledge of horticulture". Cowell adds: "It helps to have horticultural knowledge but when you are pricing a job or organising it you end up familiarising yourself with the different types of plants anyway."
What sort of qualifications and experience would you need to see from a candidate to be convinced that they possess these qualities?
Both Belderbos and Cowell assert that, because of the practical nature of the role, a landscape projects/contracts manager must have adequate experience, which for this job outweighs a preference for any particular qualifications. "Often people are excellent at one area but lacking in another. That deficit will catch up with them in the end if they don’t improve," says Belderbos. Cowell notes that the landscape projects/contracts managers he knows all started out as landscapers and steadily worked their way up the career ladder.
Are any of the skills that are in demand transferable from any other horticulture roles?
"I have known people who’ve come from grounds maintenance or greenkeeping backgrounds and then gone into landscaping," says Cowell. "They’ve then worked their way up, using their varied knowledge."