How Ross NW Watergardens' Landscape Schedule Works

by Ben Bowen
A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
— Annie Dillard

One of my biggest tasks, and a frequent source of angst, is managing Ross NW Watergardens' project schedule. Everyone would like their project ready for summer- but if they mean this summer then that's not always going to happen. And once someone is on our schedule they want it to start (and finish) on time. That's my goal too, but things don't always happen that way.

For example, at the beginning of February we had 2-3 months worth of projects booked for our two crews. Great. And then it got freezing cold. Followed by snow. Followed by buckets of torrential rain. Followed by key people taking long winter vacations. The result?

The schedule had to change. We couldn't keep up.

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
— Henry Kissinger

When stuff like this happens we immediately let everyone on the schedule know that their start date has changed. We hate to do it, and take steps to prevent it, but sometimes it is needed.

How does a project end up on our schedule? 

Once a proposal is accepted, we draft an agreement. The agreement includes payment arrangements and a tentative start date. At this point a project is in the schedule in pencil. Once we receive the down payment stipulated in the agreement (usually $1000) then the pencil turns to ink.

After the down payment is made we will never put another project in front of yours. We may take longer to finish the projects ahead of you, but we won't take your money and then arbitrarily mess with the start date.

There are times when I have a bunch of people who want the same start date. We handle this in a very simple way. The first person to send the down payment gets the slot.

We try to manage our schedule like the rest of our business- with clarity and transparency. It's not perfect, but if you can be flexible and patient your yard can be excellent.