In the midst of the current landscaping boom, Warwick Price is sticking to just five or so jobs a year, keeping his crew small and focusing on delivering big results for his clients
A long-serving – but in his own words – “silent” member of Registered Master Landscapers, Takapuna-based Warwick Price says landscaping is all he’s ever known.
Born in 1968 in west Auckland, Warwick began training in landscaping at the age of 17. Warwick’s first ventures were working at the family businesses – Price’s Orchards and Kumeu Kiwifruit Nursery – and it wasn’t long before he was off on his own, founding Warwick Price Landscaping in 1993. Peter Strid became Warwick’s right hand man shortly after, and remains in the role to this day.
Shortly after starting the business, the landscaping industry in New Zealand – particularly Auckland – became buoyed by rapidly rising property values and Warwick found himself so busy that he was able to pick and choose which contracts he worked on. It’s an approach he has been lucky enough to continue his whole career.
Small is huge
Warwick says his business has enjoyed a steady stream of high-end clients for a number of years, meaning he can choose who to work for, and he’s not planning or trying to scale up to meet demand.
“Because there’s so much work available, we’ve been able to pick and choose who we want to work with for more than ten years,” Warwick says.
“We’re keeping the company small because we want to. There are heaps of benefits to being small, including really good client communication. Our clients are looking for top quality and we can provide that because we’re not overstretched. By staying small, we can ensure the quality of our work stays top notch.”
Warwick agrees with many of the other interviewees in this edition of NZ Landscaper – there was a lot of business brewing
before the Covid lockdown and, since then, the boom has reached everyone, thanks to clients turning their backyards into specially landscaped areas.
“Heaps of pools are going in. Artificial lawns are becoming more popular, as are louvred outdoor areas and outdoor rooms. People are spending more on landscaping, putting more value into outdoor living areas and rooms,” says Warwick.
He credits the ability to invest so much in improving properties to the rising property prices, and people’s ability to borrow equity for projects that further increase the value.
Warwick has been a card-carrying professional since the main associations for landscapers were the Landscaping Industries Association and Landscapers’ Guild, and he’s always felt they could play a bigger role than they did.
He says today’s rebranded Registered Master Landscapers Association is a big step in the right direction – he believes it conveys professionalism well, in the same way the establishment of Registered Master Builders did.
“RML is a better name to fall back on. We’re following on the tails of Registered Master Builders, which had a lot of publicity and promotion. Becoming ‘Registered Master’ was good for our industry. The name itself carries more weight and the activity behind the name is upholding that image.”
With nearly four decades under his belt, Warwick has seen changes in every corner of the industry – from marketing to material choice to man-made plans.
He says a number of must-haves – such as an ad space in the yellow pages and staff who could draw plans by hand – don’t have a place in the business these days.
“It’s all about the website now, and landscaping design software and computer-aided drafting programs have taken the place of pen and pencil. These days CAD designs are outsourced to experts, who use the program Vectorworks to finalise the plans.”
He says what people are willing to pay for different types of work has evolved as well, meaning that, for him, garden maintenance is no longer balancing the books.
“We don’t do much maintenance, because it’s undervalued, making it hard to make a decent living out of doing it, even though there’s heaps of demand.”
Gardens have changed, too, with Warwick seeing palms and native planting increasing in popularity. However, he says demand for the traditional English garden persists – though conifers are no longer in vogue.
One thing that’s changed for Warwick is the number of apprentices he takes on. Though he’s trained three since he started, he says the most recent would have been 15 years ago, as he feels industry training no longer lines up well with his company’s core focus – soft landscaping such as grasses, lawns and plants.
For that reason, and the fact that he doesn’t have a high turnover of beginner landscapers, he’s not currently taking on apprentices.
That said, the 37-year veteran has a wealth of experience within his team and their continued high standard of work, backed by the RML badge, is helping to raise awareness among homeowners of the quality they can expect from the dedicated professionals within our industry.