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Stephen Answers Your Questions!

Stephen Charles Landscapes is a one-stop service carrying out Design, Landscaping and Maintenance. We're a family-run business with a reputation for creating the perfect garden. We offer competitive prices, we don’t believe in hidden costs, and we even provide FREE written quotations, so you can be certain of our costs before choosing to work with us. The charge we make for our Design and Consultation services is to cover costs only. With over 38 years in the industry, we know what matters to you: honesty, competitive pricing, reliability, and quality workmanship.

Here are some of the top questions we have been asked recently:

How long have you been in the landscaping industry?

With over 38 years’ experience, we’ve grown into a successful landscaping company thanks to the one-stop service we offer, the quality of materials we use, as well as the services we provide. The company director is directly involved, either working on projects or overseeing all contracts and projects.

Tell me a little about the man behind the business...

Stephen has a passion for gardening, landscaping and design. Initially, when he first started in 1984, he worked by himself, following in his father's footsteps. His father himself started gardening when he was 14½ , as in those days that was the age you left school, so it is an established family trait. Stephen used to spend many a happy time with his dad gardening, where he learnt many of the skills he knows today. Having gone to school in Lewes, Stephen battled dyslexia and soon found that practical skills and gardening were his forte. Stephen has been on many courses himself from basic landscaping, brickwork, arboriculture, all the way through to design. What he hasn't learnt through formal courses, he has learnt through self-teaching and experience.

What hobbies does Stephen enjoy?

In his free time, Stephen enjoys car rallying, walking his dog, Otis (the office dog!), and listening to podcasts. He also has a large number of fish which he helps care for at home, along with his cats and his children's gerbils.

Do you use sub-contractors for any of your landscaping services?

Stephen Charles Landscapes was founded in 1984 by Stephen Charles, one of the two Directors. Originally, he did all the landscaping, design and maintenance himself. Over time, he realised that he needed help and brought in people to assist him. As time went on, his wife, Megan, joined him as a Director and the company grew to have three Landscaping Teams, two Designers, and two Maintenance Teams. Based on a traditional family-run business, Stephen wanted to offer a one-stop place for everything. For this reason, he did not want to use anyone who was not employed by the company, as he could not ensure the same level of quality would be maintained on each and every job.

In 2018, Stephen agreed to try to use sub-contractors; however, their time-keeping became uncontrollable, their work quality was not of the same level expected by Stephen, and they refused to follow company processes (developed through Stephen's own knowledge, and which are part of the core of the company.) Very quickly, Stephen remembered why he had originally decided not to use sub-contractors and returned to offering everything himself. However, COVID hit and staff had to be furloughed, either due to children being schooled from home or because they were living in a vulnerable household. Despite changes, working a reduced timetable, and only operating two teams throughout, it became evident that we needed to do something to ensure we could complete landscaping in a quicker timeframe when the country re-opened properly in 2121. We were scheduling 5 months ahead of time and clients were getting frustrated with delays. Stephen once again hired someone as a sub-contractor to see if we could reduce this and improve the client's experience.

Stephen continued to visit the sites twice a week, until he had to take a few days off due to personal reasons. The sub-contractor stopped using levels to ensure work was actually level, prepared groundwork too deeply, and bullied clients into changing what they wanted, despite an agreed specification. Six weeks later, this decision was reversed by Stephen, and we made the decision that regardless of the effects caused by COVID and Brexit, we would not consider sub-contracting work out again under any circumstances. (This decision was ironically one of the original decisions made by Stephen in 1984, but in trying to keep up with changing times and clients wanting everything immediately, he had re-considered. However, he kept a close eye on this decision and was willing to change it when he realised his original decision had been the correct one.)

Therefore, all work remains carried out by Stephen Charles Landscapes, under the Stephen Charles Landscapes guarantee, ensuring the same level of quality is maintained on each job.

Where are you based and what areas do you cover?

For all landscaping work, we operate within 10 miles of our operational office, which is in Petersham, Richmond TW10. For all Design work, we operate within the M25 corridor. For all garden maintenance work, we operate within a 5 mile radius, unless you have used our service before or we have completed landscaping, in which case we will come to you.

Why is your main office in New Malden, but operational office in Petersham?

When Stephen originally set up the business in 1984, he worked from home in a shed at the back of his garden. Therefore his client base, which is based upon reputation and referrals from previous clients, is based in the same area. When Stephen expanded the office to include a finance assistant and an admin assistant, the ability for him to be able to focus when working on designs necessitated him moving to another office. Our registered office is 15 minutes down the road, local enough but far enough to concentrate. When the office staff outgrew the little shed, they too made the move to New Malden, where they rent a separate room to Stephen but close enough for any questions. Our other Director, Megan, remains working from the shed at the bottom of their garden, with one day a week in New Malden. Today, our office staff is made up of two Designers, our Office Manager, our Website and Social Media Administrator, our Administrator, our Directors' and Designers' Personal Assistant, our Human Resource Manager, as well as both Directors.

Do you specialise in any aspect of landscaping work?

We carry out every conceivable landscaping service. We don't specify an exact landscaping speciality, but instead pride ourselves on offering a complete landscaping service from start to finish in every aspect of domestic and commercial landscaping.

Will there be any hidden costs or charges added to my final balance?

This is where most of our competitors fall down with reputation. The so-called cowboy landscapers or 'Rogue Traders' as they're known, will use every trick in the book to manipulate the work to their financial advantage. Stephen Charles Landscapes has over 38 years landscaping experience and make every conceivable effort to ensure that what we quote is exactly what you pay! We prefer to quote rather than estimate for that reason.

Obviously, there are times when unforeseen circumstances, or us not being able to see what is underneath ground level, mean that certain material costs or indeed labour hours may vary. Similarly, some clients change their mind about materials or want additions part way through a landscaping project and that too is fine, but will of course be at extra cost. That said, most of the time we will swallow the difference ourselves unless the cost is significantly different, in which case we will speak to you about potential options.

We can assure you that from day one, we are entirely trustworthy and reliable and are known for keeping to our word.

Will I have to pay for a consultation or quote?

We endeavour to treat each and every customer with the same respect and courtesy, no matter how big the job is.

Our Director, Stephen, will visit your property or one of the Designers and work with the designers where he is not your nominated contact.

We provide several different services:

  1. Free quotation service - this is where you know exactly what you want and where you want it. We will attend, measure up and provide you with a free quotation.

  2. Initial consultation - an initial meeting, where you will meet our designer, discuss your ideas and receive some advice. We will discuss the style of garden you require, including what you like and do not like. We will spend some time assessing your current garden, taking photographs, and noting any issues which may affect the design. Following this meeting, you will be sent a garden design brief which is personalised to your garden, and the fee proposal document which depends on exact needs and complexities. It may be complemented by a quotation submitted. No drawings will be provided for this fee. For simple gardens, the Designer may choose to do a simple sketch, but may not. For complex gardens, we will be unable to provide a sketch. Sketches are not representative of any dimensions or other data.

  3. Garden design - after the initial meeting where you will have met your designer and received the garden design brief, your designer will start work on the design. A mood board may be used to help discuss options. A scaled garden design plan is first of all produced, and then a first concept plan. At this stage, a second meeting will be arranged to go through the design. 2D and 3D drawings can be produced. Three changes can occur within the design charge. Once the final design is agreed upon, a free quotation will be provided. For some properties, additional services may be needed.

Unlike other companies, we charge to cover our costs only. We have found, particularly during lockdown, that more and more people started taking advantage of our designers’ good natures. We are upfront with you so that our designers have time for the genuine enquiries.

Tell me about your research

In 2018, Stephen started a research and development side to the company to share knowledge and experience with other landscaping firms, garden enthusiasts and horticulturists, and to contribute to the community. This has allowed him to create processes and standards that ensure that you are always getting the best from our service based upon proven research by us. This means that we may prepare things to a greater depth, for example, based upon this; but with our guarantee on workmanship which exists because of this research, this ensures that you are always able to call us.

How has COVID affected you?

Like many other companies, we have made numerous changes. Initially, we reduced our working hours for all staff, stopping the requirement to work after 4pm for all field staff and not at weekends. We reduced down to two field teams - one maintenance and one landscaping, and we furloughed any non-essential workers or staff that had childcare or caring duties or who lived in vulnerable households to protect them all.

We kept running despite this, with limited support staff in the office and teams. We used sub-contractors who ended up affecting us negatively. COVID brought a lot of staff changes, many taking advantage of our good reputation and our good nature, refusing to follow established processes for a reason. We brought in two new Designers, who remain with us today, and added a third Landscaping Team when we re-opened properly. We brought in a Operations Manager to try to take some pressure off of Stephen. However, this did not work out. Stephen now has this responsibility back. More recently, we parted company with those who did not have the same ethos that Stephen foresaw when he created the business in 1984.

Our responsibility is to ensure that you are happy the whole way through the project, and receive not only what you want, but at a high standard. We have a responsibility where something will not work to explain this to you and come up with something as close to this as possible. This means having lots of new checks and balances in to ensure the research we carried out continues to benefit your garden for years, that you are happy with our employees and how they present themselves, and that you are kept abreast of updates weekly by the office. Post-COVID, this has become harder as people do not want to work hard; however, we now have teams who are happy, able to provide this service, and who all work together to give you what you want.

Despite COVID challenges and people taking advantage of our good nature in some cases, we have become stronger and will continue to develop changes in your interests as we see areas where we need to do so.

What are your payment terms?

Our payment terms depend upon several factors, e.g. the lead time from booking until carrying out the work,

We require 10% for booking work in in order to secure the dates plus whatever material deposit is needed. Depending on materials' cost and their lead time will depend upon date availability and deposit scheme. For example, special stone orders are taking up to 10 weeks currently, Oak posts can take 8 weeks and bricks can take several months. We would require payment in full for the material cost of these items to source them, pre-order and ensure delivery within the dates agreed. The remaining 90% payment terms will therefore be dependent on the portion of materials to labour and the work carried out each week, and will be clearly communicated prior to you agreeing to go ahead.

We hope to soon be able to partner with a finance provider who will offer you credit, assuming you are eligible.

Why should we use you?

We are a local landscaping and garden maintenance company with over 30 years’ experience, based in the small village of Petersham, Richmond upon Thames. We have five dedicated field teams: three landscaping and two maintenance, and we ensure that all our staff are fully up-to-date on their knowledge, and that they have

the best skills possible to undertake jobs to the high standards for which our company is known.

As you will see from the photographs on our website, we pay great attention to the small details on all our projects and the results speak volumes. We are in the business because we are passionate about gardens, and enjoy creating and looking after high-quality gardens in many different styles and sizes.

Most of our work comes from a portfolio of longstanding happy clients, and when asked on the phone, new clients often say that they have been referred by a previous client.

As a company, we pride ourselves on our reliability and our ability to see a job through to the end. Customer satisfaction is always at the forefront of our mind, and we strive to make the process of works as easy as possible to minimise disruption to your everyday life.

A lot of our competitors claim to have a dedicated and friendly team; however,

in reality, this often is not the case. The fact is that dedicated, friendly and knowledgeable people don’t just happen: we as contractors must take steps to make it happen.

As a company, we pay our staff above the average wage, and we spend time ensuring that they are fully trained up and that they have up-to-date training. As a company, we are constantly on the lookout for potential new staff members - finding the best does not come easy! We take a long time in hiring and training our staff, as we need to ensure that they can provide the level of expertise our clients have come to expect.

As a small and very local company, we can give personal attention to each one of our clients. We are extremely flexible and always do our best to accommodate all our clients’ requirements.

As a long-established business, we have developed an extensive database. We have recorded the prices and costs of every project we have undertaken, and it is from this data we are able to provide accurate quotations, unlike many of our competitors who only give an estimate which is likely to change. So when you get a quotation from us, you can be confident that the price quoted is the price you will pay, unless the works

require change. In extremely rare cases where it is not possible to give an exact quotation, we will provide you with an estimate; however, we will make you aware of this at the time.

We are fully compliant with the data protection laws (GDPR) and we will never pass on your details to third parties. The only exception to this is when we provide the site address to our suppliers to facilitate delivery.

If you have any further queries you would like answered, please give us a call on 020 3897

8422 or email

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