Aerial view of commercial landscape services at a sports field and sports complex


The Value of Well Written RFPs

In this blog we go over how to write and RFP for commercial landscape services. An RFP, also known as a Request for Proposal, is a fairly standard procedure done when property owners and managers want to solicit bids from contractors.

RFP’s are your way of explaining exactly what you expect someone servicing your property to do. Typically, RFP’s are used to establish the scope and contractors will respond with their pricing and proposed solutions.  

Honestly, learning how to write an RFP effectively as a client can be overwhelming and intimidating. Without knowing the basic components, it’s easy to feel like the RFP is writing you instead of the other way around. But don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. Check out these common components of a maintenance RFP and how to sell your property as best as possible.

How to Write an RFP for Commercial Landscape Services

1. Project Overview

Typically, an RFP starts with a brief overview of what you are looking for.  Will you be collecting bids for grounds maintenance? Do you require snow removal services?  Are there any large enhancement or tree care projects that would be offered to the contractor that wins the award?  

This section doesn’t need to be long, but it should be detailed. Include sitemaps so the contractors can better understand the boundaries.  Highlight areas that require special attention or that you are petitioning suggestions for. Remember that no one knows your commercial property like you do so make a thorough introduction and begin to lay the groundwork for your expectations.

2. Your Background

When you’re learning how to write an RFP, this section is vital. This is your place to introduce your commercial property and its values.  Share with prospective bidders what you value most as a company or community. What makes this particular property or portfolio special?  This section is underrated but highly important. By describing your values, there’s a better chance that you’ll find a contractor that aligns with them or shares the same ideals.

Complete Landscaping Service team performing services at National Harbor in Maryland.

3. Project Goals

In this section, you should explain what type of outcome you are hoping for at the end of the RFP process.  Are you looking to increase your curb appeal or resale values? Do you want to improve the aesthetics of the property?  Are you hoping to make changes to the level of customer service you receive?

Complete Landscaping Production manager looking at site map for Commercial Landscaping Services

4. Scope of Work

Contractors have said that an “ideal” RFP has a well-defined scope of work. This is your chance to get everything out on the table.  This should be the most detailed section in regards to the project. What are you looking to contract for? Be as specific as you can and include exactly what services you require when and how often.  It might even be helpful to include copies of your current contract scope for bidders to review. The detail helps to ensure that your expectation is clear, but it also helps to make sure contractors are bidding apples to apples.  

5. Timeline

Grounds Maintenance contracts typically run on a calendar year basis, but there are always exceptions. It is important that the start time and duration of the contract are provided in the RFP so that prospective bidders include the right number of services and understand the commitment.

Another timeline that is helpful to know is the decision making time frame.  The more you can help to define what the decision-making process is and when those key events (i.e. proposal due dates, interviews, decisions, etc.) will be made, the better it is for all parties.

6. Budget

Typically, talking about money is taboo but not here. Even if you can’t give an exact number for what your budget is, a range or best guess can be incredibly helpful. You can say something like “Our budget is ‘x’ but we’re willing to spend up to ‘y’ for the right proposal.” Many people think this section is an automatic yes or no for possible contractors. In reality, it just provides an idea of the type of work you can get for that price. In addition, some contractors prefer to know how much money you’re willing to spend on different areas. How much are you willing to spend on maintenance? How much for enhancements? These are valuable answers contractors need when writing the responses.

Complete Landscaping Service representative and community association manager walking a Northern Virginia property together.

7. Questions

Think of this as a preliminary interview.  Even experienced writers who know how to write an RFP overlook this area. In this section, it’s recommended that you provide questions you’d like each contractor to respond to. You may even want to ask them for their observations or recommendations.  After all, they are professionals and you are looking for a partner.

8. Criteria for Selection

Remember that the whole point of creating an RFP is to have guidelines for contractors to bid and a means to evaluate those proposals to see which contractor is the most capable.  Letting prospective bidders know how you will rate their submissions lets them know where to focus their time when putting their packages together. For example, how much weight will be put on price vs. capabilities and references?  Are there certifications that are needed? How extensive should their portfolio be? Do you want to speak with references?

Time to Try It Out!

If you’ve never written one before, learning how to write an RFP for commercial landscape services, can feel daunting. There is definitely a lot that goes into them on the front end.  But if you think about it, you’ve likely discussed everything you are putting together with colleagues or board members – now, they just go into a document. The elements we’ve highlighted here aren’t all that goes into an RFP, but they are some of the most important items.

If you already have an outline for an RFP, check out our other professional resource on How to Update an RFP. Remember that your property is unique and sell that point.