The Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) is the premier national association for landscapers. Founded in 1995 the APL operates as a specialist group within the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA). Set up to differentiate ‘professionals’ from ‘the rest’ it leads the field in providing the highest possible quality of service and support to its members.
Whilst maintaining the highest possible standards amongst its members the APL provides training, market research, PR, representation and business improvement services to help APL members increase their market share.
Steered by an elected Chairman and Committee the APL is administered by a strong executive team utilising the full weight of the HTA. APL members get all the usual wealth of HTA membership benefits on top of what they get for APL at no extra cost with members typically receiving ten times the value of their membership in the services received.
How APL supports its members
Clearly defined strategy
Each year the APL Management committee and executive review the strategic direction and approach for the Association. The current strategy runs from 2008 to 2010 and can be viewed by members on the members area of the APL website (www.landscaper.org.uk). The objectives of the strategy are clear:
1 To increase the market share for member businesses
2 To assist members in the profitable development of their businesses
3 To develop, maintain and promote high standards of practice.
In addition to this APL members are fully represented to Government by the well established network of HTA lobbying. Regular direct contact with Government Ministers and officials ensures that issues of concern are raised whenever they need to be. Specifically APL has lobbied on hosepipe bans and planning laws and is fully involved in the HTAs Greening the UK campaign to promote more planting in urban areas.
Increasing market share
The APL, through the HTA, has exceptionally strong links with trade and consumer media and utilises these to promote the benefits of using APL members at every available opportunity. A clear PR Plan, under the responsibility of the APL PR Manager Gill Ormrod, is developed each year and followed through. This concerted activity has led to widescale coverage of the benefits of using APL members in local press, through the internet, radio, TV and in other consumer publications.
With the APL now fully TrustMark accredited (www.trustmark.org.uk) this gives the Association media exposure like never before. APL and its members are proud of the highly prized, government endorsed, TrustMark certification that has been achieved. APL member landscapers with TrustMark certification enjoy the benefit of the huge PR and marketing activity of the TrustMark scheme. Just since January 2008 the TrustMark scheme has achieved £12 million worth of media coverage which has reached 54% of all UK adults. The scheme is now widely recognised by UK households and will increasingly be the first port of call for anyone wanting to contract work on their homes and gardens.
All registered APL members appear on the TrustMark website which gains on average 700 visits per day. No other landscaping association can provide the link to TrustMark like APL can.
Promoting APL through Garden Centres and Nurseries
With the British public increasingly looking for people to ‘do their garden’ for them Garden Centres are being asked, more than ever before, to recommend a trustworthy landscaper. With all the key UK garden centres in HTA membership the APL has unique access to this powerful promotional tool. APL communicates directly with Garden Centres and has worked hard to forge links between retail and APL members. Soon Garden Centres will have the opportunity to display APL promotional boards in their outlets and provide their customers with details of local APL members.
Many HTA member nurseries provide cash-and-carry services for designers and landscapers. APL have provided them with details of APL members so designers can pick the best landscapers in their area to work with.
Working closely with partner organisations
The APL has a strong working relationship with the Society of Garden Designers (SGD) and continue to work with them, bringing together the best designers and best landscapers. Joint events and competitions have led to more work for the APL members that have been involved. 2008 sees a major joint initiative with a highly publicised competition for the design and build of a garden at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The winning garden brings together the SGD winner and the best landscape contractors, selected from APL Award winners, to produce, with the valued financial support of Bradstone, what should be an outstanding garden. The media have been kept informed of the project and the BBC are standing by.
Promoting APL excellence
Fundamentally the APL is built on promoting quality businesses delivering quality landscapes. The benchmark of high standards is highlighted in the APL Customer Charter which underpins everything the Association stands for.
• Properly trained and qualified in landscaping
• Employed or trading as a landscaper for a minimum of 3 years
• Members of the Horticultural Trades Association
• Provide a minimum of 6 satisfactory customer references of completed work within the past two years
• Supply a minimum of 2 satisfactory trade references
• Maintain all the relevant insurance cover including public and employers liability
In addition to meeting the above criteria members must also:
• Follow the agreed complaints resolution procedure
• Offer customers an independently backed warranty
Members sign up to adhere to the Charter which is promoted to the media, through the APL website and by members themselves.
Members also benefit from being able to promote their own membership of APL and TrustMark through van stickers, site boards, charters and folders. APL provide all members with a PR Toolkit, helping them to promote themselves in their own areas.
The APL website – www.landscaper.org.uk – hits number one on Google for members of the public searching for a landscaper. The site generates considerable interest, linking closely to the TrustMark website. The public can search for a APL member by postcode, or click on their region, and clear detailed information is provided linking to the members own website and contact details.
Improving Business Profitability
The HTA has long worked with its members in business improvement and these skills have been effectively translated to APL in the development of the Landscape Business Improvement Scheme (LBIS). LBIS is a scheme open to all APL members. Members are invited to six meetings a year with other similar landscape businesses to benchmark themselves and share best practice. Chaired by leading industry consultants the five groups across the country help each other improve business performance and profitability. The scheme has helped many APL members make more money and operate far more effectively.
According to Alex Webster, owner of The Essential Eathmen, ‘LBIS has helped me grow my business, taught me sound business skills and every meeting attended has more than paid for itself in the direct financial benefit to my business’.
The APL is the only trade body in the sector to develop its own bespoke training scheme for domestic landscape businesses. The Landscape Training Award is a workbook based training programme developed to meet the needs of members that want well trained staff but don’t have the time to send them to college.
Adam Frost of New Ground Landscapes represents the APL on the HTA Training & Careers Committee. He says ‘the shortage of quality training is a serious issue in our sector. The APL are addressing the issue, making it a key priority this year, with the Landscape Training Award leading the field for our industry’
The whole issue of education, training and careers is the subject of the HTA’s Developing People Strategy. Landscaping is an integral part of this and both HTA and Lantra have funded a full-time Training and Careers Manager to take on the challenge of improving all these areas for the long term success of the sector.
The principles of ‘Lean’ developed in the Japanese car industry have successfully been applied to a number of APL members with the result being considerable efficiency savings in the tens of thousands of pounds. The HTAs very own lean consultant, Neil Fedden, is available to members at significantly preferential rates.
Business Advice Lines
As part of APL membership you have full and free access to all the HTA products and services. These include the suite of Advice Lines covering legal, employment, health & safety, tax, pensions, planning and security providing outstanding information for all members.
HTA Products and Services
APL members can benefit from a full range of specially negotiated rates on products and services such as insurance, clothing and equipment.
Through the HTAs Garden Industry Monitor programme APL members are provided with regular free market information to assist in business planning and working out the way forwards for the future.
Develop, maintain and promote high standards
The APL works hard to maintain and promote the high standards of its members. The Association works on the principle of continuous improvement and communicates best practice to members through LBIS and the detailed and informative quarterly publication, APL Update. APL continues to invest in new tools to help members, these include the standard Terms & Conditions that have been approved by solicitors and freely available to members to use. A full set of guidance notes on good landscape business practice has been prepared for LBIS members and has proved an invaluable resource.
The annual APL Awards event is a major feature of the year. The Awards pull out the very best of British landscaping which can be promoted to the public and further drive up standards.
The APL is the only landscaping trade association that annually inspects all its members. Highly respected landscaping experts are used to visit members each year following the system below:
Year 1 – Inspection of completed garden
Year 2 – Inspection of work in progress
Year 3 – Office inspection
This comprehensive inspection regime is the bedrock for maintaining high standards within APL. Inspections are backed up by a rigorous procedure and failing members will be expelled!
APL takes customer complaints very seriously and there is a strict procedure to be followed when a complaint comes in. Independent assessors are used to make sure the right outcome is always achieved.
Driving High Standards in Landscaping
The APL sets the measure for quality landscapers. The Association is going from strength to strength with new members joining all the time to benefit from the wealth of business support services and the coveted APL and TrustMark badges. For further information on APL contact the APL Administrator, Alison Smith, on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0118 9303132.
Following your expression of interest we will send you a APL pack and you will be able to contact your local APL Business Development Adviser who will be able to visit you to discuss APL, how to join and how membership can help your business.