What sets me apart?

I was asked today during a meeting with colleague and friend Liz from EB Color what I think sets me apart from all the other Landscape Architects? What is my niche? Good question.
I do this work because it makes me really, really happy to make my clients happy. And if the client’s site functions really well for them and looks fantastic, then I’ve done my part. I know it sounds cliché, but it really matters to me that I helped someone out, made their life easier, or more joyful. Each project is a puzzle to me and I LOVE figuring out a way to make either difficult site or a difficult request work. It’s a good feeling to make the seemingly impossible possible.
Definitely not all, but some landscape architects out there (as in all professions, I’m sure) have a grand plan for a site, the way they envision it, what they would do to completely re-think the site. I’m reminded of this once in a while, when I arrive to a site meeting or consultation and a client says to me “Tell me what you see here”. If this is the first question, then I have no answer. My job is to investigate and listen. I ask the client how do you use the space now? How do you want to use it? What’s missing? What works and doesn’t work well now? I ask plenty of other questions along with what kind of budget they have. The answers to these questions usually cause the plan to unfold itself in front of me. After that, I pay attention to what is already going on with the site, the architectural style and scale of any proposed or existing building, and how we can be the most efficient and fitting for the site and the needs of the client.
It’s a collaborative effort between me, any other professionals working on the project, the client, and the site. The client and I work together to come up with a finished product that they can be excited about. I think that when working with me the client is more excited in the end because they can see themselves in their landscape plan. The way they live, work, move through space, entertain, garden, relax, recreate. This tells me (and the client) that I listened well, took enough notes, and got to know their site well.
Does being a good listener set me apart? Maybe. Isn’t this the way we should all work? I think so, but we live in world where a personal connection and communicative relationship with those we work for is becoming rarer all the time. I want to do my small part to prove that customer service is alive and well.
If listening skills and being attentive to my clients are my niche, I’ll gladly accept that!

“Give trust, and you’ll get it double in return”