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Grounds Management Contractor Rating System

Use this system to strengthen your bidding process
The tender process is intended to provide the project owner with a reliable and equitable method of determining a fair market price for the purchase of contract services. Whether the process is an open public tender or private invited tender, the tendering system allows the project owner or his consultant to determine a competitive price for specified construction or maintenance products and/or services.

Even the best written contract, however, does not provide the owner with an indication as to the ability of a bidding contractor to complete the project as specified, regardless of whether or not there is an obligation on the part of the owner or project manager to give first consideration to the low price tender.

The first determination, therefore, for government institutions, developers, general contractors and others making a buying decision, is to predetermine the ability of contractors before they are placed on the bidder's list.

The following rating system provides worksheets to assist you in the most important aspect of the bidding procedure - the prequalification process. The value of each criterion is weighted (as per the numbers shown in brackets) and the total value per grouping suggests its relative importance for consideration by the project owner. For instance, financial and human resources are deemed of equal and prime importance, while physical resources are considered to be somewhat important.

These criteria should by used as guides to identify important information and then determine the relative values of each contractor based upon that data. Compare the sums to determine an objective indication of which contractors will likely provide the higher level of satisfaction and long-term value.

Please note that this system is not intended to favour any size of contractor. Owners should be aware that a small contractor may be more appropriate to the project, or alternatively, the job may require the services of a larger firm.

The prequalification of contractors is the most important part of the tender process; we hope you find these evaluation worksheets to be useful in establishing an appropriate bidder's list for your project(s).

Rating worksheet: Grounds management contractors
Numbers in brackets are the suggested weighted values for each selection criterion
Financial resources
Proof of good standing with W.S.I.B. (mandatory)Y or N 
Proof and level of insurance carried (mandatory)Y or N 
Supplier reference(2) 
Subtotal(2 possible points) 
Human resources (applicable to the project at hand)
Year round labour(3) 
Seasonal full-time labour(5) 
Part-time/student labour(2) 
Average years experience for field personnel(5) 
Ratio: Crew forepersons to labour(5) 
Ratio: Supervisors to forepersons(5) 
Number of staff with academic horticulture training(5) 
CHT certificationY or N 
Subtotal(30 possible points) 
Company profile
Number of years in business under current name(6) 
Percentage of gross sales that is subcontracted(6) 
Client/professional references for projects of similar size and scope                                        (6) 
Active membership in trade associations(2) 
Per cent of sales broken down by business segment(5) 
Subtotal(25 possible points) 
Physical resources
Facility location(s)(2) 
Net book value of leased/owned equipment(2) 
Area of operations(2) 
Administrative resources and capability(4) 
Subtotal(10 possible points) 
Total(67 possible points) 


EXPLANATIONS OF RATING CRITERIA:
These selected criteria provide an overview of a grounds maintenance company's skill level and crew makeup.

Proof of good standing with Workers Safety and Insurance Board (mandatory)
This is traditionally verified through the provision of a "Certificate of Clearance," which is issued only by the Workers Safety Insurance Board (WSIB) of Ontario for employers (contractors, in this case) who are registered and are current with their contributions.

Landscape construction and landscape management work falls under Rate Code 190, although some sub-contracted services, such as weed spraying, may fall under different rate codes.

The owner of a construction project is held to be responsible under the law for any compensative injury that may occur as a result of a person working on that project, where the employer is not in good standing (or for that matter even registered) with them. The board can and will address their claim to the owner and, if necessary, to the property itself.

Proof and level of insurance carried (mandatory)
Personal liability and property damage insurance, on a minimum $2,000,000 per occurrence basis, are the most typical types of insurance provided. The owner of a construction project would be held accountable for the actions of all those who are employed/contracted or otherwise engaged by him in the process of that construction. The most common protection is to have all contractors provide certificates of insurance identifying the owner as an "also named insured" on the contractor's policy for their work on that specific project.

Higher levels of coverage may be appropriate for projects that may involve a greater level of risk through size, value or other circumstances.

Supplier reference
Good supplier references give proof of the contractor's financial stability to ensure completion of the project. Poor credit ratings with key suppliers will prevent delivery of products, therefore disrupting construction schedules. A contractor's ability to pay past accounts payable from such suppliers, prevents the owner from unpaid accounts. Generally, references should be obtained from suppliers with related products to the project at hand. This criterion has less importance when rating grounds management contractors.

Labour: Year round
These are generally the key people around which the company's seasonal operations revolve. Include the total number of employees in the company to get an idea on the size of the company.

Labour: Seasonal full-time
Indicates the number of persons added to the core group on a seasonal basis. Most are likely to have some degree of experience.

Part time/student labour
Those who are added to supplement full-time labour during peak periods or whose experience is minimal.

Average years experience for field personnel
When restricted to labour year round and labour seasonal full time, the average is indicative of overall competence. The higher the average, the more experience within the company.

Ratio of crew forepreson(s) to labour
Indicates average crew size and direct, "on-the-job" supervision capability.

Ratio of supervisors to crew foreperson(s)
In larger companies, indicates senior management's involvement in quality and service control.

Number of staff with academic horticulture training
An indicator of theoretical knowledge that may be required to resolve technical problems or address non-routine needs.

CHT designation
The Certified Horticultural Technician program is a hands-on testing program intended to verify the practical knowledge of persons employed in the landscape horticulture industry. The program was especially designed to acknowledge the value of applied knowledge; persons with a minimum of practical work experience or a combination of experience and education are eligible to participate in the program. The CHT designation proves a specific level of skill of the individual in all areas of landscape construction or grounds management. The CHT designation indicates a commitment to promote professionalism on the part of both the employer and employee.

Number of years in business under current name
The number of years in business is an important rating guide because many companies in the landscape field are short-lived. Longevity will give the client a good idea of the firm's experience, customer service level and commitment to professionalism. Evidence of frequent name changes is an effective monitor of future problems.

Per cent of gross sales usually sub-contracted
While there are many specialties which are most effectively completed by sub-contractors, the ability of a contractor to perform may be greatly influenced by the availability of their own skilled trades people. A history of a large percentage of sub-contracted work would require the company to be very strong in project scheduling and management. The more work sub-contracted, the greater the risk in terms of accountability.

Client/professional references for projects similar in size and scope
This is a very useful guide to the contractor's level of technical proficiency and also to his/her financial ability to see the job through. This is particularly important on larger projects.

Active members in a trades association
Membership in a trades association reflects the firms commitment to professionalism in the industry and their willingness to abide by a code of ethics. Membership also indicates a contractor's responsible attitude towards the advancement of the profession.

Gross sales, broken down into consumer segments
The ability of a contracting company to effectively complete a large volume of work, at any given time, may be assessed through an evaluation of their recorded sales volume over the past few years. In turn, those totals should be further defined in terms of:

  • Residential: Single-family homes, townhouse complexes, high rises/condominium
  • Commercial: Small (under $50,000), medium (to $300,000), large (over $300,000). Low rise industrial/commercial (2 stories or less), high rise commercial (office complex), retail plaza.
  • Municipal: Streetscapes, parks, institutional facilities.
Facility location
Distance to the job may have an effect in that overhead of the company increases in proportion to distance from the job site. Close proximity to the site can be an advantage.

Net book value of leased/owned equipment
This criterion gives the client/consultant an idea of the size and scope of the operation.

Area of operations
Many contractors choose to work in areas relatively close to their operational headquarters; from a service/maintenance aspect, this may be a more favourable consideration.

Other contractors, however, have organized their resources into decentralized, flexible, mobile crews, who are trained in the proper planning and supervision techniques that facilitate execution of remote projects.

Administrative resources and capability
The following are indicators of access, should the need to communicate arise.
(a) Number of full-time office staff
(b) Office hours
(c) Technical assistance availablity during office hours
(d) Office-to-crew direct communication

Produced by the Landscape Contractors Commodity Group and the Grounds Management Commodity Group of Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association.


Landscape and Grounds Management Contractor Rating System

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