There are a few ways plant brokers, landscape architects and contractors can choose to find the plants they need for projects. Some experienced brokers choose to find their plants manually, through emails and phone calls with a few select farms in their local network. Other buyers use third-party software and off-the-shelf technology as a makeshift plant procurement platform. The largest commercial landscaping and contracting firms might even develop their own propriety plant procurement platform.
But most plant procurement platforms have their downfalls, and those downfalls directly impact the time architects and contractors spend on the plant procurement process, the amount of money spent on plants, the number of suppliers that buyers have access to, and the ability to use supplier data to analyze market trends, among other things.
There’s the traditional manual method, used by both long-time, experienced brokers and by smaller broker operations that have not invested in technological solutions. These brokers utilize a small set of nursery contacts, usually between 15-50, each time they need to confirm availability or place an order. They rely on close relationships with farms that they know, but those farms typically amount to about .00083 percent of market suppliers. They pick up the phone and call or nurseries one-by-one — a system that, though it worked for decades, takes a lot of time as messages are left and phone tag ensues. Plus, having to manage and track their plant procurement process by hand means that human errors pop up throughout the process.
Some brokers have invested in some technology to help them with their manual processes. These are brokers who have purchased off-the-shelf technology — Safe, Microsoft Great Plains, Quickbooks — and begun utilizing it in the plant procurement process, such as for help with billing or estimating. However, there is no single software system available that can manage all logistics through the entire project lifecycle, so solutions are piece-meal and the overall system lacks the ability to analyze and predict market trends.
The complex matching algorithm developed and used by Local Plant Source as its plant procurement platform is different. It is a comprehensive system designed to help contractors automate logistics throughout the entire plant purchasing process, from estimation to delivery. It is a system designed to make the most out of the data collected through the plant purchasing process so that it can provide information about what is happening within the supply chain that might be impacting prices and availability. It is a system designed around an ever-growing network of suppliers and buyers.
Though the Local Plant Source system is proprietary, other large-scale commercial brokers and contractors could create their own proprietary P3 to harness the same competitive advantages that the Local Plant Source platform provides. However, building the system would take several years and several full-time programmers, with upfront and ongoing costs reaching about $200,000 a year.
We bring these same benefits and more to our members for free; we make our profits from the bulk sales discounts we work out with suppliers. That means we don’t make money unless our platform finds the plants contractors need and sells the plants suppliers have. That's a win-win-win in our book.
Contractors might not know how their plant broker powers their purchasing processes or how the broker's chosen plant purchasing platform ultimately affects their own bottom line, but it's worth it to find out.