Friday, 30 June 2017

Kentucky Firm Evolves With Success From One Generation To The Next

Success From One Generation to the Next

Perpetual change and innovation characterize today’s rapid-fire business environment. What worked five years ago, perhaps even last year, may not work today. Smart business owners know that as markets, customer desires and technology evolve, they also must adopt, adapt and change.

Stephen Hillenmeyer realized this almost a generation ago. He saw that the model his family had successfully relied on for generations in central Kentucky was no longer working — at least not to his satisfaction.

In 2003 he committed to making a change in the family business — a big change. Hillenmeyer, company president, says it wasn’t as difficult a decision to make as most people might think.

Hillenmeyer moved his company away from the nursery business, which had helped sustain the family for well over a century. He also closed the family’s popular garden center while also de-emphasizing landscape construction and landscape design/build.

In the place of those services he embraced a new client-service model by redoubling the family operation’s focus on landscape maintenance and related property management services. He also acquired a Weed Man lawn care franchise. That’s where the sixth generation of the family — Chase, 31, and Seth, 27 — enters the picture.

“We were always involved at some level in the family business. And the business always interested me,” says Chase. “But our dad also encouraged us to do something outside of the family business.”

Both he and younger brother, Seth, (great-great-great-grandsons of founder Francis Xavier Hillenmeyer) graduated from Miami of Ohio in Oxford. Both concentrated on business and finance while at the university.

While Chase was considering a career opportunity and searching for an apartment in Chicago, his father approached him, seeking help with the family business. “I gave it a lot of thought and decided it was the best opportunity for me to grow in the long term,” recalls Chase, who became part of the company in 2007.

“Two things played into me joining the family business,” adds Seth, who had worked in commercial banking in Chicago before returning to Kentucky. “One was the success my brother and dad were having, and they were generous enough to want me to be a part of that success and help grow that business.

“Number two, I decided I didn’t want to spend my life behind a desk giving out loans. Two years in commercial banking convinced me the corporate world wasn’t for me,” says Seth, who joined the family firm in 2012.

While Chase runs the day-to-day operations in both Stephen Hillenmeyer Landscape Services and Weed Man, Seth’s task is building lawn care.

The family is confident it will continue to grow its business and is pleased with the progress of its Nashville location, now in its third season. Even so, Chase says challenges remain.

“I’d like to say that we have everything down pat, but I certainly don’t think we do,” he says. “Obviously, it’s a challenge to maintain the same culture among the two locations (Lexington and Nashville) separated by a few hundred miles.”

In addition to making frequent trips to Nashville, the brothers bring technicians from Tennessee to Lexington, not only for training but to share Hillenmeyer culture and history with them. “It’s eye-opening for them to come here and see all of our operation,” adds Chase.

Neither brother has regretted their decisions to join the family firm, especially given their success in growing the Weed Man franchises to $3.5 million through the 2016 season.

And their father has no regrets about dramatically streamlining the family business after acquiring its full ownership in 2002. In fact, it turned out to be a very smart move.

This became apparent within a few short years with the implosion of the economy during the Great Recession of 2009-2010. As economic gloom descended on the landscape industry, both the live plant business and design/build suffered in central Kentucky as well as nationally. By contrast, Hillenmeyer’s combination of basic landscape services aimed at the commercial market and Weed Man lawn care maintained sales volume.

“The foundation of our business had been the growing operation, the nursery,” says Stephen. “That’s a very capital-intensive business that you invest a lot of money in … then have to wait five to six years to get a return on your investment. During that time people may decide they don’t like those types of trees, and you end up with several fields of inventory that might not be as valuable as you had planned.”

As for spinning off the family retail business?

“In that business you hope you have good weather and that people come to see you. You can’t be very proactive. And then there’s the competition from Walmart, Lowe’s and every gas station selling mulch,” continues Stephen. “Retail was one of the first things I wanted to get out of.”

Over a few short years Stephen had redirected the family business into the recurring revenue model.

“It’s hard to be all things to all people, so we knew we had to simplify the business,” he adds.

That’s not to say the Hillenmeyer family is content to stay put. It’s not. It’s just that whatever new endeavors it gets into must fit its business model, which includes being able to achieve a relatively high customer renewal rate from year to year.

Hillenmeyer’s most recent acquisition, a Mosquito Authority franchise for central Kentucky, fits this model. “That business doubled in size last year, and we’re seeing a nice increase this year, too,” says Stephen.

With so much going on, Stephen is extremely pleased to have two talented sons in the business to help write the next chapter in the remarkable Hillenmeyer success story.

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from Mix ID 8230377

Like a Boss: Balancing Job Freedoms and Hour Tracking

Digital payroll

Aaron Rodolph, president of Rodolph Brothers, Inc., in Casper, Wyoming, says he’s become challenged to find an accurate way to track hours without insulting his millennial employees, which comprise about half of his workforce. With studies showing that millennials value freedom in their jobs above all other factors, Rodolph was challenged to find a way in which he could control payroll costs while still offering his employees the freedom they desire. While payroll is the highest cost of the business, it’s also been the hardest to control.

Coming up with a one-size-fits-all solution was by no means simple. Crews at Rodolph Brothers work very different schedules. While some employees work alone and have more flexibility, others must work as a team. Some employees had errands or needed to take their kids somewhere and needed flexibility in the middle of the day and a normal time clock wouldn’t facilitate a middle-of-the-day break. Rodolph knew he had to think outside the box. Ultimately, he took a multi-faceted approach incorporating both a tracking application and written policy.

“We used About Time, which runs as an app on the employees’ phones and tabulates in the cloud,” Rodolph explains. “They can clock in and out as many times as they like in real time. Then that data is accessible to all managers so they can see the exact minutes that each employee worked as well as what jobs they did.”

Rodolph says the company also wrote some specific policy about clocking out. For example, if an employee is driving to a job site in a company vehicle and they want to stop at a deli along the way, they must clock out when they stop. When they get their food, and get back in the truck, they can clock in before driving. If the employee decides he is going to go off-route and drive across town to his favorite deli, they must clock out as soon as they break from the route.

“This allows for an employee to come and go as long as they still maintain their commitments and serve their clients as expected,” Rodolph says. “If you want to have coffee with a friend in the mid-morning, and you can work it into your schedule, you can be free to do so as long as you do so within the constraints of your particular job. For instance, maybe you can work a little later that day or start earlier. The solution means freedom for those that value it.”

Rodolph says the solution has worked well but still requires some balancing on the crews’ parts. Since some teams must stay together in order to work safely there is no way to achieve “perfect freedom.” In addition, during the summer, when the company is busy nonstop, some of that freedom must be waived in order to keep up with everything.

“We understand that it is a balance and this system is the key to achieving it,” Rodolph says. “A Proverb balances the concept of freedom versus productivity nicely. It states: The appetite of employees works for them; their hunger drives them on.”

Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them. Discuss your biggest business challenges on LawnSite’s Business Management forum.

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Thursday, 29 June 2017

Making Adjustments During a Winter Storm

Larger sites and bigger clients should be assured that there will be a constant presence during a storm. When the snow stops flying, crews still need to relocate snow, treat refreezes and clean up areas that were a lower priority.

“We have storm action plans for most of our big sites,” says Tom Canete, president and CEO of Canete Snow Management in New Jersey. The plans are included in binders placed in the vehicles that go out to each site, and they include maps showing where to put the snow, the location of catch basins and perimeters, hot points such as priority sidewalk spots and storefronts, as well as secondary spots. During a storm, it’s important to know which places need to be kept clear and which can wait until after the snow stops.

While the goal is always to stick to those plans, adjustments often have to be made during storms. “It depends on the time of the storm (when it hits), the type of snow (wet or fluffy), the duration of the storm, and sometimes the temperature — particularly on the backside. So we have something written, but we like to say it’s written in pencil,” Canete says.

The Service Innovators’ Tim Gibbons says the goal during a storm is usually to keep a site open and accessible, and sometimes that requires taking a triage approach and refocusing the normal snow management plan.

“We may alter the stacking locations. We’ll work on the critical areas: the handicap parking spots, the main entrances, the entrance and exit driveways. We’ll focus on the areas most in need of attention,” he says.

And while the goal on a normal plow is to touch snow only once, for the sake of expediency during storms, “We may come up with an interim pile zone just to make the runs shorter, rather than taking snow to the most remote corner.” Then, once the storm has wrapped up, there will be time to move all the snow and clean everything up.

Changing the plan and making adjustments in the middle of a snow storm can be more efficient for the crew.

Visit for more forums on equipment, business management and technical information. Join the conversation in the largest community of snow and ice business professionals.

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CASE Donates Track Loaders for Detroit Cleanup: This Week’s Industry News

Want to keep up with the latest news in lawn care and landscaping? Check back every Thursday for a quick recap of recent happenings in the green industry.

New Study: Florida Green Industry Pumps Billions into State Economy
Florida’s nursery and landscape industry generates $21.08 billion in total output sales and more than 232,000 jobs, says an economic impact study conducted by the University of Florida/IFAS on behalf of the Florida, Nursery, Growers & Landscape Association. Florida’s nursery and landscape industry created 28,000 jobs between 2010 and 2015 and directly employs a statewide workforce of 232,650 people.

Hardscape North America Sets Free Contractor Briefings
Organizers of the GIE+EXPO 2017 have planned free Contractor Briefing sessions to be held during the 2017 Hardscape North America. Topics will include OSHA and Silica, as well as a wide range of profit-boosting tips from recognized industry experts. These 20-minute briefings will take place Thursday, Oct. 19 and Friday, Oct. 20 in the trade show floor classroom located directly behind the ICPI Booth (#20010) on the trade show floor.

Heart Attack Claims J.J. Mauget President, CEO Nathan Dodds
J.J. Mauget Company has announced the unexpected death of Nathan (Nate) E. Dodds, its president and CEO. Dodds suffered a massive heart attack earlier this month on June 14. Nate, joined his father, Dale I. Dodds, and younger brother, Charlie Dodds, at Mauget 35 years ago. When Nate’s father, Dale, passed away 20 years ago, Nate took over as president and CEO. The family-owned and operated business has considered everyone that has ever worked at Mauget as part of the extended Dodds family. Nate’s daughter, Kellie E. Dodds, has accepted the position of president and general manager of the J.J. Mauget Company.

More H-2B Visas to be Issued in Late July
Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has decided to issue a “limited number” of seasonal guest worker visas, the department announced June 21, though they still don’t have a total and won’t begin to issue them until late July. The move offers a small amount of relief to seasonal businesses such as landscapers, summer resorts and seafood processors who have come to rely on foreign workers and who say they will be devastated without them. But the department said the authority granted by Congress came so late that it’s likely the number they issue will be relatively small, and probably far less than the approximately 70,000 visas Kelly could issue, reports The Washington Times.

Hunter Industries Enters New Market with Purchase of DDI
Hunter Industries, based here, recently acquired Dispensing Dynamics International (DDI), headquartered in City of Industry, California. DDI specializes in the development of unique dispensing solutions for towel, tissue, wiper, napkin and air care products. The acquisition allows Hunter to diversify its business operations and grow its customer base while working with familiar materials and processes.

Excel Industries Lays Off 270 Employees
Excel Industries, which makes zero-turn riding lawn mowers under the Hustler Turf and BigDog names, notified 270 employees June 22 that they were being laid off as part of the company’s reconfiguration and workforce reduction. The company released the following statement: “The streamlining in Excel’s production facility follows three years of unprecedented growth as the company more than doubled in size. While marketplace demand for the company’s turf care products continues to increase, the pace has normalized in 2017. Excel continues to grow at a modest pace, though the overall market for turf care products is flat or down in part due to adverse weather and economic conditions in many parts of the country.”

Davey Tree Promotes John Tokarczyk to Operations Manager
The Davey Tree Expert Co. promoted John Tokarczyk to operations manager. Tokarczyk will serve as operations manager for Davey’s DTE Energy accounts in Michigan and NIPSCO accounts in Indiana. He started with Davey as a journeyman in utility services and held positions of increasing responsibility before being promoted to general foreman in 2010. In 2012, he was promoted to production manager and then in 2013 was promoted to area manager.

Arborjet Names Matt Andrus Horticulture Technical Specialist
Matt Andrus has taken on a new appointment as Horticulture Technical Specialist for Arborjet Inc., based here. In his new role, Andrus will be responsible for helping to conduct research studies, promoting sales and providing consultations. Prior to his roles at Arborjet, Matt was the head propagator and manager of six large greenhouses. In addition to traditional greenhouse culture, Matt also started a “rooftop garden” business and teaches public and private classes about various cultivation techniques. Arborjet’s mission is to develop the most effective formulations and delivery systems in plant health care.

CASE Dealer Donates Track Loaders for Detroit Cleanup
CASE Construction Equipment dealer Southeastern Equipment Co. Inc., donated the use of two TR310 compact track loaders with grapple buckets to Team Rubicon for Operation Joe Louis—an urban blight response project in Detroit, Michigan. Team Rubicon has worked in partnership with the City of Detroit’s Motor City Make-Over event—an annual citywide volunteer cleanup and beautification initiative—and Herman Kiefer Development LLC, to clean up the Herman Kiefer Hospital complex and neighborhood by conducting damage assessments, debris management and home repairs in the area. Team Rubicon brought in more than 100 volunteers.

Monstanto Sues to Keep Glyphosate Off List of Carcinogens in California
Monsanto has filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent glyphosate, the main ingredient in its Roundup herbicide, from being added to the state’s list of known carcinogens, reports Reuters. The seed and agrochemicals company said it filed the suit against the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment and the agency’s acting director, Lauren Zeise, in California state court. California law requires the state to keep a list of cancer-causing chemicals to inform residents of their risks. OEHHA said in September that it planned to add glyphosate to the list after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified it as a probable human carcinogen last March. Monsanto has disputed assessment, citing decades of studies deeming glyphosate safe, including a 2007 study by OEHHA that concluded the chemical was unlikely to cause cancer.

Read last week’s industry news: Kawasaki Motors Teams with Pro Wrestler Steve Austin

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from Mix ID 8230377

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Story of a Landscape: Ohio Prize-Winning Backyard Lighting Project

For Ric Haury, owner of Suncrest Gardens based in Ohio, and his crew, the project for which they were recognized by the Ohio Landscape Association, goes well beyond the lighting for which they were honored.

Start with a master plan for the clients’ backyard that adds a pool and spa, a fire pit, a fishing dock and a deck balcony, and it all evolves into what Haury calls, “a good-sized project.”

And, setting it all off is a lighting plan designed to solve the problem of a very dark yard at night while offering a complement to what Mother Nature provides during the daytime.

Haury explains that the job came from a referral from an existing client.

“The people had owned the house for a bit and saw some potential,” he says. “They wanted to expand on the little patio they had in the backyard, so they sat down with our design team and started discussing specifics.”

Photo: Suncrest Gardens

Included in those specifics was what he refers to as an “added amenity” in the lighting feature.

“With just about any project, lighting really sets the tone,” says Haury. “It’s not just the fixtures, although the path lighting provides character and aesthetic appeal. The result of any good lighting can really set off a landscape at night.”

Because of the scope of the project, Haury says anywhere from three to eight men worked on the site at any given time. Work began in the fall of 2014 and wrapped up the next spring following a winter break. Construction of the pool and spa were subcontracted out, as well as some of the electrical work.

However, the rest of the construction, including the second-floor deck off the master bedroom, was handled in-house. Haury says Suncrest has the capability to handle the deck construction, although it’s not something it does frequently.

“We don’t do tons of them, but it’s like building a covered pergola or a three-season room,” he says. “If it’s an amenity to the outdoor living space, we have it in our skill set to be able to do that for a client.”

In this project, the clients’ desires concerning the lighting also drove the selection of at least some of the hardscape material. Because in-ground lights were to be used around the pool, the decision was made to install Techo-Bloc’s Antika pavers in a flowing river pattern for the pathway and adjoining the concrete pool decking.

“Obviously, the designers had to consider the texture, the color and the pattern of any of the hard surfaces and work that in with the lighting,” says Haury. “In this project, there’s recessed lighting in the pavers and we had to make them fit, so that was part of the material selection process.”

Photo: Suncrest Gardens

Along with the inset lighting in the pavers, the clients wanted an orange color theme, which shows up in several locations in the project, including the Adirondack chairs and some of the railing on the deck.

“The clients also wanted orange glass inserts among the pavers,” Haury explains. “It’s a bit quirky, but the look is good. The rest of the masonry is a natural Maryland flagstone.”

As for the lighting itself, Haury offers a count of 54 different fixtures, all low-voltage LED with a controller with access to Smartphone technology.

“There’s the path lighting, and some up-lighting on some of the trees,” he says. “There are also insert lights on some of the pillars. Everything was strategically placed, and safety was a consideration, as well as aesthetics. It’s particularly important to have good lighting around the pool in a setting like that.

“We’re very proud of the lighting program for this project and the way it was installed.”

Photo: Suncrest Gardens

And, he notes that besides being a winner in the lighting category, the same project had won recognition the previous year in one of the overall construction categories.

As for the reason for his overall pride in the project, Haury says that’s simple: it’s a great use of space.

“This is not a large property and there were some privacy issues involved,” he says. “Not only were there some large plantings used to screen some adjacent neighbors, but the overall use of space is just outstanding. We got a lot done there.”

In fact, Haury lists the proximity of the neighbors as one of the bigger challenges to the construction. Not only was it challenging to stay within the property’s footprint but it increased the logistics of moving materials back and forth, as well.

And, he adds that logistics offered an additional challenge, as well.

“The timing on all the processes was also critical, as it is typically with any project of this size,” he observes. “It’s a matter of getting the pool in at the right time, and the rough electrical, and the base materials. Then, it’s just a matter of working your way out of it.”

Photo: Suncrest Gardens

In general, though, he says there weren’t any snags. Although Haury says every job offers its own learning experience, because of the size and scope of this job Suncrest used it as a teaching situation for some of its junior staff.

“It gave us a chance to do some onsite training with crew leaders who want to be foremen,” he says. “They got to see how the site was staged and how the senior foreman worked through the project. In the same way, we have one registered architect on staff who’s just cutting his teeth in the industry, and he got a bit of a training exercise in watching the process flow.

“We’re always trying to teach somebody how to step up.”

But, then, he says that’s what awards programs, such as the OLA one, are all about.

“We like to participate,” Haury concludes. “It gives our staff a good feeling when we win an award, and we can post it in our conference room and show people just what we can do. It’s all good.”

The post Story of a Landscape: Ohio Prize-Winning Backyard Lighting Project appeared first on Turf.

from Mix ID 8230377

Fast Facts About Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass

Ever wonder how the most commercially valuable cool-season turfgrass in America got its name? Kentucky bluegrass, or Poa pratensis, is neither blue, nor did it originate in Kentucky, at least not the varieties that most are familiar with. But there is a believable explanation of how this species got its name.

European settlers are generally thought to have brought seed of the species with them when they established their homesteads in central and northern Kentucky in the 17th and 18th centuries. Kentucky bluegrass grows well as a pasture grass on the limestone soils of the region. This cool-season, sod-forming perennial grass is also palatable for grazing animals. And that’s thought to be one of the reasons it was established in the central and northern regions of Kentucky.

As previously mentioned, the species, like all familiar grass species, is green. But in areas where common meadow grass is allowed to grow to its mature height of 2 to 3 feet, the plants put on small silvery-blue flowers.

If you get the privilege of visiting eastern Oregon or northern Idaho, where Kentucky bluegrass (many different cultivars) is grown for the commercial production of seed, you will be delighted at seeing the waving mature grass plants just prior to harvesting. Whether you see blue or not, it’s a beautiful sight.

Kentucky bluegrass is the most commercially valuable cool-season turfgrass in America. It’s almost universally found on lawns in much of the Midwest and Northeast. Turfgrass breeders are constantly working with the species, seeking varieties that are ever-more attractive, durable and resistant to stresses, such as heat, drought, insects and diseases.

Few of these varieties are being developed and tested as a pasture or forage grass. Palatability isn’t a characteristic homeowners, sports field managers or golf course superintendents value.

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from Mix ID 8230377

2017 Product Roundup: Construction Equipment and Attachments

Future of Construction Equipment


The VT-70 compact track loader from ASV features a vertical lift loader linkage for extended reach and a level load. The unit’s operating weight is 8,060 pounds with a tipping load of 6,650 pounds. The rubber track is 15 inches wide. A hydraulic cooling system and diesel engine power the machine.

Bobcat Company

The first R-Series excavators to launch will include the Bobcat E32 and E35 in the popular 3- to 4-ton size class. There is 29 percent more floor space in R-Series compact excavators than previous models. The E32 compact excavator model has an operating weight of 7,340 pounds. The E35 compact excavator has an operating weight of 7,699 pounds or more, 7,909 pounds with an optional 33.5-hp engine.

Boxer by Morbark

The 700HDX from Boxer has a hydraulically expandable undercarriage, from 35 to 43.5 inches, allowing the operator to retract the undercarriage for passages 36 inches wide and expand for stability. The Kubota diesel engine has a liquid cooling system and 24.8 hp. The arm has a dump angle of 37 degrees and height of 60 inches.


CASE is introducing the DL450, a fully integrated compact dozer loader. The machine operates like a compact track loader with a crawler dozer. The DL450 has more than 30 new patents pending. The main feature of the DL450 is a C-Frame dozer interface that pins directly into the chassis of the machine. Check the CASE website for release date information.


From the Cat F Series, the M317F wheeled excavator has a compact turning radius. The engine is a Cat C4.4 ACERT with Twin Turbo that is Tier 4 emissions compliant. The machine can travel up to 19 mph with a ground clearance just over 14 inches. Ride Control, SmartBoom or joystick steering are available options.

Ditch Witch

The Ditch Witch JT40 directional drill is equipped with a 160-hp, Tier 4 Cummins diesel engine. The unit has 40,000 pounds of thrust and pullback and an innovative two-speed, rotational drive system, producing 5,500 feet per pound of torque. The JT40 holds up to 600 feet of drill pipe onboard.

Hyundai Construction Equipment

The R30Z-9AK is part of the 9A series of Tier 4 Final compliant compact excavators. The new machine is a 3-tonclass model that features a zerotail swing design. The R30Z-9AK excavator is powered by a Kubota engine delivering 23.2 hp. Its maximum digging depth is 8 foot, 2 inches.


The JCB 417 wheel loader is built with an EcoMax engine to meet Tier 4 Final emissions requirements. It features the Command Plus cab design for operator comfort. The machine has a 4-speed switchable manual/automatic transmission. The engine fan automatically adjusts its speed depending on temperature to save fuel and lower noise, according to the company.

John Deere

John Deere has introduced the 30G compact excavator to its G-Series excavator lineup. The 30G will use 27D/26G buckets and attachments and come with the standard G-Series features, including mechanical pattern changers, quick couplers and proportional auxiliary hydraulics plumbed to the end of the boom.

KIOTI Tractors

KIOTI has introduced two new cab models to its CK10SE Series tractor line. The CK3510SE HC and the CK4010SE HC feature the same hydrostatic transmission and minimal vibration experience plus a factory-installed cab. Both units provide a power take-off of 29.4 and 31.9 hp respectively, with a rear PTO of 540 revolutions per minute.

Kubota Tractor Corporation

Kubota’s KX033-4 compact excavator is a 3-ton excavator with a larger cab, dash-controlled presets for auxiliary circuits and a standard hydraulic diverter valve. It is powered by a 24.8-horsepower Kubota direct injection Tier 4 Final certified engine. The operator can program up to five different oil flow rates, controlled from a digital control panel. The machine has a digging depth of 10 feet 6 inches.

Little Beaver

The Kwik-Trench from Little Beaver is a mini-trencher that can cut 12-inch-deep trenches within 30 feet per minute. Driven by triple v-belts, the cutter wheel rotates up to 800 rpm. The machine can work through compacted clay, road fill, Asphalt and tree roots up to 10 inches thick.

Quick Attach

Attachments LLC The land leveler from Quick Attach is a site preparation tool used for cutting or grading, sod peeling and dirt clod pulverizing. It is 78 inches wide and weighs 650 pounds A hydraulic bidirectional cutting edge or removable material screens are available options.


The TB216H from Takeuchi is a duel-powered diesel and electric hybrid excavator. This hydraulic excavator has a Final Tier 4 Yanmar engine along with a 14.2-hp electric engine. The same operator controls are used in either mode of power. The machine has a hydraulically retractable undercarriage and a 9-inch wide rubber tracks.

Terex Corporation

The Terex TC85 compact crawler excavator features a short tail-swing and patented Knickmatik boom offset function for excavation adjacent to existing infrastructure. Three track options are available for rubber, steel or steel with rubber pads. The machine is engineered with a dual-circuit hydraulics system with load-independent flow distribution.

The Toro Company

Toro’s new MB TX 2500 Tracked Mud Buggy can carry up to 2,500 pounds of material. The unit has a 25-hp KOHLER Confidant engine and Endless Kevlar reinforced tracks for traction on a wide range of terrain. The MB TX 2500 can reach transport speeds of up to 6 mph in forward and 3 mph in reverse.

Thunder Creek Equipment

The Diesel/DEF combo box features capacities of 100 gallons of diesel and 18 gallons of DEF. It’s self-contained within the unit, in a weather-proof and heatable structure, with no pumps or nozzles stored outside of the unit. Diesel pumps at 15 gallons per minute.


The Power Trackbarrow with Hydraulic Assist from YARDMAX has a 1,100-pound capacity. With a 900 Series Briggs & Stratton engine, the machine has a multispeed transmission. The trackbarrow has a zero-turn radius with tracks that offer all-terrain traction control. The unit also features a solid steel form and removable flatbed sides.

Have a new product? Submit entries using our Product Form for Turf, Turf Design Build and PLOW, a supplement to Turf.

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Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Scaling Up on Manpower Before a Big Storm

When weather models agree that there’s a high likelihood of a major snow event, Tim Gibbons, CEO and president of The Service Innovators in Chicago, says he leases additional equipment such as skid-steer loaders. “We have them dropped off in strategic locations. We double down,” he explains.

He also calls up extra drivers who have their own equipment, as well as other contracted workers to operate the supplemental equipment he leased. The process of identifying drivers and equipment that can be called upon when needed begins in the fall, Gibbons says. In some cases, they are retired drivers who are willing to be called in during an emergency; in other cases they are working jobs in construction and know their regular job is going to be shut down due to the incoming storm.

Keep a property manageable during peak business hours knowing you can redeploy those resources elsewhere during slower times. Photo: The Service Innovators

“We also get additional laborers, including through temporary labor companies. I tell them that I need snow shovelers, I need them properly dressed, and I need X-number of them at these locations at this tentative time. So they go to work on getting that personnel for me, and then let me know what the numbers look like,” Gibbons says. Workers who are recruited this way may not be experienced in snow removal operations, but “when you’re supplementing an existing crew, you can drop in an able body and they can get direction from the crew on-site.”

Vincent Di Leonardo, president and CEO of Empire Landscaping and Snow Plowing in New York, says he always prepares for the worst and maintains enough big equipment at each site to handle the storms when they come. He needs manpower more than equipment when ramping up for big snow events.

“Typically, we’re hiring people who can’t work [at their regular jobs] during snow events,” says Di Leonardo.

He has developed relationships with subcontractors who are not necessarily snow contractors, like painting and roofing companies that have heavy equipment available and employees they want to keep employed during the winters. “I like to go that route for big events,” he says.

Tom Canete, president and CEO of Canete Snow Management in New Jersey, says when a big storm hits, his preference is to almost double up on everything he needs, from equipment to manpower.

“If you don’t have spare equipment around and extra drivers and operators, that’s challenging to do [at the last moment],” he says. That’s why he has worked to build relationships with companies in other industries that have extra equipment and drivers he can call on when needed. “We mobilize that equipment and have it on our sites,” he says.

Another strategy that Canete uses during big snow events: Try not to move a lot of equipment from one site to the next. “A truck that normally goes to three lots stays in one,” he explains. And when there’s big snow in the forecast, employees are called in well before the snow starts so they can be sitting on their lots, ready to roll when needed.

In addition to ensuring he has enough equipment and manpower in place, for example, his pre-storm checklist includes smaller items like fuel (make sure the tanks at your yards are full, as well as the transfer tanks on individual trucks) and spare cellphones.

“You never know; guys can break things and lose things,” Canete says.

Canete tries to plan for every contingency. “I’m a big procedure guy,” he says. “During a storm, you have to think of everything.”

Visit for more forums on equipment, business management and technical information. Join the conversation in the largest community of snow and ice business professionals.

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Yelp, Uber-Like Services and Robotic Mowers — Oh My!


I can’t recall a single instance where I’ve Yelped — published an online review about a local business on or with the Yelp app. Figuring it’s not worth my time and effort to do so, I’ve never handed out an online attaboy or whined about a particular product or service. With 95 million Yelp reviews monthly, a lot of people apparently think it’s worthwhile to post reviews, however.

Another person like myself that isn’t a big fan of Yelp (at least in its present form) is Justin Crandall, CEO and co-founder of Robin. He and a partner, with $1.2 million in seed money, in May 2015 co-founded Robin, a lawn care service, in Dallas, Houston and Austin.

A very different company

Robin is a very unique lawn care company. It offers two very different lawn care programs, one being an Uber-like service similar to those offered by TaskEasy, Plowz & Mowz, LawnStarter and GreenPal. Lawn care service providers sign up with Robin and when a property owner (typically a homeowner) requests a service, the company then quickly connects the homeowner with a landscaper who can take the job or not depending on the price and how busy they are.

Read more: TaskEasy Links Property Owners with Contractors

But Robin offers another service that sets it apart from the others: it offers robotic electric lawnmowers. The Dallas News reported early this spring the company had installed 36 robotic mowers on clients’ properties and had plans to install about 50 more per month. Plans start at $99 per month for the mowers. There is an installation fee.

Several manufacturers now offer these small electric units, which are very popular in Europe where lawns are smaller. These mowers are not toys. Husqvarna, for example, says its Automower 430x equipped with GPS navigation can mow up to 0.80 acre, including slopes with an incline as much as 45 degrees.

The Robin Lawn Care website lists Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Miami, Tampa and Atlanta as markets it serves, presumably with its lawn-care-by-request service. As of this point it appears that Robin has placed most of the robotic mowers in and around Dallas-Fort Worth.

Read more: The Rise of Robotic Lawn Mowers

Feedback welcome on Facebook, Google, etc.

But back to co-founder Justin Crandall’s views on Yelp, as it’s not unreasonable to wonder if they mirror your views, too. Crandall, in a blog post on the Robin website, is not happy with Yelp in its present form.

Crandall, in referencing Uber and Lyft as examples of Yelp bias, says no company can provide perfect service every time, suggesting that Yelp’s reviews are skewed primarily by people who are angry enough to seek out Yelp and take the time to write a review. The great majority of customers who appreciate an amazing service do not share it on Yelp, he says.

Also, Crandall writes that Yelp’s anonymous approach does not give business owners an opportunity to know who posted the review and to respond to these individuals, investigate what happened and possibly resolve their issue.

Crandall in his post says he will not respond to reviews on Yelp until it requires real names from reviewers and it allows a business owners like him to ask customers for reviews. Meanwhile, he says he will continue to respond to customers’ reviews on Facebook, Google, Thumbtack and other online review sites.

“I strongly believe customer feedback improves businesses and helps to create better experiences for customers,” says Crandall in his blog.

Feedback is obviously critical for any company offering products or services. Without feedback, how can business owners make adjustments to improve the products or experiences they deliver to consumers? This is the rationale that most articles I accessed online give in recommending Yelp despite the misgivings many business owners have about it.

Beyond that, the business model that Crandall and his partner Bart Lomont have brought to lawn care, especially Robin’s robotic mower service, fascinates me. I look forward sharing more about their efforts in future columns.

Read more: Online Reviews Can Make You or Break You

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Monday, 26 June 2017

Top 10 Apps for Landscapers

These days there’s an app for almost anything, and landscape and turf management is no exception. But we know that sifting through all of the apps in the app store can be time-consuming for professionals who have very little free time. To give you a head start, we reached out to a number of landscape professionals and asked what their favorite apps were. From that research, we’ve compiled a top 10 list that includes apps for both use in the field and in the office. Whether it’s processing an invoice on the go, looking up the name of a particular plant or seeking out the cheapest gas prices, you can bet there’s an app for that.

1. Dropbox

What it does: This file-sharing app allows you to sync and share files of any kind to and from any of your computers and smart devices. In other words, any file you save to Dropbox becomes accessible from all of your computers and smart devices. If you update a file in one place, it automatically updates everywhere. Should any of your devices break or get stolen, files also are available on the Dropbox website.

2. Evernote

What it does: This app enables you to take notes, photos and record audio files and upload them to Evernote so you can access them from your smartphone, tablet or any other computer. Further, you can add tags and descriptions to these items. For instance, if you attend a trade show and see a piece of equipment you like, you can take a photo of it, name it and tag it with “equipment I want to buy” for access at a later date.

3. GasBuddy

What it does: This free app helps you find the cheapest gas prices wherever they are — or via a search by city or zip code. GasBuddy keeps an up-to-date record of gas prices by asking users to help out. You earn points and also a daily chance to win $100 of gas by reporting gas prices in your area.

4. Google Earth & Earth Pro

What it does: Google Earth helps landscapers get a good sense on the size of a property without ever stepping foot on it. It allows users to visualize directions in 3-D and can be used as a downloaded program or accessed from any computer with Google Chrome installed, other browsers to come.

5. iPunchclock

What it does: Contractors can easily keep track of hours spent on a job site with this mobile timesheet. Data can be exported directly to Google docs or other formats if you prefer. The app manages multiple independent time sheets and can use the phone’s location awareness.

6. Invoice2go

What it does: This app allows you to invoice directly from their smart device and email it to the customer. The app includes more than 20 invoice templates to choose from, all of which can be customized with a company logo. A PayPal button can be included in the email in order to encourage even faster payment. In addition, the app includes 12 different reports, such as dashboard and sales reports, all of which can help you make better business decisions.

7. Landscaper’s Companion – Plant & Gardening Reference Guide

What it does: Touted by the developer as the “most comprehensive plant guide on iPhone,” the Landscaper’s Companion contains information on 26,000 different plants and includes 21,000 different pictures for reference. This includes trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials.

8. Leafsnap

What it does: This electronic field guide helps users identify tree species from photographs of their leaves. The app is packed with beautiful high-resolution imagery of leaves, flowers, fruits, petiole, seeds and bark. The idea for Leafsnap was born out of the realization that many of the techniques used for face recognition developed by Professor Peter Belhumeur and Professor David Jacobs of the computer science departments of Columbia University and the University of Maryland, respectively, could be applied to automatic species identification. It’s a helpful, on-the-go tool.

9. The Weather Channel

What it does: With a business that is dependent on the weather, it never hurts to have as many weather-related resources at your fingertips as possible. With The Weather Channel app, you can see detailed weather by the day, week or even in the next hour. Push alerts and badges ensure you know about any severe approaching weather, while seasonal tools such as pollen alerts help plan around the weather. Detailed weather conditions include “feels like” temperature, sunrise time, wind speeds, humidity, UV index, visibility, dew point and pressure.

10. Turfgrass Management

What it does: Developed by a team of professors at the University of Georgia, the Turfgrass Management app provides easy access to information for identifying and diagnosing pests in the field. The application combines information from numerous books on turfgrass science in one complete program that can be used on-the-go. The database contains preemergent and postemergent herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, plant growth regulators and adjuvants.

Read more:

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in December 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Friday, 23 June 2017

Understanding Customers Messages And Objections

Say What?

In the world of sales and customer service, what people say and what they mean are not always the same thing. Unfortunately, many of us are listening impaired when it comes to getting to the heart of our customers’ messages.

“Maybe in six months.”

“I’m just looking.”

“I’m sure I can get it cheaper somewhere else.”

Sound familiar? Probably. Do you understand what people mean when they use these objections? On the surface, sure, but do you really get your customer’s or prospect’s intended meaning? Maybe. If you don’t, you could be losing business.

The good news is there’s hope. With some practice and a little bit of discipline, you can tune up your service ears and grow your relationships.

Slowing down and focusing on what others need versus what you can provide is the first step. The second is to listen for a few key phrases and appropriately respond. The following are some of the most common red flags to which you should pay attention.

1.When customers say “maybe,” they often mean “no.” “Maybe we’ll place an order in six months.” “Maybe” may mean never. When you hear that word, keep asking questions. Don’t wait six months and then act surprised when no order is forthcoming. You have your prospect’s attention now and a chance both to clear up some misconceptions and make a sale or, at a minimum, to understand what they are saying.

  • “I understand that you’re on the fence and committing now isn’t in your plan. Between now and the time when you might order, how will you get ABC done?”
  • “When you start our services six months from now, tell me a little about how it will help you or impact your home or business?”
  • “What other solutions have you considered to accomplish ABC?”

Any of those follow-up questions will give you insight into the other person’s needs and decision process. Notice, too, those questions aren’t “salesy.” Your follow-up questions — and you, for that matter — should show a genuine interest in your customer and his or her concerns. The better you understand people and what motivates them, the more likely you’ll be able to help if there is a fit or to get a straightforward answer if there isn’t. The point is, when you hear “maybe,” investigate.

2. In the same lane of the vagueness that “maybe” occupies is another phrase that communicates very little. You’ve heard it before and probably used it yourself, and that’s the word “fine.” “How is everything?” “Everything’s fine.”

Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. You can’t know unless you do a little more digging. People will often say “everything is fine” in lieu of “go away” or “totally horrible, but I don’t feel like engaging in conversation about it.”

If you find yourself getting a lot of “everything’s fine,” make subsequent inquiries. At the same time, try to determine if you’re setting yourself up to hear this unhelpful response.

By that, I mean if you ask something specific, you’ll learn more. “Which part of the meal was your favorite?” is hard to answer with “fine.” Instead, you’ll most likely discover what your customers liked and what they didn’t. “Which part of the meal did you like best? “I loved the salmon. The beans were a little spicy for me but still good.” Now that’s better, isn’t it? The takeaway to remember is “fine” doesn’t mean fabulous, fantastic or flawless. Respond to “fine” with a follow-up question.

3. When customers ask “why,” they are usually expressing displeasure of some sort. “Why is this so expensive? Why is this offered only in that region?”Too often, service and salespeople miss the real meaning behind these inquiries. “Why is this so expensive?” translates to “This costs too much.”

Listen for “why,” and respond with something better than “I don’t know” or “You’ll have to ask my manager.” Although your customers aren’t jumping up and down with steam coming out of their ears or carrying gigantic flags with the word “why” emblazoned across them, somewhere lurking behind the question are people who are on their way to being unhappy.

Imagine a busy traveler on a tight schedule in an unfamiliar city. He hasn’t seen his own bed in two weeks, few of his daily flights have followed their published schedules, and he’s missing another one of his kid’s ball games. It’s 11:30 at night and he’s just entered the door of his hotel where you work at the front desk. You exchange pleasantries, take his credit card and give him the Wi-Fi code. Just before you send him on his way, you explain that you will have a wonderful breakfast waiting for him the next day. He then reacts to you with a “why” question. “Why is breakfast only served between 6:00 and 10:00 in the morning?” At first you might be thinking, “Because that’s when people eat breakfast.” Fair enough, but the minute that three-letter word passes the traveler’s lips, your internal radar should pop up, and you brain should realize danger is in the air.

The traveler’s “why” is a complaint and one that, if handled correctly, can offer you an opportunity to shine. Let’s look at a few possible responses.

  • “Great question. We’ve found most of our guests prefer that window,” and one of the following:
    • “We do have to-go bags here at the desk. If those times don’t work for you, just see the person back here, and he or she will gladly give you breakfast for the road.”
    • “We have a mini-store with a few breakfast items you can purchase if those hours don’t work out. There’s also always fresh coffee and fruit in the lobby.”
    • “If those times don’t work for you, I have a list of restaurants that serve breakfast outside those hours. I would be happy to give you a copy.”

Any of those answers is better than, “I don’t know. My manager decides that, and he isn’t here.”

Whether you’re uncovering the details behind “Maybe” and “Fine” or recognizing that “Why” is often a complaint, better listening can help you build your relationships with people, improve your sales and enhance the service experience. Take the time to slow down, ask questions and get to the core of a customer’s message.

The post Understanding Customers Messages And Objections appeared first on Turf.

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Like a Boss: Learning to Handle Rapid Expansion

Hands helping growth

While adding employees seems like a great way to grow a business as the needs of the company grow, expanding too rapidly can have the potential to do harm. Andrew Weilbacher, owner of Weilbacher Landscaping in Millstadt, Illinois, says that as his business grew he thought the next step was to add more people. But in only a short time he began to feel overwhelmed by managing too many crews.

“It just became too much,” Weilbacher admits. “It originally felt natural to be adding employees as I grew. But I quickly began to feel as though I was losing control. I have since found that growth doesn’t always have to mean adding more people. It can mean working smarter with the people you have.”

Weilbacher says that one of the biggest issues he had as the company grew was losing that hands-on touch that he had always offered customers. And they noticed. It was as though the business suddenly went from Weilbacher being heavily involved in projects to spending his days putting out fires.

“As the number of people I had in the field increased, my involvement on projects decreased — and that didn’t end up working out for me,” Weilbacher says. “I was getting more complaints than I’d ever dealt with before and I was suddenly running around dealing with those.”

While many business owners desire to reach a stage where they begin delegating most of the work, Weilbacher says he built his business by being involved in projects and that still seems to be part of his reputation — and his success.

“I think my customers appreciate that I’m so involved on their project so to switch from that model is difficult,” Weilbacher says. “It’s part of who we are and I think our customers have come to expect it.”

Today, Weilbacher is finding a way to manage his growth and success while also remaining involved. He says he’s learned that the two go hand-in-hand.

“I ultimately think I grew so rapidly because I was so involved on projects,” Weilbacher says. “So, to suddenly take myself out of the equation was not the right approach for us. Today, I’m focused on still overseeing our projects — primarily hardscaping and swimming pools — and managing crews. It doesn’t mean I don’t delegate at all but I’ve also found that it’s important to stay involved.”

Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them. Discuss your biggest business challenges on LawnSite’s Business Management forum.

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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Kawasaki Motors Teams with Pro Wrestler Steve Austin: This Week’s Industry News

Kawasaki Motors Teams with Pro Wrestler Steve Austin

Want to keep up with the latest news in lawn care and landscaping? Check back every Thursday for a quick recap of recent happenings in the green industry.

Ruppert Adds Software Development Team
Ruppert Landscape has added a software development team within the company’s IT department. Emil Saweros, a 6-year Ruppert employee with more than 20 years of combined IT experience, will lead the team that also includes Melanie Halsey, Luke Ardizzone and Jordan Marshall.

Aqua-Yield and Harmony Brands Enter into Joint Agreement
Nano-technology-based fertilizer supplier Aqua-Yield and turfgrass supplier Harmony Brands, have announced a promotional partnership. Under the agreement, Aqua-Yield will have direct access to sell its fertilizer to Harmony growers across the United States. The promotional partnership ultimately means turfgrass with less inputs; less water, less fertilizer and an end product that is much more environmentally friendly. The turfgrass, supplied to and then distributed by Harmony, will ultimately find its way to our nation’s largest and best-known retailers, including; Home Depot, Lowe’s and WalMart, claims a release announcing the agreement.

Rotolo Acquires Greenscape Grounds Management
Rotolo Consultants (RCI) recently acquired Greenscape Grounds Management, a commercial landscape maintenance company with operations in Lafayette and Lake Charles, Louisiana. Greenscape Grounds Management owner, Brad Breaux, and his brother, Ross Breaux, will continue in management roles with RCI. Brad Breaux said, “We are thrilled to join RCI for our next chapter of growth. RCI brings additional expertise and resources to help us expand our scope of services to new and existing clients in Lafayette and Lake Charles.”

Arborjet College Scholarship Program Deadline is June 30
Arborjet reminds graduating high school seniors that the deadline for its annual Taking Root College Scholarship Program must be postmarked by June 30. Arborjet is accepting applications for its annual program from students who plan to pursue a career in arboriculture or a related field. Now in its fourth year, the scholarship program will award 10 graduating high school seniors each with a $1,000 scholarship to pursue full-time studies in forestry, plant sciences, horticulture, entomology, environmental science or a related major at an accredited two- or four-year college.

Kawasaki Motors Teams with Pro Wrestler Steve Austin
Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. announced an advertising campaign with Hall of Fame Wrestler Steve Austin to follow the introduction of the all-new MULE PRO-FXR side x side. Austin, a television and movie personality and creator of the hit show “Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge,” has been working with KMC since 2015. He will host commercials primarily featuring the MULE PRO-FXR model, and showcasing the full line up of MULE side by sides. He will also be the face of technical videos highlighting the benefits of the MULE vehicles, and showing just how Kawasaki “strong” they are, alongside Kawasaki chief product developers.

CASE Construction Celebrates 175th Birthday
CASE Construction Equipment celebrated the CASE brand’s 175th birthday with a rally and luncheon attended by more than 800 employees in Racine, Wisconsin, as well as local dignitaries, elected officials and a descendant of the Case family. The company was founded in 1842 in nearby Rochester, Wisconsin, as the Racine Threshing Machine Works Company. It evolved into one of the world’s most iconic manufacturers of construction and agricultural equipment. Speakers included U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the congressman representing Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district; Richard Tobin, chief executive officer – CNH Industrial; and Kaleb Jerome Case, the great grandson of company founder and Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ Hall of Fame member Jerome Increase (J.I.) Case.

U.S. Regulators OK Dow Chemical, DuPont Merger
The $62 billion merger of chemical giants DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. has been approved by U.S. antitrust regulators, reported the Indianapolis Business Journal June 15. The Justice Department said Thursday it would approve the deal as long as the companies sell off some herbicide and chemical units to preserve competition. Those sales are already in the works.

Makita Adds Spanish-Language Content to Website
Makita U.S.A., Inc. re-launched its website with an option to view content in Spanish. The new feature, which can be activated with a single mouse click, shows a range of content in Spanish including product data, service options, warranty information, promotions, select videos, and more.

Coxreels Introduces Updates for SLPL Spring-Driven Models
Coxreels has introduced a product enhancement to the spring-driven 1¼- and 1½-inch SLPL models. Prior to this update, these models of the SLPL came standard with Coxreels’ aluminum inline swivel. The company has eliminated the aluminum inline swivel on five SLPL models (725, 750, 825, 835, and 850) and incorporated a nickel-plated steel inline swivel (from the 1185-Series).  The axle plumbing in both standard carbon steel models and optional stainless steel models was upgraded as well.

Minnesota United FC Announces Toro as Official Turf Equipment and Irrigation Partner
Minnesota United has selected Bloomington-based Toro as the official partner of turf equipment and irrigation. The irrigation system will utilize T7 Series rotors and be managed by Toro’s Sentinel central control system. As the stadium moves towards completion, Toro will work with the Minnesota United to select the proper mowing and turf cultivation equipment for the unique challenges of maintaining a stadium playing surface.

GreenCare for Troops Celebrates 11 Years of Service
Project EverGreen’s GreenCare for Troops initiative, which celebrates its 11th year in 2017, provides basic lawn and landscape services for military families with a deployed service member and post-9/11 veterans with a service-connected disability. Since the program’s inception in 2006, more than 11,000 military families and veteran and 6,000 green industry professionals have registered to receive or provide these services. In total, volunteers donated lawn care and landscape services valued at $1 million in 2016. Nufarm has been the platinum partner for the last two years.

Read last week’s industry news: NALP Partners with Houzz

The post Kawasaki Motors Teams with Pro Wrestler Steve Austin: This Week’s Industry News appeared first on Turf.

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Mosquito Control As A Big Business Opportunity

The Sting

It’s no con. Mosquito control can be a profitable service add-on. In a divided country where there seems to be little common ground, pretty much everyone can agree on one thing: mosquitoes are bad. That would seem to present a big business opportunity for anyone in the business of getting rid of mosquitoes. And lawn and landscape companies that have begun offering mosquito control services are taking advantage of that broad-based demand.

Entering the mosquito market

Goodall Landscaping in Maine began offering mosquito control services two years ago. “It seemed like a good add-on service to complement the tick control and lawn care services that we offer,” says company owner Ben Goodall.

Goodall began by cross-selling to his existing customer base, and then sent direct mail pieces to try to draw in new customers. Mosquito control is also featured prominently on the company website, and this year Goodall Landscaping is putting together a radio ad campaign that focuses on mosquito control. The overall message conveyed is that mosquitoes not only inflict painful bites, but also spread disease, and that controlling them allows property owners to spend more time outside without these worries.

At Ryan Lawn and Tree, which has six locations in Kansas and Missouri, the decision to get into mosquito control two years ago was the culmination of a relatively long process. “Our agronomist has been researching mosquito control for a number of years,” says company president Larry Ryan. “And we looked at what the industry was doing and asked, ‘Can we do it as well?’ Because we don’t want to do anything poorly — our whole company is built around doing things well — so that’s what we focused on.”

Pricing mosquitocontrol services is dependent on the time required to treat mosquito-harboring vegetation, such as trees and shrubs.

Motivated by both scientific and market research, the decision was made to try it. Ryan next made the decision to bring in a new employee who had experience in mosquito control to help get the company’s new program started. “The individual that we brought onboard was strong, and good people create their own solutions,” he explains, crediting that approach as one of the reasons that the new service was added so seamlessly to the company’s offerings. “We don’t like starting new things and having to learn them from the ground-up.”

Ryan Lawn and Tree began by simply letting its existing customer base know that this new service was being offered. But it is also happy to provide mosquito control services to neighbors or others who aren’t customers of the company’s other lawn and landscape services.

That’s similar to the approach taken by Citrus Park Lawn Care in Florida, a 10-year-old company that has always offered both indoor and outdoor pest control services, but just started offering mosquito control about one year ago. “We added it to our full package, and it took off pretty well,” says company president Denis Perry. “We already have a customer base that uses the multiple other services that we offer; we did some marketing to all of our current customers and a lot of them just jumped right on board with it, added it to their service package program, added it to their monthly bill, and we just created a new schedule in our scheduling system for it.”

Strategies for getting started

Perry says that, given his company’s past pest control expertise, adding mosquito control proved pretty easy. “We’ve got the technicians who do the lawn and ornamental services and the indoor pest control,” he explains.

Perry says he researched the best way to apply mosquito control treatments. While the company has large spray trucks, he made the decision to keep it simple and utilize STIHL backpack sprayers. “They work great,” he says, noting that the equipment cost is relatively low at roughly $600 to $700 per unit.

And there were no added costs for new personnel: “I trained our technicians who do our lawn and ornamental service. So the technician, when he’s there on a property every month doing fertilizer/L&O applications, just pulls out the backpack sprayer and does the mosquito application while he’s already there.”

Similarly, Ryan reports that mosquito control has been a relatively easy service to get off the ground: “We use a STIHL backpack blower and a pickup truck. All we need to carry is a container of water and some mix — that’s really just about all there was to it.”

Citrus Park Lawn Care technicians are trained to provide mosquito control services during their scheduled turf and ornamental stops.

At Ryan Lawn and Tree, the same technicians that handle mosquito control also apply mole control and house perimeter pest treatments. “We try to look at that as its own little department,” explains Ryan. These technicians typically work alone and focus only on these applications on their routes, and not on other turf and tree services that the company offers.

At Goodall Landscaping, the same technicians that handle lawn and tick treatments are performing mosquito control treatments. “Because it’s a similar application to other services that we’re providing, we use the same licensed technicians,” Goodall explains. (State licensing is typically required for mosquito control, just as it is for other pest control applications.)

Goodall Landscaping currently has six technicians on staff. Goodall’s preference, when possible, is to try to mix mosquito control into the existing lawn care and tick control routes. “It’s just adding an additional backpack mister, so if the truck is already going out there, we can usually add it in to the route, so there’s less travel time and we’re making more out of our stops,” he explains. Goodall’s goal is to keep routes “as tight as possible,” which isn’t always easy to do in a rural area with relatively low population density, so he says it’s all the more helpful to be able to provide multiple services at each stop in order to be as efficient as possible.

Goodall says there were no unexpected surprises encountered in offering mosquito control services: “It was pretty turn-key to roll it into our program offerings.”

Growing sales

Goodall has timed his mosquito control marketing campaigns to take place as soon as mosquitoes are present and become a nuisance. Unfortunately, it’s easier to get people to focus on the problem once they are actually experiencing the painful bites that mosquitoes inevitably bring about.

Mosquito control is a summer-long endeavor. For Goodall in the Northeast, that means roughly May to September.

As in most other states, mosquitoes are primarily a concern in the summer in Florida, but in that warm climate Perry with Citrus Park Lawn Care says that some customers opt to continue treatments all year long.

The company recommends monthly treatments; some customers opt for every other month; still others request just occasional treatments. “Some of our customers, if they’re having a big event, like a kid’s birthday party, might call us to come out to do an application a week or two before the party,” says Perry.

He emphasizes that, like any other service, fully understanding the costs of providing mosquito control is the essential first step toward setting a price that will be profitable. The chemical cost is pretty easy, but calculating the time required for the technician to do the application is a little trickier, and it’s not as simple as looking at the square-footage of the property, Perry explains.

“People think that you’re spraying the lawn, but you’re not; you’re spraying the shrubbery, the trees, the bushes, the landscaping — that’s where it all starts for the mosquitoes. So if you have a big yard with a lot of trees and a lot of landscaping and hedges and bushes, we price it accordingly.”

Other variables include examining whether there’s any standing water on the property, which needs to be treated with mosquito control packets, and items that can collect and hold water, such as kid’s toys or flower pots that need to be dumped out, Perry adds.

Citrus Park has a minimum charge of $45 to $60 to treat even small yards with little landscaping, and up to $125 to $150 for larger, more landscape-intensive properties.

Perry says that the well-publicized, mosquito-borne Zika virus threat last year drove an increase in business. “We were pretty busy with it last year, especially here in Florida,” he recounts. Citrus Park Lawn Care was even featured on a local news broadcast while doing a mosquito control treatment, which made the phone ring all the more, he says.

Ryan Lawn and Tree began offering mosquito services just about the time that Zika was being covered almost nonstop in the news. “That really helped us sell the service, there’s no question about that,” says Ryan. “It was almost like they were selling it for us.”

The company prices mosquito treatments on an individual basis; new customers who elect to sign up for five applications throughout the season [the product used has about a 30-day residual] are given the first application for free. “We don’t like discounting very much, and once we get a customer we discount very little. But to pick up that new customer, we will do it,” says Ryan.

Read more: Is it Time to Add Zika to Your Mosquito-Control Messaging?

The bottom line

“For a new start-up, it’s gone gangbusters. It’s doing very well,” says Ryan of his company’s new mosquito control service. “This is our second year and we just hired our third person in that department. It’s been nice to see that growth, because I really don’t like to do things that don’t grow. We don’t get into services that flatline; if they don’t continue to grow, we don’t want to be in those services.”

Ryan expects mosquito control to continue to grow as a source of revenue for the company for the foreseeable future, in part because “it works — people who were on the program last year told us that they literally had no mosquitoes. And their neighbors did.”

Ryan says that mosquito control has proven to be profitable: “The product costs are minimal; it’s mostly a labor cost, and even that is very doable,” he says.

One challenge, he adds, is that mosquito control in that part of the country is a five-month-a-year business, so a company wanting to offer the service would need to have a plan for what to do with those employees the rest of the year.

“We need help in other areas of our business, so they don’t sit around; if they sat around, or you had to hire people for just five months, it would be tough.”

As an add-on service “it is definitely profitable,” agrees Perry, but not so profitable that he would try to make it a standalone service.

“It’s not something that I would ever invest in a mass marketing campaign to get new customers to do just this service,” he states, noting that while “mosquito control” is now touted on Citrus Park Lawn Care’s marketing materials, website and trucks, “we don’t get a lot of calls for it outside of our existing customer base.” But, Perry adds, “to just piggyback this new service on [other services] just makes our existing program better.”

Goodall is using mosquito control as one way to bring in new business while remaining true to the company’s overall mission. “One of our priorities is to use the greenest products available to us for controls, so we’re using more organic and green-friendly [mosquito control] products,” he explains. “So we might be positioned a little higher in price because we choose to use these products, but we feel that the service we provide and the long-term value is there to justify it.”

Goodall also makes sure that his employees are ready to answer any customer questions about mosquito control prior to applications being made, and leave information about mosquitoes and the treatments made with customers afterward. “If we can do a good job with the mosquitoes, oftentimes they’ll look at us for our other services,” he concludes.

Read more: 5 Plant Options to Help Your Customers Repel Mosquitoes

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Get to Know Drew Weesen

Drew Weesen

Snow and ice management in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, can be hard work. Drew Weesen, snow manager in the winter and project manager in the summer for Boreal Property Management, has found first hand that the Jackson Hole snow season can pose unique challenges. Weesen says some of their clients have driveways that are a mile long and built into the side of a mountain. It’s also not uncommon to have avalanches occur on some of the properties. The company services both residential and commercial snow work and has a fleet of six trucks with four dedicated routes and two others that are available for special requests — usually from construction sites.

After a snow season that was far above average, Weesen says he’s ready to relax a bit this summer. Weesen says the summertime activities in Jackson Hole are endless — hiking, biking or swimming in one of the dozen lakes in the area are just a few examples of ways he will chill out in the warmer months. We recently caught up with Weesen to find out what kept him going during the trying snow season.

I love snow! As much as I dislike getting three hours of sleep and peering out from an ice-covered windshield, I still enjoy seeing the flakes coming down and piling up. If we get into a good cycle of multiple early days, I quickly adjust and have enough energy after a plow shift to go out and snowmobile or ski. I love it when the sun comes out for a day or two and we can focus on equipment maintenance and cleanups, but I’m always disappointed to see the snow banks shrink.

Keeping people coming and going from their houses during a big storm is a satisfying part of the job for me. Getting thankful waves and gratified smiles makes me remember what an important job it is to keep things moving. Of course, pulling our competitors’ trucks out of the ditch is always a fun highlight of the day, too!

We use a multipronged attack to tackle snow in the most efficient manner. I try to coordinate that attack from both the office and the field. When plows or machines break, I redirect the team to address that route and keep everyone happy.

The BBC News is on at 4 A.M. and their commentary and perspective of the USA is entertaining to me. That keeps me busy in the early morning hours.

I try not to drink my second cup of coffee until 6 A.M. — it seems to keep my energy level consistent and fortunately my beverage is still warm then. My lunch box is usually filled with leftovers from the night before. Cold pizza, fried chicken and kale burgers!

My two biggest indulges are fried chicken and Big Macs! Albertson’s Grocery has the best fried chicken in town — plus it’s cheap.

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