Thursday, 31 August 2017

Ditch Witch Partners with Utilicor Technologies: This Week’s Industry News

Ditch Witch Utilicor MTC100

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.

Ditch Witch Partners with Utilicor Technologies
Ditch Witch announced a partnership with Utilicor Technologies, Inc. to bring the benefits of advanced keyhole technology and reinstatement to contractors, municipalities and utilities globally. Utility contractors can operate a nimble, construction-grade Ditch Witch mini skid steer fitted with the new Utilicor MTC100 coring attachment to perform repairs, without rerouting traffic or exposing large areas of open excavation.

Curtis Industries Releases Air Conditioning for Kubota BX70 & BX80 Tractors
Curtis Industries, LLC has announced the release of a compact air conditioning system for the Kubota BX2370-1 & BX2380 sub-compact tractors. The system uses patent-pending “dynamic load control” software to precisely manage the vehicle electrical power, allowing the unit to operate on smaller vehicles with lower horsepower. The A/C unit features a stylish, low-profile design that is integrated into the vehicle roof. Easily accessible unit has fully self-contained refrigeration components and comes pre-charged with refrigerant. The Curtis air conditioning system installs in about two hours. A custom overhead console features 3-speed fan control, illuminated on/off switch and four, 360-degree adjustable louvers to circulate air throughout the cab. The unit adds only about four inches in height, allowing enough clearance to park the vehicle in most standard garages. Curtis will roll-out the air conditioning system for other compact and sub-compact tractor brands.

Bob Mann Joins NALP as Director of State and Local Government Relations
Bob Mann will join NALP on September 5, in the newly created role of Director of State and Local Government Relations. Mann is a graduate of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture with a degree in Turf Management and has a degree in Agricultural Economics from Amherst. He is also a Landscape Industry Certified Lawn Care Manager and a Certified Pesticide Applicator in six states. Mann has served as President of the Massachusetts Association of Lawn Care Professionals, was on the Board of Directors of PLCAA, NALP’s legacy association, and has been active in the association’s Lawn Care Specialty Group and on the Public Affairs Advisory Council.

Ruppert Companies promotes Donna Nichols to VP of Finance
Ruppert Companies has announced the promotion of Donna Nichols to vice president of finance. Nichols, a resident of Myersville, Maryland, has over 30 years of finance, accounting, real estate and property management experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree from McDaniel College and is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). She has been with Ruppert Companies for nine years as controller. In 2011, she was awarded the company’s Corporate Impact Award for her outstanding dedication and contributions that made a positive impact on the organization.

STIHL Inc. Names New Director at Pacific STIHL
STIHL Inc. announces the promotion of Murray Bishop to Director of Branch Operations at Pacific STIHL, based in Visalia, Calif. effective July 2017. Bishop, an 18-year employee of STIHL Inc., will now be responsible for directing and managing the sales, distribution and service of all products, parts and accessories at the company-owned branch. He will also lead the development of advertising and marketing plans for the territory, which includes California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and Guam. Bishop most recently served as senior manager of export and logistics at STIHL Inc. in Virginia Beach, Va. He began his career with STIHL in 1999 as manager of finished goods and was responsible for shipments to domestic and export customers. Bishop succeeds Larry Blamer, who is the new Managing Director for STIHL Australia.

Read last week’s industry news roundup: Dixie Chopper Grants Wish To 15-Year-Old Tennessee Boy

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3 Requirements For Successful Selling

Successful Selling Requires Listening, Qualifying and Targeting

Successful selling doesn’t have to mean killer PowerPoints, direct mail pieces created by top design firms, or even citywide door-knocking campaigns with a crew of slick uniformed dozens.

According to Rick Kier, CSP, CNP, CLP, one of the founders of SIMA and president of Pro Scapes Inc. in Syracuse, New York, it’s not just about polished presentations and piles of leads. It’s about listening, qualifying and targeting.

Since 1978, Kier has been a successful contractor in his region, where winters with more than 150 inches of snow are commonplace. He is now providing consulting services to snow-removal contractors across North America.

Kier and other experienced sales consultants claim that the sales operation encompasses everything in the business process. Most importantly, it sets up the customer relationship, which is the key to everything in your business.

1. Targeting

For Neal Glatt, business manager of CASE Snow Management Services, North Attleborough, Massachusetts, snow- and ice-removal sales start in April and continue through August. “For a company to be truly prepared to execute a snow response plan, it takes months of planning, hiring and training,” he says. “Waiting any later is a disservice to customers and the industry.”

Every person in your company has a role in the sales process. Kier ensures that everyone in his company gets involved, from crew members to admins. “Make it part of your crew’s job to identify potential customers when out on the job sites,” he says. “Then, be sure to reward them for bringing back any leads that can be turned over to your sales team.”

One of the most important factors — so often overlooked in the sales process — is actually turning down sales, believe it or not. That means you can’t chase customers who are too far from your targeted territory. Know when to walk away.

“You need to target density with customers,” Kier explains. “The best cold calls are those that target customers within a small geographic range to eliminate driving long distances between jobs, wasting your time and fuel.”

2. Qualifying

There’s another kind of customer to shake: those who want to trap you into unrealistic expectations for your service delivery. “You need to negotiate. Meet them halfway on any unrealistic demands or be willing to walk away,” Kier says.

When it comes down to it, most sales experts say, the absolute best sales tactic is to provide a great job for your existing customers. That allows your customer to do all the work for you because they’re your best sales reps. You can tout their testimonials in countless ways and ask their permission to be a reference.

Once he generates the leads, Kier contacts potential customers to arrange one-on-one meetings at their properties to discuss their needs. “I try to understand what they liked and what they disliked in the past with their previous service,” he says. “The meeting is about identifying hot-button issues.”

At this meeting, Glatt’s goal is to discover the customer’s needs by asking pertinent questions and simply telling them about himself and his company. He also sells his potential customers on overall value rather than price.

“First, listen to your prospective customer,” Kier explains. “Let them do all the talking. They may only be concerned about a few minute details that have nothing to do with your dog-and-pony show, which could only be a distraction if presented.”

3. Listening

The sales meeting also provides an opportunity to keep providing feedback, reinforcing that you are listening to their concerns. “There is not a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach to the sales process,” Kier says. “One prospect might be concerned about the appearance of your crew and fleet; the other wants to be sure that you have the proper insurance.”

Kier takes detailed notes at all his meetings and incorporates his prospects’ needs and desires into an individual, customized contract. Examples include such detailed information as, “First, shovel steps that go up to the receiving dock,” or “Keep snow out of the drain next to the loading area.”

Just remember: Forget about the slick, polished sales pitch and glad-handing strategies of yesteryear. Don’t chase customers that are too far away to be profitable and let the ones you target tell you how to keep them happy.

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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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Story Of A Landscape: Dallas Museum Of Art Entrance Plaza Gets Renovation

Dallas Museum of Art

When the Dallas Museum of Art unveiled its renovated north entrance in the spring of 2016, many dubbed it one of the hottest spots in this sizzling community.

For Southern Botanical, Inc., its role in bringing the entrance and newly rechristened Eagle Family Plaza to fruition was simply one more opportunity to shine, as the landscape contractor earned a Silver Award for Commercial Installation over $100,000 from the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association.

Dallas Museum of Art

Photo: Southern Botanical, Inc.

The expanded plaza, funded by donations from Jennifer and John Eagle and the estate of Nancy B. Hamon, smooths out the flow of both pedestrian and vehicle traffic and opens the museum’s cafĂ© to the exterior, expands seating and dining options and provides space for an outdoor food pavilion.

Additionally, the renovation features an expansive new lawn area at the north entrance which includes an outdoor exhibition space.

Dallas Museum of Art

Photo: Southern Botanical, Inc.

Although Southern Botanical had done previous work for both the museum and the Eagles, Jason Craven, the company’s president, says it earned the right to do perform the work as part of an involved bid process through the general contractor, Byrne Construction Services of Fort Worth, Texas.

“We were honored to be chosen to execute the work,” he says.

Dallas Museum of Art

Photo: Southern Botanical, Inc.

The design for the renovation is a collaboration between two Dallas-based firms, Hocker Design Group and Studio Outside, and the Eagle family. However, Craven says there’s no question they expected top quality in the specimen materials used, as well as craftsmanship in the installation.

To make sure its products were up to standard, Craven adds that his crew tagged every tree and sought the landscape architects’ approval on every piece of material installed.

Dallas Museum of Art

Photo: Southern Botanical, Inc.

The plant palette included 10-inch caliper cedar elms in 72-inch boxes and eight-foot saucer magnolias, as well as limelight hydrangea and dwarf palmetto palms, with Berkley sedge as the ground cover. The company also installed approximately 7,500 square feet of turf.

“We were working many late nights and weekends,” Craven says. “Still, we had daily walk-throughs with the landscape architects, the contractor and the museum’s representative to make sure quality standards were met.”

Dallas Museum of Art

Photo: Southern Botanical, Inc.

However, he says this isn’t out of the ordinary on projects the company installs, so it was easily handled by the Southern Botanical team, which varied in size from 10-40 people during the project.

Along with the emphasis on quality, Craven says the site remained open to museum-goers during the construction, requiring a focus on safety and the overall appearance of the job site.

Dallas Museum of Art

Photo: Southern Botanical, Inc.

“We kept flaggers occupied to control traffic, and we kept the site very clean during installation,” he says.

As if that wouldn’t be challenging enough for the company, Craven says the job had some other aspects that made it memorable. One run-of-the-mill facet regarded timing of the project. As with so many other large projects, the landscape contractor was among the last to get on the site, leaving Southern Botanical approximately 90 days before the grand opening.

Dallas Museum of Art

Photo: Southern Botanical, Inc.

“The project had a very hard deadline by which it had to be completed,” he says. “Our window to install the landscape was very tight, but we have a fantastic team and we were able to complete the project within that window.”

Still another issue tied to the location of the job: the expansive new lawn area includes an outdoor exhibition space at the north entrance. A specially commissioned work for the space entitled “Pas de Deux” or “Plaza Monument” is a 14-foot tall sculpture by Rebecca Warren. The piece is her first work to be commissioned by a U.S. museum and is very site-specific.

Dallas Museum of Art

Photo: Southern Botanical, Inc.

“We had to install around some very high-end hardscape (both Indiana limestone and colored and sandblasted concrete), as well as the artwork,” says Craven. “We had to take great care to protect those assets.”

However, he says the biggest challenge for his crew was a green gabion wall planted with purple winter creeper. Not only is it the first such wall Southern Botanical has ever installed, but adding to the difficulty was an unanticipated electrical duct bank buried at the site of the installation which had to be engineered around.

Dallas Museum of Art

Photo: Southern Botanical, Inc.

“The gabions are essentially large wire baskets filled with large rock, soil bags and drip irrigation,” Craven explains. “Installing them at the perfect angle, keeping them perfectly level and keeping crisp edges while lacing in the drip system and not having leaks was a challenge. Fortunately, our crew quickly got the hang of it.”

The gabion wall certainly provided Craven and his crew with a learning experience, as well.

Dallas Museum of Art

Photo: Southern Botanical, Inc.

“With special projects such as the gabion wall, we learned that looking for unknown underground obstacles early on is key,” he says.

Even with that little blip, Craven is justifiably proud of the project, which came in on time and on budget and brought the company an on-going maintenance contract, as well.

“Completing the project named for our long-term client was one of the best aspects of the job,” he concludes. “We’re also proud that this is a public space that everyone gets to enjoy. Every day, buses full of school children are welcomed to the museum through the Eagle Family Plaza.”

Dallas Museum of Art

Photo: Southern Botanical, Inc.

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Creating Artistic Pools

Creating Artistic Pools

When Rock Miller designs commercial and residential swimming pools for his family business, Pool Crafters in West Palm Beach, Florida, he wants control. For him, the design work is an artistic undertaking, so creating one-of-a-kind settings is a must.

When Miller’s father, Charles D. Miller, founded Pool Crafters in 1962, 12-year-old Rock spent summers learning the tricks of the trade. Back then, the Millers hand-packed the concrete to build the pool walls. Later, they added concrete piston pumps to speed up the process, but Rock questioned his ability to control the fine details.

“I had to run my piston ball pump at full throttle to pump a 2- or 3-inch slump and would end up giving myself too much concrete to work with when doing detailed work,” Rock says. “Not only that, but I’m turning 60 this year, so I need a machine that slows down the process.”

Rock Miller with Pool Crafters in West Palm Beach, Florida, says Blastcrete allows him to create more detailed shaping for his pool designs, paying special attention to rounding out any sharp edges for safety concerns.

While searching YouTube for ideas, Rock stumbled upon Blastcrete Equipment Company, a 60-year-old Alabama-based manufacturer of concrete pumping equipment. He reached out to the company and, after a few phone conversations with Tripp Farrell, Blastcrete president, and Scott Knighton, vice president, he had to decide whether or not to try using the squeeze pump model they proposed.

“I remember Tripp saying, ‘Rock, you need to trust me on this,'” he says. “It’s a big investment, but it ended up working out great.”

The Blastcrete D6528 concrete pump attaches to Rock’s T550 Bobcat, which powers the pump. This has cut down on operation costs, and it’s less expensive than purchasing a stand-alone pumping unit, according to Rock and the company. Blastcrete even customized the machine’s size for Pool Crafters, making the unit smaller. But more importantly to Rock, the D6528 slows down his work to 5 or 6 yards of concrete pumped per hour, allowing more time for detailed shaping.

Rock’s process starts by setting rebar up to extend every 6 inches from the pool’s beam. He then ties and shapes the rebar into rock waterfalls, rounding any sharp edges before spraying the concrete.

“We try to make the rocks with a bit more rounded edges,” he says. “You don’t really notice when you look at them, but they’re safer for pools, and safety is our No. 1 priority.”

The rocks are then waterproofed, colored and texturized. Rock combines sand and seashells from the beach with a cement product to form his specialty: artificial Palm Beach Cap Rock. It’s a popular item for Pool Crafters, as sandstone found in authentic Palm Beach Cap Rock absorbs water – a problem owners of older pools are now experiencing.

“As far as I know, I’m the only guy in South Florida making rocks like this,” he says. “We developed a niche market because of it, and it’s a process I knew I had to preserve.”

Maintenance and cleaning advantages are another benefit beyond the operational savings the squeeze pump offers. Unlike swing tube piston pumps that contain several wear parts, the company says squeeze pumps only contain one: the rubber pumping tube. Maintenance costs average less than $1 per cubic yard of pumped material.

“There’s never going to be a guessing game on why the pump isn’t working,” Rock says. “If something happens with the squeeze pump, we know the issue has to be the hose. That’s a good insurance policy for me.”

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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Science Behind A Winter Nor’easter

The Science Behind a Winter Nor'easter

It’s the middle of January and you just found out that a major nor’easter is heading toward your service area. Most of the public will race to the local grocery store, only to find bare shelves where milk and bread once existed. Snow and ice professionals, on the other hand, will spend that time preparing staff members and clients for the big storm.

Over the years, nor’easters have rivaled some of the most devastating hurricanes, resulting in billions in dollars of damage and causing widespread disruption. If you’ve lived anywhere along the Mid-Atlantic to New England coastline during the last decade, chances are you’ve witnessed several nor’easters producing snow, ice, flooding, rain and gusty winds.

Let’s take a closer look at a winter nor’easter, the different forms they take, and some of the challenges and uncertainties snow and ice professionals face during the life cycle of the storm.

What is a nor’easter, anyway?

A nor’easter, named after its northeast onshore winds, is a rapidly developing area of low pressure off the East Coast of North America. These storms can occur at any time throughout the year, but the ones that have the biggest impact usually occur during the winter, due to the accumulation of snow, damaging winds and coastal flooding.

The storms usually originate between Georgia and New Jersey before tracking northeast, and often reach their maximum strength off the New England or Maritime Canada coast. The interaction between the polar jet stream (carrying cold Arctic air south and east) and the warm air moving north from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean gives the storm fuel for its growth.

There are two distinct types of nor’easters. Type A originates in the Gulf of Mexico and quickly intensifies as it moves up the East Coast as a single storm. This type of nor’easter typically leads to a larger swath of affected areas. The Mid-Atlantic states are usually the hardest hit, and Type A nor’easters are less likely to result in big snows in New England. Examples include the superstorm of 1993 and the blizzard of 1996.

Type B nor’easters occur when a smaller, weaker low-pressure system over the Appalachian mountains evolves into a bigger, stronger low-pressure system off the East Coast. Examples include the blizzard of 2005 and the most recent blizzard in March 2017. These storms bring more concentrated, heavier snows to a particular area, often the New England states.

When a potential nor’easter approaches, you’ll face a variety of challenges before, during and after the storm. As the Type B nor’easter is developing, you’ll likely have to accept a certain amount of uncertainty in the forecast. They are particularly difficult to predict because they involve the interaction of two storms, and even a small change in atmospheric conditions can lead to drastic changes in the storm’s development.

Cranking up the hype machine

Another challenge is all of the media hype and sensationalism that comes with a big storm. British author Patricia Wentworth once said, “Too much information can be as disconcerting as too little.” The same logic can be applied to the multitude of weather forecasts viewed by the public. The variety of local news programs, the increasing influence of social media and the opinions of amateur weather enthusiasts can skew your understanding of what to expect at your location. Consulting with a professional meteorologist should provide the reliable information you need to know, when to expect the storm, schedule your crews and choose the proper equipment and deicer materials.

Type A originates in the Gulf of Mexico and quickly intensifies as it moves up the East Coast as a single storm. Type B nor’easters occur when a smaller, weaker low-pressure system over the Appalachian mountains evolves into a bigger, stronger lowpressure system off the East Coast.

In the heart of the storm, the biggest challenges a snow and ice professional will face include high snowfall accumulation rates, extreme cold, rain and snow lines, mixed precipitation and blowing snow from gusting winds. Scheduling crews can be an issue during a prolonged or slow-moving storm, as fatigue will commonly settle in due to the long hours. And even after the worst of the storm is over, there is still work to be done thanks to blowing and drifting snow, as well as the need for frequent ice checks and final clearing efforts.

Whether you average one or more 12-inch storms a year (like New England) or one every few years (like the Mid-Atlantic), every snow contractor along the East Coast will experience several nor’easters sooner or later. It’s important to keep in mind that each storm is unique, and while many of them will develop in the same manner, their outcomes can be drastically different.

Overcoming the challenges and uncertainties that these storms present can make the difference between running a successful snow-removal operation and getting buried by the storm.

Nor’easter Facts

  1. Nor’easters can occur at any time of the year but are most frequent and strongest between September and April.
  2. Damage from some of the worst winter nor’easters can exceed a billion dollars.
  3. Nor’easters can cause more damage than a hurricane, with a diameter that’s three to four times larger. Their slower movement also puts larger areas of coastline at greater risk.
  4. The March superstorm of 1993 — also known as the Storm of the Century — was the largest snowstorm in the United States over the last century, depositing more than 60 inches of snow in some spots, causing more than 300 fatalities, and resulting in $6 billion to $10 billion dollars of damage.

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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Ariens Unveils RapidTrak Technology, Sees Innovation As Key To Remaining ‘King of Snow’

Ariens Workforce

The Ariens Company signaled it intends to remain top in the snow blower product category — two-stage models in particular. The company, whose tagline is “King of Snow,” unveiled several families of new products for the approaching snow season at a recent media event at its Brillion, Wisconsin headquarters.

The big news at the event was a new patent-pending technology called RapidTrak to improve the performance of Ariens two-stage tracked snow blowers.

RapidTrak, said Ariens vice president of marketing Matt Medden, solves the two biggest problems associated with tracked equipment: lack of speed and poor maneuverability. In Medden’s words, RapidTrak combines the best of both wheeled and tracked Sno-Thro machines. Watch Medden demo RapidTrak technology in the video below.

He explained, the track design gives users the option of using a full track system for ultimate grip and traction or adjusting the back wheel of the track up, creating a faster, more maneuverable system.

In the wheel setting, it is easy to turn the RapidTrak machine at the end of a driveway or around obstacles. RapidTrak also includes a third setting, which allows the user to tilt the housing of the machine down toward the ground while in track mode, helping to dig into the snow and clean to the pavement.

For 2017, the RapidTrak system will be available on two Sno-Thro models – the Hydro Pro 28 RapidTrak and the Hydro Pro 32 RapidTrak. Both models include hydrostatic drive, which allows the unit to maintain power through all ranges and depths of snow, keeping the machine moving fast while clearing snow. Hydrostatic drive also provides infinite speed control so users can find the perfect speed for their specific job.


Photo: Ariens Co.

More models with EFI, increased power

The other new products rolled out during a recent press event at Ariens headquarters in Brillion, Wisconsin, include:

  • Expansion of the EZ-Launch EFI engine coupled with the Ariens Professional Hydro 28 or 36 Sno-Thro models. Last fall, Ariens introduced the AX EZ-Launch engine technology becoming the first brand in the industry to apply modern automotive technology in an EFI solution for snow products.
  • Introduction of the Professional 21 single-stage snow thrower, a durable 21-inch compact for snow-removal professionals. The Professional 21, available in two models, features a spring-loaded scraper bar that self-adjusts to follow the contours of the ground, a thick paddle that cleans to the surface, and optimal handlebar positions for system performance and user comfort.
  • A more powerful 223cc Ariens AX engine on the Compact Sno-Thro series for 2018. This product is being marketed mainly to homeowners in urban areas. Also primarily for homeowners, Ariens announced the Classic Sno-Thro series, available in a 24-inch housing, with a lower price point and several of the same features that the Ariens snow lineup is known for.
  • But what seemed to interest members of the green industry press most at a recent event at the company’s Brillion, Wisconsin, headquarters was the introduction of the company’s new patent-pending Rapid Track technology.

Our visit also included a morning walk-through by Director of Operations Adam Stanton of Ariens Plant #3. Built in 1976, the plant is both a fabrication (60 percent) and an assembly (40 percent) facility.

Ariens Paint Booth

The paint booth. Photo: Ariens

The Ariens Company embraced “lean” systems almost a generation ago and, via special partnerships, helped many landscape companies adopt them, as well.

“All employees working here are in charge of all their accountability and setup,” said Stanton. “We’re driving metrics down to the shop floor but always seeking worker feedback to their team leaders,” he added over the sound of clanking steel and The Beach Boys over a loudspeaker. “The workers here said they wanted to hear music while the work,” he said, responding to an editor’s question.

Concept Store: the future of dealer showrooms?

That afternoon, our small group walked across the road from Ariens headquarters to the Concept Store it opened earlier this year. If you’re a certain age (early baby boomer like me) you may remember the oily, cluttered shops where you bought or got your Harley Davidson motorcycle worked on. Then, slowly over time, Harley got buy-in from its dealers to jazz up their shops, in effect turning them into motorcycle boutiques.

That’s essentially what Ariens has done with its Concept Store. It’s immaculately clean and well-lit with shiny products lined up and ready to be tested.

Ariens Concept Store

Amanda Marsicek, Snow Product Manager, in the Ariens Concept Store. Photo: Ron Hall

Ariens partnered with local dealer Mike Buboltz to manage the store as a power equipment dealership. Buboltz is the owner of Hardware Plus, also located in Brillion, which has sold Ariens equipment since 2011. This will be an independently operated dealership with Buboltz managing day-to-day retail activities, while product placement, point-of-sale, and marketing support will come directly from the Ariens Company marketing team.

Ariens Company has more than 1,500 dealers throughout North America who sell lawn, snow and commercial outdoor power equipment. Many of these dealers visit Brillion from time to time and get a chance to tour company facilities including the Concept Store.

The post Ariens Unveils RapidTrak Technology, Sees Innovation As Key To Remaining ‘King of Snow’ appeared first on Turf.

from Mix ID 8230377

Monday, 28 August 2017

4 Ways To Create A Self-Motivating Work Environment

Create A Self-Motivating Work Environment

Do you know if your employees are motivated? How do you keep them going on every job without being the owner who is everywhere, all the time? You are only one person, so it is necessary for you to create a self-motivating work environment. Establish a company where your employees find it within themselves to always do the best job possible.

People are motivated in different ways, but there are some common themes and ways to improve your company culture and, in turn, create self-motivated employees. Follow these four steps to bring positivity and enthusiasm to your company’s work environment.

1. Have strong leadership and a shared vision. 

Leading your employees and your company requires visionary thinking, according to Tom Hudgin, president of Wilmington Quality Associates. It’s important to have a dream, vision and a goal with a timeline that you share with your team. Work to influence your team with long-range thinking.

Leaders in your company need to be able to influence others by being honest, authentic and confident, while also doing the right things for the right reasons, says Hudgin. Vision is the key to strong leadership.

Be sure to share the company’s vision with every employee. Having a vision will help remove fear of the unknown and fear of failure among employees. Allow for creativity among all employees and the leadership team by encouraging them to experiment and explore new ideas and processes.

2. Create goals for individuals, the team and the company.

Setting goals is a crucial step in completing any task and being successful. Employees at your company will be motivated by rewards and consequences of attaining their goals, both for the company and for their personal ambitions.

Set goals for employees that cause them to want to strive for excellence and go beyond survival by moving out of their comfort zone. Leaders should provide time frames for goals that are reasonable and attainable, which will help balance expectations and reality. Setting goals will encourage employees to make commitments and strive to meet deadlines.

3. Show appreciation for every employee.

One of the most important things company leaders can do is to build relationships with the employees and invest time to get to know them. Managers must create a work environment where people enjoy what they do and feel like they have a purpose within the company. Show appreciation by giving appropriate awards. Employees who feel appreciated will be more likely to be committed to their jobs as well as to the customers they work with. Hudgin says to pay attention to the middle performers. Don’t ignore progress in performance because that will extinguish it, but also don’t ignore slippage in performance because that will encourage it.

4. Treat employees fairly.

Employees won’t feel encouraged or motivated if they are not treated fairly, are micromanaged or are not offered the chance for growth. Part of the vision of a company needs to include an investment in training, education and opportunities for growth and learning new skills. This will keep employees challenged while giving a clear path of what is expected of them. Knowing there are chances to grow and opportunities for promotions are key for employees to stay onboard.

Provide feedback but never threaten an employee’s job or their income. Hudgin also recommends instilling a sense of urgency regarding customer service. Employees will show attitude improvements when they enjoy their tasks with minimal repetitive work that requires them to have courage and think for themselves. People stay at companies because of their attachment to their co-workers and customers. A good job fit and having the opportunity to share ideas with trust and respect from supervisors will also help employees maintain their motivation.

Read more: 5 Rules to Building a Stronger Team

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Sunday, 27 August 2017

Address Elements Of Proper Drainage

Landscape contractors often underestimate the critical importance of drainage when installing new features in landscapes. Nightmare scenarios can flood into any newly designed landscape when drainage factors are not assessed and there are no plans in place for proper drainage.Where land is flat, soils are dense with clay or water tables are high, a well-designed drainage system is priority.

Ryan Larsen (aka Dr. Drainage) is a civil engineer and drainage pro at NDS Inc., which manufactures products for stormwater management, residential drainage and landscape irrigation. He says, “In new landscapes, new water flow patterns are difficult to predict, and it’s even harder to predict how the new flow patterns will develop over long periods of time. This can lead to soil erosion and may create low spots or direct pathways to the home’s foundation, which could be as minor as a yellow lawn spot or as extensive as a crack in the building’s foundation.”

These photos showcase the effects of poor drainage. Photo: Tom Barrett, Green Water Infrastructure

Tom Barrett, principal of Indianapolis-based Green Water Infrastructure, agrees that drainage is an important element for any landscape design or renovation. “When you change the topography of the landscape, you’re bound to alter the course of rainwater runoff,” he says. “The volume of water from even a small rainfall event can be enormous.”

Photo: Tom Barrett, Green Water Infrastructure

Drainage 101

While proper grading is an effective technique to redirect water away from the property, without a drainage system, grading alone can lead to erosion of the landscape and deterioration of the plant life. “As the expert, the landscape contractor should be combining a drainage system with proper grading to achieve optimum drainage of excess water and to ensure the homeowner’s property is protected from water damage,” Larsen states.

Barrett says many problems can result from poor drainage. These include:

  • Downspout runoff could potentially create basement flooding.
  • Pool and patio runoff could create a slipping hazard.
  • Driveway runoff could create erosion issues and a flooded garage.
  • Improperly drained planter beds next to a home could create a wet basement.
  • Standing water on walkways could create surface discoloration and a slipping hazard.
  • Neighborhood runoff can contribute all of the problems associated with an improperly drained landscape.

When renovating or installing a new landscape, consider surface water drainage as well as subsurface water drainage, “shooting the grades” to establish the exact topography no matter how flat the site may seem.

Photo: Tom Barrett, Green Water Infrastructure

“There are two critical drainage elements to assess when designing a landscape project,” Barrett explains. “The first element is the volume of rainfall generated from landscaped areas, roofs and paved areas. The second is to assess the slope. The steeper the slope, the faster the stormwater will be removed.”

He believes the most overlooked elements in assessing drainage are water runoff from adjacent properties and understanding the potential impact of water runoff onto adjacent properties.

Don Clark, principal project manager for Rain Bird, recommends landscapers use the Universal Formula, or “Rational Method,” equation to determine a property’s peak flow.

Photo: Tom Barrett, Green Water Infrastructure

Low spots in the landscape benefit from the installation of a catch basin that has a sump area to prevent clogging of the drainage system by catching debris before it enters the drainage pipe, Clark points out. When creating drainage systems, he recommends creating at least two water collection points, so that if one has backflow problems for any reason, the other is there as a backup.

Every downspout should safely discharge the water into a catch basin and away from the building’s foundation. “Using a catch basin in downspouts, instead of connecting the downspout directly to the drainage pipe, prevents debris from the roof from entering and clogging the drainage system by catching it before it enters the drainage pipe,” Larsen explains.

Photo: Tom Barrett, Green Water Infrastructure


When a landscape is mired with low-lying areas and a high water table, even the best laid plans for proper drainage may be stymied. That’s when plant selection is important. Certain plants that originate in river bottoms and wetlands do well in high-water landscapes. The best choices will be riparian species from local bogs, fens and swamps, which are naturally adapted to the climate and soils found there. Another solution is to raise the planting areas.

Proper drainage: a service solution

Clark sees drainage solutions as a key service for increased revenue potential for contractors. “You already have a crew in place to do landscaping work, so why not offer a value-added service at the same time,” he suggests.

Clark also stresses the importance of addressing drainage in all landscape contracts to help prevent liability issues. “Properties may be subject to excess water from heavy rainfall or drainage issues. If you address drainage in your overall contract (e.g., creation of a percolation basin, running special pipe into the sewer system), it should help absolve responsibility later if the result of your landscape work creates drainage problems that the client claims were not previously there,” he explains.

When drainage is recommended by the landscape contractor as a preventive measure, most homeowners accept this recommendation without hesitation, according to a press release from Ewing Irrigation. “Homeowners rely on the expertise of the landscape contractor to ensure their landscape and property will be well protected from water damage and less susceptible to water damage in the future,” says Sharon M. Vessels, director of marketing for NDS Inc.

Photo: Tom Barrett, Green Water Infrastructure

In addition to providing customers with an effective drainage plan, landscape contractors can save on costs and increase profits by installing a drainage system in conjunction with other landscape projects. Larsen explains: “It’s much more cost-effective than installing a drainage system as a stand-alone project for a number of reasons. First, the contractor’s crew and equipment are already on the site. Second, the same trenches used for other aspects of the landscape project may sometimes be used for the drainage system. Finally, the drainage materials can be purchased in the same place as the other materials for the landscape project, which saves time and reduces transportation costs.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in August 2014 and has been updated.

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Saturday, 26 August 2017

5 Tips For Systematic Scheduling

Busy Calendar

In my travels, I regularly find companies with scheduling processes that are missing, broken or less than optimal. For design/ build companies, this always surprises me, since scheduling is such an integral part of what these companies do. Scheduling affects not only the customer experience, but many other aspects of the company as well, such as purchasing, human resource allocation, cash flow and profitability.

Before delving into the scheduling process, I want to say that changes will only be successful if owners and senior managers are all committed to adhering to them. Once you agree to the changes that should be made, it has to become the process going forward. If something isn’t working, you can tweak it, but not following the process — whatever the process may be — can’t be an option.

There are many options when it comes to scheduling: white boards, spreadsheets, software programs, etc. They all have pros and cons. You need to evaluate the options that appear to be a good fit for your company, and then commit to a process. You can change this process in the future, but everyone should know what the current process is, and should be committed to it.

1. Have a visual. One of my clients uses a large white board to brainstorm, make notes and map things out. It’s a nice visual, but there’s no way to access the information from outside the office. As a solution, my client used Excel to create a schedule. The schedule can be quickly updated each day, and then shared with everyone involved via email.

2. Hold weekly scheduling meetings. In my experience, a weekly scheduling meeting is a best practice. Ideally, the meeting should be held at the same time and on the same day each week. Holding the meeting on Wednesday or Thursday can make it easier to see if it’s necessary to work the upcoming Saturday, and allows time to get materials and equipment lined up. The weekly scheduling meeting should be attended by everyone who has a voice in deciding when work is scheduled and who will be doing the work. Begin the meeting by scheduling high-priority jobs and then fill in other jobs to fit the time frame. Schedule the current week and the following two weeks at this meeting. There’s not much value in scheduling beyond this unless you have jobs that absolutely must be done by a certain date.

3. Communicate schedules to clients. After the scheduling meeting, you should be able to tell a customer when their job is scheduled to start. Any time you discuss scheduling with a customer, be sure to mention that many things could change the schedule — weather, equipment issues, jobs running long, etc. — and that you’re not making promises, you’re simply informing them of what the schedule looks like as of today.

4. Stick to the schedule. Once the schedule is set, do everything in your power to stick to it. Scheduling project work is one of the most difficult aspects of your business due to the complexity involved. By not sticking to a schedule, frustrations run high. There are times when the schedule is going to get blown apart, but it should be the exception, not the rule.

5. Be flexible but keep the balance. Try to avoid squeezing last-minute clients into an already tight schedule. Your key people may be less inclined to say “yes” to these situations if they know what the implications are going to be on the schedule and how it will affect other clients. Sure, there is some value and benefit to be gained by sliding in work for certain people. It’s a balancing act. You want the schedule to be stable for the reasons outlined above, but you also want to be flexible and customer-oriented. If you’re too rigid, your phone will stop ringing, and that’s not a good thing either.

The reality is that your schedule will change (sometimes every day), even with a weekly scheduling meeting, due to changing priorities, weather, equipment issues, emergencies, etc. There’s no way to avoid this. Your scheduling process must accommodate changes on a daily basis even as you seek to minimize changes.

What is the state of your scheduling process? Are your employees frustrated? Are your clients frustrated? Do you feel like your schedule is out of control? If so, now is the time to regain control of your schedule with a documented, systematic scheduling process for project work.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in August 2014 and has been updated.

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Friday, 25 August 2017

2017 Product Roundup: Hardscapes

stone staircase

1. Aqua-Bella Designs

The Triple Basalt fountain kit is a set of three solid columns with varying heights made of volcanic rock. Sizes are 18, 24 and 30 inches. The rocks have an 8- to 10-inch diameter. Basalt is a dense crystalline material, about 10 percent heavier than granite.

2. Anchor Wall

ChiselEdge Edgers are a landscaping component to the ChiselWall system. Three unique face patterns give the edgers a distinctive look similar to hand-chiseled stone. Entrances and tree rings are some possible project applications, according to the company.

3. Belgard

The Tandem Column Kit from Belgard’s natural collection can be installed by setting the grid on the U-Start base or a solid base, attach veneers to the column with connectors and cap the column. It can be used for new columns or around existing deck posts and installation for patios, outdoor kitchens, pillars and outdoor living rooms. The column grid height is 42 inches and comes in two colors: Avondale and River Street.

4. Cambridge Pavers

The Cambridge Ledgestone Wall has a natural-looking rock face with bold ridges and deep clefts. The wallstones are 4 x 8 x 12 inches, and can be used in many single-sided applications from a freestanding and retaining wall to steps and edging. A Ledgestone Wall Corner for left and right corners is also available.

5. Fireboulder

The Large-Linear fireboulders are hand carved and designed to accommodate a 36-inch linear burner. Dimensions and weights of these boulders vary, but typically weigh between 900 and 2,000 pounds. The dimensions are roughly 71 x 28 x 15 inches.

6. Keystone Retaining Wall Systems

The Keystone Country Manor Wall has stones with three finished sides and an interlocking pin system. The stones come in 2-, 3- or 5-piece systems to reach a 3-foot height, or higher with proper engineering. The stones have an Old World charm and look hand-laid, according to the company.

7. Pavestone

The Bishop’s Hat pavers from Pavestone consist of two geometric concrete pavers with many design options. The two shapes modulate together to form patterns with different color choices. Each stone weighs 10.05 pounds. These pavers are suggested for courtyards, driveways, parks, patios, pool decks and more.

8. Pine Hall Brick

Rumbled StormPave Permeable Pavers are full-range, 4-x-8-inch clay pavers with beveled edges. The large spacer bars provide spacing for washed aggregate filled joints that allow water to drain freely between the paving units. The pavers initial rate of infiltration is more than 500 inches per hour. The dimensions are 4 x 8 x 2.25 (or 2.75) inches. The pavers are available in 10 color options.

9. Porous Pave

Porous Pave is a pour-in-place permeable paving material that is porous and flexible. The highly porous material allows for large amounts of water to drain through it, draining up to 6,300 gallons per hour per square foot. The product’s flexibility allows the material to withstand freeze-thaw cycles without cracking or heaving. It is made in the U.S. from recycled tires and the high rubber content ensures good traction even when wet.

10. Techo-Bloc

From the Techo-Bloc Stonedge Collection, the new Travertina Raw slabs have the texture of natural travertine in a concrete material. This product line has been improved to make it more durable than the natural alternative, especially for winter climates. The collection has been expanded with a double-sided, structural retaining wall system, two wall caps and pool coping with three color tones.

11. Unilock

The Eco-Optiloc permeable pavers form Unilock are environmentally friendly and can solve drainage issues, according to the company. They have a patented L-shaped design for a lock-up that can withstand heavy loads residentially and commercially. The design creates small voids between the pavers providing drainage into the sub-base. Surface textures can be customized for commercial projects.

12. Rosetta Hardscapes

The round fire pit kit from Rosetta has six different sized stone pieces as part of the layout pattern, plus the stone caps. From the base to the cap level, the fire pit height measures 14.5 inches. Gas conversion kits are available, as well as different color choices based on location.

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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