Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Lawn & Landscape Staff


L&L Insider

L&L Insider

September 1, 2014

A service industry

Volunteers from all over the country donated time and efforts at PLANET event.

By Kate Spirgen

– The green industry showed its dedication to the red, white and blue at Arlington Cemetery and on Capitol Hill July 28-29, honoring our fallen soldiers and advocating for key issues for the industry.

PLANET’s 18th annual Renewal & Remembrance project and Legislative Day on the Hill brought together industry professionals from all across the country to donate their time and efforts during the two day event.

Giving back. More than 400 volunteers from 30 states repaired irrigation, aerated, protected trees and laid down 78 tons of lime on 180 acres of Arlington Cemetery on its 150th anniversary to thank those who served the United States.

Walter Money, of Bartlett Tree Experts and a Marine, has spent more than 50 years as an arborist. But he never would have been able to do what he loves without the sacrifice of those interred on the grounds.

“I never cease to remember as I walk these hallowed grounds that those 55 years are a privilege granted to me unlike many of the people buried here. They gave their last ounce of devotion so that you and I can be here today doing the work we love for our country,” he said.

“We are here today to do with actions what words cannot express. Our work is just a symbol of our gratitude to all those who have served our great nation in every war and armed conflict.”

Moving forward. Following the day of service, many headed to Capitol Hill to voice their support for four key pieces of legislation:

Seasonal workers: Advocates voiced their support for the Simplifying Technical Aspects Regarding Seasonality, or the STARS act, which would simplify the definition of a seasonal worker.

This would allow businesses to better understand and execute their health care requirements, PLANET said. The legislation would define a seasonal employee as someone who is on the job for six months or less and exclude them when determining whether or not a business is an applicable large employer.

Immigration reform: Professionals requested to raise the cap on the number of seasonal workers allowed, as well as legalize workers who haven’t been able to get visas. H-2B reform would also give employers more control over the wage for workers, which employers say would better reflect the current economy and scope of work.

Clean Water Act: PLANET is pushing to rescind the proposed Waters of the United States rule, which lawn and landscape contractors find overly burdensome in terms of permits. Advocates say that this action will relieve confusion and unnecessary bureaucracy surrounding waterways, floodplains and more.

Disease Advisory Board: To create a central source of education and prevention of Lyme disease, PLANET members once again asked for a committee dedicated to tick-borne illnesses.

Noting the increase in instances of Lyme disease in particular, attendees asked that an advisory committee be formed to help identify the illness and protect workers from infection as well as research preventative measures and a cure.


HPE hits three decades, announces new products

Honda Power Equipment celebrates 30 years with the development of its first two-stage snow blower made outside of Japan.

By Brian Horn

SWEPSONVILLE, N.C. – Scott Connor still remembers his first trip to the Honda Power Equipment Manufacturing facility in Swepsonville N.C., 30 years ago.

At the time, the factory was only producing one unit, but while visiting, he was told the factory would one day produce a million products.

The senior vice president at HPE said that on his flight back home to California, he thought “yeah, right.” But 30 years later, the group has hit 30 million products manufactured and now houses more than 600 employees.

Honda will continue to help the 375,000 square-foot facility grow with an $8.5-million investment, which will include the addition of a new line for the production of two-stage snow blowers and new generators. Production of the equipment is expected to start in the next 18 months. Connor said the Swepsonville snow blower will be the first two-stage snow blower designed and manufactured outside of Japan.

“Japan is still helping, but the primary development work is here,” he said.

Connor said more professionals have been using Honda mowers and snow blowers that were designed for the consumer. He added that the company makes an investment in the Swepsonville plant every year, but this was an above average investment.

“For us, it’s big news and reassuring to the associates,” he said.

The Honda power product research and development team is also based at the HPE campus, where most lawn mower and snow blowers, and several general-purpose engines are designed and developed. There are a total of four HPE factories in America, but the Swepsonville plant is the largest.

The announcement came as part of HPE’s 30th anniversary celebration, which was attended by Takuji Yamada, Honda COO of North American Regional Operations; Shinji Oketani, HPE president; local officials and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who spoke at the event.


Bobcat opens Acceleration Center

The office is designed to encourage collaboration.

By Katie Tuttle

– Bobcat Co., recently opened the Bobcat and Doosan Acceleration Center, which is located on 35 acres of land in Bismarck, N.D.

The Acceleration Center campus features a 195,000-square-foot operational building and a 22-acre outdoor testing area. The building includes 100,000 square feet of lab and a 35,000-square-foot indoor testing arena. The center has 175 employees, with 102 of them in the engineering department.

The center will be used for developing and testing Bobcat products. Doosan will also use the center for research and development. The offices inside the center will have no assigned seats. Employees instead have carts where they store their laptops, phones and any other office equipment they need for their jobs. The office is made up of more than enough desk spaces, allowing employees to sit in different places, depending on what they’re working on and who they’re working with.

According to Mike Wetzel, director of engineering at Doosan Infracore Construction Equipment, the company looked at different companies across the country to see what new tricks and techniques were being used to allow employees the best chance to work efficiently.

Along with the open spaces, the two-floors office also features enclosed focus enclaves for more privacy, different sized meeting rooms and group table spaces for collaboration. With a focus on chance encounters, the office houses a few games, such as shuffleboard, to allow co-workers to interact in a non-work-related environment to spur innovation, he says. There is outside research that suggests a good amount of ideas are thought up in interactions between employees who may not work directly together and therefore don’t interact on a daily basis, he says.

Building an environment, Wetzel says, that focuses on chance encounters, whether on the stairs, around the shuffleboard table or in the cafeteria, gives employees more interaction time.

He adds the acceleration center will decrease testing time because instead of taking the equipment to dealers and customers around the country to test, which could take months, Bobcat can bring those people to the Bismarck facility in one group event.


Ask the experts

ASK THE EXPERTS is presented in partnership with PLANET’s Trailblazers On Call program. Trailblazers are industry leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to give back to the industry.

Q: Why should I have diversity within my client base? And what does diversity really mean to my business?

A: I know that a lot of us have large clients that we become dependent on. Never put all your eggs in one basket. Having a diverse client base will create different types of revenue streams.

Sometimes it is a hard pill to swallow and make the decision to invest time, money, and other resources to diversify. In a lot of cases, diversity means meeting the customers’ demands, growing your marketed area, and creating long-term profits. It’s a daunting thought that could keep you awake at night. Here are a few ideas that might help with the process of having a diverse customer base.

Never stop marketing yourself and your company. We can get very comfortable with our clients. Do not get so comfortable in a customer relationship that you stop advertising, branding and continuing to obtain new clients.

Word of mouth is a wonderful tool; however, it is just as important to use websites, social media, local ads, or whatever means of advertisement works for your company. All I am saying is if it is not broke, don’t fix it. Use the tools that have worked for you in the past, but also keep up with the changing times.

Offer different services. In the landscape industry, this is also referred to as upsells. I know in our busy lives, we just want to get our routes done.

However, if you cannot be there personally, make sure your customers know what other services you offer. Keep it in front of them. Put these services on your website, social media, on a blog, or even a newsletter once a month. It’s a good idea, when you have time, to visit each customer and offer these additional services.

More or less. So, which do you choose: more customers or more services? Both. Start with your customer base first. You don’t want to overdo it either, so try to maintain a slow and steady growth. It’s okay not to add a customer if you are booked.

Learn how to job cost and which customers are bringing in a profit. Once you get a handle on having a diverse client base, then you can offer more services to each client. Never try to be the superhero and do everything at once.

Trying to grow too fast could be disastrous. Make sure you can handle the growth you are targeting. Depending on limited services and a limited client base is very high risk. It is also risky to go outside your comfortable home zone, so be sure to know the risk of going outside your market.

Look at your current customer base. If you only have a few large clients, then you should immediately look into more customers. If you have a lot of smaller clients, look to sell them more services.

Either way, there are plenty of growth opportunities for your company. Listen to the needs of the customers, ask the right questions, and come up with a successful strategy. Whether you go after new clients or sell more services, you are on the fast track to diversifying for profits.

Offering more services and/or servicing additional clients will give you the peace of mind for business longevity. In my opinion, diversity is the way to go to stay competitive and profitable.

Crystal Arlington, PLANET Trailblazer
Affiliated Grounds Maintenance Group


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The facts on fuel

We surveyed 100 contractors across the country about their fuel buying strategies and overall thoughts on how fuel affects their businesses. Below is a snippet of the results.

For more fuel numbers, turn to page 83 for our Smart Fuel Month coverage.


Source: Lawn & Landscape research

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