PORTLAND, Ore. – They haven't figured out yet how to get the pruning done, but architects and federal officials plan one of the world's most extensive vertical gardens in downtown Portland – what amounts to a series of 250-foot-tall trellises designed to shade the west side of an 18-story office building.
It is not a new idea to use greenery vertically as "living architecture," running plants up the sides of a building to keep it cool.
But even in a city with a reputation for rainfed greenery as well as for green architecture, the wall of the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building would stand out.
The architects' plans call for seven vertical "vegetated fins" to jut at acute angles. The fins would be the metal framework for planters and the greenery sprouting from them.
The west wall is 150 feet long, making the expanse to be shaded about three-quarters the size of an NFL playing field, minus the end zones.
The work is part of a $135 million remodeling, with most of the money from federal stimulus funds. It is the largest single stimulus project announced so far in Oregon. The U.S. General Services Administration says its goal is to create a "landmark high-performance building."
The green wall concept is familiar to anyone who has planted a deciduous tree or used a vine-covered trellis on the west side of the house: In the summer the leaves provide cooling shade; in the winter, the bare limbs and stems admit comforting light.
"If you think about it, it's a planter every 25 feet," architect Don Eggleston said. "A lot of people have 10-foot trellises in their gardens."
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ORLANDO – About 350 lawn care contractors gathered in Florida in early January for the annual Real Green Systems users conference and trade show. They learned best practices for the company’s software, how to bolster their company’s sales and marketing efforts, and answers to common horticulture questions.
Missy Crawford, left, from Greener Grass Systems, River Falls, Wis., with Real Green Systems President Joe Kucik. Crawford won a television during a raffle at the conference.A MARKETING UNIVERSE. Joe Kucik, president of Real Green Systems, told conference attendees that they should try to build what he calls a marketing universe when it comes to gathering information about their customers. Kucik, who also operates a Scotts LawnService franchise in Holt, Mich., says the more owners and salespeople know about their clients, the more successful they’ll be.
“The more information you have on each prospect, the easier it is to sell that prospect service,” Kucik says.
Priced offers sell better than a postcard that just introduces your company to homeowners, he says. Kucik says he’s found great success offering a free grub control service with new contracts. Grubs are a well-known problem in his area, and people respond to it.
“Grub control is a powerful thing in Michigan, because people know grubs are a problem,” he says. “When it comes to marketing, don’t bother doing anything if you don’t have a strong offer.”
He promotes something he calls one-step sales: When an interested homeowner calls in after receiving one of his postcards, his phone reps are trained to immediately offer them an estimate and a deal for a yearly contract. They don’t wait for a salesman to go out and measure the property and then offer an estimate.
Watch and learn how to add tree and shrub care to your business, integrate chemical applications and build a better marketing database at www.lawnandlandscape.com.
Julie Newens, from Permo-0-Green in Tyler, Texas, shows off the C-note she won during Friday night bingo.DOOR TO DOOR. With the advent of the National Do Not Call Registry, companies need a way to supplement their once-profitable telemarketing operations. Ken White, manager of license operations for Real Green, says a well-run door-to-door program can earn a company customers for less than $60 each.
White, who also works at Kucik’s Scotts franchise, detailed his door-to-door program. He hires college students from nearby Michigan State University – mostly women – to knock on doors in teams for a 12-week period that starts about a month before the beginning of production. The teams focus on a pre-determined area seven days a week and earn $7 per verified lead.
He suggests hiring a supervisor – usually a salesman who can immediately work leads as they come in – for the teams. “If you don’t, it’s not going to happen,” he says.
The canvassers focus on the area around the company’s office, which saves on gas. They go out in the company’s trucks, since they’re already branded, and everyone working gets company shirts, hats, jackets, etc. White also suggest that you tell canvassers who in the neighborhood is already an active customer, so they don’t offer your current clients estimates.
White, who devotees 25-30 percent of his marketing budget to canvassing, gets half of his sales from the effort. He says a team of door knockers can visit 500 homes per shift. If half the people are home, eight percent will want an estimate, which comes out to about 2.4 leads per hour. In all, White says, he spent just more than $48,000 on the effort.
“That’s the key to doorknocking: Get them out of the house. If they’re talking through the screen, you’ve lost,” White says. “Once you get them out on that lawn, you’ve got ‘em.”
SchafferCOMMON ORNAMENTAL PROBLEMS. Elliott Schaffer, certified arborist and founder of Environmental Horticultural Services in Dublin, Ohio, told attendees that they don’t have to necessarily offer tree and shrub care to answer homeowners’ questions about what’s happening with their ornamentals.
“As long as you can communicate with your customer … you’re going to have retention,” Schaffer says. “As long as you can help solve their problems. You want to be preemptive and notice these things and tell the customer.”
Plants encounter two kinds of problems: biotic – caused by living organisms, e.g., fungus, nematodes, insects, bacteria or mites, and abiotic -- caused by physical or chemical damage, temperature and moisture extremes, and planting.
Examples of biotic problem symptoms include:
- Eaten hosta, a browse line on evergreens and bark damage from rubbing means you have deer.
- A straight line of holes in a trunk means you have a yellow-bellied sapsucker on your hands. The woodpeckers are a protected species, and tend to focus on one tree. What they’re doing is trying to release the tree’s sap, which attracts bugs, which the bird then eats.
Abiotic problems are sometimes harder to see – and remedy. Schaffer gave the following examples and possible solutions:
Everything a homebuilder can’t – or doesn’t want to – haul away, he buries in the dirt. So, when you get a rectangular dead spot of turf about four feet wide and seven feet long, it’s not a disease. It’s likely a door.
But problems with trees or shrubs from buried construction cast-offs are harder to pinpoint, because the damage doesn’t show up for a year or two after planting. By that time, most people aren’t thinking about when the house was built.
Related to soil compaction is when roots grow close to the surface. Contractors can cut up to one-third of roots off a healthy tree. If you can’t cut the roots, consider mulching around the base of the tree.
But contractors need to “recognize the message that is being sent,” Schaffer says, when they see roots above grade: The soil is too compacted for the roots to grow underground, so they came up to get the oxygen they need. “Roots, whether it’s turf or ornamentals, need oxygen.”
One symptom of wet mulch is vomitora fungus – so named because of its resemblance to throw-up. It’s always present in hardwood mulch, but you’ll see it flower when the mulch is too wet. “It doesn’t hurt humans, but it is an indicator that this mulch is too wet. Either get the mulch to be thinner or change the irrigation,” Schaffer says. ““Problems are always under the plant. If they were on the plant, you’d know what they are (already).”
He recommends contractors always carry a soil probe to assess the moisture content in the soil underneath plants.
Heat damage or scorch
This is seen most often on the margins of the leaves or needles – where water has to travel the farthest, and on plants with immature root systems. If it’s been raining plenty, plants can also sustain heat damage from the hot hoods and exhaust from cars, or asphalt applied in the summer.
On conifers, if the tips of the needles are green, that means the plant is getting enough water. If the internal needles are brown, the tree is just dropping some leaves that it doesn’t need anymore, he says.
Evergreen trees and shrubs typically express winter freeze damage around the same time as a homeowner’s first or second lawn care application. The leaves on deciduous plants will turn black or tree bark will burst.
Schaffer recommends technicians keep their eyes open while driving to each account. “On your way to the property, look around. Is it just your client or the whole neighborhood?” he asks.
Make sure you communicated to homeowners who have relocated from a vastly different hardiness zones that they can’t expect the same results from the same plants. “Make sure the plants you have are right for the market. The plants you grew in Buffalo don’t grow here in Tuscaloosa,” Schaffer says.
As chemicals become more advanced, Schaffer says, he’s seeing less tree and ornamental damage from herbicides applied to turf. If a homeowner thinks your latest application killed his burning bush, look around for weeds. It’s easier to kill weeds than it is to kill established shrubs or trees; if there are still weeds around a damaged plant, the problem likely wasn’t the chemical you applied last week. Also, Schaffer says, aphids, thrips and freezing temperatures can cause damage with similar looking symptoms.
To learn more about specific plant problems, lists of deer-resistant plants and to find materials suitable for use as customer handouts, check out the extension offices at land grant universities. You can find a clearinghouse for extension sites here: http://extension.unh.edu/cesites.htm.
The author is managing editor of Lawn & Landscape. E-mail him at email@example.com.
This is a relationship economy, and green industry companies that have built their businesses by word of mouth are ideally positioned to capitalize on this trend. Even leading regional and national companies recognize that business decisions are moving down to the local level. The message is clear. If you want to survive this economy, you must have a strategy for engaging and interacting with people in your local market.
When I started writing this column a year ago, there were less than 150 million users on Facebook. There are now more than 350 million Facebook users today, and the majority of them are over the age of 35. These are your friends, customers and potential customers. A great deal has changed during the past twelve months, so I am going take an aerial view to lay out what I would do right now if I were a green industry business that wanted to use social media to position my company well.
It’s a Relationship Economy
The market may understand your company’s role, but they really want to know what you are all about as the leader of that company. This is the crux of this relationship economy. People are much more risk-averse, and will therefore favor the company that is more transparent and personable. This means owners and managers have to literally get out of the office and meet with people, while hopefully using their social networks to extend and reinforce that personal touch.
Many consumers do not fully comprehend what your company can do for them. They may understand what you do, that you install patios or make lawns greener, but do they know how you do that in a way that separates you from your competitors? That difference is your social media advantage. It is the reason for having a relationship with you. Refine your social networking bios to clearly state in 20 words or less what you do, how you do it and who you do it for. Then test this live with your best customers to see if it resonates with them.
Markets are Collaborative
Markets today are collaborative. Most buyers expect to be involved in the process of working through their business needs with you. Business is no longer just selling to buyers, but working with them to create collaborative solutions that they can jointly own. In competitive markets where everyone has superior quality at competitive pricing, the business will often go to the company that has engaged the buyer with a well-designed sales process. Make sure your whole team follows the same basic process. Markets expect that consistency.
Community Needs are Changing
More than ever, people want to be listened to and understood. Get a leg up on this by using Google Alerts to monitor what is happening in your market. Set alerts for the products and services you provide. Listen, learn and make helpful comments on the social networks. Do the same for your company brand and personal name. This is free market data that are available for the taking. Use the social media technology to reach out so you are current with changing market needs.
The stagnant economy has conditioned all of us to seek out what is fresh and new. When consumers do a Google search, they are looking for the most current and relevant information. Google understands this. Just this week they enhanced Google Places to encourage small businesses like yours to make regular updates that keep your company relevant.
Google Places, sometimes known as Google Local, are those search results that aggregate local companies together into commonly used categories, such as landscaping or lawn care. Set up your Google Place page and make this a social media hub where you offer deals and friendly reminders that encourage engagement. This is a free service you should take advantage of. If you don’t have a physical location, set up a Google Profile instead.
And finally, people want to work with someone that cares. It has always been like this. Yet, because many communities today are challenged, and resources are limited, there is greater emphasis on friends pitching in to help out. This trend is indicative of another one that is gaining momentum at many of the top business schools. It is known as social entrepreneurship, and you are likely to be hearing more about it.
Social entrepreneurship isn’t philanthropy. It is augmenting your business model to include social needs alongside traditional profit needs. One of these social needs is sustainable living. This is on the minds of many of your customers. Use your social media networks to learn more. Just keep your eye out for it, and I’m sure you will recognize more of it, and eventually discover ways to get involved.
Jeff Korhan works with green industry leaders to maximize their Web visibility, reputation and referrals. He blogs daily at http://jeffkorhan.com
How do you persuade people to trust you when you don’t have a track record?
It’s a question every entrepreneur faces—and it’s especially critical these days as lenders and investors look for reasons not to hand over money. To figure out the answer, we interviewed key figures at 28 entrepreneurial ventures in the U.K., including founders, investors, board members, employees and customers.
What did we find out? Details matter. Many entrepreneurs are so focused on building the business or getting their product ready for market that they forget to do little things that send a message of credibility—such as making sure their Web site is polished and professional, or sending follow-up notes after a meeting with potential investors.
The Quandary: It’s tough to persuade people to trust you when you don’t have a track record—especially now that lenders and investors are looking for reasons not to hand over money.
The Missing Ingredient: Many entrepreneurs are so focused on building the business or getting their product ready for market that they forget to do little things that send a message of credibility.
Moves That Matter: In our study, the most successful founders were masters of symbolic gestures—from holding meetings in upscale venues to displaying industry awards on their Web site.
In our study, the most successful founders were masters at making symbolic gestures that signaled stability and credibility. They might hold meetings in upscale surroundings, for instance, or fill their Web page with testimonials from satisfied customers. Time and again, the entrepreneurs who practiced these tactics landed more funding than those who didn’t.
What’s more, this advice isn’t for entrepreneurs only: Executives from established companies could learn some valuable lessons here, as well. With investors more skeptical than ever, executives must use any resource to convince them that they can be trusted—no matter how trivial the tactics may seem to managers with long careers and long-existing companies behind them.
We found that there were four areas where the right symbolic gestures were vital. Here’s a look at those crucial spots—and what executives in businesses of all shapes and sizes can learn from them.
Read the full list here.
MILWAUKEE – The Toro Company recently announced its 2009 distributor award recipients, and the company recognized Reinders for outstanding customer service and performance in the commercial equipment market.
Jerry Kienast, service director at Reinders, accepted the Equipment Service Achievement Award for his accomplishments.
The award is given to a service manager who has exhibited exemplary progress in completion of Toro’s “Distributor Partners in Excellence” program. A distributor must use best business practices that produce positive results relating to customer satisfaction and service profitability. Kienast and Reinders are two-time award winners, having previously won in 2006.
Established in 1866, Reinders serves industry professionals through six locations across Wisconsin, three in Illinois, two in Minnesota and one in Missouri. They are the official supplier of turf equipment to the Milwaukee Brewers.