Technology touches every facet of our lives. It has changed how we work, how we socialize, how we communicate. Technology has also changed the products we use day in and day out. Computers are faster, cars are safer, you get the idea.
At Nufarm we focus on chemistry technology. Innovation is at the core of every new solution we create and that is why we are especially honored to sponsor Technology Month 2014.
When it comes to plant protection products we understand that performance, cost, image and the environment are all very important considerations. Our dedicated chemistry labs are leaders in formulating solutions to fit these ever growing and changing needs. And, with an expanded portfolio, we now offer more chemistries than ever to help lawn and landscape business thrive. Two recent product additions include Last Call and Change Up herbicides.
Last Call herbicide delivers powerful control of more than 40 grassy and broadleaf weeds, but the beauty of Last Call is in the flexibility it offers. Developed with a proprietary mix of fenoxaprop, fluroxypyr and dicamba, Last Call kills crabgrass at most growth stages – including mid-tiller – and it can be applied to most managed cool-season and Zoysia turf areas.
Accounts sensitive to 2,4-D now have more options too. Change Up premium selective herbicide strikes out more than 200 weeds without 2,4-D and it does it quickly to help reduce callbacks. This dependable post-emerge product is labeled for many cool- and warm-season turfgrasses.
Each day is an opportunity to reach for something new. Whether your goal is performance, sustainability or anything in-between, our promise is to deliver more options in quality solutions to help you achieve the best possible results. Chemistry technology is at the forefront of making our products better and your days brighter.
The Pareto Principle is named after the Italian economist and mathematician, Vilfredo Pareto, who found in 1906 that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population.
Today the Pareto Principle is also known as the 80-20 rule and I like to translate it as it relates to us landscapers: 80 percent of our business comes from 20 percent of our clients. I think if more of us understood and believed in this principle, we could improve our businesses.
I have taught the value of the Pareto Principle for more than 15 years at my conferences and seminars. Recently, one of my best clients called to tell me the findings of the analysis of his clients and how much they spend with him. He told me of the $5 million in sales the company made, 79 percent of that revenue came from 21 percent of his clients. He was shocked how close the principle he heard me teach was for his business.
However, after this revelation was another one he had and that’s the lesson I’d like to share this month. He went on to dig into the numbers more and found that 52 percent of the bills that went out for his company generated 2 percent of the business. About $98,000 in billing came from 52 percent of the invoices! We talked about this and the administrative time that goes into billing and the other readiness factors, as most of them were irrigation start-ups and other small things.
I told him to think about what he could use that time for. I asked if he felt the 21 percent of his clients that were bringing in 79 percent of his revenue were well taken care of. I asked if he thought it would make sense to tell the 52 percent that they needed to sign up for more services for him to continue to do the small jobs.
Analyze the numbers.
Now I may have lost you a little bit with all the back and forth, but there’s a great lesson here. In our shop, above the board we use to share our financial progress with the whole team, are the words, “What gets measured, can be improved’.” That was given to us by Seth, one of our young sales professionals that does an awesome job for us.
I liked it so much, we had a sign made with those words. So, the lesson this month is, “measure things.” See how you are doing against the industry. Have a scoreboard and, by all means, keep it simple.
We can get so caught up in the day to day that we don’t take time to see if the results we are getting are in alignment with our strategy. We are growing Grunder Landscaping Co. To grow the correct way we need to know very clearly who our ideal client is and our ideal client is not a transactional client, it’s a relational one.
A transactional client is one who calls us here and there, is always looking for the best price. They have no loyalty and treat landscaping, or anything that relates to the landscape, as a necessary to-do list item. A relational client is one who values quality, wants to know you, is loyal, isn’t always looking for the best price, but is looking for trust.
The latter is where we make money. We charge a $100 consultation fee to go meet with someone and share our expertise, and we have a minimum job with a new client of $1,500.
About two or three times a year, out of about 1,000 calls, we have someone hang up on us or tell us we don’t know what we’re doing. If you told my salespeople we were going to start doing free estimates, they would start a riot of epic proportions.
They know who our ideal client is; they know where 80 percent of our revenue comes from and they want to be working with people who have the potential to become an ideal client.
A clear message.
For the first 15 years of my business, I went out and saw just about everyone and my sales, profits and frustrations reflected that. For the last 15 years, I have focused on the type of people that bring in 80 percent of our business and it works for many reasons. For one, it brings clarity to my sales team as to what type of people we want to do business with.
My whole sales team recently went through some pretty extensive sales training and one of the points the instructor made was that you should close 100 percent of all the calls you go on. When I heard that, I said, “What kind of a sales trainer thinks you can close 100 percent of the calls you go on?”
After I finished up the training and we refined our approach some, I had to agree with his assessment.
If you know who your ideal client is, if you know the type of clients that bring you 80 percent of your revenue, you screen prospects so you see that they could be great clients. We’ll talk more about screening clients next month.
For now, go find out where you are making the most money; identify the clients that bring you in the most money; identify the ones you like working with and look at the ones that cause trouble all the time.
Then, have your accountant or bookkeeper tell you where your revenue came from the last couple of years, list the top 50 clients and make sure you are taking care of them and think about how you might attract more of them.
The Pareto Principle is a great philosophy ... if you use it!
Marty Grunder is a speaker, consultant and author; he owns Grunder Landscaping Co. See www.martygrunder.com; mail
The pitch: Edgetite fasteners are a “spike” for securing the paver edging to both the base and, through static pressure, to the outside course of the brick field.
Using the angled tip design, it “wedges” the edging against the brick, resists frost heave, strengthens the installation and restricts sideways movement.
This product is designed to be used in any project that includes an edge restraint system for securing the edges of the paver installation.
Edgetite fasteners are made from round steel, 10 inches in length, 5/16 inch in width with a ½ inch diameter nail head and has an approximate 15 degree angle starting 1 ¼ inches from the tip to promote deflection.
For more information: www.edgetite.com
The pitch: The new iluma Hardscape Retrofit Lighting System enables quick and easy installations with existing hardscape applications.
It's designed with 5mm wiring and available in several configurations. This includes standard or customizable lengths with an option of 3-, 6- or 9-inch light strips spaced evenly apart.
Photocell technology senses ambient light and automatically turns lights on and off for both safety and security. The System operates on a DC power supply creating minimum line voltage drops and shocking hazards.
All i-lighting’s LED lighting systems are rated for 12-plus years of operation if used 24-hours-a-day/seven-days-a-week.
For more information: www.i-lightingonline.com
The iQ Power Tools iQPC912
The pitch: The iQPC912 Dust Control Power Cutter is a gas powered cut-off saw made to eliminate dust problems.
The iQPC912 has a 12-inch blade and is designed by contractors to eliminate the silica hazard on your job sites, maintaining your silica exposure to OSHA standards.
No water means 100 percent dry cutting, eliminating slurry and wet cutting problems.
The vacuum and filter systems collect up to 90 percent of the dust, allowing you to work right at your job site without having to make trips back and forth. The collection system also means less time spent cleaning up.
For more information: www.iqpowertools.com
John Deere 310K EP
The pitch: Powered by an IT4/ Stage III B John Deere PowerTech engine, the 310K EP meets IT4 standards without after-treatment components and diesel particulate filters (DPFs).
This eliminates the need for additional operator training or extra monitoring of machines that have numerous operators focused primarily on quickly getting on and off a machine.
The 70 hp model features a five-speed transmission and a single loader lever with integrated electro-hydraulic (EH) auxiliary loader control that eliminates the need for a second lever when using a multi-purpose bucket.
It also features a completely redesigned cab, with ventilation that circulates cab air from front-to-back, directing airflow where operators need it the most.
For more information: www.deere.com
Kubota M59 TLB
The pitch: Kubota offers a line of four-wheel-drive utility tractors – including the M59.
The power utility M59 is a 59-horsepower TLB has four-wheel-drive for power and stability, an integrated main frame and a heavy-duty rear axle for extended life and smooth stopping performance.
The M59’s backhoe has a 12-foot digging depth and offers more power than Kubota’s previous TLB models, with a bucket digging force of over 7,600 lbs. The loader has a lifting power of 3,960 lbs.
The HST Plus Transmission provides automated control of both the HST pump and motor, and featues HST Response Control and Auto Throttle Advance.
For more information: www.kubota.com
Pine Hall Brick Esplanade Pavers
The pitch: Esplanade pavers are a new product by Pine Hall Brick Co., that allow landscape architects to choose a variety of laying patterns.
The size of the pavers is 2¾ inch by 8 3/8 inches by 2 ¾ inches thick.
Esplanade is available in a variety of clear-burn colors.
While they appear similar to conventional pavers, they direct rainwater into the ground, where it is naturally filtered, rather than across a hard surface like asphalt, where it picks up pollutants and takes them to the nearest stream.
For more information: www.pinehallbrick.com
Red River Products Cambria
The pitch: The new Cambria is a large scale paver with multiple surface textures. The new Cambria paver meets or exceeds all ASTM standards for interlocking concrete pavers.
It is a standard 60mm (2 3/8 inches) thick and is available in four different sizes: 4x8 inches, 8x8 inches, 8x12 inches and 12x12 inches.
All four sizes come mixed on a pallet. The Cambria is sold untumbled but can be tumbled by special order.
It is currently manufactured in Red River’s most popular colors: Driftwood and Mocha. Additional colors will be added in the coming months.
For more information: www.redriverproducts.com
Stihl GS 461 Rock Boss
The pitch: The STIHL GS 461 Rock Boss cuts up to 15.7 inches deep into concrete, reinforced concrete (with rebar up to ½ inch), cinder blocks, masonry bricks, asphalt and soft stone.
Features include a low exhaust emission engine, HD2 heavy-duty air filter, advanced water controls and low vibration.
The GS 461 Rock Boss also features STIHL's Diamond Abrasive Saw Chain.
Aubber bumper in the front of the engine housing helps protect the unit in the cut, and the upright filter cap keeps dust out.
For more information: www.stihlusa.com
Although the economy has improved and the housing market has bounced back, it seems that many homeowners are still staying put and investing money back into their own homes. In terms of hardscaping trends, that has encouraged the evolution of the outdoor living area.
Larger and faster.
Many contractors say they’re getting even more job requests than before for outdoor living areas and patios. In fact, some, like Beds & Borders Landscape based in Eden, Minn., are having trouble keeping up with the demand. “The popularity of the outdoor living space has only grown,” says owner Mike Hart. “It continues to be the biggest hardscape trend.”
What has changed is the project size and complexity. “Customers want to push the limit and do more and more,” says John Peterson, design and sales manager for Exscape Designs in Chesterland, Ohio.
“When this trend first emerged the spaces were pretty basic. Today, they include everything from full kitchens to audio/video and televisions.”
Joe Ehrenreich, general manager of Young’s Landscape Management in Moorestown, N.J., says seat walls and fire pits are the big request from their clients. “In fact, these two features are often paired together,” he says. “Kitchen areas are also very popular from basic enclosures used to dress-up a portable grill to complex arrangements with multiple appliances.”
Besides getting bigger and more complex, some contractors say another current trend has been that projects are now more likely to be completed in one shot as opposed to phases. “We’re seeing a shift back to larger projects and less ‘phasing’ of a master plan,” Ehrenreich says. “Whether this is a positive change in the economic climate or just an extension of the ‘stay-cation’ trend, we are unsure but it’s been a pleasant change.”
In Belle Mead, N.J., Chris Demato, owner of Rock Bottom Landscaping & Fencing says any hardscaping element which will allow clients to get even more usage out of their space is an easier sell. For him, that has equated to fire features and covered hardscaped areas, which allow homeowners to use the outdoor space in the cold or inclement weather.
When it comes to material, Ehrenreich says he’s also been happy to see a return to timeless materials like natural stone for walls and brick and bluestone for step treads and paved surfaces. While the request for permeable pavers is still minimal in his area, Ehrenreich predicts that the demand for these products will soon be on the rise. “Government requirements and enforcement of impervious site coverage and stormwater runoff regulations are going to create a market and demand,” he says.
Peterson says he has seen some requests for permeable pavers in the commercial market, but it hasn’t made its way into residential yet. What drives material trends for Exscape’s clients is typically a combination of style and also price point and budget. “Natural stone is the way to go for a client with a bigger budget, but not everyone can afford it,” he says.
Demato says although natural stone is popular, the cost can be a deterrent. He says the continuing improvements to manufactured products have driven their popularity. “Brick pavers are probably the most popular choice in material for hardscape surfaces like patios, walkways, and driveways,” Demato says. “The manufacturers have done a really great job with updating styles that mimic natural stone surfaces at a less expensive price.”
uying renovation equipment is no different than most other actions you take in your business – think about your customers needs’ before doing anything. That‘s why James Ridgeway, manager at Unique Lawn Care in Louisville, Ky., opts to rent the larger renovation equipment (like aerators) for the first few years after he starts new branches of the company.
This allows the company time to gauge the needs of their customers while ensuring that the company is purchasing the right equipment for that location.
However, Ridgeway, whose service mix is 85 percent lawn care, believes in only renting for a short period (one to two seasons).
“The one aerator that we had did fine in Indianapolis with the land being so flat, but not well in Louisville with all the hills,” Ridgeway says. Renting the equipment in Louisville first ended up saving Ridgeway money and ensured that he purchased the right equipment for the area.
Instead of renting, Jake Silvis, president, Silvis Group in Mt. Pleasant, Pa., prefers to demo new units. These trial runs will help Silvis, whose service mix is more than 30 percent lawn care, to evaluate whether the equipment does what the manufacturer states and fits the needs of their company.
Scott Shubert, owner of Scott and Sons, Delmar, Del., also prefers to buy his equipment outright, something he is able to comfortably do as he usually replaces the older worn out models with newer versions.
Having a reliable sales representative, Shubert says, is an essential resource. “Find a good reputable representative and deal with him, don’t always shop for prices,” says Shubert, whose company’s service-mix includes 40 percent lawn care. “Look for the loyalty that they have with you, responding as fast as they can and being there when you need them.”
Employee fatigue is an important factor to consider when determining the type of equipment to purchase. Ride-on equipment puts the least amount of physical strain on employees, however these larger machines have limited application.
Walk-behind aerators seem to be the main aerator of choice as they can fit into the majority of areas for all three contractors. Plug-pulling aerators, Silvis says, work better in heavier soils than the spike versions.
Equipped with hollow tines, these aerators pick up soil plugs as they move along the lawn, ensuring that the water is able to deeply penetrate the soil and roots.
Ridgeway looks for machines that are lighter and easily maneuverable, decreasing the amount of physical strain on employees. Size is also a factor Shubert considers, preferring to have two options of aerators for his team – one that can fit through garden gates and a bigger one to get the job done faster.
For bigger properties, Ridgeway uses ride-on aerators. “One of the challenges with the (ride-ons) is that they don’t fit into all of the gates,” Ridgeway says. “To mitigate this potential problem, the trucks always go out with a push aerator as well as the (ride-on.)”
When it comes to dethatchers, Shubert and Ridgeway didn't see the need to invest in one. Shubert found the limited requests for dethatching did not warrant purchasing one. Ridgeway opted to not purchase one, recommending both fall aeration and lime application as a preventative strategy for thatch.
For overseeding, slit seeders are the choice for Ridgeway and Silvis ensuring that seeds are planted deeper in the soil and evenly distributed. If renting slit seeders, Silvis cautions it is extremely important that they are regularly maintained, which includes changing the blades every two weeks. “A worn out slit seeder will cost you down time or not perform well if the knives are worn out,” Silvis says.
Before purchasing equipment, Ridgeway looks at how accessible the parts are, mainly the chains and belt, for maintenance. Most of the maintenance is done in-house, therefore accessibility and familiarity with the engines is important. Ridgeway and Shubert perform maintenance every two weeks with regular nightly surveys.
“The crew running the machines will write up an unload sheet and our pit crew will do general maintenance in the evening before it is put away,” Silvis says. “If the repair is greater than their ability, our fleet and facility department will send for those repairs so it is ready for use.” Ridgeway recommends adhering to the normal maintenance schedule as closely as possible, adjusting according to the use of the equipment.
Due to their performance and reliability, Shubert prefers to choose motorized equipment with Honda engines. Being able to both service the equipment, if needed, and quickly order parts are two other factors that Shubert considers when choosing his equipment.
Connecting with employees.
Ridgeway finds out what his employees like from the ground level, spending the time in the field working with them. Creating a positive working relationship is extremely critical, and Ridgeway is happy to share that his employees are vocal enough to let him know what works and what doesn’t.
If his employees ask to try out a new model, Ridgeway will often rent the equipment, let them sample it and listen for their feedback. Silvis also follows a hands-on approach with his employees, requesting feedback on equipment and making frequent site visits.
Silvis makes regular on site visits comparing the job results to his employee’s feedback about the new equipment. This helps Silvis gauge whether his employees are using the right equipment for the job.
“Our team will tell us if the machine is working for their needs or not,” he says. “The proof is in the end results of the job and how the lawn is growing after a few weeks.”
The author is a freelance writer in Ontario, Canada.