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September 6, 2013
Lawn & Landscape

The details of design/build

Contractors got a peek into high-end rooftop gardens, along with other business best practices at PLANET’s Design/Build Symposium.

By Brian Horn

CHICAGO – More than 20 years ago, Jon Carloftis had the chance to spend the summer in New York, leaving his hometown of Lexington, Ky. He needed a job and had a background in working with plants, so he made up business cards advertising his garden rooftop work. 

There was just one problem: He never worked on a rooftop garden. Never. Not once.

Yet today, Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens has been in business almost 25 years and has offices in both New York and Louisville. He’s done work for Google’s headquarters, film and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer, actress Julianne Moore and actor Edward Norton.

He’s never advertised his services, and has gotten his business through word-of-mouth referrals. 

He gained his first job the same way he’s gained his most recent – by being nice to people. 

“I did what I had to do to get my stuff on top of that building,” he said. That meant, when he first started in New York, being nice to the elevator man, so the elevator man would pass his business cards to potential customers.

Maybe he’d bring a plant to the elevator worker or to the landlord of a building to get in their good graces.

It’s no different today, he said. He still has to do everything to make his customer happy.

“It should be a pleasure when you spend money with someone,” Carloftis said.

Carloftis, joined on stage by general manager Dale Fisher, was one of a handful of speakers on day one of the two-day PLANET Design/Build Symposium in Chicago. The first day of the symposium took place at the Chicago Botanic Garden. On top of a number of educational sessions, participants had the chance to roam the garden.

Here are a few other highlights from the symposium.

Show them what you got. Since Carloftis works a lot with high-end clients, he said one way to attract clients or improve your current relationship is to use your own home as a selling tool.

If you are a contractor and have an impressive landscape around on your property, invite clients over for dinner and let them see what you can offer. But don’t try to make every job look like your house, unless that’s what the client wants.

“You talk to (clients),” Carloftis said. “If left to your own devices, you’d do what you have at your house. Grow through your client and then put your own touch on it.” 

Fisher said you should show potential clients what a past job looked like in a few different stages, which will give them an idea of how the process works.

“That’s what sells gardens,” Fisher said. 

Less is more. Ian Cooke, an industry consultant with three decades of horticultural experience, focused on how to better understand plants. He said one way to save time and money is to limit your plant palette, starting at approximately 100.  “Then, every winter, drop 10 percent of them and add 15 percent” he said. 

Cooke also advised to have at least five plants with a strong fragrance in a design plan, especially near a backdoor or a pool area. “It will be the secret elixir that will keep people coming back to you,” he said.

Real relationships. It’s no secret that because of technology, people are losing the face-to-face component of relationships. But Frank Mariani, owner of Mariani Landscape, in Lake Bluff, Ill., said you can learn so much from a client by meeting with them at their house.

You can see what kind of taste they have, and notice nuances you wouldn’t pick up over the phone. Plus, getting to know the client on a personal level will pay down the line when things pop up.

“We make mistakes,” Mariani said. “If you have a relationship with them, chances are you will keep that account.”

He said his team meets once a week to talk about what leads came in and what is happening with those leads.

Mariani also wants his salespeople to make a stretch call – reaching out to a potential client that is a long shot. Mariani is also big on having coffee or lunch with clients, or giving them gifts to show his appreciation for their business. “There are all sorts of things you can do to touch clients,” he said.

He added that contractors need to change the way they look at a project. You need to go beyond satisfying the customer visually, and entice them to use the space. “A great looking landscape isn’t enough,” he said. “You have to get them to reach for the doorknob and want to experience it.”


For more photos from the Chicago Botanic Gardens, go to our Facebook page by visiting bit.ly/llchibg

Annie Nozawa, marketing manager from HOUZZ, gives her tips on what to know when posting a photo of your work to the website. bit.ly/llnozawa

Jon Carloftis lets you know what to remember when breaking into the rooftop garden market. bit.ly/llrooftop




Here’s a glimpse inside the consumer’s mind via our Grow The Market study sponsored by Syngenta. For more numbers, visit bit.ly/llgrowmarket.

Pavement payback

According to our Grow The Market study, homeowners don’t have a lot faith that they’ll get their money back on a hardscape project. The number below were responders’ thoughts on how much of the money they invested in a hardscape project(s) did they think they’d recover if they sold their home.


All ages approved

Both young and old had their chance to pay their respects to American soldiers, while contractors had the freedom to speak their piece on Capitol Hill.

By Heather Tunstall

WASHINGTON D.C – While adults got their hands dirty, children learned about plants and participated in laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during PLANET’s 17th annual Legislative Day on the Hill and Renewal & Remembrance.

“Renewal & Remembrance and Legislative Day on the Hill are special every year for those who attend, and this year was no exception,” said Glenn Jacobsen, PLANET president and president of Jacobsen Landscape in New Jersey.

“We had a huge turnout, and with our partner organizations, we know that our industry made an impact on Washington, both through the volunteer work at Arlington National Cemetery, and with our advocacy on Capitol Hill.”

This year’s event took place July 22-23 in Washington, D.C., offering an opportunity for green industry professionals to learn about legal issues that affect them, and to discuss them with Congress members.

Renewal & Remembrance is a day where participants volunteered their time and materials to beautify the grounds at Arlington National Cemetery.

Approximately 400 volunteers from about 100 companies in 34 states devoted time, energy and materials to perform irrigation, tree maintenance, aeration and other services on 150 acres of the cemetery grounds.

Legislative Day on the Hill allowed 193 professionals to meet with their legislators and staff on Capitol Hill to discuss important topics directly affecting the landscaping industry. The event kicked off with a keynote address from NPR’s White House Correspondent Ari Shapiro, who gave an address on the state of Congress.

The following morning started with breakfast at the Capitol, and an opening speech by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) about legislative issues important to the green industry. She encouraged the attendees to speak with their representatives and give personal accounts of how regulations affect their day-to-day business.

Specifically, companies addressed issues such as Immigration Reform and the H-2B program, wage increases, Regulatory Relief and the Farm Bill, establishment of the Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee, frivolous lawsuits and the Affordable Care Act.

Steve Hill, president of Turftenders in Raleigh, N.C., attended his first Day on the Hill this year. He met with legislators to discuss Regulatory Reform, Tick-Borne Disease awareness and the Affordable Care Act.

Hill used letters and the face-to-face meetings to explain exactly how the issues were affecting his business, with spreadsheets and data to back it up.

He said the legislators found this type of approach much more useful, and they responded well to that type of correspondence.

“The more personal I could be, the more reaction I got,” Hill said.

“From a grassroots standpoint, I think they’re appreciative that you’re willing to take the time to come up and talk to them.”



The industry is back

OFA Short Course attendees have a positive outlook on the industry.

Compiled by GIE Media Horticulture Staff

COLUMBUS – As the exhibitors packed up their booths at the close of day three of the 2013 OFA Short Course, the mood was upbeat. Over the course of the show, the GIE Media Horticulture Group staff caught up with many attendees and exhibitors. Almost all of them shared the same view: this industry is back. And judging from the amount of business done at this year’s event, the future is looking bright.

The first day of the trade show touched on the future of the collaboration between The Association of Horticulture Professionals (OFA) and the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA), starting with a changing of the guards. Mark Foertmeyer of Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouses in Delaware, Ohio, officially stepped up as the new president of OFA.

Foertmeyer’s goal is to encourage the industry to think about the business under a new lens, which you can watch him expand on by visiting bit.ly/llofamark.

“I believe now I’m in a position to lead our industry into a more valued role in the communities, and a more valued role for our products. Our products are not the product. Our products are what plants do in people’s lives,” Foertmeyer said.

Customers and branding. The keynote speakers on the first and second day of the show spoke about customer experience. Dennis Snow drew on his 20-year career at Walt Disney World Resort to give attendees a primer on exceptional customer service, including how to make customers feel valued rather than “processed.”

He said employers should teach employees to use an “experience mentality” not a “task mentality” to create great customer experiences. You can watch Snow give tips for creating lifelong customers at bit.ly/llsnowofa.



Bartlett Tree Experts acquires Collier Arbor Care

STAMFORD, Conn. – Bartlett Tree Experts has acquired Collier Arbor Care. This is the company’s first office in Oregon, making it the 27th U.S. state that Bartlett serves.

Terrill Collier, former owner of Collier Arbor Care, will join Bartlett as its plant health care consultant.

A Board Certified Master Arborist with 33 years of experience, Collier is a past president of the Tree Care Industry Association and holds a bachelor’s degree in entomology from Oregon State University. 

His new role will capitalize on his extensive knowledge of the insect and disease problems of trees and shrubs. Bartlett is the second-largest tree company in the country according to the Lawn & Landscape Top 100 list.

The company was the eighth largest landscape company in the country overall with 2012 revenue of $183 million.

“Working with Collier Arbor Care is the best possible way to expand Bartlett’s presence in the Pacific Northwest. Terrill Collier has built a business with a solid reputation for providing cutting-edge scientific tree care, which is completely in line with our company’s mission,” said James Ingram, president of Bartlett Tree Experts. 

Kevin Carr will manage the new Clackamas location for Bartlett. Carr, a board certified master arborist, will move from Bartlett’s office in Gaithersburg, Md. – the largest of the company’s 97 operations. No other personnel changes were announced, and Bartlett said it expects to make more acquisitions in the region.

“We are committed to building our business here,” Ingram said.



Exmark names Altmaier VP and GM

BEATRICE, Neb. – Exmark Mfg. announced the appointment of Judy Altmaier as its vice president and general manager. She replaces Rick Olson, who has transitioned to vice president of the International Business for The Toro Co., the parent company of Exmark.

Altmaier has been with The Toro Co. since 2009. Prior to assuming her leadership position at Exmark, she was Toro’s vice president of operations and quality management. She earned her bachelor of science in business administration from Kearney State College and an MBA from the University of Nebraska-Kearney.

Prior to joining Toro, Altmaier held a number of high-level positions with Eaton Corporation, including as vice president and general manager of its Global Engine Valve Division in Turin, Italy and as vice president and general manager of operations for its Automotive Group Americas in Marshall, Mich.

Altmaier said the move to the leadership position at Exmark fits well with her strengths and she shares her new team’s passion for the professional landscape business and the products it produces.

“I’m coming into Exmark at a great time as our product lineup has never been better and we continue to strengthen our relationships in the marketplace,” Altmaier said.



Real Green Systems partners with Shelton Analytics to form the new Real Green Analytics

WALLED LAKE, Mich. – CEO of Real Green Systems Joe Kucik, recently announced Real Green Analytics – a merged-partner company with Donnie Shelton, currently CEO of Shelton Analytics and Triangle Pest Control Company (TPC).

Real Green Systems recently purchased 50 percent of Shelton Analytics to form the new partnership. Donnie Shelton will spearhead this enterprise as CEO of Real Green Analytics bringing Real Green’s customers training tools including:

  • Inbound marketing – Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-per-click online marketing and social media marketing;
  • Training and project management software applications;
  • ServiceNet – A company intranet to store all of your company information;
  • ServiceUniversity Administer – Document and retain training records all with one training program; and
  • BackOffice – Get a 30,000 ft. view of the performance of your team and your managers’ reviews. BackOffice keeps track of training courses, progress and completion deadlines.