Gordon Ponte was at a crossroads. A few summers back, he was faced with either raising prices on his customers or investing in a bigger machine to get the job done faster.
The founder of Gordon's Services and Landscaping specializes in property maintenance in Oak Bluffs, Mass., located on the island of Martha's Vineyard. He mows high grass and large fields for the surrounding area's highway department, homeowner associations and several commercial sites. The problem was he had a 52-inch mower and it was taking him up to five hours to complete a single job.
"I used to cut (the fields) with little lawn tractors, and then I stepped up to a 52-inch machine," says Ponte, who founded his landscape business 16 years ago. "But, it still wasn't fast enough to get the fields done."
In addition to his ride-on mowers, Ponte relied on a skid-steer loader to do a variety of landscape tasks for his customers.
Because of the skid-steers good value and his positive experience with it, Ponte set out to buy a bigger machine instead of raising prices on his customers. When he purchased the tractor with a 72-inch finish mower attachment in the summer of 2009, he knew it would complement his current equipment lineup. What he didn't realize was the time savings and business growth he'd receive after the investment.
In fact, he has increased his profitability and efficiency at his landscape company by cutting his time on the job in half.
"Some of the developments have some steep hills and I can climb them because the tractor has four-wheel drive," says Ponte. "The old tractors have a manual shift to go up the hills and sometimes you're not able to make it up the hill."
For a $27,000 investment, Ponte has replaced disparate pieces of equipment with one compact tractor and six attachments. The tractor includes a front-loader with a 1,300-pound lift capacity and a 4-in-1 bucket; a street sweeper; road grader; pallet forks for lifting heavy materials and equipment; and the 72-inch mower deck hitched on the back. With these added attachments, he now can offer his customers additional services, such as grading dirt roads, sweeping streets and removing snow banks the plows leave behind – all in the comfort of an enclosed cab that keeps him warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
The increased efficiency has enabled Ponte to maintain his prices, while increasing profitability. What's more, Ponte doesn't need to hire someone to operate the additional ride-on mowers.
The best part about this compact system is it has brought about a lot more business from Ponte's current customers.
"It's not so much more customers, but more jobs in the developments I take care of," says Ponte on his business growth. "It's an extra piece I can sell to the customer, like sweeping. I never used to sweep the roads or grade the roads. That's just something else that I can add to what I'm (selling)."
The author is a freelance writer based in Cleveland.