Cigar Beetles, entryways, pay rates and mentoring

Cigar Beetles, entryways, pay rates and mentoring

Departments - 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.

December 5, 2012
Lawn & Landscape Staff

Q: I have a current customer who is a manufacturer of cigarettes and is experiencing problems with cigar beetles. What can be done using plants to minimize the invasion?

A: The dreaded cigar beetle loves two things in life: cigars and heat. These pin-head size insects are always hungry and can turn paper into, well, dust. Their life cycle is only a mere 12 weeks, but in that time, they can do a great deal of damage. Dried plants are their favorite thing to feed on, so keeping landscape plants healthy can be one way to minimize the invasion. Otherwise, science is still trying to engineer a tobacco plant that is resistant to this dreaded pest that is already resistant to so many pesticides.

Q: I am working with a prospective customer that has a music festival premise that is used as a national cultural facility for musical events and local theater productions. Currently, this customer has large plants that are in good condition placed at the front of the building. I feel there is a better use for this entryway and would welcome suggestions on approach and plant types for outdoor use.

A: The easiest approach to take, without seeing any renderings, photos, or chatting, is to use plants that have a welcoming fragrance and color. Your color selection could be reflective of the country colors or a bright warm contrast in pots around the larger plants that may already be planted around the building. Since many of the activities may take place at night, white blooming plants and variegation shine bright through the darkness. Good luck with that prospect.

Kathryn Rudnyk, Monrovia Gardens

Q: How do I know if my hourly rates are just right or too high for my market?

A: I learned that this company had an almost 100 percent closing ratio for “qualified” leads. We looked into the company’s finances and learned that the owners were not paying themselves nearly enough. The markup on materials was substantial, so my answer to their question was “You are not charging the client enough.” It may be either your rates are too low or you are not charging for all your time.

As we dug in further, we learned that the owner was not charging enough for his own time. He billed himself out at the rate of his employees, which is not enough. We also learned that he was doing run-around work on projects that he was not billing for.

We decided that this company’s next step should be to re-calculate its hourly rates: do a budget, project the sales and hours sold, including owner’s hours. (The conversation, and math, was a bit more complex than this.)

So, overall, first you need to know if your rates are right for you, then you need to know if your clients are buying you at your rates (closing ratio) and lastly, you want to know what the market rates are. However, this is less important in the residential market unless your closing ratio is poor. (But even then, this is not necessarily important.)

Jeffrey Scott, The Leaders Edge Peer Group

Q: How do I find a competent manager to work under the owner?

A: Besides recruiting from other companies, first look within your company for a proven employee who wants to move up, and start training him or her.

Another option would be to get connected with your local two- and four-year horticulture and agriculture programs. Sign up to teach a class at the sophomore and junior level. Let the students get to know you and build bonds with the teachers. You could set up an intern program, which would provide a good source of bright students.

It could also help you plug into the alumni network, where you could find more experienced alumni looking for opportunities. This business owner loved teaching, so this was a natural fit for him.

Jeffrey Scott, The Leaders Edge Peer Group


Have a question for the experts? Send it to