The 2013 Green Industry Conference and GIE+EXPO/HNA, which took place in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 23-25, are officially in the books. If you missed it, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with all the highlights from the show, which included L&L’s annual Power Panel, education sessions featuring better ways to run your business and opportunities to try the latest products.
According to show officials, a six percent registration increase generated an audience of more than 18,000 people from around the world. The dates for the 2014 show in Louisville are Oct. 22 for dealers, distributors, retailers and media and Oct. 23-24 for everyone in the industry.
During the first day of the GIE+EXPO, Editor Chuck Bowen moderated Lawn & Landscape’s third-annual Power Panel, a candid discussion of the greatest challenges and opportunities facing the landscape industry. Below is a wrap-up of the discussion. We'll cover more topics from the panel in future issues of L&L.
Every year during the show, I ask a group of smart and vocal contractors to sit down and give me some insight into what’s on their minds. This year, the panel included:
- Nick Depasquale, Gothic Grounds Management, Los Angeles
- Deb Cole, Greater Texas Landscapes, Austin
- Taylor Milliken, Milosi, Inc., Nashville
- Seth Nicholson, Bruce Company, Middleton, Wis.
- James Reeve, Chapel Valley, Woodbine, Md.
- Keith Rotolo, Rotolo Consultants, Inc., New Orleans
I moderated the two-hour conversation, which covered everything from labor, pricing, customer education and regulations. Here are six key highlights from the discussion:
1. As wage requirements have increased and the program has become even more politically volatile, contractors continue to migrate away from the H2B program. The problem is they haven’t yet found a good replacement. Domestic workers don’t perform to the same standards, which increases the rate of accidents and lowers productivity.
2. Hiring as a whole continues to be a major challenge, especially for production-level employees. Companies have to interview dozens of candidates to get one who will last a season.
3. To alleviate that problem, many owners have turned to referral programs, sometimes paying as much as $300 to employees who recommend candidates who in turn last 90 days. Retention bonuses and other financial incentives also have proven effective.
4. Almost unanimously, the panel cautioned other owners to not see the seemingly endless cycle of recruiting and hiring as a self-fulfilling prophecy and to instead focus on the training and mentoring of new employees. One goes so far as to assign new crew members a specific mentor and gives them different-colored hard hats, so employees know they are still learning the ropes.
5. Customer education is a key focus for many owners, and seems to be an effective way to explain how a company has priced its services.
6. Especially in the commercial segment, many customers are moving away from buying habits dictated entirely by price and instead are choosing contractors based on the quality of the service.
Photos courtesy of PLANET/Philippe Nobile Photography
It may not be something at the top of your mind, but Judy Guido says if you aren’t communicating your sustainable practices and services to the public, you're missing an opportunity. If you’ve ever planted a perennial or used a GPS program to size a property instead of driving there, you’ve taken sustainable steps.
Guido, owner of Guido & Associates, a marketing and PR consulting firm, gave the keynote address at the second annual Hologanix Bionutrional Summit.
Guido discussed research she did where she surveyed/spoke with 2,000 distributors, contractors, homeowners – the green industry marketplace about sustainability.
Here are some highlights of her speech:
- When asked why they don’t have a sustainability program, companies say their customers haven’t asked. That’s not the way to operate, Guido said. “Followers wait to be asked, leaders introduce innovation,” she said. “We have a lot of followers in our industry. Thank God we have a lot of leaders.”
- When trying to introduce sustainable services to customers, never ask them how it fits into their budget. In fact, never use the word budget in any question because that makes you an adversary to the customer. Instead, ask what they are willing to invest. “In investments, there is a return. (The customer) gets something back. We went from adversaries to advocates,” she said.
In another education session, Chris Heiler, founder and president of Landscape Leadership, spoke about how to use inbound marketing to convert website traffic into qualified leads and customers.
The main focus of Heiler’s talk was how companies can be more purposeful with their marketing strategies, especially when it comes to online marketing. Inbound marketing is all about attracting potential customers to you; putting your business in a position to be found when potential customers are looking.
Another tip Heiler highlighted was how to make your company website more appealing. He said 75 to 90 percent of people visiting your website are not ready to buy.
They’re in fact-finding mode, meaning they are not ready to pick up the phone and call, or fill out a consultation form.
Most people make the mistake of only appealing to the people ready to buy, and their websites end up being a turnoff.
If someone comes to your website and feels too pressured to speak to someone, they’ll leave the site.
When they do decide to look more seriously, there’s a slim chance they’ll come back to look at your company again.
Hardscape North America
The 2013 Hardscape North America Installer Championship was a new event at the Hardscape North America tradeshow. Each of the eight competing teams was challenged on their understanding of industry best practices and guidelines, safety, quality and craftsmanship in a race against the clock.
- During the preliminary rounds, each team was required to construct an 8 x 10-ft. patio within 60 minutes that included a soldier course and an L-shaped seat wall, according to a detailed drawing.
- During the semi-finals, each team was asked to construct an 8 x 8-ft. patio area within 60 minutes that included a seat wall and an inlay of their own design.
- During the final round, each team was asked to construct a patio within 90 minutes using all three materials provided based on their own creative design.
The first place winner was:
Decorative Paving Co., Loveland, Ohio
Team Members: Jake Taylor, Troy Love, Ryan Taylor (Alternate). The Decorative Paving Company received $1,000, an iQ360 14-in. masonry saw with fully-integrated dust collection plus accessories (valued at $5,348) and a trophy.
Second place went to:
Cooper Pavers, Mannington, N.J.
Team Members: Bobby Cooper, Adam Cooper, Pat McCrindle (Alternate). The Cooper Pavers team received $400 and an iQ360 14-in. masonry saw with fully-integrated dust collection plus accessories (valued at $5,348).
This is just a small sampling of the latest products introduced at GIE+EXPO. You can find even more on our website and throughout 2014 in our new product section.
1. Billy Goat Hydro Sod Cutter
Billy Goat Industries introduced the SC180H hydrostatic drive sod cutter. The SC180H features the “Set and Forget” blade depth adjustment where users can simply adjust depth to 2.5 inches with a single lever from the operator station. The unit comes standard with a rear caster wheel for curved cuts that locks when straight cutting. In addition, the SC180H has a variable speed hydrostatic drive that not only allows operators to tailor cutting speed according to the ground condition, but also allows the unit to be transported at 3.5 mph.
2. IQ Power Tools Dustless Power Cutter
The PC912 is IQ Power Tools’ new Dustless Power Cutter, capable of dry-cutting concrete and masonry products while capturing up to 90 percent of the dust. Its 93cc, 6 HP engine runs with an integrated dust collection system made of 6 square feet of silica formulated filter media, providing more than 800 square inches of surface area to trap hazardous dust on the job.
3. JCB 8026 CTS Mini Excavator
JCB unveiled to the North American market for the first time the 8026 CTS mini excavator. The 2.7-ton 8026, also previewed internationally at Intermat 2012 and introduced to the European market at the 2013 JCB Global Dealer Conference, provides a conventional tail swing (CTS) option that complements the similarly sized JCB 8025 zero tail swing excavator (ZTS).
4. John Deere Hydraulic Walk-Behind Mowers
John Deere introduced two commercial 61-in. hydraulic walk-behind mowers: the WHP61A and WH61A. Available with 23.5-hp engines, the models offer a 5.8-gallon fuel tank, standard electric start and standard electric PTO.
The WHP61A features pistol grip controls that allow for easy adjustable tracking, and a 7-gauge fabricated floating steel deck that delivers a high-quality cut in diverse conditions. The WH61A features twin loop controls, a heavy-duty hydraulic drive transmission and a 7-gauge fabricated floating steel deck.
5. Mean Green Mowers Stalker Mower
Mean Green Mowers Stalker mower is the newest in the company’s line of lithium-powered commercial mowers. The 48-volt, 24-hp “STand on wALK behind mowER” is designed to run quietly and still have the power to tackle inclines.
It comes in 48- and 52-in. floating decks, each powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries that can run the mower for two or 1.8 hours on a charge from one battery, respectively. It also boasts the ability to provide auxiliary power from a 110-volt source, and has a USB port near the controls to power a phone or mp3 player while mowing.