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It’s important for landscapers to have a career path, particularly if they hope to grow in this industry. If one of our team members doesn’t have a specific career path in mind, we provide steps for more general career growth and broader ideas for roles. However, when a team member states they want to continue their career with the job they have, we must provide them with a clear path for growth.
Not all companies in the green industry show a clear career path for their team members. Employees come to work in our industry with a passion for landscaping. Day in and day out, they work hard, but this can be discouraging if they do not see the fruits of their labor nor a path for growth. So, it is important to show all employees that their job can become a career, and then provide them with guidance to obtain their goals.
To spot people suitable for a career at your business, use the interview process. When interviewing a person for a role, always discuss with them what they see as the next stages of their career. How do they see their future with the organization and what are their expectations as an employee? Make that part of the interview process just as important as determining their ability and skill to do the role they are applying for.
At BrightView, team members are shown a career path at typically one of two times: when they ask for more involvement or opportunities or when a lead person/supervisor sees potential in that person and starts to have a discussion about paths with them. Team members should be shown a career path to motivate them, if that is something they are interested in.
To outline career paths for employees, you really have to understand your own roles within the company and how they relate to other careers. Which portions of one job fit into another job? How does the experience in one role benefit the employee in understanding the expectations of the next role?
We have a few part-time positions at BrightView, given the nature of our business, but we do have seasonal positions as well as internships. About 10 years ago, we had an intern who worked with us through a summer and this person was so effective that we asked them to work remotely over the winter and then hired them in the spring as a full-time employee. This person is still with the company more than 10 years later, and they have moved through various roles such as crew leader, production manager, trainer and account manager. Our goal is to promote them to be a branch manager in the near future.
This is just one of several career paths at BrightView. For instance, once in the management ranks, a team member can progress from a production or account manager to a senior role in either spot with a larger scope of responsibility, which could lead to an assistant branch manager or branch manager role, then progress toward a vice president/general manager level. We offer similar career paths in our support teams as well. Or, a team member may join as a marketing specialist or financial analyst and work their way up to senior management.
Certifications are part of the process to promote our team members, and this helps to set achievable goals. Additionally, the training we do at all these levels has helped in having a strong safety performance at the company.
To provide employees interested in a career with steps for promotion, outline for them the next stages in their career path based on the job they were hired into. Let the new employee know what expectations are to develop a career in order to succeed.
Whenever anyone chooses one of these career paths, our hope is that through training and development, team members will stick with us. We have various training programs available to our team members including online training, classroom-facilitated training and video training.
Landscaping is not just about mowing lawns and blowing leaves – it can be so much more. It’s a people business and if team members strive to put out the best product and care about providing the best service possible, then this industry is truly the right direction for them.
Dan Dohar is the chief human resources officer at BrightView.
Gone are the days of symmetrical, matchy-matchy patterns and colors when it comes to paver and stone hardscape projects. Clients across the country are now looking to create more unique extensions of their homes with large slabs, natural colors and clean finishes.
“The biggest changes that I've seen over the years have been in the diversification of the jobs,” says Joe Monello, owner and COO of Monello Landscape Industries in New Jersey. “I love that we are getting away from how everything had to have symmetry and everything was exactly the same.”
Contractors are mixing different textures, styles and color blends and favoring larger-pattern pavers for hardscape projects in the east coast area. In the past, clients just wanted a simple patio for their grill and furniture. Now, people are spending more money to do outdoor kitchens and fireplaces to create more elaborate outdoor rooms, Monello says.
“I’ve seen more and more higher-end residential projects using marble, and that’s something that is kind of new. I’d never even thought to use marble outside, but right now, one of the largest jobs we have ever done is doing marble,” he says.
That is also the case in Madison, Wisconsin, where Vande Hey Company operations manager Jerry Schumacher has seen pavers make a big comeback with varieties that look like planks and marble. As the demand for natural stone retaining walls and fireplaces has driven stone prices up, lookalike pavers have become a more economical alternative.
“It looks like expensive stone that people thought they could never touch before. Now, concrete pavers have gotten to the point where some of them look so close to the natural stone that you can use that instead,” Schumacher says.
Wisconsin-area clients love flagstone for its flatness, grainy lines and color blends. Orange, red and plain gray colors are phasing out, while a blend of earthy colors like tans, browns and blacks are in. Clients also prefer bigger stones and outcroppings. For outdoor kitchens, clients want the more formalized look of pavers and opt for larger slabs because of their brighter colors, Schumacher says. “We do very few projects, if any, where it is just a square patio area. We have curves and different shapes to create a more comfortable, conversational space,” he says.
A natural look.
It’s a different story in Austin, Texas, where natural stone is readily available at a low cost from several quarries surrounding the city. For Paul Fuller, owner of Paul’s Lawn & Landscape, the most popular requests are for modern designs using sandstone and limestone to match the exteriors of homes in the area.
“We are seeing a lot of charcoal louvers, so instead of flagstone we are using solid limestone sheets that are smooth and rectangular for patios or walkways instead of natural-looking stone. Modern is getting pretty popular, which means there’s no curves, just straight, clean lines and flat surfaces,” Fuller says.
Other trends in Austin include square and rectangle cuts of rock, chop block stone and flagstone veneer placed vertically. Fuller says pavers aren’t as common anymore.
“Pavers are more expensive than stone here and pavers in no way, shape or form look natural, so they don’t really match anything. You’re limited on shapes, and the colors aren’t always natural,” he says.
Many manufacturers offer wetcast pavers, which are molded to look like real stone. They are more costly than a typical concrete paver, but they can be easier to install because their sizes are more uniform, Monello says.
“If you’re going to use real stone, you’re going to have unevenness, different edges and different shapes and thicknesses. When you are using wetcast pavers, you still have some unevenness and uncertainties. When they chip, they have a different material underneath. It’s not that smooth-coated concrete on the outside to make it look like real stone. We’ve had some clients unhappy with sharp, uneven edges when they are cut side by side in a pool, so we have had some challenges,” he says.
In South Dakota, wood plank pavers are on trend. In the past, stamped concrete and hatch or herringbone patterns were common. Now, clients are steering clear of those and instead opting for multi-block patterns, says Nick Bahr, Madison Lawn Care owner and president.
“We are not stuck doing three-block patterns over and over again in Sioux Falls. People want unique; they want different. They don’t want the same patio their neighbor has,” Bahr says.
A wow factor.
On lakefront properties in Madison, South Dakota, clients want gas fireplaces and built-in grills, seating and lighting in their outdoor living spaces. They want high-end amenities that can be enjoyed out near the water and give their property a wow factor, even from a distance, says Tyler Patch, Madison Lawn Care landscape designer.
“When you’re on the water, you can’t tell how much time and money you spent on nice pavers. It’s the walls and columns and fireplaces that are built up that you can see from a distance that people are going for,” Patch says.
For stairways and steps, clients and contractors alike prefer to get away from pavers and use outcropping instead, Patch says.
“We use a lot of fieldstone boulder and get pretty creative with those. One of the advantages of using real stone versus manufactured is that you just have to shelf it off and kind of stack them, whereas a block wall, you have to dig it out, fill it with gravel, make sure it’s level, stack it and glue them. With real stone, instead of putting 10 blocks per step, you are just using one big one,” he says.
Installing natural stone can create challenges for a contractor, from getting colors to match, to creating heaps of debris at a project site, to mixing mortar correctly. Yet, those challenges can make working with stone more satisfying, Fuller says.
“I think there's more gratification from doing natural stone than pavers because you know exactly what the paver job is going to look like when you’re done, but with flagstone, the patterns, colors and shapes are always different. With a good mason, it really looks like a piece of art when you’re done with it,” he says.
Most contractors opt to keep some of the more common types of pavers in stock at their shop. When there is excess product after a project is complete, it goes back to their shelves for use in repairs and other projects, Schumacher says.
Overall, trends in outdoor living spaces reflect lifestyle trends. Families want to spend more time at home and want to encourage their children to bring their friends over instead of going somewhere unattended, Schumacher says. “If they can have the yard set up for entertaining, then the kids will be around more. They are trying to get back to being comfortable, entertaining and family-oriented,” he says.
The author is a freelance writer based in Kentucky.
Bobcat plate compactor
The pitch: The Bobcat plate compactor attachment allows operators to compact trenches without having to leave the comfort of the excavator cab.
- The plate compactor provides powerful compacting force in an easy-to-use, compact attachment.
- The X-Change Attachment Mounting System makes easy work of attaching and detaching the plate compactor.
- The Flat-Top Mount easily accommodates breaker caps to fit a variety of machines.
For more information: bobcat.com/attachments/plate-compactor
Chicago Pneumatic forward soil compactor
The pitch: Chicago Pneumatic Power Technique’s forward soil compactors are built for the day-to-day demands of rental companies and contractors, suitable for compacting dirt, gravel, soil, asphalt and more.
- Chicago Pneumatic’s forward soil plates gives the operator durability and ease of use with rugged components and a compact, maneuverable design.
- The plates offer the right combination for speed and efficiency in a wide range of applications, including bike paths, sidewalks, landscaping and pothole repair jobs.
- A durable frame and belt cover vital engine parts for long-term reliability. The units feature a cast iron plate with tapered edges and ends, an integrated roll cage and lifting point, and a V-belt ventilation system.
For more information: cp.com
Toro Forward and Reversible Plate Compactors
The pitch: Toro’s lineup of forward and reversible plate compactors are designed with optimal eccentric placement, amplitude and VPMs that allow the unit to provide maximum compaction for stable, even surfaces.
- A heavy-duty design provides protection to the engine and machine components for extended life.
- Toro offers three models of forward plate compactors with an eccentric force range of 2,200 to 4,000 lbs.
- Toro’s new line of reversible plate compactors offer a centrifugal force range from approximately 4,950 to 14,160 lbs. and feature hydraulic travel control with an innovative safety valve to offer overload protection and a longer product life.
For more information: Toro.com
Yardmax Plate Compactors
The pitch: Yardmax plate compactors feature solid stamped steel construction and are available in three sizes to fit various needs.
- The line of compactors features a stamped 1-piece plate with no weld beads.
- For convenience, they come standard with fold-up transport wheels and folding handle.
- An optional paving pad kit is available for each machine.
For more information: Yardmax.com
Hardscape construction jobs require patience since estimating and rushing on these jobs can result in a poor final product.
For example, contractors should avoid guessing how much bedding sand to use on a pavement project. Patrick Perugino, owner of Picture It Landscape & Design in London, Ontario, says he sees many contractors put in too much bedding sand as a result of guesswork on projects.
“(My company) has received calls to repair patios and driveways because the original installer had too much bedding sand and everything pushed and sunk. We actually see this quite often – people miscalculate and add too much sand instead of doing it proper,” he says. So, it’s important to use exact, measured amounts of material throughout the job to make sure it’s done right to prevent the client from calling back for repairs.
The final steps of hardscape construction jobs include applying polymeric sand, sealer and cleaner. Perugino says these are key steps to extending the life of a pavement, so precision and patience matter. While these steps may demand more of a contractor’s time, following them precisely will help produce a better final product and maintain the pavement.
Make it last.
A few elements in the final stages of a construction job help to extend the life of a hardscape such as edge restraints, polymeric sand, sealer, cleaner and good maintenance afterward.
In driveway installations and some patio constructions, he advises using edge restraints, which are “very important” to extending the life of the pavement.
“That’s one extra step that makes a huge difference in the long run,” Perugino says. Toward the end of a project, he suggests using a 10-inch spike every couple of feet and placing the edge restraint down. He says this will help with construction jobs in colder climates to make the pavement withstand a harsh, cold winter.
“If it’s a regular winter where there’s a long period of cold and then it melts in spring, (edge restraints) make a huge difference,” Perugino says. “When you get that melt and freeze, they hold the pavers.” Edge restraints will add to the cost of a project, but he says to explain their value to the client.
At the very end of a job, applying polymeric sand and sealer will both make the hardscape last longer, but Perugino says to clean the pavement before putting those down. “You don’t want salt and debris on it afterward,” he says.
Maintenance after the project is complete also extends a pavement’s life, so encourage customers to purchase maintenance services for their patio, driveway or other hardscape.
Kyle Rea, president at Green Effects in Chicago, says he recommends pressure washing old polymeric sand every couple of years and then sealing it again to extend the pavement’s life. “Keeping up on the maintenance of the pavement is the most important thing,” he says. “Every couple of years, pressure wash out old polymeric sand and then seal it again. We follow up with customers years after if they haven’t called us.”
“(Edge restraints are) one extra step that make a huge difference in the long run.” Patrick Perugino, owner, Picture It Landscape & Design
The end of hardscape construction jobs must be carefully completed to avoid careless mistakes. “Most errors will occur from crews feeling rushed to get everything done on a certain deadline, where usually just taking a little bit of extra time to make sure everything’s right will save time in the long run,” Rea says.
Applying sealers can’t be rushed, as he says most manufacturers recommend waiting a month to a year before applying it to prevent efflorescence in brick pavers. “Water dissolves the salts (in the pavers) and when the water evaporates, the salts are left on the surface,” Rea says. “You have to wait to allow for these salts to naturally work their way out of the bricks. If you seal too early, you will trap these salts into the surface of the bricks.”
Contractors need to take their time during the actual sealer application process to ensure a clean job. Rea recommends taping off areas to avoid the sealer from going in unwanted spots. “Otherwise, you’ll have a sloppy end-product with sealer splashes,” he says. Once all the sealing is done, Green Effects cleans out its pump sprayer with xylene chemical to help its Viton seals and gaskets last longer.
Taking extra time to keep the pavement looking clean has benefits, Perugino says. Picture It Landscape & Design uses a pressure washer toward the end of a job to clean up.
Confer with customers.
Connecting with the customer throughout the job and at the end is an easy way to retain them for future jobs. Perugino says this is also a good way to get referrals.
When a hardscape construction job is done, get into a habit of walking through the completed project with the client as well. Most of the time, Rea says his customers request a walk through once its finished. “Close to 75 percent of them will do that,” he says.
During the walkthrough, Rea and the project’s foreman meet with the client and discuss everything involved with the project, explaining what happened and offering some maintenance tips for them. Taking time to do this will help prevent a client from calling to complain about mistakes, he says. This also provides an opportunity to upsell on other services, projects and referral incentives.