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Lawn Care Summit opens in Atlanta

Industry News

The second annual conference, presented by PLANET and the National Pest Management Association, brings together the technical and business sides of the application industry.

| December 3, 2010

Caption: Tim Maniscalo (pictured above), manager of public affairs, Dow AgroSciences, speaks to attendees about the public’s perception of pesticides at the second Lawn Care Summit in Atlanta Thursday.

ATLANTA – The mid-term elections should be a boon for lawn care operators and pest management professionals across the country, but efforts to regulate these businesses still are strong – especially at state and local levels.

That was the message from Norm Goldenberg, senior vice president, TruGreen, and Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE, to many attendees during the opening day of the second-annual Lawn Care Summit. The two-day event brought about 200 LCOs and pest control operators to Atlanta for business and technical meetings.

Goldenberg said the GOP, traditionally more supportive of fewer regulations, won 18 legislative chambers in 12 states in the November elections, but the threat of bans on pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation and other green industry services still looms at more local levels.

“As you know, that’s where the action is,” Goldenberg said. “That’s where you’re going to stop a lot of local ordinances. That’s where you have to stop them. We have to sell the benefits (of our industries) better than we sell the benefits today.”

The event is co-hosted by PLANET and the National Pest Management Association and is sponsored by Agrium Advanced Technologies, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Professional Products, EverGreen Software, Holganix, Quali-Pro, Real Green Systems and Spring Valley.

Other highlights from the opening day of the conference included:

LESSONS LEARNED. The first session brought together three LCOs to share their mistakes and advice for other companies in the industry. Jim Campanella, president and CEO of Lawn Dawg in Nashua, N.H., encouraged attendees to focus on their core businesses and not be distracted by add-on services unless they were sure their market was ready for them.

His company almost went out of business in 2006 after it posted $500,000 in losses in irrigation, snow removal, maintenance and other services. He stressed the importance of recognizing a failure, and working quickly to fix it. Had he not pulled the plug on those add-on service lines, he said, “I would have run my company into the ground.”

TRAINING. One of a company’s greatest assets is the people who work there, and a strong training program is key to developing their talents. Gary Clayton with Southern States said companies need to have some sort of training program for all of their employees – technicians, front office staff and management.

He suggested mapping out the areas of responsibility for each position in your company, and then building training programs based on those, and keeping an ever-changing resource library on hand for continuing education. “Not just a thick manual you’re going to blow the dust off of and no one’s going to read it anyway,” Clayton said, but a collection of articles, websites and other resources for employees to better understand their day-to-day work and their industry.

NEW MODES OF ACTION. David Shetlar, professor of urban landscape entomology at Ohio State University, highlighted recent developments in the world of chemicals available to LCOs and pest management professionals. As new classes of chemicals and modes of action become available, technicians have a much larger toolbox to work with. Now, they have a wide range of products that target insects’ metabolism, cell membranes and exoskeletons – not just their nervous systems – which means a much lower level of toxicity to humans.

But, Shetlar said, the new modes of action seem to be most effective in managing pests as part of a preventative program, and not necessarily a curative one. That could require companies to adjust the way they market their services and change the way they handle their customers’ expectations.

Sessions on organic science, carbon cycling in urban ecosystems, marketing plans and customer service continue Friday. Look for more coverage of this event on www.lawnandlandscape.com and in upcoming issues of Lawn & Landscape magazine.

 

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