It’s been a crazy year to say the least. Not only was the industry hampered by another low-snow, low-event winter, but just past the mid-winter point, we experienced the onslaught of a global pandemic that impacted every business in our economy.
As commercial and retail businesses furloughed workers and closed offices and manufacturing plants, many of you were concerned that, even if it did begin snowing again, would your services be needed? Or worse, would your clients have the means to continue paying for services? The implications of an economic and financial domino effect were appalling.
While it’s fair to say no one was left unscathed by COVID-19’s impact, the 2020 State of the Industry data seems to indicate that the industry did persevere, and snow and ice management contractors – perhaps through a combination of thoughtful preplanning and good luck – managed to keep their heads above water and make it through to more solid footing this past spring.
Here are some of the highlights from this year’s report. According to the research data, more than a third of snow pros reported an increase in their gross revenues last winter over the previous season, and on average, contractors saw around $1.5 million to $1.7 million in gross revenues generated primarily from commercial contracts (62% of the overall average portfolio). Profit margins last winter hovered around the 50% mark for snow plowing (41% profit margin) and ice mitigation/management (47 percent).The following pages go into further detail on Winter 2019-20’s impact on the average contractors’ snow and ice management operations. And keep an eye out for additional in-depth reporting on the State of the Industry data findings in upcoming editions of the Snow Magazine Enewsletter.
Second by second, our weeks, months and 2020 as a whole (thank goodness, right?) is coming closer to an end.
But that’s why time management is so important. Whether you run your own company or are an entry-level employee, how you use your time can give you a big advantage in being successful against the competition.
We hope you take a few of those minutes to check out a new back page feature we’re introducing called “On an Average Day.” Each month, we’ll feature a company owner or executive taking us through, you guessed it, what their average day looks like.
“As we talk to these leaders about their average day, I’m hoping you can pull out a lesson or two about better managing your time.”
Kicking off the new feature is Mike Bogan, CEO of Landcare – a $186-million company with more than 3,000 employees. I wanted Mike to launch the feature because the idea stemmed from a conversation I had with him during a bus ride at our Top 100 event last year.
Somehow, we got to talking about his morning routine and he said he wakes up at 5 a.m. but doesn’t check his phone until 7 a.m. I was amazed by that. Not to mention he’s on the West Coast, so most of the country is working by then. But the two hours to get his mind right daily makes him more effective.
I use my phone as my alarm clock, and check my mail within 10 minutes of waking up. It’s a habit I’m trying to break, and it could be as simple as buying an alarm clock and leaving my phone on the other side of the room.
As we talk to these leaders about their average day, I’m hoping you can pull out a lesson or two about better managing your time or learning a process to make your company more efficient.
Everyone has different life circumstances – even Mike admits his day looked a lot different while he and his wife raised their family. But what we all have in common are those 24 hours in each day. I know you will be able to learn a better way to organize your day with every new profile we write. – Brian Horn
Embracing leadership through change
Departments - L&L Insider
This year’s Women in the Green Industry event focused on making the most of these uncertain times while also bolstering women’s presence in landscaping.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused plenty to change. From the way business is done, to people working remotely, 2020 has brought along all sorts of obstacles. Attendees of SiteOne Landscape Supply’s annual Women in the Green Industry (WIGI) event learned how to cope with these challenges and lead through them.
WIGI was held virtually in October and featured four presentations on a variety of topics along with supplier-partner exhibits and live chats.
Changing the way you make changes.
The keynote was delivered by Dr. Michelle Rozen and titled “Leading Forward through Change with Confidence.”
Rozen shared personal stories from her own life about making changes and empowering yourself to stick with those changes.
Rozen, who has a PhD in psychology, gave an analogy of a person waiting for the elevator and hitting the button multiple times while waiting for the elevator to arrive.
“Why does our mind cause us to do things that don’t make any sense, just to get the same result?” she asked.
In order to adopt new behaviors and make an effective change, Rozen pointed out that a person is working against their own brain, which wants to remain in its “default setting.” Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the state of the world, Rozen said being able to lead through change is more important now than ever.
Rozen then shared five steps with attendees so they could lead more effectively through these difficult times.
She said the first step is to empower yourself and those around you.
“Be present and give people your undivided attention,” Rozen said.
According to Rozen the second step is a critical one – focus.
“We spend major time on minor things,” she said.
Rozen suggested that attendees learn to utilize her “0-10 Rule” to rate all tasks and goals. She said to focus to focus on the 10s first and ignore anything that was under a 6.
Step three from Rozen was overcoming mind biases. She advised the group to block out criticism that is inevitable when making changes.
Rozen said step four is to adhere to the “20 Minute Rule” and take a short break from a task that is causing stress and come back to it later when you’re refreshed.
“Wait it out like a pot on a hot stove,” Rozen said. “When you come back it will be cooler and you won’t burn your hands.”
And Rozen’s fifth step was simple – believe in yourself.
Following her keynote, Rozen also facilitated a workshop where attendees were able to share goals they had, and how they would achieve them and she gave them encouragement and guidance.
WIGI also included a presentation on the H-2B process by Scott Patterson, a shareholder with Detroit-based law firm Butzel Long.
Patterson discussed the legal requirements and considerations for seeking H-2B visa labor, along with the timing, costs, certifications and other aspects of the process.
Patterson said that while some attendees may have been hiring H-2B labor for years, it’s important to review your process regularly.
“You don’t want to just copy and paste what you did last year,” he said.
Patterson shared that annually, there are 133,000 workers entering the country on H-2B visas and about 70% are from Mexico.
“The landscaping and lawn service industries are huge users of H-2B labor,” Patterson said.
Because of the high demand, Patterson suggested starting the process early as it usually takes around 120 days.
Patterson also said there a few changes this year to keep in mind, including new filing fees and no longer having to post a newspaper ad for the job beforehand.
One of the new fees is the $1,440 premium processing fee. While premium processing is optional, Patterson said anyone who wants to be in contention should pay it.
“Premium processing has essentially become regular processing, so assume you’ll have to pay the fee,” he said.
Patterson also touched on what COVID-19 has done to the H-2B process and what the year ahead could hold. Earlier this summer, President Donald Trump halted H-2B visas until Dec. 31, 2020.
“What is going to happen in 2021 is still unknown,” Patterson said “They’re still processing applications. We will all have to wait and see.”
WIGI included four in-depth presentations and live chats with supplier-partner exhibitors.
Celebrating women in green.
Next on the agenda was a panel titled “A Forward Focus: Recruiting, Retaining and Empowering Women in the Landscape Industry” with members of the National Association of Landscape Professional’s (NALP) Women in Landscape Network.
The discussion was moderated by NALP’s Jennifer Myers and also included Brigitte Orrick with The Davey Tree Expert Company; H. Jaclyn Ishimaru-Gachina from Gachina Landscape Management; and Jennifer Lemcke with Weed Man.
The women touched on a variety of topics including maternity leave and pregnancy, promotion and advancement in the workplace, mentorship, inclusion and creating a work/life balance.
Recently, Ishimaru-Gachina noted Gachina Landscape has been promoting women in the industry on social media as a way to attract more women to her company.
Orrick and Lemcke said their companies have been working to get better fitting uniforms, safety gear and tools for female employees, along with having appropriate restroom facilities available for them near jobsites.
“We identified important things that women have to have to be successful,” Orrick said.
Lemcke added that women becoming more involved in the industry has been a natural progression at Weed Man with many women owning franchises.
Ishimaru-Gachina said that while hiring women is essential – it’s not enough.
“It’s not important to just hire them but we need to promote them to be decision makers,” she said. “We need to give them the opportunity to affect change.”
Lemcke and Orrick said their companies are mapping long-term job plans that documents a clear pathway on how to move into an executive role.
The group also discussed how working from home in the midst of the pandemic can affect attendees’ work/life balances.
Lemcke shared that finding a balance has always been a struggle for her, and she accepts that most times the scale will be uneven.
“It’s very had to have balance,” she said. “It just doesn’t always balance out.”
Orrick agreed and said that the most important thing to do is recognize that everyone is in the same boat and take it easy on yourself and others.
The Colorado-based Parkside Landscaping was founded in 1992.
BOISE, Idaho – Cutting Edge Services, a commercial landscape company in Idaho and Utah, recently acquired Parkside Landscaping in Denver, Colorado.
This acquisition will enable Cutting Edge to expand and strengthen its position in the Colorado market. More acquisitions are planned to further enhance geographic reach.
Parkside Landscaping was founded in 1992 and provides landscape maintenance and snow removal services to the greater Denver area.
Gene Baker, president of Parkside Landscaping, will continue to lead the company alongside the new ownership group. “We are very excited to partner with Cutting Edge," he said. "This will allow Parkside to strengthen our presence in the Front Range while creating more advancement opportunities for our team members."
“We are looking forward to growing the Denver market while continuing to expand our operational footprint in the western United States,” said Cutting Edge Co-Founder Ben Helton.
Bob Wheeler, Cutting Edge co-founder, said, “Expansion into Denver has been a long-term goal of ours, and we could not have picked a better company to partner with. Gene and his highly skilled team are a great addition to our operation.”
You can learn more about Cutting Edge by reading Lawn & Landscape’s December 2019 feature at bit.ly/llcuttingedge.
BrightView acquires Commercial Tree Care in California
The purchase of CTC followed the sale of BrightView Tree Company to Devil Mountain Nursery.
BLUE BELL, Pa. – BrightView Holdings recently acquired Commercial Tree Care, a full-service tree care company based in San Jose, Calif. The purchase of CTC followed the sale of BrightView Tree Company to Devil Mountain Nursery of San Ramon, Calif. Terms of the transactions were not disclosed.
Founded in 1992, CTC is a full-service tree care provider specializing in pruning, tree removal, stump grinding, cabling, bracing, fertility treatment, pest and disease control, install and transplant, forestry fire fighting and timber harvesting.
The company also consults for development, appraisal, maintenance plans and overall site evaluation.
“The acquisition of Commercial Tree strengthens BrightView’s maintenance operations in Northern California and positions us to be the foremost tree care service provider in the San Francisco Bay Area,” said President and CEO Andrew Masterman. “The acquisition of CTC followed the sale of BrightView Tree Company, a tree nursery division that typically generated between $25 million and $30 million in revenue. Redeploying assets from our Development segment to our Maintenance segment is consistent with our overall strategic growth plan.”
“I believe that Commercial Tree Care shares much in common with BrightView and this transaction provides a solid foundation in which to continue our growth in the greater Bay Area,” said CTC President Todd Huffman.
Huffman, along with his senior leadership team, will remain with BrightView and continue to run the day-to-day operation of the business.
LandCare assumes Rosborough Partners’ commercial business
RPI announced recently that it would narrow its focus to residential services.
Rosborough Partners, a landscape design, build, and maintenance firm in the Chicagoland area, has narrowed its focus to residential services and selected LandCare to assume its commercial business.
For the past 30 years, RPI has provided full-service landscaping solutions to commercial and residential clients. RPI partner Blaine Owens will now lead the integration with LandCare as vice president of client relations, while founder Philip Rosborough will continue to lead RPI.
“This is an exciting time for our commercial team. They are joining an industry leader with core values and a culture that closely resembles ours – putting their people and customers first,” Rosborough said. “And Rosborough Partners will continue to grow our residential design, build and maintenance business in the same manner that we have in the past.”
This merger marks LandCare’s entry into Chicagoland and Milwaukee, just months after branching out to Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis.
LandCare partner and executive vice president Neil Carter, who has been instrumental in expanding the company’s presence in the Midwest, said he believes that LandCare will benefit from assuming RPI's strong, existing infrastructure.
“Rosborough Partners built a strong commercial maintenance business focused on premier properties across the market,” he said. “In addition to a talented, well-led team, they have a balanced portfolio of loyal customers. We are excited to build on such a solid foundation to enter and serve the greater Chicago area.”
“I am excited to grow our business with the support of a larger partner exclusively focused on commercial maintenance,” Owens said. “I’ve known and respected Neil and many of the leaders at LandCare for over three decades, so reorganizing our team under people I know and trust is incredibly reassuring and makes the transition much easier.”
Ruppert hires Pam Berrios as director of multicultural training
In this newly created role, she will develop and deliver training programs to empower the company’s diverse workforce.
LAYTONSVILLE, Md. – Ruppert Landscape has added Pam Berrios to the team as director of multicultural training and development.
In this newly created role, she will develop and deliver training programs specifically designed to grow and empower the company’s diverse workforce; particularly Spanish-speaking team members.
Berrios, a resident of Springfield, Virginia, holds a bachelor’s degree in business from George Mason University and owned a full-service landscaping company in the northern Virginia area for 24 years. She served on the board of directors of the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance for eight years, where she held many titles including main trainer, speaker, secretary, treasurer, vice president and then president of the association. She is a certified bilingual trainer, coach and motivational speaker and has traveled all over the country as the lead instructor of the acclaimed ELEVATE Program en Español.
“Pam’s unique ability to fully connect with team members sets her apart, and her experience as a previous company owner gives her extraordinary insight into proven methods of growth and success,” said Mike Monde, Ruppert’s director of training and culture. “She has dedicated her entire career to helping people realize their full potential, and we hope she continues on that journey for many years to come here at Ruppert.”
Real Green Systems names Robinson as COO
With more than 20 years of experience, Tim Robinson will be responsible for key business functions in this new position.
WALLED LAKE, Mich. – Tim Robinson has joined the Real Green Systems team as chief operating officer. He will be responsible for company operations, customer engagement and continued expansion.
In this new position, Robinson will be responsible for key business functions as he oversees the business development, corporate marketing, customer success, marketing services and sales organizations.
With more than two decades of experience leading marketing, sales, business development, product management and support teams, Robinson was most recently chief operating officer of FMG Suite. Prior to that, he served as chief operating officer at FRONTSTEPS and subsequently as an Advisor to FRONTSTEPS.
Yellowstone Landscape partners with Acres Group
Yellowstone ranked No. 5 on Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 list in 2020, while Acres Group finished 27th.
PALM COAST, Fla. – Yellowstone Landscape has partnered with Acres Group, based in Wauconda, Illinois. Yellowstone does not disclose terms of partnerships or other confidential information.
Yellowstone ranked No. 5 on Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 list in 2020, while Acres Group finished 27th with an annual revenue of $69,355,727 and 865 employees.
Yellowstone Landscape, based in Bunnell, Florida, operates over 40 branch locations across the South and Southwest. In partnering with Acres, Yellowstone has now expanded into the Midwest.
Founded in 1983 by Jim Schwantz, Acres Group provides landscape maintenance, snow and ice removal, tree care, irrigation, and plant health care services. Schwantz, Jeff Kelly, Paul Washburn, Riley Skaggs and the Acres management team they lead will continue to run the company’s operations and growth.
Travels with Jim follows Jim Huston around the country as he visits with landscapers and helps them understand their numbers to make smarter decisions.
In my last column, I said that the total of all costs (fuel, repairs, mechanics, depreciation, insurance, etc.) for trucks, autos and field equipment for a green industry company usually runs 12% plus/minus 2% of revenue. A $1-million company would have about $120,000 of such costs. All of these costs should be passed on to your customers (with an appropriate margin added to them) in your pricing for your services and projects. This article will explain how to do so.
Calculating the cost per hour (CPH) for a skid-steer.
The total cost per hour (TCPH) for a truck, automobile or piece of equipment is comprised of three components. They are the acquisition CPH, the maintenance CPH and the fuel CPH. Costs for our example skid-steer are calculated over a six-year useful lifetime at 500 billable hours per year for a total of 3,000 lifetime billable hours. I always aim to overstate the costs and understate the lifetime hours. This ensures that I do not understate the TCPH. Essentially, what you are doing is dividing the lifetime costs for an item by its lifetime billable hours.
Acquisition CPH: Includes the purchase price, interest paid, sales tax, toolboxes, paint/wraps and upgrades (for trucks and autos) minus any salvage value upon trade in or sale. It is $60,000 lifetime for our skid-steer, or $20 per hour ($60,000 ÷ 3,000).
Maintenance CPH: Includes inland marine insurance (or vehicle insurance), maintenance services, oil changes, tires and tire repairs (or tracks and track repairs), washing of same, registrations and so forth. We estimate our skid-steer to cost $5,000 per year or $30,000 lifetime. This is $10 per hour ($30,000 ÷ 3,000).
Fuel CPH: We estimate our fuel consumption to be 2 gallons per hour at $3 per gallon or $6 per hour.
Total CPH: Our total CPH is: $20 ACPH + $10 MCPH + $6 FCPH = $36
How it works.
If you plan to run this skid-steer five hours per day on a job, you’d multiply the $36 x 5 = $180 per day cost. You would then add a 25-35% margin to this figure to arrive at a price to charge your customer.
$180 ÷ (1 - .35) = $180 ÷ .65 = $277
Note: The margin is $97 ($277 – 180) or 35%
When estimating the costs for a project, you would total the estimated number of hours the skid-steer would run on the job and multiply that figure by the TCPH. You would then add an appropriate margin to the total cost.
Marketing equipment costs.
I’d argue from a cost-analysis perspective that the $36 TCPH is a reasonable cost figure for the skid-steer in question. However, the question becomes how much margin should you add to that figure to charge your customer? This is a marketing question.
I like to use common benchmarks from the marketplace that the customer is familiar with when it comes to calculating an amount to charge the customer. In a normal economy, I’d add a minimum margin of 25-35%. I may charge less than this in a recession. Because rental shops would reinforce my charge to the customer, I’d consider charging rental rates to residential customers. I’d discount this somewhat for commercial customers.
One client told me that he charged $500 per day for an installation crew member. Since putting a skid-steer on a job was like putting at least one extra crew member on it, he charged $500 per day for the machine (without an operator).
I told him that as long as he could charge that amount without getting any push-back, he should do so. In a robust economy, the customer’s primary concern is schedule (when can you start?). However, in a recession, the customer’s number one concern is price. Research local rental rates if you’re unsure how much to charge for a particular piece of equipment. Such rates should help you determine how much to charge your customers.
Words of Wilson features a rotating panel of consultants from Bruce Wilson & Company, a landscape consulting firm.
Org charts are essential components of business strategy. Yet, as companies go through different growth cycles, their organizational needs change while organization chart models remain unchanged. As a result, there can be a degree of dysfunction and things seem harder to control.
This is a symptom, not the cause. With business continuously evolving, nothing stays the same for long. Roles and responsibilities and shifting work structures can be disrupted during rapid growth – is that what is happening? Or is it something deeper?
CEOs are under increasing pressure to keep pace and structure, and systems and processes need regular fine tuning. No matter how well the org chart is set up, the root cause often centers on span of control and owners and subordinates question the number of direct reports.
In our peer group meetings, when owners bring this issue to the table, the conversation inevitably jumps to the number of direct reports. Unfortunately, this can lead to adding more hierarchical layers.
Many organizational problems are caused by poor performance. Before you start restructuring the boxes or adding positions, think about each position’s KPIs, and evaluate strengths and weaknesses objectively based on performance against them.
Crew Leaders: High-performing crew leaders seldom have jobsite issues. Strong crew leaders take a lot of pressure off production managers, and account or project managers. If a crew leader underperforms or if the position is a weak link due to turnover or not being able to find or develop new ones, the slippage trickles up the reporting ladder, overwhelming supervisors, managers and so on. Adding a new position or level does not fix the root cause if it is at the crew leader level.
Account Manager: The weak link can be at other levels, too. Ineffective account management can result in unhappy customers, renewal issues and have a detrimental impact on bigger, more rewarding opportunities for company growth. Is the account manager weak or is the problem weak crew leaders?
Turnover: High turnover compromises consistency and impacts an organization’s ability to run like a well-oiled machine. New people are learning on the job, there’s poor morale and new hires struggle to fast track. Turnover can create weaknesses at all levels.
Ask good questions to fix what’s broken:
How does your company’s dysfunction, inefficiency, conflict or tension show up in your day-to-day?
What issues make you feel that you have an organizational problem?
Can greater functionality be addressed through training, upgrading, upskilling, DiSC assessment, culture improvements?
At what level are your issues the most severe, and where are the problems originating?
Are you happy with the performance of the people you have in key roles?
If you fixed the weak links, would it solve the problem?
How do your people feel about how things are actually working? They experience stress differently than people at the top.
An obstacle to fixing the org chart is trying to work around people in the chart. You should try building the chart without names then put people in the slots. You will get a more functional org chart.
How efficient is your current workflow? Do people have two bosses, or is reporting complicated?
How can job design and requirements be modified to deliver greater accountability?
If, after going through this exercise, you feel that disconnects still exist, then it might be time to look more closely at creating fundamental change. Many times, org charts can look good on paper but don’t work in practice. And while these challenges may seem operational, they could be a byproduct of organizational decision-making.
You can improve the odds of company alignment by making sure your org chart matches your strategic intent. Every position on the chart should, ideally, support your goals and work together to achieve them.