A look ahead

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Panelists at the Bruce Wilson & Company Thought Leaders Retreat gave advice on how companies can set themselves up to face an uncertain future.

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October 6, 2021

Panelists at the recent Bruce Wilson & Company Thought Leaders Retreat admitted that the green industry is slow to embrace change, but said those who do accept innovations will be set up to win.
Photo by Kim Lux

No one can predict exactly what the future holds, but during the culminating presentation at the inaugural Bruce Wilson & Company Thought Leaders Retreat held in August in Hilton Head, South Carolina, panelists forecasted what they feel is ahead for the green industry.

The “Crystal Ball Panel” featured John Spence, author and speaker; Mark Adamson, of Douglas Dynamics; Jim McCutcheon, of Highgrove Partners; and Michael Mayberry of Level Green Landscaping.

The panelists said technology, specifically robotics and automated intelligence, will be disrupters for the industry but could have a positive impact if embraced.

“It’s about who will figure out how to use them the best and the quickest,” Mayberry said.

“It’s very new and it’s going to change the labor market we have and put some interesting pressures on everyone. I think that if you are slow to react, it’s going to be a disruption.”

When it comes to long-term planning for an unpredictable future, collaboration is key. The panel suggested prioritizing advising committees and similar groups.

Spence said mentorship is also extremely important, especially reverse mentoring where a younger, new employee is mentoring the CEO or another main figure in the company.

“The newest person on your staff mentors your CEO,” Spence said. “Not only are you sharing a mentor from the older person down, but the younger person is mentoring them on, ‘this is what my generation looks at, this is why we’re here and this is what’s working.’ They become a really good source for keeping your finger on the pulse of your young workers.”

Author John Spence suggested new employees mentor CEOs on what their generation wants out of employers.

COVID-19 exacerbated an already large labor problem within the green industry. Now, with more unemployment benefits available, what can companies do to attract and incentivize new workers?

“That’s where culture will become more prevalent than anything,” McCutcheon said. “I think that’s going to continue to be a really important thing to drive.”

The panel said companies should also take advantage of outsourcing for everything from website design, branding, 3D imaging and more.

“Now, the world is your talent pool,” Spence said. “You can outsource these things to anywhere in the world at about a third of the price you’d pay in the United States, and the work is just as good quality.”

Attendees shared with the panel that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to build relationships with clients due to COVID and also the use of technology.

They asked the panel how they can effectively establish those relationships when clients are more interested in getting an email from them as opposed to meeting for a site visit.

“I think it all comes down to communication,” Mayberry said. “If you can communicate what’s happening so they feel confident the work is being done without having to go out there, that’s all they are looking for.”

Mayberry adds that this new way of purchasing services isn’t just akin to the green industry. People are buying cars, groceries and numerous other things online without interacting with anyone.

“To try and really hold on to that without any willingness to adapt or change is detrimental,” he said of insisting on in-person communication.

Overall, the panel admitted the green industry is slow to adapt to change, but by embracing technology and other new innovations, companies can set themselves up for success.

“You can do this one of two ways,” Adamson said. “You can choose to be a leader, or you can choose to be a fast follower. It’s all about strategy.”

Apax Funds acquires SavATree

SavATree also recently acquired Pennsylvania-based Giroud Tree and Lawn.

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. — Funds advised by Apax recently acquired SavATree from CI Capital Partners. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in Q4 2021. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

SavATree was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Bedford Hills, New York. SavATree provides tree, shrub and lawn care services and has been caring for residential, commercial and government properties for over 40 years. The company services customers in 27 states through 58 locations.

The company ranked No. 13 on Lawn & Landscape’s 2021 Top 100 list.

The Apax Funds, in partnership with SavATree’s leadership team, will strive to accelerate the company’s growth trajectory both organically and through strategic M&A.

“I’m delighted that the Apax Funds have invested in SavATree," said Daniel van Starrenburg, executive chairman at SavATree.

"We’ve built SavATree into a company that people trust and rely upon across the U.S., and Apax has the experience and know-how to help us achieve our ambitious, global growth plans while staying true to our customer-centric, environmentally responsible approach. Together with our dedicated teams, we can’t wait to start this next chapter of the business.”

“SavATree has continued to go from strength to strength and we are excited to partner with Apax for the next phase of our journey," said SavATree CEO Carmine Schiavone. "Their experience in the residential services industry combined with their transformational growth approach will be of great value as we continue to build our business, offering our services to more customers both in the US and globally.”

Additionally, SavATree recently acquired Pennsylvania-based company Giroud Tree and Lawn. This merger will create a new SavATree branch operation in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., and will service the Philadelphia area.

This branch becomes SavATree’s third office in southeastern Pennsylvania, in addition to Newtown and Conshohocken, and marks its 58th branch nationwide.

Giroud Tree and Lawn has been providing a complete range of services including pruning, tree removals, deep root fertilization, plant health care and professional lawn services in Pennsylvania for nearly five decades. Principals of Giroud, Lou Giroud and Drew Slousky, along with their team of arborists, technicians and office personnel, will stay on with SavATree to continue delivering locally managed service for their clients. In the acquisition, SavATree adds 41 new employees.

“From the beginning, the company’s mission has been to make sure customers love doing business with us,” said Lou Giroud. “SavATree has a long-standing reputation for excellence in both their personnel and the quality of services they deliver.

“We are excited to add the resources of a national company to our local expertise. We know that this partnership will help us meet and exceed our customers’ expectations and allow us to continue to provide the level of high-quality tree and lawn care that they have grown accustomed to over the past 47 years.”

“We are thrilled to continue the Giroud family legacy under the SavATree canopy," Schiavone said. "Giroud’s reputation for incomparable customer satisfaction in Pennsylvania aligns perfectly with SavATree’s core values. We look forward to bridging two highly respected businesses into one expert team, providing superior solutions and care for Pennsylvania properties.”

Massey Services promotes Tony Massey to CEO

Harvey L. Massey will continue to serve as the company’s chairman of the board.

ORLANDO — Massey Services, a pest management company that ranked No. 26 on Lawn & Landscape’s Top 100 list this year, promoted Tony Massey to president and CEO, effective immediately.

Harvey L. Massey will continue to serve as the company’s chairman of the board.

“As chairman of the board, be assured, I will remain active in our company and continue to work closely with Tony on our company’s future growth and development,” said Harvey L. Massey. “This year, I will be celebrating my 80th birthday and I look forward to spending more time with our family and friends, taking time to travel and enjoying our ranches.”

Tony Massey has been president of Massey Services since 2006. “Tony has done an excellent job of managing the operations of our company and is most deserving of this promotion and the responsibilities that come with the title of chief executive officer,” Harvey Massey said. “He is an experienced executive with a commitment to service excellence and a true passion for our team members, our customers and our communities. I am confident that he will continue to successfully lead our company into the future.”

Tony Massey joined Massey Services in 1989 after graduating from the University of Alabama. He received his MBA from the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College and completed the OPM Key Executive Program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Business Administration.

SiteOne Landscape Supply partners with Aspire Software

The evolving partnership gives users access to updated product pricing and more.

ROSWELL, Ga. — SiteOne Landscape Supply and Aspire Software have formed an alliance, expanding SiteOne’s business management software solutions offering to its customer base.

“We seek to partner with the best of the best in the industry — like Aspire — giving customers access to superior services and products to increase their company’s profitability,” said Sean Kramer, CIO at SiteOne Landscape Supply. “The smart business management software makes it easier to handle day-to-day needs without relying on multiple people to do the task, offering another solution to manage the continued labor shortage that many are facing.”

The Aspire Landscape and SiteOne integration is ideal for businesses with more than 10 crews. Users can now link to their SiteOne account where up-to-date catalog pricing can be found based on the user’s location to the nearest SiteOne branch. Because material pricing can fluctuate, the experience reduces guesswork often required in building accurate and timely estimates.

“Working with SiteOne, the industry’s top distributor, gives Aspire customers 24/7 access to updated prices on the products they rely on at the jobsite,” said Mark Tipton, CEO of Aspire Software. “As the partnership evolves, we hope to offer more of the features available on SiteOne’s e-commerce site like ordering materials, scheduling delivery, development of estimates, managing invoices and more — all through the trusted Aspire Landscape platform that helps their company be successful.”

Scag Power Equipment’s parent company acquires Robbins Manufacturing

Metalcraft will retain all of the more than 200 existing employees at the Fall River location.

MAYVILLE, Wis. — The parent company of Scag Power Equipment, Metalcraft of Mayville, has acquired Robbins Manufacturing, located in Fall River, Wisconsin. The acquisition became effective August 23. Metalcraft will retain all of the more than 200 existing employees at the Fall River location.

Metalcraft has plans to double the headcount there over time. Additionally, this acquisition does not impact the employment status for anyone in Metalcraft’s other facilities. The company will continue its hiring and growth strategies at all facilities as recently communicated to its work groups.

According to company management, this new location offers Metalcraft a complementary workforce in a plant that is similar and in close proximity to the company’s existing operations. The former Robbins facility provides additional needed capacity to support Metalcraft’s continued growth. In addition, the capabilities and processes gained through this acquisition will allow for further expansion of the company’s product offerings under its industry leading Scag Power Equipment and Versatran truck brands.

Metalcraft plans to immediately move some of its existing work into the Fall River plant, as well as invest in upgrading the facility. Doing so will not only benefit all Metalcraft employees, but also existing internal brands, external customers and the list of highly valued new customers inherited through the transaction.

“We are pleased that we can put our family business of over 30 years in the hands of such a great company as Metalcraft,” said Robbins Owner Greg Robbins. “We are positive this will provide a strong future for the operation and its employees.”

Advanced Turf Solutions names Berry as VP of T&O sales

Most recently, Berry was vice president of growth and alliance for Real Green software.

FISHERS, Ind. — Advanced Turf Solutions recently named Beth Berry as its vice president of turf and ornamental sales.

“We are excited to have Beth Berry leading our T&O sales team,” said Scott Brame, Advanced Turf Solutions president. “Beth is a seasoned green industry executive with more than two decades of experience leading marketing, sales, business development, partner integration and customer support teams. Beth’s passion for helping lawn care operators grow their business will be a tremendous asset for Advanced Turf Solutions as we continue toward our goal of delivering best in class, innovative products to the turf and ornamental industry.”

Berry is a widely recognized industry advocate leading the “lawn care essential” initiative in 2020 and is a key resource for state regulatory compliance issues. Most recently, Berry was vice president of growth and alliance for Real Green software, where she managed enterprise accounts and strategic partnerships for the green industry software company. Prior to Real Green, Berry was the director of customer service for Scotts Miracle-Gro.

Berry serves on the boards of Project Evergreen, National Pest Management Association (Technology), National Association of Landscape Professionals (Membership). She is a member of the National Speakers Association, and NALP Women in Landscape Network and Women in Green Industry. In 2020, Berry was named one of the Top 50 Women Leaders in SaaS by the Software Report. She is a frequent industry speaker, including at the Lawn & Landscape Technology Conference.

Simplot teams up with GreenKeeper

The companies have entered into an exclusive licensing agreement.

BOISE — Simplot Turf & Horticulture has engaged with the GreenKeeper application in an exclusive licensing agreement to optimize turf management.

GreenKeeper is a web-based application that includes the use of advanced data models to guide turfgrass management decisions. The app uses over 650 different agronomic algorithms to aid in the scheduling of product applications, turfgrass cultural practices and inventory operations.

“Simplot’s commitment to the turf industry and the science to move it forward has been a critical part of our collaboration,” said Dr. Bill Kreuser, GreenKeeper founder. “Working with them to get this in the hands of so many turf professionals will be incredible.”

“Simplot T&H is proud to team up with the GreenKeeper app and is excited to support this program in the professional turf markets. Intelligent data analysis is essential to lead a successful turf management team and it is our opinion that GreenKeeper is the best tool out there,” said Barry Mac Ban, Simplot Turf & Horticulture’s general manager.

Electric Sheep Robotics enters autonomous mowing market

SAN FRANCISCO — Electric Sheep Robotics has had its official launch as an autonomy partner to the landscaping industry.

To answer these problems, Electric Sheep has created the Dexter robot, clamp-on hardware and software that turns commercial lawn mowers into self-driving machines.

“My company and industry welcome self-driving mowers,” said Zech Strauser, owner of Strauser Nature’s Helpers in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Electric Sheep works with commercially available gas and electric mowers and is available with no upfront costs.
Photo courtesy of Electric Sheep Robotics

“We have an already tight labor market, so I would love the opportunity to refocus my staff on the jobs robots can't do. We are thrilled to be autonomy partners with Electric Sheep.”

The company was founded in late 2019 by a team of entrepreneurs with backgrounds in engineering, entrepreneurship and landscaping.

The Electric Sheep Robot works with commercially available gas and electric mowers and is available with no upfront costs through a Robots-as-a-Service model.

There are hundreds of thousands of commercial mowers being used today, and the Electric Sheep Robot is able to deploy on this already existing and well-established platform.

“The acuity of the need is so deep and the willingness to try autonomy so intense that we have been overwhelmed by the response,” said Nag Murty, CEO and co-founder of Electric Sheep.

“If we were to stop acquiring new customers today and just expand among the ones who are signed on with us, we would already have hundreds of millions in annual revenue in a few years.”

Visit bit.ly/eslawn2021 to view a video of the electric sheep in action.

Yanmar Compact Equipment fills president, director roles

Tate Johnson was named president, Lee Thole the director of aftermarket and David Gannon as director of channel development.

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — Yanmar Compact Equipment North America, encompassing the Yanmar Compact Equipment and ASV Holdings brands, named Tate Johnson president, Lee Thole director of aftermarket and David Gannon director of channel development.

Johnson joined the organization as commercial director in September 2020, overseeing sales, national accounts, channel development and marketing. He brought extensive leadership experience with deep technical, channel development and business leadership expertise within the commercial industry. As president, Johnson will lead and further develop the growth initiatives for the company as the two brands progress in a joint vision.

“We have assembled a strong team committed to the ASV and Yanmar brands and focused on serving all of our stakeholders. This group of leaders will continue to drive the business and achieve excellent results for our customers, dealers and employees,” Johnson said. “As we continue to grow, we will seek to provide even more resources and support to our dealers and in turn, the end user customers. The addition of Lee and David is the logical next step.”

Thole brings more than 20 years of experience, with a strong background in parts, service and overall business operations. Thole’s responsibilities as director of aftermarket will include strengthening several post-sales support functions as well as leading further development and implementation of the aftermarket strategy.

Gannon joins his role with 30 years of multi-industry experience. His position as director of channel development will involve working closely with the dealer network, both by recruiting dealers and assisting existing dealers with being successful.

LMN launches new platform

LMN Pay was designed based on feedback from landscape business owners and their customers.

MARKHAM, ONTARIO, Canada — Landscape Management Network (LMN) introduced LMN Pay, the new payment processing platform within the LMN Customer Portal. The platform has been updated based on feedback from landscape business owners and their customers.

LMN Pay aims to improve cash flow and reduce costs through lower fees. The LMN Customer Portal will showcase improved functionality when customers access the system to pay for job invoices, submit work requests and view jobsite activity photos such as landscaping installation and snow removal.

“We are providing an easy-to-use, secure payment system for all transactions using LMN Pay,” said Mike Lysecki, CTO at LMN. “This delivers on our mission to help landscape business owners reduce costs and drive operational improvements.”

The new platform is supported by LMN’s payment team, who are available to answer questions during normal business hours from both customers as well as landscaping business owners.

WorkWave to acquire TEAM Software

TEAM helps WorkWave reach new international markets.

HOLMDEL, N.J. — WorkWave has signed an agreement to purchase TEAM Software, a provider of software and solutions for cleaning, janitorial, security and facilities management service providers. The acquisition was expected to close at the end of September. Combined, these companies bring well over 100 years of experience.

“This acquisition marks a major step forward in the execution of WorkWave’s strategy to push into new markets, while leveraging our proven track record of helping our customers provide superior service and build fast-growing and highly profitable companies,” said David F. Giannetto, CEO of WorkWave. “We are thrilled to be joining forces with TEAM to deliver on our shared commitment to provide the greatest value to our entire customer base.”

“With the acquisition of proven brands such as Real Green, Slingshot, Coalmarch, and TEAM Software, WorkWave now stands alone as the premier provider of the broadest set of SaaS software and solutions supporting the widest range of service industries,” said Darren Roos, chairperson of the board at WorkWave. “WorkWave has a proven track record of delivering customers value, so empowering more customers, across more geographies, with more industry-specific solutions, adds fuel to the company’s continued growth.”

WorkWave will now provide software for the commercial cleaning and security markets.

In addition to its position in the pest control and green industry verticals, WorkWave will become a software provider in the commercial cleaning, janitorial, facilities management and security service industries with the acquisition of TEAM Software and its enterprise-level solutions. TEAM will also expand WorkWave’s presence in key international markets, creating a local presence in EMEA and APAC that supports WorkWave’s increased footprint overseas. This further supports WorkWave as it delivers on its mission of helping customers grow their business, service their customers and maximize their money in these new vertical and geographic markets.

“We are thrilled to join an industry leader like WorkWave, who has proven service-industry expertise along with a commitment to supporting customer growth through powerful solutions and exceptional service. WorkWave’s mission and approach mirror how we think and operate, as well,” said John Leiferman, CEO of TEAM Software. “Together, we can provide more value-driven innovation to the industries we support through our greater combination of world-class tools, expertise, and experience.”

WorkWave is backed by EQT, TA Associates, and Serent Capital, and TEAM Software is backed by Accel-KKR.

Stanley Black & Decker to acquire Excel Industries

Excel is a designer and manufacturer of Hustler Turf Equipment and BigDog Mower Co.

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — Stanley Black & Decker has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Excel Industries for $375 million in cash.

Excel is a designer and manufacturer of commercial and residential turf-care equipment under the brands of Hustler Turf Equipment and BigDog Mower Co. With over $375 million of revenue forecasted in 2021, Excel serves approximately 1,400 active independent equipment dealer outlets that stock, sell and service Hustler and BigDog products in the United States and Canada. The company is located in Hesston, Kansas, and has approximately 600 employees.

“This is a strategically important bolt-on acquisition as we build an outdoor products leader. Excel brings a range of premier, commercial grade and prosumer turf-care equipment, an extensive dealer network, a talented team and a loyal customer base,” said Stanley Black & Decker’s CEO James M. Loree.

Excel Industries, sold for $375 million, is located in Kansas and employs 600 people.

The acquisition will be modestly accretive to Stanley Black & Decker’s EPS in year one, and accretive to EPS by approximately $0.15-$0.20 by year three, excluding charges. The transaction, which has been approved by a majority of Excel’s shareholders, is subject to purchase price adjustment provisions and customary closing conditions, including receipt of required regulatory approvals. The transaction will be funded with cash on hand and proceeds from borrowings.

This acquisition follows Stanley Black & Decker’s recent acquiring of the remaining 80% stake in MTD.