Storm doesn’t stop New England Grows
Sustainability, technology and integrating edibles into landscaping were just a few of the trending topics talked about this year.
Here are highlights from the show and conference:
SEEING SUCCESS. On the show’s first day, New England Grows held Garden Center Success. In its first year, the idea attracted garden center professionals to listen to industry leaders and consultants about examining customer engagement trends, dealing with challenging operational concerns and exploring creative ways to leverage marketing.
The purpose of the all-day event wasn’t to only give advice to garden center professionals, but to have them actually walk away with an action plan to increase sales, optimize merchandising and keep people in peak performance mode. Advice from the Garden Center Success keynote speakers included:
“Customers don’t really want ‘green;’ they want it to work,” Ken Lain, owner, Watters Garden Center, Prescott, Ariz, said about product lines. “First it has to work, then it has to be natural, then safe and then all that other feel good stuff. Give them that and you’ve got the sale.”
On the need to shop competition, Jonn “J-Dog” Karsseboom, owner of The Garden Corner, Tualatin, Ore., said, “If you go into your competition, there is always this weird feeling that you may see one of your customers there. I did. My neighbor was buying soil at Home Depot. It’s gonna happen, you just need to learn to live with it.”
CHANGING THE PARADIGM. It’s no secret that plants and animals have gone and continue to go extinct. However, the green industry can play a part in recapturing the biodiversity that has been eliminated by the human footprint, said Doug Tallamy, professor and chair of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware.
“Biodiversity is an essential, non-renewable, natural resource, yet we are forcing it to extinction,” he said.
Tallamy challenged attendees of his talk “Native Plants: A Changing Landscape Paradigm” to not only add more plants and trees to landscaping, but to introduce more native plants and trees.
“Let’s not give up on aesthetics, but let’s not give up on function,” he said.
In order to have rich biodiversity, you need native plants because 90 percent of insects that eat plants are species that are specialist, meaning they survive off of eating a particular native plant, he said.
A study of suburban properties in 26 neighborhoods in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland found that 92 percent of the area was only made up of lawns instead of other types of landscapes like plants or trees, Tallamy said. Landscapers can take advantage of such statistics by not only filling in spaces, but promoting a greener, more diverse environment that will only evolve by using native plants.
“The way we garden today and the way we landscape today is going to determine what life looks like tomorrow,” he said.
GOING LEAN. Efficiency in productivity is everything today. So Gary Cortes, a partner at FlowVision in Dillon, Co., broke down how to implement lean management techniques for attendees.
Lean is a growing trend in the green industry and it’s helping companies see a return on investment in the first year. After implementing lean principles, Jolly Farmer increased its output 30 percent the first year.Then, in the second year, Jolly Farmer perfected its process even more and saw an additional savings of 12 percent.
“(Companies) implement this and their goal is to continue to improve what they’ve implemented … they want to continue to make the process better,” Cortes said.
The entire idea of lean is to use mathematical equations to eliminate waste in the business, such as moving, walking, waiting and idling time. It’s not about how fast the work can get done, but how long it takes to do it correctly, Cortes said.
“At the end of the day, lean is going to make your company more productive,” Cortes said.
One of the biggest concerns of any statewide association is the natural tendency for members to fear sharing ideas with their local competitors. Although many of the larger member companies recognize the value of exchanging ideas and information, the majority of members, who are smaller in size, have yet to appreciate the incredible opportunities afforded by peer group discussions.
Topics for the evening focused on software, motivating your company, attracting high-end clients, marketing/advertising, what to include in contracts and social media. Attendees had the option to sit at whichever table was most appealing to them. Each table had a facilitator, which included associate members, board members, or area consultants.
NJLCA member Jason Sponzilli of Sponzilli Landscape Group said, “I feel we should do these meetings several times a year in a way to unite landscape contractors so we are all delivering a similar message to our clients about professionalism and expectations.”
At the end of the evening, NJLCA members and guests requested that the association have more of these types of meetings, and some asked when the next one would be.
“The feedback was great and everyone agreed that we should do this more often,” said Jody Shilan, president of NJLCA.
Those who register now will be entered to win tickets to Kentucky’s first-ever Sprint Cup, which will be held July 9 in Ft. Mitchell, Ky. The Sprint Cup will feature racing heavyweights like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Also, GIE+EXPO’s Refer-a-Friend program will give away an Apple iPad. To be entered in the giveaway, registrants must register online and then send an online invitation to others. The winner will be announced at the show.
An early-bird registration fee of $10 is being offered until Sept. 14. After that, pre-registration will be $25. The onsite registration fee will be $50.
The GIE+EXPO is sponsored by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) and Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS).
Bill Harley, president and CEO of OPEI, said many of the event’s popular features will return in 2011, including the New Products Arena, the two-day outdoor demonstration area and the Green Industry Conference. Additionally, Hardscape North America will co-locate at the expo. New features will be announced in the coming months through Lawn & Landscape and the show’s website.
“There’s always something to see, always something to learn at GIE+EXPO. And, if it can help your bottom line and make your business easier, then it’s well worth it to be there,” said Scott Muehlhauser, president of Scott’s Power Equipment and one of the 17,000 participants at the 2010 event. “If you’ve never been to GIE+EXPO, you have got to get there.”
Visit www.gie-expo.com or call 800-558-8767 to register, learn more about show updates and events and Refer-a-Friend.
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. – For David Croyle, working in the Florida weather means no offseason, no downtime, for him and his one employee at DKC Services, a full-service landscaping company.
He has pushed through the busy schedule with one Wright Manufacturing mower. Being a Wright owner, Croyle received an e-mail to enter an online sweepstakes for a new Wright Stander. He didn’t really need a new mower, but he figured, if he entered, what was the worst thing that could happen – he’d win?
Well, he did win.
Lawn & Landscape caught up with Croyle the first day he put into use the 36-inch, 16-hp Wright Stander.
“I’m amazed at how fast it is and quiet,” he said.
While having a piece of equipment that is fast, shiny and new is great, Croyle said he has realized just how much the mower will help his business.
Like others, Croyle has seen his share of tough times. He had to cut his crew, but he plans to hire a second employee soon. With only one mower, he’s had to worry about not overusing the machine. He’s had to watch cash flow; he certainly wasn’t entertaining thoughts of making large investments.
But now with a second mower, he says, “I can kind of relax a little.”