|John Ossa||Sprinkler and rotor manufacturers are focusing on three things: efficiency, features that create the potential for conservation and contractor education.
Efficiency comes from nozzle design and pressure control that optimizes the dispersing of small, medium and large droplets over near, middle and far distances.
In rotors, nozzle design typically works as follows: the objective is to send the most water as far away from the sprinkler as possible. As the distance from the sprinkler increases, the amount of area covered increases greatly. To “shoot” water to the end of the radius takes a high velocity and a trajectory somewhere between 20 to 35 degrees from horizontal. As the water passes the peak of the trajectory and begins falling, the large drops begin to break up into smaller drops.
Simple physics determines that larger drops maintain a higher velocity and are least likely to be deflected by wind. The mid-range distance from the nozzle gets some water that’s “peeled” from the primary stream by mechanical means such as a dispersal screw, and, to a lesser extent, the outer layer of the stream – through friction with air – becomes unstable and breaks away.
With larger rotors, the near distance usually is addressed by a separate nozzle designed to disperse smaller drops at less velocity that quickly fall to the ground.
Most nozzles do a better job of sending water to the end of the arc, which highlights why head spacing with overlapping coverage is absolutely critical to the uniform application of water. Head spacing should never be stretched beyond the recommended nozzle radius. All of the principles described for the rotors apply to sprayhead nozzles as well.
Part of the Answer
There are new sprayhead nozzles on the market that achieve higher levels of efficiency than was previously possible. Toro won the Irrigation Association’s New Product of the Year (2008) with the introduction of its Precision Series Spray Nozzles. A fundamentally different approach to water dispersal achieves a 30 percent reduction in precipitation rate, matched precipitation and better definition to the edges of the spray patterns. The reduction in precipitation rate is significant because it provides more opportunity for water to infiltrate without run-off.
Another approach to higher application efficiency is Hunter’s MP Rotator. These multistream nozzles have a low precipitation rate and are relatively wind resistant. They offer an excellent and much needed option in 14- to 30-foot radii. Nozzle families that have matched precipitation rates are vital to efficient irrigation. That inherent potential will be fully realized when the scheduling of the run times matches plant water need, which changes throughout the year to coincide with the length of days and average temperatures.
Manufacturers are resegmenting their product lines for an evolving market created by municipal efficiency mandates and conservation requirements. They are refining key features that aid conservation. These features include in-head check valves, in-stem pressure regulation and specialty features like Toro’s X-flow device, which will sense if a nozzle is removed and shutdown water flow.
Conservation is achieved by how the hardware is utilized. To capture all the potential for conservation requires an understanding of the basics.
Manufacturers are increasing their commitment to contractor education to enhance the opportunity for their hardware to be put to its best use. For example, Rain Bird’s Web site offers a range of free how-to pieces, as well as tools that help forecast and quantify water savings.
These and other manufacturers’ similar offerings educate and help the contractor sell efficiency to the end user. As an industry, what we need to sell is water management efficiency, not just pipes and hardware.
The subsurface of a permeable paver installation helps filter and mitigate rainfall. With the rising popularity of permeable pavement systems in residential and commercial landscape designs, it is important for landscape professionals to educate themselves about the different materials available for paving options.
The primary purpose in the design of a permeable paving system is to effectively reduce and manage the quantity of surface rain water runoff while accommodating pedestrians, vehicular parking and traffic. Permeable paving has proven particularly valuable in existing urban developments where the need to expand parking areas is hindered by the lack of space due to retention ponds.
By definition, for a surface to be permeable, it must allow for water to penetrate the surface through porous openings. In segmental or unit paving, the joints are what make the surface permeable. Some surface materials, such as gravel, do not have a solid surface and therefore allow water to pass through to the subsurface.
Typically a subsurface for segmental permeable paving would be designed using a crushed stone base that would provide filtration and partial treatment for rain water runoff pollution.
Permeable pavers can free up land used previously for retaining ponds.A full filtration system designed for permeable subsurface soils should allow the storm water to penetrate the surface and filter through the base course and the native soils back into the aquifers. If the capacity of the soil to filtrate the water is exceeded, the base may be designed to filter, partially treat and then slowly release the water into a storm sewer.
The different types of permeable paving have pros and cons. In terms of cost, gravel is the least expensive option. The drawbacks are that it requires frequent maintenance and renewal and the high upkeep increases the cost over time. Also, wheel ruts easily form in gravel, which detracts from the appeal.
Permeable concrete and asphalt are next in terms of expense, but studies have shown them to be prone to clogging, negating their efficacy.
Brick, concrete, and natural stone pavers require that the material in the joints be permeable since the pavers themselves are not considered to be permeable. The brick must be the correct type and manufactured to specific requirements in order to be used in paving applications, especially in freeze-thaw climates. Constant freezing and thawing is harder on materials than climates that freeze and remain frozen for long periods.
No matter the material chosen for a permeable paving project the benefits outweigh the additional costs. Permeable paving can free land designated for retaining ponds and has numerous environmental benefits. Done correctly with durable materials the paving can have a long life span and be aesthetically pleasing.
The author is founder and president of Milestone and Milestone Imports.
To submit product information for upcoming issues of Lawn & Landscape, contact Managing Editor Chuck Bowen at email@example.com or 330-523-5330.
The Masters Series of fountains are available in a wide variety of spray patterns, giving you the power to create dazzling waterscapes while improving water quality. All Masters Series units are built with energy efficient, oil-cooled motors and are total component UL and cUL listed, and CE-recognized for safety. AquaMaster products are backed by manufacturer warranties.
The Belgard Nottingham Elements Collection by Harmony Outdoor Living is a pre-built outdoor living line that features a variety of products such as fireplaces, brick ovens, water features and full kitchens. All the elements are pre-constructed in a factory setting – ensuring consistency and quality. They are designed to be machine-installed with little training, and they can be installed in hours, the company says.
COL-MET commercial steel landscape edging is available in 14 gauge through ¼-inch thickness, 4- to 6-inch heights and green, brown or black powder coat.
Firestone Specialty Products
Firestone PondGard Rubber Liner is based on EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer), which makes it a high-quality, durable, user-friendly option for landscaping professionals.
Safe for plants and ?sh, PondGard can be used for decorative ponds, streams, waterfalls and other water feature applications. It requires no special tools for installation, and it is available in a variety of sizes for different project scales. PondGard is also flexible for shaping around unique pond contours and its high tensile strength and exceptional puncture resistance allow for design features such as rough-edged rocks along the banks of a pond or stream. PondGard will not crack or split in cold weather conditions down to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing for installation in a wide range of temperatures, the company says.
Grasspave2 a new option for contractors interested in porous paving. They are used to reinforce turf for parking lots, driveways, access roads and fire lanes. The installations provide a natural filtration system for automobile and parking lot runoff.
Natural Concrete Products
Natural Concrete Products has developed a process to produce very natural looking, and easily installed, retaining wall blocks. The blocks, when stacked, make the wall look like a natural stone or stacked stone wall.
NCP makes two retaining wall systems: Random Stone and Fossill Stone. The Random Stone system has a multi-colored and cut up face that looks like a stacked stone wall when installed. The Fossill Stone system makes the wall look like a natural limestone wall when stacked. Each system is produced in a variety of colors. Each system can be used to produce retaining walls, columns, free standing walls, fire pits, outdoor tables, outdoor kitchens and water features.
Harmony Outdoor Living
The Wexford Elements Collection by Harmony Outdoor Living is a collection of pre-built outdoor living elements that features a variety of products such as fireplaces, brick ovens, water features and full kitchens. All the elements are pre-constructed in a factory setting – ensuring consistency and quality, the company says. They are designed to be machine-installed with little training on the part of a contractor, and they can be installed in hours, the company says.
Brights for Pavers & Walls weigh as much as actual pavers and enhance any hardscape design, commercial or residential, by providing an inviting atmosphere, the company says. Use them as guiding lights for walkways, driveways, retaining walls, patios, stairways, entrances, parking spaces and borders along paved areas. Brights for Pavers & Walls are available in varying styles, colors, shapes and sizes.
Rockwood Retaining Walls
Rockwood’s complete line of Outdoor Living Kits are easy to build, and are affordably priced, the company says. The kits come complete with everything a contractor needs, even the glue, and include simple, course-by-course instructions. There’s no cutting and no estimating. The kits are available nationwide and at all Ewing Irrigation locations.
The Old World, stone-style of Peacock Pavers is now available for residential driveways. The company’s driveway pavers are strong, durable and have excellent freeze/thaw characteristics. Made of architectural-grade concrete, they are 3 by 9 by 9, and come in four standard colors: buff, champagne, rice white and dolphin grey. They match the colors of the company’s other pavers, so driveways can be designed to blend seamlessly with adjoining walkways, courtyards and patios.
The pavers are also available in a half-inch thickness developed specifically for remodeling projects and retrofitting. Made of architectural-grade concrete, they lend stone-style beauty to floors, fireplaces and other indoor and outdoor applications. Available in a variety of sizes, with trim pieces, they can be installed in regular or random patterns and are as easy to install and seal as natural stone, the company says.
Oly-Ola Edgings offers hardscape contractors a selection of paver restraints to fit a variety of paver projects and installation preferences. Oly-Ola paver restraints are constructed of strong 100 percent recycled black vinyl, and feature Oly-Ola’s L-shape design, which makes them easy to install, either under or outside of the paver, the company says.
The restraints have specially designed “key-hole” cuts that make them flexible and durable, securely hold professional, creative landscape designs with no cutting or snipping necessary and work for many paver projects, from heavy-duty paver projects such as driveways and patios to shallow paver and architectural stone projects.
Oly-Ola paver restraints are guaranteed for 15 years against cracking, rotting, disintegrating or self-destruction from any weather conditions or manufacturing defects. If this ever occurs, Oly-Ola will replace 100 percent of the damaged material, cover any freight charges involved, and pay the labor to have the product reinstalled, the company says.
Stone Age Manufacturing
Stone Age Manufacturing produces pre-engineered masonry fireplace kits for indoor and outdoor applications, as well as fire pits, brick ovens, pizza ovens, outdoor kitchen island systems and pergolas, all in kit forms designed for ease of assembly by experienced masons or novice installers. Stone Age products have been featured in several episodes of the DIY Network television series Indoors Out, Rock Solid and Man Caves, and have also been featured on NBC’s Today Show.
The company’s products are designed to offer a faster, more efficient and more durable way to construct popular hearth and outdoor room features, while delivering greater consistency and higher quality than comparable products or traditional construction techniques, the company says. Each Stone Age product is designed for compatibility with our other components, allowing flexibility in project design and customization to meet the requirements of any installation, regardless of architectural or design style. Stone Age also offers a full line of accessories, carefully chosen to enhance the performance and enjoyment of our products.
Stone Construction Equipment
Stone Construction Equipment, Inc.’s Silver Fox series of forward plates consists of eight models, including a plate designed specifically for optimum performance on asphalt – the SFA3500.
Models in addition to the SFA3500 include a small, 13-inch wide SFP2200/SFP2200A and the all-purpose SFP3000/SFP3000A, the all-purpose professional SFP4000/SFP4000A, and for larger dirt jobs the SFP5100. All models are available with a variety of engines – Honda, Robin, Briggs and Stratton or Diesel engines – for compacting asphalt, dirt, granular soils, sand and paving stones. The eight models can be used for a variety of compaction jobs – foundations, sidewalks, landscaping or asphalt patching and finishing.
The line features a forward-mounted eccentric and a 15-degree ramped leading edge that produces exceptionally fast forward travel speeds and optimum gradeability; a patented one-piece base plate integrated with the extra-large eccentric housing dissipates internal heat over the plate, cooling the oil and the eccentric bearings while heating the plate surface for smooth asphalt compaction; and a synchronized drive system provides energy transfer between the engine and eccentric.
The Stone-exclusive Kevlar belt, eccentric, innovative offset eccentric sheave, heavy-duty centrifugal clutch and engine all operate in unison to increase compacting performance, the company says, and the self-cleaning base plate virtually eliminates dirt build-up for easier maintenance.
A 13-quart removable water tank can be taken to a faucet for fill-ups, and a patented water system directs an even coat of water for the entire base surface. It is connected to the water tank with a Stone-exclusive SnapTek quick-coupler.
With a larger effective contact surface and a more centrally located eccentric, the SFA3500 floats across the asphalt with a compaction force of 3500 pounds. It features the removable water tank, SnapTek quick-coupler and a custom sprinkler system to continually coat the base plate with a sheet of water to reduce asphalt sticking.
VAST Enterprises has developed a new version of its composite landscape pavers in a 4-by-8-inch size. The new size is popular for large commercial hardscapes such as parking areas, walkways, building entrances and plazas, the company says.
Manufactured in VAST’s proprietary composite blend of up to 95 percent recycled car tires and plastic containers, the pavers are one-third the weight of concrete pavers.
The VAST grid system, manufactured out of the same composite material as VAST pavers, is laid out on a compacted sand base just like the base for conventional pavers. Installers then insert VAST pavers into the grid — in any designed pattern — and the pavers are automatically spaced and aligned.
VERSA-LOK is a solid, top-pinning segmental retaining wall system, offering design versatility and ease of installation. VERSA-LOK is available in two textures: classic split-face texture and vintage weathered, which has a centuries-old, hand-hewn appearance that’s well-suited for historic renovations.
The VERSA-LOK family of solid retaining wall units includes Standard (6 inches high, 16 inches wide, 12 inches deep); Accent (4 inches high, 12 inches wide, 12 inches deep); and Cobble (6 inches high, 8 inches wide 12 inches deep). VERSA-LOK’s solid units are easy to modify on site, and there are no hollow units to fill, which saves both labor and materials, the company says. With VERSA-LOK, you can build walls, curves, multiangle corners, stairs and freestanding walls. No specialty units are required. VERSA-LOK accommodates soil reinforcement to build walls to 50 feet or taller.
What do you pay your technicians for? I would venture to say that most workers in the lawn care industry are paid mainly for showing up for work and putting in their time.
Nothing gets done without investing hours into the work, but to be more successful, a business owner must measure and pay employees for reaching the goals of the company.
Call it a bonus, incentive pay, commission, whatever you want – it’s paying for performance and results. After all, that’s what lawn care operators want, and that’s what customers deserve. I’m an ex-school teacher; one frustrating aspect of my former profession was the fact that I was doing a better job teaching students than many of my peers down the hall, yet I was getting paid less simply because they had more years in the system. That’s not fair, nor is it in the best interest of the students.
When I entered the business world as a lawn care operator, I wanted to pay employees based on their contributions to the company and according to how they grew and serviced their customer base. At my previous businesses and at my current company, LawnAmerica in Tulsa, Okla., all team members are paid not just a base salary – for putting in the hours – but they also earn incentive pay.
Many lawn care companies pay a commission on production – usually about 5 percent. We measure and incentivize much more than production. Production is important, but service, growth and profits are just as important, so we measure those factors and pay employees incentive pay based on performance.
If you pay for production, that’s what you get. And it may be at the expense of quality and profits.
How We Do It
We currently have five team leaders who manage 12 route managers and six technicians in the field. Depending upon the position, their performance and the team’s performance, 25 to 38 percent of their total annual salary will come from incentive pay and profit sharing.
We measure many areas of our business that affect growth, quality and profits: things like the number of re-sprays in a route, response times for an estimate and first applications. We measure what customers think of our service, through something called a Net Promoter Score (more on that later). We measure net customer gain, which is a great indicator of service quality and customer satisfaction.
And the bottom line – we measure profits, and we share 25 percent of those profits with all team members.
We’ve never had dedicated salespeople at LawnAmerica, because everyone is selling all the time. While most of our customers come from referrals, we also invest in marketing and advertising. Everyone learns how to sell, and puts a lot of effort into growth of our customer base, in large part due to the fact that we pay people for growing the company.
For example, our route managers this year will earn $25 incentive pay for each net customer gain per month. With an average net gain of 60 customers per route, that leads to an extra $1,500 pay. That’s good motivation to work harder to save a customer from cancelling, and push harder to sell more accounts. And by incentivizing the net gain and not just sales, their focus is not just on obtaining new customers, but on keeping customers.
With this pay structure built into our system, our field staff especially loves new customers and growth – just like I do. But unless employees are rewarded directly for growth of your customer list, are they going to be as passionate about growth as the owner? Not likely.
At the start of every season, we sit down as a staff and set goals, most of which are then built into the incentive pay structure to reward team members. For example, if a route manager hits his goal of average response time to complete a re-spray of 1.5 days (including weekends and rain days), then he will receive incentive pay of $100 during each of the three months in spring, and $75 during the summer months. The same holds true for other time-sensitive service areas, such as evaluations and first applications. So again, frontline employees have an incentive to perform well, are accountable for results and will be responsive to service issues.
I decide the financial value of reaching these goals each month. I project what employees’ base salaries and total incentive pay will be when planning our financial budget. We have a monthly plan that shows the financial rewards with hitting those goals. We measure constantly, and post charts and spreadsheets at the office for all to see and monitor. Some of the goals are individual, some are teams and some are for the total company. Our office staff spends a lot of time in tracking and measuring these results, but the time invested is well worth it.
Net Promoter Score Notes
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is derived from customer surveys, and is a simple way to measure customer promotion (by asking whether customers would refer us to others). In many lawn care companies, it’s management and maybe a few dedicated employees who are as passionate about pleasing customers as the owner is. We use the NPS to constantly gauge how our customers perceive us and to respond when it’s not up to par.
At the end of the season, if a particular route, or an area, have met their NPS goal (69 percent in our case), they receive a bonus divided in two payments in December and January.
In the case of the five team leaders and upper management, that bonus is substantially more. Our employees are passionate about pleasing customers, which leads to happier customers, a stronger company, higher profits (hopefully) and a happier owner.
And the bottom line is profits. At the end of the year, we take 25 percent of total cash profits, and divide it among all employees depending upon their salary. So with our profit-sharing plan in 2009, employees earned from about $900 to more than $4,000 as cash bonuses just before Christmas. By sharing in profits, employees have more at stake in the business, and are rewarded for good performance and results.
Our incentive pay leads to employees who feel they have ownership over their jobs and the company. They are not owners. They have no money invested in the company. They are not at risk every day as I am. However, they do have some freedom and autonomy to work and act as owners, and they feel and perform like they have a stake in the outcome. This creates more of a team atmosphere. It makes everyone accountable for specific and measurable goals.
Our incentive pay plan has grown and evolved over the years. It sometimes takes time for employees to understand and buy into the potential of it. It also takes a smart and hard-working employee to fully realize the upside potential of our incentive plan. It seems to work.
We grew about 13 percent last year, and appear to be on track to exceed our budgeted 10 percent growth in 2010, with current projections to end up at about 12 percent growth this season. That’s without a dedicated sales force, without telemarketing and without spending a ton of money on advertising or buying customers. By spring, we’ll be past the 8,000 customer mark after 11 years in business.
While our incentive pay plan is not the only reason we’ve grown, it does play a major part in any success we’ve experienced. And, our best, smartest, and hardest-working employees really love it, as they put more money into their pockets by achieving more.
Route Manager Incentives: Click here to download an incentive pay template to use in your office.
The author is president and owner of LawnAmerica, Tulsa, Okla.
Antonis PapantoniouYou will eventually encounter someone on the web who challenges your perspective in the form of negative comments posted about you or your work. Be prepared to quickly address these unflattering remarks.
Be First on the Scene
It’s surprising how many businesses do not take advantage of Google Alerts to monitor their web reputations. Speed is of the essence when your reputation is at stake.
If you can be the first to address a concern, you can more easily shape future opinions. Much like being the first one at the scene of the accident, everyone who follows tends to trust the eyewitness, which can be you if you’re actively managing your brand with Google Alerts.
You need to get personal – put a face on your business by presenting your own image; don’t hide behind a logo. This alone minimizes negative comments because people tend to attack companies or institutions, not other people.
When you comment on blogs or forums, you’ll sometimes be asked to sign in with Facebook or Twitter. This procedure uses OpenID to pull in your image, assuming you’ve properly uploaded it to your social media profiles.
Another method is to register an account with Disqus.com, a free service that inserts your image and contact information when you’re commenting and catalogs your comments for future reference.
Build a Social Foundation
You’ve earned your reputation, and one little scratch is not going to bring it tumbling down. However, this only works if you have valid proof on the web. This is one of the many benefits of blogging. Your blog tells your story. Reasonable people, and especially your fans, will weigh this body of knowledge against a solitary comment to draw a reasonable conclusion.
Plus, remember that your blog posts are indexed by Google. If a negative comment should arise, it will be surrounded by favorable content for all to see.
Diffuse and Illuminate
Skillfully addressing negative comments can actually enhance your reputation. It gives you the opportunity to use the situation to reinforce your credibility. Plus, you’ll learn more about how to shape public perception. With a little bit of luck, you can even turn a naysayer into a fan, or at least an interested follower.
You know your business better than anyone else does, and you should use that to diffuse negative comments. Suggest that the commenter doesn’t have a complete understanding of the situation, but never be defensive.
Begin your response by thanking them. Why? They’re giving you the opportunity to address a concern that others may also have. It also works wonders for diffusing any negative energy. Then affirm their perspective. “Mike, (be personal) I can understand how one (be indirect) may come to that conclusion if they are not familiar with ....” Now clarify why someone could come to that unfounded conclusion, and try to provide documented proof. This allows them to save face. The intelligent person will understand and back off.
It can be tempting to prove how much you know or how right you are. However, the one who says less is usually viewed more favorably. Brevity is a form of not needing to defend. When you’re defensive, you’re viewed as an emotional teenager. Avoid this tactic.
Let it Go
Be the first to let it go. Rest your case. Some people love a fight. You’re not there to win a battle, but to address what needs to be addressed so that you can get back to your business. Many negative commenters’ tactics are to bait you into an unnecessary fight, and one that will get indexed by Google for everyone to see.
We’re entering uncharted waters where we’ll be increasingly visible on the web. Do you all that you can do without compromising your values; then, gracefully move on. If you follow the steps outlined here and seek the highest ground, you’ll be fine.
The author is a new media marketer who works with green industry leaders to maximize their web visibility, reputation, and referrals. Tell him what you think at his blog, jeffkorhan.com.
As an owner, do you pay yourself a salary?