Due diligence

Take the time to research and care for your fall equipment.

Your mowers are probably your most heavily used equipment, but coming up a tight second are your aerators, dethatchers, and seeders. Making the right purchase and keeping each piece in top condition will not only keep business humming along smoothly, but can be vital to growth. Brandon Harris, sales and marketing leader of Tee Time Lawn Care in Plainfield, Illinois, experienced this in the fall of 2014.

“We had grown by 2,000 customers that year, which was great, (but) we were also falling way behind in aerations and seedlings,” Harris says. “We got our CEO at that time to purchase two new Ryan ride-on aerators and we ended up getting all of our work done, and selling another 500 aerations that season,” Harris recalls.

Get off to the right start.

Making the right purchase isn’t always a time for bargain hunting. Spending a bit more up front is often more cost-efficient in the long run.

Brad LaBree, warehouse manager of Virginia Green Lawn Care in Richmond, Virginia, says he likes to stick with a brand he trusts, and then looks for the lowest price.

“We own 57 Classen spilt aerators, and 32 Classen single drive aerators. We also own three Lawn Solution ride-on aerators,” LaBree says.

Combined with diligent care and maintenance, that approach has worked well for the company. “After 12 years, (we’re) still using the same aeration equipment that we started with. I have not had to replace a small engine on anything that we are using.”

Harris says another important factor at purchase time is insurance.

“I look for long-term quality and equipment with warranties,” he says. “Ensuring your equipment is covered and produces top of the line work is what you need, and if takes a little more financially up front, it does pay off in the long run.”

It's important to consider the type of clients you’ll be servicing. Do you need your machines to maneuver tight corners and places or do you mainly work in open fields? Finally, look into ease of routine maintenance, such as oil changes or chain replacements, and availability of parts.

Keeping things running.

Keeping up with routine care and maintenance can improve daily operations and reduce lost profits due to a down machine.

“Nothing will last forever, it all depends on what kind of maintenance you do to that machine,” LaBree says. “I change the oil, spark plug, the air filter and tines plus inspect everything that moves on the equipment. I’ve also showed the technicians how to adjust the chains and keep them lubed. A dry chain can wear faster than an oiled chain.”

The best way to make sure preventive maintenance is performed is to establish a system that works for your crews – one that both allocates time for the repair and documents when the work is done. Harris says that all technicians at Tee Time Lawn Care are taught to clean and care for equipment daily, and record their work on a check-in sheet that goes to their staff mechanic.

Creating a routine for annual maintenance can also promote longevity.

“Our team literally breaks down anything without a warranty (at the end of the season) and rebuilds it with our on-staff mechanic,” Harris says. “We send (anything under warranty) to the proper care professionals for care.”

Take time for safe storage.

Between getting your clients ready for winter and putting your machines away properly, the end of the season is a busy time. But, paying extra attention to your equipment at the end of the season will get you up and running faster once when spring arrives.

Take time to thoroughly inspect and clean each machine for any damage before putting it into storage. Drain or treat any fuel remaining in the tanks.

LaBree had trouble with gas left in a tank over the winter one year. “The machines sat for three-fourths of the year so the gas would go bad and had to pull the carburetor off and clean it out,” he says. “Then I started using an additive, and that helps dramatically.”

LaBree ends every season by maintaining the oil, air filters and spark plugs to keep the engine running smoothly, and also adds an additive to the gas to prevent possible damage from ethanol in the gas.

Finally, let your equipment dry out completely before storing it in a place where it will be protected from the elements.

Your equipment is what keeps your business running, and with the right purchases followed by diligent upkeep, every investment you make will be money well spent.

The author is a freelance writer based in Massachusetts.

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