Monday, 11 December 2017

100 Interior Design and Architecture Blogs

So you’ve bought a new house. Or maybe you’re considering one? Or maybe you’re just someone with a penchant for design, architecture, style, and furniture – or maybe not, maybe you’re completely clueless about the whole thing and need an introduction. Either way, we’ve crawled the internet and found 100 interior design and architecture blogs that you should be following, whether you’re in the industry or just curious.

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Friday, 8 December 2017

Like A Boss: Letting Go To Grow

Delegation

Mark Borst, owner of Borst Landscape & Design in Allendale, New Jersey says that in his early years in business it was always a struggle to work on the business — rather than in the business — as the popular adage goes. Today, Borst does some occasional consulting work and says he sees other landscape business owners struggle with the same thing. He says the challenge is to empower your people to do the work and then to trust them that they’ll get it done. But it requires letting go, which isn’t easy to do.

“As the owner, I think you often feel the need to be very involved in the jobs and you feel like you still need to be on site,” Borst says. “Years ago, I would have this feeling as though I was being replaced when I would allow others to do the work without my input. It also felt like a responsibility to be there.”

But ultimately, Borst realized that in order to grow the business, he had to be in the mindset of growing his people. In other words, he had to allow them to be challenged and to excel — without him looking over their shoulder. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

One thing that Borst did, many years back, to start evaluating how he spent his time, was to write down everything he did in a day. He was surprised by just how many tasks he handled that could have been delegated. These included things like listening to the answering machine messages and writing them all down, opening the mail, or doing bank deposits. These were all little tasks, but Borst says they added up.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stuff only to have the day end and wonder What did I actually do today?” Borst says. “Look at your daily functions and figure out what you can delegate to someone else.”

Borst says another good starting point in starting to work on the business more than in it, is to find that one key person in your company that can become your righthand leader.

“Treat that person extremely well,” he adds. “When I grew my company, I had a key person become my righthand man and it was essential to our growth. I would sell and he would do estimates and run production. You must ultimately realize, as a business owner, that you can’t do it all.”

Our Like a Boss series highlights some common business challenges landscape professionals face and how they conquer them. Discuss your biggest business challenges on LawnSite’s Business Management forum.

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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Texas Governor Joins Kubota for Hurricane Relief Donation: This Week’s Industry News

Want to keep up with the latest news in lawn care and landscaping? Check back every Thursday for a quick recap of recent happenings in the green industry.

Texas Governor Joins Kubota for Hurricane Relief Donation
Governor Greg Abbott recently joined officials from Kubota Tractor Corporation, Commissioner John Sharp and local elected leaders in Fulton, Texas, to announce a $1 million dollar donation of funds and equipment from Kubota to the Hurricane Harvey relief effort. This donation will help provide the people of Aransas County and surrounding areas with the equipment and tools they need to help clear debris and expand efforts to rebuild businesses, homes, and entire communities that were devastated by Harvey.

Ariens Partners with Green Packers on Fun Titletown Hill
Ariens, headquartered in Brillion, Wisconsin, entered into a partnership with the Green Bay Packers to sponsor the new hill in Titletown, adjacent to Lambeau Field. Ariens Hill will be a tubing hill in the colder months and, in the warmer months, the hill’s sloped green space will provide a unique area for visitors and community members to relax and enjoy park activities and programs.

Jeffrey Scott Announces CEO/COO Partnerships Workshop
Industry consultant Jeffrey Scott is hosting a special Chicago workshop January 10. The workshop, entitled “Effective CEO/COO Partnership: The Power of Collaborative Leadership, will feature five guest speakers who run $5 to $50-plus million companies, including: Frank Mariani and his COO, Paul Fraynd and his GM, Chris Imlach. “Bring your ‘number twos’ to this event, and together you will learn what each needs from the other in order to foster massive business growth.

Vectorworks Cloud Services Earns Prestigious Award
Vectorworks Cloud Services was recently named winner of the Cloud Based Technology of the Year 2017 award for the Construction Computing Awards. Vectorworks Architect software, which helps connect the entire design process from concept to construction in one platform, was also named runner up for the Architectural Design Software of 2017 award. Improved Cloud Services were released in  Vectorworks 2018 software this past September. It allows designers to easily share designs, drawings, and 3D models with clients and partners by using Google Drive, in addition to Dropbox. Designers can now render a 360-degree view of a 3D model with the panorama feature, and then export the file to cloud storage, receiving a link to view the rendered panorama on a laptop, desktop, or any mobile device.

Scag and FUSO Announce New Presidents
John L. Crowson is retiring as president of Scag Power Equipment effective January 1, 2018. Crowson joined Scag in 1992 and has served as its president since 2008. Chris Frame, a 20-year veteran of the company, and most recently as vice president and general manager will succeed Crowson as president. Scag Power Equipment is a division of Metalcraft, one of the largest independent manufacturers of commercial lawn mowing equipment in the United States.

Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America, Inc. (FUSO) promoted Justin Palmer to the position of president and CEO, effective November 30, 2017. He replaces Jecka Glasman, who is leaving FUSO to return to Israel, her home country, for family reasons. Palmer has spent the last two years at FUSO as its business operations director. Palmer joined FUSO in 2015.

NALP IGI Survey Sheds Light on Why Americans Hire Landscape Pros
Forty percent of Americans with a lawn or landscape hired a professional in the last year, according to an online survey commissioned by the National Association of Landscape Professional’s Industry Growth Initiative and conducted by Harris Poll earlier this fall. NALP’s Industry Growth Initiative commissioned the survey as a benchmark to track consumers’ purchasing habits when it comes to lawn and landscape services. The top services used among Americans who have hired a lawn/landscaping professional in the past 12 months include tree care (51 percent), mowing (50 percent), lawn pest control (46 percent), and weed prevention and control (42 percent).

For those who have hired professional help, 52 percent did so to help their lawn/landscape look better, while 41 percent wanted to save time and 30 percent wanted to enjoy their yard more. Sixty-two percent of those who didn’t hire a lawn/landscape professional in the past 12 months say the costs is too high, while nearly half (49 percent) say they enjoy caring for their lawn themselves and 43 percent believe their yard is fine as is, according to the survey.

Introducing Yellowmark, a Caterpillar Brand
Caterpillar announces plans to introduce a new tier of repair and replacement parts to support the small- and medium-sized equipment under its Construction Industries umbrella. Yellowmark parts will offer an alternative for customers looking for reliable, value-priced parts, available from their local Cat dealer. Yellowmark parts will encompass and expand on Cat Classic Parts line. As part of the new Yellowmark brand, new offerings will be added over time to the Classic line to ensure a full range of parts for BCP and GCI equipment. These new parts offerings will be introduced throughout 2018 and will initially include repair and replacement parts. Future new parts introductions will also include maintenance and wear parts.

NALP Announces 2018 Regional Education
The National Association of Landscape Professionals announced its 2018 Regional Education line-up, including new courses designed with input from NALP’s Education Advisory Council, to help companies with staff development in key positions. The education courses are approved for Landscape Industry Certified recertification at 1 CEU per hour of instruction attended.

National Geographic explorer and Titanic discoverer to keynote GIE+EXPO 2018
Bob Ballard, an oceanographer and former U.S. Navy officer, used the search for the Titanic to secretly hunt for sunken nuclear submarines in the Atlantic Ocean (and then found both) during the Cold War. Since that discovery, he has gone on to lead more than 150 deep sea expeditions and develop the technology that has made them possible. He will share his stories of exploration, environmental discovery and leadership during a keynote address at the 2018 GIE+EXPO.

Husqvarna Group breaks ground on new warehouse facility in Nashville, Arkansas
Husqvarna Group, a global manufacturer of outdoor power equipment, is expanding its operations in Nashville, Arkansas, with the construction of a new 350,300-square-foot distribution center and materials warehouse facility. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility was held November 8, and the new facility is projected to be fully operational by the end of 2018. The facility will serve primarily as warehouse, staging, and storage, and will be located adjacent to the current manufacturing facilities in Nashville, where chain saws, trimmers, blowers, pole saws, and hedge trimmers are made for the Husqvarna, Poulan Pro, Jonsered, McCulloch, and Weed Eater brands.

NHLA Announces “Green Collared” Campaign
The green industry includes a wide range of blue and white collared jobs, but what unites us as a profession is a passion for the outdoors and an ability to transform sites into more beautiful, highly functional, and healthier environments for our customers and the communities we serve. Regardless of our specific functions or job titles, we are all green collared and now the NHLA is providing a way to proclaim pride in being Green Collared; a bumper sticker that you can purchase and display. The NHLA launched a campaign to encourage landscape professionals to proclaim their pride in being “Green Collared.” All proceeds will go toward scholarships for students who plan to become a landscape professional.

Polaris to Celebrate One-Million RANGER Vehicles
This fall, Polaris rolled its one-millionth RANGER utility side-by-side vehicle off the assembly line in its Huntsville, Alabama  manufacturing facility. To commemorate this significant milestone, Polaris is kicking-off the search for “RANGER Country USA” with country music star Jake Owen. The national campaign is designed to celebrate the communities that have helped it reach one-million vehicles built over nearly two decades and become the best-selling utility side-by-side for nine years running.

Propane Council Donates $5,000 to Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade County
The Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation, & Open Spaces Department became the first recipient today of the Green Leadership City Award, given by the Propane Education & Research Council, a Washington D.C.-based national nonprofit organization. As part of the award designation, PERC donated $5,000 to the Parks Foundation of Miami-Dade. The donation was announced at a celebration event held at Southridge Park.

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What’s In My Truck: Brittany Whalen, Rock Water Farm

Rock Water Farm

Landscape designer Brittany Whalen of Rock Water Farm, a full-service landscape company based in Aldie, Virginia, says that as much as she loves her Chevrolet Cruze for zipping around the Northern Virginia area, she really could use a pickup truck. “As many times as I’ve tried to stack plants in my car, I have yet to figure out how to fit a tree in,” Whalen jokes, adding that she hopes her boss reads this. But in all seriousness, Whalen says her vehicle helps her get through the day — most of which is typically spent in the car going from client to client. We recently caught up with Whalen to find out exactly what she keeps in her vehicle and why.

During the busy season, I may be in the car as much as eight hours a day. I spend a lot of my time driving around from client to client. My car is basically my office when we’re busy.

I don’t have kids but I carry a diaper bag. It’s the only bag I could find that was big enough to carry everything I need — and I love all the pockets. You don’t get that in a regular bag. I can even fit my purse in there. I just load it up and hit the road for the day.

My music keeps me going, but it changes depending on my mood. If I’m about to go into a presentation I like to listen to 90s hip-hop. It amps me up and gets me ready to go. If I just lost a job, I listen to reggae because that makes me feel better.

My car is decked out with Rock Water Farm info. We service the Northern Virginia area, which is huge, but we’re in a pretty specific area. People will recognize the car and wave and say hello all the time. We’ve also received a lot of business just from the car. Someone will stop me at a convenience store and ask if we do pools or patios — it’s a great way to pick up leads.

Driving a branded vehicle is also pretty intimidating. I have to admit, I’m not a bad driver, but our phone number is plastered on the car, and I’ve had two people call about my driving.

The finishing touch on my car is my Virginia Tech personalized license plate that my boss got me. It says VT Designer, since I graduated from Virginia Tech.

The Essentials

Sunglasses — I don’t have a specific brand, they just must be less than $20 because I lose them on jobsites all the time.

Diet Coke — That’s my version of coffee in the morning; it’s my jolt of caffeine.

Water — After lunchtime I switch to water or else I won’t sleep.

Tape measure and marking paint — I can’t go anywhere without them.

Raincoat and rain boots — I’m outside even when the 16 weather is bad.

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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Story Of A Landscape: Hardscape Palette Sets Southwest Tone For New England Property

Occasionally, landscape companies get strange requests. Case in point: the Pasqualonis, who wanted their backyard in South Windsor Connecticut to look like a little slice… of Texas.

Fortunately, they knew exactly who to turn to. Besides being right up the road from the offices of Bahler Brothers, Inc., project designer Ryan King says they knew the company’s reputation for doing high-quality work on big projects.

As for the Texas motif, King says the family really loved its home in Texas, from the way it was laid out to the landscaping.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

“They wanted to replicate a similar style landscape up here,” he says. “When they walked outside, they wanted to feel as if they were at their home in Texas. As much as possible, they wanted the whole design to replicate their home there.”

Although King says they weren’t willing to send him to Texas for a site inspection, they did provide him with myriad photos, as well as some sketches and online photos of different elements they wanted incorporated in their New England design.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

As for the site itself, King describes it as “not too big,” although it is large enough to support a 40-foot linear rectangular pool with a raised spa in the deep end and a spillway, a fire pit, outdoor kitchen and bocce court contained in slightly more than 3,000 square feet of pavers. Still, he says privacy was an issue.

“They had neighbors pretty close by,” he says. “We had to take privacy into consideration. We needed to disguise it, so they weren’t in the neighbors’ backyard, too, because the houses aren’t that far from each other.”

The actual pool installation was handled by Aqua Pool and Patio of East Windsor, Connecticut, which Bahler Brothers uses as a sub for all its gunite pools, King says. A second story deck which became the covering from the outdoor kitchen and dining area was also subcontracted out.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

“There’s a walk-out basement that’s finished,” King explains. “They walk out into a pretty large kitchen. There’s a 15-foot bar where people can sit, or you can set things up buffet style. Then, the actual kitchen area is separate for the cooking. There’s a lot of room for entertaining large parties.

The covered area also has additional space for a table or lounge chairs.

Surrounding the pool is a concrete paver patio, done in Techo-Bloc’s Travertina, with accents of another Techo-Bloc product called Borealis, which replicates the look of a hardwood floor.

“The Travertina has more of a tropical or southern feel to it, to match the Texas feel they were looking for,” says King. “It’s not the bluestone or slate paver you’d typically see in New England.”

Besides providing accents around the pool, the two pavers share space in the covered outdoor kitchen, and the Borealis is featured heavily in the project’s firepit area. The designer says the clients chose the pavers from the Bahler Brothers’ showroom.

The firepit is King’s favorite part of the project and the element of which he is most proud, and it’s certainly not a run-of-the-mill installation.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

“It’s a pretty intricate design,” he says. “Rather than just a standard seating wall, they wanted a seating wall/bench around the outside of it. It’s a stone structure but it has a back they can lean against. There’s a lot of craftsmanship in it.”

Made of concrete block and a Techo-Bloc wall product called Brandon, it offers similar color tones to the Travertina and Borealis. King also estimates it can seat as many as 20 people.

“It was a challenge coming up with the design, and it’s a definite focal point,” he says. “And, being a circular space, the crew had to pay attention to detail to make it a perfect circle because when you’re sitting on the second-story deck you can see how it all lays out.”

Completing the hardscape is a bocce court that runs parallel to the pool and utilizes the Borealis product for the sidewalls.

“Whether people are playing bocce, swimming in the pool, sitting by the fire or around the outdoor kitchen, all the spaces are within close proximity to each other,” he says.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

Lighting for the project was designed to highlight specific plants, as well as featuring path lights around the pool, and under-cap lighting in the walls, including the firepit seating wall and the bar. Both the lights and the spa are controlled through the clients’ phone.

Landscaping on the lot was done in phases. King explains that the clients had another landscape company do annual maintenance for them, and that company had put in an Arborvitae hedge between the neighboring property and the backyard for privacy.

“We did the landscaping around the pool inside the (wrought-iron) fence,” he says. “That was all ornamental plants that bloom from late spring into early fall. Our main goal was to use plants that would be blooming during the summer months when the family is using the pool.”

To further enhance the Southwest feel, the open areas inside the fence were done in decorative stone, rather than mulch. The landscape isn’t irrigated, and the pool equipment is installed off the far end of the pool patio and screened with plantings.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

The designer says the project – excluding the pool and deck – took about eight weeks utilizing an average crew of four. It was recognized in October at Hardscape North America as the winner in the Concrete Paver – Residential – More than 3,000 sf category.

King describes the property’s drainage as the biggest challenge to the job, and rather critical because of the extensive use of hardscape.

“We needed to make sure — since the lot is flat — that we pitched the water in the appropriate places,” King says. “We needed to get it away from the house and away from the pool. We incorporated some area drains throughout the patio and along one side of the pool with the larger seating area, we utilized stepping stones to provide more drainage.”

And, for him, it proved to be a learning experience, as well.

“It’s a matter of coordination with the different subcontractors,” he says. “That can really make projects go smoothly and stay on schedule. This had a whole handful of contractors, including the pool company, the carpenter for the deck, gas and electric, and when everything is in line and organized, things go smoothly with minimal headaches.”

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Why You Should Monitor Your Fleet

Fleet Management Essentials

Imagine getting a call telling you that one of the trucks in your fleet hit a car in the parking lot. There is no video evidence — just the accuser’s word against your employee’s word. This claim, whether true or not, could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

This is a frightening, yet not uncommon, scenario for landscape businesses across the country. Your employees are not just responsible for producing high quality work, they are also responsible for safely operating company vehicles, and losing money is just one of the big consequences to your business if they are not careful.

That is why many companies have turned to, or considered, more heavily monitoring their fleets. Not monitoring your fleet, whether through software or through another avenue, can affect your employees’ safety, your team’s productivity and company’s costs.

Ben Hatch, product marketing manager of Fleetmatics, a provider of fleet management solutions, provides the top four issues that result from not properly managing your fleet.

#1. Decreased productivity

You most likely trust your crews to go where they need to go when they need to go there. You also trust them to do so efficiently. Unfortunately, that may not always happen, and blind faith can hinder your productivity. Putting trust into your employees is important, but customer satisfaction is even more important.

As Hatch explains, when you keep an eye on your fleet you can ensure they are doing their jobs in the quickest and most professional way possible. For instance, you can make sure drivers are taking the smartest routes to make every appointment possible in the day.

“You can’t manage what you can’t see,” Hatch says.

#2. Increased operating costs

Just as you can’t manage what you can’t see, you can’t protect your vehicles if you can’t prove where they are at all times.

Hatch tells the story of a landscape contractor who experienced the theft of a vehicle and its belongings. Including the equipment, that company could have experienced a $20,000 loss. Since they had employed fleet management software in all of their vehicles, however, authorities were able to locate the truck and equipment.

#3. Diminished customer service

When you are in landscaping, your customer service makes or breaks your business.

Just as you cannot prove if one of your trucks didn’t hit the car in the parking lot, how will you prove your crew has a legitimate reason for being late to a maintenance job without proof from monitoring? Being able to keep an eye on your crews when they are out not only holds your employees accountable, but it improves your customer service. It ensures your employees are making their appointments and allows you to answer to your customers when there is an issue.

#4. Inflated fuel costs

Taking the most efficient routes possible and the least amount of unnecessary pit stops can have positive effects on your productivity. While these stops and longer routes may not seem like much of a problem, the more gas your team uses every day, the costlier it becomes — and quickly.

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6 Franchising Misconceptions Debunked

U.S. Lawns

Franchising is big business in America. The International Franchise Association (IFA) estimates 745,000 franchise establishments in 2017 generating a payroll of $270 billion and an economic output of $711 billion. Franchises provide jobs to 7.9 million people.

One reason for franchising’s popularity is its favorable perception by the public. When polled by the IFA, 76 percent of all voters responded they had a “positive view of neighborhood family-owned franchise businesses,” which they felt were “more likely” to support their local communities. The IFA says the franchise industry has been growing 1.7 to 1.8 percent each of the last several years.

Turf recently contacted Brandon Moxam, vice president of U.S. Lawns, to discuss six of the top misconceptions associated with buying and operating a franchise. U.S. Lawns, founded in 1986 and now numbering more than 250 locations, is the nation’s largest grounds management franchise serving commercial clients.

Myth No. 1: You relinquish ownership of your company.

“There’s the thought that if I join a franchise, I no longer own my business. We often hear that from candidates. That’s false. The franchisee owns their business 100 percent through and through. When you are awarded the opportunity to become a franchise you are operating under an agreement that grants you the right to go to market as that franchise, in our case U.S. Lawns,” Moxam says.

“Additionally, that individual will be obligated to offer some specific services and they may also be required to avoid certain services based on the specific core business of the franchise. This is done to ensure consistency across the board from location to location on the services being offered.

“But that person still has complete ownership of their business and still has complete autonomy over all the decisions that need to be made within the company including hiring and managing employees, determining what prices they want to charge customers and so on.”

Myth No. 2: All you get is a name and a brand, and that’s about it.

“While being part of a well-recognized brand certainly has its benefits, lending credibility in a local market, the branding is just one benefit of joining a franchise like U.S. Lawns. We’re considered a business-format franchise. This means that we provide our franchisees with the operating procedures, business systems, training materials and tools to run a successful grounds care company focusing on larger commercial accounts,” Moxam continues.

“A landscape business owner faces many challenges every day, things like how to hire and retain employees, bidding work correctly, managing cash flow and implementing the best way to build infrastructure within their company so that their business is not solely dependent upon them. These are all things a franchise like U.S. Lawns can help them with.”

Myth No. 3: As a franchisee, you can’t go wrong.

“There is this myth among some people that if they join a franchise their business is automatically going to grow. Or, worse, they believe that the franchisor is responsible for selling work for them,” Moxam says.

“A franchisor like U.S. Lawns can certainly provide marketing and sales support; and we do offer robust marketing programs that help our franchisees generate leads within their territories, everything from SEO to digital advertising packages to email campaigns and postcards, for example.

“We also have an inside sales bullpen that sets appointments for our franchisees with commercial decision-makers that are interested in the services we offer. Knowing who to contact and who to market to and who to sell to is really half the battle. But there is rarely an easy button a franchisee can hit to achieve financial growth. It’s still ultimately up to them to grow their businesses.”

Myth No. 4: The franchise makes your equipment choices.

“Certain franchises operate this way, but not all. We all know how emotionally charged people in this industry can be about the color of their equipment,” Moxam says. “U.S Lawns has a fantastic, robust purchasing program that provides our franchisees with discounts and preferred pricing for equipment, supplies and even for business services like insurance. Our franchisees have access to what’s essentially a national buying program.

“Also, as a small business owner, do you really want to be spending your time researching and pricing equipment and materials? Or would you rather spend your time going out and generating more business? Our franchisees are not required to use our purchasing program although all of them do.”

Myth No. 5: Once you’re up and running, you’re on your own.

“It can be a lonely world out there for a small business owner because they don’t have other small business owners to share their experiences and concerns with, other people that truly understand what it’s like to own and run a business like theirs,” Moxam says. “In a franchise like U.S. Lawns, your fellow franchisees aren’t competitors. They operate the same systems and approach business the same way that you are.

“I would describe the culture of U.S. Lawns as a culture of competitive camaraderie. Every owner has goals they’re trying to achieve, and our owners are constantly challenging each other to achieve their goals. The camaraderie piece is the support piece, the way the franchisees educate and try to help each other, share best practices and the things that have worked for them and things that haven’t. It’s what we call the power of the network here at U.S. Lawns.”

Myth No. 6: You’ll be working just as hard.

“Early on, when you make the conversion to a franchise, you will be working just as hard because there is a learning curve and you’re educating yourself on a new way of thinking,” Moxam advises. “You’re implementing new systems and processes. But coming out of that transition period it’s a much different story. You will be working smarter because you’re developing a business that is not solely dependent upon you for every aspect of its operation.

“You have implemented infrastructure and systems within your business that now allows you, as the owner, to focus on things that really count like strategic planning, and getting your arms around your customers and your employees.”

This content is sponsored by U.S. Lawns. Sponsored content is authorized by the client and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Turf and LawnSite editorial team.

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