Friday, 24 November 2017

Like A Boss: Shining A New Light On Warranty Work

Allen Guenthner, landscape designer and project director

Photo: Exscape Designs

Landscape lighting can be a valuable upsell. But a frequent amount of warranty work led Exscape Designs, headquartered in Novelty, Ohio, to pursue new possibilities when it came to installing path lights. Their solution — incorporating lighting into the surrounding tree canopies and eliminating path lights when possible — not only solves the ongoing warranty issues but can create a unique feel to the space.

Path lights are inherently problematic, says Allen Guenthner, landscape designer and project director for the company. Being so close to ground level, they can get damaged easily. Whether it’s from shoveling snow, falling limbs, mowing, or even just knocking them over when walking, it doesn’t take much to do damage. So, Guenther says this is the first year that they’ve started suggesting other options to replace path lights altogether.

“We’re always looking at ways to hide the light sources to begin with,” he says. “So, we’ve started pitching projects in which we are putting lighting in the canopies of trees and projecting it down onto the path, eliminating the need for path lights. This is beneficial as we have more warranty issues with path lights than any other type of lighting.”

Guenthner says that this is not only a solution to frequent warranty issues but also helps create a “mood” in a way that path lights never could.

“There is a totally different feel to a space that is lighted this way,” Guenthner says. “It’s like the path is awash in moonlight. And as opposed to needing a dozen path lights to light up a path, we might only have three or four fixtures.”

The key, says Guenthner, is the appropriate brightness and positioning of the lighting. When done right, it’s a beautiful look.

“Path lights aren’t necessarily the most attractive option but this is something really beautiful,” he says. “It sets a mood that path lights simply couldn’t achieve.”

Still, Guenthner says not everyone is sold on the idea. For one, it’s more expensive in terms of upfront cost. But Guenthner says that over time, clients are going to reap the benefits of not having to have fixtures frequently replaced.

Of course, the client must also have trees in positions where it can help provide lighting to the path. If they don’t, this could be another reason why this solution won’t work for them.

In terms of selling a job like this, Guenthner says they’ve been most successful by setting up a demo. In other words, rather than trying to explain what a difference tree canopy lighting can make, it’s easier to show clients.

“With a demo, we set it up with the fixtures in the trees so that customers can have the actual feeling of what it was like to have it set up this way rather than path lights,” Guenthner says. “Once they see it, it’s an easier sell.”

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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Make The Effort And You Will Find The Talent

Finding talent

“I was one of Bob’s Boys,” says Michael Hatcher, matter-of-factly. The president of Michael Hatcher & Associates in Olive Branch, Mississippi, is referencing the late Robert “Bob” Callaway, who served as his advisor when he was a student in Mississippi State University’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences more than 35 years ago.

Callaway was one of the educators most influential in defining the skills and mindset of several generations of landscape contractors. Even more than 35 years ago when landscape company owners grappled mightily with their public perception, Hatcher fondly credits Callaway’s “visionary understanding of what the landscape contractor’s profession required.”

That visionary understanding, far from dissipating since Callaway’s tenure at MSU, has expanded exponentially. Not only do most of the nation’s land grant universities offer courses leading to degrees in horticulture, design, contracting and turfgrass, education in those disciplines are now commonly offered at junior colleges and vocational schools, as well.

This brings us back to Callaway who, along with Michigan State’s Roy Mecklenburg and Ohio State’s Ron Smith, is credited with initiating what is now known as the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ National Collegiate Landscape Competition. In 1977 that event, ALCA Field Days, attracted about 200 participants from five schools to MSU.

By contrast, more than 1000 students from 60 schools competed at Brigham Young University in Utah this past March. Today, state and regional industry associations now offer similar student competitions but on a much smaller scale of course.

If you’re looking for energetic young talent for your company, you owe it to yourself to build relationships at universities, junior colleges and vocational schools with active landscape programs. Better yet, sponsor or actively participate in one of their student competitions.

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Thursday, 23 November 2017

A Comprehensive Bushfire Safety Resource for Your Kit Home

kitome - Bushfire Safety Resource

With very dry weather conditions this year, there’s a high chance of a bushfire occurring in rural areas. Are you ready for a bushfire?

You may be preparing to have fun this coming summer, but it’s also important to prepare yourself, your family, and your property for a bushfire. This includes creating a bushfire survival plan, assessing and reducing your bushfire risk, and learning about fire safety. If you live near grassland like on a farm or in a country town, you’ll also need to prepare for a grassfire.

Bushfire forecast in 2017

NSW has been experiencing very dry weather conditions this year, with high temperatures and a lack of significant rainfall. Dryness acts as fuel for a fire and the amount of fire activity in 2017 has doubled compared with 2016. Since July, there has been more than 5,000 fires across NSW. And some of these fires lasted for several weeks.

The most at-risk areas in NSW include forested areas along the coast, some inland areas, and the North-West of the state. As for the rest of Australia, high-risk areas include coastal and inland areas, and central Australia.

With summer almost upon us, you can expect to see more warm and hot days in the following weeks, along with windy weather. This means there’s a high possibility of more fires occurring. Firefighters predict that this upcoming bushfire season will be potentially deadly.

Create a bushfire survival plan

The RFS have many detailed resources on how to create a bushfire plan. There are four steps you should take:

  1. Have a discussion with your family about what to do if there’s a bushfire, eg will you leave early or stay and defend your property?
  2. Prepare your home for a bushfire, eg keep the grass short and have a cleared area around your home.
  3. Know the bushfire alert levels (blue, yellow, and red) and the fire danger ratings (low-moderate to catastrophic).
  4. Keep key information to stay up to date on conditions in your area, eg emergency numbers, websites, and a smartphone app.

Prepare your home

Here’s how you can prepare your home for bushfires:

  • Remove leaves and twigs from your gutters.
  • Install metal gutter guards and a fire sprinkler system.
  • Repair your roof if tiles are damaged or missing.
  • Install fine metal mesh screens on doors and windows.
  • Seal gaps in external walls, under the house, and around doors and windows.
  • Trim the grass, trees, and shrubs.
  • Remove fallen leaves, twigs, and debris from your property.
  • Have a long hose that reaches around your house.
  • Put a Static Water Supply sign on your property entrance if you have a pool, tank, or dam. This way, firefighters know they can get water from your place.
  • Check that your home and contents insurance is adequate and up to date.

Prepare yourself and your family

You and your family should also prepare yourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. A bushfire can be a scary situation. The flames, intense heat, and strong gusty winds can make you tired fast. Thick heavy smoke can choke your lungs and sting your eyes, making it hard for you to see and breathe.

The sound of roaring fire can be frightening. Embers raining down can cause spot fires around you. Your power and water supply may get cut off. You might find yourself alone in a dark, noisy environment that can be mentally and physically demanding.

If you don’t think you can cope, plan to leave early before a fire reaches your area and before you’re under threat. Children, the elderly, the disabled, and those with health problems should also leave early. It’s the safest option.

Assess your bushfire risk

You can assess your bushfire risk using the Bushfire Household Assessment Tool. You can also check if you live on bushfire prone land.

Grass fire dangers

Grasslands cover about 80% of NSW. Grass fires can start easily in pastures, paddocks, crops, and undisturbed natural grasslands. They can also move three times faster than a bushfire, which leaves you little time to get ready.

If you’re not prepared and you live on a farm or in a country town, a grassfire can cut roads and destroy your home, crops, and livelihood.

Prepare your farm and property for grass fires

Due to dry weather there’s an increased risk of grass fires this summer, so it’s important that you prepare your farm and your property for a grassfire.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Make a bushfire survival plan so you and your family know what to do when there’s a grassfire nearby.
  • Keep the grass short by mowing, grazing, or slashing it back.
  • Create firebreaks to prevent fire escaping or entering your property – mow, graze, or plough around crops, valuable assets (livestock, buildings), and fence lines.
  • Maintain your machinery to prevent them from starting fires.
  • Find a place where you can move your animals to safety.
  • Check and maintain equipment you can use to fight a fire such as hoses and pumps. However, do not attempt to control a fire on your own. Always contact your local fire service.
  • Make sure a fire truck can enter your property, eg keep gates and bridges open, and remove obstructions.
  • If you use fire on your property, go to your local Fire Control Centre and find out if you need a permit.

Teaching your family about fire safety

You can learn about fire safety at FireFacts.org. You’ll find information for parents that can help you and your family make your home safer, as well as games, activities, and colouring pages for children that help teach fire safety. With this valuable resource, you can educate your children about the dangers of fire and what to do if there’s a fire near or in your home.

If your family lives in the country, especially on a remote cattle station, you and your children can also learn some bushfire safety tips from Bushy the Bushfire Wallaby. The program is run by the Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland (RFBAQ). Here are some tips:

  • Prepare well before the bushfire season.
  • Make a plan, eg what to do and where to go if there’s a fire.
  • Clean up around the house and the property.
  • Have the firefighter ute ready with water to flow in the event there’s a fire and strong winds start to blow.
  • Have heaps of water out in the paddock, etc.
  • Put in firebreaks.

Protect your home and family from fire

Bushfires and grass fires are dangerous, so don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your property and family for a fire. With careful planning and preparing in advance, your home and family can survive a fire this summer.

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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Story Of A Landscape: Uncommon Plants, Rainwater Harvesting Create Sustainable School Garden

Sometimes, not even being a prize-winner can save a landscape from demolition. Just ask Mark Fockele, owner of Fockele Garden Co., based in Gainsville, Georgia, and the man behind a sustainable garden for the charter school his children attended.

The Smartville Garden at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy earned a Grand Award for a commercial project from $100,000-$500,000 from the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and a similar designation for a commercial project from $75,000-$200,000 from the Georgia Urban Ag Council.

Photo: Fockele Garden Co.

However, when the decision was made to build a new school at the site, the garden became nothing but a memory and photos for Fockele, the volunteers who helped build it, and the children who enjoyed it.

Fockele stresses that it was primarily a volunteer project.

“It wasn’t a company project, although it used a lot of company assistance to get it done,” he says. “The principal asked us to help start a garden on the school property. We started with a little area and a bunch of volunteers and got some interest going, and then we added to it over the years as it went along.”

Photo: Fockele Garden Co.

The garden went in over approximately a five-year period that began nine years ago, and Fockele explains that not only was the Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy looking for a beautiful and inspirational garden, but they wanted something that would serve as a resource designed to fit the school’s curriculum, including a component called “Nature Smart.”

“The garden’s design and installation methods would also correct existing erosion problems,” he says. “Stormwater runoff had caused erosion. The topsoil was gone and the remaining soil supported only weedy grass and a few trees.”

Photo: Fockele Garden Co.

Further adding to the challenge was a lack of designated pathways for foot traffic, which had compacted the soils. An historically severe drought and the local water restrictions that followed brought additional concerns, as did utility lines both above and below the site.

And, summer vacations would leave the garden untended during the peak growing season.

Additionally, the .7-acre site had to support a wide range of uses and many users including students engaged with their teachers in class sessions, school counselors finding a quiet place to work with a child, para-professionals escorting whole grade levels of children from the building to the playground, and parents, staff and visitors crossing to and from the parking lots to the building.

Photo: Fockele Garden Co.

Given so many constraints, site preparation was certainly one challenge with the job.

“Determining the locations and functions of communications cables, electric, gas, water and sewer lines was challenging but essential to the project,” Fockele says. “It was especially important because the rainwater collection and distribution component of the garden depended on tying in to the school building and its utilities. And, since dense plantings were to encompass the entire space, accurate utility location was critical to tree planting, bed preparation and irrigation system installation.”

When a courtyard was added to the project later in the process, the irrigation system grew to include a total of seven various storage tanks — both above and below ground — harvesting rainwater from the school’s roof, and roof and downspout repairs were made during the initial installation.

Photo: Fockele Garden Co.

Not only did pump sizes and locations have to be carefully selected to match water delivery needs, but it also had to be determined how they could best support the landscape, which incorporated swales, primary and secondary basins, a bog, and a green roof on the pump building.

“Through research and expertise, we designed and built a versatile and interesting water collection system that also provided maximum teaching and learning opportunities,” says Fockele.

Photo: Fockele Garden Co.

Grading was complex because the school is bounded by sidewalks and required use of a silt fence. Fifty feet of sidewalk, a metal canopy, and unwanted plants and trees were removed. The Bermuda grass was scraped and composted onsite.

Fockele explains that his staff participated in projects that required technical expertise, as well as providing instruction to the volunteer teams. Necessary garden tools were stored onsite.

Photo: Fockele Garden Co.

Choosing the plant palette for the garden also required expertise. Extensive research was required to identify and source the uncommon plants that integrated with the rainwater infiltration system. Ultimately, the garden incorporated more than 70 different species and more than 1,000 plants were used.

“We used a lot of big, strong, wild plants with textures and good colors — all the things that kids like,” he says. “They like spiky stuff and bright red colors and scent and things that attract butterflies and bumblebees and hummingbirds.”

He notes the Smartville Garden also provided a wildlife habitat with plants for food and nesting, feeders, birdbaths and birdhouses.

Photo: Fockele Garden Co.

It’s the array of unusual plants used in the project that makes Fockele most proud.

“When the season was high, and the garden was full and in-bloom, it was really a beautiful sight,” he says.

However, he adds that closely tied to that is the integration of the plants and the water conservation measures. The largest infiltration pond on the site was approximately 30 foot by 20 foot by 1 foot deep and could hold a great deal of rainwater.

Photo: Fockele Garden Co.

“It was the integration of the right plants with the rainwater infiltration system and good soil preparation,” he says. “There were years when we didn’t have to take even the harvested rainwater, except for new plants.”

It’s that same combination of plants and what the project did with the water that provided Fockele with the most personal education. However, he says he’s always looking for opportunities to include sustainability in his projects and he likes to introduce the idea to customers who are interested in including sustainable features in their home landscapes.

“It’s fun, we enjoy doing it and it makes sense,” he says.

Photo: Fockele Garden Co.

Fockele adds that he was still learning as the project wrapped up, since aside from the soil preparation, the hardest part of the garden was dealing with on-going maintenance.

“We were gradually working toward trying to reduce the need for any repeat maintenance problems,” he says. “By that, I mean the predictable maintenance problems you can see coming from year to year.”

The decision to tear down the school building and the garden along with it was a controversial one.

“We thought it was a shame to lose the landscape,” he says. “The children really enjoyed it, and that is an important part of this story. It was fun to see the kids relate to the garden, and they seemed to learn quite a bit.”

Photo: Fockele Garden Co.

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Making Money With Holiday Lighting

Roofline holiday lights

“The first year or two was kind of a learning curve for us — it just took us a little while to figure out how to make money at it,” says Aaron Wiltshire, president of Oklahoma Landscape in Tulsa. In addition to switching to a leased-light model, Oklahoma Landscape made a few other changes to ensure profitability.

Customers now must sign up for a two-year lease agreement to begin, which provides Oklahoma Landscape with the assurance that its investment in purchasing the lighting materials makes sense. “The first year, we take a little bit of a hit because we have to actually purchase lights for them. But most people stay on the lease system; we don’t have a lot of people dropping off.”

And if and when customers do move out of the area or stop the lease agreement for whatever reason, Oklahoma Landscape owns and stores the lights at its warehouse, so it is able to repurpose them for new customers in future years. “So when we’re selling new projects, a lot of times we’re not having to buy new lights, but rather are repurposing lights from customers who have come off the lease program,” says Wiltshire.

To further protect itself financially and ensure that this is a profitable service, Oklahoma Landscape has established a minimum lease agreement ($1,200 per installation). “That seems to work for us; at one point we had a lot of $200 and $400 and $600 projects, and it was just hard for us to make a profit making so many stops in a day,” explains Wiltshire. “And on every install, you have to come back and take down, so you’re going back to these little jobs to do take-downs. A lot of companies get into this business and think they’ve made their money after the installation, but you actually have to go back and take everything down, too.” Customers are also required to pay upfront because collecting payments for holiday lighting services proved to be a challenge sometimes, says Wiltshire. “We were struggling to get the rest of the payments in; we were into March and April and even May waiting for payments,” he explains. “We just decided one year that it’s too big of a hassle, and it’s too much of a fast and furious time of year to worry about getting paid, or getting paid late.”

Holiday lighting is still a growing part of Oklahoma Landscape’s business. “It’s still a very popular service … people are looking for a hassle-free experience,” says Wiltshire.

Roofline and deck holiday lights

Holiday lighting can be a challenging service to price because there are so many factors to consider: roof pitch, accessibility, height, power location, hanging preference, etc. Missing even one of these factors can decrease job profitability. Photo: A&K Landscape

Alan Marchant, co-owner of A & K Landscaping in Eugene, Oregon, says that holiday lighting can be a very difficult service to price. “There are just so many factors to consider: The pitch of the roof, the material of the roof, the way they have to be hung, accessibility, height, where the power is going to come from, etc.” And you can’t miss one of these factors if you want to price the project in a way that’s profitable, he stresses.

It’s also important that employees are trained in the most efficient way to install and remove the lights. “If you don’t put the lights up the right way, you can really get killed by the labor costs,” says Marchant. “If it takes you too long to put them up or take them down, then you can never make money at it.”

With A & K Landscaping, some customers provide their own lighting, while others purchase them from the landscape company. “I prefer to sell them the materials so I know what I’m going to be working with, which gives me a better idea of what the labor costs are going to be. And they get a higher quality product than if they were to buy just off the shelf because we’re not buying junk from a big box store,” says Marchant, who adds that he personally tries out different lighting materials before ever recommending them to customers.

The customer then owns and stores the lighting materials and has them on hand for installation (hopefully by A & K) the following year. Marchant says that some installation companies like to store the materials for the customer, which helps to ensure repeat business the following year. But Marchant prefers not to do that. The property owner may move, for example. And if they want to use a different vendor, he wants them to have that ability. “We’ve had people do that — they go find someone else to put them up, but then they return to us because it wasn’t the same quality of installation,” he explains. “The products we use are better, and the installation is better. The price may be a little more, but there’s a reason for that.”

Marchant says he would like to continue growing his company’s holiday lighting business; he’s just not sure how much additional demand there would be for the service in that area. “Based on the size of our community and those that are paying for it currently, I’m not sure there’s much more need out there.”

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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

2017 Product Roundup: Design And Business Software

Finer Designs

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Arborgold
Customer/job management software
A customer and job management software for tree, lawn and landscape companies, Arborgold is a full CRM with proposal generator and job scheduling capabilities. Photos and sketches can be added to bids. Keep track of phone messages and appointments with the mobile feature. The software updates everywhere immediately whether edited on a desktop or on a phone.
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Aspire Software
Landscape management system
The Aspire landscape management system puts all of the information in one place: CRM – Estimating – Scheduling – Purchasing – Mobile Time – Invoicing – Accounting. Aspire is cloud-based and designed for mobile, so information like contracts, client requests, scheduled services, purchases and billing is available in real-time. Aspire also synchronizes with Outlook and Google calendars and email.

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Belgard
Design Studio
The Belgard Design Studio can provide a realistic vision of a design with 3-D sketches, screen shots and fl y-through animations. Designs include dimensional data and estimated material lists. There are 60 free design templates including outdoor kitchens, pool decks, driveways and walkways.
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Cambridge Pavers Inc.
Designscape Visualizer 3.0
The Designscape Visualizer 3.0 can help create and save multiple projects to compare before and after images. Photos can be uploaded to create the design and present a visual representation. A variety of Cambridge Pavingstone and Wallstone systems are available. The user can also create a project list of all products used in the design for help in the estimating process.

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CLIP Software
Lawn management software
CLIP has the ability to route, schedule, estimate and job cost all projects. It contains contact management software with each customer’s information and history. CLIP works with Quick Books, cell phones and web-based technology to keep track of crews and to easily update completed field work for rescheduling, billing and revenue tracking.
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DynaSCAPE
Design software
The DynaSCAPE Design software is compatible with Windows10 and helps draw information-rich landscape designs. Choose from more than 9,000 plants from a Horticopia- powered online plant database. There are 1,200 pre-drawn library fi gures that include natural stone, paving stone, mulch, swimming, pools, ponds, water features, outdoor lighting and irrigation.

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Fleetmatics
Mobile workforce solution
Fleetmatics, a Verizon company, is a mobile workforce solution for service-based businesses of all sizes. The fleet management solutions help with managing local fleets and improve the mobile workforce productivity. The web-based service provides fleet operators with vehicle location, fuel usage, speed and mileage.
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Hindsite Software
Field service software
HindSite is a field service software that eliminates waste and improves productivity. Manage every opportunity with the sales CRM. The scheduling is simplified and real-time information to track crews’ progress during the day.

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ICPI
Permeable Design Pro software
Released by the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute, Permeable Design Pro Software for permeable interlocking concrete pavement features design solutions with CAD output. The software helps the user create drawings from hydrologic and structural requirements. Users can evaluate PICP solutions for stormwater management for pedestrian areas, parking lots, alleys and streets.
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LMN
Landscape estimating and timesheet software
LMN Software lets contractors spend less time handling paperwork and more time running a great business. It includes CRM, budgeting, estimating, timesheets, scheduling, GPS, routing and QuickBooks Integration.

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PRO Landscape
Design software
The design software contains photo-realistic imaging, night and holiday lighting, CAD, estimating, 3-D rendering and complete customer proposals. PRO Landscape also offers designers two different landscape design apps to design and bid projects on site with the customer. Cut out tools in the app allow the user to take a picture with the existing landscape.
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Punch Software
Punch! Landscape Design
Punch! Landscape Design has released version 19 which features a new interface with 64-Bit technology and an updated user interface. There are new templates with templates as well as 3-D objects, an expanded plant library and pre-made outdoor features.

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Real Green Systems
Service assistant app
Here’s a business software and marketing tool for managing and growing small businesses. The Service Assistant app is a CRM software that can streamline tasks and improve customer interaction and retention. Customer accounts can be adjusted or enter payments from a smartphone.
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RouteSavvy
Route planning software
RouteSavvy is a web-based, route planning software tool developed by U.S.-based OnTerra Systems. It is designed to help managers of small to mid-sized fleets plan more efficient routes for deliveries, pick-ups, service and sales calls.

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Service Autopilot
Route scheduling software
Scheduling and dispatching crews, whether a single team or a larger business, is easier with Service Autopilot. Build more efficient routes with optimized routing. Do more from the field with the mobile app. Collect customer signatures, take before-and-after pictures and manage with drive time-tracking.
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Unilock
Uvision 3-D Landscape Creator
The Uvision 3-D Landscape Creator helps designers incorporate predrawn Unilock Elements and pillars into a sketch. The paver and wall images have realistic textures and viewers can see water flow in the walk-through videos. Changes in the lighting can be viewed based on the time of day selected. The software now supports high-resolution displays, including 4k monitors and TVs.

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Structure Studios
3D professional hardscaping and landscaping design software
VizTerra is a 3D professional hardscaping and landscaping design software. The intuitive interface and powerful tools make it simple to draw outdoor living projects in 2D and then create a custom, shareable, fully interactive 3D presentation of the design.
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Vectorworks
Landmark software
The Landmark software from Vectorworks features a customizable interface and SmartCursor technology. Users can create 2-D and 3-D concepts and maximize effi ciency with project sharing, which enables designers to streamline document production while multiple users are working on the same fi le.

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Yardbook
Landscaping business software
Keep track of sales, business operations and records with Yardbook. Some features include lead management, estimates, job scheduling, GPS tracking, credit cards and even chemical tracking. Yardbook Profiles are designed to attract customers, showcase best work and manage inbound leads.

 

 

Have a new product? Submit entries using our Product Form for Turf, Turf Design Build and PLOW, a supplement to Turf.

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We Can Become Great Career Resources for Our Schools

Ohio High School Landscape Olympics

Did you know what you were going to do for a career when you were in high school? I didn’t. For me the future was big, empty and, in a sense, scary. My guess is that many high school students feel similarly.

This leads me to ask — are we as an industry doing enough to alert and educate high school students in particular, to the career opportunities in our green industry services industry? That question came to my mind upon receiving from the Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association (ONLA) remaining me of something we have to do more of — engage high school students, male and female, in a positive way to our industry.

ONLA on Nov. 2 hosted 250 students for its second annual Ohio High School Landscape Olympics. The event took place at Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio. The students represented 20 schools. Upon arrival to the small quaint city of Wooster in northeast Ohio they enjoyed a pizza party. Later that same afternoon they competed in 10 industry skill events, reconvening the following morning and spending the whole next day testing their skills against other students and schools. Many organizations and companies sponsored the Ohio High School Landscape Olympics. (Results of the competing and the generous sponsors that made it possible are mentioned at the end of this article.)

Ohio High School Landscape Olympics, plant installation

Plant installation at the Ohio High School Landscape Olympics. Photo: Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association

Of course the granddaddy of student engagement in the industry is the annual National Collegiate Landscape Competition. Put on by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) — formerly known as Student Career Days – it has taken place every March since 1977. Last spring 750 students representing 65 colleges competed for three days in 28 different skill sets at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. This coming year’s event is set for March 14-17, 2018, at Alamance Community College in Graham, North Carolina.

It’s an incredible event, supported by just about every major supplier to the industry, and its Career Fair attracts somewhere between 70-80 companies in a virtual feeding frenzy for eager young talent. But the National Collegiate Landscape Competition, as its name signifies, is not an event for high school students.

But college is not for every high school students, including some of the most ambitious and smart students. The green services industry may be just the thing they are looking for — but never realized it was there for them.

Starting in 2002 and for several years I was one of five advisors to a horticulture program at a vocational school just southwest of Cleveland, Ohio. The school’s primary mission is to prepare 11th and 12th graders from six surrounding schools for careers in culinary, welding, dental and medical assisting, law enforcement, HVAC, cosmetology and, at that time at least, the green industry.

Ohio Hi-Point Career Center Team

Ohio Hi-Point Career Center Team Photo: Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association

Although being asked to be an advisor admittedly, tickled my ego, I don’t want to puff up my role in the program. In truth, no heavy lifting was required of us advisors, and my office at the time was just across the street from the school. I could walk to our advisory meetings in a few minutes. Mostly what we advisors did, meeting every month or two, was to help the program’s advisor build or tweak the instructor’s curriculum and to keep him informed of emerging green industry trends and issues.

As I recall, there were about 12 or 13 students in the horticulture program each of the two seasons of my involvement. We advisors did not interact with them very much them. Looking back at our involvement, that was regrettable. We could have done a much better job of getting to know them individually.

Unexpectedly, my role as an advisor came to an end as the result of two unrelated occurrences — I began working from an office more than 70 miles from the school, and the horticulture instructor that we had been working with left the school for another position.

ONLA’s recent Ohio High School Landscape Olympics is, I believe, a true gauge of the enthusiasm that we can generate among young people in our industry if we increase our outreach and keep coming up with innovative and fun ways to attract positive attention to it. We’ve got a great story to tell and some great things to show young people – things that most high school students have never likely heard or experienced before.

Let’s get to know the programs in our local high schools, become acquainted with their career and academic advisors and let them know we’re available as sources not only for landscaping but also because of our knowledge of small business. We can do our local schools and their students — those truly looking for jobs leading to satisfying careers — a great service.

Here are the results from the recent Ohio High School Landscape Olympics:

2017 Medalists

Sales Presentation​

Gold: Stephen Dunham, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center

Silver: Joe Arms, Knox County Career Center

Bronze: Zac Gordon, Upper Valley Career Center

Irrigation

Gold: Cassie Rine and Hunter Pinyerd, Knox Country

Silver: Ryliegh Myosky and Lucas Crunkilton, Penta Career Center

Bronze: Creighton Bradley and Cody Board, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center

Truck and Trailer Operation

Gold: Konnor Locker and Zac Gordon, Upper Valley Career Center

Silver: Nathan Zimdars and Ben Vucelich, Delaware Area Career Center

Bronze:  Aaron Blaney and Max Zugan, Auburn Career Center

Skid Steer Operation

Gold: Zachary DePew, Knox County Career Center

Silver: Jacob Toflinski, Auburn Career Center

Bronze: Blake Kessler, Marysville High School

Cost Estimation

Gold: Stephen Dunham, Ohio Hi-Point

Silver: Nathan Zimdars, Delaware Area Career Center

Bronze: Tony Dsuban, Talawanda-Butler Tech

Hardscape Installation

Gold: Eric Glaab and Jacob Schulte, Talawanda-Butler Tech

Silver: Libby Boyer and Ben Vucelich, Delaware Area Career Center

Bronze: Nolan VanBrunt and Kobe Heckman, Jackson High School

Compact Excavator Operation

Gold: Hunter Pinyerd, Knox County

Silver: Kobe Heckman, Jackson High School

Bronze: Jacob Schulte, Talawanda-Butler Tech

Landscape Maintenance

Gold: Joe Arms and Lane Browne, Knox County Career Center

Silver: Ben Vucelich and Nathan Zimdars, Delaware Area Career Center

Bronze: Norberto Morales-Botello and Andrew Gandolf, Auburn Career Center 

Landscape Plant Installation

Gold: Nolan VanBrunt, Brooke McDaniel , Kobe Heckman, Jackson High School

Silver: Zac Gordon, Matthew Herron, Brenden Kinnel, Upper Valley Career Center

Bronze: Orion Horn, Ben Brunswick, Damien Masters, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center

Plant ID

Gold: Sierra Ganley, Portage Lakes Career Center

Silver: Madison Morra, Cleveland Botanical Garden

Bronze: Dylan Cozens, Auburn Career Center

Top Ten Individuals

  1. Ben Vucelich, Delaware Area Career Center
  2. Grant Kessler, Marysville High School
  3. Blake Kessler, Marysville High School
  4. Stephen Dunham, Ohio Hi-Point Career Center
  5. Zac Gordon, Upper Valley Career Center
  6. Joe Arms, Knox County Career Center
  7. Kobe Heckman, Jackson High School
  8. Nolan VanBrunt, Jackson High School
  9. Jacob Schulte, Talawanda-Butler Tech
  10. Max Zugan, Auburn Career Center

Top Five Teams

  1. Ohio Hi-Point Career Center
  2. Knox County Career Center
  3. Jackson High School
  4. Auburn Career Center
  5. Talawanda-Butler Tech

Participating Schools

Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus

Auburn Career Center

Buckeye Career Center

Cleveland Botanical Gardens

Delaware Area Career Center

Gates Mills Environmental Center

GlenOak High School

Jackson High School

Knox County Career Center

Mahoning County Career Center

Marysville High School

Ohio Hi-Point Career Center

Patrick Henry High School

Penta Career Center

Portage Lakes Career Center

Talawanda-Butler Tech

Tolles Career & Technical Center

Trumbull Career and Technical Center

Upper Valley Career Center

Wayne County Schools Career Center

The Olympics received support from numerous green industry companies.

2017 Silver Sponsors: Columbus State Community College, Columbus State Landscape Alumni Association

2017 Competition and Bronze Sponsors: Benchmark Landscape Construction, Inc., Bobcat Company, Brian-Kyles Construction, Brightview Landscaping, The Davey Tree Expert Company, EMI – Environmental Management Services, Inc., GreenScapes Landscape Co., Grunder Landscaping Co., Hemlock Landscapes, Inc., Hidden Creek Landscaping, Ohio CAT, Ohio Chapter ISA, The Ohio State University ATI, Ohio Turfgrass Foundation, Peabody Landscape Group, Rice’s Nursery & Landscaping, Inc., Ryan’s Landscaping, Schill Grounds Management, Unilock, Willoway Nurseries, Inc., Wolf Creek Company, and Yard Solutions.

Additional Sponsors: A.M. Leonard Inc., Buckeye Resources, Inc., First Impressions Lawn and Landscape Co., Five Seasons Landscape Management, Inc., M.J. Design Associates, Inc.

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Monday, 20 November 2017

How To Outbid Your Competitors

How to Outbid Your Competitors

To win a contract without low bidding, a landscape contractor needs to appeal to their clients’ emotional needs. Low numbers will always be attractive, so it is up to you to prove to your potential clients that it is in their best interests to invest in solid, innovative and reliable work rather than focus on the price tag.

That’s what Mark Bradley, the CEO of TBG Landscape, has figured out.

Bradley begins by surveying his clients’ houses to gauge their tastes and aesthetics. Then, after assessing the various landscape and design services that may interest the client, Bradley devises a list of options to propose. When it comes time to suggest these services along with addressing the necessary cost factor, however, Bradley holds off on immediately presenting any numbers.

“Rather than saying ‘I’ll come back to you with a price,’ say ‘what I would like to do is take the time to help you with budgeting’,” Bradley explains.

Like Bradley, how can you win a bidding war without even bidding? He shares three tips you can follow.

1. Pick up on your clients’ unspoken needs.

Bradley always begins by examining his clients’ homes because the paint and decor they choose often says more than the clients themselves do. That is exactly why you need to make yourself acutely aware of what type of wall hangings and light fixtures your clients prefer. Knowing your clients’ styles makes you more educated on the type of offerings that would suit your client, and a more detail-oriented, perceptive contractor will almost always beat out a lowball offer. Understanding your clients’ preferences and truly listening to them are the first steps in winning the bidding process without even bidding.

“Creating that uncommon image comes from the questions you ask but also the answers,” Bradley discusses. “You can become the expert very quickly by addressing the things they’ve talked about, showing them you were listening.”

2. Never focus on the numbers.

After you put together your client-centric plan, you have to sell the potential client on this sometimes more expensive proposal. That is why Bradley suggests not actually presenting a client with numbers right off the bat. If a client thinks you only care about the numbers, they will only care about the numbers.

He recommends sitting with clients and debating budgets and numbers, specifically focusing on the client’s expectations. Presenting numbers does not mean giving clients one “take it or leave it” option. You want to show that you are willing to accommodate the potential client.

“When you come back with a budget, always have as many options as possible,” Bradley recommends.

3. Treat every client as an individual.

Accommodating your clients also means not giving them a blanket statement. When you present your clients with a generic statement, it is clear you are only concerned with making the sale, not with what would be best for them. The lowball offers will give them the same recycled statements, so in that case they will just choose the cheapest option.

“I don’t believe we can write one proposal and use the same proposal for every customer we have,” he explains.

All of Bradley’s tips have one thing in common: putting dedication and attention into every proposal. Because, contrary to popular belief, you don’t outbid others with numbers — you outbid them with care and concern for your customers. Listen to them, personalize their proposals and let your past success speak for itself.

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8 Examples Of Inspiring Landscape Lighting

Let It Shine

When enhancing a client’s property – residential or commercial – landscape contractors should factor in features that create outdoor areas that extend the living space, provide an element of safety and highlight their beautiful landscape at all hours of the day. Adding landscape lighting, such as path lights or uplighting, allows clients to extend their hours spent outside and can bring some visibility, comfort and safety to entertainment spaces. We searched our featured project archives to share a selection of unique and complementary landscape lighting examples.

1. Ohio Prize-Winning Backyard Lighting Project

Photo: Suncrest Gardens

“With just about any project, lighting really sets the tone. It’s not just the fixtures, although the path lighting provides character and aesthetic appeal. The result of any good lighting can really set off a landscape at night,” says Ric Haury, owner of Suncrest Gardens based in Ohio.

2. Stunning Minnesota Lakefront Hardscape Project

Lake Minnetonka, Mom's Landscape & Design, Lighting

Photo: Mom’s Landscaping & Design

From a simple request for a pizza oven, this hardscape project changed in scope and took two years to complete. There’s about a 25-foot grade change between the lakefront and the pool terrace level. The main interests were season-long color and texture. Mom’s Landscaping & Design has an ongoing contract to maintain the landscape twice a week.

3. Landscape Renovation Success Due To Customer Relationship

Photo: Hidden Creek

Lighting for this project includes lights on the hardscape as well as throughout the front and back landscapes. “With the lighting, they wanted to make sure that the evenings felt inviting but not glaring. The spa has lighting and a sound system that’s controlled by their phones. Various trees in the backyard are up-lit so you have a sense of depth of the yard in the evening,” says designer Elena Andrews and the crew at Hilliard, Ohio-based Hidden Creek Landscaping, Inc.

4. Waterfall Provides Big Finish For Multi-Year Project

Waterfall night lighting

Photo: Hill’N Dale Landscaping

Both the waterflow and the lighting system are controlled from the house. The job includes an award-winning lighting system incorporating three different styles: downlights, up lights and path lights, plus the underwater lights in the pond. James Godbold from Hill’N Dale Landscaping says the wrong light in the wrong place can make things harder to see and less safe.

5. Enhancing Landscape For Client’s New Home

California

Photo: Summit Services

“The whole pool environment is pretty special. I love the combination of colors and the spa. At night, it really comes to life with the lighting,” says Pete Atkins, designer for Summit Services. The company had approximately 10,000 square feet to work with for this project which includes two shaded outdoor pavilion areas, an outdoor kitchen, pool, spa, fire pit and putting green.

6. Masonry Shines In Backyard Showcase

Patio with fireplace

Photo: Cedarcroft Landscape and Design

This project’s pavilion features a full bar with sink, refrigerators, custom-made cabinets and granite countertops. An enclosed area behind the bar contains the pool equipment and the controls for the low-voltage landscape lighting and sound systems.

7. Gas Lamps Light Up a New Orleans-Style Project

Photo: Peter Kowler/Southview Design

Matt Burton of Minneapolis-based Southview Design says, “This was my first time working with gas light fixtures. It was uncharted waters but after discussing them with my plumber and building inspectors, we know the installation is acceptable in every city we work in, and I’m trying to use more of them.”

8. European, American Elements Highlighted in Renovation

Photo: Mom’s Design Build

For this project, the client requested a pergola over the kitchen both to provide shade and support a ceiling fan and pendant lights. New lights were also installed with the pool upgrade. European style was what inspired this landscape and Becca Bastyr, a designer from the Shakopee, Minnesota-based Mom’s Design Build says, “With the fountain (in the front yard) going and at dusk when the low-voltage lighting is turning on, it’s so charming.”

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