Thursday, 20 July 2017

Industry Consultant Survives Attack, Vows To Turn ‘Nightmare Into A Celebration Of Life’

Judy Guido

“I have been overwhelmed by the outcome of love and support of my friends,” said Judith Guido, in an email sent after surviving an attack by a member of a landscaping crew she had hired to work on her property.

Guido, chairperson of Guido & Associates and longtime industry consultant, was attacked July 5 outside her Moorpark, California, home by Abel de Jesus Monroy, 27. Monroy has since been arrested for attempted murder, attempted arson, residential burglary and animal cruelty, according to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office.

“I just got out off of ICU. I was attacked and beaten near death by a deranged landscaper,” Guido said in the July 11 email. “Thankfully God has longer term plans for me.

Abel de Jesus Monroy, 27, arrested

Suspect held on $1 million bail. Photo: Ventura County Sheriff’s Office

“What has been a part of my life for so long and has made me so happy suddenly frightened me and paralyzed me with fear. I refuse to give in to fear and the madman who tried to kill me.”

Guido was hit in the head with a pickaxe and found by Ventura County firefighters in the middle of the street, bleeding from the head, Ventura County Sheriff Sgt. Mike McConville told the Ventura County Star. It appears that Monroy had a mental breakdown when he began chasing his co-worker with the pickaxe. Guido came into the yard to see what was going on, the newspaper reported, and Monroy turned his attention toward her.

Monroy reportedly killed Guido’s dog when it started barking, then turned back to her as Guido ran down the side of the house to the front of the home. At that point, Monroy went into the house and tried to set it on fire by turning on the stove burners, McConville told the newspaper. Fortunately, firefighters arrived and shut them off before any damage was done to the house.

Monroy was contacted by authorities in front of Guido’s home a few minutes later as firefighters attended to her wounds, the police report states.

“I am turning a nightmare into to a celebration of life, and will make our front yard the most healing, therapeutic, healthy and living garden you’ve even seen,” Guido said last week. “A place where people will sit and feel healthy, happy, rejuvenated and safe.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with Guido as she recovers.

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Industry Needs Permanent Fixes to H-2B Visa Program

Capital Hill

It was fitting and perhaps ironic that the Department of Homeland Security announced the availability of 15,000 additional H-2B visas for 2017 on July 17. That was the day that green industry professionals were reviewing the issues they were preparing to discuss with their legislators the very next day on Capitol Hill.

The H-2B visa program for seasonal, nonimmigrant, nonagricultural workers was top of mind for the small business owners participating in the annual Day On The Hill organized by the National Association of Landscape Professionals.

These landscapers, lawn care pros and their supporters had spent that very morning in the heat and humidity beautifying Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Cemetery. They were volunteers in NALP’s annual Renewal and Remembrance day of service. Many of the cemetery volunteers stay an extra day in Washington, D.C., to participate in NALP’s Day On The Hill.

Read more: Volunteers Give ‘And Then Some’ at Renewal And Remembrance 2017

Day on the Hill goals

The goal of the Day on the Hill legislative outreach is twofold:

  1. To educate and seek the support of lawmakers on specific issues critical to the health of the green industry;
  2. To establish ongoing relationships with lawmakers or, more typically, with their staff members whose role it is to keep lawmakers up to date (perhaps even influence them) on various issues.

Both goals are vitally important because legislators are always considering laws and rules that impact the green industry. These include labor (H-2B most notably), plant health products (fertilizers and pest controls), equipment (safety, emissions, etc.) and water quality, availability and use.

In light of DHS’s decision to make 15,000 more H-2B visas available to American employers for FIY 2017, let’s dive deeper into that issue and save the others — in particular pesticides and water — for future coverage. The recent DHS decision is both encouraging and discouraging.

It’s encouraging because it suggests that ongoing efforts by small business interests seeking expansion of the number of seasonal visas from the congressionally mandated 66,000 did result in some relief. The H-2B Workforce Coalition, comprised of a large number of industries that rely on seasonal employees to provide their services and led by NALP, campaigned long and hard this past winter and spring seeking passage of the so-called returning worker exemption, which would allow the issuance of work visas — beyond the mandated 66,000 — to seasonal employees who had worked under the program the previous three years.

Finally, success — kinda

The efforts by the coalition seemed to bear some fruit this past May when a bipartisan deal to fund the federal government through the end of September resulted in legislation with language to allow the Secretary of Homeland Security in consultation with the Secretary of Labor to raise the cap from 66,000 to 129,547.

To this point, that hasn’t happened, however. Instead employers are being offered just 15,000 visas, and with the caveat that petitioners must attest, under penalty of perjury, that their business is likely to suffer irreparable harm if it cannot employ H-2B nonimmigrant workers during fiscal year 2017.

While landscape and lawn servicers are busy well into autumn, it’s not clear how much relief the availability of this relatively small number of additional H-2B workers will help short-handed companies. But more disappointing is the prospect that the H-2B visa program may remain as politicized and uncertain in FY 2018 as it was this past year.

Permanent fix needed

Laurie Flanagan, speaking to landscapers and lawn care pros the afternoon before the Day On The Hill, explained why a fix to the H-2B program — including the adoption of a permanent returning worker exemption — is vital to the health not only to the green industry, its largest user, but also dozens of other seasonal businesses as well.

Most obviously, not knowing just how many workers a company will have the coming season makes budgeting incredibly difficult. Business owners who rely on H-2B can’t accurately estimate their labor costs, and they’re also in the dark about how much they can sell and service and the amount of new equipment, trucks and products they will need.

And this uncertainty is coming at a time when unemployment is low (4.3 percent as of May 1, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) and the green industry services industry is growing at a 3 percent clip — faster than the national growth average.

Flanagan pointed out that Congress implemented the H-2B visa program at a time (1991) when the landscape and many other seasonal industries were much smaller than they are today. Indeed, the economy as a whole was much smaller. The U.S. GDP in 1991 was $9.02 trillion, whereas in 2017 it’s estimated at $16.81 trillion. The services sector has been one of the main drivers of this expansion.

Flanagan reminded the Day On The Hill participants to share with lawmakers the importance of the H-2B workers in growing their companies and, as a result, offering more and better job opportunities to U.S. citizens.

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DHS Increases Number of H-2B Visas by 15,000: This Week’s Industry News

Visa

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.

DHS Increases Number of H-2B Visas by 15,000
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on July 17 that it will be increasing the number of H-2B visas by 15,000. To qualify for the additional visas, petitioners must attest, under penalty of perjury, that their business is likely to suffer irreparable harm if it cannot employ H-2B nonimmigrant workers during fiscal year 2017. “Congress gave me the discretionary authority to provide temporary relief to American businesses in danger of suffering irreparable harm due to a lack of available temporary workers,” announced Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. “As a demonstration of the administration’s commitment to supporting American businesses, DHS is providing this one-time increase to the congressionally set annual cap.”

A-LIST Releases Environmentally Friendly Lawn Grass List
Want to provide your clients with turfgrass better able to withstand a variety of stresses? Check out the new list of perennial ryegrasses and fine fescues approved by The Alliance for Low Input Sustainable Turf (A-LIST). The A-LIST is an independent, non-profit industry initiative fostering the development of turfgrass varieties that meet metrics like water conservation, reduced fertility, heat and drought stress tolerances, all with no fungicide or insecticide applications. Nationally recognized cooperators selected on a regional basis test the turfgrass to include environmental adaptability.

Monsanto Fights California’s Listing of Glyphosate as Cancer Causer
On July 7 glyphosate, an herbicide and the active ingredient in Monsanto Company’s popular Roundup weed killer, was added to California’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer by the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. California voters approved Proposition 65, a ballot initiative in 1986. Monsanto vowed to continue its legal fight against the designation, and called the decision “unwarranted on the basis of science and the law,” and has vowed to continue its legal fight against the designation.

Ditch Witch, Grasshopper Showcased as Made in America
Ditch Witch represented Oklahoma at the Made in America Product Showcase celebrating American-made products hosted at the White House on Monday, July 17. A Ditch Witch JT20 horizontal directional drill was on display at the event. Thanks to suggestions from Kansas’ Governor Sam Brownback and members of Congress, a Grasshopper 727 EFI FrontMount mower represented Kansas at the same event.

Arborjet Expands Organic Solutions with Eco-1 Garden Spray
Arborjet Inc. has announced the expansion of its organic plant solutions line with its new Eco-1 Garden Spray for protection against insects, mites and diseases. Eco-1 Garden Spray made its debut at Cultivate’17 this week. Eco-1 Garden Spray is a botanical blend of thyme and peppermint oils with flaxseed oil, creating a unique emulsion that offers up to 15 times more active ingredients for highly effective control. Other included ingredients help the oils mix with water and dissolve an insect’s exoskeleton for additional pest fighting power.

MTD Completes Transaction with Robomow
F. Robotics Acquisitions Ltd, the makers of Robomow, is now a subsidiary of MTD Products Inc. The transaction, which closed as planned on July 2, 2017, will enable MTD to employ Robomow’s progressive technology and broad line of robotic products under MTD’s brands in Europe and North America; while Robomow will benefit from MTD’s broader outdoor power equipment portfolio, sales and marketing resources, and global network of dealers. Robomow’s operations will remain headquartered in Pardesiya, Israel.

OPEI Installs 2017-2018 Officers, Board Members
Members of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute gathered June 20-22 for their 65th annual meeting to discuss the challenges ahead for the outdoor power equipment industry and also its potential for growth. OPEI members also elected officers and installed board members for 2017-2018. They are as follows:

  • OPEI Chair: Daniel Ariens, chairman & CEO, Ariens Company
  • OPEI Vice Chair: Tom Cromwell, group president – power, Kohler Company
  • OPEI Secretary/Treasurer: Bjoern Fischer, president, Stihl Incorporated
  • Immediate Past Chair: Tim Merrett, vice president, global platform – Turf & Utility, Agriculture & Turf Division, Deere & Company

Rounding out OPEI’s board of directors will be as follows: Edward B. Cohen, vice president, government & industry relations, Honda North America, Inc.; Tim Dorsey, president, Echo Incorporated; Marc J. Dufour, president & CEO, Club Car, LLC; Tom Duncan, president and CEO, Positec Tool Corporation; Peter Hampton, president, Active Exhaust Corporation; Jean Hlay, president & COO, MTD Products Inc.; Jeff Hohler, president, Consumer Brands Division, Husqvarna Group; Paul Mullet, president & CEO, Excel Industries, Inc.; Rick Olson, president & COO, The Toro Company; Lee Sowell, president – outdoor products, Techtronic Industries Power Equipment; Todd Teske, chairman, president & CEO,  Briggs and Stratton Corporation.

CASE Announces SiteControl CoPilot System for M-Series Dozers
CASE Construction Equipment has introduced their new SiteControl CoPilot powered by Leica Geosystems. Available factory-installed or as a retrofit on select CASE M Series dozers, the CoPilot system bridges the gap between automatic and indicate-only systems and offers a entry into 2D and 3D machine control technology. The system allows operators to set a desired slope/grade reference, and automatically holds that slope/grade without the need for lasers, masts or GPS.

KAI Design & Build Hires 10 New Architecture Department Employees
KAI Design & Build in St. Louis, Missouri has hired ten new employees to its Architecture Department including:

  1. Carl Karlen, of Brentwood, MO, Senior Designer/Senior Architect.
  2. Christina Laney, LEED GA, of Clayton, MO, Intern Architect.
  3. Bruce LaSurs, RA, LA, of Webster Groves, MO, Project Manager.
  4. Chris Link, CM-BIM, CDT, LEED AP, of Godfrey, IL, BIM/VDC Manager.
  5. Jacob Manse, of Chesterfield, MO, Intern Architect.
  6. Decorda McGee, LEED GA, of University City, MO, Intern Architect 2.
  7. Matt Niemeyer, of Gillespie, IL, Project Architect.
  8. Jason Randle, of St. Louis City, MO, Project Designer.
  9. Andy Sebacher, RA, LEED AP, of Florissant, MO, Project Manager.
  10. Adam Walker, of Florissant, MO, Project Designer.

Porous Pave Selected for Federation Housing, Inc.
Federation Housing, Inc. completed the Gil Rosenthal Garden of Peace at the Samuel A. Green House, a low-income housing tax credit building for the elderly, by installing 1,650 square feet of Porous Pave XL permeable pavement for the garden’s walkways and circular patio. Located in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. Garrett Churchill, Inc. designed and installed the five-foot-wide walking paths and 24-foot-diameter patio with Porous Pave XL batch mixed on site and poured in place at a depth of 1.5 inches atop a four-inch base of compacted crushed aggregate.

Simplot Partners Targets Northern California
The J.R. Simplot Company has opened a new Simplot Partners retail location in Sacramento, California. The location will enable Simplot Partners to meet the growing demands of turf and horticulture customers in northern California and Nevada.

Ruppert, Associated Builders And Contractors Host Networking Event
Ruppert Landscape partnered with Associated Builders and Contractors of Metro Washington to host their summer networking event on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at Ruppert’s corporate headquarters in Laytonsville, Maryland.  More than 550 people attended the event. ABC’s Metro Washington chapter has been holding its Summer Networking Event at Ruppert headquarters for nearly 19 years.

ILCA Announces 9th Annual Turf Education Day
Illinois Landscape Contractor’s Association and the Chicago Botanic Garden have come together to present the 9th annual Turf Education Day. Stay informed about the latest turf care products and practices. This day of training and education is for any professional who cares for and looks after turf. The event will be Thursday, September 21, 2017 at the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Former WLCA President Roy Zehren Dies at 87
The Wisconsin turf industry lost a long-time friend and leader on June 10. Roy G. Zehren had a passion for sharing information and networking. He served as President of the Wisconsin Landscape Contractors Association in 1968-1969. He was a founding board member of the Sports Turf Management Association along with the late Harry Gill, the storied Brewers Grounds Manager who were early pioneers in organizing the Sports Turf Industry. With his growing expertise in designing natural turf drainage systems, he founded Natural Athletic Turf, Inc. and Sports Turf Consultants in 1974. Zehren worked with golf courses and professional sports teams across the country, including the Milwaukee Brewers, to develop systems that could sustain healthy natural grass playing surfaces. Zehren was a 39 year member of the Wisconsin Golf Course Superintendents Association.

Durante Rentals Chris Jones Wins CFO Innovation Award
Chris Jones, Durante Rentals Co-Founder and CFO, was honored with the 2017 Small Market Companies: Thinking Big Award at the 2017 CFO Innovation Conference. The awards ceremony and dinner was held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. CFO’s received recognition in fourteen CFO-focused categories with finalists and award recipients selected by an independent panel of judges.

Excellence in Irrigation 2017 Award Winners Announced
The 2017 Excellence in Irrigation honorees were presented awards at the American Society of Irrigation Consultants National Conference in Seattle, Washington. A total of eleven projects were identified as deserving special acknowledgement as examples of unique or outstanding irrigation design challenges and solutions. The individuals were independently judged by a panel comprised of an academic team from Cal Poly Pomona and Kansas State University and peer review. Challenges must be unique and the site solutions must successfully address the distinctive climatic, structural, agronomic and system operational needs of each project.

National Concrete Masonry Association Will Celebrate 100 years in 2018
The National Concrete Masonry Association is celebrating 100 years and is planning events for 2018 including a gala event at the summer 2018 Midyear Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. NCMA is offering sponsorship opportunities that will recognize each company’s support of this event and their commitment to the association, its mission, its activities, as well as their investment in this industry’s future.

Read last week’s industry news roundup: Former STIHL President Fred Whyte Dies at 70

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2017 Product Roundup: Snow Plows

Arctic Sectional Sno-Pusher
Arctic
Sectional Sno-Pusher
The Sectional Sno-Pusher from Arctic has a patented moldboard design and slip hitch. The AR-400 steel cutting edges can scrape compacted snow and ice down to the pavement, eliminating followup plowing. The universal mounting system enables the mounting hookup to be changed in minutes.
BOSS
BOSS
HTX V-Plow
The HTX V-Plow from Boss is for lighter-duty and half-ton trucks. The plow is built with a Full Moldboard Trip Design to help prevent plow damage when an obstacle is encountered. The enclosed hydraulics protect against corrosion and hydraulic freeze-up, according to the company
CASE Sectional Snow Pushers
CASE
Sectional Snow Pushers
The Sectional Snow Pushers from CASE Construction Equipment are available in six different sizes for heavy- and light-duty applications. The moldboard sections move independently and have a Hardox 450 steel cutting edge. The pushers are compatible with CASE equipment as well as other brands.
Bobcat Snow Blade
Bobcat Company
Snow Blade
The Snow Blade from Bobcat has an angle that is adjustable from the operator’s seat. It can oscillate five degrees. The moldboard can angle right or left up to 30 degrees. Optional features include rubber or polyurethane cutting edges and end-wing kits.
Buyers/SnowDogg
Buyers/SnowDogg
VXF Generation II
The VXF Generation II has simplified harnesses and connectors for quicker installation. The floating A-frame helps with even cutting edge wear and optimal scraping. It has an energized rod seal cylinder design with anodized aluminum gland nuts for efficiency and long life.
Caterpillar Straight Snow Push
Caterpillar
Straight Snow Push
The Straight Snow Push without Trip is a new attachment for Caterpillar. The snow push is available in 8-, 10- and 12-foot widths with a reversible bolt-on rubber cutting edge. It features a moldboard specially profiled to roll and fold snow, while the skid shoes allow the height of the cutting edge to be adjusted.
Fisher HDX
Fisher Engineering
HDX Snowplow
The HDX snowplow offers an adjustable attack angle that can be set to 55, 65 or 75 degrees to accommodate different plowing surfaces, weather conditions or operator preferences. The plow features an articulating A-frame that allows the blade to pivot from side to side to freely follow the contours of the plowing surface for a cleaner scrape and more even cutting edge wear.
Hiniker C-Plow
Hiniker
C-Plow
The reversible C-Plow from Hiniker is operated as a conventional plow in the forward plowing mode, with the normal hydraulic angling and spring-trip moldboard functions. For backdragging, the upper 3/4 of the moldboard is hydraulically folded over. The plow is available in 8- and 9-foot widths and features a high clearance split trip-edge and Hiniker’s Quick-Hitch system.
Meyer Power Box Plow
Meyer Products
Power Box Plow
Meyer’s Power Box Plow telescopes from 8 feet to 12 feet using in-cab controls. It has adjustable left and right hydraulic wings that move to the operator’s desired length. It attaches to skid-steers, tractors and compact wheel loaders with a free-floating mount. It comes standard with a rubber cutting edge and free floats 20 degrees for uneven pavement.
Pro-Tech Sno-Pusher
Pro-Tech
Sno-Pusher
The rubber edge Sno Pusher from Pro-Tech comes in varying widths from 10 feet to 30 feet. It can be used on multiple surface types, including those that are sensitive to steel edges. The Sno Pusher features SBR extruded rubber along with fully welded construction.
SnowEx HDV
SnowEx
HDV V-Plow
The SnowEx HDV heavy-duty V-plows are built with a responsive direct lift system. Available in either durable powder-coated mild steel or stainless steel and blade widths of 8 foot, 6 inches or 9 foot, 6 inches. The Automatixx power-assisted attachment system provides quick plow hook-up.
Western Defender
Western
DEFENDER
The Western DEFENDER is a compact plow designed specifically for mid-size pickup trucks and SUVs. With a reinforced, high-strength steel blade, it’s durable and powerful. A mechanical attaching system provides quick and easy hook-up. It features a high-strength, low-weight, alloy-steel blade and six vertical ribs reinforce the blade.

 

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

Visit PlowSite.com for more forums on equipment, business management and technical information. Join the conversation in the largest community of snow and ice business professionals.

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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Story Of A Landscape: Modest Paver Project Yields Prize-Winning Dividend

Andrew Beattie, HLT, isn’t much for blowing his own horn. The owner of Ideal Landscape Services sums up a driveway, walkway and front gardens project his company did for homeowners in nearby Sugarbush as, “pretty straightforward.”

However, judges for the annual Landscape Ontario Horticultural Trades Association weren’t quite as blasé about the job. They honored it as a prize-winner in their most recent competition in the category of residential construction from $25,000-$50,000.

And, at first glance, the project is straightforward. The homeowners were looking for an upgrade of the gravel driveway outlined with local stone that the builder had installed with their new home a couple years previously.

Photo: Ideal Landscape Services

“They just Googled on the internet and then called me up,” says Beattie to explain his relationship with the clients. “They really wanted a new front entrance for their new house and an upgrade of the gravel driveway.”

As his firm’s designer, Beattie met with the couple and received input on what their thoughts were on the project. Then, he went to work.

“I came back to meet with them for a second time, and I had a sketch in my hands,” Beattie explains. “I laid my sketch on the table and the woman – who’s an artist – laid a sketch on the table, and they were almost identical. I think we complemented each other.”

One area where Beattie did have to do some selling was in the choice of pavers – approximately 500 square feet – for the job. He says his clients’ initial choice wasn’t a high-end product. As a Unilock authorized contractor, he admits to steering them in that direction.

Photo: Ideal Landscape Services

“They wanted to go with an inferior paver,” he says. “I had a chat with them about not going that route for different reasons, and they ended up going with something even better than I’d suggested.”

Ultimately, the job was completed using Unilock’s Town Hall series, which offers the appearance of historic cast pavers, accented with its Thornbury line, which comes in three different sizes.

The pavers serve as a walkway and outline the asphalt driveway. Beattie says the suggestion to limit the use of pavers to outline the driveway was not done entirely for financial considerations – although cost did play some role in the decision.

Photo: Ideal Landscape Services

“Having a total interlock driveway just loses the special look to it,” he says. “The asphalt really gives the front entry more punch in my opinion. And, it is a quite large driveway.”

The small boulders outlining the driveway and initially installed by the homebuilder were left in place, although Beattie opted to take them into his garden design.

“Adding some natural stone into the garden ties it all together, I think,” Beattie says.

Nor were the clients’ particularly fussy about the plant palette for their front lawn gardens. Beattie says his main goal was to give them a good package that shows well through all four seasons.

Photo: Ideal Landscape Services

“They picked out two special evergreen plants they liked, and we just fit them into the design,” he says. “They felt they were neat specimens and they wanted something that was striking year-round. And, of course, you have to have some flowers.”

To complete the two-week job, Beattie and his two-man crew installed additional lighting to complement what the clients already had on the front of their home.

“We just did a couple up-lights at the front and then some path lights,” he says. “They didn’t want to get into anything too drastic. They wanted something subtle and they really like their existing house lights. We didn’t want to take away from that, but we needed to add some flair to the landscape itself.”

Not surprisingly, Beattie says with this job he’s most proud of the clients’ satisfaction.

“We treat each client individually,” he stresses. “We come in and read the situation and listen to the client, and it all works out.”

Because of the flat lot and existing driveway, he adds that the job presented few challenges. The biggest was dealing with some drainage from the gutters off the house.

“We don’t like water going across our interlock,” is how he puts it. “We put in some underground pipe and moved it into a lower area garden where they had a couple trees planted.”

Photo: Ideal Landscape Services

As a paver guy, Beattie adds that’s his favorite part of the job, not just for the overall look they provide here, but due to how well they complement the exterior of the house.

“It was basically a four-color blend for the Town Hall,” he explains. “It was mostly a matter of taking stone from all four skids to make sure we had a good mix.”

While Beattie says this project didn’t necessarily serve as a learning experience, he does wonder if he needs to brush up on his sales skills. He says a subsequent visit to the clients showed they’d made the garden a little bigger and put in about a half dozen more shrubs.

“I commented that maybe I didn’t sell hard enough,” Beattie admits. “I’m not a pushy sales guy, and we had a good laugh at it, but when people start talking budget, I start backing off a bit.”

Still, the relationship remains good. Beattie was also out later to replace a plant he had guaranteed that had died over the winter, and he says talk has started about them doing something in their backyard.

“He’s done a bit himself, but they also realize how much work it can be,” Beattie concludes. “If you only own a shovel and a wheelbarrow, it can be a lot of work.”

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What’s In My Truck: J. Barker Landscaping Co.

J. Barker Landscaping Co.

Brandon Barker, commercial operations manager for J. Barker Landscaping Co. in Bedford, Ohio, says that his 2017 Ford F-150 XLT Crew Cab is perfect for the various tasks that might come up throughout his day including pulling trailers, hauling various materials and getting around town quickly and efficiently. It’s also been a great vehicle for “office work,” Barker says. The truck has the amenities he needs to make it a comfortable mobile office since he’s typically only in his physical office two to three hours a day. Barker spends most of his time on the road checking on job sites, meeting with customers and estimating potential projects. We recently caught up with Barker in between jobs to find out a bit more about his days on the road and what he keeps in his truck.

The Ford F-150 XLT Crew Cab is also a great truck when I’m not at work. It is extremely spacious with four doors and a large backseat. It’s flexible enough to work for both business and personal use. It has many of the luxury options on it that you would want for your own everyday car or truck.

I always like to have my truck clean and shining. It’s important to have the inside and outside as clean as possible. This is not only good for the longevity of the vehicle, but also shows customers that you take good care of what belongs to you. I’m going to treat my truck like I treat their properties — clean, neat and with a strong attention to detail.

I connect my iPhone 6s through my truck’s Bluetooth, which is important because I’m on the phone constantly. It allows me to easily check my steady influx of emails as well. Sending an email has become a first line of communication for many customers of ours. If I get an email while I am out on the road, I am still able to respond in a timely manner by keeping my iPhone handy. Keeping my iPhone on me at job sites is also a must in order to use its camera. I’m constantly taking pictures on potential job sites.

It’s important to get your company name out there as much as you can. Our fleet has our company logo and phone number on the side of every truck, and our website can be found on the tailgates of our pickups. We also have logos on the majority of our equipment and trailers. Vehicle branding is an easy way to get your name out there when you’re on the road every day.

I always keep a change of clothes in my truck. If I ever need to go somewhere straight after work, then I am ready to go with nice, clean clothes. This comes in handy if I’m meeting my girlfriend for dinner or for any other event that may come up.

Read more: Lakefront Property Gets Euro-Inspired Makeover

The Essentials

Yeti Rambler Mug — Hydration is key. I keep it filled with either water or unsweetened tea.

Oakley Sunglasses — We work in an industry where you are constantly exposed to the sun. You might as well protect your eyes and look good doing it.

Macbook Pro — I keep this handy in case I need to look up any documents, contracts, proposals, etc.

Ratchet Strap — Straps seem to disappear a lot so I always keep one with me in case I need to pick up a piece of equipment.

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Make Customers Think Of You First

Make Them Think of You First

Earlier this year I attended the first Northeast Hardscape Expo in Providence, Rhode Island. If you were there, you may have seen me walking around the expo floor with my mouth hanging open. I probably looked the same at my first GIE+EXPO last October in Kentucky.

The truth is, I am in awe. As a newbie to this industry, every time I see the incredible examples of hardscapes on display — backyard patios, outdoor fireplaces and kitchens, the way materials can blend from inside the home and carry outside — the wheels start turning. Not only do I think about all the articles we can provide to help you grow your business and stay on trend, but admittedly, I also think of my own outdoor space at home in Birmingham, Alabama.

My husband and I have a modest, covered patio at the back of my home with a ceiling fan — definitely needed in the South — and some brightly colored furniture. We have some shrubs and Bermudagrass that’s hard to keep a deep shade of luscious green, especially toward the end of summer when our state inevitably experiences a drought. And that’s about all we have back there.

So, they’re looking for you. Make sure you’re the company that comes to mind first.

Needless to say, when I see the amazing work that you landscape designers create, I’m envious. I want more for my outdoor space.

And I am not alone. Last year, 73 percent of homeowners hired a professional to complete an outdoor project, according to a recent Houzz study. This year, that number is projected to be 63 percent — but as Houzz noted, that’s probably because people will start a project on their own, then need to call in reinforcements. So that number will grow, and that’s where you step in.

The trick here is making sure that homeowners think of you first. So how do you do that? Exposure. You have to be the company that comes to mind when a homeowner is thinking of an outdoor renovation, or needs rescuing from a DIY project gone wrong.

Being that company takes a combination of efforts: flyers left in mailboxes, monthly newsletters highlighting services you’d recommend, a social media presence showing off your work, a top-notch website that communicates all that you can do. Some of these items, such as newsletters, may sound like a waste of time. But, as LawnSite member JimLewis recently said in a thread on newsletters: “A newsletter [can] inform customers about products and services that you offer, that maybe they didn’t know that you offered. I find that if we don’t tell our lawn maintenance customers that we do other types of landscaping, they just assume all we do is maintenance.”

Another way to increase your exposure is to blog. Create valuable articles for your clients about trends in landscape design. Tell them how they can increase their curb appeal or upgrade their outdoor space to appeal to a homebuyer, if they’re looking to sell. According to the Houzz landscape design study, homeowners are looking for low-maintenance plants and those that are native and attract birds or bees. Information like this — being in the know on these trends — can mean the difference between making a sale or not. It can make you the first company potential clients think of.

Houzz found that when renovating homeowners are looking to complete outdoor projects, they look to hire:

  • Landscape contractor: 34%
  • Landscape architect or designer: 34%
  • Stone, pavers and/or concrete specialist: 32%

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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Volunteers Give ‘And Then Some’ at Renewal And Remembrance 2017

NALP Arlington 2017

“And then some.”  That’s the advice that Jon Cundiff, then a member of the Kansas City Royals MLB grounds crew, said that Korean War veteran and legendary sports field expert George Toma shared with him. And he never forgot it.

As a young man, Cundiff worked for six years helping tend to KC’s Kaufmann Stadium before launching his career as a lawn care pro. Cundiff recalls that Toma, now 88 and a member of both the NFL and MLB Halls of Fame, was fair, although he demanded that his employees go beyond merely doing their jobs.

On leaving the Royals, Cundiff founded and operated a successful lawn application company before joining Weed Man in 2001. Cundiff now serves as president of the National Association of Landscape Professionals and spoke at the opening ceremony of its 21st annual Renewal and Remembrance Arlington National Cemetery Day of Service.

During his presentation he also cited the heroism of Audie Murphy, whose bravery at age19 resulted in him becoming the most decorated U.S. combat soldier of WWII. Murphy went on to star in movies before dying in a plane crash in 1971. He, along with more than 275,000 other veterans and their dependents, are buried at Arlington.

Cundiff said that the 400-plus volunteers answering NALP’s call to improve the grounds on July 17 at 645-acre Arlington National Cemetery and the nearby U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Cemetery in Washington, D.C., also were giving “and then some.”

Volunteers come at their own expense from all over the country to help out at Renewal and Remembrance. Many suppliers also chip in with manpower, free material and loaning equipment.

As in recent years, volunteers again worked through a sweltering morning and early afternoon. Some workers pushed spreaders to lime the turfgrass through the rows of white marble grave markers. Others planted landscape material on a steep hillside. Volunteer arborists climbed high into mature trees to remove dead and diseased limbs.

And workers from several different companies combined their efforts to complete NALP’s largest ever hardscape project at the cemetery. The volunteers removed a sizable square of turfgrass adjacent to a busy road and replaced it with granite pavers for the convenience of the tens of thousands of visitors there daily. The cemetery sees almost 4 million visitors annually.

Staging the annual Renewal and Remembrance community service project is a huge undertaking. It takes an incredible amount of planning and day-of-service coordination by NALP, its staff and officers, not to mention cooperation with cemetery management under the control of the U.S. Department of the Army. Rules for working within the cemetery are strict because as many 25 burials a day take place there.

This year was a bit tougher on volunteers than usual. An unusually large influx of visitors, including hundreds of Boy Scouts, part of the 40,000 attending the quadrennial Jamboree in Mount Hope, West Virginia, made getting service vehicles around the cemetery a bigger challenge than usual.

Another challenge to getting work done for some of the volunteers, such as the 30 or so sons, daughters and grandchildren of volunteers who planted flowers at the cemetery, was the large number of media people gathering information, photographing and recording the event.

Local and national media demands to cover NALP’s Renewal and Remembrance increase year to year, and have caused cemetery management to keep closer tabs on the media. But while some projects may have been slowed down a bit, the media attention gives credence to the selfless efforts of the NALP volunteers and the landscape industry’s good work.

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Why Lawsuits Occur, and How to Protect Yourself

Why Lawsuits Occur, and What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

I do a lot of expert-witness work involving snow and ice management issues. Most involve slip-and-fall incidents, sometimes on behalf of snow contractors and sometimes against them.

I’m often asked, “What are the major reasons snow contractors are held liable in such cases?” There are a variety of issues that arise in which snow contractors find themselves on the bad side of a lawsuit. In my opinion, the No. 1 reason is a lack of understanding of what business they are in.

Some believe they are hired to plow or shovel snow. Others think they are oppressed by customers who want something for nothing (of course, there are some customers like that, and avoiding those people is key).

But ultimately, as a snow contractor, your business is risk management. You are hired to mitigate risk in terms of liability. You are hired to keep a site safe for pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic.

Some contractors have issues that can prevent them from conducting business in a professional manner. Self-esteem is often low. They are often “too busy to do the right things.” That’s hogwash. We’re never so busy that it justifies doing the job wrong.

Most of the time, this is the result of the owners/contractors not investing in themselves, their knowledge of business and what constitutes necessary service. There can be no return on an investment that was never made in the first place.

Knowledge is power

In my experience, contractors who seek continuing education are much less likely to be on the losing end of a liability lawsuit than those who don’t want to learn about new techniques, new technologies and more efficient ways to provide a safe environment.

That doesn’t mean you have to get an MBA. It means understanding that proper and accurate documentation of actions on a site can lead to better recall of what took place on any given date. It means proving you actually did what you were supposed to do at a site and used the proper technology to document those actions.

The vast majority of cases I am engaged to work on involve snow or ice management professionals who have no systems in place. They do not document their actions because they don’t believe it’s their responsibility to provide a safe environment. Sometimes, they think that because they have been doing this for 25 years, they know all there is to know about servicing a site where people walk, drive and live.

These same people have common set answers to certain questions:

  • Do you belong to any snow trade organizations? Nope, too busy.
  • Do you know what product you used for deicing? Yes, good stuff.
  • Do you keep track of what you (or your crew) do? Nah. We know what we’re doing and we do it.
  • Do you go to any seminars on snow and ice management? No, they’re too expensive.
  • Do you get any magazines on snow contracting? Yes, but I don’t have time to read them.

Others think that if they get sued, the insurance company will take care of it. Think again! Maybe they will the first time, but if it happens repeatedly, rates will increase or the policy will get canceled completely. In the end, those people end up blaming the insurance companies for making it too expensive to stay in business.

At the very least, educate yourself about the published standards for the snow and ice management industry, especially those that apply to contractors who work on commercial, industrial and some residential sites. There are parts of other standards that apply to those who service sites, whether they are in-house employees or outside contractors. Familiarize yourself with them. Follow and adhere to them.

That alone will not completely absolve you of the responsibility that comes with keeping sites safe, but it will go a long way toward making you a better, more reliable and more defensible snow contractor.

Visit PlowSite.com for more forums on equipment, business management and technical information. Join the conversation in the largest community of snow and ice business professionals.

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7 Reasons Your Employees Get Injured (Or Worse)

Work Injury Claim Form

Most of the folks working on clients’ properties in our green industry services are young, many are inexperienced and a good number are seasonal. Each workday they’re tasked with driving service vehicles over busy roads and, when they arrive at their service stops, operating power equipment, almost all of which can injure or kill them if used inattentively or inappropriately.

Are there more dangerous professions than our green industry? Yes, but not many.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the green industry is the 10th most dangerous in the United States. The next nine most dangerous professions are: 9.) power line workers, 8.) farmers and ranchers, 7.) truck drivers, 6.) structural iron/steel workers, 5.) refuse/recyclable material collectors, 4.) roofers, 3.) aircraft pilots/engineers, 2.) fishers/fishing workers and, most dangerous of all, loggers.

Also, the National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) recently reported that fatality rate for all industries at 3.8 per 100,000 workers, but the rate for workers performing green industry services stood at 25.1 per 100,000 workers.

Within the broader classification of the green industry, tree trimmers/pruners suffered the highest number of fatalities –179.9 per 100,000, according to NIOSH. Other green industry servicers also surpassed the national average with 15.4 fatalities per 100,000 being suffered by pesticide handlers and 10.1 per 100,000 for landscaping/grounds workers.

An excellent graphic entitled “7 Stupid Reasons People Get Hurt at Work” shared by BLR (Business & Legal Resources) explains in simple language why workplace accidents occur. BLR offered the information in a recent announcement to promote its Safety Culture 2017 event this coming Sept. 11-12 in Austin, Texas.

Thanks to BLR for offering the following seven stupid reasons people get hurt at work:

  1. Assumption of expertise: Employers may assume that new employees are already up to date on the latest safety trends, or that “common sense” will take over and help them avoid accidents. Experience, if nothing else, teaches us that it’s foolhardy to rely upon either, especially “common sense.”
  2. Fear of asking questions: Creating a comfortable and open work environment where employees feel empowered to ask the right questions is an important step for improving safety among new staff. The more questions they ask, the higher the likelihood of avoiding accidents in the workplace.
  3. Unfamiliar hazards: It doesn’t matter how seasoned an employee is — changing working environments can easily create new hazards they aren’t aware of that could end up causing harm down the line.
  4. Incomplete training: Teaching a new hire how to do something isn’t enough. In order to protect your workforce fully, you must fully train them around the hazards and safety best practices of their jobs — not just the skills they need to complete them.
  5. Unaware of hazardous substances: Hazardous substances may not be as easy to spot as blatant safety threats, which means properly training your staff on what to avoid and how to avoid them will protect them in the long run.
  6. Improper use of PPE: Personal protection equipment isn’t doing much protecting if it’s not used correctly. Educating your staff on the importance of their PPE and how to properly use and wear it will dramatically reduce safety issues resulting from improperly used PPE.
  7. Poor safety messaging: Improving safety messaging isn’t as simple as adding more rules. Effective safety messaging comes from employee engagement and buy-in, which is fostered from creating an effective safety culture at your workplace.

If you own or manage a green industry services company, don’t be negligent when it comes to workplace safety, especially in regards to inexperienced workers and new hires. BLR says that 30 percent of work-related injuries occur to workers who have been on the job for less than a year.

Download “7 Stupid Reasons People Get Hurt at Work.”

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Monday, 17 July 2017

5 Stories To Read For Smart Irrigation Month

Smart Irrigation Month Goes Social|

The more you know about irrigation, the better resource you can be for your clients. Smart Irrigation Month is intended to educate irrigation technicians and their clients about benefits of water-use efficiency. Use these stories to learn more about water saving technology, smart irrigation best practices, Wi-Fi connectivity, irrigation scheduling and to encourage smarter water usage with your customers.

1. Smart Irrigation Requires Smart Water Managers

Smart Irrigation Requires Smart Water Managers

Photo: iStock

In spite of the incredible technology embedded within today’s smart irrigation systems — wireless operation, flow sensing, automatic trouble-shooting, etc. — the knowledge and oversight of skilled irrigators is still needed to keep the systems performing in the manner promised.

2. Irrigation Management with Smartphones

irrigation apps, technology

Photos: iStock/Design: Rob Ghosh

These technological advancements have become an upsell because now landscape professionals can present a traditional controller to a customer and tell them how it works, but then also give them the option of the new cloud-based system with the advantage of being able to remotely manage their irrigation systems.

3. How Smart Irrigation is Changing Water Management

Smarter Future

Photo: iStock

Manufacturers are adding extra features to traditional irrigation controllers that make them more efficient and water conscious, including the incorporation of Wi-Fi connectivity. Now updating information on your controller is as easy as picking up a Wi-Fi device: smartphone, tablet, etc. Not only are these advancements convenient, they are good for the environment as well.

4. Constantly Seeking Irrigation Efficiency

Constantly Seeking Efficiency

Photo: All-Terrain Grounds Maintenance

“We like to have specialized, trained people doing irrigation work. And because irrigation is such a unique trade, it’s easier to have one person train one team. It’s different than just hopping on a mower and going,” says Ben Full, an irrigation division leader at All-Terrain Grounds Maintenance in Fargo, North Dakota. “You need a dedicated crew. You can’t try to train everyone in the company in irrigation. There are so many different things you need to know.”

5. Irrigation Scheduling Tips For Contractors

Photo: Thinkstock

Make good use of already-available educational materials. Many local and national organizations have already developed free water-saving materials that you can share with your clients to teach them the importance of efficient irrigation. The WaterSense program has a website that can be used to educate residential customers nationwide.

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Win by Slashing Clients’ Water Bills

Win by Slashing Clients' Water Bills

Tom Raden was ahead of most of us when it came to water management. In 1992 he started the company Innovative Irrigation Systems after managing landscape water for the University of California-Los Angeles. Raden is a proponent of smart controllers. He estimates he has influenced the sale of more than 4,000 smart controllers over the years.

Today, Raden works for Par 3 Landscape Management in Las Vegas. The fourth-generation landscape management business is the largest maintenance provider in southern Nevada offering a full range of landscape services to HOAs and businesses. The company’s philosophy is to create beautiful landscapes while also conserving the region’s most valuable resource – water.

Raden is establishing Par 3 Landscape Management as a dominating presence in water management in its market after implementing a program where customers willingly pay for water management services on a monthly basis.

Charging for water management services? Yes, you read that correctly.

Raden asks Par 3’s clients to commit to a three-year water management program. Three years is key because water savings build upon themselves as plants grow and mature via the proper management of their root zones.

Knowing your seasonal weather conditions is a good starting point for predicting landscape water use needs.

Premium and Premium Plus packages

With his firm’s Premium package, the first option, a water management fee is added to the client’s monthly maintenance fee. The controllers have to be smart controllers for the customer to participate in the program. Customers purchase the technology upfront.

A complete water analysis of past water use and careful examination of the property’s needs allows Par 3 to set the fee at approximately 20 percent of the estimated water savings. For example, if Par 3, after doing its analysis, believes it can save an HOA in Las Vegas $50,000 annually in water expenses, the water management fee to the customer will be $10,000 ($833 per month).

Now here is the best part: Par 3 Landscape Management guarantees the savings. If it doesn’t cover the water management fee in water savings, the company will cut the client a check back for its water management services. This is a risk-free option for customers.

The Platinum Plus package works well for customers needing to purchase smart controllers. It works just like the Premium package except Par 3 supplies the smart controllers and any other technology needed to manage water. The charge for this is 80 percent of the water savings. After three years, the customer owns the technology. Par 3 Landscape Management guarantees the savings and if the water savings don’t cover the management fee they will write a check back for the services. Also, customers qualifying for rebates from the water agency keep 100 percent of the rebates. This program provides a way for Par 3 to move clients to smart technology with little risk.

Measuring the distribution and amount of irrigation water reaching different parts of a landscape is vital to saving water and maintaining healthy plants.

Customers respond

Customer response has been excellent, says Raden. For customers who feel this might be too good to be true, Raden shares customer testimonials with them, including contact information. He emphasizes the program must be a win for clients in terms of healthy, attractive landscapes and significant water cost savings.

Raden says it takes a smart irrigation manager to maximize water savings with smart controllers, which are not set-it-and-forget-it technology. They need to be managed. They’re marvelous tools but ultimately their performance is largely dependent upon the person using them.

Today’s smart controllers contain sophisticated software giving water many options for water savings and maximum growth for plants. Even though they’re programmed to water according to root depths, soil types, plant type and sun or shade, most have over-ride functions — and for a good reason. They still need to be managed. Most contractors need time to learn how to properly program controllers.

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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Designers Competed to Renovate a Los Angeles Public Square

Bringing the Public Back to a Public Square

Pershing Square was once known as the Central Park of Los Angeles. The 5-acre square, bounded by three streets (Olive Hill, 5th and 6th streets) was a great urban public space.

But in the 1950s it was remade as the lid of an underground parking garage, and the surrounding streets were widened to accommodate heavy traffic. As a result, the park became an uninspired space, cut off from potential visitors by walls, ramps and one-way thoroughfares. Attempts at remedying the square in the 1980s and 1990s proved unsuccessful.

Last year, Pershing Square Renew, a public-private partnership, announced a redesign competition and invited A-list landscape architects and designers to enter.

Pershing Square

The winning design comes from Agence TER. Bringing the park back to one level and including slimmed down streets, the design reopens the square, welcoming visitors with a great lawn and trees. A block-long shade canopy topped with solar panels extending along Hill Street will invoke a 19th-century open market, sheltering farmers’ stands, restaurants or performances.

Local designers are fond of the idea because, as L.A. landscape designer Wade Graham says in the Los Angeles Times, “This plan comes closest to realizing the holy grail of good public squares, which is providing people a place to stage their own programs, spontaneously and unpredictably, without micromanagement by designers. The best such spaces, such as the typical Italian piazza, may have nothing in them at all, just four streets edging a wide-open shared commons, where life may play out according to its own plans.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated.

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Gardening for the Heart and Mind

Gardening for the Heart and the Mind

There might be a new prescription for patients showing early signs of dementia and heart disease: gardening.

A report, commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme, says gardens should be recommended by doctors for folks with these diagnoses.

Six months of gardening results in a slowdown of cognitive decline for the following 18 months, the report reveals. “Gardens appeal to the senses — particularly touch and smell — which are important for people with dementia,” the report says.

Gardening also gives people living with dementia access to natural light, which is important for the maintenance of circadian rhythms.

For older folks, regular gardening can reduce the risks of heart disease, cancer and obesity and can also improve balance, helping to prevent falls.

On top of that, recent research by the Universities of Westminster and Essex suggests that just 30 minutes a week spent tending a garden can boost feelings of self-esteem and mood by dissolving tension, depression, anger and confusion.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated.

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What to Do When Your Client Asks to Provide Plants

Plants

Some clients think they can save a few dollars on a proposed bid or design by buying the plants themselves and just paying for your company to install them. With a business and reputation at the front and center of your work, is this installation-only project worth it? Will this job turn into more of a hassle and take away from other potential work? Or will this client be grateful for your flexibility and accommodation? See what these LawnSite members have experienced and recommend.

Jesssoul: I spent a great number of hours creating a design for a client — that he paid for — in the fall. I just contacted him to schedule an install date, but he asked me to come back with a quote for installation only, as he “will be sourcing the plants himself,” not acknowledging the irrigation equipment, paving materials or mulch, topsoil and sod that will also need to be “sourced.” I have never had a client ask for this, and frankly, I am not comfortable putting my name on a project where I cannot guarantee the quality of the plants. I hand-select them myself from a network of trusted growers in my area. What has been your experience with this, and how would you respond? Obviously, I will no longer be able to provide a warranty, but is this one that’s best walked away from? I said I’d be willing to adjust the labor before he made this request, but I’m not exactly willing to do that now that my markup revenue is at risk.

Service.com: I have had a few customers do that as well, thinking they know more than me on the matter. I tell them that is fine, but like you mentioned, I will not warranty any of the plant life, and if it does not do well, it is the customer’s fault. I try to offer as much advice as I can, but if you want the work, separate it a bit. If you think it’s too much of hassle and can do other jobs elsewhere, kindly decline. I have definitely done both.

wbw: Obviously, you can’t warranty this. Ask about the irrigation, etc., then adjust your install price as needed and quote it again.

Mow-Daddy.com: It’s a bit like giving a weekly maintenance bid. They say, that price sounds good – can you go every other week? Yep, but at at a higher price. I would give them a new bid and bump up the labor price a bit. And have them sign a no-warranty agreement on plants.

TML: I would ask where they plan on getting the plants. Hopefully they will tell you some box store. Try and explain why this may be a risk as they are often brought in from out of your region. If not, I would politely tell them you generally don’t do installations if you don’t provide the material. Especially if you already dropped your labor price. If they want to save by buying their own plants on top of that, sounds like there’d be potential for more service cuts or complaints. I plant some stuff for customers that buy their own, but these are full-service customers and generally it is not more than a few simple plants they picked up in their travels. Inevitably you commit to this and it will tie you up when something more profitable comes along. And good job at least getting compensated for the design if nothing else.

Ben Bowen: We have done this before. One potential issue: the client becomes very particular about how you plant now that he has no warranty. Depending on how I feel about the client, I am either super specific about planting methods, or I just tell them I will plant at my hourly rate. If they get picky, at least it costs them.

Oxmow: Do it if you want or don’t — no warranty on anything not provided by you. Might be a better deal. Install, get paid, walk away.

Jlbf0786: I have had more than a few customers request this before on install jobs. I agree that it’s kind of a headache when they don’t give you prior notice. It’s always because of money in the end. All you can do is either drop the job or you can just quote the job on hourly rates, using a basic formula.

Example:

  • #3 shrub = 1/2 hour (1/2 your hourly rate/install)
  • #5 shrub = 3/4 hour (3/4 your hourly rate/install)
  • B&B Tree = 1.5 hour
  • Irrigation (charge per linear foot installed, etc.)

knox gsl: Do the job with no warranty and increase the labor by 10 to 15 percent for any additional annoyances you’ll surely encounter. I did this once before — I was to pick up the material for the customer. I made sure that she knew I was doing the job on a certain date and everything was to be available by then. I go to the high-priced nursery to pick up her order and almost a third of it was back ordered. The plants that were there didn’t look that great and, in the end, she paid more than my quote to supply the materials.

Mdirrigation: If you are paying wholesale for plants, just subtract your cost, keep your profit and install cost in the price. You aren’t driving for materials, no warranty, all plants must be delivered to the site at the same time. You are making better money.

cotyledon: It’s weird when the customer knows how much you charge to dig some holes.

hackitdown: I would tell the customer, “Unfortunately, I cannot use your materials. I supply my materials so that I can be sure of the quality and ensure a smooth installation.”

marcusmac99: If he’s paid you for the quote that you spent time on, walk away. With the customer’s approach, you give up quality control of a very visible element of the design. You may want to use this person’s end product in a marketing mailer or brochure. Why take a chance the plants he picks are of poor quality? Even if it’s all in writing that you warranty nothing regarding plants, the reputation of your business is on the line. The customer could blame your installation for the dying plants. He tells two friends, and they tell two friends, etc.

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Saturday, 15 July 2017

What Would You Change If You Could Start Over?

What Would You Change If You Could Start Over?

If you could start your landscape business over again, what changes would you make? LawnSite member Michael Ray recently asked this question on our online forum in a post titled, “If you started again tomorrow…” His peers had quite a bit of insightful advice.

  • “Learn how to say, ‘No,’ to jobs or customers that weren’t the right fit.”
  • “Specialize in one area and not try to do everything.”
  • “I would have started sooner.”
  • “I would have started out doing nothing but lawn care applications and blower mulch installation – none of this no-profit maintenance work.”
  • “The No. 1 thing I would do differently is have a clear understanding of how cash flows through a business. I have seen plenty of profitable businesses go down because of cash flow problems.”
  • “I’d never take a customer at their word and get everything in writing.”

Looking beyond the landscape industry, other small business owners feel similarly. The Alternative Board recently conducted a survey of hundreds of small business owners to find out what changes they’d make if they could start over.

Strategic planning, marketing and sales were some of the most common areas where business owners wished they had spent more time and resources.

Specifically, given the chance to start again, survey respondents would devote more hours to:

  • Strategic planning (27 percent)
  • Sales (20 percent)
  • Marketing/advertising/PR (18 percent)
  • Recruiting and training employees (11 percent)

And they would spend more money on:

  • Marketing/advertising/public relations (20 percent)
  • Recruiting and training employees (18 percent)
  • Sales (17 percent)
  • Strategic planning (15 percent)

Operations, technology investments and product development were all ranked low on the wish list.

Arguably, strategic planning, which made the top four list in both questions, encompasses everything from sales to operations to advertising to marketing to public relations to growth strategies, so spending hours creating a well-thought-out roadmap for the future could prove to be time well spent.

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Friday, 14 July 2017

5 Reasons Smart Irrigation Requires Smart Water Managers

Smart Irrigation Requires Smart Water Managers

That powerful little computer we carry on our hips or in our pockets is a marvel of technology. In the vernacular we call it a smartphone, although we’re not always so smart in how we use it — not in the context of being wise or even thoughtful.

The same goes for smart controllers now so familiar to landscape irrigation professionals. Like our (seemingly) do-everything cellphones, a smart controller is a remarkably advanced tool — but, in the end, it remains a tool. That’s important to remember.

What makes an irrigation controller smart? Richard Restuccia, vice president at Jain Irrigation and a longtime water management professional, says it must perform these five basic functions.

1. The ability to adjust watering run times based on weather data or soil moisture data on a daily basis. A smart controller makes adjustments daily, which can amount to thousands of gallons of water saved over a year.

2. The ability to view and make changes to a controller from my computer, tablet or smartphone. For contractors managing multiple properties, the ability to monitor and manage controllers without having to drive and touch each controller saves time and money. More importantly, because they can evaluate data and make changes from the office, the evaluation process happens more frequently.

3. The ability to sense flow. This allows users to see real time how much water is being used. It also provides the ability to measure the flow of water for better water management and access to make changes easily.

4. The ability to sense high flow and shut a system down when high flow is detected and send an alert, either via email or text message, to a technician to let them know there is a problem. Anyone who has experienced a high water bill as a result of a water line break that went unnoticed understands this value.

5. The ability to generate reports so you can analyze data to make better decisions about water management. It is important to know how much water you used this month. It is even better to be able to compare that with how much you used this same month last year. Good data allows you to make comparisons leading to more efficient irrigation.

In spite of the incredible technology embedded within today’s smart irrigation systems — wireless operation, flow sensing, automatic trouble-shooting, etc. — they still need the knowledge and oversight of skilled irrigators to keep them performing up to their promise.

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Like a Boss: Sticking to Policy for Client Meetings

Client meeting

Jarod Hynson, owner of Earth, Turf & Wood in Denver, Pennsylvania

Jarod Hynson, owner of Earth, Turf & Wood in Denver, Pennsylvania

Although it hasn’t always been a popular policy, Jarod Hynson, owner of Earth, Turf & Wood in Denver, Pennsylvania, is adamant that all decision makers in the household are present at any important landscape design meetings, especially the initial appointment. It’s a lesson he’s learned the hard way by being set back to square one when a decision maker (who wasn’t present at the initial design meetings) wants changes later. Hynson admits he’s gotten pushback on the policy, but says it’s something he stands behind.

“If we can’t have both decision makers in the household present at the time of a meeting, we won’t meet,” Hynson says. “Clients don’t always like that but history has shown that unless everyone is present in the meeting, there’s no way to be sure we’re on the same page.”

Hynson says that putting together a landscape design without all the decision makers present can waste time — not only on the company’s end, but also for the client.

“When you create a landscape design with only one decision maker’s input, it’s almost guaranteed that the other individual in the household will have changes — and that puts us back to square one,” Hynson says. “Because of that, we do require that all decision makers be present.”

This isn’t always easy for clients to grapple with and Hynson says that some clients have been insulted by the policy — insisting that they were the primary decision maker and didn’t require anyone else at the meeting. In fact, Hynson says he can recall one instance where his “all decision makers present” policy lost him a job. One of the two decision makers of the household insisted she could move forward in seeing the design on her own. Hynson stuck to his guns about waiting for the other decision maker to be present and it lost him the job.

“We were in a lose/lose situation,” he recalls. “If we had presented, misinterpreted information would have been relayed to the other decision maker, making them feel like we didn’t listen to their requests. But if we didn’t present, it would make that one decision maker mad.”

Despite this one lose/lose situation that sticks out, Hynson says that it’s still a policy he firmly believes in — for everyone’s sake. After all, there are benefits for the client, too. If the project makes it as far as construction, and one of the decision makers was never consulted, they could end up being stuck with something they don’t like or having to pay more for changes down the road. It’s a problem that easily could have been sorted out had all parties been present from the start. That’s why Hynson insists on it. It’s as much for clients as it is for the company.

At the end of the day, most clients do understand where he’s coming from.

“I can use myself as an example,” Hynson says. “If I were to make a $10,000 decision about investing in a new AC unit for my home and didn’t consult my wife, she would not be very happy. I think most people ultimately understand that. And this is a lot more than an AC unit. We’re talking about a landscape design that could completely alter the look of your backyard. It’s important that everyone weighs in.”

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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