Couldn’t make it to GIE+EXPO this year? We’ve got you covered. The editors of Turf are on the ground, covering everything you need to know at the show. At the end of the day, our editors come together and curate the top ten moments from the busy day’s events — from announcements at press conferences to inspiring advice from educational sessions. Here are some of the top moments from Friday, October 21.
1. Bayer Reaffirms Commitment to T&O
Welcome news for lawn care operators from the Turf & Ornamental Communicator’s (TOCA) breakfast at the GIE+EXPO. Peter Farno, US Lawn & Landscape Business Manager at Bayer CropScience (breakfast sponsor), says Bayer is readying a new insecticide for the green industry plant health market. While product launch is a year or more away, the fact that Bayer is investing to bring a new active to the market shows its confidence in our industry’s continued growth.
2. NALP Stepping Up Advocacy Efforts at All Levels
The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) is strengthening its “advocacy pillar,” said Missy Henriksen, NALP’s vice president of public affairs, at the GIE+EXPO. The NALP will continue to monitor and respond to national issues, but it will also take a more active role in addressing state and local issues as they affect the landscape industry. While the NALP is developing a system to address a wider range of issues, the H-2B non-immigrant guest worker program, pesticide issues at every level of government and water issues remain “Tier One” concerns, says Henriksen.
3. Rethinking the “Customer is No. 1” Adage
“You hear all the time that the customer is No. 1, but I’m going to go on record saying I don’t believe that to be true. I do not believe the customer is No. 1. I believe that the amazing people I get to work with – not that work for me – they are the ones who are No. 1. And I believe if we take good care of our people, then they will take good care of our customers.” – Sheldon Yellen, CEO of Belfor, a disaster recovery and property restoration company
– From NALP’s LANDSCAPES session “Breaking Through the Barriers by Putting People First” with Sheldon Yellen
4. Write Everything Down
In this litigious world we live in Steve Cesare of The Harvest Group warned landscape business owners during his workshop on Friday morning about documenting employee warnings:
Write everything down. Even if you do verbal warnings, write them down. It’s just a verbal warning to the employee but you still need it written down for yourself and for HR. Once you write it down, try to get the employee to sign it. They may say they thought it was only a verbal warning – and it is – but for your purposes, you need it written down. Have a witness present during verbal warnings. If the employee refuses to sign it, the witness can attest to the fact that they refused to sign. Give it to HR and have them file it. Remember it this way: Write it, Sign it, Share it – not on Facebook – just with HR.
– From the NALP Workshop “Coach, Evaluate and Manage Your Employees the Right Way” with Steve Cesare, The Harvest Group
5. Make Mowing More Efficient
How can a landscape professional be more efficient when it comes to mowing? Exmark’s Jamie Briggs has these 4 tips that can help a landscape professional shave some time off each job and win when it comes to boosting productivity.
- Seek out machines that make for simpler maintenance. Some machines have fewer grease points that need greasing annually versus others that have more and require greasing every 50 hours. Something this simple can save contractors lots of time maintaining the equipment and keeping it running smoothly.
- Look at your warranty when purchasing a mower. A two-year unlimited hours warranty is becoming coveted by landscape contractors, particularly those located in the South because they put more hours on their mowers. For instance, a mower operator in Florida may put in over 1,000 hours per year on their mower, while a mower operator in Ohio will only put in 400 hours a year. A good warranty will lower the total cost of ownership of the machine.
- Improved access. Look for mowers that have easy access to things that need regular maintenance to reduce your downtime. If the top of the deck opens for easy cleaning or maintenance, this can take less time than getting underneath a deck that is welded shut, Briggs explains. The same can be said for a belt shield that can be removed without tools versus one that needs tools and time to be removed.
- Ease of use. Look for a mower that is easy to use all day every day, Briggs says. Smoother controls, for instance, can help contractors hold straight lines when making mowing patterns in clients’ lawns. The elimination of sharp edges on the front of a deck can make stepping on and off easier for contractors as they are stopping to pick up debris mid-mow. Simplified breaks and even mowing height adjustment controls can take seconds off of each job that add up at the end of a long day.
6. Success Looks Different For Different Businesses
Size doesn’t necessarily mean success, stressed Monroe Porter in his talk on “Profits and Pavers: Are You Making What You Should?” Friday. While adding new services may help grow business, it can also come as a detriment to the services you already do well, unless you’re careful. “Whatever you don’t do well, as you grow, you exasperate that — so don’t reach the point where it affects the whole business,” he said. He said focusing on what type of contractor you are can help you determine your needs for running a good operation. He listed four types of contractors most landscape professionals fall into: the professional trade person, the home alone contractor, the owner-driven organization, and the contractor management team. Each type will need different support in the ways of administrative employees, foremen, etc. To be successful, Porter said, you must “do the work, sell the work and make money at it — most people aren’t good at all these things.”
– From the Hardscapes North America session “Profits and Pavers: Are You Making What You Should?” with Monroe Porter, Owner, PROSULT™ Networking
7. How to Become a YouTube Star
By far the Hardscapes North America educational session that generated the most buzz from the audience had to be from Tom Gardocki, or The Dirt Ninja, on how to “YouTube Your Next Hardscape Project.” Gardocki started using video in 2010 and has since grown a following of 21,000+ subscribers and 13.1 million+ video views. Attendees exclaimed “cool!” and “look at that!” while watching examples of time lapse videos Gardocki created on job sites using a GoPro. With takeaway advice such as what equipment he recommends, plus editing software and computer tips, spreading the word about the work it takes to create beautiful hardscapes is right at landscapers’ fingertips. “This isn’t really a way to get new customers but to close the sale and get people to buy into what you’re doing by showing them what you can do,” Gardocki said. He recommended following certain rules, such as taking care to name your channel after your business, but not after another name brand. He also advised against using mainstream music that may be copyrighted, saying YouTube has a free online library where you can download legal songs. And if you decide to use a drone, he stressed getting it registered with the FAA – or you’ll be breaking federal regulations. To watch his videos, visit “The Dirt Ninja” on YouTube.
– From the Hardscapes North America session “YouTube Your Next Hardscape Project” with Tom Gardocki, Co-Owner, Interstate Landscape Co. & Host, TheDirtNinja
8. How Not to Sell Your Business
Ron Edmonds of the Principium Group hosted a workshop on the things to do and not to do when attempting to sell your business. A common theme throughout the session was knowing how to take yourself out of the equation as the owner. As Edmonds explained, no one will want to buy your business if your leaving will shake the entire dynamic. “If you can’t imagine your business being successful without you, a buyer probably can’t either,” says Edmonds.
– From the NALP Workshop “How Not to Sell Your Business” with Ron Edmonds, Principium Group
9. Technology Trends
During his session “From D.C. to Silicon Valley: Three Hot Power Trends that Will Impact Your Company Through 2018 and Beyond,” Gene Marks says these five hot technologies will be important for growing your business in 2017:
- Commercial Relationship Management Software. Most CRM software integrates on all of your devices and makes your salespeople look really smart. Some like Insightly can start around $15 per month, while others like Zoho are approximately $30 per month and SalesForce can be upwards of $120 per month.
- Accounts payable management. With Entryless, you tell your vendors to email invoices to one place and it puts them into a simple format you can quickly look at and approve. This basically eliminates the accounts payable people in your office, reducing your overhead.
- Document management. DocuSign empowers anyone to make every decision, approval, workflow and signature fully digital.
- Communication database. Slack integrates with email and text messages all go to one place. If you have a problem with a client, you can type in a keyword and it brings up all the communication around that keyword. It’s basically a database for holding your communications.
- Live streaming. Facebook Live is like a free TV station for your business. Do a once monthly Live post for your business; you can even prerecord it and stream it. It’s a great way to reach out to your customers with video because 80% of online content is video and that’s what people want to see.
– From the NALP Power Session “From D.C. to Silicon Valley: Three Hot Power Trends that Will Impact Your Company through 2018 and Beyond” with Gene Marks
10. Top 3 Landscaper Pain Points
Worried about finding and keeping employees? Wondering if your cash flow is OK? Wish you could finish your invoicing so you could go watch your son’s baseball game?
You’re not alone. According to Cassidy Huff with LandOpt, a company that works with landscapers to help them improve their business profitability and growth, these are the top three pain points she hears most from landscape contractors:
- Recruiting employees at all levels.
- Work-life balance. Working too many hours and not having time for family.
- Sales. Keeping the pipeline full and understanding good sales practices.