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It’s trade show time!

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As we gear up to head south to Louisville for the GIE+EXPO and GIC, I wanted to share this preview from our November issue.

Our great contributing editor Kristen Hampshire put together some strategies for contractors to get the most out of a conference or trade show after they get back home. After all, a few days out of the office is nice and all, but the idea of heading to a national or regional event is to bring back some knowledge or tactics or ideas that you can actually use in your company.

So, as the industry gears up for the trade show season, here are some of those ideas:

Conferences, trade shows and small-group meetings with industry peers can become a huge brain dump. You’ll take notes on more ideas than you can count. With your motivation and mojo for the business completely stoked, you head back to the office – and deal with the daily fires.

Sound familiar? All of those great ideas are filed away for “later.” The problem is, that time to implement never comes. John Rennels, president, A Plus Lawn and Landscaping, knows the feeling. “You get bombarded with ideas,” he says. “Your list is so overwhelming that you do nothing.”

There’s a constructive way to deal with that list of 50 things so you actually take action on ideas that will better your business. “Boil your ideas down to three or five action items,” Rennels suggests as a starter. “Work through them one at a time.”

Prioritize the ideas. Go through your notes and decide which ideas could be implemented in the short-term, and which are more visionary, long-term concepts. From there, choose a few ideas you’d like to implement right away.

Ask for feedback. Consult with trusted advisers, whether industry peers or an informal board – talk to your banker, accountant, fellow managers. Gather their input on the priorities you selected. How feasible are they to implement? What must be done to take action? “Evaluate those ideas and decide which ones will have the biggest impact right now,” Rennels says.

Set some deadlines. By sharing your ideas with others, you create a system of accountability. Ask those individuals to hold you to your promise to implement the ideas, and set a timeline. “Perhaps you meet with them regularly in person or over the phone to discuss your progress,” Rennels says.

Watch for your November issue in the next couple of weeks to learn more about how Rennels and other contractors make the most of their time away from their companies.


October 18th, 2012 at 4:54 pm

The ‘Picasso of parking lots’

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We’re proud to say that we knew Chris Couri back when. The landscaper-turned-parking lot painter was featured recently in Businessweek.

While Couri admits that painting lines isn’t “rocket science,” he claims to bring a level of professionalism and organization to an industry sorely lacking in both. As co-owner of a landscaping operation in Connecticut, he had “horrible experiences with line painters.” He soon proposed a new business venture to his landscaping partners, Daniel Rella and Tom Darrow. “One of the things that attracted us about line painting was that it’s largely off the radar,” he says. “There’s virtually no competition. Everybody knows that parking lots have lines, but nobody knows how they get there. There’s no premier provider.”

We profiled him in our 2011 Franchise Guide, and spoke to him about the nature of franchsining in May.

Check him out now that he’s a “Picasso of parking lots.”


October 15th, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Please welcome the water bloggers

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Regardless of your service mix, water has an impact on your business. And, in a world of weirder weather, increasingly tight supplies and even tighter regulations, water is one of the most important resources for anyone in the green industry.

So, to help our readers stay on top of the issue, we’ve brought on the very talented Richard Restuccia, Martha Golea and Alan Harris – all contributors to the must-read ValleyCrest Takes On. Based in San Diego, Phoenix and Atlanta, respectively, our three latest contributors will address the most important and pressing issues pertaining to water for the average landscape contractor.

I’m excited to work with these three writers, and proud to bring them to the L&L readers. Stay tuned for your October issue (hitting newsstands soon!) for Richard’s inaugural piece on the future of water, and what landscape contractors need to do now to make sure they’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to increasing regulations. In November, Alan will discuss the seven reasons people hate irrigation systems.

But, if you can’t wait for the mail, you have a few chances to see us in real life.

This week, the team is on the road at the WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas, where they’re discussing best practices on social media. If you can’t make it out west, we’ll all be at the IA Show in Orlando in early November and you can catch us there.


October 3rd, 2012 at 1:16 am

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Make way for the shuttle

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Most crews take down trees because they’re diseased or infested. These guys in L.A. are taking down more than 400 so the decommissioned space shuttle Endeavour can make it to it’s final resting place.

Space shuttle Endeavour’s final 12-mile journey through the streets of South Los Angeles already promises to be a meticulously planned spectacle: a two-day parade, an overnight slumber party in Inglewood and enough hoopla to create a giant traffic mess.

But for some residents in South L.A., the excitement of the shuttle rumbling through their neighborhoods quickly faded when they learned that 400 trees will be chopped down to make room for the behemoth.

The California Science Center — Endeavour’s final home — has agreed to replant twice as many trees along the route from the shuttle’s docking place at Los Angeles International Airport to Exposition Park.

But that’s not enough to satisfy some tree lovers.


September 4th, 2012 at 7:10 pm

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Tier IV in Fargo

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I’m in Fargo to try out some Bobcat equipment. But in between digging holes and working in the forest, I had a chance to speak with Mike Fitzgerald,a product specialist with the company, about Interim Tier IV. Here’s a tip on what you need to do to be ready.

“Something they will want to pay attention to is making sure they have clean fuels for the machine. We’ve always recommended having clean fuels, but today with these electronically injected engines, we want to make sure they have filters on their transfer tank either in the pickup or on their trailer where they are moving that to get clean fuel into the machine. We have a finer filtering fuel filter on this machine, so it makes sure the particles don’t get into the engine. Again. if you put clean fuel into that then you don’t have to worry about plugging that filter at a premature time frame.”

Stay tuned to future issues of L&L to find out what else you can expect from these changes.


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August 22nd, 2012 at 3:40 am

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Service with a sort of smile

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No matter where you stand on the remarks Chick-fil-A’s CEO made recently about marriage, it’s a fair statement that the company’s employees provide great customer service. Example A, the way this drive-thru attendee handled this encounter. Completely professional, and never once became confrontational. There are two lessons here.

  1. What you say and do as a business owner trickles down to your employees, even if they had nothing to do with your statements.
  2. Your employees deal with customers a lot, and it only takes one unhappy customer and an employee having a bad day to create a volatile situation. Imagine if the employee would have thrown the water in his face. This story would have played out completely differently in the media. So make sure your employees know how to handle unhappy customers and prep them if you know they are going to get complaints out on a job.,0,2409892.story


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August 13th, 2012 at 12:21 pm

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A golden celebration

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The folks who make up the Colorado association – both on the administrative side and the member companies – are top notch.

Congrats, again, to ALCC on 50 years.


July 12th, 2012 at 7:02 pm

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Practice what you preach

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I had the chance to visit John Deere’s Turf Care Factory in Raleigh N.C. as part of customer fly-ins the company does. And I learned a lot about the products and had a chance to meet landscapers and talk with them about the industry. But it was one little sign that really caught my attention. You can read the sign for yourself in the above photo.

Now, I don’t recall John Deere being especially preachy or over the top when it comes to being green, but I thought it was great that a company that makes products for the green industry is trying to be green in as many ways as possible. And if that means asking people to use revolving doors, then that’s a request you should take into account. Besides, why do you have to ASK people to use revolving doors. They are some of my favorite doors to walk through.

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June 22nd, 2012 at 4:49 pm

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I’m pulling together my social media presentation for the OPEI annual meeting next week, and I found this TED talk from Seth Godin. In the short video, Godin outlines his thinking on tribes – the groups people organize themselves in. Increasingly, these tribes are online, and involve tools like Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

It’s worth your 15 minutes.


June 12th, 2012 at 7:11 pm

On the road: 3 cool things

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BASF executives updated reporters last week on the company's R&D efforts.

One of the best parts of my jobs is that I get to travel around and hang out with people who are a lot smarter than I am.

To that end, I spent a few days last week in Chicago with the team at BASF for its biannual Agriculture Media Summit. Every two years, the company brings together a bunch of reporters who cover on potatoes, corn, soybeans and the like, and puts them in a room with its top researchers and executives to showcase the latest projects and other cool stuff they’re working on.

This year, the theme was sustainability, and how farmers all around the world are going to need to feed about nine billion mouths by 2050 using pretty much the same amount of land they have now (and likely a lot less water).

While it has little to do with growing grass or trees, the research does shine a light onto some pretty cool stuff that the company is up to. Here’s a quick round-up of the top three highlights.

AgBalance sustainability measurement too
BASF has developed a tool to help bring some tangible numbers to the question of how sustainable a business or operation is.

It’s AgBalance system, which was developed 15 years ago in the automotive coatings business, examines a couple hundred data points (like soil quality, nutrient balance, biodiversity, rates of worker pay, commodity prices, etc.) to measure sustainability.

The same model has been applied in more than 400 other industries including, in late 2011, agriculture, where it calculated a 40 percent increase in the sustainability of Iowa corn production during a 10 year period.

Jan Buberl, head of the company’s specialty products department, says the T&O market can expect a similar tool in about two years.

Canola oil case study
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. BASF sees an opportunity in helping canola farmers produce these heart-healthy oils, which can then be used to fortify other foods.

The only problem is that canola oil doesn’t contain those chemicals. So the BASF R&D team was able to identify and move genes that do produce these oils into canola seed. In the fall of last year, BASF partnered with Cargill to bring these genetically modified seeds to market by 2020.

Investment in new business
Much of what chemical companies bring to market is, well, chemistry. Through the discovery of new active ingredients, formulations and other technologies, they try to stay ahead of new diseases, pests and other environmental factors.

But that takes money and people. Worldwide, 10,000 BASF employees work in R&D, and the company spends 23 of its annual research budget on new businesses and new segments it’s not already active in.

Last year, BASF posted global revenue of €73.5 billion. By 2020, the company plans to bring in €115 billion, and says a quarter of that will come from products and services that are less than 10 years old.


June 11th, 2012 at 11:59 am