Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
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.
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.
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.
Fresh on the heels of Brian’s trip to Spain, I’m out on the road for about half of June. I’m visiting with folks across the country over the next few weeks.
- BASF media summit, Chicago – This week, the chemical manufacturer has brought together about 100 editors in the turf, ornamental and agricultural industries. I’m sitting down with their top technical and market experts to get a handle on what they have coming down the pike for LCOs.
- Exclusive interview with Stihl president Fred Whyte, Virginia Beach – The hand-held manufacturer is taking a stand for independent businesses and the American economy.
- A roundtable discussion with the ALCC and owners, Denver – I’ve asked eight top owners and the directors for the Colorado association to sit down to discuss water management, environmental impacts and the status of the market in the west.
- OPEI annual meeting, Colorado Springs – Every summer, the leaders from major equipment companies get together to discuss the state of their industry. I’ll be their reporting on their outlook, predictions and what new regulations mean for the sticker price of your iron.
Stay tuned to our blog and our news site for continuing coverage of these events. If I’m coming to your town, let me know and we can grab a cup of coffee. Or, if you have any questions for these groups, send them to me at email@example.com.
I got to do one of my favorite things as editor at L&L today.
When we run surveys, we typically offer an incentive – we’ve given away iPads, digital cameras and a trip to Hawaii. But we run a lot of surveys, so we often use gift cards. So every few weeks I walk down to the bank near our office and pick up a few Visa gift cards.
We just finished up another research project, this one about lawn care product use, and I got to pick up cards at $75 a pop for 10 random respondents.
- Michael Rush, Rush Lawn Care, Searcy, Ark.
- Ricki Linyard, Lawn Doctor, Olive Branch, Miss.
- Mark Landa, Boulevard Flower Gardens, South Chesterfield, Va.
- Erv Denig, Lawn & Turf Landscaping, Ft. Wayne, Ind.
- Robb Bashaw, Rancho del Escudo, Waller, Texas
- Chris Senske, Senske Lawn & Tree Care, Kennewick,Wash.
- Rick Lisanti, Growing Concern, Monroe Township, N.J.
- Craig Pickett, J.H. Plantscapes, Cypress, Texas
- Rafael Rico, Hometown Pest Control, Delray Beach, Fla.
- Mark Ruppert, Ruppert & Company Property Services, Bloomfield, Conn.
So, congratulations to our winners. Your cards are on their way. And to everyone else out there, thank you for taking the time to fill out our surveys. We know you’re busy, and your responses really help us as we put together the magazine each month.
A few weeks ago, landscapers across the country pitched in around their communities as part of PLANET’s annual Day of Service. It’s a way for companies to give back to the areas where they operate, and help out local organizations.
The Day of Service is just one of many examples of landscapers giving back and participating in community service projects. (In fact, we’ve got an entire department in the magazine dedicated to just these types of projects.)
Last month, Dan Moreland, my former boss and publisher of our sister publication PCT, wrote about Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and the correlation between compassion and business success.
For any company operating today, profitability cannot be the sole measure of success,” Schultz said. “Delivering long-term shareholder value is essential. But today’s increasingly complex world requires companies — including Starbucks — to hold ourselves to higher standards. Amidst continued worldwide economic uncertainty, Starbucks has demonstrated that it will continue to build shareholder value, but never before has that value been more closely aligned to our values. Simply put, the value of your company is driven by your company’s values.”
Capitalism, in and of itself, is not bad. It’s what has enabled the United States to become the largest economy in the world. I’ve benefited personally from the fruits of capitalism. Thirty-one years ago, when I joined GIE Media, we were a modest, start-up business employing four people working out of a single-room loft above a local restaurant. Today, we publish more than a dozen magazines and employ more than 80 people, supporting scores of families. Watching those families grow and prosper and contribute to their respective communities has been the single most gratifying professional experience of my life, and it’s all due to the gift — and power — of capitalism.
It’s when we lose our moral compass as companies, or as individuals, when we put profits and personal aggrandizement above all else, that we suffer collectively. The pest management industry understands this basic contract with society, perhaps because pest control companies have such an intimate relationship with their customers and the communities they serve. Paul Jackson, a staff writer for The Northwestern Chronicle, puts it best: “There are good CEOs and good companies, moral corporations; there is moral capitalism because as moral beings even our self-interest is moral in itself, but only if we see ourselves as humans reflecting humanity, one to another. How we function as a society, economy and polity has to do with Us: the market reveals Us and shows what kind of people we are. Indeed, the market is a test, a proving ground for your heart in search of the question — just how moral are you?”
If you’re in business just to make money, you’ll probably do OK. But if you make your goal the improvement of those around you and your community, you’ll do great.
I consider myself a connoisseur of frozen foods. Lean Pockets, Healthy Choice, Lean Cuisine (I need to stay slim), I can pick out the best tasting ones from each company, as well as give a stinky face to the ones they should have never brought to market. And within the frozen food market, I am really invested into the frozen pizza market.
In the past few years, I’ve noticed the makers of these gems have really stepped up their game. No longer are there only three variations of the same item under each brand. Nope, now there’s thin, thick and cheese-filled crusts, combos with wings, cookies, and one of my favorites, a dipping sticks pizza. They cut the pizza so it can be dipped in marinara sauce they provide And recently, I tried a Diginoro chicken parmesan pizza that was the probably one of the greatest frozen pizzas I’ve ever had. I’m smiling just writing about it.
So why am I clogging the L&L blog with unhealthy, fattening (although they now have fat free pizzas too!) frozen goods? Because the frozen food, especially pizza, market is very similar to landscaping. Some would probably say, “it’s just frozen pizza” like someone could say that you just mow lawns. And yes, that’s true, but it’s all in the presentation and the ideas to make what seems like a simple product or service into something dynamic. So, if you are a company that considers yourself just a mow and blow operation, you are missing out on a great opportunity. I remember when getting a Stouffer’s French bread pizza was like a mini-vacation for me. Now, I don’t even buy those because there are so many other better brands out there. Take a look at your competition and see what you can do better than them. Somewhere along the line, a wise person noticed no one was standing out in the market, and took advantage.
And try that chicken parm pizza. I swear, it was fantastic.
Everyone loves free cupcakes, right? YES! But what if you had to give the supplier of these tasty treats a five-star review on Yelp. Is that a dirty trick, or a great marketing ploy? Well, the cupcake competition and sweet tooths in the area weren’t happy with this sweet deal.
“That’s terrible. 5 stars gets you a free cupcake? Earn your crowd, don’t buy it,” was one tweet aimed at the downtown cupcake shop that opened just last month. Others proclaimed the offer “BS,” one said the FCC should be alerted, a public apology was requested, and potential customers were swiftly lost. “Was excited to try your cakes, but this pandering for top reviews honestly makes me not trust your business. Sorry,” said one. And naturally, some in the Twitter world took the opportunity to promote the competition in Lakewood — LaBella Cupcakes — saying, “they don’t bribe for reviews.”
Would you ever give away a free mow for a good review, or would that be frowned upon in the industry?
Go to our Facebook page and let us know what you think. www.facebook.com/lawnandlandscape
Marty Grunder tells us this week to focus not just on our work, but what our work does for us.
I just got back from being on Spring Break with my family in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. The fact that I have a team at Grunder Landscaping Co. that is so good I can leave for a week during the busiest time of the year says a lot about my leaders. I would not be able to do this if it weren’t for them. Our trip was not anything fancy; we drove down there; we stayed in a condo; we cooked some of our own meals; we went out to dinner with our friends who came down with us; and we did a whole lot of bonding and a whole lot of nothing. And, we enjoyed our success. My wife Lisa and I are lucky beyond belief. We don’t have more money than we know what to do with but emotionally we’re filthy rich! So, in the next week, make sure you take some time to enjoy your success. It doesn’t have to be a big deal; go to dinner; take an afternoon off and go home early; buy a new pair of shoes; get your car detailed; just do something that enables you to see some of the fruits of your labor. It’s spring and landscapers are busy now. We need to take a deep breath and sit back once in a while, even when we are our busiest.
You can read the full story – including what Joey Votto, the Cincinnati Reds and $220 million dollars have to do with it – here.
Monica Abington runs a Weed Man franchise in Arkansas. Just before Christmas in 2010, already saddled with the hard work of running a small business and raising four kids on her own, she started to get headaches and wasn't sleeping well.
I apparently was having seizures at night. I'm here alone, so I wasn't aware of that. I had taken my nanny, who at that time was almost full-time in the house, and the kids on a business trip. So we were all in a hotel room, and she said I began to cough and different things. The following morning I woke up to her sitting on the side of my bed, and she said, "Are you okay?"
Of course, you don't remember, so I was waking up every day going, "Wow, I really don't feel that good, but there's a lot of stress. I'm by myself, and I have these kids, and I'm running the company," you know, kind of chalk it up to what anybody would.
You would never go, "I have a brain tumor."
You can read Monica's full story in our April issue, which will be arriving soon.