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Archive for the ‘sneak peek’ tag

From biggest to best

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In the early days, Bob Pedatella wanted his company, Kodiak Landscape Design in Haskell, N.J., to be one of the biggest on the block.

But working to get his hardscape company through the recession and fighting for every scrap of market share he can get has changed that outlook.

Before, I used to be proud of how big we were and how many trucks we had,” he says. “Now, I’m proud to be in business. I don’t need 100 trucks to make money. And I’d rather have 50 quality accounts than 100 that don’t pay me on time.”

You can read more from Pedatella and how he’s focused Kodiak on quality, not quantity, in our September issue.


August 1st, 2013 at 8:09 pm

On not taking bad advice

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I was talking with Jerry Maldonado last week and he told me this great story about how his father started their business.

In the 1980s, Roy Maldonado bought a patch of land in San Antonio, cleared it enough to park trucks on, and started his landscape business with his three sons: Roy Jr., Jerry and Oscar.

Because they were just starting out and an hour from their hometown of Kerrville, Texas, the four of them lived in the trucks until they had enough money to build a shack on the property.

For years, they didn’t have running water or electricity. Just a hot plate they plugged into the cigarette lighter to cook cans of beans on.

The whole time, people were telling Jerry to quit and go to work for someone else and get the hell off this ‘ranch’ in the middle of San Antonio.

But he didn’t. His dad had always told him and his two brothers to never work for someone else. “Don’t waste your time making somebody else rich,” he would tell them. “Do it for yourself.”

A few years sleeping in a truck seems worth it today – Maldonado now does about $30 million a year and employs 400 people.

Good thing Jerry’s a bad listener. You can read more from him in our forthcoming September issue.


July 29th, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Big data and consumer preferences

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I sat down with Dr. Charlie Hall last month to talk about his research into the drought, consumer attitudes and the general future of the green industry. You can read our full conversation in the forthcoming December issue of L&L, but here’s a sneak peek:

L&L: What projects are you working on? What’s got your interest right now?
Hall: It’s almost easier to answer what am I not doing. There’s consumer research and there’s research I do with colleagues on benchmarking the industry and in terms of production practices.

I’m also doing some research on the carbon footprint of shade trees right now. We call ourselves the green industry, but in many respects we’re not quite sure how green we are. Of course, the use of water for outdoor landscaping is a hot topic. So we’ve got to know what our footprint is, both in terms of carbon footprint and our water footprint for the future to be able to justify to legislators, and to city and municipal leaders, why we need to continue watering landscapes versus putting a moratorium on outdoor watering.

And I’m doing a whole lot of consumer research on people’s attitudes toward local, organic, sustainable plants. A lot of research has been done on food products but not necessarily on ornamental. So we’re looking at their attitudes on does it make a difference if a plant’s produced locally or whether it’s produced in an energy saving manner or a water saving manner. Or whether or not the plants are water conserving in the landscape. Does that mean anything to folks right now?

L&L: Can you share any initial findings or can you kind of give me an idea what people are thinking?
Hall: I’d say in general people are more responsive and more willing to pay a premium for products right now that are energy conserving rather than water conserving. But that’s also dependent on which region of the country they are. So if they’re in Michigan, they don’t think too much about whether a plant’s water conserving or not. But in Texas they do. Cause, you know in 2011 we lost a heck of a lot of plant materials down here in the state.

And a lot of folks decided, well, I think I’m gonna go back in the hardscape versus plants in my landscape. So we’re trying to measure those attitudes. They’re not looking at water conservation, either in growing the plants or water conservation in the landscape, as heavily as what we might have thought. Except in the regions of the country where that’s been hit by drought.

Hall and his team have spent years compiling research that outlines the economic benefits of plants and the tangible benefits the green industry has on people’s lives.

Apart from great cocktail party conversation, these data should be in your marketing materials and proposals. You can access his reports here.


November 14th, 2012 at 6:19 pm

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

Get inside the mind of a property manager

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In our forthcoming September issue, we sit down with Joe Markling, the CEO at BOMA and head of strategic accounts for CBRE, to find out what property managers and building owners want from landscape and snow contractors.

Here’s a sneak preview:

L&L: What do your members wish landscape contractors knew about how they provide their services?
Markling: Here’s an example. I’m from California and the big issue here is water … and you can’t control how much water you have access to. I have a lot of concerns that landscape contractors need to be much more aggressive with their clients – us – to say ‘If you want this area to stay green, then it’s going to cost you this much in water. We need to put together a plan that overtime will move you toward a drought-tolerant planting (strategy).’

Now, no owner wants to hear about a $10 million landscape project that will only begin paying back after nine years, so the landscape contractor needs to come in with a plan that address certain areas at a time. If it’s a utility issue … it’s a sustainability issue … it’s a water issue, and today’s tenants are much more tolerant of not having the lush green landscape surroundings. In fact, in some cases, it can be a turnoff because of how much it costs – not only in dollars, but in water – to maintain. Landscape contractors need to have a frank ongoing discussion about how we can have a plan, over a period of years, to slowly integrate these changes and is easily budgeted.

Keep an eye out for the September issue for more.


August 23rd, 2012 at 9:09 am

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The best dog, not the biggest

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Last week, I sat down with Vidu Kulkarni, CEO at TruGreen LandCare. We talked about his appointment a year ago, and what his plans are for the “new” landscape company as it emerges from a long period of foundering as part of ServiceMaster.

Here’s a taste:

L&L: LandCare always seemed to struggle as part of ServiceMaster. How will you improve the business?
VK: Being independent is great for us. What we need to achieve short term – if you talk to pretty much anyone down to branch managers and people in TruGreen LandCare, the message in terms of what we need to focus on is very consistent. Our 2012 focus is resetting the foundation, getting back to the basics, making sure we do them right every day. Ours is a relatively straightforward business. We’re not building rocketships. Longer term, our focus is on profitable growth, not being the biggest dog on the block. I want to be the best dog on the block.

Read the full story – including how Kulkarni plans to compete with Brickman and ValleyCrest – on our main site.


July 11th, 2012 at 6:37 am

Sneak peek: Training and HR manuals

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“We had what we thought was a training program and a set of procedures, but until you sit down and evaluate that…. We realized we had inconsistencies with each position because we didn’t have those job descriptions written down on paper. One guy wanted to do the job this way, another wanted to do it another way.”

That’s from Fred Peratt, president of Environmental Enhancements in Sterling, Va., discussing why he decided to sit down and write down what each of his employees did (or was supposed to be doing).

You can read more from Fred and other contractors in our forthcoming August issue.


June 18th, 2012 at 6:05 am

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