Posts Tagged ‘Business Tips’

Increase Profitability and Customer Satisfaction with Lawn Care Services

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
New stand-on machines including spreader sprayers and aerators increase productivity and reduce employee fatigue, which leads to increased revenue and profitabilty.

New stand-on machines increase the profitability of lawn care services by increasing the productivity each employee is capable of, while reducing employee fatigue to make performing the services more sustainable.

According to the 2014 LM150 report from Landscape Management magazine, seven of the country’s top-25 landscape maintenance companies are also in the top-25 lawn care companies. As competition in the maintenance category increases, an increasing number of landscape maintenance professionals are adding lawn care services as a way to deliver increased customer satisfaction while also increasing profitability.

Thanks to recent advances in stand-on lawn care equipment such as aerators and spreader sprayer machines, landscape professionals can deliver high quality lawn care services more profitably than ever. New machines such as the Exmark spreader sprayer offer greater flexibility in the chemicals used for weed and pest control, allowing lawn care professionals to do more with each pass of the machine.

The addition of high-quality lawn care services can help to grow maintenance business and grow your status as an expert at delivering beautiful, well-manicured landscapes among your customers.

The addition of high-quality lawn care services can help to grow maintenance business and grow your status as an expert at delivering beautiful, well-manicured landscapes among your customers.

Exmark estimates the switch from a 21-inch walk-behind aerator to a 30-inch stand-on machine can be paid back in 2-3 weeks. Lawn care professional Kent Harlan said he has made enough money to pay for his $9,500 Exmark spreader sprayer in 2-3 days.

In a competitive marketplace, the addition of lawn care services is a competitive advantage for an existing maintenance business. Today more than ever, customers want to hire a lawn care expert that can deliver a beautiful, manicured, weed-free yard. They don’t want to deal with one contractor for maintenance and another contractor for aeration, fertilization or weed control. As such, the opportunity exists to make more money for contractors willing to add the lawn care services customers want and need.

Today, it’s easier than ever to add lawn care services to an existing maintenance business.

When deciding which services to add, listen to customer feedback to learn which services have the most demand.

Employee training is important for the quality delivery of lawn care services. Additionally, certification and licensing are required for landscape professionals looking to add fertilization or chemical application services. In most states, certification and licensing are coordinated by the Department of Agriculture, or Office of State Chemist.

Download the complete Lawn Care Services white paperEPSON018 (in Adobe PDF format).

Striping Tips and Techniques

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Everyone loves a well-striped lawn.  Whether at a Major League ballpark, or your own back yard, something about lawn striping exemplifies quality like a pinstriped business suit.  In many cases, the best lawn stripes come from a combination of cutting experience, trial and error, and good artistic sense.  At the same time, certain basic striping techniques and an understanding of what causes a good pattern can help you maximize your own craftsmanship and your lawn’s beauty.

Keep your lawn healthy

It all starts with a healthy lawn and good cut quality.  That said, striping does help unhealthy turf look a little better.  The best, most clearly defined stripes get noticed, and clear definition starts with a professional grade cutting deck.   If your lawn looks good without any striping, if you can easily achieve a “pool table” look after a fresh cut with your current mower, then you can realistically expect a quality pattern.

Make sure your equipment is properly tuned

Whether you intend to stripe or not, proper deck tuning simply means that you’re maximizing the quality your deck can provide.  It should have a slightly positive rake (meaning the rear of the deck is just a little bit higher than the front), your blades should be sharp and well aligned (which can be undone after impact with any solid objects). 

With a properly tuned cutting deck, grass will stand up straight under the vacuum forces created by your deck blades in operation.  Some blades and decks have more vacuum efficiency than others, but any striping that can occur has to happen after the deck has passed.    In its essence, striping is nothing more than bending the blades of grass in one direction, uniformly across the entire width of cut, in a contrasting pattern. 

Does your deck really need a striper?

Before investing money in a professional-grade striping mechanism, you need to check a few things.  First, consider your mower.  You may already be getting a good quality of stripe from the basic design of your mower’s cutting deck.  Some decks even have a drag shield installed to protect the operator from any thrown object hazards.  While the drag shield itself has not been designed as a striper, it may do so anyway simply because it will lean grass in the direction of travel.

What type of striper works best?

Striper designs run the gamut from heavy-duty steel rollers, to flexible skirts, to brushes and chains.  Most all designs fit up to the back edge of the cutting deck, but in some cases may trail behind the mower itself.  The best choice for you may come down to personal preference based on cost, ease of installation, removal, or adjustability.  

That said, roller stripers have the lowest tendency to push, or “bull doze” material in front of the striper.  When this happens (and is most commonly seen with drag stripers), grass clippings pile up until they become heavy enough to roll under the skirt in clumps.  You may get a decent stripe, but the clumping could ruin the quality of cut.  All things considered, your dealer most often is the best source of information when it comes to matching the right striper design to your particular mower.

Can your grass hold a stripe?

Before getting started, consider the type of grass you typically mow, and the seasonal weather conditions.  Cool season grasses found in northern U.S. climates tend to stripe more effectively than in southern climates due in large part to their differences in flexibility.  The same machine and striper can, for example, achieve a crisper pattern in Wisconsin fescue than perhaps it can in Kentucky.  An example at one end of the scale can be found in Florida.  The St. Augustine grass there is so robust and rigid that it simply does not want to lean over in the direction of travel. 

How does the sun affect your stripe quality?

Regardless of how you bend a blade of grass, stripes are perceived by the light reflected from each blade of grass in contrast to the next.  The contrasting effect will vary in different ambient light conditions.  

In other words, the striping appearance will change throughout the day as the angle of the sun’s rays to the grass changes.  The most contrast is created if the directions of travel is in the same direction as the sun’s rays.  The more you lean the grass over, the more contrast you will see.

In fact, grass blades themselves tend to reflect light better on one side of the blade than the other, so this can enhance the stripe pattern in just the right lighting. 

With this in mind, you may want to experiment with the stripe direction that looks best on your lawn.  A north-south direction may reflect its pattern more consistently than an east-west direction due to the position of your lawn, and its hills and trees, in relation to the sun’s movement during the day. 

Keep your lines straight

Once you have decided on the best pattern and begun to mow, keep your lines straight by maintaining your focus far ahead.  Quite often, the closer your sight line is to your mowing deck, the more your mowing tends to wander.  This remains true whether you are striping or not.  Also, balance your speed and make sure you overlap the stripes to avoid unsightly gaps.  Going full speed may result in a lighter stripe and uneven cut, while going too slow may challenge your ability to keep a straight line.

Practice makes permanent

Remember, the best lawn stripes may come from gaining experience at what works best for your conditions.  It also comes from learning the basics.  Practicing good habits makes those habits more permanent.  If you don’t like your results, don’t lose heart.  Keep the grass healthy, review basic striping techniques, and try it again.  With each pass, you will gain experience and soon be able to transform any nice lawn into a real head-turner.

U.S. Lawns. A national company with local roots.

Friday, September 24th, 2010

This month we bring you U.S. Lawns, a unique landscaping company built on a strong foundation of local franchisees with offices strategically placed across the country. The idea of U.S. Lawns is to have local presence in different communities by providing landscape professionals with resources and key business strategies to be successful. With the backing of a large company, franchisees can offer customers the personal service of a landscape pro and commitment to excellence of a local business owner.  U.S. Lawn’s commitment to delivering a superior product is in line with our thinking, and we’re proud to be one of their partners.

We asked U.S. Lawns a few questions and here’s what they had to say:

When did your operation first open its doors?

U.S. Lawns was founded and began franchising in 1986. However, the real growth of the concept began in the late 1990’s after the business model had been tested, refined and proven by our early “pioneer” franchise owners. We now have offices in more than 200 markets in 34 states.

What is the one unique thing about your business?

We offer national strength with a local commitment. The combination of local providers and national resources help make U.S. Lawns a leader in the commercial landscape management industry. Our territories for franchisees are set up with a 20-30 minute drive time in mind, in order to serve the customer quicker and more efficiently while our home office is staffed with professionals who are leaders in their respective fields, from agronomics to economics and from marketing to accounting and HR to support our franchisees.

How do you want to be viewed in the marketplace?

We want to be viewed as our Mission Statement proclaims: provide our clients with the highest quality landscape management program at competitive prices through a national organization of dedicated owner-operators and their employees, supported by the expertise of today’s most accomplished industry leaders. In pursuit of excellence we are committed to honest and forthright dealings with our clients, our employees and our vendors.

Typically, what do owners/franchisees look for in the machines they use?

Our franchisees look at equipment as necessary tools to consistently and efficiently service the customer’s property. For this reason we want our employees to operate equipment that is safe and easy to operate, cutting-edge efficient, has been engineered for zero down time and will last well past its warranty period. Since we perform only routine maintenance on our equipment, not major repairs, we put a great value on a good dealer network that understands the commercial contractor market.

What kinds of practices do you look for and expect in mower manufacturers?

We expect the manufacturer to fully understand the key drivers in our business and then proactively address these key drivers as they design and build both their machines and, more importantly, their customer support teams. We also expect what every customer expects – good warranties, proactive communication, advance notice of product developments and issues, and continued research and development that supports the future of our industry.

Is it important to have a strong relationship with your dealer?

YES! It is paramount. The buying decision is based largely on the strength of the dealer. The local dealer’s influence on getting a repair being made quickly, for us, is paramount. Equipment will break, but the cost, ease and speed of the repair will determine a strong relationship.

Where do you see the industry headed, generally speaking?

A recent trend focuses on green initiatives. More energy-efficient electric mowers and mowers with less noise would seem to be the way of the future.

What is the one thing that’s currently affecting the industry?

The customer is not willing to pay more today than yesterday for the same services.  There have been no significant improvements in the equipment industry that improve field efficiency. This restricts the contractor’s ability to improve margins by upgrading equipment, forcing the contractor to either increase efficiencies in other areas of their business or to accept lower margins for their work.

Where would you like to see the industry headed?

Upward and green! We firmly believe the future of the equipment industry is dependent upon change –not incremental change as we’ve seen over many years, but exponential change: different power sources and radically different designs allowing for far greater efficiency while addressing environmental concerns.

What is next for your company?

U.S. Lawns will continue to be a leader in the commercial landscape management industry. We continue to grow our business, even in a challenging economy, and keep our eyes on the future at all times. We push forward every day, keeping up with technology and constantly building our pool of resources for our franchisees. Our goal is always customer satisfaction, and we believe we deliver it better than anyone.

Want to read more about U.S. Lawns visit

It’s Tax Time!

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

It’s April, which means you can basically count on two things: rain and taxes. Both affect your business, but one comes with some major headaches. You can probably guess which one. We’ve compiled some current tax tips that will help minimize the confusion and, hopefully, do away with the headaches.

  1. 1. There are new rules for business losses, so take advantage of them if you can. Decide whether you want to carryback or carryforward net profit losses.
  2. 2. Depreciation is not a dirty word. Section 179 allows for immediate deductions of certain fixed assets and a 50 percent bonus depreciation for new assets. A word to the wise: a current deduction is better than a deferred one.
  3. 3. Know the rules in your state. Each state has its own filing requirements and is very strict in enforcing them. Read up on your state’s rules and if you’re required to file in another state, know their policies as well.
  4. 4. Extensions happen. Since you can report taxes close to the deadline, expect extensions to happen to your business and individual returns. And don’t worry—if you file for an extension, it doesn’t mean you’ll be targeted for closer examination by the tax man.
  5. 5. Switch things around. This would be a good year to accelerate income and defer expenses. Though it’s the opposite of what you’re used to doing, it could help minimize taxes through a different account method.
  6. 6. Wishful thinking. Unfortunately for small businesses, taxes will be going up. You can take certain steps to minimize taxes now and in future years when rates go up. Of course, each state is different.
  7. 7. Don’t throw it out. Good record-keeping can save you a lot of time, money and hassle. Copies of business tax returns, licenses, incorporation papers and capital equipment expenses should be kept indefinitely. As for tax-related documents like expense receipts, client 1099 forms and vehicle mileage logs, they should be kept for a minimum of seven years.
  8. 8. When all else fails, pick up the phone. If you have any questions, you can call 800-829-4933. It’s a trouble-shooting hotline set up by the IRS specifically for small business, corporations, partnerships and trusts.
  9. 9. Tick tock. When it comes to doing your taxes, the best thing to do is not procrastinate. Getting a head start means you’ll have more time to work out any problems that may come up.

Hope this information is useful and will help to keep you on your Exmark rather than in the office doing paperwork. Now go fill out those tax forms, if you haven’t already.

Note: Exmark Manufacturing are not tax experts. For specific tax related tips, you will want to contact and leverage your tax consultant.