Monthly Archives: September 2015

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Exmark awarded $24.3 million in lawsuit

A jury has awarded lawnmower maker Exmark Manufacturing nearly $24.3 million in a patent infringement lawsuit.

Exmark, which is based in Beatrice, filed a lawsuit in 2010 alleging that Briggs & Stratton Power Products Group and Schiller Grounds Care were manufacturing mowers that infringed on one of its patents.
The patent at issue covered multiblade mowers equipped with baffles between blades that allow the mower to be converted from a mulching to a side-discharge mower.
The jury in the trial in U.S. District Court decided that Briggs & Stratton Power Products Group willfully infringed on Exmark’s patent for the design. However, the jury ruled that redesigned versions of the mowers did not infringe on the patent. It awarded $24,280,300 in damages.
The jury released its decision Friday afternoon, but it was not filed with the court until Monday morning.
For the full story, on, click here.

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Company honors Dealer of the Year

FAIRFIELD, Ohio – FINN Corporation held its annual Dealer Sales & Executives Conference in downtown Cincinnati last month. Close to 100 attendees from over 25 North American dealers were treated to nearly two days of FINN equipment sales education, hands-on equipment training, plus valuable networking between dealers and with FINN corporate, sales and engineering teams. During the awards dinner, FINN presented the 2014 Dealer of the Year Award for exceptional dealer performance to Highway Equipment Company of Zelienople, Pa.

"Highway Equipment is a shining example of a successful FINN dealer," said Shawn Casey, FINN president and CEO. "They had a terrific 2014, and they continually exceed our expectations, no matter how high we set the bar. They have dedicated parts and service teams, plus dedicated FINN sales champions, and they extensively promote the FINN brand. They have been a great dealer partner for many years."
In addition to Dealer of the Year, Tri-State Bobcat of Burnsville, Minn., was awarded the Most Improved Dealer for 2014 because of its consistent growth and the refocusing and refining of its FINN sales efforts to increase its purchases by more than 200 percent over 2013.
Each of the 25 dealers in attendance received a special recognition plaque, as did each member of the Dealer Advisory Council, a six member group of elected dealer representatives who act as a liaison between the dealer network and FINN Corporation. The council was given a crystal plaque in recognition of their hard work and dedication in helping strengthen FINN and our dealer network.
The equipment training portion of the conference had everyone working at Eden Park in Cincinnati to mulch the garden beds in time for a big park event later that week. Groups rotated between three FINN Bark Blowers for more than five hours, gaining valuable practical experience with various sized machines in different landscape situations.

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Staff smarter

Finding and keeping good employees is one of the toughest parts of operating a lawn and landscape business so we asked some experts how they handle the complicated process of hiring and retention. Here are four pieces of real world advice:

1) Know what you want.

“I am looking for people who are intensely interested in win, win, win across the board. I want someone who says ‘I want to work for this company so I can give value to the company, I can give value to the customers and I can give value to my own family.’ I don’t want to take you away from something else. We should be able to do everything together.” – David Tucker, owner of CLIP Landscaping in Frederick, Md.

2) Get referrals.

“If one of my people recommends someone, I trust their judgment because they wouldn’t be with me for the last 10 years if they didn’t believe in what we were doing.” – Michael Danley, owner of D-Lite Lawn Maintenance in Fort Wayne, Ind.

3) Reward good behavior.

“Take care of your people. We’re all offering competitive wages, so it’s the little things that will add up to a good work environment.” – Brad Hayes, CEO of Greenbee Landscape in Palmdale, Cali.

4) Hand over the reins.

“Our employees have come up with some of our best ideas. Listening to them and letting them experiment – giving them a chance to fail sometimes with a new system or procedure has been very good because it gives them an opportunity.” – Brad Hayes, CEO of Greenbee Landscape in Palmdale, Cali.

For more on hiring and retention, keep any eye out for the October issue of Lawn & Landscape.




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Study this on-boarding checklist

The first day for most employees is, “you are with Jose today, truck #12” and off they go. There is not much of an on-boarding program, and we wonder why those folks don’t stay.

Watch this week as the Harvesters offer some solid ideas for on-boarding. What do you think? Maybe it’s time to build a good program.
Sign up on the blog to check out the Harvesters On-Boarding Check List. This will help you in your planning process. 

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TruGreen files $1 million permit

A $1 million permit has been filed to renovate the new TruGreen headquarters in East Memphis into a space that reflects the company motto — "Live life outside."

In May, TruGreen inked a lease for the top three floors of Forum II at 1790 Kirby Parkway, owned by Hertz Investment Group of California, giving the lawn-care service 65,000 square feet.
The Memphis-based company had been looking to establish a separate corporate headquarters for its 300-plus employees since spinning off from ServiceMaster Co. last January. The move solidified the company’s commitment to Memphis, David Alexander, TruGreen president and CEO, said at the time.
For the full story, on, click here.

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The taskmaster

Multitasking. That’s been the aspiration of the American worker for the last decade as technology has been delivering more and more information to us faster and faster. The problem is that multitasking is not the panacea everyone hoped it would be. In fact, attempts to multitask actually reduce productivity and effectiveness. That’s what current science is finding.

In early 2010, Stanford University released a study that concluded in part that people just don’t multitask very well. But we don’t even need to look to science to know this is true. Just ask yourself whether you’ve ever been in someone else’s office trying to have a conversation with them while they checked their e-mail. How effective and productive was the experience? Not very, right?

The reason we don’t multitask well is founded more on an economic theory called a switch cost than anything else. A switch cost is the cost (in this case, time) of switching between processes. That’s because every time you switch between things – one task to another – it takes a moment to come up to speed on the new task before you can be productive. Thus, as you can see, the more switches that occur, the higher the cost in lost time.

Do one thing at a time.

Even though this is extremely difficult to do in the modern work environment, turning off new message alerts and working behind closed doors for short periods of time greatly assists you in reducing the interruptions that litter your day. Now with a little quieter space, give yourself a leg up by trying to work on only one thing at a time, in order to eliminate any switch costs that you’re adding to your day.

Limiting yourself to doing one thing at a time is the best gift you can give yourself. When you focus on that one thing, you will accomplish it more efficiently, and the result will be better.

Identify today’s one thing.

There are any number of days in a week, month, year where you feel more like the Ping-Pong ball than the paddle. It’s all you can do just to keep your head above water. The suggestions in this article will help, but the tide can rise to tsunami levels at times, and even the best of efforts can’t get you ahead of the game.

A great way to squeeze a small sense of accomplishment and command out of the worst of days and weeks is to select the one thing you’re going to get done today. Then no matter how bad the day gets, you commit to getting that one thing done. The result will be evidence of forward movement on that day, along with a greater feeling of being in control of at least part of your day.

Spread priorities out.

“This is an ASAP!” “I need this NOW!” “Urgent, Highest Priority!” These are just some of the so-called deadlines that get thrown at you throughout the day. The fundamental problem presented here is that these deadlines lack specificity and clarity. Having searched long and hard, it can be stated without doubt that “ASAP” does not appear on any calendar published today.

This is what I call the “ASAP problem,” and it, and its cousins “Urgent” and “Now,” have become the default mechanism for establishing deadlines in the modern work environment. The reality is that most things aren’t that urgent. In fact, in almost every instance, when you deliver this project ASAP, it will likely languish on the desk you deliver it to for days, even weeks. So it really wasn’t that important.

Seek specific deadlines – dates and times – and spread them out over the course of the future accordingly. It’s easier to do this with work over which you have control and harder for work being assigned to you.

Whenever you next receive something that needs to be done ASAP, simply respond with a positive statement about the work and a query about whether “Tuesday at 3” would work. You’ll find that by placing a specific date and time on the deadline, the work giver will begin conversing in the same fashion.

By establishing specific deadlines and then spreading those out over the course of the near future, you regain command of your workload. That way, when someone next approaches you with an ASAP, you can clearly, and with a high degree of confidence, respond to them with a specific deadline option and begin the negotiation process to fit it into your day while also responding to their needs.

Conduct regular core dumps.

You have a lot of stuff in your head, and you are always thinking about it. Getting focused (and productive) is largely a function of quieting down your physical and mental space as much as possible. The idea behind a core dump is to take all the things popping up in your head and commit them to some form of record – a to-do list, an electronic task-management system, or something similar.

Once your mind knows that these items have been captured, it can let go of them and turn its full attention to what needs doing right now. Core dumps can be conducted anytime and anywhere. Whenever you find yourself repeating a series of things in your head, it’s a good time to take a brief moment and core-dump that list into a permanent record.

You’ll be surprised by how freeing this little behavior is. The weight of the world will lift from your shoulders, and you’ll be able to better focus on the “right now.”

Use full screens.

The use of multiple monitors at work has become common. In fact, one of my clients had five monitors on his desk and purported to work with all of them open all the time. Even those of us without the budget or authority to command multiple monitors on our desk will have multiple windows open at any one time.

Either way, this is a distraction-rich environment. Every time something changes on one monitor or window, your eye will be naturally drawn to it. This causes a distraction, however slight, that eats into your focus and productivity.

The sole exception to this rule – full screens on one monitor and eliminating the use of multiple monitors – is when you are aggregating information from multiple sources into a single source. Think of this exception as the “term paper” exception. When writing a term paper, the various source documents are researched and assembled. Then once writing has begun, those source materials are stacked up around you as you write. Using multiple monitors or partial windows on a single monitor is effective for this sort of effort.

Do one more (little) thing. The final tip for getting more command over tasks is to do one little thing at the very end of the day. Get in the habit of buttoning everything up and getting ready to go home and, before leaving the office, to do one more little thing – return a call, respond to a short email, put a file folder away.

Given that we work approximately 240 days a year, you can get 240 more little things done each year. Imagine if you got 240 more little things done this year than last year. That’s a lot of little things.

Following these tips will keep you focused and more productive. The cake will be that moment at the end of the day when you get just one more little thing done. You’ll leave the office feeling good about what you’ve accomplished.

The author is a time management coach. You can learn more about him at

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Heads Up promotes Padilla

AlLBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Heads Up Landscaping has announced that it has promoted Eddie Padilla to executive vice president. In this expanded role, Padilla will continue to oversee sales, marketing, design and customer service, and add oversight of personnel, recruitment and quality control for the company.

“It’s an honor to be given additional responsibilities,” said Padilla. “Heads Up is a great place because I make a difference every day, both in beautifying customer landscapes and properties, and in helping the people who work here provide for their families. Heads Up has always supported its employees, including me, with great opportunities to advance and grow.”
Padilla graduated from the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management with a BBA in general management in 1999, and has been with Heads Up Landscape Contractors since 2001. 

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Dow hosts giveaway

Defend your turf giveaway

GIE+EXPO – Dow AgroSciences Booth 3005
Kentucky Exposition Center
937 Phillips Lane
Louisville, KY  40209
Friday, Oct. 23, 12:30 p.m. ET
Join Dow AgroSciences at the GIE+EXPO when we announce the first winner of the Defend Your Turf Giveaway. One lucky lawn care operator will win a Z-Spray Z-Max sprayer or a PermaGreen Triumph sprayer to use in their operation. A second winner will be selected after the show.
Defendor specialty herbicide, which is now sold in 1-quart containers, will also be promoted at the booth. When paired with either sprayer, it’s a match to control high-anxiety weeds while spreading a granular fertilizer – all in one pass.
“Defendor performs in cold weather when nothing else works,” says Maureen Clark, product manager for Dow AgroSciences Turf & Ornamental (T&O). “Turf professionals can apply Defendor in late fall or early spring and see the same superior results.”
Starting Oct. 1, people can enter online at or visit Booth 3005 at GIE+EXPO to check out the equipment and register to win in person. The second winner will be selected on or after Dec. 2. All entries submitted between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1 will be included in the second drawing. Only one entry per person.
Tom Linnen, Dow AgroSciences, T&O Portfolio marketing leader
Maureen Clark, Dow AgroSciences, T&O product manager 

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Company hosts online benefit auction

SAUK CENTRE, Minn. – Felling Trailers is conducting its third online auction of a FT-3 drop deck utility trailer to benefit a non-profit organization. Felling Trailers wants to bring awareness of and support to Alzheimer’s Disease and individuals affected by the disease. Thus, Felling Trailers manufactured and painted one of its trailers Alzheimer’s purple to be auctioned online for 10 days during the month of October. 

Tredit Tire donated the wheels and Midwest Industrial Coatings donated the custom metallic purple paint for this trailer and cause. One hundred percent of the winning bid will benefit Act on Alzheimer’s.
The online auction via Ebay (listing # 221892683996) will be “live” from Monday, Oct. 12 at 12 p.m. CST until Thursday, Oct. 22 at 12 p.m. CST. Arrangements to be made for pick up at Felling Trailers’ manufacturing facility or delivery (freight extra).  

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Finish strong

Jim Huston

Just about all of my clients and all market segments are seeing growth that they haven’t seen since 2007. It looks like the recent recession is finally subsiding. It’s understandable that you and your team are a bit burned out but it’s imperative that you finish on a good note. Here are a few reasons why.

The break-even point (BEP).

Around September is when a company usually hits its BEP. This means you’ve accumulated enough gross profit margin dollars to equal your general and administrative (G&A) overhead costs for the year. Once you’ve reached your BEP, any amount you bill above your direct costs (field labor, labor burden, materials, subcontractors, field trucks and equipment) goes right to your bottom line (net profit margin). Let me give you an example.

A full-service landscape company has a $1 million sales budget for 2015. It’s budgeted G&A overhead costs for the year total $250,000 (25 percent). Its average GPM (sales minus direct costs) is 35 percent. To calculate this company’s BEP, you divide its G&A overhead costs by its average GPM.

  • G&A overhead costs ÷ average company GPM
    $250,000 ÷ .35 = $714,286

This company should hit its BEP once it has billed a little over $700,000. You want to track this dollar amount and the date that you hit it from year to year.

The fourth quarter press.

Here’s what exceeding your budget can do for your bottom line.

Our example company has a budgeted net profit margin of 10 percent or $100,000. It’s such a banner year, that if the owner and staff maintain their focus and really press to the end of the fourth quarter, it’s possible they could achieve from $1.1 million-$1.2 million in sales. Because the company GPM averages 35 percent and because it has reached its BEP, an extra $100,000 in revenue adds $35,000 to its bottom line. In other words, because all of this company’s G&A overhead is paid for, the GPM now becomes the net profit margin.

  • Budgeted net profit margin
    ($100,000 NPM ÷ $1 million sales = .1 or 10%)
  • Potential GPM / net profit margin with additional $100,000 in sales
    ($135,000 NPM ÷ 1,100,000 sales = .1227 or 12.3%)
  • Potential GPM / net profit margin with additional $200,000 in sales
    ($170,000 NPM ÷ 1,200,000 sales = .1417 or 14.2%)

This company could almost double its projected net profit margin with an additional $200,000 in sales.

Formatting the profit and loss (P&L) statement.

It is very important that you format your P&L statement properly. If you do, you can easily track accumulated GPM for the year. This will allow you to identify your BEP amount and when you achieve it. If sales are more than $500,000 for the year, I recommend you do this for each of your divisions (installation, maintenance, snow and ice, etc.). Here’s how it should look.

  • Sales revenue $1,000,000/100%
  • Materials $235,000/23.5%
  • Field labor $250,000/25%
  • Field labor burden $50,000 /5%
  • Subcontractors $10,000/1%
  • Equipment & trucks (owned) $100,000/10%
  • Rental equipment $5,000/.5%
  • Total $650,000/65%
  • GPM $350,000/35%
  • G&A overhead $250,000/25%
  • NPM $100,000/10%


The finish line.

These last three months of the year are the most important ones of all. Once you hit your BEP and sales goal for the year, you add two to three times the amount of net profit margin for every additional revenue dollar that you bill. Then you can take some well-deserved time off.

Jim Huston runs J.R. Huston Consulting, a green industry consulting firm.;



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