More than 22,000 people from around the world attended GIE+EXPO, a 12 percent increase in registration compared to last year.
Photos courtesy of GIE+EXPO

It was an action-packed three days for the green industry in Louisville, Kentucky, from Oct. 19-21. Not only does the Green Industry and Equipment Expo fill up the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center with educational opportunities and tons of new equipment, but the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ LANDSCAPES 2016 and the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute’s Hardscape North America also hosted events with learning opportunities, new products and hands-on demonstrations.

More than 22,000 people from around the world represented a 12 percent increase in registration over last year, according to show organizer, Sellers Expositions. Thirty-three percent of dealer and 44 percent of landscaper attendees were first timers.

We’ve compiled some of our coverage from the event and some of the new products unveiled over the next several pages. For more coverage, visit bit.ly/GIEEXPOcover.

YouTube your next hardscape project

Tom Gardocki, co-owner of the Interstate Landscape Company, presented on how to begin using YouTube with your hardscaping projects.

Gardocki has been in the industry for 19 years, and started producing, filming and editing videos of jobsites seven years ago.

His YouTube channel, Dirt Ninja, now has more than 30,000 followers over various social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

During his session, he said he thinks YouTube is the forgotten social media.

“I think it’s one of the most powerful social media sites out there,” he said. “It’s highly integrated with the other social medias you hear about all the time."

By investing a little time and money, he said you can use YouTube to help make sales and get potential customers.

What this will take is a Go Pro, an external hard drive for more storage and any additional accessories you feel are necessary for your specific project and video goal.

The total investment will amount to $600-$1,000, which isn’t a lot when it could mean the creation of additional jobs.

HOW TO POST.

Gardocki said the best type of video for making a sale is a time-lapse video of a project. For his company, he tries to have a time lapse that highlights every type of job they do. It not only shows the potential customer what your team is capable of, it also shows them what all goes into each project.

That way, they comprehend what is involved so they understand the bid price. You’re also able to bring an iPad to the initial meeting and show them the videos in person.

One type of video to avoid is a photo slideshow.

At GIE+EXPO, attendees had the opportunity to test drive new equipment in the demo area, which was expanded to 20 acres this year.

“You will get no views,” Gardocki said. “Believe me, I’ve done it. YouTube is not to show pictures. That’s what your portfolio is for on your website or Facebook page.”

He also said you shouldn’t start out your video with before and after pictures, even if those are the only photo slides in it, because people will assume it’s just a slideshow and won’t watch the whole thing.

Money outside of the job.

When your video is edited and uploaded, Gardocki always recommends saving the file forever. He said you never know when someone could contact you after seeing the video on YouTube, and ask to buy the unedited files.

He said he was contacted by the Discovery Channel and recently sold six videos to them for $100 each. An attendee in the audience added that he was contacted by ESPN regarding a video he’d posted on YouTube, and because he didn’t have the original file, he lost out on a lot of money.

Gardocki added that if you get up enough subscribers (at least 1,000) and enough views (more than 1 million), you can become a YouTube partner. He became one in 2012 and currently makes around $600 a month from his videos.

If you’re wary about starting to post videos, and not sure if it’s worth it, Gardocki said to try anyway.

“The worst that will happen is nobody’s going to watch,” he said.

He said to take the time to go out there, and make a video that represents you and your company.

“It’s just like creating a hardscape; make it your own,” he said. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video like that worth?”

Good customer service is always right

Even if your business mows lawns, you’re not in the business of mowing lawns. You’re in the business of delivering client expectations.

In his presentation, Delivering Over the Top Service Excellence, at LANDSCAPES, Jason Cupp stressed the importance of giving clients what they want, ask for and pay for.

The former business owner and now growth consultant said the question you need to ask yourself is: Is your company focused on the client every single day?

“I’m convinced one of the largest differentiators between companies who are successful and not successful, both in market share and in sales profitability, would be a focus on laser-like, client-centric customers service and retention,” he said.

Cupp told the story of a doctor who called him after losing a patient and driving home, where Cupp had recently renovated the landscape. The doctor explained how he felt that he had arrived at an oasis, and that’s when Cupp realized he was selling a feeling, not a service.

Consultant Jason Cupp stressed the importance of giving clients excellent customer service during his presentation at LANDSCAPES 2016.

That’s why he gave his staff a certain amount of money to use to make an unsatisfied client into a happy one with no authorization required.

“If we’re selling feelings and emotion, we can’t let the emotion go to the other side,” he said.

Go the extra mile.

Cupp said customer service is so crucial because of the way people shop and the way they make their purchasing decisions.

  • Clients want to know and be known.
  • They are sick of just being “another number” especially a dollar sign.
  • They are more informed, and even more discriminating, than ever before.
  • They can find out virtually anything about your company online.
  • Value is not only an element of price, but of feeling.
  • Clients will not settle for mediocrity.

Here’s one thing you can do immediately to start your interactions with your customers on the right foot: Answer the phone the right way.

“If a client takes the time to call us, we want to make sure that we’re there to answer that call. And if you answer your phone abruptly, that’s not setting you up for success.” Jason Cupp, consultant

Cupp said that many companies don’t even bother to answer the phone. “If a client takes the time to call us, we want to make sure that we’re there to answer that call,” he said. “And if you answer your phone abruptly, that’s not setting you up for success.”

So instead of saying “ABC Landscaping,” say “Good morning, thank you for calling ABC Landscape. This is Jason. How may I help you?”

That way the client will feel that their call matters to the company.

Do it quickly but do it right. “It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, your clients care about how fast you are,” he said.

That’s what people want now, whether it’s answering the phone, getting an estimate or getting it done.

He used the example of Amazon, which has been wildly successful because it will send customers what they need right when they need it.

But you must make sure that you’re doing the job the right way to ensure customers satisfaction as well. So, how do you do it?

Cupp said that every single person in the company needs to be involved in customer service.

“The best way to do that is to ingrain it in the company culture,” he said.

“It has to be executed by every member of the team.” Start by developing a focus group of your key clients across all demographics – not just the ones who have been with you for years.

“Call that client you think you’re a day away from being fired from. It’s risky and they might yell at you but it’s worth it,” Cupp said.

Once you speak with them, you have a collaborative discussion with your team, which gets them on board from the start. Figure out what your gold standard is and write it down.

Then let everyone know about it by putting it on contracts, your website, social media or press releases. And remember that you don’t have to do it all at once.

You can take it “one bite at a time,” Cupp said.

3 keys to managing millennials

In a keynote address during Dealer Day at GIE+EXPO, Jason Dorsey explained that Millennials don’t have to be a mystery. They can actually be a great asset to your company.

“When it comes to the workforce today, manual labor jobs are not something that many (Millennials) thought they’d have to do or want to do,” said Dorsey, founder of the Center for Generational Kinetics, a Texas-based research firm. “Many don't enter the landscaping business thinking that it's going to be a career. It's a job or stopover. But that doesn't mean they won't stay.”

Landscapers, dealers and hardscapers all had the chance to learn from experts during GIE+EXPO.

Here’s his advice for landscapers and dealers managing Millennials:

They have less experience. The average 22- to 24-year-old enters the professional workforce with two fewer jobs and three years less work experience than the previous generation. “This creates all kinds of problems because you have people managing a younger generation, and owners going, ‘Why don't you know better?’” Dorsey said. “It’s not that they can’t be great employees, they just don't know what doing a good job looks like, especially to you.”

Set clear performance expectations. Starting with the job interview, be clear on what the position entails and what you expect from them, Dorsey said. And then follow up during their first week or month with more training. “Provide specific examples of the performance that you expect – visual examples of the outcome,” Dorsey said. “This generation are visual learners … show me what it should look like, then tell me how to get there.”

Understand that they’re the future. The average landscape business owner is in their mid-50s, and many don’t have clear succession plans. Dorsey said savvy contractors will look to their Millennials employees as a talent pool for the next phase of their company. “More progressive owners start grooming talent now and tell them they have a place,” Dorsey said.

New Products

For more new products from GIE+EXPO, head to lawnandlandscape.com

Altoz

The TRX, a tracked zero-turn mower, provides technology for commercial use on sloped, wet and rough terrain.

  • Equipped with rear-mounted tracks and torsional suspension system, the TRX allows contractors, utility companies and municipalities to maintain places they simply can’t effectively or safely cut with a traditional zero-turn mower.
  • TorqFlex front suspension and rear torsional track suspension provide a smooth ride by bridging uneven terrain and reducing operator fatigue.
  • TRX’s commercial-grade track and flat-free front tires eliminate potential tire damage caused by sharp rocks, glass or debris commonly encountered in vacant lots, roadside ditches and spaces bordering high traffic areas.
  • The TRX will include the option of 61-inch or 66-inch finish cut or rough cut mower decks, Kohler Command Pro EFI 33 horsepower or Vanguard EFI 37 horsepower engines.
  • The TRX will ship to Altoz dealers in the early Spring of 2017.

For more information: Altoz.com

Honda

Honda Power Equipment is expanding its lineup of commercial lawn mowers with the HRC216K3HDA lawn mower.

  • Users can start the engine while standing behind the mower and the flywheel brake safety system stops the engine and blades when the user lets go of the brake lever on the handle.
  • The Honda GXV160 engine maintains consistent speed across all mowing conditions. The mower’s hydrostatic transmission includes a heavy-duty automotive style shaft drive that eliminates the belt that can slip or wear out.
  • The exclusive Honda MicroCut Twin Blade System offers four cutting surfaces to produce finer clippings, and the mower can be adjusted to eight different heights.
  • The outside of the Honda HRC216K3HDA features a 21-inch steel deck with front axle and bumper protection for additional structural stability and durability. Completing the package are ergonomic heavy-duty steel piped reinforced handles designed for strength and operator comfort.
  • The mower’s dry weight is 117 pounds while the operating weight is 121 pounds.

For more information: powerequipment.honda.com

Mean Green

Mean Green Mowers introduced the new electric Nemesis NXR mower with zero gas emission, no gas, low noise and little maintenance.

  • The all-aluminum mower is available with a 48- or 52-inch deck. The 48-volt battery gives 24 horsepower at its peak. It comes with an LEM 4880 and LEM 48140, which have a 2,000 to 3,500 mowing-hour capacity.
  • The mower has a top speed of 8.5 mph and weighs 590 to 650 pounds. A light system shows operators how much power is left as they mow. The battery takes three to six hours to recharge.
  • Another innovation is the optional solar-assisted mower canopy on the CXR that will charge the battery while crewmembers mow. The canopy may qualify owners for a 30 percent federal solar tax credit.

For more information: meangreenproducts.com

Oregon

The new Kinetic Log Splitter eliminates hydraulics by using two, precision-balanced 70-pound flywheels spinning at 325 RPMs to create and store kinetic energy. A pinion gear system applies that stored energy from the flywheels and drives the log through the wedge in roughly 2-3 seconds with minimal to no kickback.

  • The splitter can be easily moved around the worksite with welded table-mounted handles. It can also be towed on the highway with its 2-inch ball coupler and safety chains, while the stow-away retractable tongue makes loading and unloading easy.
  • The work surface is smooth and aligned with the beam, which means fewer snags when bringing a log back for re-splitting. The splitter’s wide slots reduce build-up that can jam the push plate assembly in other splitters. The 32-inch wide work table allows easy access to rounds and re-splits from either side.
  • The handle design is designed to eliminate kickback by using torsion springs that absorb energy when a stall occurs.
  • Powered by a Kohler SH265 engine, the splitter features a 6-inch wedge and the entire machine sits on 4x8-inch road towable tires rated at 45 mph.

For more information: OregonSplitters.com

STIHL

Celebrating its 90th anniversary, STIHL introduced more new products at GIE+EXPO than it ever has before. “In 2017, customers will be able to pick your power like never before,” said Bjoern Fischer, president of STIHL. Here’s some of what’s on tap for Spring 2017:

STIHL Lightning Battery Systems Technology
  • The Advanced STIHL Lithium-Ion battery technology offers users an option to reduce their impact on the environment and provides an alternative to gasoline-powered equipment.
  • No battery memory limitation and no gradual drop in power means high performance. It runs at full speed until the battery is depleted.
  • STIHL lithium-Ion batteries have indicator lights to indicate battery status/level of charge.
STIHL BGA 45 handheld blower
  • Lightweight at 4.4 pounds including the integrated lithium-ion battery.
  • On a single charge, it clears up to 13 parking spaces with a blowing speed of 85 mph and air volume of 235 cfm.
  • An activation key prevent accidental use of the machine.
STIHL HSA 45 hedge trimmer
  • Lightweight at 5.1 pounds for enhanced portability
  • On a single charge, the HSA 45 can trim a hedge up to 20 inches wide and a length longer than a football field
  • High cutting speeds of 2,500 strokes per minute.

For more information: Stihl.com

Toro

To improve productivity, Toro’s Titan HD zero-turn mower series features tool-mounting brackets, allowing contractors to transport tools, including string trimmers, 5-gallon buckets and other yard tools.

  • The new models have deluxe suspension seats, an isolated floor pan design, deck step guide, easy side and front mower access, and a 12-volt outlet accompanied by deep storage pockets.
  • Commercial-grade hydraulics minimize maintenance requirements.
  • Titan HD mowers can be equipped with engines from Toro, Kohler and Kawasaki.
  • The TITAN HD Series reaches top ground speeds of up to 10 mph with deck widths up to 60 inches.

For more information: toro.com