Warren Gorowitz, left, Matt Jesson, Rick Doesburg, Kelly Dowell, Stephanie Schwenke of Syngenta, Jesus ‘Chuy’ Medrano and Brian Horn, Lawn & Landscape editor, attend the Leadership Awards.
Photo by Todd Volkmer

Lawn & Landscape magazine welcomed four new inductees into its Leadership Class, and launched the Emerging Leader award recognizing a future leader at an event held in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Lawn & Landscape Leadership Awards, sponsored exclusively by Syngenta, are given annually to those in the green industry who have gone above and beyond in their dedication to their field.

“Being a leader in any industry means acting as a mentor, being selfless, getting involved and operating proactively,” said Stephanie Schwenke, turf market manager at Syngenta.“This year’s recipients demonstrate these qualities and set a great example for future and emerging leaders. Syngenta is proud to partner with Lawn & Landscape to honor these industry leaders and their impact on the lawn and landscape profession.”

This year’s winners are:

  • Rick Doesburg, Thornton Landscape
  • Warren Gorowitz, Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply
  • Matt Jesson, Green Lawn Fertilizing
  • Jesus “Chuy” Medrano, CoCal Landscape
  • Emerging Leader: Kelly Dowell, Dowco Enterprises
“The green industry is full of passionate people and we’re honored to be able to recognize a handful of them,” said Brian Horn, editor of Lawn & Landscape. “The awards normally focus on the past and the present of the industry, but this year we are also focusing on the future with our first Emerging Leader award, which recognizes someone who is having a positive effect on the industry now and for years to come.”

Takeaways from TCI EXPO

Sessions on leadership and ways to improve your online marketing strategy took place. By Lauren Rathmell

The Tree Care Industry Association’s TCI EXPO, held Nov. 2-4 in Columbus, Ohio, offered some education sessions for attendees, including topics like crew leadership and online marketing.

Crew leadership tips.

Todd Kramer of Kramer Tree Specialists has more than 25 years of experience under his belt. As Kramer Tree Specialists grew in success, he began consulting other tree service companies that were having issues running a successful business.

“We could give them tips on how to be more productive, but I started to realize the root of many of these problems was failed leadership,” Kramer said.

Climbing demos took place in the middle of the show floor during the event, offering tips on caring for injuries and proper rigging.
Photo by Lauren Rathmell

Kramer offered some tips to tree care industry professionals looking to lead and manage their crews better.

1. Have a ‘lead from the front’ attitude. Kramer stressed that this doesn’t always mean getting out there and doing the work yourself. It’s important to put yourself in a position where your crew members look to you for the example.

2. Use your soft skills to lead. Oftentimes, leaders are selected because they can use their skills to complete a task. Good leaders need to have soft skills along with those hard skills. Soft skills include being approachable, easy to talk to, and actively listening when your crew member has a suggestion or concern.

3. Manage stress. “As leaders, we almost have to just stuff our stress right down inside of us sometimes,” Kramer said. Leaders need to be able to diffuse stressful situations for their employees by offering some help and reassurance that the team will be able to get their job done.

4. Know your most important asset. The people who work for you are your most important asset, Kramer said. Without them, you would have no team. Kramer suggested listening to your team and observing them throughout the day.

5. Be a coach. A key difference between being a boss and being a leader is that a leader coaches his crew to succeed. “The goal of coaching is to enable your crew to act independently,” Kramer said. Offering to show your workers a new skill or explain why a certain task is done the way it is will provide knowledge and skill to your crew.

Online marketing tips.

Monica Hemingway, owner of Tree Care Marketing Solutions, said marketing for a tree care business can be entirely different than marketing for another business in the green industry.

“What works for tree care might not work for something else, and what works for something else might not work for tree care,” she said.

But one thing is clear. Tree care businesses absolutely must be doing some type of online marketing to reach new customers.

“The people who work for you are your most important asset. Without them, you would have no team.” — Todd Kramer, Kramer Tree Specialists

“This is something that will show results in about nine months,” she said. “This is not an overnight solution, but it will pay off.”

Before you start your online marketing efforts, Hemingway recommended considering the following questions:

1. What are your business goals? It’s important to think long term, maybe even 10 years down the line.

2. Who are your customers? Think more detailed than the typical “anyone who will buy my service.” Consider your ideal customers and the decision-makers. What are their demographics?

3. What problems will you solve for your customer? Focus on them first. Your services are last in this message.

Your website is the centerpiece of online marketing and your marketing efforts draw people to your website. “You can’t afford to have a bad website,” Hemingway said.

“You should think of your website like you would of a new chipper or investment. You have to maintain it.”

Owning your website makes you look more credible. This means you own the domain name. The administrator and the billing name for the website should be your company, not a third party. Use host managers like WP Engine or SiteGround to ensure your website is safe. Websites without SSL registrations will present visitors with warning messages, deterring your visitors.

Consider a simple design with your company phone number at the top right corner, a navigation bar across the top and a clear indication of your service area.

Hemingway said customers are almost more likely to rely on online reviews than recommendations from friends or family. To begin building your online reputation, businesses should use Google My Business, a page on Google that populates verified business. This will allow customers to leave Google reviews.

“Hand your customer a postcard that directs them to leave a review if they are happy with their service,” Hemingway said. “You can even put the directive on their invoice.”

Once the reviews are in place, it’s important to respond to each one, whether they are good or bad.

Morbark acquires Rayco Manufacturing

Morbark has completed the acquisition of Rayco Manufacturing. This transaction represents the first addition since affiliates of the private equity firm Stellex Capital Management acquired Morbark in 2016. The purchase of Rayco represents a move toward the company’s strategic focus on broadening the range of tree care and industrial equipment, aftermarket parts and service offered to their customers.

Rayco was founded in 1978 in Wooster, Ohio, by John M. Bowling, who as the owner of a tree care service, identified the needs of the tree and landscape industry and he built equipment to meet those needs. Today, the company designs and produces a line of environmental equipment. The current range of Rayco products includes stump cutters, crawler trucks, forestry mulchers, multi-tool carriers and attachments, brush chippers and the AT71 aerial trimmer.

This marks the company’s first addition since Stellex Capital management acquired morbark in 2016.

Bowling plans to continue to work with the team and develop new products for the company’s existing product lines. He will continue to have an economic interest in the combined business and will be a member of the board of directors.

Morbark will operate Rayco as a new division, maintaining its brand identity. Rayco’s management team will also continue to manage their operations.

“Rayco has a well-deserved reputation for providing customers with equipment and service they demand and the value they deserve,” said Dave Herr, CEO of Morbark. “That product innovation will continue without interruption. We are excited for what we can bring to Rayco in the way of our experiences, our dealer network and products to complement current Rayco equipment owners.”