Each year at GIE+EXPO, green industry professionals can check out the newest tools and learn from some of the best and brightest. Here’s a peek at what the show had to offer. Read more coverage of the expo at bit.ly/LLEXPO.

Bjorn Fischer, president of STIHL
Photo by Lauren Rathmell

STIHL introduces new battery and gas-powered equipment

The KMA 130 R KombiMotor is a combo tool that has the ability to trim, prune, edge, clean and cultivate with 13 optional attachments without gas or exhaust emissions. The external battery source shifts the battery weight to the user’s back or hips for comfort with all attachment options. Features include:

  • Straight, solid steel drive shaft with a lifetime limited warranty
  • Multi-function control handle can be adjusted with one hand
  • Ergonomic rubberized loop handle for efficiency and comfort
  • Toolless quick-release coupling system to switch between Kombi attachments
  • Water-resistant design
  • Vertical hanging slot for storage

Bjorn Fischer, president of STIHL, above, said the company has seen an increase in demand for more battery and electric equipment and productivity has fueled the company to offer gas, battery, electric and robomowers.

STIHL BR 800 C-E Magnum and STIHL BR 800 X Magnum backpack blowers were designed for professional landscapers tackling large properties and heavy debris. Both BR 800 backpack blowers offer 20 percent more power than the STIHL BR 700 backpack blowers.

Other new products include the HSA 94R and HSA 94 T string hedge trimmers. The trimmers feature 24-inch dual-ground blades with a rotating multi-function control handle. The motor automatically reverses direction if the blades get struck with debris.

A first for STIHL, the company now produces a top-handle chainsaw. The MSA 161 T has a rubberized handle for better gripping and a built-in retractable carrying ring. The chain tensioner can be accessed on the side of the chainsaw for easy adjustments.

Two models of STIHL’s robotic mower can be controlled by a smartphone. The RMI 422 PC-L and STIHL RMI 632 PC-L feature LTE technology.

“It’s convenient for our customers to install these on properties, that way they can spend more time tending to something else like trimming,” Fischer said.

The new MS 462 C-M and MS 462 R C-M chainsaws were engineered to be more powerful while weighing less. The chainsaws feature an anti-vibration system to reduce operator fatigue. The slim sprocket cover reduces weight and wood chip clogging, decreasing downtime spent removing wood chips from the cover.

How to stand out with an online brand

A company’s online presence isn’t just about posting on social media. Jack Jostes said it’s about crafting a brand that represents an organization’s core values and what sets them apart from the competition.

Jostes, an author and president and CEO of marketing consulting business Ramblin Jackson, believes there’s a major problem in the industry: Random guys in pickup trucks are lowballing potential customers and taking away business from landscapers. Clients are falling for the lower prices because they need reasons to trust landscaping businesses and need convenience. During his presentation at LANDSCAPES 2018, held by the National Association of Landscape Professionals in conjunction with GIE+EXPO, Jostes said Google searches on smartphones for “landscaping near me” have quadrupled in the last four years.

Clients just want to know their needs will be taken care of, Jostes said. Building that trust online requires deliberate steps toward building a modern brand.

“All sales are motivated by pain or pleasure, and it’s way easier to sell against pain than it is pleasure,” Jostes said. “The job of your branding is really to relieve these people’s fears so they feel confident in you.”

There are some easy immediate steps to take to build trust with clients. First, answer the phone – and if you don’t, call back as soon as possible. Customers search landscaping businesses online and call the phone numbers that pop up, so fielding those calls is essential. If your company is particularly swamped, Jostes recommends a service called CallRuby, which permits live receptionists to answer the phones on behalf of your company.

“If somebody else answers the phone and books the appointment, they’re like 10 times more likely to get the sale than the contractor who gets back with them a day or two or a week later,” Jostes said.

In terms of building an online presence for recruiting clients and new employees, Jostes said companies should first work on building their brand before developing their website, SEO posts, and social media presences. Jostes said most every company will tell clients that they stand for integrity and craftsmanship, but these buzzwords only go so far now. Jostes said companies should dig deep to define a company’s true mission and determine what makes them different from competitors. Figure out what your core values are, Jostes said, and let them be known.

Jostes said logos matter: Clients fear landscapers are just shady, but logos and website design can prove to a potential customer that your company does work worth the price clients pay. Jostes also recommends making websites responsive across all devices and inspire people to trust your company with lively photography of your past projects and your employees.

A company’s online presence isn’t just about posting on social media – Jostes said it’s about crafting a brand that represents an organization’s core values and what sets them apart from the competition.

New Holland launches company’s largest CTL

Photo courtesy of New Holland

The new C245 Super Boom compact track loader offers the highest level of performance in a New Holland Construction vertical lift machine. With a rated operating capacity of 4,500 pounds and breakout force of 9,188 pounds, it’s the largest, most powerful New Holland compact track loader model yet. The C245 not only reaches higher and delivers more power and lift capacity, the rugged construction, smooth, stable ride and exceptional visibility allows operators to work with more confidence and speed.

“The trend in the industry is for larger machines that are capable of doing more work in a shorter amount of time,” said Construction Product Marketing Manager Doran Herritt. “Whether loading gravel into a truck, stacking dense, heavy bales, placing pallets of brick, block or sod, or lifting and carrying other heavy materials, the bigger, beefier C245 is exceptionally productive.”

New Holland’s patented, vertical-lift Super Boom design provides high lift capacities, long forward dump reach, and fast cycle times. It reaches up and out to dump cleanly into the center of high-sided trucks and hoppers. Operators can empty the bucket faster and easier, which in turn increases cycle times.

Cab comfort and visibility.

The cab’s visibility gives operators a clear view of the job site with lots of cab glass and the thinnest side screens. New steel front work lights with side lamps deliver extra visibility during nighttime operations.

“Comfortable operators get more work done,” Herritt said, “and better visibility allows safer and more efficient work. This is an area where the C245 really stands out from the crowd.”

The long wheelbase on the C245 allows operators to lift and haul more material, increasing productivity. The low-profile undercarriage design extends track life and provides a smoother ride because the steel-embedded tracks roll on the rubber instead of the steel.

“With a long wheelbase and a low center of gravity, New Holland compact track loaders are exceptionally stable,” Herritt said. “Even novice operators can work with confidence.”

Ditch Witch debuts vibratory plow and enhanced mini skid-steer line

Mini skid-steers

The newly enhanced line of Ditch Witch mini skid-steers offers construction-grade durability and versatility to conquer a variety of complex landscape and irrigation jobs. The SK600, SK800, SK1050 and SK1550 units are equipped with powerful engines ranging from 24.8 hp to 44 hp.

The machines feature improved stability and deliver a smooth ride, providing operators with enhanced comfort during long hours on the job. And, all models feature an ergonomic operator platform with dual-lever ground drive controls, allowing for precise mobility.

The compact SK600 features a narrow frame for easy maneuverability in tight spaces, while the SK1550 has a leading 1,559-lb-rated operating capacity to lift heavy loads and complete tasks typically suited for traditional skid-steer loaders.

VP30 vibratory plow

The new VP30 is a pedestrian trencher ideal for residential fiber installation, cable and lawn irrigation in tight spaces. It features a 31-hp Briggs and Stratton engine and high-track design that won’t tear up turf. It’s ideal for going under driveways and sidewalks.

The VP30 is easy to use and low maintenance for enhanced productivity and increased uptime. Plus, the machine is equipped with heavy-duty, adjustable plow blades to meet fiber installation-depth requirements and improve longevity.

Photo courtesy of Ditch Witch

Robert Ballard shares lifetime of leadership

Dr. Robert Ballard talked to a packed GIE+EXPO auditorium about everything from the movie “Avatar” to clams that grow up to be a foot long.

The oceanographer and retired U.S. Navy officer is most prominent for finding the wreckage from the sunken Titanic in 1985, though he’s also led successful expeditions to discover the battleship Bismarck and the USS Yorktown.

Behind his anecdotes from his time underwater was his message to GIE+EXPO attendees who listened to his keynote speech: Adapt, even when you have a plan in place.

“You constantly need to reinvent yourself,” Ballard said. “You’ve got to have a plan. For every five, 10, 15 years, you’ve got to have a plan.”

But Ballard’s plans often went wayside. He graduated after trying out four different majors in college, which he said helped him change easily when the time came for it. One night, he received a knock on his door at 8 p.m. from a naval officer who told him he would no longer be in the Army – he’d be in the Navy because he was an oceanography major.

“That actually probably saved my life,” said Ballard, who was completing the University of Southern California’s ROTC program.

Ballard talked extensively about his experience aboard a submarine, detailing everything from the miniature size of the bunks to why he won’t eat tater tots anymore. Ballard believes there’s still so much of the ocean left to be explored, and that the waters are the world’s best museum because there’s an estimated 3 million shipwrecks still below the depths.

“I tell children that their generation will explore more of earth than all other generations combined,” Ballard said.

Sprinkled into his keynote were tidbits of advice applicable to everyone attending the convention this week, particularly about reinventing yourself. Ballard recommends looking at your place in the industry every 15 years or so to adapt with how things have changed, and said making those changes is critical to success in any given field. Planning for the future is important, but remembering to alter those plans as your surroundings change is vital.

Just take the planet we live on, Ballard said, which has always adapted, even before humans.

“That’s why the earth is so beautiful. It’s constantly undergoing a facelift,” Ballard said. “The earth is still very much alive, and it will be for a long time.”