Photo courtesy of the CLCA

The Orange County chapter of the California Landscape Contractors Association 2016 Beautification Awards honored 18 local landscape contractors for excellence in landscape installation and maintenance, and demonstrating the best quality, construction, originality and attention to detail on projects completed within the last year.

A total of 55 awards were presented in 29 categories, culled from 90 entries which encompassed residential and commercial landscape construction, maintenance and renovation, along with water features, outdoor lighting and water-saving California-friendly landscaping.

The four top award winners are:

  • Allen Chariton Memorial Judges Award for the best landscape maintenance to Marina Landscape for the Citadel Outlets project in Los Angeles.
  • Sweepstakes Award for the best overall entry from all categories to Richard Cohen Landscape of the McLean Residence Project in Villa Park.
  • Bill Vandergeest Excelsior Award given to a contractor who has been a member of CLCA for less than a year to Solscapes for the Lascari-Placentia project in Placentia.
  • Robert Wade Memorial Presidents Award for best landscape installation, landscape renovation, or water conservation to DMA Greencare Contracting for the Kreutzinger Residence in Villa Park.
  • DMA Greencare won the Robert Wade Presidents Award for this project in Villa Park.

Multiple award winners included (each received two to eight awards):

  • DMA Greencare Contracting
  • Glen's Landscape
  • Gothic Landscape
  • Land Mechanics
  • Marina Landscape
  • Mission Landscape Companies
  • Richard Cohen Landscape
  • Roger’s Gardens Landscape
  • SoCal Concepts
  • Solena Landscape
  • Tropical Plaza
  • Visionscape
  • Wm. Vandergeest Landscape Care

Companies receiving a single award include:

  • Bemus Landscape
  • BrightView Landscape Services
  • California Landcare
  • Eureka Landscape Services
  • Solscapes
Ask the experts

Yes to GPS?

Q. I have been thinking about getting a GPS tracking system for my trucks but I don’t know if the employees will like it, so I am not sure if it is worth it.

A. GPS tools have helped our industry to see improved efficiency in many areas: crew routing, fuel consumption and even asset recovery, to name a few; but they are really helpful for accountability and fleet safety.

I look at the investment most importantly in terms of driver and vehicle safety, which have to be priorities every day. We have an obligation to the communities where we work to provide maintained vehicles and competent, responsible operators. It is also our legal obligation. We have an obligation to our crews to provide a safe work environment.

If this is the first time your employees are using GPS tracking, it is true that you may have to battle and overcome the gossip of Big Brother is watching everyone. While this is a valid point, use the introduction of this tool as a teaching moment. These systems are used to benefit the whole team, from the billing office to the mechanics, to the driver’s themselves. The drivers, really? Yes, the drivers benefit by becoming more accountable, in real time, for their driving behavior.

If this is the first time your employees are using GPS tracking, it is true that you may have to battle and overcome the gossip of Big Brother is watching everyone.

The correction of bad habits will carry over to their personal vehicle use. Also, there are advantages of this constant behind-the-scenes monitoring to support and defend your drivers from accusations on the road.

Within six months of our new system coming online, one of our drivers was cleared in minutes after being accused of causing a minor crash. The data showed that the truck was at a complete stop and had not moved just prior to or after the impact. Just one example, of how Big Brother can be a friend.

© Cybrain | Thinkstock

Research the options available and ask your insurance company’s loss prevention specialist their opinion on what actions they would like you to monitor. List the priorities and objectives you would like to accomplish with your fleet management solution. Work through some demo instructions, check references in our industry and ask if you can visit a firm using the system live. See how the information and feedback are provided.

Reports, emails and text alerts should be able to be set up and delivered to the right member of your team. Is driver behavior going to be monitored by one manager or a supervisor, or set up to include the safety director? Do you want alerts or reports going directly to the driver? (Caution here: Remember real time text or email may sound great, however, you may be distracting a driver already violating some operating standard.)

Some systems actually offer red, yellow and green dashboard mounted lights to show the drivers how they are performing compared to their coworkers.

Here are some features offered by GPS Fleet Management Systems which were considered during our due diligence:

1) Speeding: This can be monitored by setting company policy thresholds/speed limits or for violations of posted limits. Tolerances for generating alerts can be adjusted.

2) Hard breaking/quick acceleration: These items often have adjustable thresholds. Viewed by many as an important item to monitor to adjust driver behavior. Both tailgating and race-like starting line takeoffs from a red light will show up here.

3) Cab-mounted cameras: See bad behavior or distracted driving as it happens.

Work through some GPS demo instructions and ask if you can visit with a firm using a system before purchasing a GPS product.
© Rayes | Thinkstock

4) Odd or after hour alerts: If the staff is allowed to use the vehicles for their commute to and from work, this feature allows for instant notification of any after hour activity. Insurance carriers like to know that this type of use is monitored, cutting down on excess mileage and therefore their risk.

5) Geo-fencing: This feature allows you to confine a vehicle’s use to an area or to flag locations where your vehicles and staff are prohibited from going.

6) Driver key fobs: Do other drivers operate a vehicle from time to time or are they swapped out for supply runs, maintenance, etc.? Are you content to only monitor by truck or do you want clear driver accountability? These fobs can be swiped to enable the vehicles’ ignition or just as part of your policy, allowing operation if the fob is forgotten.

7) Diagnostic alerts: Engine and computer codes from your fleet as they are generated.

We have an obligation to the communities where we work to provide maintained vehicles and competent, responsible operators. It is also our legal obligation.

Know of a possible breakdown before it causes an accident or down time.

8) Routine maintenance reminders and alerts: Preventative and scheduled maintenance helps to keep your team safe. Roadside repairs are a dangerous place to correct missed maintenance items.

When asked about GPS as a safety tool, my insurance agent gave me the top four reasons GPS tracking lowers commercial auto insurance rates:

  1. Lower chance of claims due to vehicle theft
  2. Improved driver behavior
  3. Discourages misuse of vehicles
  4. Proper maintenance prevents accidents

In our company, the fear of Big Brother was out-weighted by the benefits. If you introduce the benefits to your team, they will probably agree, too.

Joe Ehrenreich, Landscape Industry Certified Manager, NALP Safety Committee general manager, Young’s Landscape Management ASCA-C Snow Professional

Ask the Experts is brought to you in partnership with NALP, the National Association of Landscape Professionals. Questions are fielded through NALP’s Trailblazers, the industry’s leading company mentoring program. For more questions visit Landscapeprofessionals.org.

A fix for hiring problems

I was reading the latest issue of Lawn & Landscape and came across your article relating to hiring issues.

We are a small engine repair facility located in South Florida for over 30 years. One of our top struggles is the ability to attract and retain experienced small engine mechanics.

There are no schools offering a small engine training program other than Vatterrott that I am aware of. I have contacted the local area schools in the area and the state as well with no results.

This is a very difficult issue to address as the recruiting agencies typically do not have much in the supply of these types of resumes. The manufacturing companies do offer training programs, but I believe they should do more to promote this field through high schools, colleges etc.

The GIE+EXPO is soon approaching and it would be wonderful to see if there are any companies interested in sponsoring this type of recruiting activity.

Connie Durand, office manager, Bitter Blue Lawn & Garden, Pembroke Pines, Florida

Contractors get a look inside Mariani Landscape

Industry veteran and Lawn & Landscape columnist Marty Grunder, in conjunction with the National Association of Landscape Professionals, conducted a two-day trip to the Chicago suburbs in August for seminars at the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort.

Attendees also visited Mariani Landscape’s Lake Bluff, Illinois, headquarters for a series of guided tours to each business operation throughout the facility including briefings from financial, operational, purchasing, sales, HR, production, construction and IT leaders at Mariani.

The first day for the 150 attendees included a full program of seminars including a presentation by Mariani Landscape Vice President of Operations Ron Fiocchi, who gave the group a presentation of the many different vehicle and trailer configurations used by Mariani Landscape.

“I always wanted to be the boss and I thought everyone was like me.”

Mariani Vice President of Design/Build Lee Keenan and Director of Client Care Ed Furner also gave a comprehensive presentation on selling the “Mariani way.”

The final speech was provided by company CEO Frank Mariani. Speaking of his labor force, he talked about creating a career path for associates at Mariani.

“I always wanted to be the boss and I thought everyone was like me,” he said.

“But that wasn’t their dream and each individual has a different perspective on how far and which path they want to pursue. But ultimately helping each associate map out their career path, wherever it may lead, is a fantastic tool to retain people.”

LawnAmerica merges with Swingle

DENVER – LawnAmerica has merged with Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care located in Denver. The merger results in Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care owning the majority of the assets of LawnAmerica, an Oklahoma-based lawn care business. LawnAmerica has been in business since 1999, employs approximately 60 people and is located in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and portions of the North Carolina and South Carolina markets. It is also a Christmas décor franchise.

“Swingle has been in business for nearly 70 years, and are well respected in their market and nationally,” said Brad Johnson, founder and former majority owner of LawnAmerica. “After lengthy discussions with many industry advisors, I’ve decided Swingle is the best fit for the next steps for LawnAmerica.”

Both companies will continue to operate as independent businesses, and each company remains committed to providing their respective customers with industry-leading services, while also exploring new ways to combine resources, experience and sharing of best practices to improve efficiencies where possible.

“A 20-year industry friendship between Brad Johnson and myself has provided the foundation for this excellent opportunity,” said Thomas R. Tolkacz, CEO of Swingle and new majority owner of LawnAmerica. “Combining our businesses provides an opportunity to grow stronger as multi-regional businesses, providing additional opportunities for team members and expanded service offerings to customers.”

Bayer acquires Monsanto

Leverkusen / St. Louis – Bayer acquired Monsanto for $128 per share in an all-cash transaction. Monsanto’s board of directors, Bayer’s board of management and Bayer’s supervisory board have unanimously approved the agreement. Based on Monsanto’s closing share price on May 9, 2016, the day before Bayer’s first written proposal, the offer represents a premium of 44 percent to that price.

Baumann, left, CEO of Bayer AG, with Grant, CEO of Monsanto

According to CNNMoney, the $66 billion deal was the biggest takeover this year, as of late September.

“We are pleased to announce the combination of our two great organizations. This represents a major step forward for our crop science business and reinforces Bayer’s leadership position as a global innovation driven life science company with leadership positions in its core segments, delivering substantial value to shareholders, our customers, employees and society at large,” said Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer AG.

Bloomberg.com reported Bayer is considering dropping the Monsanto name, and the purchase isn’t likely to be completed until late 2017.