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Industry professionals and LCOs spent the day servicing the grounds at Arlington National Cemetery.
Photo by Brian Horn

For more than two decades, landscapers and others in the industry have participated in an event organized by the National Association of Landscape Professionals known as Renewal & Remembrance and Legislative Day on the Hill. The event allows participants to tend to the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery and the following day, speak with government officials about issues that concern the industry.

A growing event.

When Jon Cundiff first addressed the crowd at Renewal & Remembrance, it was about 20 years ago, and there were only 100 people in front of him. Now in its 21st year, the event has grown to four times that size.

The event allows LCOs and landscapers to access the Arlington National Cemetery and tend to the 200 acres of sacred ground by mulching, aerating, liming and performing other services.

Cundiff, NALP president and president of Weed Man Kansas City, shared with the audience a lesson he learned during his first job as a groundskeeper for the Kansas City Royals.

While he sat next to great baseball players like George Brett and met legends like Hank Aaron, he said the best lesson he learned was from his first boss and head groundskeeper, George Toma.

That advice was three words – “And then some,” Cundiff said. “You do your job, and then some.”

Cundiff tied in that lesson he learned decades ago and related it to those buried on the grounds today when he spoke to those gathered to work at Arlington.

“They are the ultimate example of the ‘And then some,’ mentality,” he said. “Today, let’s go out there and do our job – and then some.”

This was the 14th year Joe Markell, president and CEO of Sunrise Landscape and Design in Sterling, Virginia, has participated in the event, and he said it’s worth it to take a crew off the job for a day to honor the soldiers.

“With the sacrifices these people have made, this is something small we can do,” he said. “And it’s good for the professionalism of the industry. People can see the value of the work and the effort it takes.”

NALP members were also joined by members of the National Hispanic Landscape Alliance and the Professional Grounds Management Society.

Getting political.

NALP’s day on Capitol Hill was an important first step in creating real policy changes as some members met with politicians and legislative aides.

Shayne Newman, president of YardApes, brought three of his H-2B workers with him to meet government representatives.

“What I try to explain is that there are two sides to the story,” he said. Newman has been attending the event for four years, but this is the first year that he brought some of his H-2B workers with him.

Newman said it was important that his employees see firsthand that they are working hard to keep the program as a viable option.

“I think it’s getting easier,” he said. “After talking about (H-2B) with the staffers for a few years, they are starting to understand the details.”

He said many aides and legislators have thought of H-2B as an immigration issue.

Paul Mendelsohn, vice president of government affairs for NALP, said the association is now focusing on following up with agencies and sending over scientific studies and facts to support efforts to change pesticide regulation and registration policies.

“Landscape is a visual industry. We can bring them to our facilities and help them see what it is we do.” — Paul Mendelsohn, vice president, government relations, NALP

“We came to them with scientific studies that impact these policies and they were receptive to us,” he said.

Members had the opportunity to talk with the Department of Homeland Security one day after the H-2B cap increase was announced.

“It gave us the chance to tell them, ‘too little, too late,’” he said. “But we were able to establish a dialogue about the issue.”

While members of NALP reported having good conversations with senators and congressmen, Mendelsohn said policy changing efforts at home will be the key to any concrete action.

“Landscape is a visual industry,” Mendelsohn said. “We can bring them to our facilities and help them see what it is we do.”

He said the August recess was a perfect opportunity for industry professionals to facilitate meetings with their representatives.

Bob Grover, president of Pacific Landscape Management, met with four Oregon representatives during his time on the Hill.

“I have an ongoing relationship with the staff because of the H-2B policy issues,” Grover said. “So, most of them are aware of who I am.”

One representative, Sen. Jeff Merkley, opposes H-2B. Grover said he was able to have a discussion with the senator to better understand why he doesn’t support the bill.

“(I told him) there are people who abuse every system,” Grover said.

“But that just means we should make changes to the bill, not get rid of it completely.”

Back in Connecticut, Newman hopes to get together with other companies using H-2B.

“I knew there had to be more than two of us who used the program,” he said. “As soon as I got back, I decided to find out who else is using it and get together with them.”

Overall, the meetings with representatives were successful, but landscapers will have to be active in their home districts and continue to follow up on the issues that are important to them.

Industry wins fight on pesticide ban

Lawn and landscape professionals in Montgomery County, Maryland, no longer need to worry about a ban on cosmetic pesticides. In August, a circuit court judge struck down the moratorium on nonessential pesticide usage on private property, ruling that the local law was pre-empted by state law. The law was scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

“This was a long fight for us and landscapers and residents,” said Karen Reardon, vice president of public affairs for the Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment. RISE has been fighting the ban for the last three years and filed a lawsuit last November. “Had we not had a win, green industry professionals – lawn and landscape professionals in particular – in the county would have lost access to virtually every pesticide they currently rely on to serve their customers.”

The ruling also sets a legal precedent that could apply to other counties in the state.

Chad Stern, manager of Mowing & More in Chevy Chase, Maryland, services about 450 residential clients in Montgomery County. He had been worried about the quality of his customers’ lawns if the ban had gone into effect and was relieved to hear the news.

“This was a long fight for us and landscapers and residents.” — Karen Reardon, vice president of public affairs, RISE

“While I think that everyone has the right to choose whether or not they use herbicides on their lawns, there are not any credible sources showing that the limited exposure to commonly used herbicides in residential lawns creates an undue risk to humans or pets so it’s frustrating to have to deal with constant attacks claiming that we need to ban all herbicides in the interest of public health,” he said.

Brandon Sheppard, owner of a Weed Man franchise in Maryland, had been planning to expand into Montgomery County until the ban was passed. He said that while he’s excited about the ruling, he’s expecting the county to make an appeal.

“I think once the dust settles and the appeal issue is clarified, businesses (including ours) will feel confident to resume operations or plans to expand into the county,” he said.

He also sees the recent events as a reminder of how important political involvement is for the industry. “Too often we allow our opponents to define and malign who we are and the services we provide,” he said. – Kate Spirgen

Lawn & Landscape names new editor

VALLEY VIEW, Ohio – GIE Media, parent company of Lawn & Landscape magazine, has announced the promotion of Brian Horn to editor of Lawn & Landscape magazine.

“Brian has proven to be a key member of the editorial team over the past several years,” said Dave Szy, publisher. “His industry expertise and great relationships with clients will take our already strong, market-leading publication to a new level of market service and business success.”

Horn has been with Lawn & Landscape for seven years, having previously held the role of managing editor. He started his writing career at Sun Newspapers, a weekly newspaper covering the Cleveland suburbs, before moving to Sandusky, Ohio, to join the Sandusky Register. From there, he wrote for Smart Business Magazine, before taking on the associate editor role for Lawn & Landscape in 2010. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a journalism degree.

Brian Horn has been with Lawn & Landscape for seven years.
Photo by Justin Armburger

Among his accomplishments, Horn has won numerous awards from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association, including the Gardner Award, which recognizes the top entry in the publishing category.

Along with the promotion of Horn, GIE Media has also promoted Kate Spirgen to replace Horn in his previous role of managing editor.

Spirgen joined GIE Media's horticulture publications in 2012 as associate editor of Garden Center and A Garden Life magazines. She was promoted to managing editor of A Garden Life in 2012 where she was awarded a Folio Award in the Best Standalone Digital Magazine - Consumer Category. She joined Lawn & Landscape as digital content editor in 2014. She graduated from McGill University.

In addition, Megan Smalley joined Lawn & Landscape as an associate editor and Lauren Rathmell joined the publication as an assistant editor.

Smalley worked for North Coast Media where she wrote and edited for the publications LP Gas, Pit & Quarry magazine and Portable Plants and Equipment. Smalley has a degree in news magazine journalism from Kent State University.

Rathmell is a recent graduate of Kent State University, where she received a degree in magazine journalism. She previously interned at Kent State Magazine, a publication sent to university alumni and donors.

Lawn & Landscape names 2017 scholarship winner

A Kansas State University student with aspirations to enter the landscape industry in the marketing field has been named the winner of GIE Media’s Horticultural Scholarship. Lawn & Landscape selected Mary Carr as the winner of the annual Richard Foster Award, which recognizes outstanding students planning careers in the landscape, lawn care or horticulture industry.

Carr is entering her sophomore year at Kansas State University, where she currently has a 3.4 GPA, She recently completed an internship in the sales department for BrightView at the company’s Woodlands branch in Houston.

Mary Carr, a sophomore at Kansas State University, was awarded the $2,500 scholarship for her dedication to the green industry.
Photo courtesy of Mary Carr

Carr hails from Hampshire, Illinois, and became interested in gardening after working in a vegetable garden with her great-grandfather.

That grew into editing a gardening column for a local newspaper, developing PowerPoint presentations for local garden clubs and being interviewed on the gardening radio show “How Does Your Garden Grow?”

Carr was chosen from the sea of worthy applicants due to her desire to combine her marketing degree with her interest in the green industry.

“Many of those outside the green industry don’t understand the benefits of a professionally managed landscape,” says Brian Horn, editor of Lawn & landscape. “Through her work editing a gardening column for a local newspaper, as a guest on radio shows and her activity on social media, I know Mary will use the scholarship money to help continue her efforts as an advocate for landscaping, spreading the message of all the good this industry does.”

As Carr furthers her education at Kansas State, she also wants to continue to voice the many positives of using professional landscapers and promote careers in the industry.

“I want to use the skills I develop as a marketing student to promote the field of horticulture and the tremendous benefits of gardening to every man, woman and child in the United States,” Carr says.

To be eligible for the $2,500 scholarship, students must be enrolled at a recognized two-or four-year college or university working toward a degree in horticulture, environmental science or other field related to a segment of the green industry.

Labor, Hiring and good customer service

The employees you have and the customers you serve are crucial to the success of your business.

Q: Like many companies, we struggle to find good long-term employees. I am wondering what we can do that we haven’t already tried to get good employees in the company and then get them to stay.

A: If you are going to have a successful landscape company, you must solve the problem of attracting good employees and keeping them. These days, with the problems with H-2B and with E-verify compliance, that can be a problem. Here are some of the things that have worked in my career – some of them sound counter-intuitive but I promise, if employed correctly, they work.

Pay more than the competition.

I know that sounds problematic if profit margins are tight. However, I have always offered more in salary, benefits and training and education, and that has paid off because employee turnover is expensive and that helps to cut those costs. Well-trained, tenured employees generate faster production rates, which can help give you an advantage when bidding work.

Offer employees a seat at the table.

Have them participate in operational decisions and don’t just pay lip-service, but really do it. For instance, don’t have your operations manager make purchasing decisions in a vacuum. Let the people who are going to use the mowers and equipment make the decisions.

Take them to GIE+EXPO and let them see and test drive the options. They are the ones using it after all. They will be happier and they will have ownership in the running of the company.

Create a culture of respect.

Word gets around if your company is a good place to work and creating a culture of respect is the key to that. Respect the employees, don’t talk badly about employees, learn about their families and their lives, do little things that can mean a lot. Giving employees gift cards to take the family out to dinner – little things like that mean a lot and will keep your employees loyal to the company.

Q: I am always telling our employees to treat the customers well and connect with them, but there never seems to be enough time. There are always fires to put out, so how do we make that part of the natural work process?

A: We all want happy clients and the beginning of that is regular contact. And I don’t mean sending a text or email. I mean regular personal face-to-face contact.

We have a monthly matrix at our office and we have to make personal connections with a certain number of clients each month. Stop in, tour the landscape with them, talk about issues, but most important – get to know them on a personal level. If you can’t catch them in the office, leave your business card so they know you stopped by. It shows them that you care.

© asiseeit | iStockphoto

People like to work with people they like and trust, and that is why it is so important to take time to make friends with your clients – even on the smallest contracts. When prospecting for new clients, don’t assume that just because the landscape looks good that the client is happy.

Recently I got a new client because I stopped in on a business just at the time the CEO was frustrated with the landscape. I have to say that it looked great, but there was one small debris pile by his parking spot and their current company wasn’t responsive in taking care of it.

So even though it looked great overall, they probably didn’t realize that that one small thing was enough to irritate the CEO enough to change companies. If they had a strong personal relationship with the client and were following up regularly, they wouldn’t have lost the business.

Of course, treats for the clients help as well. Gift cards for a dinner out, hand-written thank you notes, support for their charities of choice – those things are icing on the cake of a great working relationship.

To quote the poet Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you have said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Strive to make all your clients feel good about you and the company you represent.

Bill Horn, NALP Trailblazer, Branch Manager, LandCare

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.

Industry veteran on the mend following attack

Judy Guido is already back to work after a violent assault that required brain surgery and left her with a cracked skull and other injuries. By Brian Horn

Judy Guido is recovering after she was assaulted at her Moorpark, California, home with a pickaxe to the head and neck areas on July 5 by an employee of a landscaping company she hired to clean up and prepare her yard for a healing garden.

Abel DeJesus Monroy, 27, was arrested for the crime and pleaded not guilty to several felony counts.

After being rushed to the intensive care unit, surgeons performed brain surgery, repaired the shape of Guido’s skull and the cracks in it, and had to repair the muscles around her brain with stitches that will not be removed.

Doctors told Guido, owner of consulting firm Guido & Associates, that she has no brain damage and she should be able to physically get back to normal in a few months. That includes being able to drive, walk up and down stairs and walk without cane. She’s even started working with clients again.

She is trying to get her iron levels back up because of the amount of blood she lost, and she also lost about 12 pounds during the recovery.

“Now it’s just being able to get my appetite up,” she said. “Every day, I’m getting stronger.”

For the full story, visit bit.ly/judyguido.