Flourish through feedback – Lawn & Landscape

Photo © Gajus | Adobe Stock

For the majority of green industry companies, a large percentage of their new customers come from referrals. So, in the world of word-of-mouth marketing, what can you do to secure quality referrals and reviews of your business?

During a panel discussion at Jobber’s virtual Professional Development Day, three business owners outlined ways companies can go about growing their client lists through reviews and referrals. The panel included Dan Guest, president of Guest Plumbing and Heating; Terence Chen, president of Impetus Plumbing and Heating; and Kurt Stenberg, owner of Cochrane Tree Care.

 

WHERE TO GET REVIEWS

All three business owners agreed that the best place to collect reviews is Google.

“There are so many platforms now, and some are gaining some traction, but Google by far gives you your best bang for your buck,” Guest said.

Guest said it’s also the best platform for customers, as it’s the easiest for them to navigate.

Stenberg agreed, saying to collect the best reviews, you have to think like the customer. This will make sure you’re presenting your best self in front of the people looking for you.

“The most common places for people to find you is online,” he said. “So, think about where are they looking, and what’s easiest for them. Keep up with what people are doing and get the reviews through there.”

And getting those reviews seen on Google is leading to more calls for all three companies.

“Being found first is important, so I would really work on my SEO and stuff and get my name high up on that list,” Stenberg said.

Guest added that the more people who see the reviews, the more calls you’ll get.

“There’s been a lot of people calling and mentioning how many reviews we have, and they mention the quality of the reviews,” Guest said.

He added that another hidden benefit of having good, quality reviews is it allows potential customers to learn early on what services you provide.

“When a client takes a minute to go through the reviews, they can really understand if we are the best business for their service,” Guest said. “It’s just like reading restaurant reviews. What kind of food do they serve? Is it quick? It shows what kind of business we are offering.”

In terms of how many reviews to go out and collect, Chen said to start with obtaining one quality review. If that goes well, it should be easy to grow.

“Strive to get that first one, because when you get that, you’re able to learn from that experience and how you’re able to replicate that again,” he said. “And then you’re able to start building up your repertoire.”

 

WHAT TO SAY TO CLIENTS

But in order to get those reviews, you have to ask customers for them.

Stenberg said it can start the minute you visit a customer and give a quote.

“I try to mentally prepare myself to do a little extra for the customer,” he said. “I want them to feel like they got a little bit of extra value, or a little extra work done. Not only is the job done well, but they feel like they got something better. It leads them into wanting to leave a good review.”

Stenberg said being personable and taking the time to talk with customers is another easy way to make them want to review you.

“We also will send an email to follow up on the service and ask them to leave a review,” he said. “But honestly, I don’t feel like that works very well. I don’t get a lot of traction with that because people don’t really read emails.”

Stenberg said asking in person is usually best.

“Be straight up and honest and tell them it makes a good impression for your company and helps you get business,” he said. “People are pretty good about it then.”

Guest said leave-behind cards are another way to ask for that five-star review.

“We’ve actually created a Google Review How-To card that we ask all of our technicians to leave if they think the customer would want to leave a review,” he says. “It gives them the five steps to do it. Not everyone knows how — especially if they’ve never done it before.”

Guest noted the technicians don’t give the cards out to every client.

“If they seemed busy or whatever, you don’t want to ask them for more of their time,” he said. “But if you have a good opportunity — take it.”

Guest said the technicians also feel more comfortable leaving the cards behind because then they don’t have to explain to the client how to leave the review.

 

HOW TO ENGAGE EMPLOYEES

The next step is getting employees motivated to secure those reviews.

Guest said incentive programs can be a great way to get everyone on board.

“We asked ‘What’s a review worth to us?’” he said. “So, we started incentivizing our staff members and making it a bit of a challenge each month. We give $5 per guy, they work in teams of two, so $10 per review that leaves their name.”

Guest said the extra money has made his staff seek out more reviews and is just a friendly competition now among the technicians.

“It’s been a lot of fun around the office,” he said.

Chen said he also uses an incentive program to encourage crews to ask for reviews.

“It makes sure they’re putting a lot of care into their work,” he said. “And the customers can feel that, too.”

He compensates employees with $30 per review.

“I don’t do a lot advertising, so what I do instead is have our techs do the advertising for us,” Chen said.

Stenberg said these incentives programs are also great for ensuring quality work is being done.

“The whole reason to get reviews is you want to get some feedback on how the work was,” he said. “So, it’s a bit of accountability that they’re actually doing a great job.”

 

WHY TO RESPOND

But what happens in terms of receiving a bad review?

Stenberg said he sets expectations with customers ahead of time and tells them to come to him with any and all problems.

“I ask them that if they aren’t completely satisfied, that they please let me know personally,” he said. “That way it can be a more personal interaction, and you’re less likely to get a four-star or less review. That personal connection helps.”

Guest said another important thing to remember is always respond, no matter what the review is.

“It gives you some character and realism,” he said. “We’ve actually turned a couple of reviews into positive reviews because we haven’t shied away from a little conflict. Really, it’s usually about just educating the client.”

Guest added that it’s unrealistic to think that every review will be glowing and five-stars.

“You’re going to get some bad reviews, but it’s all about how you deal with challenges and problems,” Guest said.

Chen suggested using it as a learning experience when negative reviews arise.

“Be professional and take it on as a business matter instead of putting your emotions into it,” he said. “Take it as a way to improve your services. You can always reflect on what happened there and what mistakes were made.”

Chen said to confront it and work with that customer to turn it into a good review.

“Bad reviews are good (because they) allow you to turn them around and put out better customer service,” he said. “The biggest tip I could give is to always try and turn those stars around. If you have to refund a cost or something, I would do that any day.”

Stenberg points out that a lot of bad reviews could even be prevented by being selective with your customers.

“Choose your customers,” he said. “If you don’t feel good about it, then maybe you don’t take that job on.”

 

WORKING IN REFERRALS

In addition to reviews, direct referrals from loyal customers are another way to grow your client list.

Chen said he doesn’t have a formal referral rewards program.

Instead, he focuses on engaging with his community.

“A lot of my interactions come from social media and connecting with my community,” he said.

Chen added that connecting with local competitors, whether that’s in person or via social media, is another way to get referrals and collaborate.

“Not everyone can take on that much work,” he said.

Guest said by keeping an ear to the ground and asking the right questions, you can figure out where your referrals are coming from.

“Our customer service coordinator takes all of our incoming calls and she’ll ask where the client came from,” he said.

photo courtesy of bartlett tree experts

Bayer sells Environmental Science Professional business to Cinven for $2.6 billion

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of this year.

Bayer and Cnven have entered into a definitive agreement regarding the sale of Bayer’s Environmental Science Professional business for a purchase price of $2.6 billion.

“This divestment represents a very attractive purchase price and allows us to focus on our core agricultural business and the successful implementation of our Crop Science Division growth strategy,” said Rodrigo Santos, member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG and president of the Crop Science Division.

Environmental Science Professional offers environmental solutions to control pests, diseases and weeds in non-agricultural areas such as vector control, professional pest management, vegetation management, forestry and turf and ornamentals. In 2021, the business had approximately 800 employees supporting operations and sales in more than 100 countries. It is headquartered in Cary, North Carolina. Bayer had announced its decision to divest the business in February 2021.

“Driven by a shared belief in people and purpose, Cinven will enable the Environmental Science Professional business to advance towards its vision of healthy environments for everyone, everywhere. We are convinced by Cinven’s focus and its commitment to the long-term growth potential for the business and its people,” Santos said.

The transaction is expected to close in the second half of this year, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions. Its net proceeds are to be used to reduce Bayer’s net financial debt.

“Bayer’s Environmental Science Professional business is a global leader in a highly attractive and critical industry. We thank Bayer for the trust they have placed in Cinven and plan to build on the strong foundations established by Bayer by significantly investing in it,” said Pontus Pettersson, partner and head of industrial at Cinven. “As a long-established global investment firm, Cinven is well positioned to continue to drive innovation and accelerate growth at Environmental Science Professional, including the delivery of digital and data-enabled solutions, as well as make the business more agile in responding to the unique needs of its markets and customers.”

BofA Securities acted as financial advisor to Bayer, while Hengeler Mueller acted as legal advisor.

Bartlett Tree Experts expands with California, Maine acquisitions

Bartlett acquired S.P. McClenahan Company and Savage Forest Enterprise.

Bartlett Tree Experts recently acquired two companies — S.P. McClenahan Company (Portola Valley, California) and Savage Forest Enterprise (Mount Desert Island, Maine).

The largest ever in Bartlett’s 114-year history, the acquisition of 111-year-old S.P. McClenahan meant one fourth-generation company acquired another.

“We are excited to join forces with S.P. McClenahan. I have known the McClenahan family for 40 years and, like Bartlett Tree Experts, they have worked hard to build a stellar reputation for their company as an industry leader,” said Jim Ingram, president and COO of Bartlett Tree Experts. “We look forward to combining our strengths and adding significant depth to our arboricultural services in gorgeous Northern California.”

S.P. McClenahan Co. and its 55 employees are now a division of Bartlett Tree Experts, which provides more than 188 services to its customers from 151 operations in 39 U.S. states, Canada, Ireland and Great Britain.

John Henry McClenahan, who previously served as CEO of the company his great grandfather founded, will run Bartlett’s new Portola Valley office as local manager. His younger brother, Josh McClenahan, joins Bartlett as a loss control manager, administering and supporting compliance with all insurance and loss control programs, analyzing risks and developing strategies to reduce losses throughout the corporation.

“Becoming a division of Bartlett gives all of our employees and staff, including me, a chance to grow and develop and be better arborists because of the resources that Bartlett has, such as the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories,” said John McClenahan, who has been involved in his family’s business since 1993.

Savage Forest Enterprise has been operating in the Mount Desert Island area for 23 years. Meghan EG Savage, the owner of Savage Forest Enterprise, said Bartlett was the right fit to acquire their family-owned tree and shrub care business because of similarities between the two companies, including Bartlett’s focus on scientific tree care.

“Because Bartlett Tree Experts shares our same values, we are confident they will carry forward the character and reputation of Savage Forest Enterprise while providing diversified, enhanced service our clients have grown to expect,” Savage said. “Bartlett Tree Experts is known throughout the industry as the leader in applying scientific methods to tree care. We were especially impressed with the capabilities of the Bartlett Tree Experts Research Laboratories in Charlotte, NC., which provides customers with direct access to the latest arboricultural research.”

With this acquisition, Bartlett’s new office on Mount Desert Island joins the company’s Portland office as the second in Maine.

“We are excited about this acquisition because Savage Forest Enterprise has built a stellar reputation for quality tree work in an area of unparalleled natural beauty,” said Paul Fletcher, vice president and division manager of the New England Division for Bartlett Tree Experts. “The two companies are a great match because we share the same values, and both companies have a heritage of being community focused. Our expansion in this beautiful area of coastal Maine allows us to provide a full-range of scientific tree and shrub care services to more customers while continuing to honor the values that Savage Forest was built on for honesty, integrity, safety and professionalism.”

Senske Services acquires portion of Rentokil’s lawn care division

Rentokil sold some of their lawn care businesses in Washington and Utah.

Senske Services has acquired a portion of Rentokil’s lawn care operations in Washington and Utah.

Senske is a family-owned provider of lawn, tree and pest control services throughout the Western U.S. It ranked No. 53 on our Top 100 list in 2021. Rentokil also ranked No. 3 on Pest Control Technology’s Top 100 list in 2021.

“We’ve worked with Senske for many years, and it was an easy decision to align part of our lawn care operations with their team,” said John Myers, president and CEO of Rentokil North America. “The Senske name is well-known for their lawn care services and expertise in the field, which was a great fit for our business.”

“Our expansion and growth strategy focuses on acquiring companies with similar service lines and quality employees that can join our team,” said Senske’s COO, Tim Ehrhart. “We look forward to providing fantastic service to our new customers.”

BrightView acquires TDE Group

TDE is a snow removal and commercial landscaping company based in Detroit.

BrightView has acquired TDE Group, a snow removal and commercial landscaping company headquartered in suburban Detroit with operations in Windsor, Ontario. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

TDE Group is the 34th firm to be purchased by BrightView under its long-term acquisition growth strategy.

“BrightView continues to execute on our ‘strong-on-strong’ acquisition program in which we actively seek out exceptional businesses to expand our existing operations in attractive markets. Bringing TDE under the BrightView umbrella allows us to grow in a profitable market and bring highly trained and motivated team members into the company,” said Andrew Masterman, BrightView president and CEO. In addition to snow removal, TDE Group provides landscaping maintenance services in the Detroit/Windsor metropolitan areas and beyond. Among TDE’s most prominent clients are auto manufacturers and the Detroit Metro Airport. TDE employs more than 125 people.

“The addition of TDE Group and their skilled crews is a great enhancement to our operations in the Upper Midwest,” said Jamie Gollotto, president of BrightView Maintenance Services Seasonal Division. “Their expertise in both winter services and landscaping makes them a perfect year-round complement for our existing branches in this important region.”

“TDE Group is happy to have become part of the BrightView family,” said Eddie Conte, TDE’s president and CEO. “This partnership will provide our employees with significant growth opportunities both in the USA and Canada. Our clients will continue to enjoy our meticulous self-performed approach to snow removal with a larger depth and breadth of landscape service offerings that far exceed what TDE could have done on its own.”

Landscape Workshop acquires Southern Scape

The company, based in Madison, Alabama, opened its doors in 1997.

Landscape Workshop Recently acquired the commercial landscape operations of Southern Scape, based in Madison, Alabama. Southern Scape will continue to operate as a design/build and pool installation company with a focus on the residential market.

“The LW team is excited to continue building on the success Greg Shaw and his team have created since opening their doors in 1997. Our shared values of hard work, commitment and quality service make this an exciting venture for both parties involved,” said J. T. Price, Landscape Workshop CEO.

“This transaction will strengthen our Huntsville team and reinforce our position as the elite commercial landscape company serving the Huntsville region,” said Braxton Ferguson, Landscape Workshop’s Huntsville general manager.

Shaw will continue operating under the Southern Scape name.

“We are excited to join the LW team, a company that has a great reputation and will continue to deliver the exceptional service that our clients have come to expect over the years,” Shaw said. “This acquisition provides growth opportunities and additional resources for our employees that will support the continued success of our business.”

Southern Scape’s commercial maintenance managers and staff will join the Landscape Workshop team. All design/build, chemicals and pool installation team members will remain with Southern Scape.

Landscape Workshop gained 11 employees in the acquisition. The company ranked No. 47 on our Top 100 list last year.

Landscape Workshop is a full-service grounds management company that has been providing professional service and expert maintenance for outdoor commercial spaces since 1984. Landscape Workshop serves 12 Southeastern markets. Landscape Workshop is backed by Carousel Capital and McKinney Capital.

Butler Sparks and Stuart Maxey of Bradley served as Landscape Workshop’s legal counsel in this transaction. Southern Scape was represented by Jacquelyn Jordan Core and Michael Voytek of Jordon Voytek. Southern Scape’s financial advisor was Steven Bach of Bach Business Partners.

LOVING expands in Florida

The company added a 700-acre sod farm in Punta Gorda.

LOVING expanded its footprint in Florida by adding a 700-acre sod farm in Punta Gorda, Florida. With the framework already in place to begin production, this expansion enables LOVING to further support landscaping companies in southwest Florida.

“We are beyond excited to begin production with this new farm as it will optimize our Southwest Florida operations significantly,” said Mike Haynes, founder and president. “This farm combined with our Babcock Ranch farming location will set us up to execute on the continued growth expected in Southwest Florida. We also are looking forward to supporting the local community through employment and outreach opportunities.”

LOVING is headquartered in Gastonia, North Carolina, and offers landscaping, outdoor living and sod supply to both local and national homebuilding clients across the Southeast.

ExperiGreen acquires TurfMan in Cincinnati, Ohio

John Rust started TurfMan in 2003 and is now retiring.

Experigreen lawn care recently acquired the TurfMan lawn care business in the Cincinnati metro area.

John Rust started TurfMan in 2003 and is now retiring, opting for ExperiGreen to take over the business in the sale. TurfMan has a strong presence on the eastern side of the Cincinnati metro area which nicely complements ExperiGreen’s existing footprint in Cincinnati.

ExperiGreen began operations in 2017 and is headquartered in Mishawaka, Indiana, and Dublin, Ohio. The company provides lawn care, perimeter pest control and mosquito control services in Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Ornamental tree and shrub service is also available in Cincinnati, Charlotte, Detroit and Chicago.

Talmadge Coley

Photo Courtesy of FNGLA

After a six-month national search, Talmadge Coley has been tapped as the next chief executive officer to lead the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association.

“Over FNGLA’s 70-year history, we have employed only four CEOs,” said Sarah Spatola, FNGLA’s 2021-22 president. “The quality and tenure of our staff is a strength that has served us well in upholding our core values and completing our strategic goals. We are confident Tal’s industry knowledge, advocacy acumen and esteemed service to our nation’s nursery and landscape industry will further bolster the strength and innovation of FNGLA.”

Coley, a Florida native, has been serving in Washington, D.C. as the senior director of advocacy & government affairs for AmericanHort, based in Columbus, Ohio. He has also been serving as executive director of the Nursery & Landscape Association Executives of North America.

Prior to his role at AmericanHort, Coley undertook leadership roles in several legislative outreach capacities over a five-year-period advocating for veterans at Concerned Veterans for America. Coley also served for four years in the United States Air Force as a Russian cryptologic linguist where he was stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland. He holds a bachelor’s and a masters degree from the University of North Florida and the University of Miami respectively. “I am humbled and honored to be the next chief executive officer at FNGLA,” Coley said. “The opportunity to return home to Florida and advocate for an industry I feel so passionate about is truly a dream come true. Leading FNGLA into this next chapter and building off the incredible foundation Ben Bolusky has provided is a mission I am eager to take on.” Coley will take the reins from FNGLA CEO Ben Bolusky, who announced plans to retire after what will be 24 years of service to FNGLA. Bolusky and Coley will initially work side-by- side during an onboarding period, and Bolusky will cap his work at the Association during FNGLA’s Annual Convention in June 2022.

Ryan Lawn & Tree merges with CM’s Outdoor Solutions

Both companies will operate under the name of Ryan Lawn & Tree, and CM’s 61 employees will all be retained.

Ryan Lawn & Tree, a Lawn & Landscape Top 100 company, completed its largest merger to date with CM’s Outdoor Solutions of Omaha, NE.

Founded by Chuck Monico in 1987, CM’s Outdoor Solutions, formerly known as CM’s A Cut Above, has grown from providing only mowing services to offering complete turf, tree, irrigation and landscape services, as well as snow removal for both residential and commercial clients.

“When we met with Chuck and the CM’s team, we liked them right away,” said Larry Ryan, founder and president of Ryan Lawn & Tree. “We saw Chuck as someone who cares about his associates…he hires good people and he’s committed to the industry.”

“One of the biggest things that’s different about Ryan Lawn & Tree is that it’s a faith-based company,” Monico said. “If you have a faith-based company, if you’re looking to take care of your people, if you’re looking to take care of your community and grow the industry, those are companies that would be a great fit for RYAN. I think it’s unique that RYAN has such a commitment to its team members.”

With their values aligned, both Larry and Chuck saw merging the two companies as an opportunity to innovate and lift the green industry.

Both companies will operate under the name of Ryan Lawn & Tree.

CM’s Outdoor Solutions employs 61 people, all of whom will be retained.

Like Ryan Lawn & Tree, CM’s Outdoor Solutions is a participant in the Great Game of Business (GGOB) open-book management system. Both CM’s Outdoor Solutions and Ryan Lawn & Tree were named as 2021 GGOB All-Stars earlier this year.

Ryan Lawn & Tree is 100% employee-owned and with the recent merger has more than 400 full-time associates and graduates from more than 80 different universities.

Ryan Lawn & Tree now serves six different markets, both Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO Metro, St. Louis, MO, Springfield, MO, Wichita, KS, Tulsa, OK, and Omaha, NE, and offers a variety of lawn care services.

Doosan Bobcat announces new facilities

The company is adding two additional locations in Reno and Atlanta to join its primary distribution center in Chicago.

Doosan Bobcat North America has plans to further expand its aftermarket parts distribution network with the addition of two new regional parts distribution centers. Joining the company’s existing Bobcat Parts Distribution Center near Chicago in Woodridge, Illinois, are new facilities in Atlanta, Georgia, and Reno, Nevada.

“This investment demonstrates our commitment to our dealers and customers, as well as Bobcat’s leadership in the industry,” said Mike Ballweber, president of Doosan Bobcat North America. “This expansion will help ensure faster response and delivery times to all North American customers by bringing parts closer to end-users and where they do business.”

These new facilities will roughly double the company’s existing warehouse footprint by adding approximately 445,000 square feet of additional distribution and storage space to the existing 358,000-square-foot primary parts distribution center in Chicago.

The distribution facilities, along with expanded customer service teams and decentralized U.S. locations, will also enable quicker order-to-delivery times and the highest level of service for aftermarket parts. The regional distribution centers offer additional benefits, including:

• Same-day order processing and extended order hours

• Expanded dealer support programs and customer service hours

• Improved speed of delivery times and additional shipping carrier options

The new distribution centers are part of Bobcat’s overall plans to meet growing capacity needs and the demand for Bobcat equipment in the marketplace.

“With the outstanding support of dealers and the improved parts availability this expansion offers, this is an exciting step for us to enable faster service for our valued Bobcat customers and accommodate our continued growth and business demands,” added Ballweber.

The new facilities are anticipated to become operational by the fourth quarter of 2022, and all facilities will be managed by APL Logistics. Additional facility details are forthcoming.

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