Hello from Louisville! GIE+EXPO 2010 has kicked off and we’re expecting it to be another banner show. If you’re not attending or haven’t stopped by our booth yet, here are some of the exciting highlights of what we’re unveiling for 2011.
This is a big one. We’re launching a new Exmark member community website, exmarkpride.com, where pros and lawn fanatics alike can gather to share their Exmark pride, along with mowing tips and stories, interact with Exmark and industry experts, participate in monthly contests, find business tools and gain special access into what is happening at Exmark.
And check this out, if you sign up and join what we’re calling the Exmark crew by December 31, you will be eligible to win a Lazer Z X-Series.
The Mark Award
We’re announcing the first of its kind industry awards that recognize the best of the best within the Exmark Community – awarding a dealer and a landscape pro that embodies Exmark pride. Winners will be announced at GIE + EXPO in 2011, where they will be recognized by their peers.
We’re introducing several new units, Exmark ‘X’-branded merchandise and decals, and a free welcome kit that’s full of Exmark ‘X’-branded stuff.
We’re really excited to launch our new campaign and introduce our new products, and we can’t wait to hear your thoughts. So please go visit exmarkpride.com and join the crew and the conversation.
What do you hope to see this year at GIE?
It’s a great opportunity to have some face-to-face with people I typically only talk to on the phone or via e-mail. And, it’s always exciting to see all the new products that suppliers release.
What trends do you think we’ll see in new products?
As far as equipment goes, we’re seeing more and more alternative fuel options coming down the pike. Fuel prices are only going to go up, and contractors are more willing – and have more reliable options – now to explore electric and propane-fueled equipment.
What will be the trend in 2011 for products/Landscape Pros? Dealers?
They say the recession is over, but people are still having a hard time. Customers still want more for less, and, for dealers, their contractor customers have a similar outlook. Everyone’s being a little more reluctant to buy, and doing more homework before they sign off on projects or big purchases. So, whether you sell service or hard goods, you really have to make your case to customers that you’ll be a good investment or save them money in the long run.
Whose booth should you definitely stop by?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say ours – number 1084. We’ve got a lot of great stuff for the industry, namely our new scholarship program. You can donate as little as one dollar, pick up a wristband and, if we take your picture wearing it, you’ve got a chance to win some pretty amazing prizes, like a week in Hawaii or a Caribbean cruise.
But I always encourage people to visit the outdoor demo areas. It’s a great way to get up close and personal with lots of equipment and see if it really does what you need it to.
Are you looking forward to the concert this year? What acts would you like to see open the show next year?
They always have great acts come to Fourth Street and put on an entertaining show. Looking at my schedule, I don’t think I’ll be able to make the concerts this year, but I encourage everyone to attend. Keynotes are good, but a big part of the show is networking and relaxing with your colleagues.
What do you think we’ll see more of next year (industry-wide)?
More and more companies are looking for ways to set themselves apart from their competition, and we’ll see more creative ways of doing that. The best companies and dealers know their niche and how to thrive in it, regardless of the economy.
How has the industry changed in the last year?
Companies are smaller and younger – they’re making lower revenues and have been in business for less time. We’ve seen a correction, and there’s been lots of turnover and change. This sets the stage for more competition and really ups the ante for companies to compete at a much higher level.
What’s your favorite thing about Kentucky?
Definitely the bourbon. No, I can’t just pick one thing. It’s a great state – it has beautiful scenery, friendly people and great cities. Whenever I’m in Louisville I make sure to have breakfast at Lynn’s Paradise Café and grab a drink at the lobby bar at the Brown Hotel.
What are you looking forward to at GIE+EXPO 2010? Leave us a comment and let us know!
In this second part of our maintenance segment, we continue to provide tips to help you get your mower in tiptop shape for its hibernation period. If you missed part one of this segment, go here.
This is a good time to check your machine’s belts and replace any that are frayed, cut or damaged. Check the mower’s pulleys, making sure they’re not bent, misaligned or jammed with debris. Landscape bark has a tendency to get wedged deep into the pulleys, so give them a close inspection.
Whether you’re storing your machine in a shed, under a tarp or in an enclosed trailer you want to do whatever you can to keep rodents away. Aside from thoroughly cleaning your mower, you can take other precautions to deter little critters from turning your machine into their winter home. You have your pick of traps and chemicals as well as natural means, such as Osage oranges and oil of peppermint to keep mice at bay. Peppermint candy will NOT do the trick, but invite more critters as well as insects to the party. Don’t use any harsh chemicals around your machine as they will cause damage. If you live in a rural area, you might want to consult with your local pest control office. They’re likely to give you good suggestions. Your local Exmark dealer will also be able to provide ways to keep your mower rodent-free.
Moisture is the other thing you want to keep as far away from your mower as possible. Wherever your mower is stored, make sure rain, ice and snow aren’t getting in.
We also recommend draining the fuel from your machine, or adding a fuel stabilizer. Don’t let fuel sit in your mower through the winter months.
To extend the life of your battery, best thing to do is remove it from your machine and keep it in a climate controlled area that’s between 50 and 70 degrees. For other tips on battery maintenance, check out this post.
Following these steps will ensure a safe winter season for your machines. Come spring, they’ll be ready to go back to work.
This blog post is by David Martin, customer service manager at Exmark.
There’s nothing more important for extending the life of your mower than proper maintenance, whether it’s pre-season maintenance, in-season maintenance or fall/winter maintenance. Since summer is officially over (already?), we thought this would be the perfect time to focus on fall maintenance. You want your mower to be ready for the long, cold days ahead. Since the list is long, we’ll break up maintenance into two posts, so make sure you come back for the sequel.
A good cleaning.
Storing a clean mower is key. Your mower’ worked hard all summer long and deserves a good wash down. Which brings us to our first cleaning tip: never wash your mower with water or solvents. Water on steel results in rust and deterioration. Clean your mower with air. A leaf blower is a great way to clean a mower, or you can use compressed air.
Make sure you clean everywhere – lift up the seat, get under the deck, reach behind the tires, remove belt guards and clean the area underneath, really get into every nook and cranny. Any debris left on the mower can do one of two things: become a rodent nest or trap moisture. If you’ve already forgotten the first tip we gave you, here’s a recap: steel + water = rust.
Grease is good.
Your mower has bearings that need to be greased. This is the time to do it. Make sure you’re not only starting with fresh grease, but also using the right kind of grease for your machine and conditions. Your Exmark dealer will be able to help you in picking out the appropriate grease.
The greasing technique for the bearings is extremely important. In other words, don’t hurry through it or use shortcuts. Make sure you remove the load before you grease the bearings. If you try to grease bearings while they’re still under load, you’ll end up greasing only half the bearing. It’s worth your while to take your time and remove any belts and springs before employing the grease gun. If the bearing is moveable, we recommend that you move it three or four times to get a nice coating on the bearing. This is also a good way to inspect the bearings for wear and tear, making sure they move freely without any grinding or tightness.
Like your car, your mower needs its engine oil and filter changed. It also needs its hydraulic fluid and filter changed. Once all of the fluids and filters have been changed, start the machine for about five minutes or less to make sure the clean engine oil circulates throughout the machine. Utilize the hydraulics to get the fresh fluid circulating as well. If changing your mower’s fluids isn’t your strong suit, take your mower to your dealer. Most dealers run a winterization special during this time of year. One of the benefits of having your dealer perform end of season maintenance is that they usually have a multipoint inspection of the machine that examines multiple wear points, catching something you may miss or not even think about checking. If they do find something, winter is probably the ideal time to have your mower serviced, since you won’t need it in the field.
That’s it our first segment of fall maintenance. Check back soon to see more tips on what you need to do to maintain your mower.
This blog post is by David Martin, customer service manager at Exmark.
As mowing season winds down, pros need to start thinking about fall maintenance and winterizing their mowers. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk fall clean-up.
Picking up extra debris and keeping customers’ yards clean sometimes can be more difficult than it should be. But using the right tool, like Exmark’s UltraVac system, can keep a simple clean-up job from turning into a big production.
Something else to consider is your blades. More times than not, we get calls from pros telling us that their mowers aren’t picking up extra debris, like twigs. The issue is often blade related. Regular blades do a great job of bagging grass clippings, but leaves need to be chopped up into very fine pieces to move quickly and efficiently through the tube. Extreme blades are designed for this job. They’ll get more debris in the bag, and you won’t have to stop as often to empty it.
One last thing to check is your deck setting. If your deck isn’t set at the correct level, your mower won’t be able to pick up debris. Your local dealer can help you get your deck to where it needs to be.
This blog post is by David Martin, customer service manager at Exmark.
A bit of crispness in the air. The days getting shorter. Sweaters making their way out of storage. Yep, fall is heading toward us, bringing a quiet end to mowing season and a frenzied beginning to leaf removal season. Having spoken to quite a few pros in the past, we know that each one has his trick and technique to picking up leaves. And, we’d love to know what those are. Today, we’re asking you to share your personal twist on leaf removal.
We’ll start it off by sharing our “techniques,” which come in the form of attachments and a mower.
These tools quickly and efficiently get the leaves off the grass and out of sight. The attachment you choose depends on the kinds of properties you mow and your clients’ preferences. If you want finely mulched leaves spread evenly over the grass, then the Exmark mulching kit will be the tool you’re looking for. If you want finely mulched leaves collected, then check out our UltraVac® attachment and the Exmark Navigator®.
Now it’s your turn. What’s your best technique or trick for leaf removal? We’ll select one of the techniques shared and feature it and the genius landscape pro behind it in an upcoming blog post!
This month we bring you U.S. Lawns, a unique landscaping company built on a strong foundation of local franchisees with offices strategically placed across the country. The idea of U.S. Lawns is to have local presence in different communities by providing landscape professionals with resources and key business strategies to be successful. With the backing of a large company, franchisees can offer customers the personal service of a landscape pro and commitment to excellence of a local business owner. U.S. Lawn’s commitment to delivering a superior product is in line with our thinking, and we’re proud to be one of their partners.
We asked U.S. Lawns a few questions and here’s what they had to say:
When did your operation first open its doors?
U.S. Lawns was founded and began franchising in 1986. However, the real growth of the concept began in the late 1990’s after the business model had been tested, refined and proven by our early “pioneer” franchise owners. We now have offices in more than 200 markets in 34 states.
What is the one unique thing about your business?
We offer national strength with a local commitment. The combination of local providers and national resources help make U.S. Lawns a leader in the commercial landscape management industry. Our territories for franchisees are set up with a 20-30 minute drive time in mind, in order to serve the customer quicker and more efficiently while our home office is staffed with professionals who are leaders in their respective fields, from agronomics to economics and from marketing to accounting and HR to support our franchisees.
How do you want to be viewed in the marketplace?
We want to be viewed as our Mission Statement proclaims: provide our clients with the highest quality landscape management program at competitive prices through a national organization of dedicated owner-operators and their employees, supported by the expertise of today’s most accomplished industry leaders. In pursuit of excellence we are committed to honest and forthright dealings with our clients, our employees and our vendors.
Typically, what do owners/franchisees look for in the machines they use?
Our franchisees look at equipment as necessary tools to consistently and efficiently service the customer’s property. For this reason we want our employees to operate equipment that is safe and easy to operate, cutting-edge efficient, has been engineered for zero down time and will last well past its warranty period. Since we perform only routine maintenance on our equipment, not major repairs, we put a great value on a good dealer network that understands the commercial contractor market.
What kinds of practices do you look for and expect in mower manufacturers?
We expect the manufacturer to fully understand the key drivers in our business and then proactively address these key drivers as they design and build both their machines and, more importantly, their customer support teams. We also expect what every customer expects – good warranties, proactive communication, advance notice of product developments and issues, and continued research and development that supports the future of our industry.
Is it important to have a strong relationship with your dealer?
YES! It is paramount. The buying decision is based largely on the strength of the dealer. The local dealer’s influence on getting a repair being made quickly, for us, is paramount. Equipment will break, but the cost, ease and speed of the repair will determine a strong relationship.
Where do you see the industry headed, generally speaking?
A recent trend focuses on green initiatives. More energy-efficient electric mowers and mowers with less noise would seem to be the way of the future.
What is the one thing that’s currently affecting the industry?
The customer is not willing to pay more today than yesterday for the same services. There have been no significant improvements in the equipment industry that improve field efficiency. This restricts the contractor’s ability to improve margins by upgrading equipment, forcing the contractor to either increase efficiencies in other areas of their business or to accept lower margins for their work.
Where would you like to see the industry headed?
Upward and green! We firmly believe the future of the equipment industry is dependent upon change –not incremental change as we’ve seen over many years, but exponential change: different power sources and radically different designs allowing for far greater efficiency while addressing environmental concerns.
What is next for your company?
U.S. Lawns will continue to be a leader in the commercial landscape management industry. We continue to grow our business, even in a challenging economy, and keep our eyes on the future at all times. We push forward every day, keeping up with technology and constantly building our pool of resources for our franchisees. Our goal is always customer satisfaction, and we believe we deliver it better than anyone.
Want to read more about U.S. Lawns visit www.uslawns.com.
It’s true we have multiple posts discussing lubrication. (Three to be exact, but who’s counting?) But as you’re wondering why we’re getting stuck on this one topic, just remember that proper lubrication extends the life of your mower. And, we want you to help keep those bad boys working hard for you for as long as possible.
So here’s the breakdown on what you need to know and what you should be doing:
- Change the engine oil after the first five hours of operating a new mower.
- Your first hydraulic oil and filter change should be at 200 hours.
- After initial hydraulic oil and filter change, and if you’re using genuine Exmark Hydraulic Oil, change the oil and filter at maximum every 500 hours.
- If you’re using Mobil 1 Oil, change the oil and filter at maximum every 250 hours.
- If you are mowing hills or running bagging equipment, change hydraulic fluid and engine oil much more frequently than manufacturer’s maximum recommendations.
- Use a high-quality oil since less expensive grease or generic brands might cost you more in the long run.
- Engine manufacturers do not recommend the use of synthetic oils. Find more information on Exmark’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/exmarkmanufacturing.
- You have the option of using Exmark-branded engine oil, which is specifically formulated for mowers.
Did you find this post helpful? Leave us a comment below.
While doing some research online, we came across a very interesting post by a part-time landscape pro, Sherri Joubert.
In her post, she talks about the fact that mower theft is on the rise. We were actually quite shocked to read what Sherri’s discovered is behind these thefts.
Sherri writes that the slumping economy and the rising unemployment rate are forcing those who are out of work to find alternative means of making money so they can provide for their families. Basically, some people are stealing mowers to start their own landscaping businesses.
Those caught in-the-act explained they were planning on returning the mowers once they’d made enough money to buy their own used equipment.
At this point we started thinking about your mower security.
To keep your mowers, well, yours, there are a few steps you can take to protect them:
- Make sure your stored equipment is hard to get to. Reinforce your locks with heavy-duty chains.
- Don’t leave any of your equipment unattended curb-side, even if you’re taking a quick lunch break.
- Buy a covered trailer or a trailer with high walls.
- Always check to make sure locks are secure.
Our final piece of advice on what you might do comes from Sherri’s own personal experience. Instead of putting her mower under lock and key, she rents her equipment for a nominal fee to a single mom in the neighborhood. The mom has access to the mowers on days Sherri is off.
Within the last couple of months, the mom saved enough money to buy her own equipment, something she couldn’t have done without Sherri’s compassion. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
What do you do to keep your mower safe? Leave your comments below.
This week we’re featuring Tony Weston. Tony is that rare breed of dealer, landscape professional and all-around nice guy. His business philosophy is simple: Be respectful, be honest and never sell your customers a product you wouldn’t use. Who can argue with that?
As a dealer, what do you look for in a product? I look for machines that are well-made, dependable and deliver the best cut out there. That’s why I only sell Exmarks. They’re the machines I use for my landscaping business and I would never sell my clients anything I wouldn’t use myself. We have a saying in my shop: We sell ‘em…We use ‘em…’nough said.
What is the one thing you focus on when it comes to your customers? Honesty. I am a dealer and a landscape pro so I know what it takes to get the job done right. And what it takes is a combination of experience and quality mowers. I’ll never sell a mower I don’t believe in, even if it means a bigger profit for me. I just can’t do it. I also believe in loyalty. I got baseball caps with my customers’ logos on them hanging on a wall in my shop. And I’ll never underbid a customer on the same job. Never. It’s not the way I do business.
What similarities/philosophies do you think you share with Exmark? Exmark always puts the customer first. They’re only interested in making the very best mowers, so they ask a lot of questions, are open to feedback and take their time crafting their machines. I am all about doing what you can for your customers.
How would you define a quality cut? First, start by picturing a large, open field with grass that’s about 13” long. Now picture a red laser beam coming in and slicing right through it. In one smooth motion, it creates an even cut from one blade to the next. No stragglers. No pushed over grass. What you end up with is my definition of a quality cut.
Thanks for answering our questions, Tony. Keep up the good work.