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A Guide to Equipment Management: How to Determine When You Should Buy New or Used, and When You Should Repair

Posted by Sprayer Depot on Tue, May 23, 2017

Landscaper's Corner: Insights and Updates for Landscape Professionals

Contributed by Guest Blogger: Martin McGuane, owner and operator of McGuanes Landscaping and Tree Service, Enfield CT

In the landscaping industry, one of the biggest business expenses is for trucks and equipment; every landscaper wants brand new, shiny trucks and equipment. landscapers corner-2.jpg
While the temptation to buy all new equipment and trucks is there,
it’s important to take a close look at the dollars and sense of buying new or used.

Our First New Truck

I remember when I first started out. Money was tight and our budget was lean. So, we bought a used truck for $6000. In two years, we spent $4800 on repairs before finally replacing it. A few years later, while 'crunching the numbers' one winter, I realized that I was spending $200 per month on each vehicle in repairs. It was at that time that we decided to buy our first new truck.

While 'crunching the numbers' the next winter, we were surprised to realize that we saved a lot of money on our new truck purchase:

  • We saved a fair amount on taxes
  • There were no repair bills
  • Our fuel consumption went down

The bottom line was that the new truck probably only cost us about $100 per month more than continuing to run the old truck. Plus, we had the added benefit of not having any down time and the improved company image a new truck brought us.

That was 25 years ago. But the lesson I learned is timeless...know your numbers!

Purchasing New Equipment

The decision process to purchase equipment is very similar to buying a truck. The first step is to define the need: Do you need to buy a 1,000 gallon sprayer with tall tree capabilities to if your plan is to only spray crab apples and birches? The answer is "no".

It’s important to properly maintain all equipment ; over time the regular maintenance turns in to costly repairs. Once again, it’s important to 'crunch the numbers' and figure out at what point the repairs no longer make sense and when it's time to replace the old equipment with new.

This is sometimes a tough call to make. Kings-Sprayers-Electric-Sprayer.jpgNone of us are immune to the sticker shock of a $10,000 sprayer, but if you spent $2,500 in parts last year to keep a 12 year old sprayer running, it probably makes sense to replace it with a new one.

When buying new equipment such as a sprayer, do your research! Don’t run to the closest brick and mortar shop to buy whatever is in the showroom. Instead, we recommend building relationships with vendors you can trust. For example, we use Sprayer Depot for all spray equipment, including replacement parts for existing equipment like a JD9-C Spray Gun. In our business, time is money and we try our best to eliminate downtime, so we especially like Sprayer Depot’s same day shipping guarantee.

Know Your Needs

A key component to knowing your needs is having a solid business plan in place that identifies both short and long-term goals and determines specific equipment needed to successfully execute the plan. Figure out the true cost of running that all equipment. 

Having a disciplined approach to keeping track of maintenance and repair costs will help you make the right decision when considering whether to repair or replace, and whether to buy new or used.

About the Author:

Martin McGuane is the owner and operator of McGuanes Landscaping and Tree Service Inc, www.mcguanes.com which has been servicing Central Connecticut and Western Massachusetts since 1987. Martin is a 1981 graduate of the University of Connecticut's School of Agriculture. He is a Connecticut licensed arborist and has a Custom Ground Supervisor license in both Connecticut and Massachusetts. He also holds a CT Irrigation License.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Topics: Spray Equipment Maintenance, JD9-C Spray Gun, Skid Sprayer, Landscaper's Corner, landscaping

How to Attract and Keep Good Employees

Posted by Sprayer Depot on Fri, May 05, 2017

Landscaper's Corner: Insights and Updates for Landscape Professionals

Contributed by Guest Blogger: Martin McGuane, owner and operator of McGuanes Landscaping and Tree Service, Enfield CT

It Starts With The Money

As Rush Limbaugh once said, the way to attract and keep good employees is to pay them well. While pay is important, it's not everything. An underpaid McGuanes_Company_imgage_MartinM2.jpgemployee will never be happy, but good pay alone will not guarantee a happy and motivated employee. So let's take a look at some ways McGuanes Landscaping keeps employees happy and motivated.

Job Security

It starts with job security. Employees need stability and want to know that they have a dependable work environment. In the landscaping industry this can be done by providing work all year long, even during slow times. For example, tree work, winter maintenance, or snow removal jobs can be offered in the slower months. Business owners and managers shoiuld make a point to ensure employees have a productive and rewarding work load. 

Culture of Respect

Create a culture of respect. Value each employee for what they bring to the job. At McGuanes Landscaping, we have a lot of fun and joke around, at the same time we always treat each other with respect.

Training and Development

Some things that create job satisfaction in employees are training and development opportunities, and possibilities for advancement. In the landscaping industry there are countless seminars, certifications and workshops to help employees learn more about the industry. Participating in these can increase  employees' skills, helping them take on more responsibilities ,which may open up opportunities for promotion. At our company, we make it a priority to make these experiences available to employees. We sign-up the employees, pay for the training, and tell them when and where to show up.  We even make scheduling changes to make sure that their route is covered for that day. We keep it easy for employees to pursue development opportunities.

If budgeting does not allow for paid or outside training, there are plenty of free tools available online. For instance, Sprayer Depot offers helpful videos on their YouTube channel like Getting Started With a Standard Spot Sprayer and Repairing a JD9-C Spray Gun O-Ring. These videos teach valuable time-saving repairs and skills that can help landscapers deal with real life equipment issues.

Rewarding Work That Matches Skills & Abilities

Another important factor in developing happy employees is creating work that's rewarding, yet also matches skills and abilities. Not all employees at McGuanes Landscaping are able to be a foreman and run a job site, some simply make great general laborers. The point is, each employee needs to be matched with a job that fits their unique ability.

Give Employees Some Responsibility

At McGuanes Landscaping, we try to give each employee as much responsibility as possible. For example, If the lawn crew is out fertilizing, one person on the truck is responsible for blowing all sidewalks, roads and driveways. This person is also responsible for leaving all paperwork. This person may be an entry level employee, but he or she owns this responsibility.

Another example is how one of our entry level employees recently asked to be put in charge of redesigning our business cards. He worked with our local printer to create several proofs for the manager to approve. This helped free up some time for the owner and helped the employee develop some new skills while learning a new aspect of the business.

Final Thoughts 

Attracting and keeping good employees really does involve more than just paying them well; that's really just the first step. You need to create a company culture where:

 

  1. There is job security
  2. Employees treat each other with respect
  3. There are training & development opportunities
  4. There are opportunities for advancement
  5. Jobs are matched to skills and abilities
  6. As much responsibility as possible is given to each role

About the Author:

Martin McGuane is the owner and operator of McGuanes Landscaping and Tree Service Inc, www.mcguanes.com which has been servicing Central Connecticut and Western Massachusetts since 1987. Martin is a 1981 graduate of the University of Connecticut's School of Agriculture. He is a Connecticut licensed arborist and has a Custom Ground Supervisor license in both Connecticut and Massachusetts. He also holds a CT Irrigation License.

 

Visit Sprayer Depot's YouTube Channel

 

Topics: JD9-C Spray Gun, Instructional Video, Apps on the Sprayer Depot blog, Youtube, Landscaper's Corner, o ring, landscaping

Landscaper's Corner: Insights and Updates for Landscape Professionals

Posted by Sprayer Depot on Fri, Mar 24, 2017

Killer Marketing Strategies You Can Implement Now
Contributed by Guest Blogger: Martin McGuane, owner and operator of McGuanes Landscaping and Tree Service, Enfield CT

One of the most important projects we do over the winter islandscapers corner.jpg put together our marketing strategy for the upcoming spring season. As we have mentioned in previous posts, timing in the landscaping business is very important. Many marketing projects require a fair amount of time to prepare. This winter we focused on eight marketing initiatives:

  1. Direct mail
  2. Landscaper network
  3. Our website
  4. Letters to existing customers
  5. Truck signs
  6. Leave behinds
  7. Church bulletins/Community news
  8. Social media

Direct Mail

We have using direct mail advertising as long as we have been in business. When we started, we worked with our local printer to create a nice advertising piece which we hand delivered door-to-door. It wasn't long before we realized that we could reach more households and target our potential customers with a company that specializes in direct mail. This is one of the more expensive approaches we have taken, but it is a good way to reach a large amount of potential customers that meet certain key demographics. We have been able to rely on this approach to bring in a predictable number of new customers year after year.

Landscaper Network

You can’t be in the landscaping business very long without getting to know other people in the industry. Everyone knows one company simply can’t "do it all". Some of us offer hardscaping, some chemical controls, while some businesses are strictly mowing. What we have done over the years is  build relationships with other landscapers so that we can refer clients to each other. We take advantage of the slower winter months to reach out to our network of landscapers to remind them of the services we offer and to see what they can do for us.

Website

Take the time to update your website and keep it current. You may have to update the crew page to include any new hires, and make sure all your services/products/plans are clearly explained. This is the time to consider any enhancements to your site, such as additional photos of your work or “explainer videos.”

Letters to Existing Customers

Send letters to existing customers to promote additional services that thy may need (yet have not signed up for). For example, longtime clients may not be aware of recently added or other services that may help them reach their maintenance goals.

Truck Signs

We have always made sure that all of our trucks have nice looking magnetic signs with large, easy to read print with our name and number on them. Some of our newer trucks have been professionally lettered on all four sides; they are truly rolling billboards.

Leave Behinds

Whenever we apply a treatment to our customer's property we will leave a written explanation of what was we did. This is a leave behind, a great advertising piece. When we spray Dormant Oil we remind our customers that we can also fertilize their trees. When we fertilize the lawn in the fall, our leave behind will offer aeration and slicer seeding. When we winterize the lawn we sell winter tree work. Over the years our leave behinds have generated a tremendous amount of revenue. One our recent projects involved consulting with an outside vendor to redesign all of our leave behinds.

Community Newspapers  & Church Bulletins

We do a small amount of advertising in the local community newspaper and church bulletins. Although we're not reaching large amounts of people, those that we do reach are very loyal.

Social Media

We have only recently started to build our social media presence in the last year or so. While maintaining our presence across our various social media channels like Facebook is a daily activity, we use the winter months to build out our communication plan. We use this down time to think about key communications we would like to send out next season: What services do we want to push next season and when? Do we want to attract a new type of customer? Are there certain channels (such as Instagram) that we should put a greater focus on?

Finding and building relationships is a main goal of our social media strategy. This effort expands beyond reaching potential customers to other landscaping companies and even vendors that we use and recommend, like Sprayer Depot. By creating networking opportunities with others in the landscaping industry we’re positioning ourselves as experts within our industry.

I hope that you found these eight strategies helpful and that you take away a few ideas to help you prepare for the coming season.

 

About the Author:

Martin McGuane is the owner and operator of McGuanes Landscaping and Tree Service Inc, www.mcguanes.com which has been servicing Central Connecticut and Western Massachusetts since 1987. Martin is a 1981 graduate of the University of Connecticut's School of Agriculture. He is a Connecticut licensed arborist and has a Custom Ground Supervisor license in both Connecticut and Massachusetts. He also holds a CT Irrigation License.

 

Topics: Sprayer Depot, landscaper, Landscaper's Corner

Landscaper's Corner: Insights and Updates for Landscape Professionals

Posted by Sprayer Depot on Fri, Feb 24, 2017

A Complete Checklist to Get Ready for Spring

Contributed by Guest Blogger: Martin McGuane, owner and operator of McGuanes Landscaping and Tree Service, Enfield CT

Finish Last Year’s Taxes

Many people look at landscaping as a seasonal business, which is partially true since actual field work is typically limited in many regions due to a cooler climate. Working Hard-1.jpgHowever, regardless of where you do business, there is a lot of work to do during the winter to prepare for the start of the spring season. One of the first things that we do once we finish our season in early January, is compile our tax files for the prior year. The last thing that we want when the busy season arrives is to be stuck in the accountant’s office. Complete your taxes as soon as possible: some of the numbers you come up with will be used to prepare for the spring.

Repair Trucks and Equipment

One of the more time-consuming projects you should do in the off-season is to get all trucks and equipment ready and inspected for the coming year. It’s likely that after a year of use, that both major and minor repairs will be required. Addressing these issues in the off-season ensures that once the weather cooperates, you are ready to hit the ground running.Kings-Sprayers.jpg This includes making sure that all trucks are registered and insured, with proper paperwork in all of the trucks.

Don’t forget to inspect your equipment and conduct all necessary repairs.

Our friends at Sprayer Depot published this helpful blog post with simple steps to get your spray equipment ready for spring. It also doesn’t hurt to pretty up some of the equipment with touch up paint.

“Crunch the Numbers”

Another project we do over the winter is take a long hard look at the numbers we gave the accountant in order to identify the key sources of revenue. Reviewing expenses is also important sprayer-depot.jpgbecause it helps determine which services are profitable. This is what I call “crunching the numbers”. This will help identify issues with pricing and determine whether or not specific services should be eliminated.

While “crunching the numbers”, be mindful of the fact that there is more to pricing than labor and material. It is very important to know your overhead. It can be broken down per week, day or man hour, but make sure to know your numbers.

 

Create a Marketing Strategy

Spring is EVERYTHING for most landscaping businesses. It’s the time when most homeowners make lawn and landscape decisions for the upcoming year. This is why the step of determining which services are profitable for your business is so important to do prior to developing a marketing plan. 

Timing matters. Scheduling your mailing or other advertising so that it hits potential customers at the time they are making their vendor decision is essential. For example, If you are in the tree spraying or lawn fertilizing business, homeowners typically make these decisions in April or early May. Don’t expect your advertising to work very well if they first receive information about you in June.

Meet With Vendors

Winter is a great time to meet with vendors and review pricing for the coming year. This information is necessary to determine if a new pricing schedule is needed. Most of our vendors submit their best quote early in order to secure our business, and most will honor this price for the entire season. We also use time in the off-season to take inventory and place orders for everything we need for early spring. If possible, we even try to schedule delivery dates. Preparation is the key to success! Make sure to look at your year-end numbers when ordering for the spring.

Send Reminder Letters

Reminder letters are a great opportunity to get in front of customers. Requiring a “signed contract” each year is one way to reestablish a connection with an existing customer and potentially “upsell” them additional services. For example, this year we are preparing a mailing to go out to all tree spraying customers who have not yet signed up for our lawn fertilization program. 

To summarize, here are the 6 steps to get your landscaping business ready for spring: 

  1. Finish last year’s taxes
  2. Repair trucks and equipment
  3. “Crunch your numbers”
  4. Create your marketing strategy
  5. Meet with your vendors
  6. Send out reminder letters

About the Author:

Martin McGuane is the owner and operator of McGuanes Landscaping and Tree Service Inc, www.mcguanes.com which has been servicing Central Connecticut and Western Massachusetts since 1987. Martin is a 1981 graduate of the University of Connecticut's School of Agriculture. He is a Connecticut licensed arborist and has a Custom Ground Supervisor license in both Connecticut and Massachusetts. He also holds a CT Irrigation License.

 

Topics: Landscaper's Corner

Landscaper's Corner: Insights and Updates for Landscape Professionals

Posted by Sprayer Depot on Fri, Nov 18, 2016

How Investing in the Right Equipment Will Make You Money                             Contributed by Guest Blogger: Martin McGuane, owner and operator of McGuanes Landscaping and Tree Service, Enfield CT

In the beginning, back when I launched my lawn care fertilization service, we started with a spreader and a hand can to spray weeds. It wasn’t long before we realized that we spent almost as much time filling the hand can as we did spraying the weeds, so we invested in a 10 gallon hand can on wheels. I was so happy to be able to treat three times the amount of square footage before refilling the tank.

Continuing to Invest

Once again we found ourselves being inefficient in the amount of time spent filling and mixing instead of spraying weeds so we decided to upgrade to a 200 gallon sprayer with a hose, reel and pump. This was by far one of the best investments I have ever made.

In the mornings we would fill the sprayer and for the rest of the day we would use the 300 feet of hose on a reel to spray without filling or pumping the hand can. With our new sprayer we were able to substantially increase efficiency and production. We doubled the number of lawns we treated during the course of the day.

Depending on the size of your business, choosing the right equipment can increase productivity. In my case, all three sprayers got the job done, but the 200 gallon sprayer with reel, hose and pump got it done much quicker.

Our Tree Spraying Business

We went through the same process with our tree spraying service. We started with a small 200 gallon sprayer on the back of a pickup truck. We could only spray one mix at a time so we had to make a return trip to the same property if we needed two mixes. We decided to buy a larger truck and put two sprayers on it. Now we can pull up to a property and spray two mixes in one stop. Once again, we doubled our production. Whether you have one sprayer on a pickup truck or two sprayers on a larger truck, or even a dual tank sprayer…all get the job done, but one is definitely the least efficient of the three options.

Dual tank sprayers such as the Kings Sprayers Dual Tank Skid Sprayer are a great way to maximizing the utility of spray equipment. With two 50-gallon tanks, this sprayer is great for tree spraying and can be used in truck beds, utility vehicles or trailers.

Kings_Sprayers_Dual_Tank.jpg

Leave a note in the comment box below to share your story of how investing in the right equipment has made a difference in your business.

Topics: Kings Sprayers, Skid Sprayers, dual tank sprayer, Landscaper's Corner

Landscaper's Corner: Insights and Updates for Landscape Professionals

Posted by Sprayer Depot on Fri, Oct 28, 2016

 How to Calibrate Your Spreader Sprayer                                                                  Contributed by Guest Blogger: Martin McGuane, owner and operator of McGuanes Landscaping and Tree Service, Enfield CT

There are few things more important in the chemical lawn care business than ensuring that your spreader sprayer is calibrated. Calibration is the process used to make sure that the spray equipment properly disperses the pesticide at the proper rate.spreader_sprayer.jpg

Why Calibrate Your Spreader Sprayer?

Key reasons why calibration is so important include:

  • Applying a mixture too heavy wastes material and money.
  • Applying a mixture too light will not effectively control your target pests.
  • Operating an uncalibrated sprayer is environmentally irresponsible.

A Brief Overview

There are many factors involved in calibrating a sprayer. You could spend weeks learning about calibration. However, our purpose in this blog post is to provide a simple, yet effective and accurate way to ensure you’re delivering the correct amount of solution.

Steps to Calibrate a Spreader Sprayer

Let’s walk through the quick and easy steps to calibrate a spreader sprayer:

  • Make sure your screen is clean.
  • Set your sprayer to the desired PSI.
  • Set your ground speed.
  • Measure the width of your sprayer bar. For this example, we will assume the sprayer bar measures 7 feet.
  • Determine the amount of feet you will need to spray to get 1,000 square feet of coverage (1000/7 (length of sprayer bar) = 143ft).
  • Add a known quantity of water to your sprayer.
  • Blanket spray the determined length from above (In this case, 143 feet).
  • Once you finish spraying, determine how much water you used.

Determine the Rate

Let’s assume we used 1 gallon on our 1,000 square feet. Let’s also assume that the manufacturer’s recommend rate for your weed killer is 1oz. per 1,000 square feet. Based on this, we know that we will need to mix 1oz. of weed killer per gallon.

determing_mix_rate.png

Keep an Eye on Your Calibration

Once your sprayer has been calibrated you should confirm the calibration regularly throughout the day. Using the example from the previous paragraph, if we are applying a blanket application to a 10,000 sq. ft. lawn, we should be using 10 gallons of dilute. If not, we need to adjust our mix, our speed or possibly our pressure.

Get More Information

Want to learn more about calibration? Check out Sprayer Depot’s previous blog post, How to Calibrate a Boom Sprayer.

Topics: sprayers, landscaper, Sprayer Calibration, spreadersprayer, Landscaper's Corner

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