Pictured Above: Brandon Bryson (green shirt) is one of the owners of Green Orchid Landscape Services of Orlando, Fla. He buys equipment from Main Street Mower of Winter Garden, Fla. Stan and Stu Hawthorne own the dealership. Stan is standing to the left of Bryson and Stu is standing on his right.
Landscapers across the country are facing a variety of challenges, including a lack of experienced workers, made worse by worker visa restrictions; restrictions on noisy equipment; and the ongoing issue of keeping fleets up and running.
Dealers who adapt their businesses and customer service philosophies can help their landscaper customers respond to these challenges.
Winning Business through Service
Landscaper Brandon Bryson says dealers can set themselves apart by offering better service or services other dealers might not offer. Bryson is co-founder of Green Orchid Landscape Services of Orlando, Fla. “When we started our own business, what drove our selection of equipment was the dealer that had the capabilities to deliver service for us,” says Bryson.
He started the business with Gary Tungate in June 2016. Both had previously held leadership positions with another landscaping company. Green Orchid offers landscape maintenance services; landscape enhancement services; and landscape irrigation and water management services.
Bryson works with Main Street Mower in Winter Garden, Fla., to buy and service all his mowers. He says the dealer has gone above and beyond in customer service for all his service needs. For instance, Mainstreet Mower is available for walk-in service, something a lot of dealers don’t offer, he says. One of his employees brought in two lawn mowers for service and was on his way in an hour. “There are not a lot of dealers that offer that on the spot and that’s a big thing to us as a start-up company. We’re not at the point where we can justify a mechanic’s salary,” he says.
The lack of experienced landscapers — caused by the restrictions on H-2B visas to bring seasonal workers into the U.S. — is at the root of the biggest challenges in the industry. “I think overall everybody in the industry would agree that the number one challenge people face is just recruiting and retaining employees,” Bryson says.
The landscape industry also faces competition from the construction industry for labor. “As construction is thriving, it’s more of a strain on the labor pool,” Bryson says.
The lack of experienced landscapers results in some companies hiring less qualified people or remaining understaffed — something dealers should keep in mind when working with landscapers. Hiring less qualified people or expecting more out of a smaller staff makes safety an even more important concern.
“Any time you’ve got a new employee, especially one new to the industry, there’s certainly a risk of safety there. If they’re not familiar with the equipment, if there’s not adequate training and personal protective equipment that’s offered, there are issues with safety,” he says.
Bryson suggests that dealers make sure they provide manuals and any literature necessary to keep customers informed on how to use the equipment in addition to any necessary training courses. He says dealers should consider doing on-site training for their larger landscape customers. For smaller customers, training at the dealership or another convenient location would be a good option.
Trending toward Battery-Powered
Bryson says that dealers will be more attractive to landscapers if they have inventory on hand — inventory that helps them be more efficient with labor and fuel and serve their customers better. For instance, noise restrictions in different communities are pushing landscapers toward quieter battery-powered equipment. Bryson says that as technology improves, he thinks more landscapers will prefer battery-powered equipment. Bryson also says there have been more customer requests for landscapers to use propane-powered lawnmowers.
Landscaping employees appreciate ergonomic features, like cup holders and designated spaces for trash, says Bryson. “And I think a good business owner is going to involve his employees in the decision-making process,” he says.
Bryson says that as manufacturers make advancements in technology, landscapers will be more willing to make equipment investments.
“I would encourage dealers to hold forums or reach out to some of their bigger customers and make sure that they understand exactly what their needs are,” Bryson says. “If dealers can focus their inventory on equipment that can make the company more efficient, that’s probably going to be something that’s attractive from a buyer’s standpoint.”