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Case Study: Into the woods

January 8, 2016 -  By

Forestry mulching proves to be a beneficial offering for Visual Edge—and its clients. 

After posting a sign for “bush hogging,” Andrew Jenkins, president of Visual Edge, was flooded with calls. The inquiries were about clearing large, wooded areas rather than the simple overgrowth he had in mind. Instead of turning work down, he found a way to create a profitable new service.

It all began when Jenkins wanted to find additional uses for his front-end loader. After putting up the bush hogging sign, figuring he could keep the loader busy by renting an attachment, he never expected so many calls about large jobs requiring even bigger equipment. Jenkins had no idea how big the market was in his area for forestry mulching, which he describes as “selective clearing in wooded areas.”

“Forestry mulching is a very cost effective way to clear overgrown brush and prevent invasive species in wooded areas,” Jenkins says, noting it’s a replacement for other land-clearing methods, such as bulldozing and burning. It also eliminates the expense of transporting and disposing of debris. “It can keep ticks away and, therefore, prevent the spread of Lyme disease.”

One perk of forestry mulching as an add-on service is it can be done 12 months of the year. Visual Edge completes many of these jobs during summer and winter, its slower times.

The service is performed by one laborer with a forestry mulcher attached to a 95-hp skid-steer, which Jenkins rents because most of the jobs are too large for his loader. Even with a rental cost of $800 per day, it’s been profitable, Jenkins says.

“I have about $250 in costs above the $800, for labor and gas, but I charge $2,500 per day,” Jenkins says. “The longer you rent it, the cheaper it is, so I’ll often try to book several jobs to maximize that profit.”

The attachment is simple to use, but practice was important. And safety is imperative when working with a “six-foot wide chipper on steroids.”

“You need to make sure you have a really good operator handling this,” he says. “It’s a matter of pushing the attachment forward and dragging it back over and over again, knocking down brush and chipping it up. But it’s powerful. People compare the sound to a plane taking off. And it throws chunks of tree up to 60 yards, so the area has to be completely clear when work is going on.”

At first, pricing the service was the company’s biggest challenge. Customers often wanted the company to clear thick woods, which Jenkins couldn’t even get into to evaluate. He decided to be honest with them and say he didn’t know how many days it would take, but he’d offer a day rate and assure them the company would work as efficiently as possible.

“Clients were more understanding than I anticipated,” Jenkins says. “That’s largely because we work off of referrals and there was trust there to begin with.”

Jenkins has been marketing the service heavily to wineries and farmers, to whom adding usable space is incredibly valuable. But he says anyone with overgrowth might be interested in the service. In addition to his “bush hogging” sign, Jenkins has marketed the service with a post on LinkedIn and a YouTube video, which garnered nearly 700 views in three and a half months.

“I could see this being a repeat service for clients every three to five years,” Jenkins says.

Photos: visual edge

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