Preseason preparations: early order programs

Man spraying (Photo: Bayer)
Man spraying lawn (Photo: Bayer)
Spray operator (Photo: Bayer)
Early order purchases can tout many benefits. (Photo: Bayer)

Whenever landscape or lawn care companies can find savings on products they’re already going to purchase, it’s worth looking into. The exact amount of savings vary with early order programs (EOPs), but these programs can result in benefits for companies — especially the earlier and larger the purchases.

Three lawn care professionals share their experiences with EOPs and what they’ve learned through the years.

Look back at usage

For Brian McMaster, vice president of McMaster Lawn & Pest in De Leon Springs, Fla., EOPs don’t only help with cost savings — they’re also a way to stay on track.

Man pouring chemicals (Photo: Dow Agrisciences)
Lawn care companies can look at past years’ product usage to determine how much product to order. (Photo: Dow Agrisciences)

“We like that it helps us to be diligent about actual costs and plan ahead with cash flow,” says McMaster, who uses programs like the one from FMC. “We commit to it this time of year and then we have to pay for it next summer — which is when we’re going to use them anyway.”

McMaster’s company provides landscape maintenance, lawn care, irrigation and pest control services and has an annual revenue of about $2 million. Its maintenance is about 95 percent commercial, while its other services are evenly split between commercial and residential.

To avoid ordering too much, McMaster says he looks at what he currently has on contract, the square footage he treated the past season and what he ordered last time. “I commit to what I’m going to use year after year,” he says. “The big thing is to not get too excited and make sure you can commit to making the payment.”

McMaster says his firm typically hits the lower tiers in the EOPs.

“We’re still getting about 10 percent savings — whether it’s on the overall price or a reward program payout type of situation,” he says.

McMaster tries to catch products they ended up purchasing in-season and then order them during the next EOP. If your record-keeping isn’t stellar, he says chemical representatives also can pull from their records to show what and how much you bought, so don’t be afraid to ask for that information.

McMaster's truck (Photo: McMaster's Lawn & Pest)
Staying on top of early order programs can help some companies keep track of cash flow. (Photo: McMaster’s Lawn & Pest)

Consider logistics

Aaron Samson, CEO of Lush Lawn in Rochester, Mich., says his company has used EOPs the entire 15 years it’s been in business, purchasing products including preemergent herbicides and fertilizers.

Lush Lawn has five branches across southeast Michigan and $8 million in annual revenue. Its customers are about 90 percent residential and 10 percent commercial, and the company offers lawn care, tree care and pest control services.

“If you can get a substantial discount or rebate — like saving 10 or 20 percent — it’s worth looking at,” Samson says. “Depending on how much you order, they might take off $1 or $1.50 per bag. There have been times when vendors will give you bonus points or double your points for early orders.”

While there are benefits, Samson encourages contractors to be mindful of different factors when using EOPs. For example, they need to ensure they have enough warehouse space for the products and that they won’t get damaged during the winter.

Man spraying lawn (Photo: Bayer)
Chemical manufacturers may have a record of the products lawn care companies ordered the year prior. (Photo: Bayer)

Keeping records

Ricki Linyard, owner of Lawn Doctor in Olive Branch, Miss., uses EOPs to purchase pre- and postemergent herbicides. The company has annual revenue of $1.8 million and offers lawn care services to about 80 percent residential and 20 percent commercial customers.

“With most EOPs, you don’t have to pay for them until June or July, which helps us out in the long run,” Linyard says. “So, it gives you time to bring revenue in.”

Linyard keeps up with his purchases in an Excel spreadsheet as they come across his desk — instead of going through his invoices at the end of the season. He tracks the purchase date, company, product name, price per unit, quantity and total price for all of the chemicals he buys. “When it’s time to turn in rebate forms, I’ve got it all right there,” he says.

Lush Lawn truck (Photo: Aaron Samson)
Contractors should ensure they have enough space to hold early order products. (Photo: Aaron Samson)

The extra effort has benefited the company, and he encourages others to look into the programs.

“A lot of people don’t realize the savings,” Linyard says. “It can be time-consuming to do all of it — getting all of your invoicing and everything together — but it’s well worth it.”

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