Spring into action: How to start the season strong

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Grounds at Duke University (Photo: Duke University Facilities Management)
Grounds at Duke University (Photo: Duke University Facilities Management)
Leave no mess behind Because of the fluid nature of campus activities, crews at Duke University have to be prepared to be called off a site at any time. (Photo: Duke University Facilities Management)

Spring cleanups set the tone for your crew and your clients for the year, says Kinson Desmangles, owner of Academic Landscaping in Charlotte, N.C. Academic Landscaping offers maintenance, design/build and softscape services for a 50 percent residential, 30 percent commercial and 20 percent municipal clientele.

Desmangles; Steve Stoll, owner of Hi Hill Lawn Services in Oxford, Mich.; Chad Haney, owner of The Yard Works in Avon Lake, Ohio; and Angelo Azevedo, west landscape maintenance supervisor, Jeremy Herndon, senior grounds equipment operator, and Baxter Remington, senior grounds equipment operator, at Duke University Facilities Management in Durham, N.C., explain how to start spring off on the right foot.

“Spring cleanups are an opportunity to discover what your customers want to do for the year,” Desmangles says. He created Academic Landscaping as a way to help a teen in his area save for college as he worked during the summer. “One of the most important things is the ability to show up. My customers know that I will be dependable.”

Desmangles says it’s worked out so much better for his company to roll spring cleanups into service for the year instead of as a one-off service. Crews were spending more time on a spring cleanup site than estimated.

“It doesn’t make much sense to do one-off spring cleanups,” he says. “It’s better to have a lasting relationship with a customer. It’s better for us to offer it as a package. It is an extension of the maintenance, and we try to treat it like that.”

Fleet of landscape trucks (Photo: Steve Stoll)
Ready, set, go! Getting ready for spring cleanups is a time to prepare crews and equipment for the season ahead. (Photo: Steve Stoll)

Right equipment

Stoll, who also owns Burdick Street Landscape Supply & Equipment, says a key component of spring cleanups is having the right equipment. Hi Hill Lawn Service offers maintenance and lawn care services for 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial clients and commercial snow removal.

“If a landscaper gets into this and wants to make money doing leaf cleanups, you need to have the right equipment, and you need to have a bagging system. You have to have a leaf loader for productivity,” he says. “If you’re small and starting, maybe have just a small skid mount.”

Spring cleanup for Hi Hill Lawn Service starts with crews blowing leaves and debris out of flower beds and using a mower with a bagging system to bag and remove the debris. Stoll says his crews don’t use a mulching kit because it will make a bigger mess by shredding trash than using a collection unit to clean up the debris from winter.

Stoll invested in a Scag Windstorm stand-on blower, and he says it’s boosted his efficiency during spring cleanups.

“This machine takes the place of three workers on backpack blowers,” he says. “This will definitely maximize your spring cleanup profits. It can also be used in the summer as a blower for large apartment complexes, HOAs and municipal work.”

Get equipment ready

“Downtime is a huge thing for any type of business,” Haney says. “If you lose an hour of productivity out there because a machine went down, that’s a cost that you didn’t count on.”

As such, Haney says part of getting The Yard Works ready for spring is to ensure that he has efficient equipment. The Yard Works provides mowing, maintenance work and snow removal for a primarily commercial clientele. It also offers residential design/build services.

“In the landscape world, we are based around labor hours. That is how we’re selling our work,” Haney says, noting he purchased a Windstorm for his team as well to boost efficiency. “To invest in that Windstorm for spring cleanups and fall cleanups, that has saved a tremendous amount of labor hours, which in turn turns into profit,” he says.

Stoll has developed a checklist to help his equipment technicians go over each piece of equipment to make sure that everything is ready to go for the season.

“Over the years of having the machines, you figure out where the wear items are,” he says. “I put a list together of wear items — it saves you so much downtime.”

He includes part numbers on the checklist. For instance, there are four different types of scalp wheels, so it’s critical his technicians know the right parts.

Haney has a similar focus on equipment, which he says helps his employees in the long run.

“We try to reinvest as much as we can to help make the job easier and make the employee feel efficient,” he says. “We don’t want our guys going home exhausted. We want them going home thinking, ‘I work for a company that has the best of the best equipment out there.’ We want to make sure we’re as productive and as efficient as we can be from the time we leave our gate until the time we get back.”

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Christina Herrick headshot (Photo: LM Staff)

Christina Herrick

Christina Herrick is a former Editor for Landscape Management. A Journalist graduate from Ohio Northern University, Christina is known for sharing her insightful experiences on the road with her audience.

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