Saturday, January 30, 2016

This Is The End!

       Earlier this month, I attended what was somewhere north of my 25th Eastern Pennsylvania Turf Conference. I have watched the show change, over the years, from a time when of all the equipment suppliers had large booths, with almost a full compliment of their products down to this past table top trade show. While the explanation of why some trade shows seem to be thriving (NJ Turf Grass Conference in Atlantic City), to the stories of other shows that are struggling to survive, is a mystery question of life. The Easter Pa Show still has strong attendance and a growing Sports Turf Managers section, but we have seemingly hit a wall on the trade show part of the program. Year after year, the vendors have talked amongst each other that this was not working. While no one wants to do anything that would effect the support of the work of the Pennsylvania Turf Grass Council, the reality of today's business climate of tighter margins and importance of spending your dollars wisely have finally won out. Many factors play into the mood of vendors, like trade show times, during classes, to being in the lower level of the facility, all play into the reality that it is time for a change. In the end, vendors want to have customers and prospects stop by their booth, hopefully to uncover some new opportunities. The thought of having multiple salesmen stand around talking to each other, for hours on end, is not something that works for anyone.
      While preliminary talks have begun to change the format of the trade show and possibly to eliminate it completely, in the end, I know that next year will be different. There is energy, on the vendor side, to grow the dollars being brought in from new avenues to support the PTC. That is why this is a great business to work in. While we compete against each other for business, all the vendors I have spoken to all say the same thing " I am in, just let me know what you need me to do!"



Sunday, January 24, 2016

Just The Facts

       Recently, I had a meeting with a Superintendent, who was looking for some insights on how to approach his ownership, with a long term equipment replacement plan. During our discussion, I brought up a quote from Sabrina Bladon, that I heard her give in a speech, a few years ago, that I think is incredibly pertinent to this type of process. The line was, "You talk agronomics & they talk economics." When in discussion with your ownership or management, it is hard not to speak passionately about your frustration with old equipment. The thought of downtime, turf damage and even listening to your operators complain, it all feeds into talking about it emotionally. Sadly, the reality is those factors might as well be spoken in another language. Going back to Sabrina's excellent observation, you need to talk about bottom dollar impact.
       Jason Haines (@Pendersuper), Superintendent at Pender Harbour GC, this past week, had just the type of information regarding how to sell to your club on new equipment posted on Twitter. He had great insight on how to put together a plan and justify the need for new equipment. It is a thread worth reading.
        The final suggestion I would make is to use your salesman as a resource. He should be able to help you formulate your position from a factual angle.



Thursday, December 31, 2015

Worth Repeating

       I don't think 2015 is a year I will soon forget. The year started out trying to learn new products and trying to understand how things were done at my new employer. Then came the big news that Bob Holman was gifting Lawn & Golf to the employees! A story that whenever I repeat it, people still are in disbelief. Then it was time to attend the Golf Industry Show. Hard to explain, but definitely a different experience from all the years I had previously attended.
      From standing two feet away, from Arnold Palmer, at Latrobe CC, to hosting a field day at Penn State Berks (Better known as Valentine East), it was definitely a year of firsts. Multiple trips to the Jacobsen factory and even a lunch meeting with the President of the company. Then came the announcement, this past fall, that Bob Holman was only going to step down, as President of Lawn & Golf ,October next year. With this announcement started the wheels in motion of Ken Jeinnings, our Senior VP & Sales Manager, becoming the next President of the company. That then created the chance for me to transition into the Sales Manager position over the next year. I could not be more grateful for this opportunity.
       Additionally, all the involvement and accomplishments with Walnut Lane GC, the home of The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia, this past year, was something I am very proud. With Bob Sawicki, taking the Superintendent position, the momentum started to build. From the start of the year, with some much needed tree work, to the addition of some badly needed equipment, to being able to provide a brand new fairway mower, through the support of Jacobsen and our factory rep, Mark Pena, there were a lot accomplishments. The next big event, at the end of the summer, was working with Philadelphia Golf Course Superintendents Association, to organize aeration days. It was really great to see and I believe there is more to come.

       2015, from a professional and personal standpoint, was filled with lots of positives and I could not be more thankful!

Wishing everyone a healthy & happy New Year!



Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Question of ROI

       Throughout a year, there are multiple events, that request the support of the vendors, in the Turf industry, in each market. In a perfect world, you would love to be a Platinum sponsor for every event, but that is not an option. You have multiple monthly Superintendent Association meetings, STMA regional field days & events, add in scholarship tournaments, Club Managers events and then multiple turf grass councils and their regional educational programs. Don't forget advertising in monthly newsletters and even multiple clubs, requesting support of special events.
        The reason I bring this up is, a few weeks ago, I attended the STMA New Jersey event , at Brick Township. They had a strong turnout, did a pass the microphone section to let each vendor introduce themselves and gave the opportunity for a vendor to give a live demonstration to the group. All this in effort to make the vendors feel that they are getting some value for their investment.
I was truly impressed with Rich Watson, President of the New Jersey Sports Turf Managers Association, and how he gets it! In speaking with him briefly, one of the focuses was to make sure the vendors walked away with a positive feeling.

Steve Hesser of Lawn & Golf talking about the Smithco Sand Star Zee

Great turnout for the NJSTMA meeting!


Eb Steiniger Award

       Philadelphia Association Golf Course Superintendents end of year annual meeting was recently held at Indian Valley CC. At the meeting, there were a lot of changes regarding the makeup of the board and the transition from Jon Urbanski, as President, to the new President, Rob Nolek.
Also, the PAGCS was awarding the Eb Steiniger Award. Eb Steiniger was the longtime Superintendent at Pine Valley Golf Club. The award is a lifetime achievement award for members of the PAGCS.
       The process started a few months ago, when Jay Parisien, Past President of the PAGCS, contacted me to let me know that Frank Shuman had been nominated for the award by Ed Roynan, retired Superintendent from Limekiln Golf Club. Jay was writing a letter in support of the nomination and knew that I would want to do the same. For those who know Frank, this is a no brainer! Frank has spent most of his professional life supporting turf managers, PA Turf Grass Council, and especially the PAGCS. He is on the board of the The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia, which I have been lucky to be a part of. He has been the driving force behind the efforts to continue to upgrade the Walnut Lane Golf Club facility that is home to TFTGP with his time and financial support. Another special part to this was Frank's father had won the award also. The first Father/Son Eb Steiniger Award winners!
     I was very lucky to be able to present the award with Jay to Frank. To be a part of something, honoring a lifetime of someone who I consider one of my mentors, was something I will never forget.
Congratulations to a well deserving winner of the Eb Steiniger Award, Frank T. Shuman!

                    Jay Parisien, Frank T. Shuman  & me


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Eye Opener

       This past week, I took a group of Technicians from the Philadelphia area to visit the Jacobsen Factory in Charlotte, NC. It is never easy to set up a travel event, and over the past few years, it has gotten harder and harder. So when we pulled out of Merion GC at 5:30AM, with a shuttle that was greatly appreciated, with all travelers accounted for, it was a great start!
       Once we got to Charlotte, we had a nice lunch and some discussions with some Jacobsen personnel and then a tour of the distribution center. It is always impressive to see the volume of products that are being shipped out. From there we headed to Ganassi Racing. Ganassi is a corporate partner with Jacobsen and it enabled us to get a behind the scenes tour of their facility. Now, I am not a big NASCAR guy, but to say this was a learning experience, is an understatement. The amount of people, and money that go into their program, was incredible. From vehicle production, to testing, to how the engines are provided to each team, was something I never knew.
      The next morning, we were up early for the factory tour. If you have not had the chance to tour one of the manufacturing plants, it is an eye opener. It is amazing how much planning is involved in having the parts available for the build, the amount of hand work that is done by people on the assembly lines and what processes you need to make sure things are right.
With a few guys who had had the chance to see some other equipment manufacturers, it was chance to compare. Some had not seen any manufacturing facilities before and were truly amazed. We are very lucky to have the factory that accessible to us.
       A big thank you to Mark Pena and the team a Jacobsen for a great trip!

               Thanks to Diego, Ed, Joe, Robert & Shawn for taking the time to make the trip!

Mark Pena of Jacobsen showing our group some of the features of the new Truckster XD
Our tour guide, Ryan, discussing the final steps before the product is shipped

Robert Smith with his purchase from the gift shop!
Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

How Did I Get Here?

This is an article that was published in the Philadelphia Association of Golf Course Superintendents' monthly newsletter "The Bonnie Greensward" in 2007.

Editors Note:
The article below is a tribute to two PAGCS members who left this earth in 2007. Richie Valentine passed away on May 29th  and his dear friend Barney McFadden passed away on July 31st. 

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself with a beautiful house and a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well.....How did I get here?
-From the song "Once in a Lifetime" Talking Heads

       We all reach a point in time when we reflect on where we are in life and whether or not we are where we thought we would be . Sometimes, this reflection borders on a birthday with a zero on the end or accompanies the passing of someone who has had an impact on us and our career path. Recently, as I was driving along, and was one of the few times I was not thinking about what I would do with my future Powerball winnings, I began thinking about " How did I get here?".
       When you talk at length with anyone in the turf industry, the conversation always comes around to how you got started and who you worked for over the years. For me, my first connection to the golf industry was through my older brother, Joe, who had worked for Richie Valentine at Merion Golf Club during the 1981 US Open.
        In 1987, I was looking I was looking for  new job. Yes, the thought of Augustus Gloop working in the chocolate factory for Willy Wonka came to mind. Instead, my brother called Richie's' right hand man, Charlie Carr, and helped me get a job at Merion. I was lucky to be on the crew for the 1989 US Amateur. This job helped lead me to my job with the Philadelphia Turf Company by introducing me to Barney McFadden.
      When you connect the dots and look at where you have come from and how you got to where you are, there are always key people at turning points in your life who have had a major impact. Along with many in the Philadelphia area, Richie Valentine was one of those people for me.
       The older I get, the more I realize how fortunate I was to have worked for a legendary figure such as Richie. While working at Merion, and came to the conclusion that my plans to be a radio DJ were fading, I decided that I wanted a sales job in the golf business. This is where Barney McFadden comes in.
       I would always see Barney on his sales calls to Merion and ask him to get me a job with Toro. Ok, maybe I would yell to Barney "get me a job!". When there was an opening in Central Pennsylvania, Barney helped me get the job and later helped me with sales training. Barney retired from PTC in 1997 after 42 years of service. He received the Master Salesman Award from Toro. (Only one award is given each year to the top salesman in the United States for Toro,)
       Barney and Richie were great men. The similarities between them are striking. Both were great fathers; they both had incredible wives and historic careers, and both had been bitten by the fishing bug. I can still remember pulling into work and seeing the Toro truck in the corner of the parking lot. We all knew that meant Barney and Richie were having a meeting somewhere down the Jersey shore.
       I consider myself very luck to have had these two great men as a part of my career. With the passing of an influential person in your life, you always wish you had done more to say thank you. I hope that by writing this piece, it might be a way of posthumously saying to Barney and Richie: "thank you to two legends who are probably sitting boat somewhere up in heaven together enjoying the best fishing ever."