Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Great Turfstradamus Predicts.....

       The Great Turfstradamus will make a prediction: This upcoming year, you will hear more about GPS Spray application than any other "new" technology/products introduced at the GIS. Ok, this is probably not going too far out on a limb. I might even have just a little bit of insider trading information, but the end is near! I have heard many times, " They can do it in the Ag market, why can't we?" Now some of that discussion was during the demise of the centrifugal pump and depending on who you spoke to, it could be operator error by running the pump dry or the witches brew in your tank. One of my favorite lines from a technician, on the failure of a centrifugal pump years ago was, "Farmers are spraying paraquat through those pumps and they are not having the seals leak!". But I digress, we can talk pumps another time.
       As of today, we have the Smithco Star Command System (*disclaimer-unit I sell) and the Nu-Tec product. I have been on  the Smithco unit and am really impressed with the technology.
I did speak with the people from Nu Tec at last years GIS and have heard some positive feedback from some of the sales guys who had customers get units set up. The newest introduction is a company called Turflux out of Pittsburg. We got the chance to get a presentation at the Penn State Turfgrass Conference, a few weeks back, and will be working with them. I cannot give an overview that would do it justice, but I am a believer in what they are preaching.
       I do think that 2 of the other major sprayer manufacturers will have something at the GIS in this product line. I know of one prototype here in the Mid-Atlantic (might be green) and from prior to my exodus, there was talk of something on the near horizon on the GPS sprayer front in red.
      With the talk of savings from 15% to 40%, depending on whose literature you are reading, the introduction of a GPS sprayer into your fleet may be closer than you ever thought.

I have seen the future and it is coming to a sprayer near you!

AKA-The Great Turfstradamus

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Extra Helping of Thanks

       Thanksgiving seems to be a more reflective time for me this year. I realize that I am very fortunate with good health,for the most part in my wives family and my own. Both our parents just celebrated (Ok they slightly acknowledged) a 60+ year wedding anniversary and other than a few George Costaza's parent moments, they are doing well.
       For me, this was a year with a lot of soul searching, as a job change was eminent. I looked to many of the people who had played a part in my growth throughout my career for support.I have been very lucky to have some great people whom I consider my mentors. From the early part of my time at Philadelphia Turf, men like Barney McFadden, Bob Stokes, Tom Drayer & especially Scott Keener were all big influences on how I learned to do my job. Barney and Bob are no longer with us, but still made a large impression on me that continues to impact who I am today.
       Two other people that I have looked to as mentors and are the definition of being at the top of your profession are Jim Nedin & Tom Hurst. They are two of the most knowledgeable technical experts I know in the Turf industry, but that is not what makes them extraordinary. It is their passion to take care of people and never leave anyone hanging! To quote Jim Nedin " While they might worship in different churches of grinding theory, they both have the religion of sharp reels make better turf conditions." I consider myself very luck to have had the chance to work closely with both and have learned a ton over the years, probably as much technically as much as they way to treat people!
      And I would be remiss, if I did not mention someone who has been over the years a great mentor to me, Frank Shuman. Frank was the owner of Philadelphia Turf, who retired back at the end of 2007. He has taught me a lot about business and his direction on how to do the right thing and often steers me when I know I need to not take the easy road. From all the conversations we have had, I always know Frank will give it to me straight and more often then not his advice is; "Cork, you know what the right thing is to do, so you just do it!" Frank got me the chance to be a part of the board of the First Tee of Greater Philadelphia, which I am really proud of being involved with. He also has taken me on scholarship to some really cool events, where I usually joke to the valet parker that I am pretty sure that my pickup would be the ONLY one he parked that night.
       These men all have had a profound impact on me professionally and personally, I probably can never say thank you enough for all that they have done.
I know that this Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for.....

Hope you and your family have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!



Monday, November 17, 2014

Elephant Hunter vs. Rod Carew

       During one of the discussions at Jacobsen University, from the back of the room, I heard a line that I thought was a great one. I believe it was a sales manager who made the comment," You guys are elephant hunters. You are looking to sell $60,000 mowers." I really thought it was a great analogy. I know for me, over the past few years, the focus on large deals, and the time they took, absolutely put me in that category; which was not what I had based my early career territory management on. The consistent sales of one and two pieces to many of your customers was how to be successful. One of things I used to kid with my sales manager back then was, "Rod Carew was able to make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame by hitting singles!".
       The equipment purchasing world has changed with more and more clubs leasing, so there are more "elephants" to hunt, but the reality is the success rate has to be high or you will be struggling to succeed. On the other hand, if you are able to continually sell (hit singles and doubles), you have a much better chance of being a solid performer and helping your company grow.
       Don't get me wrong, winning a large sale is a great feeling. The hard part is they are time consuming and if you aren't lucky enough to earn the business, you probably missed out on some other opportunities that aren't coming back.
 I guess in a perfect world I would be Rod Carew the elephant hunter.....



Monday, November 10, 2014

From a Different Point Of View

       This past week, I attended my first event at the training facility for Jacobsen in Charlotte, NC. While I have attended too many Toro University events to count over the years , I was interested in seeing things from a different point of view. This Jacobsen University program was about five distributors, compared to traditionally the ones I attended for Toro, consisting of all Toro's USA distributors. The idea of an on site training area is a good one and the educational and break areas were really well done.
        All in all, it was similar to what I had seen regarding class room work and in the field training in the past except obviously from a different perspective. Even to the point that I was having flashbacks as the Tier 4 information was reviewed on power point slides. The slides were identical to what I had seen at other classes. The truth is, for me, I learn better from talking to peers who are willing to share their knowledge. The point of understanding what features are important to emphasize, during a demo,sticks more in my A.D.D. mind then slide after slide of features and benefits. Also, I have never been someone who could stand there and rattle off specs with the exception of  a few key ones. To me, it is about how the product fits a need or can make your job easier, rather than how many outlets to plug in your phone are on a unit.
       It was a fact filled few days and I did get to some quality time to talk to and learn from some long time Territory Managers. The end take away being, I still have a lot to learn....


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Social Experiment

       A few years back, I realized the shot clock had started on my career as a sales rep for the Toro distributor I was employed by. Coworkers, who I was close to, didn't believe me that it was time to find a new job before I was let go, but in then end my observations were based on a great piece of advice I received from my older brother. He said "watch what they do, not what they say". I started to prepare myself to move on to another position. After reading as much about changing jobs as I could, and even meeting with a social media expert to make myself a more viable candidate for a possible position by putting together a social media plan. With all that in place, it was time to get to work.
       The first thing was LinkedIn. With each person I had a meeting with, or  just trolling LinkedIn as I watched TV for people I might know, I worked on building my connections up over 500 as quickly as possible. Then came working on growing my Twitter following. That still has not gone as I thought, but I have gotten some positive feedback regarding the information I put out. Finally, throw in this Blog and you have my social media campaign in place. Facebook is not my thing and don't plan on adding that.
       Ok, so now I am slightly on the social media map. I have had multiple interviews and was even told during one interview by a  human resources person  to emphasize what social media I use in the next round. It did not do too much to help,but there are many variables involved in being offered a position and having enough Twitter followers hopefully is not a deal breaker.In the end, the right opportunity came from having a strong professional relationship with a competitor.

       Do I think having a personal social media plan in place is important, absolutely. I am glad I have invested the time and effort and even learned a lot as I worked through the process. Did it have anything to do with me finding a new job....not so much.


Friday, October 17, 2014


       I must say this past week was pretty eventful with the reaction of past co-workers, other industry friends and customers, as the news slowly made it's way out of my leaving my old employer to join Lawn & Golf Supply Company. Obviously, there were some of my close friends, who were aware of my frustrations with some things I was dealing with, but hopefully, for the most part, I think I had kept it professional in how I did my job. When all the orders are delivered in the next two months, I will still end with one of my best sales years yet.
       I was really touched by some of the comments I received. It was nice to have multiple customers call me to make sure I was OK. Even today, I got a very complimentary text, from someone I have the ultimate respect for at another Toro Distributor, that made me appreciate the friends I have made in my career. The one theme that came from most who knew me was that no one ever saw me leaving my position.
       Do I feel some guilt... sure, but only in regards to taking care the people I call on. I have always sold to customers with the understanding that I would be there to resolve any issues. While it was never me with a wrench fixing something (we all know we don't want that), it was about being able to steer the process through parts or service that made things just go easier.
       When someone asks "Why?" My honest answer is that it was time for a change. I am excited about the direction of Lawn & Golf that was discussed with me during conversations about this possible move. In the end, it comes down to what is best for my family and myself and this was it.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jedi Knight No More

       In early 2008, I was lucky enough to win the Toro Master Salesman award. This award is given each year, in the commercial division, to one winner. Your wife is flown into town to surprise you when they announce the winner. To me it is the biggest accomplishment of my professional career! Over the years, I watched men win, who were well respected by everyone, earn the coveted Master Salesman Ring. It is a big deal to get the gold ruby ring and gold business cards that come with the award. It is something you can only win once. Some customers and other Reps have referred to winning the master salesman award as being a Jedi Knight.
       So this Friday was the last time I will wear my ring. Friday I resigned from my position as the sales representative here in Philadelphia . While there were many variables involved, in the end I took advantage of an opportunity to work for  the Jacobsen Distributor, that has been in the business since 1937. What is even more interesting is the gentleman, who started  Lawn & Golf Supply Company, began by working for Philadelphia Toro, owned by T. L. Gustin. He was the grandfather of the Frank Shuman, who I worked for until Philadelphia Turf (was changed from Toro to Turf )was sold in 2007. Small world!
       Over the years, I have had the chance to work with some incredible people in the business. Any success that I achieved were always because of the people who worked in parts, service & inside sales . I can never say thank you enough. While I thought that I would make a run at Barney McFadden's 42 year career, it just wasn't in the cards, but just under 23 years isn't bad....
 Now it is on to the next chapter in my career!