Sunday, June 15, 2014

Working Dad

        When I started working at Philadelphia Turf back in 1992, there was another salesmen hired at the same time as me. His name was Bob ( last name withheld to protect the innocent). The reason I mention Bob was I believe he lasted less than 6 months. He had a legendary ending when he went into the owners office, with a paintings falling off the wall door slam ending with our Sales Manager, Tom Drayer, going in after him and telling him to just leave the building....Now maybe his personality was a little high strung, but I truly believe the survival at a new job, with no sales experience, is tied directly to a mentor.
I spent my first few days with some of the veteran sales reps traveling to see how to do the job. The majority of the time was spent with Scott Keener. Scott had the territory next to my original area of Central PA. What we still laugh about today is how he felt me out for a few hours before giving me the real scoop on what was the important parts of the job and how to stay out of trouble.
       That first year and pretty much ever since, Scott has been my sounding board on how to handle situations and those times when I just needed to vent some frustration. The first few years, I would call him almost every night (pre-cell phone) and review what happened that day. I would explain how I handled each situation and he would walk me through what I should have done or did right. What was picked up on by most in the company was how close Scott and I were. Kenny Myers, one of our parts men, stated one day," I just talked to your father and told Scott I just talked to your son". The father-son relationship just stuck.
       A few months ago my 10 year old was by me when I was speaking to Scott and I said " talk to you later Pop.". Pete looked at me and said "who was that?". I answered, "it was Mr. Keener."
I guess it is not the easiest thing to explain to a 10 year old about how someone at your work is known as your Dad.

I am incredibly lucky to still have my own Father around in his 80's to talk to and go to for advice.
I have also been very lucky to have a second father and mentor in Scott and his guidance throughout my career and life has been invaluable!



Saturday, June 7, 2014

Digging In The Dirt

       The past few weeks I have been in numerous discussions regarding using turf sensors. The first time was a few weeks ago, at a breakfast meeting with Bill Brown, Group Vice President from Toro, and some local superintendents . One of the discussions centered around the thought that using sensors were a valuable tool, but the debate was is the cost justified when dollars are tight with the final question being, " Should I buy multiple sensors or a greens mower?". (I voted greens mowers...)
The comments definitely created some discussion of the true value, and in the end, I would say the consensus was that it is helpful, but the only way to really know is to stick a knife in the dirt!
       Then this past week, we had the Toro Precision Sense unit in our area at multiple locations. The Precision Sense is another tool to dial in your programs. The unit measures soil moisture, soil salinity, surface hardness, plant performance, NDVI ( measuring plant density/color/stress) and topography. Really incredible technology!
      As with any new technology, it can not replace the ability to dig in the soil and use your specific experience with your turf.
      In the end it all comes down to one of my favorite Jim Nedin sayings " If you have happy grass, your members will be happy and you will be happy!"

Toro Precision Sense in action

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Radio Silence

       One of the parts of my job that is the toughest is the lost sale. You hope to supply a product at a competitive price that makes it easier for the customer to do their job. As we all know, there are many things involved in the process of purchasing a piece of equipment. Add in multiple units and the leasing variable and things can get very involved. Having an open line of communication and making sure there are no questions left unanswered is the key to earning the business. But as a wiser older salesman once told me, "Every salesman loses sales!". Hopefully, the batting average is better than most hall of famers in baseball, three out of every ten at bats getting a hit!
      One of the hardest tight ropes to walk is how to stay in contact, as the process is playing out, without having a customer look at your name on caller ID and the first thing that comes to mind is, "I am not taking that call." Then you have the dreaded radio silence. If things have gone radio silent, it is almost always," I have not made my final decision," or the dreaded, "we decided to go another direction." OUCH! Like a closer in baseball or a defensive back in football, it is good to have a short memory. That is not the easiest thing to do, especially depending on how much time and effort you have exerted in trying to show you bring value, as much as the product itself. For me, I would prefer the Band-Aid approach and rip it off quickly. It is always appreciated if you fill me in on what questions were left unanswered,and hopefully the next time, I can improve. Sometimes my product was just not the best fit for your operation, but hopefully, not too often!


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Is Cash Still King at Your Club?

    To lease or not to lease, that is often the question. Years ago my wife and I went car shopping and it was just when leasing was becoming more of an option to get a car. After the sales pitch, my wife and I walked out and she said that the leasing option sounded great. I laughed and said that we have it for our customers too and I wasn't so sure.... After lots of work through the years,with people from Toro, like Mike Nesdahl & Jack Asinger, I now understand what is in the stew that makes up a lease payment.
     At that time, leasing was just being introduced into the Turf industry. Now when I say leasing, I am talking about a true lease or fair market value lease, where you turn it back in at the end of term and not a conditional sales contract or $1 buyout. Today leasing is used as much as a straight cash purchase in my market and in warmer parts of the USA with higher hour usage, leasing is even more popular.
       As we all know every club is different. So the big question is why lease vs. purchase? I have the same answer for anyone who ever asks me....It depends on your club! The perception that clubs that are cash poor lease is a misnomer that is not true any longer. I work with some clubs that are classic traditional clubs that money is not an issue and they lease their high usage units. WHY? Because you can get the latest and greatest tools, not tied to capital dollars fluctuating, consistent repair & maintenance budgets and the most equipment for your money.
       Now comes my favorite comment "We are a cash club!". Really?
Do you lease your golf carts???That is different, why I have never been given a good answer!
      My club is never going lease.....not if you don't give them the option by doing your homework on clubs that your facility holds themselves as a measuring stick against and see if they are leasing. Find the board members who work in the financial world, talk to the members who own companies that have equipment fleets and ask questions. What often moves the dial is a member saying, "Why aren't we doing this, when Corcoran Country Club up the street is?"
      If you don't feel comfortable talk about it, I would urge you to get educated about it. If you have a vendor you trust, use him as a resource. I get asked multiple times a year by turf managers to speak to someone at their facility about leasing and they want to know if it is a viable option.
The reality is it all depends on your club!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Clean Me!

       To quote the great Jim Nedin " You check your greens mowers everyday, how often do you check your sprayer"? This past week, I got the chance to work with Jim on some customer visits. Midway through the morning, I got an email from a customer about a sprayer having pressure issues that they needed to resolve ASAP. Luckily we finished ahead of schedule and had time to make a quick visit.
       With his incredible diagnostics skills, Doctor Jim, proceeded to walk through the spray system, tracking what was causing the problem. The flow meter had some wear issues, but as seen below, the main problem was clogged agitation nozzles inside the tank!
       One of the biggest things taken for granted in my experience is that the performance of the sprayer is correct. A greens mower can give you a bad cut that will grow out in a day or two, but a bad application will take weeks to recover or worse. Add some time into you spray program schedule to do more catch tests, review your cleaning process and send your Raven and flow meter in to get re-calibrated each off season. And oh yeah....Give it a bath!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Almost Bulletproof

       I have often said the ProCore 648 is probably the most innovative piece of equipment that Toro has come out with since I started back in early 1990's. However, for one of the most bulletproof units, there is a misconception of no service needed. As with any type of machinery, there is always adjustments that are required over time. After working with Jim Nedin this Friday, as he went over a customer's 2 ProCore 648's, it made me realize how many units are starting to get some time on them and should be checked. On a side note, every time I work with Jim, I am amazed by how knowledgeable he is on so many products. On this visit, it was really incredible to watch his diagnostic skills at work!
       I have seen already a few times where 2 units are set at different depth settings to try and make them perform the same. This should throw up a red flag that you need to get them back to spec! You can take a look at your owners manual or contact your local Toro service department and get your units back to the way they were the day you got them.

       Even if it just running the unit at a lower RPM or using the extended taper tines when it is wet, the unit has multiple adjustments and options to help you aerate with optimum results.

                        The amazing Jim Nedin at work!


Monday, April 7, 2014

On Board with The First Tee

       Recently, I was fortunate enough to join the board of The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia. I was introduced to The First Tee program a few years back when I was invited to play in an event at Walnut Lane Golf Club by Frank Shuman. Frank is the former owner of Philadelphia Turf Company and is a big supporter and board member of TFT of Greater Philadelphia. He has been generous enough to invite me to multiple First Tee events and was kind enough to nominate me.
       So what does an equipment salesman with a golf game that rarely breaks 100 anymore bring to the table?(Just for the record, pre-kids I could shoot in the 80's!). Hopefully, we will be able to do some things from the maintenance side that will continue to help, the program grow. What is really exciting is that I was already contacted by a friend, who just happens to be a customer, about working with TFT of Greater Philadelphia to host a first of it's kind event later in 2014. We also have some other ideas from the Turf angle that are really exciting.
      With all the talk about growing the game of golf, how better than to get more kids into golf?

                        This is a photo from the "Live Green" event at Walnut Lane GC this past fall