Sunday, March 1, 2015

Welcome Home

       For the first time, in over 20 years, walking on to the floor at the GIS and not wearing my standard previously required jacket and tie, felt a little weird. But as the day went on, the lack of razor rash on my neck from my collar and the comments about my bright orange Cutter Buck wind breaker, felt pretty good!
      The week started out pretty rough, as it did for many trying to work their way South. A phone call at 3:00AM telling me my flight had been cancelled, but my ride to the airport on the same flight telling me, "No it is not!" caused some confusion. I learned the drawback of the discount websites for tickets (Expedia) was that our connecting flight from Dallas to San Antonio had been canceled, so they bumped us off the first leg out of Philly and re-booked us for Wednesday afternoon. We got lucky and jumped a last minute flight with Southwest to make it in just about midnight on Monday.
        Tuesday was filled with training meeting with Smithco & Turfco in the morning and a cold morning out at Oak Hills CC. This was followed by the Jacobsen business meetings. I have to admit that by the closing speech, at the end by the President of Jacobsen, David Withers, I was feeling like I was back playing football and looking for my helmet to run out onto the field. His passion for the business makes him someone that people want to follow. I have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to be around while he interacts with people and it is why Jacobsen is a large company with a small feel to it. This was followed by the awards ceremony in which Lawn & Golf Supply Company won the "Service Dealer of the Year Award"!
       Tuesday night was my first chance to attend the Jacobsen customer party that I have been hearing about for years. And yes it lived up to all I had heard....Lots of refreshments, food and a live rodeo. Throw in a live band in one room, DJ in another and about 2000 people and I believe that's a party!
       Wednesday's trade show was very busy and lots of talk about Jacobsen's new heavy duty work vehicle. The trade show layout was different and the word "flow" kept coming up. The layout seemed very segmented. The day was spent visiting other company's we work with like Ventrac, Turfco, Smithco, Turflux, Par-Aide and more which led to some tired legs. Roll right into a post show meeting and then into the Pennsylvania Room and now your feet are feeling it.
       Thursday was more of the same in the AM with more of a look at competitive equipment and other products that might be in need of a distributor. After grabbing a bite for lunch the show became a pretty much ghost town.
        Friday's travel day, with a check out of the hotel at 7:00AM and the truck pulling up to the house at 7:00PM, was a long one. Our connecting flight in Dallas spent an extra 2 hours on the tarmac waiting to be de-iced and hoping we did not get the news that airport would be shutting down with the snow. Some people did not get out until Saturday.
        All in all it was definitely a different experience with the change. I was touched that some old friends in distribution and manufacturing made the point to come to the Jacobsen booth to find me. Some others I ran into throughout the week had some very nice things to say that I really appreciated!
        Another GIS in the books, now come on Spring!


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Private vs. Public

       As we all know, the competition for a superintendent's position in today's market has gotten pretty crazy. The theory of supply and demand is in full force with lack of positions and candidate pool full of qualified and sometimes over qualified turf managers. Here in the Philadelphia market, there have been recently more positions open on the public golf side. I know that 20 years ago, it was not a big transition to go from an Assistant at a private club to a Superintendent at a Public course and then land a Superintendent job at a good private club. Recently, it seems that to make that move is not as simple.
       If you are currently an Assistant at a Private facility and feel you are ready for a Superintendent position, do you pursue a Superintendent position at a Public facility? While the chance to run your own operation is what you are most looking towards, in the long run, it may have some other factors that make it not for you. While there is an immediate opportunity to make more money now, in the long term, shot at the gold ring of running an operation that has a large budget and the salary that is commiserate with it becomes harder to reach. What has always been the strength of many Public golf course managers, is the ability to do more with less. For some reason, this has not translated recently when opportunities appear.
       Obviously, no one has the crystal ball to see what is the right career move, but judging recent history and looking at the current market, there are some interesting choices to be made.
In the end, it is about what is best for you.....


Monday, February 9, 2015

Lunching With The President

       This past week, I was on a day trip down to visit the Jacobsen Factory in Charlotte. While the trip with a customer was thrown together quickly, in the end it was excellent. When I was telling another customer the day after about how impressed I was with everything, he said,"drank the Orange Kool Aid did you?" and I just laughed and said, "it tasted great!".  From a factory tour that completely blew my expectations out of the water, to a distribution center full of new products and even getting to see the new Cushman being built on the assembly line, the day was very productive. Finishing up with lunch ,with the president of Jacobsen, David Withers, and the Vice President of Customer Care, Brad Adamson, it was something I hope that I can replicate in the future.


Sunday, January 25, 2015


       When I see or speak with anybody lately, especially customers I have called on for years, I get the same question, "So how is it going?". To some, my answer has been with a laugh, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!". When you start a new job, there is always a transition period. For me, it is mostly learning how to do the day to day things at Lawn & Golf, like knowing how quotes are done and expenses. In the end, sales is sales. You visit customers and discuss their challenges, and hopefully, you have a product or a service that makes sense to help resolve it. Sure, product knowledge is still a work in progress, but that comes with time and working with people who know more than you.
      The plans for the future at Lawn & Golf are exciting as we learned in a company wide meeting this past week and I am glad to be a part of . As a few people have said to me, " you are back to your old self. You can even hear it in your voice." It is good feeling to get up in the morning and look forward to going to work. You might say it is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!


Monday, January 12, 2015

History Repeating Itself

       The advantage of experience is it gives you a very clear perspective on how things change. This past week, we hosted an educational event with our partners from Turflux. While GPS technology will be talked about more and more as the turf industry continues to evolve, the reality is that to me it is eerily similar to the transition to the Raven controller from a manual sprayer. On the sales end, we spent a bunch of time trying to be comfortable with how the Raven worked. For many customers, the thought of  letting a computer be in charge of chemical applications on their turf was unthinkable. Currently, if you were to sell a manual sprayer without any computer system, it is almost unheard of in our area. I truly believe that in the next 5-10 years, GPS spraying will be the same. The reactions to technology challenges are not seen the same as they were. I know for me, I am on about my 5th smart phone, with the last few phones meltdowns catastrophic for the phone, but not my information. With all the advantages that come with GPS technology and the bugs having been worked out on the Ag side, I think we are at the start of a new phase in turf management.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Confessions of a Paperwork Hoarder

      I believe I can trace it back to an incident at college, where a note from the Registrar's office that I had held onto, saved me from having to take one extra class and I was able to graduate on schedule. This past week, I spent time clearing out my office of all of my old paper work. It was long over due! I have always been one to keep things, just in case I needed the information (OK, I am a hoarder!). From the first Toro Selling System book from the 90's, to an old Milorganite sales binder, there was way too many things that needed to be tossed long ago.
       I admit it felt pretty good loading up the back of my pick up to head to a local club's dumpster to get rid of it. It is especially refreshing with the change in jobs, that I have the chance to start fresh on how to arrange my office. It is funny to see how many things had been in paper form, mainly copies of old call reports. Now with the world of "paperless" offices, it is nowhere near the report generation that was done in the past.
       When you add in the handing off of my prize closet full of hats and other promotional stuff and giving my old Toro wardrobe to former co-workers, it was a cleansing holiday season!

      My name is Bill and I am a hoarder.....on the road to recovery!

Happy New Year!


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