The New Jersey Landscape Contractor Magazine - Fall 2019

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Fall 2019

Landscape Contractor

The Official Publication of the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association

• The Most Powerful Recruiting Method • Driving at a Better Design Process • Snow and Ice Lawsuits - Can You Survive One? • Your Warranty Can Make or Break a Sale ...and Much More! NJLCAMag-Sept19.indd 1

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Published By

The New Jersey Landscape Contractor magazine is the official publication of the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association, dedicated to the professional landscape industry of New Jersey. NJLCA was founded in 1966 as the Bergen County Landscape Contractors Association, and is today comprised of over 550 member companies throughout New Jersey. New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association 465 Mola Boulevard, Ste. 4, Elmwood Park, NJ 07407 Phone | 201-703-3600 -- Fax | 201-703-3776 E-mail | Visit our website at Publisher/Editor Gail E. Woolcott Contributing Writers John Allin | Joe Bolognese | Greg Carpenter | Dr. Bruce Clarke | RJ Curcio | Patrick Donovan | Richard Gaynor | Eric Gilbey | Rob Guarino | Phil Harwood | David Kay | Nelson Lee | Monroe Porter | John Raffiani | Joe Salemi | Jeffrey Scott | Kevin P. Sullivan | Ed Waters | Danny Wood | Gail Woolcott | Steven Yergeau NJLCA Combined Board President | Nelson Lee Vice President | Richard Goldstein, CLT Treasurer | Greg Carpenter, CLT Director | Anthony Agudelo Director | Jeff Baker Director | Joe Bolognese Director | Justin Flatow, CLT Director | John Freitag Director | George Futterknecht, CLT Director | Michael McMorrow Associate Director | Kenneth Cerullo Associate Director | David Gaynor Associate Director | Wade Slover Advisor | Dr. Bruce Clarke, Rutgers University Advisor | Dr. Steven Fischer, Bergen Community College Advisor | Dr. James Murphy, Rutgers University The New Jersey Landscape Contractor magazine is published triennially. 600 print copies are distributed to members and over 4,000 digital issues are sent to professionals in the Green Industry of New Jersey, as well as educational and governmental institutions. Subscription rates: $45.00 per year; $15.00 per copy. New Jersey residents only, please add 7% sales tax. To advertise in The New Jersey Landscape Contractor, please contact Gail Woolcott at (201) 703-3600 or e-mail Article and photo submissions are encouraged and may be sent to NJLCA at the above address. Publisher assumes no responsibility for safekeeping or return of photos or manuscripts, and reserves all rights to edit material submitted for publication. © 2019 New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association. All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced by any means, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of the publisher. PUBLISHED October 2019

Cover Photo: Landscape Techniques, 2018 Landscape Achievement Awards Winner

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contents Spring 2019 FEATURES

7 The Most Powerful Recruiting Method 11 Driving at a Better Design Process 13 Understanding How to Spot Trouble on Your Profit and Loss Statement 18 Snow and Ice Lawsuits - Can You Survive One? 22 New and Improved GFS Weather Model Saves You Money 23 Adding Fall Color While Avoiding the Deer 24 Landscape AlterNATIVEs: Sweetgum 27 5 Strategies to Close Faster 30 Keeping Your Drafting Skills Sharp 31 Is Your Fleet Really Prepared for the Winter? 34 Your Warranty Can Make or Break a Sale 38 Stop Letting Your Attitude About Money Hold Back Your Growth


NJLCA News Briefs 4 President’s Message 4 Upcoming Events 5 Letter from the Editor 17 Rutgers to Document Economic Contributions 20 Thank You to Our Sponsors 25 New Jersey Legislative Update 28 Contractor Focus: Nature’s Touch Ponds 29 Associate Focus: Wilfred MacDonald 37 CLT, LICT, PC? 37 Welcome New Members 41 Advertiser Index

Columns 5 The Buzz: Industry News 23 Turf Talk 31 Legal Ease 33 The [Safety] Culture Club NJLCA.ORG


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President’s Message From what we are hearing, it has been an incredible landscape season this year and it is still going! More installation projects, more maintenance properties and more money being spent on landscaping than has been in the past several years. The only unfortunate part is the labor crisis we are facing, not only in New Jersey but throughout the country. We are currently in what is termed a “negative unemployment period”, where the unemployment rate is so low, that there are far more positions available than people to fill them, and that is across all industries, not just landscape. We know that our industry needs people that are reliable and willing to work hard. And the wages the landscape industry provides reflect that. A $15 minimum wage is likely near or below what we are currently paying our employees. We have been trying to work with our legislators on increasing the H-2B cap, providing for a returning worker exemption. If you think the H-2B issue doesn’t affect you because you don’t use it, think again. The less H-2B Visas available mean more employers looking for employees from the same labor pool. So when you see us reach out for help in the H-2B fight, please participate! We are also working on creating an apprenticeship program that will not only provide you with educated employees, but satisfy public works project requirements as well. If you’re not aware, to be approved for public works jobs in NJ, you are now required to participate in an apprenticeship program and show proof of that when renewing. On the other side of the coin, NJLCA is also trying to provide you with more opportunities to mingle with other members, since this is one of our greatest values as a membership organization. Not the food and drink (although that is great too), but the value of the knowledge you gain from


getting to know and talking about the industry with other members. Our members are some of the most open business owners I know and are always happy to talk shop with other landscaping business owners and vendors. For vendors, this is a great way to get to know our members on a personal level and for other contractors, a great way to make friends and meet people of like mind who may have the answer to your next big business or landscape related question.

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I would also like to send out a plea to each of you. Please tell us what you want from the NJLCA. This is YOUR association and we want to provide you with the education, assistance and benefits that YOU need. Although our Board is made up of landscape contractors and vendors, we can’t read your minds or know what issues you are facing each year. Let us know what you want to know about, what you want us to fight for or support and who you’d like to see at a meeting or event. We have some exciting things on the horizon, but want to hear from you what else we can do to make your membership more valuable. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season and a happy and prosperous new year!

Nelson Lee, NJLCA President


November 13th - H-2B Fly-In November 14th - Member Meeting at T-Mobile in Parsippany November 18th - Membership Appreciation Dinner and Mixer December 3rd - Holiday Gala and Achievement Awards Dinner December 10th - 12th - ICPI Training and Certification at Green Expo January 14th - 15th - OSHA Certification for Landscape Professionals February 25th - 26th - Landscape New Jersey Trade Show and Conference

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The Buzz Our final Landscape Industry Certified Technician’s exam was bittersweet this year. We’ll miss the amazing camaraderie among the judges and the candidates helping to professionalize the green industry. Thank you to all of our sponsors and volunteers! See page 40 for an article and page 16 for our volunteers and donors. However, we had an outstanding pass rate this year and have certified 13 candidates as officially Landscape Industry Certified. Congratulations to them and all of the previously certified. 2019 Landscape Industry Certified Technicians • Florentino Barerra-Hernandez - YardApes, Inc. – Turf Maintenance • Charles Black - Ecological Restoration and Management – Softscape Installation • Roberto Chuquiano - Eastern Land Management – Hardscape Installation • Rolando Contreras - Eastern Land Management – Turf Maintenance • Vince DeAngelis - Poole Landscaping – Softscape Installation • Marvin Gonzalez - Eastern Land Management – Turf Maintenance • Max Juarez Tolentino - YardApes, Inc. – Turf Maintenance • Mario A. Martinez - Eastern Land Management – Turf Maintenance • Jesus Alberto Millanez - YardApes, Inc. – Turf Maintenance • Kyle Onorato - YardApes, Inc. – Turf Maintenance • Hector H. Ruiz - Eastern Land Management – Turf Maintenance • Thomas Sirois - Eastern Land Management – Turf Maintenance • Joshua Strohm - Ruppert Landscape – Ornamental Maintenance

Letter from the Editor


can’t believe how fast the summer has gone (did I say that last year too?)! Here we are getting into the fall at a fast pace and NJLCA events are heating up! We have meetings, mixers, the awards judging and dinner all on our schedule. I’ve had a pretty exciting fall as well, visiting with legislators, taking seminars and webinars, attending events on behalf of our membership and telling everyone why NJLCA members are the most professional and best in the state! I was also able to attend Landscapes and the Green Industry Expo in Kentucky this year and the amount of technology being poured into our industry is simply mind boggling. I saw more battery powered equipment this year than ever before. There are automated mowers en mass. The software out there can now track every expenditure and income with so little work on your behalf. And the tips and tricks from some of the veterans of our industry are just invaluable. In attending this show, I always hope to bring back information that our members can use, as well as speakers and vendors for the Landscape New Jersey Trade Show and Conference on February 26th. This year did not disappoint and I think you will be excited about the speaker line up (coming soon) as well as the number of new vendors (along with our returning friends) that will be at our show! As we head into the winter, please take time to take advantage of the NJLCA’s, as well as other, educational offerings. We provide you with some of the best education in the tristate area with little cost to you. Please check your email for information coming soon about those classes and webinars. This issue of The New Jersey Landscape Contractor magazine is full of fantastic ideas that can increase the value of your business, save you money, help you grow and help you perform your jobs better than ever. We’ve also included information for you snow warriors about limiting your risk and why this year’s snow forecasts should be better than ever before! Finally, if you haven’t met her, I’d like to welcome Tracey Houseman as the NJLCA’s new Executive Administrative Assistant. Tracey started earlier this month and has helped us organize the office as well as be more efficient in the short time she has been here already. If you see her at a meeting or event, please say “hi” and welcome her to the best members and landscape association in New Jersey! Happy holidays to all, have a great winter! Sincerely,

Gail Woolcott Director of Operations / Editor in Chief

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Feature Story

The Most Powerful Recruiting Method by Phil Harwood,


ith no foreseeable end to the labor shortage, what was a serious problem has become for many companies an existential crisis. If there are no workers, there is no business. This is about survival and employers are forced to devote more resources to recruiting than ever before. The question then becomes where to make investments. What recruiting methods are working? In this article, I’d like to focus my attention on the most powerful recruiting method of all time. If you get this right, you may not need another recruiting method. If you don’t, all of the other recruiting methods combined will never be sufficient. This method is required, mandatory, and essential. Yet, surprisingly, many companies fail to invest in this method. If you have not read the book, The Ultimate Question, by Frederick Reinheld, I highly recommend doing so. This book provides great insight into how to quantify customer satisfaction on a scale of 1-10. A customer who is a 9 or 10 (highly satisfied) is so happy with your company, they can’t help themselves but to tell everything know. They will even attempt to win over others to become customers. They are, in essence, part of your sales team. Applying this concept to your employees, an employee who is a 9 or 10 is so happy with your company will also attempt to win over others to join the team. They are not only part of your recruiting team; they are the most powerful recruiter you will ever have. They will actively recruit without incentives, bonuses, or bribes. When new people join your team, a 9 or 10 will warmly embrace them, show them the ropes, correct them when needed, and help them to be successful. This will happen naturally and with minimal direction and management involvement. The culture that produced these 9s and 10s will perpetuate more 9s and 10s. Contrast this with those employees who are not as satisfied. A 7 or 8 isn’t necessarily unhappy but they sure aren’t going out of their way to say great things about your company. They are ambivalent about the company. It’s a good place to work but it’s really just a job. To become part of the recruiting team, they most likely will need to be paid off. Worse yet, they will teach new people how to be ambivalent, just like them. The culture that produced these 7s and 8s will perpetuate more 7s and 8s. I’m not going to waste time writing about anyone who is a 6 or

lower. Needless to say, they are not going recruit for you and they are going to underFeat mine new recruits. ured Spea Now, I am not ker saying that no other recruiting methods are needed. Recruiting today requires Febr a multi-faceted, Pre-C uary 25t h on Ed ongoing, yearuc Trad February ation round recruitment e Sho w an 26th strategy. What I am d Con feren ce saying is that if you don’t have a team of 9s and 10s, recruiting isn’t your biggest problem, and if you don’t address the level of employee satisfaction, recruiting efforts will not be fruitful. Where to start is an often-asked question. My advice is to start with your own people. Sit down and have an honest discussion with your people, including front-line staff. Schedule a halfday or full-day meeting in a conference room. Help your people understand the crisis at hand. They may be aware of it somewhat but not to the extent that they need to. Too often there is an “it’s not my problem” attitude running through the ranks. If that’s the case, this is an opportunity to begin to change that attitude. They need to realize that this situation is their problem too and that is why you’ve asked for their assistance. Ask for their ideas. The best ideas don’t always come from the top of the organization. Anyone can have a great idea but they aren’t going to share that great idea unless they are asked or given a platform. Many successful companies have incentive programs for successful ideas that are adopted. I think that’s really cool but also one more thing to administer. Don’t go there unless you can administer the incentive program properly. If your people care at all, they will have ideas to share. If nobody has any ideas, you have a bigger problem on your hands. Empower them to participate. Get everyone involved, even if it means losing production for part of a day, every so often. Is losing production really your biggest issue? Doesn’t that happen Continued on Page 9

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Feature Story The Most Powerful Recruiting Method Continued... every time it rains? I thought so. Every single person in your company should be a recruiter and be doing something to improve retention. If this is truly a crisis, why wouldn’t they? Now go forth. Phil Harwood, MBA, CSP, LIC is a managing partner with, one of three companies he has founded since retiring from a successful landscape & snow management career. Phil holds an Executive MBA with honors and Bachelor of Arts degree in

Marketing, both from Michigan State University. In addition, he is a Certified Snow Professional, Landscape Industry Certified Manager, National Association of Landscape Professionals Trailblazer, and Landscape Ontario Preferred Consultant. Phil is a management consultant, frequent guest speaker, and contributing writer for several publications and websites. His consulting firm, Pro-Motion Consulting, Inc., has been recognized twice by the Snow & Ice Management Association (SIMA) with the prestigious Snow Industry Commitment Award. In addition, two of his clients have won the coveted CEO of the Year Award from SIMA.

Labor and the Green Industry Presented by Phil Harwood What is causing the labor shortage? • Aging population and declining workforce participation rate, combined with record government spending on entitlement programs. • Population continues to increase but the percentage of people not working is at record levels and will most likely increase. By 2030, over 20% of the U.S. population will be over 65 years old. • Exacerbating the labor shortage is a growing economy with high demand for workers, creating a labor environment with very low unemployment, rising wages, and competition for workers. What is being done to address the labor situation? • Green industry professionals are supporting industry-wide initiatives such as the Industry Growth Initiative (IGI), which is promoting green industry careers through wide-ranging channels including • Green industry companies are embarking on new approaches to recruiting and retention. More investment is being made in these areas than ever before in most companies. • Green industry leaders, managers, and supervisors are changing the way they interact with a new generation of workers, as they respond to six major emerging expectations of the Millennial Generation. The Ultimate Question • “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how likely are you to refer us to a friend or relative?” • Applying the ultimate question to an employee referral situation, here are the ratings: • If a 9 or 10, your employee is highly likely to refer your company. They are a promoter of your company. • If a 7 or 8, your employee may refer your company but passively. • If a 6 or lower, your employee is neutral or not likely to refer your company. • The ultimate solution to the labor shortage is to move your employees to a 9 or 10. Your retention rate will climb to the highest possible heights (there will always be some attrition). Because of this, your recruiting needs will be fewer. And, best of all, your employees will recruit for you. • Are your employees so in love with your company that they are telling everyone they know about how great it is to work at your company? If so, congrats. If not, what steps might you take to improve? Millennials • Born between 1980 – 1996. Preceded by GenX born between 1965 – 1979, Baby Boomers born between 1946 – 1964, and Traditionalists born between 1900 – 1945. Becoming the largest % of workforce. • Millennials are the least engaged generation, according to extensive Gallup research. 21% have changed jobs in the last year, 60% are open to new job opportunities, and only 50% plan to be with their current employer a year from now. Millennials are unattached, unconstrained, idealistic, and connected.

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Feature Story

Driving at a Better Design Process


by Eric Gilbey, Vectorworks

certain amount of guesswork used to exist with the question: Can a design accurately portray the ability of a vehicle to successfully maneuver on a real-world site? When identifying the answer, you must take into account vehicle maneuverability requirements, such as vehicle size and turning radius. This can require manually simulating the wheel and body paths, a time-consuming task. It can be tempting to either hire outside help for these studies or make drastic changes to the vehicular use areas to avoid potential conflicts, but with Vectorworks 2019, you can resist these temptations, thanks to our latest partnership with Transoft Solutions and its AutoTURN Online technology.

and body paths, you don’t have to worry about making drastic changes to vehicular use areas to avoid conflict. You simply import your design through the AutoTURN menu command, conduct the analysis within a browser window right inside of Vectorworks, and click “Get Analysis.” From there, you can view how a vehicle fits and moves in your drawing, based on the vehicle model and behaviors you’ve selected. The degree of specificity available in vehicle type and vehicle behavior options allows for accurate analyses that illustrate vital information about a vehicle’s clearance for turning, backing up, parking and more. With Vectorworks and AutoTURN Online, what was once a time-consuming and potentially wor-

The integration of AutoTURN Online within Vectorworks makes checking vehicle maneuverability a much faster process. AutoTURN eschews the trial and error process of manually testing vehicle maneuverability, allowing you to conduct simulations and then place the analysis into your design. Information necessary in testing a vehicle’s maneuverability, like a vehicle’s size, can be easily accessed and utilized in your simulations. The tool offers three free, digital vehicles along with additional bundle options to access all of the vehicles you may need to successfully execute your analysis. Additionally, AutoTURN Online features an immense range of turning behaviors that you can simulate directly in your designs. With a virtually effortless simulation of wheel

risome task can now be executed within a matter of minutes, giving you the time to focus on other aspects of your design.

Eric Gilbey, PLA, utilizes his professional experience as a practicing landscape architect and his expertise in CAD and Building Information Modeling (BIM) in his role as product marketing manager for the landscape industries at Vectorworks, Inc., where he continues to develop an understanding of design and visualization workflows used by land planning and site design professionals. He currently serves as the Association of Professional Landscape Designers’ president-elect and co-chair of ASLA’s Digital Technology Professional Practice Network. Eric writes and speaks for several green industry associations and helps landscape architects and designers develop best practices, including sustainable site design and site-specific BIM.

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Feature Story

Understanding How to Spot Trouble on Your Profit and Loss Statement


by Monroe Porter, PROOF Management

realize that for many of you, this article may be very elementary. However, contractors are notorious for not being interested in and really not knowing their numbers. Accounting, particularly profit and loss statements, is much easier to understand than many contractors realize. Accounting is easier than estimating. There is no multiplication and division. Estimating is predicting what you think costs will be. Accounting is simply the adding and subtracting of facts to see what the cost actually was. Unfortunately, many statements are put together in confusing formats and require some digging to figure things out.

summer financials, suddenly your season is over and you are not profitable. At financial meetings you should also review a balance sheet, an aging report for accounts payable and accounts receivable. Make sure your P & L reports calculate percentage of sales, not percentages of last period to this period of time. Percentage of sales comparison is the only way to realistically compare actual expenses. A statement that compares each line item regarding how much it has gone up or down as compared with the same statement a year earlier is of little value. The following example shows how misleading this

The first rule of financial evaluation is to always use accrual statements for financial evaluation. Your accountant may choose to use cash statements for taxes but cash statements are of little value for actual financial reviews. Why? Cash statements do not include accounts receivable (what people owe you) and accounts payable (what you owe others). Therefore, cash statements do not reflect an accurate evaluation of your business’s current financial situation. Another confusing component of profit and loss statements is that while a p & l may look like a checkbook register, it does not measure how much cash you have in the bank. Profit and loss statements show if you are making or losing money and balance sheets show where that money is located or tied up within the system. It is important to conduct a monthly financial meeting each and every month with the bookkeeper and partners. Contracting profits change rapidly plus many businesses are seasonal. By not paying attention to a couple of months of

type of comparison can be when comparing line item by line item costs. I have used sales and field labor as an example. In the following example, entitled wrong way, the labor is compared to the previous year. As compared to last year, labor is down 7% which seems like a good thing when in reality it is a disaster. Wrong way Sales F. Labor

Last year % This year $100,000 100% $70,000 30,000 100% 28,000

% of change 100% -7%

In the next example, we compare numbers as a percentage of sales. This shows the real problem. Now the cost of actually installing a job has increased by 33%. Before a $10,000 job could be installed for $3000, at this new rate a $10,000 job would cost $4000 to install.

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Feature Story Right Way Sales F. Labor

Last year % This year % of sales $100,000 100% $70,000 100% 30,000 30% 28,000 40% (an actual labor increase of 33%)

Example of 33% production cost increase Last year job $10,000 Selling price 3,000 Field labor

This year job $10,000 Selling price 4,000 Field labor (33% increase (10,000 ÷ 30,000))

Labor and sub percentages are the best way to tell if your statements are accurate or if there is good or bad financial news. What could have caused a 33% increase? The culprit is usually one of two things: 1. Something is unbilled. Possibly a large job was done last month but not billed until this month or maybe jobs just were not billed on time.

2. You are losing money. You are either the victim of bad job estimates or you are paying employees who are not producing. Possibly employees are being poorly managed or maybe you have been trying to keep people busy during a slow period by dragging out jobs or having field people work in the shop. If your business uses subs instead of employed field labor, the same logic applies. Common sense tells us that you would not pay a sub for doing nothing. If you use subs and field labor, look at them both and see if the total percentage falls within your norm. There are lots of other things to look at on a profit and loss statement but labor/subs cost to billings is an excellent way to quickly evaluate the accuracy of the statement. Too many contractors simply look at top and bottom line and really don’t question what’s between the two. Monroe Porter is President of PROOF Management and PROSULT Networking Groups for landscapers. For free business help by phone, call him at 804 267-1688.

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Feature Story

Rutgers to Document the Economic Contributions of Turfgrass to the New Jersey Economy


he benefits of turfgrass are many, including environmental benefits such as erosion prevention, groundwater recharge, cleaner air, cooler temperatures, and a healthy playing surface for recreational activities. In New Jersey, a very large industry has evolved to produce and deliver turfgrass products and services. Furthermore, this industry contributes to New Jersey’s economy in many ways. However, the economic magnitude and linkages of the New Jersey Turfgrass Industry are not well understood. Therefore, The NJ Agricultural Experiment Station and the Rutgers Center for Turfgrass Science have endeavored to document the economic size and structure of the turfgrass industry in the State. BENEFITS OF THE SURVEY • Documentation of turfgrass acreage in New Jersey. • Documentation of the economic value of turf and related production, service and maintenance expenditures. • Determine the need for support of future turfgrass research and education programs that provide sciencebased solutions to problems facing the turfgrass industry • Document the need for support of university and college turfgrass programs and facilities. • Identify how technology changes have impacted profitability within the turfgrass industry. • Measure the impact on growth and cost of business when affected by new insects, diseases, weeds and regulations. • Provide accurate data to assist legislators, researchers, businesses and homeowners in making informed decisions. WHAT? A NEW turfgrass industry survey; the last survey was conducted in 2001. WHO? The survey will be conducted by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service in collaboration with the Office of Research Analytics and the Center for Turfgrass Science at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.

industry were obtained and combined. A sample was taken from the resulting list. Operations in this sample will be contacted in December 2019 and January 2020 to complete a questionnaire. Data collected will be statistically analyzed and expanded to properly represent all facets of the turfgrass industry in New Jersey. RESULTS WILL MEASURE KEY STATISTICS FOR EACH SEGMENT OF THE TURFGRASS INDUSTRY • Number of hired workers • Value of unpaid family labor • Equipment expenses • Non-equipment expenses • Paid labor expenses • Maintained acreage of turf WHAT CAN YOU DO? PLEASE complete the turfgrass survey questionnaire either by mail or when contacted by an interviewer. REPORTS Once the survey is tabulated, a publication will be prepared. Anyone receiving a questionnaire may request, on the survey form, a copy of the publication upon its completion. Others may contact the Center for Turfgrass Science at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences for a copy of the survey when it is completed. CONTACT If you have any questions about the NJ Turfgrass Economic Survey, please contact: Mr. Kevin P. Sullivan, Assistant Director of Statistical Analysis, Rutgers/NJ Agricultural Experiment Station, E-Mail: Dr. Bruce B. Clarke, Ph.D., Director, Center for Turfgrass Science, School of Environmental & Biological Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. E-Mail: Bruce.

WHEN? Launch target: December 2019 WHY? The purpose is to obtain up-to-date information on the nature, extent, and economic value and impact of the turfgrass industry in New Jersey. HOW? Lists of all known operations in each segment of turfgrass

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Feature Story

Snow and Ice Lawsuits – Can You Survive One?


ver the years, I’ve worked with attorneys on slipand-fall suits against property managers and snow contractors. I work for both plaintiff lawyers and defense lawyers, evaluating whether the property managers and contractors acted appropriately in their actions as part of a contract to plow snow and manage ice on commercial or industrial properties. I find it interesting that those contractors who are involved in one of the state or national trade associations are usually much better prepared to defend the inevitable lawsuit that arises as a result of wintry weather. Most of the time the snow contractor is contractually obligated to defend the property manager and the owner of the property in these cases. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the time it is rather easy to show a snow contractor has not done what was reasonable and prudent in light of their contractual obligations to the property owner or manager. It is rare these lawsuits go to trial. Most of the time a settlement is negotiated between the parties, to the benefit of the plaintiff.

Yes, sometimes the insurance companies pay a settlement considering it a “nuisance payout.” This means it is much cheaper to settle the claim than incur the expense of taking a case to trial. While this is aggravating to many, it is the economic reality of our world. Once the slip-and-fall claim becomes a lawsuit, the snow contractor is either named in the suit or is enjoined by the property manager or owner as a third party to the suit. Questions (or interrogatories) are provided in written form to the parties involved for answering. After interrogatories are exchanged, the parties ask for specific documents. This process is known as “discovery,” which can last several months as the parties look to gain as much knowledge as possible about events, documentation, contract language and other items for their case. After discovery is completed, depositions are taken. Individuals who may have knowledge or information about the incident, or what the contractors/managers/owners might know or have done as part of their work or responsibilities towards the parties involved are questioned under oath.

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Feature Story by John Allin, SnowFighters Institute Depositions are lawful testimony and most everything said in a deposition can be brought before a jury if the case goes to trial. Lawyers can ask many things in a deposition that might not be appropriate in court, but the deponent is still expected to truthfully answer all questions asked. Settlement discussions usually follow depositions, but occasionally can occur after discovery is completed. Both sides will argue their respective points in an effort to achieve a settlement without the cost of going to trial. This begs the question – what can I do as a responsible, professional snow contractor to protect myself from slip-and-fall claims of this nature? Unfortunately, in today’s world anyone can sue anyone for just about anything. All we can do is limit our exposure if we are named in a lawsuit related to our work on any given site. Documentation is a key element in protecting yourself. Assuming you are performing to the language of the contract, you need to document everything you do on all of your sites. Especially important is what you do to document deicing activities. Time on and off the site, the amount of product distributed and when you checked the site (or

performed “ice watch” activities) are a few of the items that need recorded. Sidewalk work on any site (if part of your contract responsibilities) should also result in detailed activity reports. Savvy investigations during the discovery process will request such documentation to determine if your activities on the site were appropriate and sensible. Often, the first discovery request will cover the date of the incident. Subsequent discovery requests will ask for your records a week prior and a week after the date of the incident. Why? The plaintiff ’s legal team is seeking to determine if records are consistent and not manufactured after the fact for the incident date. This is important for determining credibility of the contractor’s record-keeping system. Was the material applied appropriate for the conditions at the time? This can be determined from the records. Are your people properly trained? This, too, can be ascertained from company records. Did you use the appropriate amount of material for the conditions at the site? Check the records. Was the equipment properly calibrated for the material being distributed? Again, check the records. If the customer is an “on-call” deicing customer, do you keep track of when calls come in

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News Briefs

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Feature Story for service requests? What they are looking for are exact times. Good and diligent contractors keep track of every single call that comes into their office. Often, you will get a call to deice a parking lot 15 minutes after the slip-and-fall occurs. With no consistent records, you will have difficulty proving you were not at fault. Records. Records. Records. You cannot have enough. And, surprisingly, it doesn’t take that much extra time to keep thorough records. Ask the contractors who do keep copious records. They will tell you it’s worth it in the long run. Along with records, depositions are utilized to determine what happened from the viewpoint of the parties involved. Depositions are not designed to “trip you up” or catch you being untruthful. However, often deponents try to skirt the truth in an effort to get themselves off the hook. This is a big mistake. Not being truthful in a deposition creates some huge issues for all concerned. However, more often than skirting the truth, deponents will “guess” at answers instead of simply stating “I don’t know.” Deponents should answer each question truthfully and to the best of their knowledge. Don’t guess and don’t assume. Likewise, only answer the question on the table. Contractors can get themselves into trouble by “explaining” to get the lawyers to “understand” their position. Don’t do that. Lawyers will ask questions to find out what they want to know. They can ask follow-up questions if necessary. If the plaintiff ’s lawyer doesn’t bring out the points you want him to get, then your lawyer will do so. And, if your lawyer doesn’t get it out then, he will do so at trial. Trust your lawyer (or the insurance company’s lawyer). You know the snow business. They know the legal system. A very good snow contractor keeps their records for seven to 10 years. So what should you do when you are notified you are involved in a lawsuit? The very first move is to notify the insurance company. Normally, this is done through your agent. Forward the paperwork to them.

Keep a copy for yourself and start a file. Have someone gather up copies of everything pertaining to that customer for the winter the incident happened. Eventually, you will be asked for it. If the plaintiff ’s attorney does not ask for it, you may find the lawyer for the insurance company may be able to utilize the information on your behalf. When notifying the insurance company of the suit, include a note stating you want to chat with the adjuster assigned to your case. Telling the adjuster your side of the story at the outset may prove to be beneficial. The adjuster can be a great advocate for you with the insurance carrier, especially if you have properly documented your activities for the time of the incident. Once a lawyer is assigned to your case by the insurance carrier, you need to be forthright and honest with him about everything surrounding your business and the date of the incident. Participate and assist with your own defense. It can help a lot since the lawyer needs to understand what you do and how you do it. Never assume the lawyer knows about the snow removal industry. My experience is they do not. However, they want to learn and it is up to you to assist in their education. It will make it much easier to defend you. It is not up to you to determine if the lawyer takes your case to trial or attempts to settle it in a manner favorable to the insurance company. But, if you can adequately document your activities, can prove you were not negligent, and educate your lawyer about your business, then you have a much better chance to lower the payout to a size whereby you are not considered a liability to your insurance carrier. John Allin is a full-time snow industry consultant and expert witness for both plaintiff and defense cases. Reach him at or 814/434-1941. NJLCA.ORG 21

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Feature Article

New & Improved GFS Weather Model Saves You Money


s a meteorologist I am very excited that we may have the best forecasting for winter weather since forecasting began in 1861 as some new U.S. weather model upgrades have arrived. The new GFS (Global Forecast System) FV3 has been tested since late last winter and we are close to on par with the trusted and superior European model. The FV3-based GFS brings together the superior dynamics of global climate modeling with day-to-day reliability and speed of operational numerical weather prediction. Additional enhancements to the science that produce rain and snow in the GFS also contribute to the improved forecasting capability of this upgrade. The new dynamic core called the Finite-Volume CubedSphere (FV3) is a fluid model that now can make forecast changes on the fly like the European model has been doing for years. The old GFS was stuck with an initialization at 7am

by Rob Guarino, The Weather Pros

a co at e rot the you star and 7pm each day and as new data and info came in from across the U.S. it was stuck with making a forecast at that exact moment vs. making changes as the atmosphere changed from minute to minute and hour to hour like the European model. Think of it as the Giants losing a game to the Patriots at halftime and you couldn’t make any changes to the football plan vs. Bill Belichick of the Patriots using the using the European model and making adjustments for his team as they changed on the fly during the second half. This model has been tested since March and we feel with both models at top performance we’ll have two side by side models to compare along with much better short (1-3 days), mid range (3-5 day forecasts), and (6-16 day outlooks). This will be huge news for you when planning several hours to several days out for a significant winter storm and the changes you make in snow removal equipment, personal and even what type of salt treatments you may need. This winter will present a few nor’easters, we are pretty sure of that, and getting a better handle on that 1-5 days out vs. a few hours can save you not only time but also plenty of money this winter. This upgrade cost 50 million dollars and for once it’s tax dollars well spent in an otherwise cost cutting government when it comes to weather information and weather modelling. Rob Guarino is President of The Weather Pros, a weather consulting firm, and 3 other weather related websites. He was chief Meteorologist at Fox in Philadelphia for over 10 years serving NJ and PA. He has won 12 regional and national awards for accuracy and forecasting and is a member of the NJLCA. Sign-up for a free weather, text “trial” for your town at

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Turf Talk Well, fall finally came, along with the rain. We were at a serious deficit of rain, we had no rain from August through most of all of September. Talk about screwing with your fall weed killer application. Dry as a bone crabgrass on the edges in most places. I’m sure all of you did your fair share of aerating, slit seeding, top dressing or a combo of all three. I have been so mad at the line of death that is at every turning point from the Wright stander. I started taking a roto tiller to those areas. Top dressing is fine, but once the roots hit the hard pack the new grass generally peters out. Rototilling gives you a better chance of the grass sticking around, unless your crew start turning on the new grass all over again. There is another task that really signals fall is here and the year is almost over…cutting back perennials. I like to prune the woody Hydrangeas now and shape them at this time of year. Liriope...some people are obsessed with cutting them down. I only cut them if they have leaf blight or minor on them. Just leave them, it’s so time consuming and they look the same. Now the worst of the worst is Roses. I had a teacher at college who actually had a business only pruning Roses. I cut mine now in the fall. He said he liked spring, I think it’s kind of like an IRA, just do it every year before they get loaded with dead wood. Here is the rule of thumb for Roses – so pay attention: 5 – 7 canes prune to an outside bud. So, when you are done you should have 5-7 canes that are 12” to 18” tall. The buds face the outside so the new growth doesn’t cross and create a mess. Crepe Myrtle: how much do you cut it? I usually cut them in half or breast height. Butterfly bushes: cut them a hard 18” or 24” tall when done. They are so brittle, you really need to cut them. If you leave them, they split down to the soil level. This usually kills them. Smoke Trees – I’d chop these as well. Again, prune to broken branches. Ornamental Grasses – cut them now so they can’t make a mess all winter. Don’t cut too low; must be knee height, leave a little on – you wont be sorry. If you cut them too low, the snow sits on the crown and rots the center. See you all at the Gala! Good luck and keep growing! Greg Carpenter, CLT is co-owner of American Beauty Landscape since 1983. He attended the SUNY Farmingdale Turfgrass Program and is the Treasurer of the NJLCA. Greg also serves on the Rutgers Turfgrass Advisory Board and the Bergen Community College Horticultural Advisory Board.

Feature Story

Adding Fall Color While Avoiding the Deer by R.J. Curcio, staff ecologist at New Jersey Deer Control®, LLC Tis the season for Mums, Pansies, and Kale- here today but eaten tomorrow. Unfortunately, for a lot of New Jersey residents, many of the common fall plants they choose are often targeted by an increasingly difficult white-tailed deer population. If this is something you struggle with, below is a list of plants to try that will add color to the landscape in the fall that the deer tend to avoid. In early fall, Russian Sage (Perovskio atriplicifolia) and Blue Mist (Caryopteris clandonensis) are two perennial flowers that add bold shades of blue and purple to a landscape. These late-bloomers are very rarely eaten putting them both towards the top of the deer-resistant list. Helenium autumnale, commonly known as Sneezeweed, is a great mid-sized fall bloomer known for being deerresistant. Their colors are quite similar to mums with orange, yellow, and red flowers. Lobularia maritima is another great option the deer haven’t seemed to have taken a liking to. Also referred to as Sweet Alyssum, this annual can be used to fill the edges of beds or as an underplanting below larger flowers like the aforementioned Sneezeweed. The flowers will begin to bloom in early summer and remain through October. The bright white and lavender colors give nice contrast and can make your garden beds pop without the frustration of deer damage. Dusty Miller (Centaurea cineraria) is an annual often overlooked. It will bloom small yellow flowers in late summer and early fall, but the real value is in the foliage. Their silver leaves really stand out, providing nice contrast with the surrounding plants. Helenium autumnale Mariachi™ ‘Fuego’. Ornamental grasses are Photo courtesy of Stonehouse Nursery. another versatile group of plants not used enough. When many common landscaping plants are going dormant for the winter, grasses can add hues of red, green, and blue to the landscape come fall. The best part is, many species are deer resistant! Blue Fescue, Indian Grass, and Northern Sea Oats are just a few of many options. As always, keep in mind deer resistant does not mean deer proof. It is never a bad idea to have a plan in place for your customer to manage deer damage whether that be fencing, netting, or repellents.

RJ Curcio has a degree in Neuroscience from Drew University, where he focused on wild mammal behavior and ecology. After college, he worked for the NJ Dept. of Agriculture and is now the staff ecologist for NJ Deer Control.

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Feature Story

Landscape AlterNATIVEs: A Guide to Native Landscape Plants: SWEETGUM (Liquidambar styraciflua) by Steven Yergeau, Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent - Ocean & Atlantic Counties


ative plants are a good way to incorporate sustainable vegetation into yards for clients who are environmentally minded. Native plants are adapted to local climate and soil conditions, requiring less watering, fertilizers, and pesticides than non-native vegetation. For landscapers who have property owners looking for native alternatives to non-native vegetation, this column will provide one option per issue. Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) is a large, deciduous, native hardwood tree that can grow to 60-80 feet tall with a spread of 40-60 feet at maturity (Photo 1). It is distinctive for both its bright green star-shaped leaves and the

Photo 2: Seedpods for the sweetgum have spiky, burrlike growths (Photo Credit: Steve Yergeau).

Photo 1: Sweetgum in early summer (Photo Credit: Steve Yergeau).

spiky seedpods it produces (Photo 2). Sweetgum is a good tree for wildlife, as many birds, squirrels, and chipmunks eat the tree’s seeds. Sweetgum can tolerate a range of soil conditions, but prefers rich, moist soils. Sandy, loamy soils that are well drained are best for sweetgum. When planting, ensure that the roots have plenty of room for development, as sweetgum does not do well where root space is limited. It also cannot tolerate alkaline soils, and prefers slightly acidic soils (pH = 6.0-6.5). Sweetgum thrives with exposure to full sun. While intolerant of shade, it is tolerant of flooding and can be used as a windbreak on sites. It makes a good specimen plant, shade tree, and street tree. Sweetgum is a good choice to replace Norway maple (Acer platanoides), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), and Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora). Sweetgum is a low maintenance tree that provide brilliant color in the fall with the leaves turning yellow to a deep red. Any maintenance of sweetgum needs to account for the seedpods that drop in mid to late fall. These seedpods can be a nuisance if left on lawns and streets. You can find nurseries in New Jersey that sell native plants by visiting the Jersey-Friendly Yards website at where-to-buy-native-plants/.

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News Briefs

New Jersey Legislative Update by Ed Waters, State Street Associates


he New Jersey Senate and Assembly are currently on a break we have been told they will be back sometime in mid to late November. When they come back into session this will be the lame duck session of the New Jersey Legislature. The Senate and Assembly will continue to meet from November until the beginning of January, when the legislature will adjourn and the new session will begin. Here are some bills that we are keeping an eye on for lame duck. Although there’s not an indication that these bills will move, they have moved a considerable way through the process and we will continue to monitor for any action: S-2288 Smith (D17)/A-4562 Calabrese (D36) - Directs DEP to classify neonicotinoid pesticides as restricted use pesticides. These bills are opposed by many sectors of the industry due to the fact that banning neonics is not based on peer reviewed science. Neonics were developed to be safe for mammalian species and are great alternative to older chemistries. Currently on Second Reading in the Senate. No movement in the Assembly. A-2558 DeAngelo (D14)/S-2505 Oroho (R24) “Vegetation Management Response Act”; concerns vegetation management related to electric public utility infrastructure. This bill is opposed by arborist and Shade Tree Commissions. The bill is currently on 2nd Reading in the Senate and has passed in the Assembly. Industry groups have sent recommended amendments to the sponsors to address industry concerns. A-1676 Dancer (R12) - Establishes certain requirements for a State entity planting vegetation in certain circumstances; provides for preferences for NJ businesses providing such vegetation. Currently on Second Reading in the Assembly. No movement in the Senate.

Currently on Second Reading in the Assembly. No movement in the Senate. A-5526 Calabrese (D36) - Prohibits sale of milkweed plants treated with certain pesticides. Currently on Second Reading in the Assembly. No movement in the Senate. A-5529 Tully (D38)/S-3916 Andrzejczak (D1) - Creates “Pollinator Pathway” designation for municipalities. Currently on Second Reading in the Assembly. No movement in the Senate. A-5530 Houghtaling (D11)/ S-3912 Andrzejczak (D1) - Requires State Board of Agriculture to provide list of environmentally harmful plant species to certain committees of Legislature each year. Currently on Second Reading in the Assembly. No movement in the Senate. A-5531 Swain (D38)/ S-3917 Andrzejczak (D1) Establishes “pollinator-friendly” label for plants. Currently on Second Reading in the Assembly. No movement in the Senate. A-5532 Tully (D38)/ S-3913 Andrzejczak (D1) - Directs DEP to establish pollinator habitat program for closed landfills. Currently on Second Reading in the Assembly. No movement in the Senate. A-5533 Houghtaling (D11)/ S-3910 Andrzejczak (D1) Directs DEP to establish leasing program for State-owned land to be used and managed as pollinator habitat. Currently on Second Reading in the Assembly. No movement in the Senate. AJR80 Taliaferro (D3) - Establishes “Healthy Pollinators Task Force. No movement in the Senate.

A-4492 Houghtaling (D11)/S-3000 Bateman (R-16) Establishes “Jersey Native Plants Program.” Currently on Second Reading in the Assembly. Currently awaiting action in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. A-5014 Houghtaling (D11) - Directs DEP to establish grant program for institutions of higher education to support development of native seeds. Currently on Second Reading in the Assembly. No movement in the Senate. A-5015 Houghtaling (D11) - Requires Department of Agriculture to develop, and plant nurseries to make available to customers, brochure describing benefits of native plants.

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Get all of your equipment ready for the season: Tires, equipment rubber tracks, mower tires, foam fill and mechanical repair

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Feature Story

5 Strategies to Close Faster by Danny Wood, Sandler Training - Danny Wood Enterprises


or some salespeople, the amount of time it takes to set an initial prospect appointment is excessive. For others, the time spent defining and developing the opportunity is long. Others struggle with the amount of time it takes to secure a decision after submitting a proposal that drags out the selling cycle beyond reasonable limits. What can you do to close sales more quickly? Here are five specific strategies to shorten your selling cycle: Don’t start the cycle unless there is a compelling reason to do so. Initial prospect contact should focus on uncovering (or helping the prospect discover) pain; their need or desire that can be fulfilled by your service. To start, you must have a prospecting message. Your 30-second commercial or elevator pitch, must resonate with prospects, but also differentiate you from your competitors.

Obtain firm commitments. To keep the selling process moving forward, each step in the selling process should lead to the next step in a predictable and mutually agreed to manner. If you expect your prospect to discuss a particular topic, share specific information, or make a decision at the next meeting, then you must obtain their firm commitment to do so at the time you schedule the meeting. Failure to obtain commitments typically lead to the need for additional meetings or conversations... all of which extend the selling process.

Call at the top. Calling too low in an organization is typically a waste of time. If your selling efforts must start at a lower level, it’s imperative that you quickly determine who makes buying decisions. Then, you must contact them before you even begin to craft solutions. Deal with potential roadblocks early in the process. If your experiences suggest there are likely to be roadblocks to closing the sale, address potential roadblocks early sales cycle. Don’t wait for the prospect to bring them up in the form of objections later. If there’s going to be a barrier to closing a sale, the sooner you uncover it and deal with it, the better. If the roadblock can be removed, continue the selling process. If not, end the process wasting as little time as possible. You can redirect your efforts to a more viable opportunity. Disqualify opportunities as soon as possible. Be as diligent qualifying prospects’ eligibility to become customers as they are qualifying you to becoming a service provider. Have they expressed the need or desire to obtain your service? Do they have the budget? Are they able to make a buying decision in a timely manner based on criteria to which you have both agreed? Do their delivery requirements fall within the range of your capabilities? If the prospect doesn’t measure up to your benchmarks, find a prospect that does.

If you start with the right people for the right reasons; deal with potential problems early in the sales process; rigorously qualify opportunities; and ensure that you and your prospects are in agreement, you’ll close the sale faster ... which in turn means more sales…and more commissions. Danny Wood, a certified Sandler trainer, is one of New Jersey’s most respected experts in sales and management. His work is noted for providing his clients with the ability to realize additional revenue and business that would otherwise have never materialized or would have been lost to competitors. He is uniquely positioned to impact an organization’s productivity and long-term success promoting a healthy, productive and meaningful work culture. 201-842-0055,,

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News Briefs

Contractor Focus: Angel’s Landscape & Suburban Sidewalks


ngels Landscape & Suburban Sidewalks has been in business since 1996 with one simple principle in mind: Provide each customer with reliable and high quality service year-round. Twenty years ago they established their construction crew to provide a variety of services related to landscaping, including stone walls, pavers, outdoor rooms, patios, driveways, pool decks, retaining walls, sidewalks, curbs, aprons and more. Hernan Lovato, best known as Vinny, began his career in the green industry as a landscape helper for a company

called “Double G”. After just 2 years, Vinny bought the company and transformed it into Angels Landscape, where he incorporates masonry services to his clients. Later Vinny purchased Suburban Sidewalks, expanding his services with concrete. Vinny has an ICPI certification and graduated from Universidad Tecnológica Equinoccial (UTE) from Quito-Ecuador with a dual Bachelors degree in Accounting and Business Administration. “Believe and succeed” is his motto and motivation, which has helped him prosper in business for more than 20 years. Angels Landscape & Suburban Sidewalks are so proud of their TEAM of terrific people. Owner Vinny says, “They are the reason our company has continued to succeed. We work hard to hire the best and create opportunities for people who want to learn. It’s a family-like environment, where we care for each other and also strongly depend on one another to achieve success. As an employer, we depend greatly on our people. Our teams are the heart, soul, and face of the company. We continually work to provide substantial and innovative ways to support and recognize their tireless efforts.” It is clear that Vinny’s efforts have created an amazing environment surround him, his employees and company and we are proud to call them long-time members of the NJLCA. For more information, visit

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News Briefs

Associate Focus: Hoffman Equipment


n 1920 Bill and Harry Hoffman purchased their first truck and founded Hoffman Motor Transportation to deliver roofing material for installers. The trucking company expanded steadily over the next thirty years by specializing in heavy hauling and rigging, moving oversized objects, such as large machinery, structural steel, storage tanks, industrial boilers, and even diners. Hoffman acquired its first crane in the early ’40s, and this led to a dramatic new direction for the company; so much so that in 1949, Hoffman Rigging & Crane Service, Inc. was established as a complement to the transportation business. This side of the business grew quickly, eclipsing the transportation side and growing into a crane rental business that included a fleet of 75 cranes —crawler and truck mounted, lattice boom and hydraulic—with lifting capacities ranging from 15 to 300 tons. During the ’60s and ’70s, Hoffman focused and became heavily involved in rigging services needed for constructing nuclear power plants. At the same time, the company was one of the pioneers in freight containerization – their fleet of 10 P&H 300t truck cranes loaded every container coming or going from NY harbor until the advent of the permanent dockside gantry crane. As the nuclear power industry faded and the container loading business wound down, in 1978 Hoffman purchased an equipment distributor in Piscataway, NJ and moved headquarters there. From this base, Hoffman not only sold equipment into NY and NJ, but also found opportunities to supply US built equipment around the world, successfully supplying huge jobs in Russia, Iran, Colombia, Venezuela and Honduras to name just a few. Domestic distribution was their next evolution, and they have grown exponentially from their small dealership for Fiatallis equipment in Northern New Jersey. Over the years,

they have expanded our presence in the New Jersey/ New York area by adding 6 locations in: Deptford, New Jersey; Medford, Bronx, Marlboro, New York; and Lionville, Pennsylvania. As the company has grown, their lines have changed too, and they now represent some of the premier lines in the industry – Volvo, Manitowoc, Grove, National, Case, NPK, Atlas Copco, KPI/JCI, JCB and others. The company is now owned by Tim Watters, who represents the third generation of the Hoffman family to run the business. The values that have created this family business’ success over the years are the same values that fuel their growth today – they focus on customer service within an environment of trust, integrity, teamwork, honesty, commitment to each other, and dedication to their customers. Today, Hoffman International exports to 80 countries, especially to Sub-Sahara Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Russia/CIS. Total export sales represent 20 percent of annual sales of this major dealer/distributor of various U.S. manufacturers. The company sells cranes and other lifting equipment, dozers, excavators, road construction, maintenance and other associated equipment, spare parts and offers training to overseas customers. For more information, visit

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Feature Story

Keeping Your Drafting Skills Sharp by Joe Salemi, Vice President of DynaSCAPE Software



f you don’t use it, you lose it.” That couldn’t be any truer for technical drafting skills, especially if you have moved away from drafting designs regularly. Even if you’ve settled into a different role where technical drafting isn’t on your schedule much, it’s still important to keep working on those skills. Those skills are the reason you got to where you are in the first place, and you definitely don’t want to see them diminish. Why it’s so important to keep your skill set sharp Staying up to date: Skills change, even in technical drafting. So, staying up to date with the newest trends, ideas and processes will keep you in line with how the industry is working today. That includes learning new techniques, modern approaches, or finally working with landscape drafting software to complete designs. Coming up with new ideas: Every time you learn something new, it’s a chance to apply that new-found knowledge to your current situation. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but if you are actively taking online training courses and learning new skills, you can definitely apply that knowledge to your daily work. Becoming a more valuable team member: You may be reluctant to take on new projects if your skills are a little rusty. Or you could simply be out-of-date with how things are being done today. Continuing to grow and adding skills to your resume makes you a more valuable team member in the long run. Passing the skills down: If you find yourself in a managerial role, keeping your technical drafting skills sharp is definitely

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a must. New employees may have questions and will turn to you for answers. Even leaders have to continue learning, which means taking online training courses about their landscape drafting software so that they can teach others as well. Continuous learning is a must. Keep your technical drafting skills sharp through online training programs and encourage yourself to learn more. A day not learning is a day wasted. Setting time aside to keep your technical drafting skills sharp helps you to stay with the current trends, and not behind them. Joe Salemi is the Vice President DynaSCAPE Software. He spent ten years with the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association (CNLA) as their Member Services and Communications Manager. He holds a BA from Brock University in ON, where he concentrated on communications studies, marketing, and organization behavior.

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Feature Story

Legal Ease


Is Your Fleet Really Prepared for the Winter?

Non-Work Related Injuries

he cost of NON work-related employee injuries and fraudulent injuries cost employers plenty in HIGHER insurance premiums! The following is an actual example of an employee who tried to submit a NON work-related injury as a worker’s compensation claim; it was later proven to be fraudulent, saving the employer from having to pay thousands of dollars in additional Workers Compensation premiums: A tow truck driver alleged a knee injury while exiting his truck during a dispatch call. Having suspicions that the injury to the employee’s knee was NOT a work-related injury, the employer notified their Insurance Agent who reported it to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) of the Insurance company to investigate the validity of this claim.

The Insurance company initiated a field investigation and secured statements from multiple witnesses, including co-workers of the driver. One co-worker provided text messages sent by the employee indicating he was going to tell the employer his injury occurred at work when the coworker/witness knew the injury had occurred away from work and was NOT work related. There was also GPS records to corroborate his whereabouts on the date of the alleged accident that supported the witness’ statement. The driver testified that he was stepping out of his truck when his knee snapped, causing him to fall. When the Insurance company confronted the driver with the text messages, he withdrew his claim and the case was dismissed. The Insurance Company/SIU referred this case to local law enforcement and the driver was charged with felony insurance fraud. While Workers Compensation coverage is a “benefit” purchased by employers to safeguard their employees’ health and welfare, abuse of this benefit coverage continues to cost employers higher Worker’s Compensation premiums! Richard Gaynor, CIC, CRM is the President of Middleton and Company Insurance. He can be reached at 973383-5525 Ext. 222 or

by David Kay, T-Mobile


s the industry prepares for and prays for mountains of white gold this winter are you really prepared for it? Are you ensuring that your operations are drum tight through embracing technology to minimize frivolous lawsuits? Did you know there are several recent enhancements to GPS solutions that go far beyond showing you if your vehicle is where it is supposed to be? Let me explain and share a few examples. What if you were able to see historical routes driven down to the second, combined with exactly how much salt was spread in a location, or along a road. What would that do for your clients and your peace of mind that what was negotiated for the scope of work was being completed. How about when your plow was on the ground? Would that be powerful information if ever asked for proof something was plowed, and exactly when? What about instant alerts for when a vehicle arrives at a customer site, and leaves? What about Artificial intelligence cameras for truly detecting driver behavior reducing fatigue and distracted driving. Certainly, it would drop your insurance premiums if you utilized this technology and could have a much safer fleet on the road all winter. Remember the Nextel Push to Talk? We all had it and loved it. What if you could have it again? No app-based solution on a smartphone, but a true ruggedized device with military specs for dust, shock, vibration, 4-foot drop test, salt, extreme temperatures, rain and snow resistant. Think how much easier it would be to communicate with your employees this winter with a solution we relied on for years. These solutions all exist and many more to improve your operational efficiencies’. If you’re interested in learning about what type of technology solutions are now available feel free to drop me a note with what your wish list consists of and let’s find time to sit down and go through how to make you more profitable this winter season.

For more information, you can reach David Kay at 908-838-2138 or

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The [Safety] Culture Club Do you use your wife’s “soccer mom” car for work?


ave you ever noticed how many “so called contractors” use personal vehicles to conduct business? That’s right, so called contractors. If you want to be a Professional Contractor, conduct yourself as a professional, ALWAYS and in every way! As you drive around doing your job from day to day, look at your competitors and take notice of how their vehicles are registered. Some of us may even have to take a hard look at ourselves, unfortunately. Are your vehicles registered in compliance with the law? This is something I take notice of on a regular basis and I can tell you the numbers of violators are staggering. The laws in NJ, on this subject are very clear. If you are conducting “BUSINESS” with your vehicle, you are required to register your vehicle commercially, plain and simple. Please see the following:

News Briefs

The only exception would be the trademarks and labels of the vehicle manufacturer. During the registration process, the applicant must confirm that the vehicle will only be operated for personal use by answering the question on the back of Application Form BA-49 (found only at NJMVC agencies – complete on site). You will receive regular passenger plates when you register your non-commercial truck.

Non-commercial Trucks or SUVs A non-commercial truck (registration code 15) is a vehicle designed primarily for transportation of property but not used for commercial transportation of goods, wares, This information was taken directly off the NJDMV webmerchandise and/or used for hire. The most common nonsite. These are not my words but the words of DMV. If you commercial truck today is an SUV. have asked the people at DMV for clarification on this matter, ask yourself, do I trust the people that work at DMV with Vehicles that qualify as non-commercial trucks: my fate? If you answered yes to this question, this answers a • Pick-up trucks lot of my questions I have about contractors. Do yourself a • Vans favor and read the laws and statutes yourself. Although writ• SUVs ten in legal jargon, they are, for the most part understand• El-Camino - Chevrolet able. This one certainly is. • Ranchero - Ford One of the biggest reasons for registering your vehicle in • Brat - Subaru the company entity and not your own, LIABILITY! Do you really want to bring your personal life into your business and The following vehicles do not qualify: vice versa? One of the reasons for the separation of business • Wagon and pleasure via LLC, S Corp, or otherwise is for separation • Two door (coupes) of entities in the first place. Keep your personal life and pas• Convertible senger plates personal, keep your commercial life and com• Four door (sedans) mercial plates commercial. • Limousine In the end, let’s elevate ourselves to the top 10 percent of this industry we all love and not lower ourselves to the botRules and regulations tom 10 percent. Remember, it’s the things If you are registering your vehicle as a non-commercial you do when no one is looking that count. truck it may not have the following on the exterior: • Advertising Pat Donovan is the owner of Classic Land• Signs scaping and is a retired Port Authority of NY/ • Lettering NJ Police Officer. He is also the Chairman of • Names the NJLCA Safety Committee. • Addresses

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Feature Story

Your Warranty Can Make or Break a Sale (and get you in trouble)


hen you buy most anything today such as a tool, printer or appliance there is usually a 3 to 12-month warranty on your purchase. Most every retail store will attempt to sell you an additional two-year (or longer) warranty that makes them money but makes no sense to a consumer at all save for the most expensive purchases. When offering and performing landscape contracting services what you offer up as reassurance via a warranty can literally be the carrot on a stick that gets you the job. An example of this would be a homeowner considering a large landscape purchase that includes a patio, plantings, lighting and grading for drainage that includes a channel drain along the patio emptying into a subsurface tank. They have received three bids for the work that are all close in price and from local well-known contractors.

when it comes to your warranty. As a point in fact NJ consumer law does not require that you warranty anything. It does require that if you do offer a guarantee or warranty that you include a statement of guarantee/warranty on material, products, labor or services by you the seller in your contract. It would benefit you to study what your competitors are offering regarding warranties on services. Most will simply tell you if asked and when bidding some homeowners will share the information they got from other bidders. Think of yourself as an actuary that knows the numbers when it comes to how long a hardscape, plant, light fixture or any other feature that you sell and install will endure the test of time. If you know that using eight inches of quarry process stone combined with a top end paver from a well-known manufacturer will last without issues for 5 or 10 years, then offer a warranty that reflects that. If you know that your planting techniques and soil amendments coupled with proper plant

Contractor A gives a one-year warranty on everything with no clauses. Contractor B gives a one-year warranty on everything with a five-year warranty on the patio. His plant warranty only promises full replacement during the first six months. Contractor C splits his warranty up as follows: • Patio: 5 years against fading of pavers and sinking • Plantings: 1-year full replacement • Lighting: 5 years full replacement of LED lamps or fixtures • Drainage: 5-year performance warranty Contractor C has the highest price but only by a few hundred dollars, yet he gets the job as he made the clients feel comfortable with his emphasis during the sales process on his long warranties. It made him stand out from the others. Photo courtesy of Scenic Landscaping, 2019 Now do not take this example as a call to promise the moon

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Feature Story

selection makes your landscapes last for many years, then step up to the plate and back it up with a solid warranty. Knowing what endures and feeling confident that your warranty is both solid and has a reasonable expectation of expiring without incident is only one side of the guarantee/ warranty coin. Knowing what to exclude in your warranty is the next step to think about before committing to replace anything and should be reviewed by an attorney familiar with consumer law before placing such exclusions in a contract. Examples of reasonable exclusions would be a clause in your warranty that is specific to the service provided such as a planting warranty that is void if the client fails to water properly. In such an instance be sure to state in writing that you will be the sole arbiter of cause as to why the plant died. And be honest-do not be self-serving by fabricating a causelive up to the letter of your contract. Another exclusion would be to state that all warranties

by John Raffiani, Raffiani’s Automatic Sprinklers

are null and void if physical damage was to blame. No one I know gives a blanket warranty that covers damage by others unless they worded the warranty incorrectly or failed to note exclusions. Do not make any vague promises as such vagueness can lead to disputes that can damage your rapport with the client and your reputation. Keep in mind that a contract is for quantifying an agreement and protecting the interests of both parties. Your guarantee/warranty is an integral part of that contract and for you and your client to be satisfied: Use guarantee limitations that will go a long way towards limiting debate over what is and is not covered by your warranty. It will also put you into the driver’s seat when it comes to your client claiming and then expecting you to honor warranties when you have determined that you are not responsible on a case by case occurrence. Using guarantee limitation clauses ensure that you are the only person who decides if a specific problem is covered as a guarantee/warranty incident and specifies the actions that would void said guarantee/ warranty. And always have an attorney review any clause before going to print and using them on the consuming public. Legal advice can be priceless. Happy contracting! John Raffiani has been in the industry since the late 1950’s when he started to work at his grandfather’s shrub farm and greenhouses. Since 1965 he has installed numerous landscape, lighting, drainage and irrigation systems throughout the U.S. He also teaches irrigation, soil amendments and business courses for the Irrigation Association of NJ and others. Recently he has joined the education team at the national Irrigation Association.

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Anthony Politi Snow Removal Anthony Politi Matawan, NJ Bella Landscaping, LLC Tory Fernandes Springfield, NJ

Lincoln 1st Bank Aaron Morse Montville, NJ LSI Services, LLC Dardan Bilali Orangeburg, NY

Cold Spring Lawn & Landscape, LLC Justin Pill Glen Gardner, NJ

Maple Meadows Landscaping Eric Hedlund Upper Saddle River, NJ

DeAndrea Landscaping Douglas Deandrea Brookside, NJ

Mr. C Fence Adam Reisboard Garfield, NJ

Down Neck Equipment Rentals, Inc. Joe Piccenza Newark, NJ

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Federated Insurance Daniel Dowdy Cranberry Township, PA

Nextgen Equipment Supply Jeff Carpenter & Greg Carpenter Paramus, NJ

Sitefotos Michael Lindenbaum Denver, CO Sloatsburg Nursery Simon Davis Sloatsburg, NY Tree Plus, Inc. Tara Mackinson / Peter Mackinson East Hanover, NJ Trivisonno Landscaping, LLC Dan Trivisonno Bergenfield, NJ Twin Resources, Inc. William McDaid Eatontown, NJ Vanderveen Landscaping Graham Vanderveen Butler, NJ

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Feature Story

Stop letting your attitude about money hold back your growth


t’s one of the most important relationships in your thriving landscape business today, and yet it’s something people rarely want to talk about. How you relate to money—the way you think about what you deserve to earn, and how you manage the company that creates it—is a major determining factor in your success, wealth and happiness as a business owner. With every client I coach, I tackle that issue head-on. And almost every time, I uncover false beliefs that people have about their relationship with money on both a personal and ownership level. When it comes to personal earnings, most owners chronically underpay themselves. And not even as a matter of circumstance. They choose to do this! That behavior infects the way they think about the earning potential of their entire business. Even then, all that unrealized potential is a symptom of a deeper strategic problem. The real issue is a matter of having the right wealth-creation goals: knowing which ones you must set for yourself and having a plan for how to reach them. Do this wrong and you set yourself up for disappointment. Do it correctly and you gain a sure-fire way to grow your wealth. Here are the five goals you need to be setting today so you can boost profitable revenues and start paying yourself what you’re worth.

1. Focus on what makes you more profitable with a better return on assets One of the biggest mistakes I see in the landscaping industry today is service over-diversification. It creates excess equipment and people overhead, waters down your processes and accelerates your cash drain. It comes from an inability to say “no” to people and ideas. Instead, say “yes” to having a laser-like focus on only your best services and then scale them. Furthermore, each service needs to have what I call a profit curve (see figure): the ability to raise profitability with the right mix of add-ons and upgrades. Selling more of what your customer both wants and needs leads you to a higher profit level.

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Feature Story

2. Learn the difference between bad debt and good debt Borrowing money so you can buy new, revenue-accelerating equipment is smart. Borrowing to make payroll is not. Be sensible when it comes to debt. What’s the problem you’re seeking to solve? If your answer sounds like: “because I need money now to survive,” then you’re at risk of taking on more bad debt. All that will do is further deplete your resources and erode your profits. Good debt, on the other hand, gives you growth that would otherwise be out of reach. 3. Be aggressive in shrinking re-work Returning to a finished project or job to perform re-work equals time you’d otherwise be spending on earning revenue and new business elsewhere. Any significant amount of gobacks is an indication of an expensive misalignment between what your customer expects and what your company is delivering. Set higher expectations, better systems and better training with your team to get things done right the first time. Communicate to your team that there are real financial costs each time that doesn’t happen. Make sure your incentives take re-work into account. 4. Learn to lead by the numbers This is the highest value work you can do as a business owner. Shift your focus from managing the work to leading your business with a knowledgeable understanding of the numbers. Look hard at where the work is most profitable. Identify and sell exclusively to your Green-Light Custom-

by Jeffrey Scott, The Leader’s Edge

ers®: your right fit, high margin clients. Doing this gives you the room you need to be more creative and take calculated risks in growing your business. 5. Find your multipliers Last but perhaps most important, achieve higher earnings by focusing on your employees—not all of them, but the true multipliers. As I talk about in my book, Destination Company®, a high-earning business is one that attracts, develops and retains great employees. That means you invest more on your inner circle of top-tier performers in your organization. The better they perform, the more your earnings and free time will multiply. So get serious about adjusting your attitude about money. The sooner you do this, the sooner you’ll be maximizing your wealth: putting you on track to giving you the raise(s) you deserve when you want them, and creating the ideal lifestyle you have always dreamt of and deserve. Jeffrey Scott, MBA, author, specializes in growth and profit maximization in the Green Industry. His expertise is rooted in his personal success, growing his own company into a $10 million enterprise. Now, he facilitates the Leader’s Edge peer group for landscape business owners—members achieve a 27 percent profit increase in their first year. To learn more visit

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News Briefs

CLT, LICT, PC? by Joe Bolognese, Kindergan Landscaping and NJLCA Certification Committee Chairman

One of the early photos of the CLT exam - Candidates and Judges


s of Oct 5th, 2019, the NJLCA administered it’s last hands on exam for the LICT (CLT) certification. For many years, the test has been a staple member benefit at our association. I remember back in 2007, when I first volunteered to judge at the test, which was being offered in Atlantic City at the MAHTS (MidAtlantic Hardscapes Trade Show). It was our first (and last) attempt at offering the hands on test indoors Joe Bolognese, Kindergan Landscaping judging Drew (with the exception Shepherd, Magic Landscaping in Lateral Repair & Head Adjustment during the 2007 exam at MAHTS of a few outdoor machines). With all of the planning and preparation that goes into a test such as this, no one could have ever foreseen the obstacle that fell upon us..out of the sky...SNOW! Only a handful of candidates arThe indoor version of Tree Planting at MAHTS rived that day. But we gave them the best exam we could and even had some go on to become CLTs! For the last 22 years NJLCA has purchased the rights for and administered the

test (since 1997). We are keeping our optimistic fingers crossed that the test, (which is now offered totally online) will afford the same opportunity for Landscape Contractor company owners Derek Pukash, CST Pavers and Bob Pedato have the knowledge, tella, Kodiak Landscape setting up at one expertise and most im- of the exams at Rutgers portant, safety practices of their foreman and employees “examined” and “judged” for efficiency, effectiveness, and proactive safety awareness. Stay tuned to this magazine, and our web site ( for more information on how you and your employees can take the test online coming in early 2020. And don’t forget to check out all of the Educational op- Michael Kukol, Horizon Landportunities that NJLCA has to scape setting up irrigation modules offer like our monthly Webinar series Branching Out®, our annual Landscape New Jersey® Trade Show and Conference, our seminar series NJLCA-University® and much more. Joe Bolognese is the Construction Administrator for Kindergan Landscaping, LLC. He is a Past Vice President and currently a Director of the NJLCA. He is also Chair of the Education and Landscape Industry Certified Exam Committees. He has over 20 years experience in the landscape and irrigation supply industry and can be reached at Mark Stupcenski, Beebe Landscape Services, setting up Plant Layout

Bill Anlas, Storr Tractor and Dyle MacGregor, Keep it Green Landscaping helping out at one of the early exams 2018 Landscape Industry Certified Exam - Candidates and Judges

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