How to Comply with OSHA’s Updated Regulations

OSHA updated regulations

Managing employees involves more than simply setting schedules or approving vacation days. Ensuring the safety and security of workers is a large portion of the job, specifically in dangerous professions such as construction, logging, and commercial fishing. To keep everyone safe, employers look to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for life-saving guidelines.

This past year, over 70 new rules, pre-rules, or final rules have been instated and rigidly upheld by OSHA. Employers are expected to stay “on top” of the ongoing changes in the realm of workplace safety and keep their employees informed at all times.

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Complying with OSHA standards is largely up to the employer. In fact, OSHA gives employees certain rights to take action and ensure their workplace is safe. For example, workers may file complaints regarding unsafe working conditions or refuse to work when they face imminent danger in the workplace. The worker’s employer cannot retaliate based on these disputes and such complaints are directly addressed by OSHA. To avoid these issues, employers must take it upon themselves to know the guidelines and follow them.

Below, we’ve summarized 5 important points to help maintain a consistent schedule of staying informed and keeping employees safe in your facility.

1. Be Consistently Knowledgeable

This is the most obvious foundation for understanding and adhering to the new OSHA directives. However, successfully meeting these regulation changes is an extensive and rigorous process for many companies.

The age of the internet makes this kind of information very accessible – so much so that there is no real reason why companies should not be fully updated at all times. The OSHA website is the best (and easiest) place to stay informed and up-to-date on the latest regulations and provides a slew of guidance and documentation on how to efficiently implement these rules in the workplace.

2. Designate a Role

It may be worth considering adding a full-time position (or a part-time position for smaller companies) to successfully enforce these regulations at a worksite. Some larger organizations have a safety professional on staff who is solely responsible for conducting all safety audits, maintaining a safety plan, and providing updated trainings for employees. In smaller companies, these duties typically fall on the facilities manager or an employee in Human Resources.

Hiring a dedicated safety professional is both effective and productive, and also provides a sense of security throughout the company. Choosing shortcuts by assigning safety duties among several employees can create chaos and leaves a large margin for error. Given the harsh penalties and the rigidity of OSHA’s rules, it’s best not to gamble.

3. Worksite Analysis

Whether or not an organization hires a safety professional, there must be regular inspections of equipment, work spaces and ergonomics, chemical exposures, overall processes, and employee conduct. This is the only way an employer can improve upon safety issues and develop an enhanced system of operations.

Once worksite hazards have been identified, the next step is getting them under control. Injury preventative plans may include tasks such as maintaining equipment; ensuring employees know how to use and maintain personal protective equipment; confirming all employees understand and follow safe work procedures; and investing in a facility-specific medical program to help prevent workplace hazards and exposures.

Safety inspections are not limited to large organizations; even small businesses must comply with OSHA safety standards. Since smaller business owners may not be as familiar with OSHA regulations or may have a different level of standards according to their size, there are various voluntary compliance programs available to assist. The OSHA Consultation Service helps small employers identify potential hazards and how to improve their occupational safety and health management. The service also offers third party training and education for employees.

4. Staff Trainings

Safety trainings should occur regularly, even without changes to OSHA regulations. For example, after a safety audit of all processes is conducted, a training or some kind of follow-up meeting should be held to review any significant issues that were uncovered.

If there are no safety professionals appointed, employers don’t need to worry about bringing in an OSHA representative or hiring an outside source to conduct the training sessions. OSHA provides guidance in their documentation and resources to help employers educate their workers.

5. Recordkeeping

Keeping a log of all accidents that occur in the workplace is now an official OSHA final rule. By upholding this requirement, not only are regulations being met, but a track record of safety improvements (or lack thereof) is made. This information is invaluable when creating a new safety plan.

According to the final rule for recordkeeping:

1. All establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must submit their injury and illness data to OSHA annually.

2. Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain so-called “high hazard industries” must submit information from their 300A Annual Summaries each year.

3. All submissions to OSHA must be made electronically via a secure internet connection.

4. OSHA will then publish the data online.

The goal of this rule is to keep organizations accountable and prompt them to uphold their image, similar to the publication of restaurant health inspection results. Keeping accurate records of work-related accidents or illnesses not only complies with regulations, but also benefits employers and their companies.

 

It may seem like an inconvenience to some workers to spend a portion of their day focusing on safety measures. Perhaps the most important thing an organization can do is assist workers in adapting to the changes in regulations and safety processes. Successful employers will lead a newly-updated safety plan without creating an extra burden for employees.

Regardless of how well employees adhere to the proper safety measures set in place, it is still the responsibility of the employer to keep the plan consistent and keep employees up-to-date. Good communication is essential for successful safety plan implementation. Without consistent and clear communication among coworkers, managers, and other staff, meeting OSHA regulations is not the only thing that is at risk for failure.

For a list of regulations for specific industries, visit the OSHA website.

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Be An Office Pro: 6 Tricks to Keep Your Landscaping Business Expertly Organized

business organization

Organization is a major key in running an efficient business and avoiding future headaches. For landscaping businesses, there is often an ebb and flow of scheduled work due to weather changes. Colder temperatures means workloads may fluctuate temporarily. This is why being organized should be a priority.

Organization is not just a pillar of running a successful business; it goes hand-in-hand with professionalism. Operating an organized business encourages client and financial growth. You need to be organized in order to keep your business open, to keep your current clients happy, and to attract new ones. Not to mention, who needs the stress that disorganization brings?

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Here, we’ve compiled 6 essential tips for managing your business – and organizing every aspect of it – to help you become an office organizational expert.

1. Schedule your clients digitally.

Commit everything to a digital calendar to keep track of your clients’ needs. Give each client a time slot. Include their name, contact information, and who will provide the service from your team. There’s no such thing as too many details here. In fact, the more, the better. If a client likes their service done a specific way, add those tidbits into the calendar slot, too.

Taking the time to choose the right digital calendar for your business is equally important. Of course, there’s the run-of-the-mill options like Google Calendar and the MS Outlook calendar. Look into other digital calendar alternatives, such as Teamup which allows for group sharing.

2. Streamline your invoicing process.

Evaluate your current invoicing process. Does it work seamlessly or could it use slight tweaks and improvements? Invoicing for your business should be standardized. Make sure the process is clear and that everyone on your team (who needs to) understands it. Create a standard invoice sheet if one hasn’t been created already.

If you’re still using a paper invoice system, consider switching to digital invoicing. Paper invoices can easily get lost and are subject to illegible handwriting. Quickbooks is a great program for keeping accounting information all in one place and includes electronic invoicing options. If the cost of Quickbooks is beyond what you’re currently able or willing to invest, opt for a program like Viewpost. Sending and receiving invoices as well as invoice tracking are free via the Viewpost website.  

3. Strategize a system for smooth team communication.

Most of us can recall a time when we were involved in an endless game of telephone. Likewise, you’ve probably lost count of how many times you’ve fallen victim to a “reply all” email that copied too many people on what could have been a simple, one-to-one response. Prevent frustration by reducing these unnecessary group communication failures.

If your team is digitally inclined, use a group messaging platform like Slack to manage quick quips that could eliminate never-ending email chains. Slack can be used on desktops or installed as an app on Android or iPhone. Slack will allow users to search for specific terms to find past communication threads, tag important parts of conversations, and alert individuals within a group chat. It’s the texting of the future.

4. Be meticulous with tax information and paperwork.

Keeping tax information organized and paying close attention to detail could save time and money once April 15 rolls around. Keeping itemized receipts for all your business expenses can be helpful, as is keeping a running tally of expenses you expect to be written off. Try to pass along all necessary documents for tax filing to your business accountant or bookkeeper quarterly.

5. Back up your records.

Ever had a day when everything technological went wrong? Your trusted computer that usually runs fast is acting wonky and keeps restarting. The Internet goes out in your service area for hours. All of a sudden, all the digital records you had are obsolete and inaccessible.

There’s not enough that can be said about using offsite backup systems. If you’re unable to access your records from your office or business computers, many offsite backup platforms will allow you to access your documents from a smartphone. Free options like Google Drive have handy applications that show you your documents and will even let you make edits to them. Search out other cloud-based backup options that will give you emergency and offsite access to your CRM system or other important files. It’s not safe to keep stuff in one place – back it up and save yourself a headache later.

6. Review, review, review.

When in doubt, review. Double check everything. Get a second set of eyes to look over things. Reviewing is the last piece of the puzzle to keeping your business running smoothly and the glue that holds it all together.

Despite what processes may be in place, they are null and void without proper review – both for mistakes and for evaluation of whether the existing ones are effective. By reviewing your current systems, you may find a method that formerly worked is no longer sufficient. From there, you can begin troubleshooting and tinkering with how to get back on track.

Internal system reviews should be ongoing. They shouldn’t be neglected until things are “out of control” or disorganized. Instead, use these reviews to consistently take a look at where you can improve to make your business stronger behind the scenes.

 

As a business owner, you wear a number of hats. Organizing your business office practices will help you alleviate unnecessary stress and make each part of your company run like a well-oiled machine.

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4 Surprising Reasons Why You Should Invest in a Tractor

invest in a tractor

Mowing a lawn, landscaping a front yard, and undertaking farming work would undoubtedly be a pain without the power of the tractor. In fact, the introduction of the gas powered tractor in 1890 by John Froelich forever transformed farming in America. The rest is history. Since then, tractors have continuously improved the livelihoods of many people around the world.

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So, if you haven’t yet owned a tractor, here are 4 surprising reasons why you should invest in one.

1. No more crazy work hours.

We all want to spend our time and effort on the work that we love, not on tedious labor like weeding, ploughing, and tilling the soil. Leave the boring tasks to the machine and focus on what you enjoy the most.

It takes no time for a tractor to clear those annoying bushes, spread fertilizer, and maintain your beautiful lawn on a regular basis. For modern farmers, using tractors equals reduced manual labor and lengthy work days while increasing overall farm production.

2. It’s versatile.

Yes, there are a wide range of tractors out there, from utility tractors and row crop tractors to garden tractors and chicken tractors. However, newer models are designed to accomplish different purposes, ranging from gardening and small farming tasks to transporting products to a local market or raw materials to households in many developing countries.

3. It’s a money saver.

Reducing overhead costs is vital in sustaining a profitable business. A tractor is a great investment for landscapers, farmers, and other manual labor-intensive industries as it reduces a considerable amount of man hours for outdoor work while meeting a deadline. Perhaps it’s fair to say a modern tractor is more dependable than a horse.

4. It reduces operator fatigue.

Don’t get intimidated by the size of those tractors. They’re powerful, yet easy to operate. In recent years, technology has enabled many heavy equipment companies to create machines that drive themselves. Though fully driverless tractors are still at least a decade away, it’s inevitable that technology-empowered machines will be another deal breaker in the industry.

 

If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to invest in a tractor (or maybe never considered how one might be beneficial), there’s no time like the present! Start researching different models and determine the right fit for you. With all the options out there, you’re sure to find a perfect match.

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7 Tips for Keeping Your Heavy Equipment in Tip-Top Shape

heavy equipment care

In many senses, heavy equipment can be thought of as the backbone of industries like construction, mining, logging, agriculture, and more. Without heavy-duty equipment like bulldozers, forklifts, and backhoes, workers in these industries likely wouldn’t be able to complete their jobs (or, at a minimum, would need drastically more hours and manpower to complete projects of the same scale).

While these types of machines are extremely powerful and robust, they’re still susceptible to wear and tear, breakdowns, and external and internal damage. Due to the size and complexity of heavy equipment, repairing even minor damage can come with a high price tag.

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Fortunately, you can minimize costly equipment repairs by staying ahead of the game and taking these 7 preventative measures to keep your heavy equipment in tip-top shape.

1. Make time for regular cleanings.

One of the simplest solutions for taking care of your heavy equipment also happens to be one of the most important: keep your equipment squeaky clean!

Natural substances that your equipment may be regularly exposed to such as mud, dirt, and dust can clog filters and vents, as well as damage any electrical components. Additionally, these elements can speed up processes like rusting and contribute to general wearing down of heavy equipment over time. Set a schedule for pressure washing your equipment to remove hardened mud and grease buildup; create a separate schedule for additional cleaning procedures like replacing filters and cleaning your engine.

Cleaning your heavy equipment regularly is a quick, easy, and cost-effective solution, but one that is all too often overlooked.

2. Proactively protect electronics and wires.

Speaking of damage caused by dust, water, and other elements, it’s important to pay special attention to any electrical components in your equipment, including wires and circuits that are normally covered. Be sure they are sufficiently protected from water, snow, dust, and other environmental conditions that could potentially shorten their lifespan.

It’s also good to keep an eye on how your heavy equipment’s starter, alternator, and other key electrical parts are performing. When it comes to parts like these, it’s often more expensive to replace the damage that has already been done than it would have been to prevent it.

3. Stick to a steady lubrication schedule.

Lubricants can play a big role in helping to extend machinery lifespans. There are a lot of moving parts in heavy equipment and lubricants can help to reduce friction, minimize wear-and-tear, and keep things running smoothly in an operational sense. Lubricants are also key to keeping important interior parts clean, since they can reduce soot buildup and form seals that keep out contaminants.

However, remember that not all lubricants are the same! It’s important to use the correct lubricants based on the manufacturer’s recommendations, as using the wrong kind could potentially be its own source of damage for your machinery.

4. Check your tires often.

A tire blowout or broken axle is often more of a pain to repair than it is to prevent in the first place (and in some cases, repairing them can be more expensive, too).

Stop tire damage in its tracks (sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves!) by keeping an eye on your tires’ general condition, especially before, during, and after using them in gravel, thick mud, or other particularly rough conditions. Remember that worn-down treads – while not necessarily considered “damaged” – can be a dangerous and serious problem, too.

5. Invest in trustworthy storage.

We can’t stress this one enough. It’s so important to store heavy equipment in an area that offers protection from extreme heat and cold, direct sunlight, rust, corrosion, and other environmental elements.

It’s one thing to incur some wear-and-tear when your equipment is actually in use, but you definitely shouldn’t be letting it take on any damage when it’s just sitting there. The best part about this tip is that it’s one-and-done: after you’ve secured your storage space, all you have to do is remember to put your equipment away each day. It’s a simple yet effective solution.

6. Know your equipment’s limits.

Remember that manufacturer’s manual that was included when you first purchased your heavy equipment? It may be time to dust it off and give it a quick read-through.

It’s crucial to understand your equipment’s recommended weight load limits and to stay well within those boundaries. Overuse is another harmful problem that can lead to your equipment’s engine becoming overheated and in some cases, can cause a series of functional damage.

Likewise, try to limit your equipment’s use in potentially damaging conditions like extreme heat, cold, ice, snow, and rain. Not only is this smart from a safety perspective, but it can also help extend your equipment’s lifespan.

7. Keep highly detailed records.

Make record-keeping a regular part of your equipment care routine, even before you start to experience any operational issues. Schedule frequent maintenance check-ups and record the results of those check-ups in a spreadsheet with dates and specific notes on how your equipment is performing. These records can often prove to be extremely useful when equipment begins underperforming as it provides a clear and concise picture of when, where, and even why the problem first started.

Similarly, be sure to keep track of any repairs that take place so you can construct a timeline of how frequently the equipment receives repairs, if any of the repairs are for recurring problems, and if those repairs are living up to their promised warranties. This type of information can help shed some light on any common causes of damage or underlying faulty parts which you can then take steps to correct

 

Purchasing heavy equipment is a big investment, and as with all investments, you’ll want to make sure that you receive your highest ROI possible by extending your equipment’s working lifespan to its maximum limit. The good news? All it really takes to keep your heavy equipment running smoothly is a keen eye for detail and willingness to stick to a schedule.

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5 Ways to Save Your Landscaping Business (And Your Clients) Money

save money landscaping business

With so much competition out there for landscaping businesses, it can be overwhelming trying to stand out as unique or more affordable without compromising quality. Daunting as the task may seem, however, searching for ways to save your business money should be a consistent goal to keep your (and your clients’) wallet happy.

Certainly, big company changes can yield cost-effective results, but they often come with a hefty upfront price tag and workload. Luckily, there are some smaller ways to save your business money that will help cut down your expenses and also make you stand out among the competition.

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1. Time Management: Minimize idle time.

It’s no secret that being fully aware of time and how it’s spent can have profound successful impacts on many aspects of life. Your landscaping business deserves the same scrutiny.

Time is money; all commuting and setup times required for a job need to be accounted for to be sure no minute is wasted. Plan out specific routes for job sites to maximize efficiency when commuting in order to minimize idle time that employees could spend working.

In addition to commuting time, see if there are small changes which can be made even before leaving for a job. Little things like organizing equipment prior to leaving the warehouse or creating a special storage space in the evening for morning jobs can make huge differences when it comes to saving time and money.

2. Maximize virtual outreach efforts.

Making full and creative use of the virtual space your company occupies can have lasting benefits on your influence and success without costing too much. Despite the physical nature of landscaping, the reality is that most people today spend a good amount of time online, and that includes your clients. If you’ve already tapped into the digital marketing sphere with your business, consider expanding your efforts. If you’re just getting started – don’t waste another minute.

Digital marketing and outreach efforts can be inexpensive and effective additions to your marketing scheme. Try using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to keep your existing and potential future clients in the know. Posts don’t have to be specifically related to your business to be effective; you could try sharing information about the weather or tips and tricks about gardening and home landscaping to show your customer base you care.

Instead of spending time, energy, and physical labor or resources on print ads or door-to-door marketing, make going digital your goal and it could save you (and make you more) money.

3. Make better purchasing decisions.

Landscaping businesses need to have a healthy relationship with their vendors and be knowledgeable about the market. Define the best times, brands, and products when making purchases for your business and continue to update and change this knowledge throughout the year.

Of course, buying equipment after the summer season will be cheaper than buying before the height of landscaping projects in the spring. But there are other ways to save money on your new or replacement equipment purchases. Check out some of our online auctions of used government landscaping equipment for great products going for surprisingly low prices. These products are uploaded and updated online often so you don’t have to wait around for off-season sales.

4. Be a tax expert.

Knowing the ins and outs of taxes, including write-offs, deductions, and sales taxes, is crucial to your business’s success and longevity.

Tax write-offs can sound appealing for equipment purchases, but be sure to check with your bookkeeper before you write anything off. Often, writing off equipment purchased for your business does not make you exempt from paying; it merely defers payment to a future year so be sure to check the fine print and work closely with your accountant.

Deductions are another part of taxes that can save your business money, and there are many different and potentially surprising expenses that can be deducted from your expenditures and taxes. Trips, travel, gas… all these things and more can be eligible for exemptions or deductions, and it pays to know the specifics.

Depending on your state, there are various discrepancies concerning sales tax. Luckily, labor is never subject to taxes, but understanding which other purchases and expenses you need to pay tax on is imperative. Make sure you have an open and consistent relationship with your accountant throughout the year so tax season doesn’t set you back right before the busy landscaping season begins.

5. Weed out subcontractors.

Although the transition from various external contractors to all in-house efforts can be expensive upfront, it can have extensive money-saving benefits in the long run. Determine which external services your business is utilizing that can be switched over to your internal team with the least upfront training and sunk costs, and make it a goal to get there as soon as financially feasible.

Having your own employees working for you gives your company more face time with clients and gives you more control over performance and standards. If it’s in your budget, start with just one department and try to build it from the ground up. That might mean starting with an employee who has zero experience and investing in necessary training. Even though this may seem intimidating at first, the long-term benefits make moving towards complete internalization worthwhile.

 

Considering and implementing any number of these money-saving ideas could have lasting effects on your landscaping business. By focusing some energy on analyzing your current strategies and looking for small areas to change or improve can make your business stronger and give your finances a positive boost. In the competitive world of landscaping businesses, it’s never too late to start making little changes that you and your clients can appreciate.

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The “M” Word: Best Practices for Regularly-Scheduled Equipment Maintenance

 

heavy equipment maintenance

The true workhorse of any modern manufacturing plant is the equipment. Manufacturers around the world know that consistent, high-quality maintenance is crucial in keeping equipment in optimal condition, minimizing downtime, and eventually, cutting costs and improving production.

Nevertheless, in reality, many manufacturers are still conducting up to 90% of maintenance tasks from a reactive basis rather than a proactive standpoint. Amongst all, they often blame it on the age of the equipment; the shortage of important, expensive spare parts; and the fast pace of manufacturing.

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Instead of making excuses, it’s time for equipment owners to step up and start applying periodic, proactive measures in their care and upkeep applications. Here are some of the best maintenance practices to help your organization achieve operational efficiency.

1. Implement a proper preventive maintenance program.

Preventive maintenance consists of actions performed after a period of time or after a certain level of production. This helps your business detect, prevent, or minimize degradation of components and replace them at the first signs of wear. It also allows you to decrease the number of failures and extend the life of the equipment. In return, this translates into dollar savings. Think of the reasons we take our personal vehicles in for regular tune-ups, oil changes, and all-around maintenance checks.

According to a report sponsored by the United States Department of Energy, Office of Federal Energy Management Programs, studies have shown that adopting preventive approaches can save businesses approximately 12-18% of costs over that of reactive maintenance programs (implementing maintenance practices or scheduling maintenance after incidents of equipment failure or other occurrences).

2. Keep operator training up-to-date.

Even though operator training is essential as soon as a piece of machinery is acquired, it’s equally important to stay on top of training. Employees come and go. Even the most veteran operators are not excluded from making mistakes. As skills become rusty, make sure to revise operator manuals for specific work situations and always use the most current version of each manual.

3. Conduct periodic inspections.

Even if you’ve got a preventive maintenance program in place, it’s highly recommended to add periodic inspections to your to-do list. Over time, many key components will age – you might want to replace some gears, belts, wires, and cables with higher quality and more reliable counterparts. Regular inspection enables you to check for signs of wear, keep the equipment in peak condition, and quickly conduct the necessary replacement of any worn parts.

Taking things a step further, try to conduct preventive maintenance inspections in conjunction with a corrective maintenance approach, which involves repairs or replacement of components that have broken down. Another purpose of corrective maintenance inspections is to identify, list, and record the reason for a specific failure so that appropriate action can be taken to minimize the chance of having similar failures in the future.

The ability to integrate inspections that are directly related to failures into your equipment maintenance strategy will undoubtedly lead to improved machine conditions and optimize production.

4. Use historical data to estimate future spare part and supply needs.

Quality control is essential in operating a business and is best demonstrated through how companies handle machine failures. Running out of spare parts or supplies when you need them most is certainly going to cause disruption in the production line. Disruption leads to downtime, which then gives birth to poor productivity and higher costs. Identify critical spare parts based on historical figures; prepare and order them well in advance.    

5. Maintain a clean environment.

Cleanliness is imperative, especially if your business is operating in the food processing industry. Machines are like humans – after a heavy day of work, they are in need of proper care. They must be cleaned, monitored, and lubricated frequently.

Keeping up with worksite hygiene is more than just complying with government regulations. Whenever possible, store large machinery under covers. Exposure to extreme temperatures can lead to rust and rot. Rotate equipment frequently to avoid contamination and condensation. Contaminated machinery will lower productivity, shorten the life of your equipment, and result in significant costs for your business.

6. Apply reliability centered maintenance (RCM) methodology.

The reliability centered maintenance (RCM) approach recognizes that all equipment isn’t of equal importance to either the maintenance process or facility safety. Some equipment will have a higher probability of experiencing failures than others and subsequently will need more maintenance work. In other words, RCM activities focus on critical components that are important to facility reliability and eliminate unnecessary overhauls.

The RCM methodology addresses some key issues that other maintenance programs fail to deal with. Your facility might not always have unlimited financial and personnel resources. As a result, your maintenance efforts need to concentrate on the most critical components. This allows you to closely match resources to needs while increasing component reliability, minimizing the chance of sudden equipment failures and lowering costs.

7. Outsource as needed.

Bringing technicians from outside to conduct some or all of your maintenance activities is a common approach. In fact, many businesses do not have the capacity and expertise to establish metrics, define processes, and implement the full maintenance program entirely on their own.

Specialized maintenance activities are extremely expensive and time-consuming to train your technicians in since they might be more productive doing other work. Therefore, outsourcing your maintenance process to qualified, competent technicians is a win-win solution. It helps reduce costs, provides your employees with more flexibility, and allows them to focus on what they do best.

 

Moving the needle from reactive maintenance to proactive, reliability centered maintenance practices takes careful planning, analysis, and time. However, this is critical in growing and sustaining your business in today’s ever-competitive manufacturing world.

Deploying these maintenance practices across your organization will increase production efficiency, prolong the life of your equipment, and let you reap considerable benefits on a much wider scale.  

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Tools and Tech: The Hottest New Landscaping Gadgets on the Market

new landscaping tools

If you find yourself stuck in the woes of dull, antiquated tools that do nothing but hold back your landscaping needs, fear not. The grass is indeed greener on the other side of the fence.

In order to advance your business or simply keep up with the high expectations that your good work has set, you need the most efficient tools to maximize potential. This may be old news, but the following list of gadgets are anything but that.

MidMount PowerVac Collection Systems for True ZeroTurnTM MidMountTM Mowers from Grasshopper Co.

Grasshopper’s PowerVacs are easily installed and feature a steel impeller that compacts anything from high-moisture leaves and grass to small sticks and hay. The efficient and productive vacuum collection system allows for side discharge and mulching in minutes without the fear of clogging.

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Keeping a well-manicured and clean lawn while using the PowerVac is no hassle. The rear-mounted collector allows for full visibility and maneuverability. This gadget cuts down on several hours of clean up work and streamlines the process of perfecting a front or back lawn.

62-Inch Landplane Attachment for Utility Vehicles from Bobcat

Bobcat Company broadens its utility vehicle attachment versatility with the new 62” landplane. This attachment allows for dual direction, site preparation, and landscaping, all while providing the option for workers to operate in both forward or reverse directions, depending on the ground level.

With the new landplane, utility vehicles can easily pulverize soil clumps; sift through soil to remove any large rocks; peel sod; aerate soil for seeding; and remove debris. Additionally, an optional fold-down scarifier can be used to help break up hard soil or turf and is easily retracted when not in use.

Avant 420 from Avant Tecno

The Avant 420 is well suited for homeowners or light professional use. This loader is easy to ride, yet powerful. The 20-horsepower unit is 2,100 lbs and 86.4 inches, front to back, with a lifting capacity of 1,200 lbs.

This mini digger is most efficient for projects where digging depth is 59” or less. The digger mounts directly on the quick-attach plate of the loader and operates through the auxiliary hydraulics control lever.

Stanley Fatmax Professional Grade Water Hose from Stanley Black & Decker

The Stanley Fatmax Professional Grade Water Hose features PolyFusion technology, which makes it lightweight and very easy to manipulate. Its resistance to scratches and scraping allows it to be used on rough surfaces.

This hose also uses an anti-kink technology which provides optimal elasticity to prevent inconvenient kinking. As a highly flexible tool, it remains pliable even in negative degree weather.

HRX 217VKA Lawnmower from Honda Power Equipment

With it’s adjustable speed and cutting positions, this fuel efficient lawn mower gets the job done. The self-propelled mower is built for medium surface areas and hilly terrain, and allows for variable speeds from 1-4 MPH.

The Honda HRX maximizes the flow of grass clippings and minimizes any clogging with its patented 4-in-1 Versamow System™. Grass is conveniently and easily removed from the high-capacity rear grass bag when full.

T595 Compact Track Loader from Bobcat

The new Bobcat compact track loader features increased horsepower and performance for pushing or digging, and eliminates the need to upgrade to a bigger machine.

With its improved operating capacity and lift force, the T595 can help increase job site productivity with its solid maneuverable functionality and by carrying more material.

At just 68 inches wide, the T595 moves smoothly through confined spaces, congested worksites, and easily travels between homes. Rubber tracks cause minimal ground disturbance for fewer repairs to lawns when a project is complete.

8-Inch Cordless Pole Saw from GreenWorks

This cordless saw provides up to 160 watts of power with a 14-inch cutting capacity. The 8-inch steel bar and chain feature a chain tensioning system: oil is automatically applied to the bar and chain to ensure durability, extending the life of the chain.

The 3-piece aluminum shaft can be extended from 5’ to 8’ for different cutting heights. A comfortable grip handle allows the elbow to rest to help keep control while in use.

 

Whether you are new to landscaping, a seasoned pro or a business owner, upgrading to the hottest tools is the first step towards getting the great results you hope to see. When considering whether or not to make upgrades, think about the safety implications of using older tools as well as any potential problems that may arise and delay an important project.

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5 Fool-Proof Ways to Market Your Landscaping Business

market landscaping business

Summer’s in full swing, and that means BBQs, pool parties, and backyard camping “trips.” But before any of that can happen, people want their lawns looking the best. Businesses all over town are trying to make sure their building has an inviting, professionally-maintained appearance.

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Like any seasonal company, you’re probably eager to get out there and market your business, but maybe you’re unsure of where to start and how to spend your budget most effectively. Luckily, we’ve got some simple and budget-friendly solutions to fit your marketing puzzle.

1. Get Digital

It should go without saying that having an online presence is huge for any business, new or established. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will help not only reach out to your prospective customers, but once they are satisfied with your fantastic service, they can easily share your business’s page, photos of your work, and their positive experience with their friends and family.

Be sure to include your logo on your social media pages to give your business increased recognition. Additionally, customer review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, or other community discussion boards can act as free, honest marketing. People may doubt flashy commercials on TV, but they feel much safer buying a product or service that has unbiased, 3rd-party reviews written and commented on by the community.

Encourage your customers to visit these sites and express their opinions – good or bad. If there are any negative reviews, treat them sincerely and respectfully to show that you’re earnestly interested in fixing issues for your clients.

2. Hit the Trade Shows

One of the biggest challenges of marketing a landscaping business is getting your name out all over town. At trade shows, you have the convenience of prospective clients coming right to you. Investing in a booth at a local home and garden show is a smart choice for getting the highest possible return on your marketing budget.

It’s important that you distinguish your business from the many others that are also presenting their projects. Include models or picture displays that show any special tools or machinery you use that other similar businesses may not offer. You can also display photos of jobs you have completed in the past to give examples of your work. “Before and after” photos are great for showing the effect your business had after a landscaping job.

Prepare some type of easy giveaway to pass out at your booth. Print up flyers with customer feedback, online ratings, and any local awards or recognition your business may have received. Consider offering a special discount for new customers that book a job after visiting your booth at the trade show. Be sure to include a discount “code” or referral reminder on your printed media.

3. Ask for Referrals

If people are willing to trust strangers’ opinions online, they’ll be even more interested in your business if they hear about it from a close friend or family member that was pleased with your service.

Don’t be bashful about asking for referrals. Make sure your customers know that you value referrals and are always looking for more. Consider offering special referral discounts to loyal clients who bring in additional business for you.

To simplify the process, it’s a good idea to have special cards handy for customers to pass along. After you’ve completed a project, leave a few referral cards with your client and ask them to tell their friends around town.

4. Survey Your Clients

Having an online presence on social media sites will certainly help customers reach you, but it’s also a good idea to approach them directly to get a grasp on how they feel about your service.

Try conducting face-to-face, online (try a survey site like SurveyMonkey), or phone surveys with customers after a job has been completed. This will give you valuable information about why the client chose your service, what they were most pleased with, what they think could be improved, and if they’ll be a return customer.

Ask them to leave a short comment you could use to promote your company. Surveys can be an important part of your business model and how you address small mistakes or misunderstandings. By enthusiastically asking for feedback and quickly addressing client concerns, you can eliminate any threat of lost business through good customer service. As the saying goes, it’s cheaper to keep a customer returning than it is to find a new one.

5. Appear Professional

Though the landscaping industry is physically challenging, it’s still important to look professional. Uniforms may not be the right direction to go, especially if you’re a small, local business. Instead, ask your team to wear company-branded items of clothing. Having a branded workforce will give you a desirable, professional look and is a fantastic way to spread your logo, company name, and phone number. Encourage your team members to avoid wearing torn or ripped clothes, as these give off a less professional vibe.

Of course, make sure that work attire is weather appropriate. For summer work, arm your team with branded caps, t-shirts, or light rain jackets. If you have seasonal winter work, you can use stocking hats, heavy jackets, or gloves.

Vehicles are another great way to make sure your brand is reaching all over the city as you drive from job to job. Whenever someone drives by and sees superb landscaping, they’ll know exactly who is completing the work.

 

As the summer rages on, these simple solutions will help you efficiently market your landscaping company. Put a few (or all!) of these ideas into practice to get the best possible ROI for your marketing budget.

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The Equipment Debate: Rent vs. Buy

rent or buy equipment

Gearing up for the next big project or upcoming contract job brings about a familiar question: should you rent or should you buy your equipment? Deciding whether to rent or buy is best answered through careful consideration of the tasks at hand.

Unsurprisingly, there are several factors that contribute to this decision and may differ according to each scenario. Carefully weighing key components of the renting and buying debate yields a more cost-effective and successful result.

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Before making a decision, it’s helpful to go back to the old practice of jotting down a pros and cons list. Try including the following factors when making your choice.

The Cost

Considering the monetary implications is an important element in renting vs. buying. Which is the better deal for you, financially speaking?

In the world of construction equipment, owning is becoming more costly than renting as transportation, maintenance and operating costs, taxes, and insurance fees begin to add up. Is your business ready to handle those kinds of financial, long-term investments? While these vary among different types of equipment, renting is generally an inclusive cost and will include the price of ownership and any fees the rental incurs.

Renting offers several conveniences to alleviate some of the financial strain that comes with ownership. There is no need to invest in expensive insurance or worry about covering 100% of repairs and maintenance costs. Moreover, you don’t have to consider upgrading when the latest model comes out.

On the other hand, buying the equipment may be the more cost-effective choice in the end. Almost always, those who own a piece of equipment will see a return on their investment when selling. In the case of buying, it is important to research and compare the latest models, as some may hold their value more so than others.

A good compromise to consider is purchasing well-maintained used equipment, which can end up being cheaper than renting in the long run and is not as expensive as buying brand new equipment.

Equipment Needs

The project length and frequency of jobs should play a big role in your rent vs. buy debate. If a job is short-term or requires a specialized type of equipment, renting naturally makes the most sense.

Generally, if the equipment required will not be used at least 60% of the time throughout all of your projects, renting is a better option.

Conversely, if a project is long-term or will demand several recurring jobs, buying may be the more sensible solution. Owning a piece of equipment outright will help you avoid potential for increasing rental costs as the project continues, unforeseen hold ups, or machine unavailability.

When mapping out the pros and cons according to equipment needs, carefully consider who will have access and be operating that piece of machinery. It’s possible that a certain piece of equipment can replace one or two workers on a job, making the expense of buying worth even more in the long run.

Taxes

Buying a piece of equipment is a capital expense that must be considered when filing taxes. The equipment’s expenses during the year it was purchased may not be deductible from taxes, whereas renting costs can be deducted annually as a business expense. In fact, renting equipment adds a tax incentive as there are no associated property taxes or licensing fees.

The Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE Act of 2010) also allows businesses a Section 179 write-off for equipment that is leased or financed. According to Section179.org, “The obvious advantage to leasing or financing equipment and then taking the Section 179 deduction is that you can deduct the full amount of the equipment, without paying the full amount this year. The amount you save in taxes can actually exceed the payments, making this a bottom-line friendly deduction.”

Talk with your accountant about the potential tax benefits or possible repercussions of purchasing heavy equipment for your business. Look over your tax returns for the previous few years and see what kind of difference a machinery purchase could make. Remember to think long-term – a tax break this year may not be worth the expense in the coming years.

Calculating the Costs

Money is the name of the game when it comes to big decisions. In order to properly plan ahead, try using a cost calculator for a better look at the numbers. Seeing the costs broken down associated with renting or buying may help rule out one option or the other.

Many contractors overlook the total cost of equipment management. If there is a project or job that needs to happen 300 miles away, the costs of the transport truck, the driver, loading and unloading time, and transport fuel should be included in the budget.

Once at the jobsite, it may be necessary to hire someone to maintain and fuel the equipment.

By calculating the costs during the research process and including all possible expenses, you’ll be better informed when making your final decision.

 

Assessing these top factors will provide further insight into whether renting or buying equipment is the best option for your business. It’s important to consider these things for the long-term, even if the upcoming job or project is short. By drafting a pros and cons list in detail, your immediate needs will be apparent and you’ll have a big picture to help you decide: rent or buy.

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What You Should Know before Bidding for an Auction Vehicle Online

bid auction vehicle online

Buying an auction vehicle is certainly a different experience than walking through your local new or used car dealership’s lot and test driving before saying “sold!” In addition, moving from in-person vehicle auctions to online auctions requires a bit more knowledge and savvy.

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Luckily, we’ve got the details so you can head into that online auction room feeling confident and prepared.

Not Your Average Car Lot

Bidding for a vehicle online, at its simplest definition, is a lot like buying anything else via online auction (think: eBay), but of course it’s not that simple. The purchase prices can be higher, the rules are a little different, and the stakes can be much greater. To make sure you’re not treating your online vehicle auction experience like any other car purchase, you’ll want to understand the ins and outs of the auction world, be prepared for the fast pace, and double- and triple-check all your details before placing that winning bid.

Knowledge is Power

Always go into an auction with a specific list of vehicles you’re looking for. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few you want to bid on, it’s time to put your student hat on and get to researching. The more you understand about the vehicle before you buy it, the smaller chance you have of being surprised by something negative after you’ve won.

Begin by having a list of exactly what you’ll need to learn about a vehicle. Check out our handy guide to reading vehicle history reports to get started on the right foot. Read what others have thought of the specific year, make, and model you’re interested in on reputable sites like Edmunds.com. This is another great way to arm yourself with information.

Before you sign in and start bidding, make sure to know what kind of auction you’re taking part in. A public auction will run a little differently than a government auction.

A government auction will feature old police cruisers, utility trucks, and more; as well as vehicles that may have been impounded for traffic or other violations. These auctions tend to be highly competitive, with used car dealers and taxi companies often taking part.

A public auction often consists of repossessed vehicles; wholesale lots of cars; and sometimes, high-end sports cars and SUVs. The range of quality at a public auction will vary greatly, so it’s extra important to make sure you’ve checked out a specific vehicle’s history before bidding.

Online Auctions are Still Fast-Paced

Even though an auctioneer won’t be talking 1,000 miles a minute in front of you, the pace of an online auction is still rather quick. Being prepared for the pace of your online auction vehicle experience means keeping a few key points in mind.

1. Have a good internet connection.

Think about how devastating it would be to miss out on your chosen vehicle because your bid didn’t upload fast enough in the last seconds. Avoid crowded coffee shops and public places where the WiFi is being used by many people. Even with great bandwidth, there’s a chance an overcrowded internet connection will slow you down just enough to miss out.

Instead, set up shop in a place where your signal is strongest and turn off WiFi on other devices (like your phone or smart TV) that might be crowding up the connection. This way, if you and one other bidder are up against the wire, you’ve got a better chance of calling that vehicle yours when the dust settles.

2. Be ready to adhere to a schedule.

When entering the auction space, be prepared to follow the schedule set by the auctioneer. If possible, get familiar with the schedule before the auction begins. Doing this lets you pick out the vehicles you are most interested in and know when they’ll appear in the auction lineup.

Do NOT be late to the auction. If you show up to the online space late, you may not be allowed to bid on the vehicles at all. Knowing what cars are up for bid and when you can bid saves you from missing your opportunity to take part in the auction.

3. Be engaged for the duration of the auction.

Bidding on an auction vehicle online isn’t like online shopping, so don’t expect to be able to sneak it in while you’re working on other tasks for the day. If you’re planning to participate in an online vehicle auction, be engaged from start to finish. Even if the vehicle up for bid isn’t one you had your eye on, you might miss the one you did want by tuning out and forgetting to tune back in when your pick comes up to the plate. Close out your other internet tabs, clear your schedule, and get ready to zone in.

Many online auction platforms may allow you to enter a “proxy bid,” or the maximum bid you’re willing to make for the vehicle up on the block. (Think eBay here.) Entering a proxy bid will allow the system to keep track of other bids coming in and bid for you when you need to raise your bid. While this is a handy tool, it’s definitely not something you want to set and forget about. Check in regularly with the auction and see how your proxy bid is going. Never set a proxy bid you’re not willing to pay – this should be no more than your “top dollar.” Remember: if you win it, you buy it.

Dot Your “i’s” and Cross Your “t’s”

Understand the terms of sale, full condition and value of the vehicle, and all the fine print before placing that winning bid. At the end of the game, if you’ve bid more than a vehicle is worth and if you ever try to trade it in again, you’ve made a pretty bad investment you can’t go back on.

Don’t get caught up in the bidding frenzy. Instead, take time to observe how the others at the auction are bidding. Even though auctions require a certain degree of intuition and knowing when to outbid the highest bidder, it’s vital to make sure you understand exactly what you’re purchasing and what to ask to confirm the purchase is worth your while.

 

Even though there are a fair number of risks that come with buying a vehicle at auction, it’s easy to avoid the majority of those questionables by simply taking the time to get prepared. If you put in a little extra effort before you enter the bidding room to fully understand not only the auction you’re bidding in, but the specific vehicle you’re bidding on, purchasing an auction vehicle online can be a fantastic way to save some money and get a great vehicle.

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