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YES, TIMES ARE STILL TOUGH OUT there. Driving along one of Los Angeles’ metropolitan streets over the weekend, I couldn’t help but notice just how hard the small, local businesses and boutiques have been hit. Their doors, once open and inviting, are now locked and shuttered, their windows collecting layers of dust. It’s hard to stay ahead when there’s so much gloominess around you, but that doesn’t mean you should give up hope. You have the ability to make changes, to pump new life into your company when all others are on life support. The key here is efficiency.
Efficiency in cost and efficiency in labor—these are the two tenets of a well-run business. You want to take on as many clients as you can effectively handle, right? Then you’ll want to have the means to move from jobsite to jobsite with as little wasted time as possible. You’ll also want to offer competitive prices, while watching your spending along the way.
Power attachments are a great way to reach the level of efficiency you desire for your company. Imagine being able to cut a three-man raking job that takes three hours to complete down to a one-person job that you can complete in only 30 minutes. With the right power attachments, this can easily be done. You can strap a power rake onto your mower, or a dethatcher to remove all the unwanted thatch, embedded leaves and debris. Or you can use an autorake, like the one offered by CE Attachments, Cedarburg, Wisconsin, which will rake rocks into a bucket.
“A lot of contractors will go out there and rake entirely by hand,” says Ron Peters, product manager for CE Attachments. “But if you’re doing it manually, you’re going to have a much bigger crew and there’s going to be a lot more labor involved. Rake attachments just make the whole thing so much easier.”
But it doesn’t end at rake attachments. You can fit virtually any kind of tool onto your mower these days, from augers to plow blades to aerators, vacuum collection systems, leaf blowers and beyond. Your mowers become more than just mowers. They become Swiss army knives, able to perform all sorts of tasks using all sorts of tools, and the possibilities are manifold.
“Contractors who are looking for ways to make their services indispensable to their clients are the ones who are finding ways to make attachments work for them,” says Ray Garvey, equipment specialist at the Grasshopper Company, Moundridge, Kansas. “As economic conditions have forced many companies to look for new ways to reduce labor, they’ve become an obvious solution.”
There are so many different attachments out there that you might find it a bit overwhelming. Before taking a look at each attachment, it’s best to first determine exactly what services you wish to provide and where you want to take your company. “We have a balance committee at our company who we’ll sit down with periodically and talk about what it is that we need,” says Joe Davis, fleet manager at Lawn Ranger, a landscape company located out of Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
“Several years ago, when attachments were still really new on the market, we knew we could get some use out of them, but it was a matter of figuring out which ones we needed. We decided it would be a lot easier, rather than hand raking, if we used a bagging system to suction all those leaves and debris, so we got a Trac-Vac system.”
Davis made sure to exercise caution when selecting attachments for his company. It had only been one year earlier that he discovered power attachments at the trade shows he attends, and he was still skeptical. “Instead of speaking to the manufacturers about their products, I went around and talked to other companies who were using them to get their feedback,” explains Davis. “I was able to see what other people in my shoes were using and how effective the attachments were for them, which really helped steer me towards the right machinery once I was ready.” In addition to the Trac-Vac system, Davis purchased a JRCO rake, some mulching blades and a Striper Kit to help him achieve those nicely patterned lines you see on many wellkept lawns. Davis says he’s extremely happy with the choices he made. “Time is the reason we bought these attachments,” he says. “If you’re out there doing everything by hand, it will take you ten times the amount of time to finish the job than it would otherwise.”
There’s a lot more to power attachments than has been discussed so far. Sure, they can help improve the services you already provide, but they can also allow you to offer new services altogether.
Want to make a bit of extra revenue during those slow winter months when all that snowfall prevents you from maintaining turf? Maybe you should look into purchasing a plow or a snow blower attachment. Want to be the premier spring fertilization company in your area? Try looking into spreader attachments, such as the Electric Broadcast Spreader. “Our spreader is electrically powered and can be used to spread seeds quickly for optimal fertilization,” explains Bill Radintz, sales manager at JRCO, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Vacuum collection systems are another popular accessory which you can fit onto your riding mower. They will vacuum up all the grass cuttings and debris as you make your way around the turf. They’re a great tool for keeping your clients’ properties clean, and they save you from having to go back after you’ve already mowed to collect the clippings.
You can also use mulching attachments , which will attach right onto your mower and re-cut the grass clippings into a fine mulch before discharging them back onto the turf. The mulch will then slowly break down, restoring moisture and nutrients into the soil as well as conserving water and fertilizer. This makes for an overall healthier lawn.
Aerators are among the most popular attachments. Typically, aerators cost around $3,000. Aerator attachments, on the other hand, can be purchased for as low as $1,000. “In the case of our AERAvator, users can aerate an entire area in approximately a quarter of the time using a quarter of the labor,” claims Garvey.
Sulkies are a favorite attachment among operators who use walk-behind mowers. They allow you to stand behind the mower on a single-operator deck which will pull along with the mower. You can also purchase a sitting sulky, which allows you to remain seated while you mow.
Backhoes, catchers, dozer blades, brooms, tree spades and grapple attachments can also connect to your mower, along with a number of other tools and accessories. The possibilities seem almost endless, and as technology becomes more and more sophisticated, don’t be surprised to see an even bigger boom in the field of power attachments.
Take the Tow Pro, for example. This is a self-contained aerator attachment that can hook onto the back of any tow vehicle. One of the main benefits the Tow Pro offers is the fact that you can tow it with your mower, allowing you to mow and aerate the turf at the same time.
“The Tow Pro is independently powered,” says Nathan Anton, national sales manager for SourceOne, Lincoln, Nebraska. “This is a great feature because many aerators rely on the power of the tow vehicle.
Mowers aren’t the only pieces of equipment that are attachment-ready. Skid steers are commonly used to host a wide variety of accessories, such as plows or power rakes. Mini-skid steers are especially useful because they can be used to maintain hard-to-access areas that you might otherwise have to maintain strictly by hand. These miniature- sized machines are great for when you find yourself in a tight spot, as they can go through gateways as narrow as 32 inches.
Much like mower attachments, skid steer attachments can perform a variety of functions. After you’re done breaking up the soil with a power rake attachment, you can fasten a trenching attachment onto the machine in a matter of seconds to trench up areas for the irrigation system you’re installing. You can use another attachment after that to backfill the soil. All of this is done quickly and easily.
“Our trencher attachments come in a lot of different sizes,” says Peters, whose company, CE Attachments, specializes in accessories made specifically for skid steer loaders. “They range from 24 inches in digging depth all the way to 60 inches. We have a lot of different width sizes, too. They’re very easy to put on. You just hook them right onto the front of the loader.”
Your clients want to know that they’re getting what they pay for when they hire you to care for their properties. Providing them with a cleanly cut, healthy looking turf is crucial to making a good impression, but performing the work in a quick and timely fashion is important to your bottom line. And the better the service you perform, the louder your clients will be in touting your professionalism to their friends.
Attachments offer you an awesome means towards opening relationships with new clients and strengthening relationships with existing ones. By saving you measurable time and labor, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the curve, and as you notice those small businesses and boutiques along Main Street continue to permanently close their doors, you’ll have the assurance and leverage to know that you won’t suffer the same fate.