Get Ready for the Future

If you make your living in the landscape industrmowing lawns, caring for gardens, laying pavers, installing irrigation, or just making the world a cleaner and greener place—then you need to read this story.

We must become more forward-thinking. From human-resource challenges, to the Lithium Revolution, to using highly advanced mobile solar charging systems integrated into your lawn trucks, let’s take a look ahead.

The number-one problem today is finding, hiring, training and keeping superstar employees. At least that’s the feedback we got when we surveyed just over 200 lawn and landscape business owners a few weeks ago. Seventy-two percent of our respondants complained about having trouble finding these kinds of employees.

Welcome to the world of being an entrepreneur. I’ve been an entrepreneur for the past 30 years, and I’m proud of it. I consider this decision to be the most serious responsibility in life: becoming a life-long job creator. I get great pleasure in counting myself in the asset column on the balance sheet of America, helping to create jobs and pay taxes along the way.

Yes, there are hurdles on the path, but remember, entrepreneurship creates huge opportunities. I believe that the solution to our labor problems, and much more, lies in adopting new technologies.

Allow me to explain. About every decade or so, something happens that changes the game of business. Industries evolve, and best practices of the past become the hangman’s noose for those stuck in the old ways of doing things.

We are currently on the leading edge of such a sea change in the lawncare business. One secret to becoming a winner in the landscape industry is your willingness to adopt new technologies. This tactic gives you an instant competitive advantage. Zero-turn lawn mowers, Dingos, stick edgers, growth regulators, slow-release fertilizers, rideon sprayer/spreaders, computers, software—and even super lawn trucks—were once brand-new ideas for those working in the landscape industry. Early adopters of those technologies were able to make fortunes and solve part of their labor problems along the way.

Forward-thinking operators are always looking for new ways to gain a competitive advantage. That’s a smart strategy. Unfortunately, the great majority of business owners are simply so busy complaining about their problems that they miss the chance to capitalize big-time on opportunities that are right before their eyes.

Innovative technology has been around for a few years; it was just a matter of time before we would begin to adopt the concept. I’m talking about replacing gasoline engines with electric or battery-operated equipment. This new technology lowers fuel costs drastically, and virtually eliminates repair costs. Yet, very few lawn or landscape pros implemented the idea when it first hit the market. Why?

The biggest reason was crystal clear: the average battery life only lasted about 15 minutes. No one in our industry would be able to make a living using a battery-powered hand tool with a battery that was dead after 15 minutes! But technology did not stop advancing. Battery technology just kept getting better and better. Over a five-year period, the life of the battery had doubled; run times headed towards an hour per charge.

Yet commercial contractors still weren’t impressed; they did not buy the new technology. But a host of commercial-minded power tool companies took notice of what was happening. A brand-new category of battery-powered hand tools began to emerge from the R&D departments of well-known national brands like Makita, DeWalt, Stihl, Husqvarna and more. Fast forward to 2017, and if you took a walk around the floor of the world’s largest show for lawn equipment, the Green Industry Expo, electrically-powered tools were everywhere.

Will gas-powered hand tools become the next 8-track, cassette tape, or Blackberry device? You need to understand that the guys who build gas-powered engines for lawn and garden tools can’t get real excited about competing with (or creating) a new solution for their product lines. After all, gas-powered garden tools have been generating hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales for decades.

This new idea of a battery-powered future could kill their ecosystem. This would wipe out jobs and end careers of entrenched manufacturers, distributors and dealers alike. So, it appears that the biggest names in small gas engines have played a ‘wait-n-see’ kind of approach. They’ve introduced a few new tools—but just a few. They certainly haven’t taken a leadership role in introducing new technology.

No company CEO wants to be the next Kodak—remember them? They were the 100-year-old company with headquarters in New York State that went bankrupt when digital cameras eventually replaced their line of cameras, film and print products. The company became a case study that haunts every CEO. You simply don’t want to be the guy who could not see change coming.

Back to the landscape story. Slowly and steadily, new brands are emerging. Just as Tesla has emerged as a new car manufacturer, you now are seeing new brand names in our industry that are bringing battery-powered tools to us. These names might be new to you, however, they all have one thing in common: they manufacture battery-powered equipment heavy duty enough for commercial applications.

This is going to be huge! Let me explain why you should consider a change from gas-powered tools to battery-powered tools.

Take a look at the fuel/energy cost difference between a gas string trimmer and a battery-powered string trimmer, both operated for 500 hours per year. A gas-powered string trimmer, operated for 500 hours, using ¼ gallon of gasoline per operating hour, with fuel at $3 per gallon, uses 125 gallons of gas, which costs you $375 per year.

A battery-powered string trimmer, operated for 500 hours, will require approximately 650 recharges that use .2 of a kilowatt of electricity per charge. With a national average of .11 cents per kilowatt, this tool’s fuel bill will cost you less than $20 per year. That’s a 1,775% lower fuel cost!

However, the biggest positive impact for your company will not be in fuel savings. The biggest impact will come in two powerful benefits that make your business more profitable and much easier to operate: reduced repairs and maintenance.

Parts such as carburetors, pull cords, air filters and spark plugs will be gone. Having to mix oil and gas is also eliminated. In addition, it seems like every week there’s another municipality, town or village that is banning gasoline-powered backpack blowers, because of both the noise and air pollution they create.

I predict that battery-powered tools will open our industry to a new type of employee—one who appreciates equipment that starts as soon as you pull the trigger. Gone, also, will be the days where we must find mechanically-minded technicians who can fix or repair equipment in the field.

Failure to adopt this new technology could cripple your business.

Early adopters could crush you with lower operating costs, lower prices for customers and easier access to employees.

The one problem that has prevented widespread adoption of battery-powered equipment is that batteries still don’t last all day. The automotive industry calls the reluctance to purchase electric-powered cars ‘range anxiety.’ It’s the fear of running out of battery power while you’re on the road. In our research with lawn and landscape business owners, we found that they’re worried about the exact same problem.

They, too, have ‘range anxiety’ about battery-power limits. Also, when you look at these new lithium ion batteries—oh boy, they ain’t cheap.

Some landscape contractors who are using battery-powered equipment have rigged a setup of trickle chargers in their vehicles, to keep the batteries recharging while they continue working.

Today, there’s technology available that allows you to recharge batteries on the go, using free, clean solar energy. Contractors and battery-powered equipment manufacturers are paying careful attention to this game-changing technology, because the one problem the battery-powered equipment manufacturers haven’t been able to solve, to date, is on-the-go charging.

We have introduced mobile solarpowered charging for battery-powered equipment. As the founder and CEO of Super Lawn Trucks, I am prepared to make mobile solar-powered charging for battery-powered tools reliable, affordable and easy to purchase. So, if you want to go green and not have ‘range anxiety,’ hop on the bandwagon. The time is now.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Tony Bass is the founder of Super Lawn Trucks, co-author of The E-Myth Landscape Contractor. He has been awarded three U.S. patents for technology to advance the lawn and landscape industry. You can reach him at tony@superlawntrucks.com, or 866-923-0027.