Many people dream of taking the things they’re passionate about and creating their ideal job. Kevin Rinschler, CID, CIC, CLIA, has had the unique opportunity to do just that. His role as regional irrigation technical advisor at SiteOne Landscape Supply, Roswell, Georgia, gives him the chance to travel the country sharing his knowledge with industry professionals everywhere. Based out of Charlotte, North Carolina, his role is twofold: to be a resource to SiteOne employees on all kinds of irrigation topics and to support the contractors that SiteOne serves.
“It’s basically a one-off position that I created within the company just from my tenure being here and identifying needs not just within our company, but within the industry,” explains Rinschler.
Because SiteOne is a large, diverse company that sells products across all green industry segments, there’s not always an irrigation expert working with every customer on every job, he says. That’s where he steps in as a resource to bridge these gaps. His 20- plus years working in both landscape and irrigation contracting and sales have given him the knowledge, network of contacts and overall product knowledge that he regularly uses to point SiteOne associates and outside consultants, specifiers and contractors in the right direction when they need assistance.
“I’m a resource that contractors can rely on for the technical support and guidance on various challenges that they face that may be outside their current wheelhouse or level of expertise,” Rinschler says. “I can be a point person and a go-to guy for the more challenging projects.”
He explains this looks different for every contractor he works with, whether they’re just getting into irrigation or are more experienced and need help with an advanced issue.
“My goal is to try to make things easy, in particular for contractors, and take some of the technical burden off of them. They have enough to worry about. Their business is challenging enough, let alone to figure out, ‘Well, I don’t know how to speak the language to a network administrator to get my irrigation controller to connect to the internet,’” says Rinschler. “So, it’s like, ‘Hey, don’t worry about that. I’ll take care of that. You go do all the physical work and turn wrenches and dig trenches, and I’ll help you manage that and be there to support you.’” Rather than working with specific customers, he’s a “project person,” going where the need is. This means a combination of working with the local Site- One branches and staff that are there, and when needed, getting in the car or on a plane and traveling to be on the front end of the project to assist the consultant or specifier.
“A lot of times there’s another seller that’s on the frontline with the relationship that’s making the sale,” says Rinschler. “They just call me in when they get to that complicated pump station, for example, and I’m behind the scenes doing what I need to do to assist with that portion of the project. It takes some of that stress and burden off of them.”
Up for a challenge
Rinschler was drawn to irrigation in the early days of his career because it required troubleshooting and problem-solving skills. Even today, he says it’s the challenges and diversity that come with each project that make his job interesting. The high-need projects he’s involved in usually are related to pump systems, rainwater harvesting, retrofits and more advanced irrigation control systems. In addition to the technical challenges of working with these projects, he says it’s enjoyable to work with various coworkers and contractors in different markets.
“It’s just intriguing to me to work with them and be able to help them and also learn from that, because each market operates a little bit differently,” says Rinschler.
Whether it’s each project location’s regulations or even just the different personalities of contractors he works with, he welcomes the challenge of being able to adapt to that to train and support each of them. His job has taken him many places, including to a project he sold in Indonesia in 2019. The specifications required commissioning of the pump and control equipment, so he assisted the commissioning agent in closing out that project with the contractor. It took a lot of prep work, making sure he had all the parts needed ahead of time, and he was challenged in working with a 12-hour time difference. But the project wrapped up successfully. His aim on each project isn’t just to fix the one issue he’s called in for, it’s about helping contractors improve their method of installation to prevent future risk of the same thing happening.
“If I can help someone be successful, then as a result, I’m successful. We both win,” he says.
Rinschler spends a lot of time with retrofit projects. He gets a lot of questions when a contractor has a large irrigation system that needs to be upgraded. These projects can take a lot of time because there’s not always good information on existing sites, he says. When starting work with a contractor, he’ll ask questions, evaluate the site and provide recommendations on what systems they should look at based on what their needs are. Once this overview is done, he then assists them on moving forward. Sometimes this means being present at their client meetings as a backup expert to explain the systems, some of the features and how they work.
“At that point, you’re selling a different side of the system when you’re talking to an end user versus the contractor, and they don’t necessarily need to know how it works, they just want to know if it meets their needs and if it fits their budget,” Rinschler says. “Those projects can be drawn out. I have some that I’ve been dabbling with on and off for the past five years.”
A lot of the challenges Rinschler helps contractors with involve the integration of emerging technology into the industry. He says it’s difficult for a contractor who is used to working every day in the field to suddenly have to figure out how to connect an irrigation controller to the internet.
When there’s a need for it on projects, Rinschler acts as the go-between to handle communicating with the appropriate people to manage the connectivity issues so the contractor can focus on the actual irrigation installation. He advises contractors to find somebody who can take on this more administrative type of role to manage the technical side of irrigation systems.
“If you have that younger go-getter, up-andcomer and they seem to be pretty technologically advanced with things in general, he or she may be that next person that understands Wi-Fi and networking,” he says.
Education is key
While the COVID-19 pandemic has meant less time traveling to visit customers at job sites, it’s allowed Rinschler to focus more on training programs and developing resources to easily send to people when they need them. During the past few years, Rinschler has also been a part of SiteOne’s development and implementation of an in-house employee training program for irrigation.
“We were always providing training, but what we did is we started looking at our own people and saying, ‘Hey, we have to make sure that our own people are getting this level of training as well,’” Rinschler says.
They’ve found that irrigation contractors want to talk to and buy from people who understand irrigation terminology and all the technical parts of a system.
Rinschler says the goal of this inhouse training is “to raise our standard as a distributor to be able to better serve our customers. It’s a great way to build the relationship between the customer and supplier, but it also gives them the confidence that they can rely on us again as a resource to help them through things.”
In addition to the ongoing education classes and events SiteOne offers its customers, Rinschler helps provide individual and small group training.
“I’ll just gather up my stuff and go to their office or go to a job site and do specific one-on-one training that can be geared to the needs of that specific customer, because then they feel like they’re getting the most value out of it because they can ask pointed questions,” he says.
While in person training is on hold during the pandemic, Rinschler is looking forward to getting back out there and continuing to train, support and build relationships with others in the industry.
Rinschler strongly believes that technical support is critical for contractors and says there’s practically no ceiling for his role to grow due to SiteOne’s size and growth.
“SiteOne gives me a platform that is pretty much endless, and it’s kind of an open canvas that I’m able to take the things I’ve learned and the experience I have and keep expanding on that,” says Rinschler. “It’s exciting and it’s unique that we value, and upper management understands, that we need these key irrigation technical people because they’re critical to the business.”
Rinschler looks forward to the opportunities ahead of him and wants to continue focusing on education and trying to raise the standard of the industry overall.
“I’ve always tried to be that person to create opportunity for myself, which is why I’m where I am today, within SiteOne and in the industry. But I’m always going to have that focus for the future,” says Rinschler. “I want to continue to expand my sphere of influence in the industry to be a resource and to be influential and to help train and educate contractors and the next generations of professionals.”
The author is digital content editor of Irrigation & Green Industry and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.