Strengthening the Contractor-Distributor Connection

Strengthening the Contractor-Distributor Connection

Tips for a Profitable Partnership


As an irrigation contractor, one of the surest ways to enhance your bottom line – as well as your professional reputation – is to develop a solid and meaningful relationship with your distributor.

If you’re ready to make this partnership a priority, here are a few “don’ts” to keep in mind:

Don’t Be a Stranger

The pandemic showed us how to fall back on virtual meetings and transactions when personal interactions weren’t possible or prudent. Now that we’re moving past that stage, face-to-face meetings should re-emerge as the better way to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships with distributors.

Try to stop in periodically so they can make that personal connection. This conveys a clear message to your distributor that the relationship is important to you.

Keep communication candid and frequent. Suppliers often make decisions based on ongoing conversations with their customers. Create a process so that electronic communications in particular don’t get out of hand.

When Selecting
a Supplier

When first selecting a supply partner, keep in mind the three Ps: products, people and proximity.

  • Products – Make sure your distributor of choice carries the products and brands you prefer, and offers up-to-date and innovative solutions.
  • People – Gauge the knowledge level of the supplier’s employees. The staff should be well-informed and understand the challenges contractors face.
  • Proximity – Is the supplier located within a reasonable distance of your shop or job sites? You don’t want to waste valuable time running back and forth if you encounter a problem.

Along those same lines, be honest with your distributors about the size of your business. Don’t over- or under-sell it. Let them know how often you’ll need materials and what’s most important to achieve your business goals.

Don’t Sound False Alarms

If you sound a false alarm one too many times, you’ll get little to no response. For irrigation contractors, this means try not to expect immediate service from your distributor all the time. Reserve calling in favors for true emergencies.

Remember, your distributor is also juggling multiple priorities. He’s servicing hundreds of customers while also interfacing with manufacturers for required stock. You’ll make his life easier (and strengthen your partnership) if you don’t make every situation a rush request.

Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate

Both you and your distributor must account for every penny. Once you understand how suppliers set price points, you can negotiate mutually beneficial terms (such as preferred product mix and delivery schedules) as well as costs. While it’s okay to purchase a few items online in the interest of cost savings, remember that solid distributor support will benefit your business more in the long run.

However, expecting a trifecta win of best price, best quality, and best service for every product you purchase from your supplier is unrealistic. Cash discounts and special account terms can be just as valuable as the best pricing, and they provide the added benefit of fostering a win-win relationship with your distributor.

If your business is too small to leverage steep product discounts, consider teaming up with a like-minded contractor so you too can enjoy the type of sales volume that qualifies for a discount.

Lastly, to minimize the risk of misunderstandings, put the result of your negotiations in writing.

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Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help

While it’s important to negotiate your best deal, be sure to ask for help when needed.

Components are continually being redesigned to improve efficiency, and new releases are common. Suppliers are incentivized to stock and promote specific items, so they’ll be glad to hook you up with the latest and greatest products. Don’t hesitate to ask if your distributor offers training for you and your staff.

Occasionally, even highly reputable brands will fail in the field. When that happens to you, make sure your supplier is informed. He’s likely in a position to offer assistance. And if there’s truly an issue with a product, your distributor can go to bat for you with the manufacturer.

More Than Just Dollars and Cents

The makings of a great supplier relationship go well beyond pricing. Of course, you want the best price to get the job done. But professionalism and mutual respect run deeper. Contractors and distributors rely on each other for their very survival.

Prudent professionals on both sides of the counter will work to ensure this valuable association receives the attention it deserves.


Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
Landscape Management
Lighting & Irrigation

Helping Your Customers Cope With Drought

Helping Your Customers Cope With Drought

“Why Does My Lawn Look Dead?”


Along with July’s intense summer heat comes the prospect of seasonal drought.

In Ohio, we get more than our fair share of 90-degree summer days. These extreme temperatures and dry periods can cause cool-season grasses, such as bluegrass and fescue, to become dormant. That’s when irrigation contractors can expect to receive calls from concerned homeowners.

Have an Education Plan

The prepared contractor has a plan in place to address these customer concerns. You can help alleviate homeowner concerns by educating them on the grass germination and growth process.

Ohio’s Hottest Summer

July 1934 was the hottest month ever recorded in Ohio, setting the following heat records:

  • Columbus – 106° F
  • Bowling Green – 107° F
  • Delaware – 108° F
  • Cincinnati – 109° F
  • Findlay – 109° F
  • Chillicothe – 109° F
  • Fremont -110° F
  • Wilmington – 111° F
  • Hamilton – 111° F
  • Defiance – 111° F
  • Gallipolis – 113° F

About 160 Ohioans died of heat-related causes during the week of July 20-26, 1934. More recently, during an extreme heat wave in July 2019, the mercury levels climbed to 112 degrees in northern Ohio.

Source: Ohio History Central

For instance, explain how different seeds germinate at different times, and the importance of watering longer but less often.

Your customers need to know that dormancy is nature’s defense mechanism to help plants survive tough, stressful conditions. Avoiding it completely during the dog days of summer can be difficult, but there are things they can do to help lessen its impact.

In general, lawns that have gone dormant should be left dormant until cooler weather sets in. Occasional watering will help prevent damage, but don’t overdo it. Overwatering a lawn in an effort to “wake it up,” can be very stressful to the turf.

Inform your customers that bluegrass can typically withstand about six weeks of dormancy before it suffers drought damage. Factors that can accelerate dormancy include secondary heat from buildings or fences, or south-facing slopes.

Seasonal Drought Survival Tips

Provide your customers with these practical tips on how they can mitigate the effects of dormancy on their lawns:

  • Grow drought-tolerant grasses. Most grasses can withstand some dormancy very well, but some grasses cope better than others. For instance, buffalo grass, fine-leaf or tall fescues, and older varieties of Kentucky bluegrass are the most drought-tolerant species found in Ohio.

Columbus-Area
Watering Restrictions

Several municipalities within the Columbus metro area maintain watering schedules year-round, but particularly during the hottest months. For example:

Westerville – Addresses that end in even numbers can water grass on even-numbered days, and those that end in odd numbers on odd-numbered days. (This restriction does not apply to flowerbeds, trees, shrubs and gardens.

Delaware – During periods of limited rainfall, addresses that end in odd numbers can water on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; even-numbered addresses may water on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. All watering is prohibited on Mondays.

The communities of Gahanna, Dublin, Hilliard, Upper Arlington, Powell, Bexley, Grandview, and Granville impose similar restrictions during the driest months.

Source:  Wikilawn

  • Newly sodded or seeded lawns should not go dormant. Grass must be well established in order to survive a period of drought. Likewise, lawn that has been damaged by disease or insects does not tolerate dormancy well. It is advised that you water the lawn regularly to keep it green.
  • Keep turf as high as possible by raising the mowing height to 3-4 inches during the hottest time of the year. This allows for deeper root development, and tall grass dries out more slowly than shorter grass.
  • Understand a dormant lawn’s water needs. A sleeping lawn needs at least half an inch of water every two to three weeks in order to stay alive. If the lawn is receiving that much rainfall, then there is no need to water at all.
  • Minimize traffic on the lawn. Foot or vehicle traffic can kill the grass and cause bare spots in the lawn.
  • Once summer passes, thoroughly water the lawn to wake it up. Apply enough water to penetrate the soil down to the root — about six to 12-inches below the ground. After about several weeks of cooler temperatures and adequate precipitation, the lawn will be green once again.

Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
Irrigation & Lighting
Green Industry Pros
LawnEQ.com

Looking Backward and Forward with Smart Irrigation Month

Looking Backward and Forward with Smart Irrigation Month

“Proud of our past. Focused on the future.”


It’s hard to believe, but we’ll soon be heading into July, and you know what that means…Smart Irrigation Month!

Sponsored by the Irrigation Association, this annual initiative is designed to promote the social, economic and environmental benefits of efficient irrigation. This year’s theme is “Proud of our past. Focused on the future.”

Looking Back

First launched in 2005, Smart Irrigation Month has gained traction each year, as various stakeholders recognize the potential impact of efficient irrigation during the hottest summer months and year-round.

Help Ohio Declare
Smart Irrigation Month

Over the past 17 years, many states have declared the month of July to be Smart Irrigation Month, including our neighbors, Indiana and Michigan. Unfortunately, Ohio has yet to join them. You can help change that!

Simply download the IA’s Sample Proclamation, complete it, and email it to your local representative. Promoting Smart Irrigation Month is good for your business and good for Ohio!

In past years, numerous states and municipalities have jumped on the bandwagon to officially declare July as Smart Irrigation Month. (See sidebar.)

Landscape irrigation contractors have taken advantage of this opportunity to differentiate themselves and add value for their customers by promoting water-saving products, practices and services. These businesses report that participating in Smart Irrigation Month campaigns has resulted in new customers and increased sales.

Check out the 2022 marketing toolkit.

Looking Forward

This year’s Smart Irrigation Month is also about focusing on the industry’s future and the many ways efficient irrigation will continue to benefit society through more sustainable landscapes. Here are just a few of the innovations that irrigation professionals can anticipate down the road:

No More Wires

Wireless valves will likely become the norm, particularly for larger installations. Wireless technology will use long-range, low-power, wide area networks. Instead of batteries, inline, turbine-based generators will provide power to supercapacitors.

These wireless valves are expected to include ultrasonic flow sensors that use sound waves to determine the flow velocity within a pipe. This technology can provide very detailed alerts to help technicians and homeowners improve system efficiency.

—Article Continues Below—

Droning On

Some of today’s ongoing labor shortage may be alleviated through drone-based irrigation inspections. These drones can be equipped with a bevy of detectors to replicate – and exceed — human sensory capabilities.

Armed with infrared, thermal and acoustical sensors, irrigation drones will fly to each station and locate problems, which will then be pinpointed on a geographic information system (GIS) map. The data will be collected and used to automatically provide suggestions, such as upgrades to components that fail most frequently. This information would then interface with software that can instantly create work orders, pending human review and approval.

Alternate Water Sources

Alternative sources of water for irrigation will likely become increasingly important in the future, especially in areas of water scarcity. These alternate sources could include greywater, rainwater, and even condensate from air conditioning. Onsite tanks can be used to collect, store and filter the water, which is then delivered to highly efficient subsurface drip irrigation piping.

Using A/C condensation will be particularly helpful for the hottest areas and during the hottest months, when condensate quantities are greatest and evapotranspiration is highest.


Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
Irrigation Association
Athletic Turf
Landscape Business
Landscape Management
Green Industry Pros

Help Your Customers Save Water During Fix a Leak Week

Help Your Customers Save Water During Fix a Leak Week

EPA’s Annual Event Runs from
March 14-20, 2022


Fighting water waste is part of every irrigation professional’s job description. This year’s Fix a Leak Week is a great time to remind your customers of your commitment to water efficiency.

Irrigation System Leaks

One small irrigation system leak — the thickness of a dime — can waste about 6,300 gallons of water each month! Advise your customers of the importance of the spring checkup. To ensure irrigation system components haven’t been damaged by frost or freezing weather, they should always be inspected prior to startup.

Fix a Leak Week

Become WaterSense Certified

If you’re not already WaterSense certified, you may want to consider the following exclusive benefits:

  • You’ll be included in the EPA’s online Directory of Certified Professionals.
  • You can receive work opportunities for new home projects, federal facilities, and LEED® projects.
  • You’ll be authorized to use the WaterSense label on your business cards and other promotional items.
  • You’ll enjoy increased exposure to potential customers through national EPA recognition as an environmental steward.
  • You’ll have access to EPA tools and other resources.

Interested? Click Here.

Are you WaterSense certified? (See sidebar at right.) If so, now’s the time to let your customers know that you’ve passed an EPA program specifically dedicated to improving water efficiency. So not only can you help identify and correct any irrigation system leaks, you can also ensure their system is performing optimally.

About 800 irrigation controllers and more than 340 spray sprinkler bodies have been certified by WaterSense for their water efficiency. It’s a good idea to carry an assortment of these products for your customers.

Other Household Leaks

Research has shown that the typical home wastes between 2,000 and 20,000 gallons of water per year due to leaks. Individually and collectively, the leaks in a single home can easily waste thousands of gallons of water every year, costing both the homeowner and the utility.

So during Fix a Leak Week, remind your customers to check for leaky faucets or showerheads, as well as malfunctioning toilets. This will demonstrate to them that you’re serious about water efficiency.

You can also provide them with some simple ways to pinpoint household leaks. Such as:

—Article Continues Below—

Pinpointing Leaks

Check your household water usage during one of the colder months (January or February). If a family of four is using more than 12,000 gallons per month, there are some serious leaks.

Record the odometer-type number on your water meter. Then turn off all household water for two hours. Then check the meter again. If the number has changed at all, you’ve likely got a leak.

Identify toilet leaks by placing one drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. After 10 minutes, check the bowl. If there’s color in the bowl, you have a leak.

Some Simple Fixes

Many faucet leaks can be remedied by simply replacing worn-out washers and gaskets

Got a leaky toilet? Try replacing the flapper.

For a leaky showerhead, make sure there’s a tight connection between the fixture and the pipe stem. Then secure it with pipe tape (also called Teflon tape).

For more leak fixes, as well as online tutorials, check out the WaterSense website.


Sources:
Featured Image: Giphy.com
The Washington Post
Water Use It Wisely
Water News Network

 

What’s New in Smart Irrigation Controllers?

What’s New in Smart Irrigation Controllers?

The Latest Features from Hunter,
Rain Bird and Rachio


Has your business noticed an increased demand for smart irrigation controllers?

That’s because today’s young homeowners are more tech savvy than any previous generation. Having grown up around technology. they enjoy integrating various gadgets into their homes. For them, smart irrigation is a no-brainer.

As with most technology, updates to smart controllers are ongoing. Let’s take a look at some of the newest features for three brands.

Hunter HydraWise

Hydrawise, Hunter’s irrigation management platform, has been around since 2011, but is continually being updated with new capabilities.

The Hydrawise cloud-based software is compatible with a range of Hunter controllers, and can also be used to retrofit an existing controller.

Hydrawise technology includes a Predictive Watering™ feature that automatically adjusts watering schedules based on a variety of environmental factors, such as past, current and forecasted temperature, rainfall, humidity, and wind speed. The controller gathers this information via the Weather Underground’s live stream of forecasts and current weather data.

Hydrawise controllers offer the option of adding multiple weather stations, as well as accessing national weather stations (such as those located at airports).

No Wi-Fi?

Wi-Fi capability is built into the Hydrawise controller. But for homeowners who do not yet have Wi-Fi, these controllers include a touch screen that enables easy programming without Wi-Fi connectivity.

And it offers manual seasonal adjustment settings from 0% to 300% when programming offline.

 

Hydrawise software is available via web login, and as a downloadable app from the Apple® App Store or Google Play™ Store. And it can be voice activated through Amazon Alexa, HomeSeer, or Control4devices home automation technologies.

Optional add-on flow meters are easy to install. Every Hydrawise controller has built-in meter sensors to generate interactive reports of water usage and watering activities, as well as automatic alerts in the event of broken pipes or faulty valve wires.

An 8-zone Hydrawise HPC smart controller retails for about $330.

Rain Bird ST8-2.0

The ST8-2.0 is Rain Bird’s 8-zone smart controller with an improved Wi-Fi connection and app connection speed. (Note: Wi-Fi is not built in; an add-on module is required.)

Rain Bird’s downloadable app is available from the Apple® App Store or Google Play™ Store. 

The Rain Bird app is fully customizable, so every zone can be set up with a different name, photo, frequency, start time and run time.

The controller’s automatic seasonal adjust feature takes into account season, local weather, temperature and humidity. Forecasts are based on zip code averages and on-site weather stations.

Water Savings

Architecture Lab rates the Rain Bird ST8-20 as one of the best for its water-saving features.

Extensive testing and EPA certification ensure a minimum of 20% water savings over other conventional devices available on the market.

 

The ST8-2.0 also has a Rain Delay feature, which allows homeowners to manually stop scheduled irrigation for up to 14 days. Afterward, irrigation will begin again according to the automatic schedule. It also can enable manual watering for a single zone or all zones.

The Rain Bird app also enables notifications to be sent regarding watering events, freeze warnings or whenever watering has been delayed. And it can provide water usage reports to maximize efficiency.

The ST8-2.0 uses manual controls with an LED display as well as voice control via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It’s available in both indoor and outdoor models for around $160.

Rachio 3 8ZULW-C

Rachio is a relative newcomer to the irrigation industry, having been founded in 2013. As a result, the company produces only smart irrigation controllers; conventional controllers are not available.

The Rachio 3 8ZULW-C is an 8-zone smart controller that can be Installed in 30 minutes or less without the use of special tools. As with Hydrawise and Rain Bird, the Rachio downloadable app is available from the Apple® App Store or Google Play™ Store.

The 8ZULW-C uses a system called Weather Intelligence Plus to provide “hyperlocal” weather scheduling, by combining Weather Underground data (from national weather stations, satellites and radar) with data from 270,000 personal weather stations, so forecasting is accurate to the location of the controller. The Weather Intelligence Plus system includes a self-healing feature that will automatically switch to the closest reporting station if the selected weather station stops reporting data for three or more days. Rachio will then send a notification of the change via email.

Easy Installation

With the Rachio 3 series, setup is a snap. Pop off the magnetic cover to expose the wire clip terminals. Then, using your fingertip, easily slide the wire leads into the connectors – no tools required.

Once the leads are connected, plug in the controller, pop the lid back on, and continue setup via the Rachio app.

 

This Rachio controller has an operating temperature range of -31 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and includes both rain and soil sensors. In addition, it offers multiple “skip” features that allow users to automatically skip unnecessary watering due to rain, wind or freeze. Water usage and savings reports provide both real-time and historical data.

The 8ZULW-C controller works with most major smart-home platforms, such as Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant. The Rachio 3 8ZULW-C retails for about $250.00. (A weatherproof enclosure is sold separately for $29.) Optional flow meters are available as an add-on.


Sources:
Featured Image: Adobe, License Granted
Hunter Industries
Rain Bird
Rachio