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The Four P’s of Success

Product, People, Promotion, Protection

Want to earn more profits from your customers, maybe even get them to pay a higher price for your services? They will – if you’re worth it. Herbi-Systems, Inc. in Memphis, Tenn., is testament to that. The 14-year-old lawn-care company has been highly successful at marketing all the services of a large national firm, with all the warmth of a small, neighborhood business. Its secret?

“You simply can’t offer the cheapest price in town and still deliver the best service or most expert technicians,“ says Kenny Crenshaw, president of Herbi-Systems, which has 4,000 customers in the metro Memphis area. “You have to do the right thing – for your customers, your employees and the environment – and that costs money.”

At Herbi-Systems, doing the right thing includes four simple principles:

  • Have a great product.
  • Support the product with equally good people.
  • Promote that product and those people aggressively.
  • Protect the environment in the process.

“If our customer asks for it, we get it done,” explains Carl Quick, general manager. “If it’s something we can’t provide, we’ll find someone who can.”

Herbi-Systems focuses on weed and insect control and fertilization of both commercial and residential turf. In addition, it offers slit seeding, core aeration, and tree and shrub service. It maintains strategic relationships with several maintenance companies that provide services Herbi-Systems might not.

Its “basic lawn care program” for Bermudagrass and zoysiagrass lawns is quite simply a great product – premium service at an only slightly higher-than-basic price. It includes six total trips: five fertilizer applications per season and one standard crabgrass and weed control, as-needed spot treatment of yellow nutsedge and broadleaf weeds; and a fall lime application to neutralize soil acidity.

Deluxe and custom programs are also available to meet specific client needs. These programs include a premier service for fescue lawns, fungicide treatments for both turf and ornamentals, and soil testing.

Equally Great People

“When our technician gets out of his truck, the customer already assumes he knows what he is talking about,” says Crenshaw, who emphasizes that the assumption is absolutely correct. “Our people are trained well, act and interact with our customers and are professional at all times.”

All Herbi-Systems technicians are trained extensively, both upon arriving at the firm and throughout their tenure. Regardless of their experience in the lawn care industry, all new employees ride with trainers to learn about technical topics and how their new employer does business. Weekly half-hour training meetings and longer monthly meetings also focus on business skill, such as selling and time management. Technicians are wholly responsible for their customers, from the sale all the way through the last lime application.

“We have one guy that’s been calling on the same customer for eight years,” Quick boasts. “They like him so much we don’t even think about sending another technician on that route!”

With unemployment in the Memphis area at only 3.7 percent, it’s hard to find good employees. So retaining them is critical. To do so, the company offers a 401-K plan; health, disability and life insurance; uniforms; and a state-of-the-art facility built specifically for the turf industry. And – Saturdays off!

After looking at actual numbers, Quick says Herbi-Systems found that technicians were at least as productive, if not more so, in weeks that they didn’t work Saturdays as when they did. And employee morale is better.

Promote Aggressively

Unusual compared to lawn care companies its size, Herbi-Systems relies on the expertise of an advertising professional to prepare and plan its communications. Part of its promotional program is carried through direct mail, as is common in the lawn care industry. But even more important to Herbi-Systems is radio.

“We’ve historically done radio advertising to promote our business,” explains Crenshaw. “It’s been successful.”

Printed materials that technicians leave behind following application visits goes beyond promoting the company and its services. They provide information that helps educate the homeowner.

“Grow Notes” is a series of preprinted, 4-color, 1-page, front-and-back info sheets that advise clients on everything from how to best water and mow their lawns, to identifying insects and diseases, to root feeding, aeration and lime. An excellent resource for the homeowner, yes. And also and excellent tool for reinforcing the value of Herbi-Systems services.

Still, the single most valuable promotional tool is referrals from satisfied customers. Referrals that result in new customers result in “Herbi-Bucks,” $20 discount for both the new and the referring customers.

Protect the Environment

Both Crenshaw and Quick understand that the future of the turf industry will rely largely on its ability to have the least possible impact on the environment. Thus, after extensive study of facilities throughout the region, Herbi-Systems built a state-of-the-art facility in cooperation with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Environmental Research Center.

“We recognize a need to become more environmentally conscious,” says Crenshaw. “So we built a site designed to prevent potential pollution.”

The facility is divided into four “sections”: an office area, a combination shop/warehouse, a loading area and a secondary containment area. Each offers special safety features. For example, the office area is four inches higher than the shop area to prevent migration of spills and / or wash water.

“No product gets away from this facility,” says Quick, who is equally proud of the environmental and worker safety features of the 6,000 square-foot facility. “Our technicians can control all product valves with a clear view of the application equipment. A safety shower and eye wash are located within feet of the mixing area. And, the fill area is elevated to dock height so techs don’t have to jump from ground level onto the truck during fills.”

If you’d like to talk more with Herbi-Systems about its “Four P’s of Success,” particularly the new pollution prevention facility, call the company at (901) 382-5296.

“Scapes,” Vol. 5, Issue 1 © 1998 Monsanto Company

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