Equipment & Irrigation

Generating power I am in the market for a generator. What do I need to know to find a generator that will be sufficient for me?-Address unknown (via the internet)

You need to answer two questions before you make a generator purchase. 1) Do you want it to come on automatically when the power goes out? 2) Is a manual, portable backup generator (that will power tools, appliances, furnaces, etc), all you need?

After you determine what kind of generator you need, you should add up the watts of all the items you want to power. Let's assume, for example, that your communications equipment is 50 watts, your computer is 400 watts, your lights are 500 watts (5 x 100 watts), your cordless phone is 30 watts, your heater is 1,800 watts and your sump pump is 2,000 watts. These are estimates-to find the actual wattage of your equipment, you have to read their tagg ed electrical information. If wattage isn't listed on a tag or plate on the appliance, you can use an inductive-amperage meter when the unit is operating. The meter will tell you the amperage draw. To calculate watts, multiply amperage by the voltage.

After adding up all the wattage (you also need to allow for a starting surge), let's assume it comes out to 6,000 watts. In that case, you should purchase a 7,000-watt generator. Portable generators start at about 4,000 to 5,000 watts and go up to about 20,000.

Don't sulk over sulkies Do sulkies put above-average wear and tear on walk-behind commercial mowers? I'm concerned that additional transmission and engine maintenance due to their use will negate the time they save my crews.-Address unknown (via the internet)

Sulkies are made to save time and ease fatigue. Yes, they put additional strain on the engine, transmission and deck-but so does carrying passengers in your truck or car. Everything a vehicle or mower pulls, carries or pushes adds strain to various mechanical and structural parts of the machine.

However, some equipment is made to handle such extra weight and work loads. If your mowers came with hookups for a sulky, then they probably have a larger engine, stronger deck and heavy-duty transmission. You should, of course, verify this with your dealer. In short, some mowers can handle sulkies with no extraordinary maintenance concerns.

If you use sulkies, you should make sure the sulky is properly lubricated and its tires are properly inflated. Use them on flat landscapes only.

Results of recent national research indicate that many manufacturers, distributors and contractors are affected-in some way-by volume retailing of irrigation products. In today's marketplace, competition comes not only from multiple contractors but also from large, retail outlets. The traditional means for selling irrigation products to contractors-commercial and industrial supply houses-will soon compete with large, national retail chains. One national volume-based retail store, in fact, controls between 12 to 22 percent of the do-it-yourself irrigation market. As these kinds of volume-based stores begin to saturate the homeowner market, they will look for new expansion opportunities. Soon, they will have their sights set on your commercial business.

This doesn't mean that you cannot co-exist with the large retail outlets, but it does mean that you'll be forced to come up with new and creative marketing plans. Just as many blame the loss of the small-town hardware store on the likes of Wal-Mart, you may soon wonder what happened to your business after the volume- or quantity-based retailers arrive.

Consumer research indicates that more consumers are becoming aware of the overall market for irrigation products due to increased retail involvement. Therefore, as this consumer market grows, your traditional market portions will decrease-especially if you focus on design and consulting. As a result, you will find that segments of the market that were once in partnership with you are now your competitors. Take, for example, dealers and volume retailers who now provide free irrigation blueprints to customers. Historically, only trained irrigation designers and consultants furnished installation designs. Now that retail chains offer them, you need to analyze your market to find a new edge-or at least sharpen your current one.

Changing market dynamics make it clear that finding a balance between market- and product-driven consultation must be one of your priorities. First, to develop a business strategy, you must change alignments and attitudes. You must shift from an internal, product-driven alignment to an external, market-driven alignment. Second, you must recognize and offer necessary services as part of your marketing plan. Third, you need to meet your market's expectations when it comes to services and fees. Finally, you mustdiscern and recognize a targeted market and focus your sales efforts in that direction.

When it comes to retaining customers and preventing them from going elsewhere you can't beat the old-fashioned approach. This is especially true in this era of computers, e-mail, faxes and cellular phones. Talking directly with your customers is the best advantage you have over volume-based retailers.

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