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Spring 2005

Landscaper Roger Cook: Things I Have Learned Along the Way

Roger Cook

Roger Cook regularly appears on “This Old House” and “Ask This Old House” television programs. He owns K&R Tree and Landscape Co., Burlington, Mass.

It Never Hurts to Ask Your Dealer

In an earlier column, I wrote, “I make sure I know what a supplier can do for me, and that they know my expectations.”

Recently, I realized I hadn’t followed my own advice.

Three or four times a year I’ll get a job where I need to remove and replace a large asphalt driveway. I always want to reuse the same asphalt. I just like the idea of recycling—it seems like a waste to throw away something reusable. But I didn’t have the equipment to do it myself. At the same time, it doesn’t make much sense to get someone to haul the asphalt away and get rid of it, and bring gravel back in. We’re talking about several thousand feet of asphalt, so paying someone else to take care of it could run $5,000. I’m not an asphalt company. I just needed something to save me from spending $5,000 each time, and perhaps make me a little money. So I decided to find a way to do it myself. I knew my Bobcat dealer offered planer attachments that were 18- to 24-in.-wide, but I needed something bigger. Figuring they couldn’t help me, I let the last job go and paid someone else to take care of it, again.

Then, while visiting the Bobcat manufacturing facilities in North Dakota, I found out Bobcat Company does offer a 40-in. high-flow planer. I wish I had called my dealer right away and said, “This is my problem,” and let him offer me a solution.

Bobcat offers so many attachments, and different machines, that it’s almost impossible to expect my dealer to constantly tell me everything that’s available, especially when he doesn’t know exactly what I need.

I think it is most manufacturers’ dream to produce things their customers need, and a call could prove beneficial to me and my dealer. I know Bobcat is famous for helping customers match the right solution to the job.

Years and years ago, I started asking for a tiller attachment. My dealer once brought me a prototype attachment; I used it and liked it. The next year, they had it on the market. Another time, I stumbled upon a landscape rake when I went by the dealership. It was exactly what I was looking for to do a job.

The asphalt planer problem taught me a valuable lesson, one that I’d learned before and forgotten. It all has to do with taking the initiative to learn what’s out there. Here are some ideas to keep in mind—things that can help you stay on top of what’s new in equipment and attachments:

Roger Cook

Roger Cook toured Bobcat facilities in Bismarck, Gwinner and West Fargo, N.D., late last year. At the conclusion of his visit to the Gwinner plant he drove an S185 off the assembly line.

Challenge your dealer

Don’t be afraid to pick up that phone and call your dealer whenever you come across a problem like mine. Very few dealers wouldn’t know how to help you in some way. If they don’t sell it, maybe they can get it for you. Is there something that’s adaptable? They’ll find out. If the manufacturer doesn’t make it, you’ve given them a chance to solve a new problem. This is how many new products are born. Remember: Dealers should be partners. When
you make money, they make money.

Go to trade shows and open houses

You have to take advantage of opportunities to see what’s changing in your industry. Up here in Boston, I go to the New England Grows Show. Whenever my dealer has an open house, I try to go. I can see new equipment on the market and learn about new methods. Who knows, you might stumble across something that can solve a problem for you, like the landscape rake did for me.

Visit web sites

Manufacturers and dealers both have great web sites for finding new equipment. The Bobcat site profiles all the equipment and lists all the attachments. Many sites (the Bobcat site included) have detailed product specs and application information.

Read trade magazines

There are a few magazines I read faithfully. It’s a great way to stay up on what’s new in the market, especially when it comes to equipment and methods.

Bobcat is all about providing solutions, as most manufacturers are. I have a great dealer, but I cannot expect him to always keep me informed of new products, especially if I don’t tell him what he can do for me.

So, I’m back to taking my own advice. You can bet the next time I have a problem I’ll contact my dealer and let him know. In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye out at trade shows and open houses, and I’ll skim magazines for the latest innovations. What can I say—I make mistakes, and I learn from them.